Systemic Dolackian Disorder: U$ imperialism and the Kurdish dilemma

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

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

Dolack’s comment #1:

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

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

Dolack’s comment #2:

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

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

Dolack’s comment #3:

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

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

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

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

Dolack’s comment #4:

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

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

Dolack’s comment #5:

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

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

Dolack’s comment #6:

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

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

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

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

Dolack’s comment #7:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dolack’s comment #8:

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

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

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

Dolack’s comment #9:

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

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

Dolack’s comment #10:

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

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

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

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

Dolack’s comment #11:

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

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

Dolack’s comment #12:

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

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

Dolack’s comment #13:

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

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

Dolack’s comment #14:

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

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

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

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

Dolack’s comment #15:

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

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

Dolack’s comment #16:

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

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

Dolack’s comment #17:

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

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

Dolack’s comment #18:

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

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

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

Dolack’s comment #19:

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

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

Dolack’s comment #20:

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

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

Dolack’s comment #21:

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

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

Dolack’s comment #22:

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

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

Dolack’s comment #23:

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

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

Dolack’s comment #24:

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

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

Dolack’s comment #25:

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

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

Dolack’s comment #26:

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

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

Dolack’s comment #27:

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

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

Dolack’s comment #28:

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

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

Dolack’s comment #29:

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

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

Dolack’s comment #30:

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

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

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


Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

Advertisements

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

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

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

Hollyweird and cultural hegemony

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Closing remarks

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


Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zombie Simpsons and the cultural hegemony of Hollyweird

From S5E14, “Lisa Vs. Malibu Stacey

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

Summarizing Gramsci’s theories on intellectuals and hegemony

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gramsci, Springfieldian stereotypes, and Hollyweird

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Stereotypes bowling team, The Simpsons.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A bunch of baloney: The Russia “connection”

A scene from “Two Bad Neighbors” (S7E13), a Simpsons episode where Homer fights with George H.W. Bush after Bart accidentally destroys his novel and Bush spanks him

This post was analyzed for mistakes and other content in January 2019, as part of an effort to engage in self-criticism. Some changes have been made.

Two nights ago, 60 Minutes came on at 7:00. They claimed they had an “exclusive” interview with James Comey, the FBI Director and long-time bureaucrat. It cast Comey as a nice, well-spoken person, not a showboater as the orange menace has called him. Hence, it was, like pieces they have done on Apple, drones, and many other subjects, a puff piece. Since May 9, bourgeois liberals and progressives have been waiving their hands, which has even been joined by “progressive” media like The Real News, putting out three stories trying to attest that Mr. Comey was fired because of (1) the orange menace’s “collusion” with Russia, (2) considering the hypothetical of such interference while claiming there is financial ties between the orange menace and Russia, (3) and acting like the Russia connection is real.

Previously I’ve written about the supposed “connection” between the orange menace and Russia. I’ve argued that the orange menace’s administration was making Russophobic moves, continuing the same policies of the Obama “era,” while also hoping that a pro-Russia approach by such an administration could reduce conflict, and saying that there should be solidarity with those countries under attack by U$ imperialism and against fascism of the orange menace instead of getting “caught up in the supposed…Russia “connection.”” Before that, I said that the orange menace was considering Russia as a partner against terrorism even as he proposed more imperialism to “solve” the problems in the world but warned that tensions with Russia will continue while pointing out Obama’s hawkishness when it came to Russia (and to the rest of the world) with Clinton undoubtedly doing the same, since she likely would have “started WWIII with bombing Russian troops in Syria.” Four months ago, I summed up the whole hullabaloo around this issue, writing (links have been removed for easier reading):

…the anti-Russian campaign [is being] pushed by the Democratic Party, certain Republicans, like John McCain and Lindsey Graham, along with internal (FBI) and external (CIA) police of the empire, and “left” journalists of The Intercept like Glenn Greenwald, and other “respected”  publications like Mother Jones…a possible conflict within the administration is brewing about the threat of Russia as some want to take more of a defiant stance and others want to be more cordial…there doesn’t need to be a protest against rapprochement with Russia, but instead against a reactionary Russophobic position by Obama, Clinton, McCain, and the like…[we must] organize to stop the “orange menace” not because of his supposed “friendly” nature with Russia, but for the fascism he will bring to the homefront, imperialist destruction that will rein down on the peoples of Korea, Syria, China, and Iran, and unwavering support for the murderous Zionist state

I still stand by this same viewpoint, but I went through a Wikipedia article titled “Russian interference in the 2016 United States election” so you don’t have to, and what I found confirmed by perceptions. As a disclaimer, this article is NOT favorable to the orange menace in any way, shape or form, but only shows the Russia “connection” as fraudulent based on analysis of existing articles written on the subject and that such bourgeois media that wrote these articles should generally not be trusted.

Muddying through Wikipedia

There is no doubt that like Google, Wikipedia is fundamentally bourgeois, even with the “non-profit” status of the Wikimedia Foundation which controls the site. I say this even as a person who has edited numerous Wikipedia articles myself in hopes to countering bourgeois distortions. The following is a list of sources, with articles in the footnotes, that have been cited as “proof” that there is a Russia connection:

  • Unnamed “U.S. officials,” current and former, always ranging in number, sometimes “senior” and have “access to information,” sometimes in the White House. [1]
  • Unnamed “Western intelligence” officials, either in U.S. or foreign intelligence. [2]
  • Information or reports “obtained by a Western intelligence service” that only the media can see, like a secret CIA assessment. [3]
  • Obama administration officials (prior to November 8 election), including Ben Rhodes, Josh Earnest, and President Obama himself [4]
  • Christopher Steele dossier on orange menace-Russia “connections,” with documents that haven’t been verified but may have been used as a “roadmap” for investigation by the FBI, who was open to paying him for the information, among other aspects [5]
  • Crowdstrike, the pro-Dem firm run by an anti-Putin individual contracted by the DNC to investigate the hack, blamed the Russians [6]
  • “Guccifer 2.0,” the Romanian hacker who claims he gave docs to Wikileaks even though this has not been confirmed, to whom Roger Stone claims he talked to and has a “backchannel” to Assange, both of which can’t be proven. [7]
  • “suspicious” supposedly “pro-Russia” actions by DCLeaks and Wikileaks or weak supposition [8]
  • DHS, DNI, and private security companies “conclusions,” with specific reference to a  14-page document by CIA, DNI, and FBI, had “high confidence” in Russian involvement, a report commissioned by Obama, even though the Intelligence Community Assessment or ICA was drafted by the CIA, FBI, and NSA, relies on “reporting” of varied sources and “multiple corroborating sources,” their “assessment” based on how they see Russian behavior, claims that Putin and Russian government had preference for the orange menace over Clinton, claim Moscow used disclosed documents, accessing DNC databases, because RT, other Russia state outlets, was critical of Clinton (that means they swung the election for the orange menace?), criticizing US shortcomings in civil liberties and democracy using an open source report published in 2012, criticizing U$ (means that RT is somehow favorable to orange menace), RT hosts criticize fracking (so they serve Russian interests?), they even admit near the end of the report that even as RT has more YouTube views and subscribers, CNN has the most Twitter followers, Facebook likes, and Facebook likes of the bourgeois news organizations they list (Al Jazeera English, BBC News World, along with RT), admit at the end that even an assessment of “high confidence” could “be wrong” with the assessment not necessarily a “fact or certainty” [9] Later, these same agencies, CIA, FBI, and NSA stood by their previous assessment, of course.
  • Claims of Russian business ties with Newsweek admitting that they can’t find any illegal action, and noting there are business ties across the world [10]
  • Claims Putin “praised” the orange menace even though he didn’t. [11] Further articles showed that Putin just called the orange menace a colorful figure or flamboyant, but did NOT call him a genius or any of the other “praise” he supposedly gave.
  • Pending investigations by FBI, NSA, CIA, DOJ, FINCEN (Treasury Dept), and ODNI reps; also some individual agencies are sometimes cited. [12]
  • Max Boot, Clinton campaign, a lawsuit by Bayrock, Toronto Life magazine, news media itself (WashPO and Bloomberg), claimed “Russian trolls,” FBI insiders, and magical “experts” [13]
  • Joint ODNI-DHS statement even admitting that they are only “confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails” and they only “believe” top Russian officials involved; also Clapper, the DNI, but not “17 agencies” agreeing as some claimed. [14]
  • Private security companies ThreatConnect (likely U$ military/intelligence contractor), Symantec which received a license from the U$ military in 2005, FireEye run by a former Pentagon officer, and Dell-owned Secureworks which maintains “close ties to various public and private organizations involved in information security” such as the federal government, intelligence and military sectors [15]
  • Unnamed U$, European, and Arab officials [16]

Apart from these piss-poor “sources” of collusion, there are confirmed meetings between the orange menace’s officials and the Russians, but every administration, even through the Cold War has met with the Russians, and as some US diplomats admitted, including Clinton ally Michael Morrell, this is not a crime as even James Clapper said at one point. [17] Then there’s Michael Flynn. There is no doubt he was paid by RT for three talks, but so has Ron Paul and other U$ political personalities they’ve had on their show, so how does this show that the Russians “rigged” the election? [18] The truth is it doesn’t do this at all. Perhaps its better to focus on the fact that he was a registered foreign agent for Turkey, that he was the board member of the pro-drone group (Drone Aviation Holding Corp) for which he gained $24,000, consultant for the hawkish Center for a New American Security, among much more that would make him chummy with the capitalist class. All of this has led to some thinking that the Pentagon is right but that Russian media “lies,” claims that the Russians hacked the orange menace’s campaign too but didn’t release information (disproving the whole collusion), as the Russians note that they also spoke with Clinton advisers, and Putin said that the Democrats should get over their loss in November (they should). [19] As a result of the determination that Russia was “behind” the hacking, a number of events went into motion. The FBI spied on Carter Page for at least 90 days, and the orange menace conceded Russia’s role sort of but also didn’t, later decrying a “witch hunt” by the Democrats. [20]

Of course, the FBI and intelligence establishment, along with the lackey bourgeois media are wrong. Still, Clinton strongly believes in Russia role as do some former Intel chiefs and Evan McMillian (former CIA) but RNC doesn’t and neither does David Nunes. The media are so caught up in this, they were angry about publication of official photos, with the Russian Foreign Ministry saying that if they hadn’t published pictures from the meeting, the photos would have leaked, which is probably correct.

With such a predictable propaganda assault by the bourgeois media and Russophobes within the military and intelligence establishments, U$ public opinion reflects this reality. 51-56% of the public, depending on the poll, believes in such interference, with at minimum, 39% opposing this viewpoint. [21] Furthermore, over 60% of those living in the U$ have said that they are “concerned” about ties to Russia. Some may say these viewpoints are residual effects of the Cold War, with strongly rooted in anti-communism of that time. However, it is more likely that even with waning popularity of bourgeois media in the U$ many still rely on it while those who speak critically of U$ empire are marginalized. It may also have to do with uber-nationalism of Amerikans, many of whom may not trust the orange menace and see him as a shyster.

The orange menace’s tweets and other commentary

Some may say cite the orange menace’s tweets as “evidence” of the collusion. A search through his tweets for the word “Russia” shows that this is faulty. Looking through tweets from 2011 to 2016 shows that he is more uber-nationalist, jingoist to use the right word, than having any sort of favoritism toward Russia. [22]

The tweets this year, after his election, which are displayed in the search, are worth focusing on here. They range from the orange menace declaring that Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi met with the Russians, saying that meeting with the Russians is normal, calling these Dems “hypocrites,” while blaming Obama, even claiming he colluded with Russia (no proof of that). He goes on to say that the “so-called Russia story” is (1) “fake news,” (2) claims that there is a magical deal the Clintons made with Russia over uranium which is somehow connected to John Podesta somehow, (3) that the “Trump Russia story is a hoax,” and (4) calls the Russia-orange menace connection “phony.” He then said that “things will work out fine between the U.S.A. and Russia” with everyone eventually coming to their “senses,” that the story about the orange menace’s connection to Russia is an excuse used by Democrats, that Democrat “dealings with Russia” are not investigated by the media, that Clapper noted that there is no collusion between the orange menace and Russia, asks if Obama was too “soft” on Russia (implying he would be more hardline), and says that the Russians might be laughing at the whole story. Most strikingly is a tweet on May 8, in which he declares “the Russia-Trump collusion story is a total hoax, when will this taxpayer funded charade end?”

Then there are two tweets the bourgeois media claims are “evidence” that the orange menace gave classified information to the Russians. In them, the orange menace says that it is “absolute right” to share facts with them which pertain to “terrorism and airline flight safety” which he says he is doing not only for “humanitarian reasons” but because he wants “Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.” I don’t see how this “proves” that classified information was shared. Just because the orange menace says he shared information, who is to say this is classified information? Also, who is to say that these tweets aren’t just part of the orange menace’s bravado and he’s making the whole thing up?

Five days before this, the orange menace, in an interview with NBC News, declared the following:

“This Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.”

Predictably, PolitiFact showed its Russophobia in response. They said that the FBI and intelligence community have “credible evidence” and that Democrats weren’t behind it, cites magical “evidence” in assessments, shows even Federation of American Scientists believes in collision, and also cites Comey and Clapper. As noted earlier in this article, this is utter baloney. While I think there is validity to his statement that the “Russia thing with Trump” is made-up, it is more than just the Democrats. The military and intelligence establishments of the U$, the Democrats, numerous Republicans, other Western intelligence services, and capitalist governments across the “West” have a coordinated Russophobic propaganda offensive. This goes back to 2014 at least, when the “crisis” in Ukraine begun with a coup in the country by Nazi and reactionary forces, seemingly assisted by the CIA and US intelligence in general. In fact, such Russophobia goes back further, perhaps all the way to 1917 when the Soviet Union was founded, but it was a different strain back then, with a lapse in that strain after the demise of the USSR in 1991, and picking up again in 2000 with Vladimir Putin coming to the helm of the capitalist Russian state.

A conclusion

It’s hard to know the reason for the orange menace’s firing of Mr. Comey on May 9, one week ago. Perhaps it was because Marylander Rod J. Rosenstein, who only became Deputy Attorney General on April 26 after near unanimous approval of the U$ Senate, had convinced Attorney General Jeff Sessions that through revealing the investigation of Killary before the election, he had weakened the “public confidence in the FBI.” [23] Mr. Rosenstein said such in his letter recommending the firing of Mr. Comey, writing in part:

“Over the past year, however, the FBI’s reputation and credibility have suffered substantial damage…I cannot defend the Director’s handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton’s emails, and I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken….The director was wrong to usurp the Attorney General’s authority on July 5, 2016, and announce his conclusion that the case should be closed without prosecution…When federal agents and prosecutors quietly open a criminal investigation, we are not concealing anything; we are simply following the longstanding policy that we refrain from publicizing non-public information….former Attorneys General and Deputy Attorneys General from different eras and both political parties…concluded that the Director violated his obligation to “preserve, protect and defend” the traditions of the Department and the FBI…Although the President has the power to remove an FBI director, the decision should not be taken lightly…The way the Director handled the conclusion of the email investigation was wrong…the FBI is unlikely to regain public and congressional trust until it has a Director who understands the gravity of the mistakes and pledges never to repeat them. Having refused to admit his errors, the Director cannot be expected to implement the necessary corrective actions.” [24]

Taking this letter into account, one could almost say that the removal of Mr. Comey was in a sense, a PR move to improve the “reputation” of the FBI, which would appeal to the law-and-order approach of Mr. “expand the drug war” Sessions and the orange menace himself. This would also explain the timing of the letter. While the orange menace has supposedly said that the “Russia investigation” was on his mind when he fired Mr. Comey, the decision to fire was likely about improving the FBI’s “image” among the populace as a “nonpartisan” agency although it has never been non-political in any way. I could see how firing Mr. Comey damages Mr. Rosenstein’s “independence,” but I would be wary of calling him a “lackey” of the orange menace just yet.

With pending investigations in the House and Senate, the “Trump-Russia connection” seems destined to continue as a “legitimate” topic for the rest of this year, maybe for his whole first term. In the meantime, the orange menace’s EPA has greenlighted a gold mine in Alaska despite the environmental effects, the orange menace’s State Department cited the discredited Amnesty report to smear Syrian government for its “brutality” (which has been rightly dismissed by the Syrian government), the orange menace’s Pentagon continues to kill Syrian civilians every day, and most startlingly, and the orange menace’s plan to review protections on 27 national monuments could very well open up “more than 2.7 million acres of iconic US landscape” through extraction of oil, coal, and natural gas.

But, instead, say the hard-nosed bourgeois liberals and progressives, let’s all dance around with glee, allying with the U$ intelligence and military establishments, and impeach the orange menace for his “traitorous” action of talking with the Russians, who they think, based on the propaganda from the bourgeois media, rigged the election for the orange menace. Nothing could be more ridiculous. There is no doubt that the Electoral College is an institution which supported slavery, racism, bigotry, and exploitation, while muting popular movements. However, as it stands now, this means that by the existing laws, based in the “supreme” law of the land, the U$ Constitution, the orange menace was elected legally. This was not only because Killary didn’t care about the white section of the working class but due to her crass elitism like calling all of the orange menace’s supporters “the basket of deplorables…[they are] racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it,” a faux pas as bad as Mitt Romney’s remarks in which he said that 47% of the populace will vote for the populace and are entitled, people who “pay no income tax,” whom Romney doesn’t care about at all.

The talk of the orange menace-Russia “collusion” will go on, but as reasonable people we must be above this, rejecting such narratives and work with those affected by the orange menace’s fascism. Lest us not be dupes of the bourgeois media as many bourgeois liberals and progressives already are, trapping many publications in self-made deception, while the capitalist class laughs in glee as they continue to destroy the work, crushing resistance wherever it can be found, and by whatever means at their disposal.


Notes

[1] Greg Miller and Adam Entous, “Declassified report says Putin ‘ordered’ effort to undermine faith in U.S. election and help Trump,” Washington Post, Jan. 6, 2017; AP, “Trump transition raised flags about Flynn Russia contacts,” May 5, 2017; Greg Miller and Greg Jaffe, “Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian foreign minister and ambassador,” Washington Post, May 15, 2017; William M. Arkin, Ken Dilanian, and Cynthia McFadden, “U.S. Officials: Putin Personally Involved in U.S. Election Hack,” NBC News, Dec. 15, 2016; Yara Bayoumy, “Putin turned Russia election hacks in Trump’s favor: U.S. officials,” Reuters, Dec. 16, 2016; Barbara Starr, Pamela Brown, Evan Perez, Jim Sciutto, and Elise Labbott, “Intel analysis shows Putin approved election hacking,” CNN, Dec. 16, 2016; , “Putin-linked think tank drew up plan to sway 2016 US election – documents,” Reuters, Apr. 21, 2017; Jack Stubbs and Denis Pinchuk, “Russia denies Reuters report think tank drew up plan to sway U.S. election,” Reuters, Apr. 21, 2017; Ken Dilanian and William M. Arkin, “Blackwater Founder Repped Trump at Secret Meeting Overseas: Sources,” NBC News, Apr. 3, 2017; Evan Perez, Jim Sciutto, Jake Tapper, and Carl Bernstein, “Intel chiefs presented Trump with claims of Russian efforts to compromise him,” CNN, Jan. 12, 2017; Washington Newsroom of Reuters, “U.S. intel report identifies Russians who gave emails to WikiLeaks -officials,” Reuters, Jan. 6, 2017; Michael S. Schmidt, Mark Mazzetti, and Matt Apuzzo, “Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence,” New York Times, Feb. 14, 2017; Matthew Rosenberg, Adam Goldman, and Michael S. Schmidt, “Obama Administration Rushed to Preserve Intelligence of Russian Election Hacking,” New York Times, Mar. 1, 2017.

[2] Kurt Eichenwald, “Trump, Putin and the Hidden History of How Russia Interfered in the U.S. Presidential Election,” Newsweek, Jan. 10, 2017; CBS News, “More details on U.S. probe of Russian hacking of DNC,” YouTube, Dec. 14, 2016; Brian Ross, Rhonda Schwartz, and James Gordon Meek, “Officials: Master Spy Vladimir Putin Now Directly Linked to US Hacking,” ABC News, Dec. 15, 2016; Ali Watkins, “Intel Officials Believe Russia Spreads Fake News,” BuzzFeed, Nov. 30, 2016; Ken Dilanian, “Official: Flynn Discussed Sanctions With Russians Before Taking Office,” NBC News, Feb. 10, 2017; Spencer Ackerman, “Intelligence figures fear Trump reprisals over assessment of Russia election role,” The Guardian, Dec. 11, 2016; Shane Harris, “Donald Trump Fuels Rift With CIA Over Russian Hack,” Wall Street Journal, Dec. 11, 2016; Luke Harding, Stephanie Kirchgaessner, and Nick Hopkins, “British spies were first to spot Trump team’s links with Russia,” The Guardian, Apr. 13, 2017.

[3] Kurt Eichenwald, “Trump, Putin and the Hidden History of How Russia Interfered in the U.S. Presidential Election,” Newsweek, Jan. 10, 2017; Secret CIA assessment says Russia was trying to help Trump win White House,” Washington Post, Dec. 9, 2016.

[4] Euan McKirdy, “WikiLeaks’ Assange: Russia didn’t give us emails,” CNN, Jan. 4, 2017; Fox News, “Obama says US needs to respond to Russian cyberattacks — ‘and we will’,” Dec. 15, 2016; Yara Bayoumy, “Putin turned Russia election hacks in Trump’s favor: U.S. officials,” Reuters, Dec. 16, 2016.

[5] Adam Goldman, “Russian Spies Tried to Recruit Carter Page Before He Advised Trump,” New York Times, Apr. 4, 2017; Scott Shane, “What We Know and Don’t Know About the Trump-Russia Dossier,” New York Times, Jan. 11, 2017; Julie Pace, “Trump campaign adviser Carter Page met with Russian spy in 2013,” Chicago Tribune, Apr. 3, 2017; Ali Watkins, “A Former Trump Adviser Met With A Russian Spy,” BuzzFeed, Apr. 3, 2017; David Corn, “A Veteran Spy Has Given the FBI Information Alleging a Russian Operation to Cultivate Donald Trump,” Mother Jones, Oct. 31, 2016; Tom Hamburger and Rosalind D. Helderman, “FBI once planned to pay former British spy who authored controversial Trump dossier,” Washington Post, Feb. 28, 2017; BBC News, “Meeting the man behind the Trump memos,” Jan. 14, 2017; Rosie Gray, “‘It Is Fake News Meant to Malign Mr. Trump’,” The Atlantic, Jan. 10, 2017; Natasha Bertrand, “The FBI is reportedly using the explosive Trump-Russia dossier as a ‘roadmap’ for its investigation,” Business Insider, Mar. 30, 2017; Evan Perez, Shimon Prokupecz, and Manu Raju, “FBI used dossier allegations to bolster Trump-Russia investigation,” CNN, Apr. 18, 2017.

[6] Thomas Rid, “How Russia Pulled Off the Biggest Election Hack in U.S. History,” Esquire magazine, Oct. 20, 2016; Clint Watts, “Why Russia Wants the U.S. to Believe the Election Was Hacked,” PBS NOVA Next, Oct. 26, 2016; Dmitri Alpervitch, “Bears in the Midst: Intrusion into the Democratic National Committee,” Crowdstrike, Jun. 15, 2016.

[7] Thomas Rid, “How Russia Pulled Off the Biggest Election Hack in U.S. History,” Esquire magazine, Oct. 20, 2016; Trump adviser Roger Stone repeatedly claimed to know of forthcoming WikiLeaks dumps,” CNN, Mar. 20, 2017; Chas Danner, “Trump Adviser Roger Stone Admits Messaging With Alleged DNC Hacker,” New York magazine, Mar. 11, 2017; Martin Matishak, “Roger Stone takes center stage as Congress lines up Russia probe witnesses,” Politico, Mar. 20, 2017; Maggie Haberman, “Roger Stone, the ‘Trickster’ on Trump’s Side, Is Under F.B.I. Scrutiny,” New York Times, Mar. 21, 2017; Matthew Rosenberg and Maggie Haberman, “Trump Adviser Had Twitter Contact With Figure Tied to Russians,” New York Times, Mar. 11, 2017.

[8] Thomas Rid, “How Russia Pulled Off the Biggest Election Hack in U.S. History,” Esquire magazine, Oct. 20, 2016.

[9] Greg Miller and Adam Entous, “Declassified report says Putin ‘ordered’ effort to undermine faith in U.S. election and help Trump,” Washington Post, Jan. 6, 2017; Clint Watts, “Why Russia Wants the U.S. to Believe the Election Was Hacked,” PBS NOVA Next, Oct. 26, 2016; Office of the Director of National Intelligence, “ODNI Statement on Declassified Intelligence Community Assessment of Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent U.S. Elections,” IC On the Record (tumblr), Jan. 6, 2017; Bryon Tau, “Trump’s top intelligence officials accept conclusion that Russia hacked election,” Wall Street Journal, May 11, 2017; New York Times, “Intelligence Report on Russian Hacking,” Jan. 6, 2017.

[10] Kurt Eichenwald, “How the Trump Organization’s Foreign Business Ties Could Upend U.S. National Security,” Newsweek, Sept. 14, 2016; Inside Trump’s financial ties to Russia and his unusual flattery of Vladimir Putin,” Washington Post, Jun. 17, 2016.

[11] Inside Trump’s financial ties to Russia and his unusual flattery of Vladimir Putin,” Washington Post, Jun. 17, 2016; Jeremy Diamond and Greg Botelho, “Putin praises ‘bright and talented’ Trump,” CNN, Dec. 17, 2015.

[12] Ken Dilanian, Robert Windrem, William M. Arkin, and Tom Winter, “FBI Making Inquiry Into Ex-Trump Campaign Manager’s Foreign Ties,” NBC News, Nov. 1, 2016; Peter Stone and Greg Gordon, “FBI, 5 other agencies probe possible covert Kremlin aid to Trump,” McClatchy, Jan. 18, 2017; Zeeshan Aleem, “6 different agencies have come together to investigate Trump’s possible Russia ties,” Vox, Jan. 21, 2017; Stephen Collinson, “FBI: Trump campaign, Russia ties investigated, no wiretap evidence found,” CNN, Mar. 20, 2017.

[13] Jeff Nesbit, “Donald Trump’s Many, Many, Many, Many Ties to Russia,” Time, Aug. 15, 2016; Rachel Roberts, “Donald Trump fired James Comey because ‘he refused to end Russia investigation’, say multiple FBI insiders,” Independent, May 11, 2017; Leo Benedictus, “Invasion of the troll armies: from Russian Trump supporters to Turkish state stooges,” The Guardian, Nov. 6, 2016; Andrew Weisburd, Clint Watts, and JM Berger, “Trolling for Trump: How Russia Is Trying to Destroy Our Democracy,” War on the Rocks, Nov. 6, 2016; Jill Dougherty, “The reality behind Russia’s fake news,” CNN, Dec. 2, 2016; Craig Timberg, “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say,” Washington Post, Nov. 24, 2016 (the infamous story in which they promoted PropOrNot, which STILL hasn’t been deleted).

[14] DHS and Director of National Intelligence, “Joint DHS and ODNI Election Security Statement,” Oct. 7, 2016; Spencer Ackerman and Sam Thielman, “US officially accuses Russia of hacking DNC and interfering with election,” The Guardian, Oct. 8, 2016; Ellen Nakashima, Karoun Demirjan, and Philip Rucker, “Top U.S. intelligence official: Russia meddled in election by hacking, spreading of propaganda,” Washington Post, Jan. 5, 2017; Fred Flitz, “Was Friday’s declassified report claiming Russian hacking of the 2016 election rigged?,” Fox News opinion, Jan. 7, 2017; Tessa Stuart, “A Who’s Who of the Trump Campaign’s Russia Connections,” Rolling Stone, Mar. 2, 2017.

[15] ThreatConnect, “Does a BEAR Leak in the Woods?,” Aug. 12, 2016; Kevin Poulsen, “How the U.S. Hobbled Its Hacking Case Against Russia and Enabled Truthers,” The Daily Beast, Jan. 6, 2017; SecureWorks, “Threat Group-4127 Targets Hillary Clinton Presidential Campaign,” Jun. 16, 2016.

[16] Blackwater founder held secret Seychelles meeting to establish Trump-Putin back channel,” Washington Post, Apr. 3, 2017.

[17]Michael S. Schmidt, Matthew Rosenberg, and Matt Apuzzo, “Kushner and Flynn Met With Russian Envoy in December, White House Says,” New York Times, Mar. 2, 2017; Mark Landler and Eric Lichtblau, “Jeff Sessions Recuses Himself From Russia Inquiry,” Mar. 2, 2017; Jo Becker and Matthew Rosenberg, “Kushner Omitted Meeting With Russians on Security Clearance Forms,” New York Times, Apr. 6, 2017; Jonathan Easley, “Diplomats warn of Russia hysteria,” The Hill, Mar. 11, 2017; Ken Dilanian, “Clinton Ally Says Smoke, But No Fire: No Russia-Trump Collusion,” NBC News, Mar. 16, 2017; NBC Meet the Press, “Full Clapper: ‘No Evidence’ of Collusion Between Trump and Russia,” 2016?; Todd Shepard, “James Clapper: Still no evidence of any Russian collusion with Trump campaign,” Washington Times, May 8, 2017; Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima, and Greg Miller, “Sessions met with Russian envoy twice last year, encounters he later did not disclose,” Washington Post, Mar. 1, 2017; Julie Pace, “Senate committee calls on former Trump adviser Carter Page in Russia investigation,” Associated Press, Mar. 6, 2017; Blackwater founder held secret Seychelles meeting to establish Trump-Putin back channel,” Washington Post, Apr. 3, 2017; David Ignatius, “Why did Obama dawdle on Russia’s hacking?,” Washington Post opinion, Jan. 12, 2017; Marshall Cohen and Eli Watkins, “Who is Carter Page?,” CNN, Mar. 4, 2017.

[18] Michael Isikoff, “Moscow paid $45,000 for Flynn’s 2015 talk, documents show,” Yahoo News, Mar. 16, 2017; Lachlan Markay, “Michael Flynn Failed to Disclose Payments From Russian Propaganda Network,” The Daily Beast, Apr. 1, 2017.

[19] Clint Watts and Andrew Weisburd, “How Russia Dominates Your Twitter Feed to Promote Lies (And, Trump, Too),” The Daily Beast, Aug. 6, 2016; Carl Schreck, “FBI Director: No Evidence Russia Successfully Hacked Trump Campaign,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Free Liberty (US government propaganda outlet), Jan. 10, 2017; David Filipov, “Putin to Democratic Party: You lost, get over it,” Washington Post, Dec. 23, 2016; Olivia Beavers, “Kremlin spokesman: Russian ambassador met with advisers to Clinton campaign too,” The Hill, Mar. 12, 2017.

[20] Julie Hirschfield Davis and Maggie Haberman, “Donald Trump Concedes Russia’s Interference in Election,” Jan. 11, 2017; Ellen Nakashima, Devlin Barrett, and Adam Entous, “FBI obtained FISA warrant to monitor Trump adviser Carter Page,” Washington Post, Apr. 11, 2017; Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Carrie Dann, “Trump Cries ‘Witch Hunt’ as Russia Questions Pile Up,” NBC News, Mar. 3, 2017.

[21] Gregory Holyk, “Republicans and Democrats split over Russia probes: Poll,” ABC News, Apr. 26, 2017; Steven Shepard, “Russia investigations a ‘witch hunt’? Not according to polls,” Politico, Mar. 3, 2017; Reid J. Epstein, “About Half of Americans Think Russia Interfered With Election Through Hacking, Poll Finds,” Wall Street Journal, Jan. 17, 2017; Quinnipac University Poll, “American Voters Back Sanctions For Russian Hacking, Quinnipiac University National Poll Finds; Israel, Palestinians Not Sincere About Peace, Voters Say,” Jan. 13, 2017.

[22] In 2011 and 2012, the orange menace was still a real estate developer and ravenous capitalist. He displayed his unbridled nationalism by declaring Obama weak for not getting the Chinese and Russians to agree on sanctions, while also saying that Obama’s plan to get Russia to “stand up” to Iran has failed, making America a “laughingstock.” He later called Obama weak (again) and showed his affinity with Mitt Romney. The following year, he took a hardline stand in support of an U$ nuclear deterrent (against Russia), slammed Snowden first as a “traitor” and then as a pawn of the Russians, saying that Russians are “embarrassing” the US, among much more. The orange menace also said that the Russians are “laughing” at the US, that Snowden is a traitor (and another time), that Russia doesn’t “respect” the US, that Putin is “laughing at Obama,” and that Snowden is a Russian agent (again here). He also claims he spoke with the LGBT community in Russia, that it doesn’t make sense to go in Syria with military force, that the Russians are “better prepared” for war than the U$, and that OPEC, revisionist China, and capitalist Russia are “laughing” at the U$ (variant of this here). That’s not all. He also said that Obama’s Syria conflict could become a “worldwide conflict,” promoted the Miss Universe pageant in Russia (also see here), that U$ looks “worse” to Russia than before, that Russian and Chinese leaders are “smarter” than those in the U$, that the war in Iraq is “stupid,” that Russia may have driven the U$ into a “deeper mess,” and that the US looks “weak.” He goes on to say later that the U$ must be “smart and strategic” when it comes to Russia, mocks Obamacare (also see here),  Russia beat the U$ in Olympics, which is another “embarrassment,” Russia laughing at the U$ yet again, that Putin is much more popular than Obama, that Russia should be watched, Putin and Russia have more leadership than Obama, and calls Snowden a piece of “human garbage” who should be brought back to stand trial. He later tweets about Russian moves in Ukraine, a China-Russia oil deal, the country seeming “weaker” in comparison to Russia, joking about Obama’s “trade” with Russia, China and Russia not helping fighting ISIS which angers him (also see here), and slamming Jeb Bush (also see here). Later years, in 2014 and 2015 he says that the US needs “great leadership,” that Russia isn’t a regional power, that China and Russia are “smart” unlike U$ leaders, Russia and the world “respecting” the US because of the orange menace (oh really), slamming the Iran deal as helping Russia. There are the tweets that some would say are “pro-Russia.” With his bravedo, the orange menace claimed, before he was elected/selected via the Electoral College in November 2016, that (1) “Putin likes me,” (2) he has “ZERO investments in Russia,” (3) says that Putin called him a genius (he didn’t), and (4) said that if any country had the deleted emails of Killary, including the Russians, they should leak them. Yet, this is countered by the fact that he criticized Russia for its occupation of Crimea (which was done by referendum, which he doesn’t believe), blaming Obama, and condemning Russia’s nuclear capabilities, to give a few examples.

[23] Charlie Savage, “Deputy Attorney General’s Memo Breaks Down Case Against Comey,” New York Times, May 9, 2017; David Leonhardt, “Rod Rosenstein Fails His Ethics Test,” New York Times, May 10, 2017; Doyle McManus, “All eyes in Washington are on Rod Rosenstein. Does he have what it takes to investigate Trump?,” LA Times, May 10, 2017; Pamela Brown and Eric Lichtblau, “Rod Rosenstein: Trump’s unlikely hatchet man,” CNN, May 10, 2017; Steve Reilly, “Rosenstein: ‘Prosecutor’s prosecutor’ at center of Comey firestorm,” USA Today, May 10, 2017; Benjamin Wittes, “Et Tu Rod? Why The Deputy Attorney General Must Resign,” LawFare, May 12, 2017; Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker, Sari Horwitz, and Robert Costa, “Inside Trump’s anger and impatience — and his sudden decision to fire Comey,” Washington Post, May 10, 2017 (claims to tell the “story” of the behind-the-scenes of the Comey firing).

[24] BBC News, “Rod Rosenstein’s letter recommending Comey be fired,” May 10, 2017.

The immigrant proletariat, the Muslim ban, and the capitalist class

Editor’s note: This piece was originally written on February 1, 2017 so it is outdated in some respects, but broadly still valid. This is reposted from Dissident Voice, with the name of the current president changed to the orange menace.

This post was analyzed for mistakes and other content in January 2019, as part of an effort to engage in self-criticism. Some changes have been made.

The orange menace’s administration has dug in its heels, declaring that the 90-day (for now) Muslim ban on refugees, from seven predominantly Muslim countries (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia), enshrined in a January 27th executive order, is just “extreme vetting” and that the media is engaging in “false reporting.” In contrast, hundreds of diplomats have criticized the travel ban, top Democrats have criticized the ban while Republicans like Paul Ryan have said it necessary to protect the “homeland.” Also Jewish groups, over six thousand academics, varying UN agencies, and pro-refugee groups have criticized orange menace’s action, along with protests in airports across the country, while immigrants have suffered with more crackdowns to come.

Numerous companies and CEOs have put out critical statements about orange menace’s order. This included the top executives of Microsoft, Apple, Netflix, Airbnb, Box, GE, Lyft, Uber (later on), Koch Industries, TripAdvisor, SpaceX/Tesla Motors, JPMorganCase, and Goldman Sachs, most of whom pledged to help their own employees directly affected. [1] Others that spoke out on the ban included the head of the Internet Association, an industry trade group for the Internet industry, with some investors, like Chris Sacca, sending thousands of dollars to the ACLU, just like Lyft, Tim Cook of Apple declaring that “Apple would not exist without immigration, let alone thrive and innovate the way we do” and Twitter mirroring this by saying “Twitter is built by immigrants of all religions. We stand for and with them, always.” [2] Some exploited the misery of the order by trying to help their bottom line: Airbnb said that it would “provide free housing to detainees and travelers” affected and Starbucks is planning to hire 10,000 refugees “over five years in the 75 countries where it does business,” starting with those people who “have served with U.S. troops as interpreters and support personnel.” [3] What seems clear is that the actions of the orange menace may have crossed a “red line” as Hunter Walk, a partner at the San Francisco-based venture capital firm Homebrew VC, told the Washington Post, indicating possible anti-orange menace action by Silicon Valley in the future, as more companies realize it is a “bigger risk to their investors and bottom line to stay quiet than it is to protest the orange menace’s ban on refugees and travel from seven Muslim-majority nations, betting vocal opposition to the executive order scores them a moral and fiscal victory.” [4]

Such statements mean that the one group that remains constant in opposition to the racist executive order is a sect of the capitalist class. While the recent lawsuits filed in Darweesh v. Trump, Aziz v. Trump, Doe v. Trump, Sarsour v. Trump, San Francisco v. Trump, Louhghalam et al v. Trump, have mainly made constitutional arguments against the racist immigration ban, one suit revealed more about the interests of the capitalist class, especially those in the tech industry. This lawsuit, filed by the Attorney General of the State of Washington, Bob Ferguson, and joined by Expedia and Amazon, among other companies, declared the following, showing how this industry depends on immigrants:

Immigration is an important economic driver in Washington. Many workers in Washington’s technology industry are immigrants, and many of those immigrant workers are from Muslim-majority countries. Immigrant and refugee-owned businesses employ 140,000 people in Washington. Many companies in Washington are dependent on foreign workers to operate and grow their businesses. The technology industry relies heavily on the H-1B visa program through which highly skilled workers like software engineers are permitted to work in the United States. Washington ranks ninth in the U.S. by number of applications for high-tech visas. Microsoft, a corporation headquartered in Redmond, Washington, is the State’s top employer of high-tech—or H-1B visa holders and employs nearly 5,000 people through the program. Other Washington-based companies, including Amazon, Expedia, and Starbucks, employ thousands of H-1B visa holders. The market for highly skilled workers and leaders in the technology industry is extremely competitive. Changes to U.S. immigration policy that restrict the flow of people may inhibit these companies’ ability to adequately staff their research and development efforts and recruit talent from overseas. If recruiting efforts are less successful, these companies’ abilities to develop and deliver successful products and services may be adversely affected Microsoft’s U.S. workforce is heavily dependent on immigrants and guest workers. At least 76 employees at Microsoft are citizens of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, or Yemen and hold U.S. temporary work visas. There may be other employees with permanent-resident status or green cards. These employees may be banned from re-entering the U.S. if they travel overseas or to the company’s offices in Vancouver, British Columbia. Seattle-based company Amazon also employs workers from every corner of the world. Amazon’s employees, dependents of employees, and candidates for employment with Amazon have been impacted by the Executive Order that is the subject of this Complaint. Amazon has advised such employees currently in the United States to refrain from travel outside the United States. Bellevue-based company Expedia operates a domestic and foreign travel business. At the time of this filing, Expedia has approximately 1,000 customers with existing flight reservations in or out of the United. States who hold passports from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, or Yemen. The Executive Order will restrict business, increase business costs, and impact current employees and customers.

Such a section comprises six paragraphs of Washington State’s argument against the immigration order, a section that the lawsuit depends on to be successful. Immigrants are clearly vital to the tech industry. Of the 250,000 Muslims living in the San Francisco Bay Area, who are mostly of Arab or South Asian descent, many of them work at “companies such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft.” [5] These immigrants are seen as “essential” to the growth of Silicon Valley, with 37 percent of workers in the area being foreign-born, with immigrants creating “some of America’s biggest tech companies,” like Yahoo, Apple, or Google, and allowing them to survive (and “boom”), since they rely on “talent from abroad to fill positions and to meet their global ambitions.” [6] After all, the “superstars of the high-tech industry are all immigrants” as one article points out.

Since immigrants account for a “significant part of the workforce in the tech industry,” the industry has advocated for looser laws to “increase the flow of skilled immigrants into the U.S.” and is heavily reliant on the H-1B visa program. The program, which started in 2000 with bipartisan support, “allows software engineers and other skilled workers to work in the U.S.,” resulting in their active role in the political arena to push for looser immigration restrictions. [7] Hence, Silicon Valley is afraid of the upcoming immigration restrictions during the orange menace’s administration. This is especially the case since the orange menace has reportedly drafted an executive order to overhaul the H-1B visa program, which companies depend on so they can “hire tens of thousands of employees each year,” the “talent” they need to thrive, with their support of the orange menace basically non-existent in the recent presidential campaign. [8]

By the mid-1990s, those who live in the Valley divided “along racial and economic lines” with older and wealthier whites “concentrated in the west Valley,” and Latinos (as they are often called) fanning across the floor of the valley, with many of the immigrants poor, bringing with them “crowding and new welfare burdens,” a division that angers many Latinos. [9] In recent years, the immigrant community which undergirds Silicon Valley has been in trouble. [10] With immigrant youth comprising a major portion of “both the population and the workforce in the Silicon Valley,” the Valley had “deep disparities when it comes to the lives of undocumented immigrants,” with such youth facing barriers in accessing education, concentrated in low-wage jobs, and serving as a diverse and “core part of the Silicon Valley community.” Immigrants from the Asian continent, whether Chinese, Filipino, or otherwise, form, as of April 2015, the “largest racial block in Santa Clara County, exceeding the proportion of non-Hispanic white residents for the first time.”

Despite such dependence on immigrants, the tech industry does not treat these employees fairly or justly. One academic report in 2012 says that the stated reasons of the tech industry (lack of study of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), rapid technological change, and needing to hire best and brightest workers for “innovations” to occur) cannot be confirmed upon close inspection, leaving cheap labor as “the remaining explanatory factor.” The report goes on to say that legal loopholes allow for foreign workers to be unpaid drastically compared to Amerikan-born workers, with many of the workers coming from India, revisionist China, and the Philippines, along with other Asian immigrants, comprising from 50-80% of the workforce of top technology companies, with the tech industry claiming a “labor shortage” and lack of talent, although this cannot be supported by existing data. Interestingly, even the conservative media scoffs at the claims of the tech industry, with arch-conservative National Review declaring that work permits “are basically de facto green cards and give the foreign national complete flexibility in the job market” and that the visa program will hurt the middle class (not sure if that’s true) while the similarly aligned FrontPage Magazine questioned the shortage of “high-skilled American labor,” saying that the visa program provides “a supply of lower-wage guest workers.” [11] Of course, they oppose the claims for anti-immigrant reasons and don’t really care about the well-being of immigrant workers in the U$, without a doubt.

Mistreatment of immigrants in Silicon Valley is nothing new. There is no doubt that high-skilled immigrant workers “are being exploited by employers,” with the H1-B visa program benefiting the corporate bottom line, especially providing protection against unions and labor strikes, but hurting the workers. The program itself gives employers great power over workers, allowing them to “hire and fire workers…grant legal immigration status…[or] deport the worker” if they don’t do what they like. In 2014 Wired magazine reported on a study showing that major tech companies (ex: Cisco, Apple, Verizon, Microsoft, IBM, JPMorgan Chase, and Google) have pocketed wages and benefits from workers, especially among new Indian immigrants to the Valley, leading to an “ecosystem of fear” in the area among the workforce. The tech companies collectively withheld at least $29.7 million from such workers, forcing them to pay fees they shouldn’t have to pay, creating a form of indentured servitude, as some called it, where there exists an “underground system of financial bondage by stealing wages and benefits, even suing workers who quit,” making “business and profit by having cheap labor” as one worker put it. [12] This shows that the tech companies are, in their own way, engaging in a form of organized crime against the immigrant proletariat. Such crimes are only part of their business model which includes top Silicon Valley CEOs conspiring in wage-fixing to drive down the wages of 100,000 engineers, ultimately involving one million employees in all.

With the exploitation of the immigrant proletariat, mainly those that are “high-skilled,” by the tech industry, this explains the harsh opposition from Silicon Valley to the orange menace’s executive order. Without the visa program, the industry would likely collapse or at least be weakened. As for other industries, immigrants are employed in jobs across the U$ economy, even as they face similar constraints to the native-born poor along with restrictions related to their citizenship status, especially in cities like New York. As a result, it can be said that immigrants ultimately benefit the U$ economy, even those that are undocumented, and are not a drag on the “native-born” section of the working class, making the country a better place for all, as even free-marketeers and libertarians would admit. [13] This is important to point out with nativists getting a new lease on life under the orange menace’s administration.

As we stand now, the horribleness of the Obama administration has increased under the orange menace’s nightmarish state in regards to immigrants, Muslims killed by drone bombing, and violence supported by the murderous empire across the world, among much more. While we should undoubtedly be critical of bourgeois liberals and bourgeois progressives who claim to have the “answers” and solution to fighting the orange menace, rejecting their pleas to move the capitalist Democratic Party “more left” to fight the “bad Republicans,” there is no reason to sit idly by. We must get involved in pushing for revolutionary politics by at minimum engaging in actions that show solidarity with the immigrant proletariat, whether documented or undocumented, in the United States. In the end, perhaps we should heed what Homer Simpson declared about immigrants all those years ago:

Most of here were born in America. We take this country for granted. Not immigrants like Apu [who immigrated from India and on a green card], while the rest of are drinking ourselves stupid, they’re driving the cabs that get us home safely. They’re writing the operas that entertain us everyday. They’re training out tigers and kicking our extra points. These people are the glue that holds together the gears of our society. [14]


Notes

[1] Nathan Bomey, “Elon Musk to seek CEO consensus on changes to Trump immigration ban,” USA Today, Jan. 29, 2017; Fredreka Schouten, “Koch network slams Trump immigrant ban,” USA Today, Jan. 29, 2017; Jill Disis, “Starbucks pledges to hire 10,000 refugees,” CNNMoney, Jan. 29, 2017; David Pierson, “Facing Trump’s immigration ban, corporations can’t risk keeping silent,” Los Angeles Times, Jan. 31, 2017. As Elon Musk (of Tesla Motors and SpaceX) tried to “seek a consensus” among fellow business CEOs who were affected with the order and trying to work with Trump, Uber changed course from crossing a picket line and profiting from the misery, to condemning Trump’s action as impacting “many innocent people” and the CEO of Uber, Travis Kalanick, declaring “I’ve…never shied away…from fighting for what’s right,” even as they continue their horrid practices with exploitation of their workforce.

[2] Jessica Guynn and Laura Mandaro, “Microsoft, Uber, Apple, Google: How the tech world responded to Trump’s immigration ban,” USA Today, Jan. 28, 2017.

[3] Jill Disis, “Starbucks pledges to hire 10,000 refugees,” CNNMoney, Jan. 29, 2017

[4] Brian Fung and Tracy Jan, “Tech firms recall employees to U.S., denounce Trump’s ban on refugees from Muslim countries,” Washington Post, Jan. 28, 2017; David Pierson, “Facing Trump’s immigration ban, corporations can’t risk keeping silent,” Los Angeles Times, Jan. 31, 2017; John Ribeiro, “US tech industry says immigration order affects their operations,” CIO, Jan. 29, 2017; Anthony Cuthbertson, “How Silicon Valley Is Fighting Back Against Trump’s Immigration Ban,” Newsweek, Jan. 30, 2017; Eric Newcomer, “Silicon Valley Finds Its Voice as Immigration Ban Fuels Outrage,” Bloomberg Technology, Jan. 30, 2017; PCMag staff, “Here’s What Silicon Valley Is Saying About Trump’s Immigration Ban,” PC magazine, Jan. 29, 2017; Matt Richtel, “Tech Recruiting Clashes With Immigration Rules,” New York Times, Apr. 11, 2009. On the subject of US-Mexico migration some companies have tried to get on the game as well: a Zionist company said they will help build the “great wall” on the US-Mexico border.

[5] Brian Fung and Tracy Jan, “Tech firms recall employees to U.S., denounce Trump’s ban on refugees from Muslim countries,” Washington Post, Jan. 28, 2017.

[6] John Blackstone, “Tech industry, fueled by immigrants, protesting Trump’s travel ban,” CBS News, Jan. 31, 2017; Kerry Flynn, “Immigrants have built America’s tech industry,” Mashable, Jan. 31, 2017; Carmel Lobello, “The tech industry’s case for immigration reform,” The Week, June 2, 2013; Sarah McBride, “One quarter of U.S. tech start-ups founded by an immigrant: study,” Reuters, Oct. 2, 2012. Even a Forbes contributor, David Shaywitz,” said that immigrants are an “inextricable part of the valley’s cultural fabric and a vital element of its innovative potential.”

[7] Jessica Guynn and Laura Mandaro, “Microsoft, Uber, Apple, Google: How the tech world responded to Trump’s immigration ban,” USA Today, Jan. 28, 2017; Katie Benner, “Obama, Immigration and Silicon Valley,” BloombergView, Jan. 22, 2015; Gregory Ferenstein, “No Exceptions For Tech Industry: High Skilled Visas Now Tied To Comprehensive Reform,” TechCrunch, Dec. 1, 2012; Stephen Moore, “Immigration Reform Means More High-Tech Jobs,” CATO Institute, Sept. 24, 1998; Jessica Leber, “Silicon Valley Fights for Immigrant Talent,” MIT Technology Review, July 26, 2013; Amit Paka, “How Legal Immigration Failed Silicon Valley,” TechCrunch, Sept. 7, 2015.

[8] Peter Elstrom and Saritha Rai, “Trump’s Next Immigration Move to Hit Closer to Home for Tech,” Bloomberg News, Jan. 30, 2017; Gretel Kauffman, “How Trump’s immigration stances could affect the tech industry,” Christian Science Monitor, Nov. 20, 2016; David Z. Morris, “Tech Industry Could be “First to Suffer” From Trump’s Immigration Stances,” Fortune, Nov 19, 2016; Salvador Rodriguez, “Why Tech Companies Need Immigrants to Function,” Inc, Jan. 30, 2017; Paresh Dave and Tracey Lien, “Trump’s shocking victory could squeeze Silicon Valley on immigration and trade,” Los Angeles Times, Nov. 9, 2016; David Jones, “Silicon Valley Up in Arms Over Proposed H-1B Overhaul,” E-Commerce Times, Jan. 31, 2017; Marisa Kendall, “Trump poised to overhaul H-1B visas relied on by Silicon Valley tech,” Mercury News, Jan. 31, 2017; Hansi Lo Wang, “In Silicon Valley, Immigrants Toast Their Way To The Top,” NPR News, Apr. 19, 2014; Marie-Astrid Langer, “Silicon Valley Wants High-Skilled Immigration on Campaign Agenda,” Wall Street Journal, Sept. 18, 2015.

[9] Andrew Murr, “Immigrants In The Valley,” Newsweek, Dec. 25, 1994.

[10] Some immigrants are doing well however. Even by 1998, one study found that “Chinese and Indian immigrants were running a quarter of the high-tech businesses in Silicon Valley, collectively accounting for more than $16.8 billion in sales and over 58,000 jobs.”

[11] Ian Smith, “Obama Games the Visa System to Lower Wages and Please the Tech Industry,” National Review, September 30, 2015; Arnold Ahlert, “The Tech Industry’s Immigration Lies,” FrontPage Magazine, April 2, 2014.

[12] The report shows that most of those who are the “well educated, highly skilled and specialized foreign workers” accepted under the H1-B Visa program are from China, India, the Philippines, and South Korea, with thousands of other petitions accepted from the United Kingdom, Mexico, Japan, Taiwan, France, Pakistan, Germany, Turkey, Brazil, Nepal, Venezuela, Colombia, Italy, Russia, and Spain, among other countries.

[13] H.A. Goodman, “Illegal immigrants benefit the U.S. economy,” The Hill, Apr. 23, 2014; Rowena Lindsay, “How immigration helps the US economy: Report,” Christian Science Monitor, Sept. 24, 2016; Ted Hesson, “Why American Cities Are Fighting to Attract Immigrants,” The Atlantic, Jul. 21, 2015; Daniel Griswold, “Immigrants Have Enriched American Culture and Enhanced Our Influence in the World,” Insight (CATO Institute publication), Feb. 18, 2002; Rohit Arora, “Three Reasons Why Immigrants Help the U.S. Economy,” Inc, Feb. 24, 2015; Timothy Kaine, “The Economic Effect Of Immigration,” Hoover Institution, Feb. 17, 2015; Sean Hackbarth, “Immigrants are Good for the Economy,” U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Dec. 5, 2014; A. Barton Hinkle, “Immigration Is Good for the U.S. Economy,” Reason, Jul. 21, 2014; Minyoung Park, “The vast majority of undocumented immigrants in the US are here working: BAML,” Yahoo! News, Jul. 21, 2016.

[14] This speech is made by Homer near the end of the Simpsons episode, Much Apu About Nothing (Season 7, episode 23, May 1996) when Homer has the realization that the measure that would deport immigrants from Springfield, proposition 24, proposed by the loyal mayor, Joe Quimby, to distract from the “bear tax” to pay for the worthless “Bear Patrol” is wrong. Regardless, the measure passes anyway, with 95% approval, and Homer declares that democracy “doesn’t work” while all of the immigrants have gained citizenship (after passing the citizenship test), except for Groundskeeper Willie, who goes on a ship back to Scotland.

“It is homeland or death”: Breaking the neo-colonial chains in Zimbabwe

Flag of the independent Republic of Zimbabwe currently.
Flag of the independent Republic of Zimbabwe currently.

This post was analyzed for mistakes and other content in January 2019, as part of an effort to engage in self-criticism. Some changes have been made.

In 1996, the neo-colonial chains, of the post-independence period, began to be broken. In the presidential election that year, Mugabe was elected with over 92% of the vote, while Abel Muzorewa of the United Parties, the moderate opposition party, gained 4.8% of the vote. It was this year, the same year that Mugabe became the chair of the defense arm of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), that the Zanu-PF government began to back away from ESAP, as they realized its disastrous results, luckily for the Zimbabwean proletariat even though a Black Zimbabwean bourgeoisie had developed.

The following year, in 1997, the chains holding Zimbabwe to Britain were completely snapped. The government began to seize land owned by a “handful of white farmers” which some called a “steadily increasing autocracy,” not realizing the deep-rooted reasons for regaining such land. [1] After failing to undertake the IMF’s “reforms” as quickly as they wanted, the assurances the British government made in 1979 to “fund the purchase of land from white settlers,” were rejected by the New Labour government controlled by Tony Blair. This government was hostile to the land program and Zimbabwe, as the government went into “open revolt,” rejecting the IMF programs which they now saw as “injurious to Zimbabweans.” Around the same time, Morgan Tsvangirai came onto the scene as a Western toady with his anti-government activism continuing under the umbrella of the ZCTU (Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions), and the “IMF riots” in Harare, like many other “Third World” countries came to an end.

In 1998, Zimbabwe snubbed the Western capitalists yet again. With his land program, resistance to IMF programs by adopting Black nationalist economic measures hostile to the West, and support for the new government of Laurent Kabila in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Gowans says that Kabila was following “economically nationalist policies reminiscent of those of Patrice Lumumba,” leading the CIA to overthrow many years earlier, but considering he is a revisionist this is probably not the full reality. In reality, one could say that Kabila’s government may have been progressive but it had a bourgeoisie, which got worse after his son, Joseph Kabila, took over in 2001 after Laurent’s assassination, whom was favored more by the West.

The economic measures adopted by Zimbabwe at the time included imposition of tariffs to protect new industries and providing Black investors (part of the Zimbabwean bourgeoisie) incentives, and an affirmative action program, so that that could be “African ownership of the economy.” These measures clearly opposed the “Washington Consensus.” As for helping the Kabila government, a third of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF), 11,000 souls, were sent into the DRC, in the Great African War (also called the Second Congo War) in order to stave off an “invasion by Rwandan and Ugandan forces,” which was backed by Britain and the U$, showing that Mugabe was not an “errand boy for Western capital” any longer. By 1999, opposition formed from angry White farmers whose land was expropriated and redistributed justly to Black families. This included the formation of the Movement for Democratic Change or MDC, which was originally funded by the British-backed Westminster Foundation for Democracy and other governments in Europe, along with many western NGOs and “civil society” groups receiving funding from Western governments or foundations to this day. This new land reform was coupled with the completion of the break with the IMF, which refused to extend loans to the country, while the MDC pushed forward the Washington Consensus, setting in motion the continuing conflict since that time, a conflict between the Zanu-PF’s Black nationalism and the MDC’s neo-colonialism. Another factor for the end of IMF loans was the loss of military equipment in the DRC to back Kabila’s government, with the Zimbabwean government wanting to recoup the losses but Western donors shook their fingers is dismay, saying that aid programs to Zimbabwe were “under review, citing military spending in Congo among the reasons.”

On July 1, 1999, Joshua Nkomo, the former leader of Zapu and foe of Mugabe died of prostate cancer. Not surprisingly, the Western media mourned in pain. The Guardian declared that Nkomo was the “unchallenged leader of the long struggle to achieve majority rule” and the “unofficial…king of Zimbabwe’s Ndebele people,” saying that he was a dedicated African nationalist who “became convinced that white Rhodesians would not voluntarily accept black majority rule” (a lie without a doubt) but had a less successful struggle, with his political role after independence supposedly “that of merely a figurehead” in their view. [2] BBC said something similar, calling him the “first modern nationalist leader in white-ruled Rhodesia,” saying that he dominated “the Zimbabwean stage,” while sparing with Mugabe, and lost his “ambition of becoming Zimbabwe’s first black president” with his career following a “steady decline” as some saw him as “selling out” with conservative attitudes toward women. Both pieces, not surprisingly, mentioned the Gukurahundi campaign and disturbances (January 3, 1983 to December 22, 1987), in which the Zimbabwean government engaged in senseless violence against thousands of Ndebele people, who did not support the government, for which Mugabe has expressed regret. Recently, the Zimbabwean government has begun reburying victims of the war of liberation and post-independence disturbances, as part of a “national healing and reconciliation process” after these events, showing that everyone makes mistakes. At the same time, it is worth recognizing that these pieces predictably praised Nkomo who was the chosen leader for the White settlers and capitalists in the post-independence period, for which he did not get as Mugabe won the 1980 elections instead, for which all of those in the world should be grateful.

The boldness of the Zimbabwean government led to anger from Western capitalist governments and the capitalist class for years to come. This included claims that Mugabe is a “dictator” or a “one-party state” which is denied by sheer logic, along with support for the MDC, which has a “commitment to private property and capitalist freedoms,” and condemning measures the state takes “to prevent the eruption of violence” branding them as “authoritarian, dictatorial, and anti-democratic.” Anger from the West also is rooted in “expropriating farms owned by settlers of European origins” with compensation, helping Black Zimbabweans, foreign investment controls, and trying to “free Zimbabwe from neo-colonialism.” There have been a number of continuities through the 1990s worth mentioning. For one, Zimbabwe went from a one-party state to a multiparty state, HIV among unmarried people across the country begun to be more prevalent, and Tekere, a veteran of the Zimbabwean liberation war, led an opposition movement. [3] It is also worth noting that Mugabe has been critical of homosexuality since the mid-1990s, at least, seeing it as a western import. For those concerned about this, rightly so, they should push for Western NGOs pushing this issue to leave the country in order to not reinforce this perception even more. The only other aspects worth mentioning are the military equipment that entered the country in the 1990s, from a number of Western countries (Spain, UK, US, Italy, and France), along with other countries (Czechoslovakia, Russia, and PRC). This included, but is not limited to 1 transport aircraft, 52 self-propelled multiple-rocket launchers (MRL), 2 fighter aircraft, 5 trainer/combat aircraft, 2 light aircraft (for anti-poaching operations), 6 trainer aircraft, 23 armored personnel carriers (APCs), and 6 combat helicopters, as noted by the SIPRI trade register.

The imperialist assault on Mugabe, the Zanu-PF, and the Republic of Zimbabwe grew in the 21st century. For one, the state received weaponry to defend itself from the imperialistic vipers, including six multiple rocket launchers from the Czech Republic, 60 mortars from Bulgaria, two rocket launchers from Slovakia, three fighter aircraft from Libya, and 12 trainer aircraft from revisionist China, accompanied by 12 turbofan engines from Ukraine, during the years of 2000 to 2006. Zimbabwe also received one transport aircraft from Ukraine in 2001, and gave the Czech Republic 10 self-propelled guns the same year.

While Mugabe is clearly an African nationalist leading  a country with a developed black bourgeoisie and the policies of Zanu-PF are progressive at best, the Western capitalists would not relent in their assault. Freedom House, one of the many organizations which pushes “human rights” imperialism across the world, echoed by President Obama himself, claimed that the country had a “regime,” an “authoritarian system” that gives “unfettered power” to Mugabe, who they dubbed a “dictator,” and even more harshly, said that Mugabe had abandoned his “promise of liberation.” [4] Others, such as Jimmy Carter, another “human rights” NGO like Amnesty and Human Rights Watch, called Human Rights First, went on to claim that there has been the “subversion of democracy” under the current government. Some in alternative media, such as Louis Proyect, Mahir Ali, Koni Benson, Mahmood Mamdani, Michelle Pinto, Allan Nairn, Rohini Hensman, and Peter Tatchell, fell in line by declaring that “Mugabe’s authoritarianism” is undeniable, that there is a “Mugabe cliché,” or that Mugabe is part of a “murderous” regime, among many other unfounded claims.

As it should be obvious, all of these claims deny the reality. These critics were denying that the handmaiden of imperialism, the National Endowment of Democracy, issued 21 grants in 2015, costing over $1.6 million, toward Zimbabwean “civil society,” words which translate to the anti-Zanu-PF “opposition,” while the government was taking an obvious anti-imperialist stand. Even by 2000, Zimbabwe’s fast-track land redistribution was beginning to become an act of racial justice, as it was not only independent from AFRICOM in later years, but was standing on the side of African liberation against the imperialist tyranny favored by the opposition, making the country “Africa’s Cuba” in the minds of some. Even the State Department had to admit that Zimbabwe is “constitutionally a republic” even while they condemned the country for what they claimed were “human rights violations” which is just another manifestation of their imperial propaganda.

2000 was an eventful year for Zimbabwe. Apart from Sithole, a veteran of the Zimbabwean liberation war, dying in Philadelphia that year, the land reforms, mentioned in the previous paragraph, began in earnest. In February 2000, the Zanu-PF government held a constitutional referendum, on February 11 and 12, giving power to the government to seize White farms without compensation and proposed a bill of rights within the proposed constitution. Sadly, it was rejected by the populace, with roughly 55% of the population voting against it, and about 45% for it. It is worth noting that the Centre for Democracy and Development Observer Mission said that the referendum was “conducted in an atmosphere that was generally free, fair and peaceful.” While speculating on the reason for this defeat might be a fool’s errand, there is no doubt that the opposition party, the MDC, took this as a victory and the Zanu-PF did not say this result was invalid, showing once again, that there is no “dictatorship.” Luckily for the Zimbabwean people, the land reforms went on, in a different way of course.

The redistribution of White farms to the Zimbabwean populace, even as every White farmer was allowed to control individual, single farms, not more than one per farmer, was begun in a way that shocked Western capitalists. After the relatively close parliamentary elections, in June 2000, in which the Zanu-PF won seven additional seats but only gained 48.6% of the popular vote, while the MDC gained 47% of the popular vote, the government used its available powers to seize such farms, under their fast-track land program, at an opportune time, a time when there as an “acute financial crisis” in the country because of Western destabilization measures. While some claimed that the land reform, coupled with takeover of mines, and “other productive enterprises,” with the help of veterans of Zimbabwe’s liberation war, was “deeply destabilizing,” nothing could be further from the truth. [5] In fact, the Zimbabwean government was finishing off in its quest to cast off the hideous shadow of neo-colonialism with its land reform program, which tried to “redistribute land owned by 4,000 farmers of European descent to 300,000 landless families,” and indigenization laws allowing indigenous Zimbabweans or the government to “take controlling stakes in all foreign-owned banks and companies” (benefiting the Zimbabwean black bourgeoisie most of all), leading to economic backlash from the West. This manifested itself in sanctions from the US, Britain, and the European Union, along with blocking the country’s access to “international lines of credit,” and building up opposition within the country, coalesced around the MDC, in an effort to destabilize the country. These measures also made it near impossible for the Zimbabwean military to “secure foreign currency to buy spares for its fleet of immobilised Cascavel and Urutu armoured cars” which were still fighting in the DRC at the time.

In the following years, the Zanu-PF government continued to assert its independence, resisting the attempts by British and US imperialists to gain control in Southern Africa. The White farmers who used their money and wealth to try to stop the Zanu-PF in the ownership of natural resources by the Zimbabwean populace, and reclaiming White land for indigenous Black farmers, were not alone. In 2001, the US government, as the “prime guarantor of the imperialist system,” introduced the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act, or ZDERA, and passed by a vote of 396-11 in the House, and passed in the Senate by unanimous consent. The law declared that U$ representations to international financial institutions such as the IMF and World Bank must “oppose and vote against any extension by the respective institution of any loan, credit, or guarantee to the Government of Zimbabwe” or any attempt to reduce that government’s debt, a measure which not only deprived the country of “foreign currency required to import necessities from abroad,” such as chemicals to fluoridate water, but aid from the World Bank was cut off, plunging the country into an “economic abyss.” These sanctions were coupled with the hostility of Botswana, which said that nearby countries should impose an oil blockade to bring down the government, all because Zimbabwe stood against the Western capitalist order. This law was also, as Cynthia McKinney pointed out, not only was the Zimbabwean government trying to right a historical wrong, but the law was “nothing more than a formal declaration of United States complicity in a program to maintain white-skin privilege.” Simbi Veke Mubako, then Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to the United States, called the law an “attempt to show some support for white farmers” which is “unfair, unjust, and racially motivated.” Both of these statements were more accurate than claims it was about “human rights, good governance, and economic development in Africa,” as George W. Bush claimed at the time, but really about helping the Zimbabwean people pursue “peaceful democratic change” through U@ backing of the opposition.

In 2002 and 2003, Zimbabwe trudged forward. In March 2002, Jonathan Moyo, then the Information Minister, said that the demise of the Soviet Union caused the “current image crisis” of the country since, in his view, global scrutiny of Zimbabwe began with the “end of the bipolar world order” and beginning of a unipolar world order by extension. [6] The same year, there was a presidential election, which was later declared “free and fair” by a team from the Organization of African Unity, along with observers from Nigeria, South Africa, and Namibia, even as groups from the British Commonwealth and Norway scowled at the result. The result of the election makes these responses even more understandable: in which Zanu-PF gained over 56% of the vote, the MDC garnered 42% of the vote, along with a slew of other independent parties. Apart from this vote showing that the Zanu-PF had gained strength and support among the Zimbabwean populace, it also led to an adverse reaction. Zimbabwe was expelled from the British Commonwealth, Switzerland sanctioned the country, and Denmark closed its embassy in Harare, after an “unfair” election in which the Zanu-PF, a Black nationalist party, gained more of the vote. Of course, apart from the British Commonwealth defending their imperialist decision, the MDC was elated, saying it “vindicates what we’ve been saying all along” while Morgan Tsvangirai of the same party demanded new elections, without wanting to engage in negotiations, and trade unions seemed to also been the pocket of the West by calling for a “three-day general strike.” All in all, the reactions by the West were not surprising, but more significant was the fact that this suspension meant that foreign aid to Zimbabwe was further restricted. The following year, after this whole ordeal, Zimbabwe left the Commonwealth entirely, with Mugabe declaring, rightly, that with the suspension still in place, it was unfair, meaning that “Zimbabwe is still the subject of the Commonwealth,” which he said was unacceptable.

Fast forward to 2005, when the country was still under siege. The Western-backed MDC, which had continued its destabilization, split into two different sections after 2005. [7] Not only was this positive news, but the government launched Operation Restore Order, unofficially known as Operation Murambatsvina or Move the Rubbish. This was a massive campaign to eliminate the slum conditions across the country, which Westerners, even the respected medical journal, The Lancet, claimed was actually aimed at the “opposition” and had many “victims.” In actuality, it was a drive for urban renewal, specifically aimed at illegal houses, which displaced some, and reducing the spread of infectious disease, at a time when the country was in an economic crisis due to imperialist destabilization. It is worth quoting what the Robert Mugabe said to the UN in its defense of the this urban renewal effort:

“…in the aftermath of our urban clean-up operation, popularly known as Operation Murambatsvina or Restore Order, the familiar noises re-echoed from the same malicious prophets of doom, claiming that there was a humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe. Those unfounded alarms are aimed at deliberately tarnishing the image of Zimbabwe and projecting it as a failed state. We find it strange and obviously anomalous that the Government of Zimbabwe should be maligned and condemned for restoring order and the rule of law in its municipal areas. Our detractors fail to acknowledge that Operation Restore Order soon gave way to a well-planned vast reconstruction programme through which properly planned accommodation, factory shells and vending stalls are being constructed in many areas of the country for our people. We have rejected the scandalous demand…that we lower our urban housing standards to allow for mud huts, bush latrines and put toilets as suitable for the urban people of Zimbabwe and for Africans generally. Nothing can be more insulting and degrading of a people than that! Surely, we do not need development in reverse…We…went through long and bitter times to gain our freedom and Independence and to be where we are today. We cherish that hard-won freedom and Independence, and no amount of coercion, political, economic, or otherwise, will make use a colony again.”

The same year, the Zimbabwean parliament passed a law to move the fast-track land redistribution effort forward. The law, which nationalized land that had been redistributed, was later ruled against by the SADC in 2009, but they allowed for the decision to not be enforced, which was a victory for Black nationalism. Another victory for such nationalism and defeats for neo-colonialism was the Senate elections where the Zanu-PF garnered about 74% of the popular vote compared to the MDC’s measly 20% approximately, among a slew of many political parties, which translated to 43 more seats for the Zanu-PF and only 7 for the MDC. The same happened in the parliamentary elections, for the lower House of Assembly, where the Zanu-PF gained 16 seats, with about 60% of the popular vote, while the MDC lost the same amount, only garnering about 40% of the popular vote. Internationally, the Communist Party of Great Britain-Marxist Leninist or CPGB-ML praised the efforts of the Zanu-PF, writing in their Proletarian newsletter that “the pressing question of land ownership is the reason that the Zimbabwean war of independence was fought in the first place” without recognizing that Zimbabwe has a developed Black bourgeoisie and the history of the country itself, showing their utter revisionist errors, as one would expect.

In 2007, the imperial assault still continued. After acting to maintain order and counter the MDC, with the help of the Zambian government the previous year, the Zanu-PF government was in for another hard year. This year, individuals such as Arthur Mutambara, tied to a British consulting firm, U$ ambassador to Zimbabwe, Christopher Dell, and Freedom House, along with others, worked together to replace Mugabe with “neo-liberal standard bearers of the MDC,” with some of the people the same as those who overthrew Slobodan Milosevic, trying to undermine the Zimbabwean government! This regime change agenda was part of a way to destabilize the country yet again. By September, the country was in an economic crisis, with shortages in food and electricity not because of the government or Mugabe the supposed “strongman,” but because Zimbabwe is “singled out in the Western media for special attention” and due to efforts of Western domination. Some went even further. They argued that Africa was better under White rule, since they were angry about socially democratic policies in Zimbabwe which included a program distributing land from White farmers to the Black populace and indigenisation measures, with these “sins against private property” seen as a reason to undermine the country itself. The former chief of staff for Tony Blair, Jonathan Powell, grumbled later that year that “Mugabe can use anything we say or do to stir the dying embers of anti-colonialism.” The New York Times even said that Ian Smith, the leader of White apartheid government, which the Zimbabwean freedom fighters fought against, was better than Mugabe! Others grumbled that Mugabe’s “Look East” policy, launched in 2003 to offset a loss of Western investment by trying to get investment from Asian countries such as the PRC, has not paid off, with “few Chinese deals” to due because “Asian countries have become as wary of the Zimbabwean situation,” and warned that investors need to “approach with extreme caution” Zimbabwe. There is no doubt that giving advantages to the Chinese social imperialists has led to problems, but it is positive that the Western capitalists aren’t in the mix.

All of this criticism is unfounded since not only does “every country in north Africa,” ban Islamist opposition parties but there are only two state-owned newspapers in Zimbabwe, with “most newspapers taking a pro-opposition viewpoint and are “sold freely on the street,” showing once again that there is no dictatorship afoot. Additionally, the MDC has been on the wrong side for this whole time. When the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act was passed by the Zimbabwean parliament in 2007, and put into force in 2008, it was harshly opposed by the MDC, showing that they only really care about neo-colonialism.

In 2008, Zimbabwe suffered a political crisis. Mugabe handily won the Presidency, in the second round of voting, after the first round when no candidate gained more than 50% of the total, with over 85% of the popular vote, and Tsvangirai gaining about 9% of the popular vote. However, the Zanu-PF lost its parliamentary majority, in an election where the MDC, still having a “fondness for neo-liberalism,” including privatization of government resources, engaged in voter fraud, celebrated by the United States. [8] In sum, the Zanu-PF gained 19 seats but the two MDC factions gained 69 seats, meaning that no party had an absolute majority. This situation, caused in part by the merging of the two MDC factions into a bloc in late April 2008, led to negotiating for power-sharing between the MDC and Zanu-PF starting in July. Tsvangirai’s sect of the MDC, MDC-T, refused to take part in talks to create a national unity government, but the other sect, the MDC-N, did participate, with three rounds of negotiations. As the MDC gaining a speaker in Parliament, the Zanu-PF stayed strong, finally reaching an agreement in September of that year. While negotiations continued into October to put on the finalizing touches, the ouster of Mbeki in South Africa led to more disputes, but Mugabe and the Zanu-PF moved to creating a cabinet, as Mugabe still refused Western demands he “step aside,” knowing that it would let neo-colonialism back into the country. By February 2009, the agreement was finally put in place, and a MDC-Zanu-PF unity government was formed, which would be in place until 2013 when the opposition grew angry at Mugabe, giving Black nationalism an upper hand once again, to the benefit of the proletariat.

Apart from the political crisis, divided society of Zimbabwe faced many other pressures. There was no doubt that the opposition had the ruling class of the United States on their side and followed Washington’s plan. More importantly, this opposition was directly backed by the United States, with the former engaging in allegations of vote rigging and genocide while people like Jestina Mukoko, of the Zimbabwe Peace Project, worked to undermine the government at any cost. In this effort, the forces aligned against the Zanu-PF had an unlikely ally: the Western left. Such commentators, which followed almost lock-step, the agendas of capitalist elite who hate Mugabe, included Stephen Zunes who declared his allegiance to ““independent” grassroots nonviolent activists” who happen to be the same forces the murderous empire uses to destabilize nations, attacking those who disagree with him, endorsing the US imperial narrative on Zimbabwe and lying about Zimbabwe numerous times over. Another such commentator, among those who don’t support the Zanu-PF government, is Patrick Bond, with his magical Center for Civil Society, branding Mugabe as a “dictator” and supporting the Zimbabwean opposition. If this isn’t enough, now-defunct MR Zine, Socialist Project and ISO, are trotting out a Western imperialist argument which could as easily be found in The Independent or the New York Times.

Other than these criticisms, Zimbabwe still stood strong. It was rocked by additional US sanctions, additional EU sanctions, and anti-Mugabe NGOs, with the sanctions sabotaging the country’s economy, leading to “widespread misery and need for food aid.” While the MDC was an “instrument of US foreign policy,” with its policy platform friendly to Western investors and elections denounced as “unfair” by the West, the Zanu-PF government retained “considerable popular support” even with the Western-caused economic devastation. [9] At the end of the year, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela declaring its “solidarity with the people of the Republic of Zimbabwe” while the late Hugo Chavez expressed “his support for the independent government of Zimbabwe in its efforts for stability and peace in this brother country of Africa.” Clearly, the pro-business, African nationalist Zanu-PF had (and has) allies across the world, allowing it to pursue its Black nationalist interests, even as it clashes “with the interests of Western banks and corporations…[and] minority population of settlers of European origin.”

The following year, Zimbabwe continued to be under attack. Along with continuing Western sanctions on the country, showing their obvious hypocrisy, Washington also had a plan for post-Mugabe Zimbabwe including a reform agenda to pacify nationalist and populist sentiments, part of the overall US imperial destabilization in Zimbabwe. Beyond this, Western left intellectuals such as Stephen Zunes, Bill Fletcher, and a group called Concerned Africa Scholars, denounced Mugabe, engaging in “reflexive anti-Zanu-PF bashing.” The opposition in Zimbabwe partially grew with traitorous action of ZAPU breaking with ZANU-PF, ending the unity agreement, and Tekere, a veteran of the Zimbabwean liberation war and leader of anti-Zanu-PF opposition in the 1990s, became a guest of honor of the MDC the same year. [10] The Zimbabwean state paper, The Herald, also showed its dedication to “national independence” by expressing affinity with other countries fighting for their own independence such as Syria and the DPRK.

In 2010, Zimbabwe took steps forward to advance its national independence. While there was US-backed opposition in the form of the MDC, along with people such as Jestina Mukoko and efforts by some to return to conditions that favor Western investors, the Zimbabwean government declared that it would sell diamonds from its mineral fields. Sadly, while this would bring billions of dollars in sales for the country, this was stopped by Australia, the U$, and Canada, at the time, as they refused to certify the purchase under the Kimberly Process, since the Marange fields “could be secured by the Zimbabwean army” which they accused of numerous falsities. Six years later, Zimbabwe got past this hurdle and the government nationalized the mines, with Mugabe saying “the state will now own all the diamonds in the country. [These] companies…have been mining diamonds have robbed us of our wealth. That is why we have now said the state must have a monopoly,” which a Chinese company challenged, wanting to extract as much profit as possible, showing that the country is not a “colony” of China. [11]

In 2011 and 2012, Zimbabwe asserted itself on the world stage. For one, in his address to the UN general assembly, Mugabe declared that the war in Libya was about “oil resources,” that NATO is lying about Gaddafi, that Africans are concerned about the anti-African orientation of the ICC, and that Palestine should be granted statehood. From this alone, there is no doubt that if the MDC’s Morgan Tsvangirai, a Western favorite, became president, there would be a very different address at future meetings of the General Assembly. The same year, polls showed that Zimbabweans believed in respect for authority, the government compelling people to pay taxes, that economic growth and creating jobs are more important, even if it leads to the environment suffering. [12] Additionally, Zimbabweans said that a stable economy is more important than a “humane society,” that order being maintained is more important than free speech, and that it is not justified for one to skip paying fares on public transportation, cheat on taxes, steal property, or engage in violence against other people. These findings, in and of themselves are no surprising, as the country is under imperialist assault. But, they also show that not everyone in the world buys into Western-style democracy.

The following year, social-imperialist China seemed to be “playing both sides” to the Western media. What this means is that Chinese officials met with the Zimbabwean opposition, including Morgan Tsvangirai himself, who is “anti-China.”  However, this may have been a way for China to work with both parts of Zimbabwe’s then-coalition government and feel out the opposition, a worrying thought to say the least considering the fact that the Chinese social imperialists could cause more damage!


Notes

[1] Ronald Oliver and Anthony Atmore, Africa Since 1800 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004, Fifth Edition), 366-7; Patrick Bond and Richard Saunders, “Labor, the State, and the Struggle for a Democratic Zimbabwe,” Monthly Review, Vol. 57, issue 7, 2005; BBC, “Zimbabwe losses add up in Congo,” Nov. 25, 1999. The First Congo War was between 1996 and 1997, when the forces led by Laurent-Désiré Kabila overthrew US-backed autocrat Mobutu Sésé Seko, creating the present-day DRC. There was has been low-level conflict in the Ituri and Kivu region of the DRC from 2003/2004 to the present-day.

[2] Andrew Meldrum, “Joshua Nkomo,” The Guardian, July 1, 1999; BBC, “Obituary: Joshua Nkomo,” July 1, 1999.

[3] John Iliffe, The African AIDs Epidemic: A History (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2006), 38, 42, 135. Apparently Rwandans also found “Zimbabwe’s demobilization model” more relevant than that used in Nicaragua.

[4] Dennis C. Blair and Daniel Calingaert, “The Scourge of Savvy Dictators,” Politico, September 22, 2013; Alissa Greenberg, “More Than 40 Lions Get Hunted in Zimbabwe Every Year,”Time, July 30, 2015; Peta Thornycroft and Colin Freeman, “Zimbabwe Election: Ageing Mugabe Still Hungry for Power,” The Telegraph, July 28, 2013.

[5] John Iliffe, The African AIDs Epidemic: A History (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2006), 122, 153; Lionel Cliffe, Jocelyn Alexander, Ben Cousins, and Rudio Gaidzanwa, “An overview of Fast Track Land Reform in Zimbabwe: editorial introduction,” Outcomes of Post-2000 Fast Track Land Reform in Zimbabwe (ed. Lionel Cliffe, Jocelyn Alexander, Ben Cousins, and Rudio Gaidzanwa, York: Routledge, 2013), 1; Patrick Bond and Richard Saunders, “Labor, the State, and the Struggle for a Democratic Zimbabwe,” Monthly Review, Vol. 57, issue 7, 2005; Vincent Kahiya, “Zimbabwe: Controversy Over $600m Spare Parts for ZNA,” Zimbabwe Independent, May 19, 2000.

[6] Dumisani Muleya, “Zimbabwe: Minister Mourns Fall of Soviet Union,” Zimbabwe Independent, March 8, 2002; BBC News, “Was Zimbabwe’s election fair?,” November 3, 2003; Simon Allison, “Analysis: The Khampepe Report, a crushing blow to SA’s diplomatic credibility,” Daily Maverick, November 17, 2014; BBC News, “Commonwealth suspends Zimbabwe,” March 19, 2002; BBC News, “Zimbabwe quits Commonwealth,” December 8, 2003; AFP, “Zimbabwe leaves the Commonwealth,” December 8, 2003.

[7] Ronald Oliver and Anthony Atmore, Africa Since 1800 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004, Fifth Edition), 282; “Homes ‘smashed’ by Zimbabwe paramilitary police,” The Sydney Morning Herald, July 5, 2005; BBC News, “Zimbabwe cleric urges ‘uprising’,” March 27, 2005; Abraham McLaughlin, “Zimbabwe’s opposition hopeful,” Christian Science Monitor, March 31, 2005; BBC News, “Africa rejects action on Zimbabwe,” June 24, 2005; BBC News, “Zimbabwe slum evictions ‘a crime’,” May 23, 2007; Clare Kapp, “Operation “Restore Order” wreaks havoc in Zimbabwe,” The Lancet, October 1, 2005; NewsDay, “Informal traders fear repeat of Murambatsvina,” May 28, 2015; Nelson Chenga, “Zimbabwe: Zim’s Housing Crisis Far From Over,” Financial Gazette, August 27, 2015; The Guardian, “UN condemns Zimbabwe demolitions,” July 22, 2005. In later years, an operation with the same name would be implemented by Zimbabwean police to crackdown on black market trading, especially in mobile phones, among other technologies.

[8] BBC News, “Mugabe’s Zanu-PF loses majority,” April 3, 2008; BBC News, “Zimbabwe announces first results,” March 31, 2008; The Herald, “Zimbabwe: Zanu-PF, MDC-T in Photo Finish,” April 3, 2008; The Herald, “Zimbabwe: ZEC Releases Seven More Poll Recount Results,” April 26, 2008; The Herald, “Zimbabwe: MDC-T House of Assembly Elect Arrested,” April 17, 2008; The Herald, “Zimbabwe: Another ZEC Official Appears in Court,” April 18, 2008; BBC News, “First results in Zimbabwe recount,” April 23, 2008; BBC News, “Opposition reunites in Zimbabwe,” April 28, 2008; Al Jazeera, “Mugabe meets opposition faction,” July 5, 2008; BBC News, “SA leader denies Zimbabwean deal,” August 12, 2008; BBC News, “MDC wins Zimbabwe parliament vote,” August 25, 2008; BBC News, “Mugabe says talks moving forward,” September 9, 2008; BBC News, “Positive signs at Zimbabwe talks,” September 10, 2008; BBC News, “Zimbabwe rivals agree unity deal,” September 11, 2008; Chris McGreal, “Zimbabwe deal gives power to Tsvangirai,” The Guardian, September 11, 2008; Celia W. Dugger, “Zimbabwe Rivals Strike a Bargain to Share Power,” September 11, 2008; CNN, “Rivals sign Zimbabwe power-share deal,” September 16, 2008; Itai Mushekwe and Sebastien Berger, “Robert Mugabe wants Morgan Tsvangerai’s party to win back foreign aid,” The Telegraph, October 4, 2008; BBC News, “Zimbabwe rivals agree bill on PM,” November 28, 2008; BBC News, “Mugabe insists ‘Zimbabwe is mine’,” December 19, 2008; BBC News, “Mugabe ‘to hold talks with rival’,” January 15, 2009; BBC News, “Mugabe calls for government deal,” January 18, 2009; BBC News, “Zimbabwe rival to enter coalition,” January 30, 2009; BBC News, “Zimbabwe passes unity deal bill,” February 5, 2009; BBC News, “Rows mar Zimbabwe oath ceremony,” February 13, 2009; BBC News, “Zimbabwe President Mugabe re-elected amid fraud claims,” August 3, 2013.

[9] CNN, “Russia, China veto U.N. sanctions on Zimbabwe,” July 12, 2008; Patrick Worship, “Russia and China veto U.N. Zimbabwe sanctions,” Reuters, July 11, 2008; Daniel Nasaw, “China and Russia veto Zimbabwe sanctions,”The Guardian, July 11, 2008. Of course, Britain’s ambassador to the UN, Sir John Sawers, UK foreign secretary David Miliband, and US state department spokesman, Robert McInturff, were angry about the result. In contrast, Russia’s UN ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, responding that this veto was justified, and the UN ambassador to China, Wang Guangya, declared that “the development of the situation in Zimbabwe until now has not exceeded the context of domestic affairs. It will unavoidably interfere with the negotiation process.” This article noted that the “US, France, Britain, Belgium, Burkino Faso, Costa Rica, Croatia, Italy and Panama voted in favour,” Libya and Vietnam voted against it, and Indonesia abstained.

[10] Kholwani Nyathi, “Zimbabwe: Revived PF Zapu Officials Allege Abductions of Members,” The Standard, January 10, 2009.

[11] Reuters, “Zimbabwe’s Mugabe says government will take over all diamond operations,” March 4, 2016; Reuters, “Robert Mugabe to nationalise Zimbabwe’s diamond industry,” March 3, 2016; Dmitry Rashnitsov, “Zimbabwe’s president kicks out private diamond miners, nationalizes industry,” UPI, February 22, 2016; Corey Fedde, “Mugabe nationalizes mines: Unlocking an industry or spurning trade partners?,” Christian Science Monitor, March 4, 2016; Fanuel Jongwe, “Zimbabwe to nationalise diamond mines: Mugabe,” AFP, March 4, 2016; BBC News, “Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe: Foreign companies ‘stole diamonds’,” March 4, 2016; NewZimbabwe.com, “Zimbabwe: Chinese Ambassador Urges Zimbabwe to Respect Investment Protection Pact,” April 2, 2016. While some thought there would be nationalization in 2015, this was clearly incorrect.

[12] Pipa Norris, World Values Survey (2010-2014) – Zimbabwe 2011. Tech. Vol. 2016.01.01. Johannesburg: Topline Research Solutions (TRS), 2012. Print. Wave 6. Done on behalf of TNS RMS Nigeria, comes from this website, clicking on “Zimbabwe 2011” and then clicked the link under the heading “Codebook”; Stephen Ndoma and Richman Kokera, “AD55: Zimbabweans Support Taxation but Perceive Tax Officials as Corrupt, Demand Accountability,” AfroBarometer, January 1, 2015; Erin Conway-Smith, “China’s new Zimbabwe strategy: woo the opposition,” PRI, May 31, 2012; Haru Mutasa, “To China with love from Zimbabwe,” Al Jazeera, June 14, 2012. There is no doubt that AfroBarometer serves the interests of capitalistic elites, since they are funded by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, UK Department for International Development, USAID, World Bank, South African Institute for Security Studies, United States Institute of Peace, Transparency International, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Duke University China Research Center. However, it is worth using them because it shows that even the Western-funded polls go against their own propaganda, in a way.

“Our country is in deep trouble”: the orange menace’s fast-moving repression

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

This post was analyzed for mistakes and other content in January 2019, as part of an effort to engage in self-criticism.

In November 2015, in a campaign ad, the orange menace declared that “our country is in deep trouble because let’s face it: politics are all talk and no action…I don’t disappoint people, I produce.” These same words can easily (and reflexively) apply to his presidency at the present, only nine days old at the writing of this article. I could have added more analysis here, but I think this is a good stab at what has happened so far. This is basically almost like a stream of consciousness, so pardon me if I missed something along the way.

Before January 20

In order to recognize the reality, it is best to provide some context, which goes beyond the likely policies of his administration or Obama’s legacy. Frank Newport, the CEO of Gallup, one of the firms that publishes polls for the interest of PR peoples across the United States, not the general populace of course, declared on December 20 that

“the U.S. president is the CEO of the government…the government will soon become President-elect Donald Trump’s biggest responsibility. This is no minor challenge…Trump has appointed high-level business and military executives to his Cabinet posts, individuals who presumably have experience in making large organizations work well. Only time will tell how effective they can be in using this expertise to affect the operations of massive federal bureaucracies…Trump’s most important governmental challenge, in my view, will be dealing with the public’s basic lack of confidence in the men and women they elect and send to Washington to represent them…Trump’s best course of action may be to move in a positive direction — attempting to work with Congress, cooperating in a rational way, getting things done and in general helping convince Americans that the legislative branch can actually work.”

Not surprisingly, Newport does not expand on this analogy whatsoever. If the President of the United States is the CEO of the government, then the board of directors is the capitalist class, not just Wall Street, and the “people” of the United States are the shareholders, who really don’t have a vote or voice unless they hold a large amount of shares (i.e. big campaign contributors). Hence, the orange menace, or any president, is managing the affairs of the country for the capitalist elite, not engaging in his own policy. While the capitalist class would have preferred Killary of course, they can adapt and work with the orange menace easily.

The orange menace’s management of the country won’t be easy in the sense that he could incur popular resentment. As another Gallup poll earlier this year noted, while most of those in the U$ think that “the country is on the wrong track,” there are also divisions between views of former Clinton and the orange menace’s backers, but there is also agreement on high healthcare costs, the “threat” of Iran’s non-existent nuclear weapons, worries of loss of U$ world leadership, that the US should be the “world’s top military power,” opposition to “building a wall along the border with Mexico,” favoring legalization of marijuana, “favoring the death penalty,” critical of more gun control measures, and even agreement on gay marriage. Still, public opinion can be manipulated no doubt, even if he doesn’t “like tweeting” or the differing sources of election news for the orange menace and Clinton voters, so he may have no trouble after all.

In the days before the orange menace’s inauguration, an event which is a spectacle for every President, Obama made some “last minute” actions, some of which were symbolic. Due to public pressure and likely to give himself a “good” legacy (despite the fact that his legacy is actually atrocious), he pardoned transgender whistleblower Chelsea Manning  and Puerto Rican independence fighter Oscar Lopez Rivera, along with a number of nonviolent drug offenders. [1] Of course, many political prisoners are still locked behind bars and his action was symbolic as it did not challenge or undermine the reality of mass incarceration in the United States as a whole but instead contributed to an image of Obama as a “hero” or “savior.” It worth saying however that if Manning’s sentence had not been reduced, the orange menace likely would have extended the sentence and left her in prison for life, with the head of the military, Ash Carter opposing this move from what I’ve read.

As the days toward inauguration neared, the signs of “change” became clear. Fewer people said they would watch the orange menace’s inauguration, with lower numbers likely coming from distraught bourgeois liberals and progressives along with those angry at the U$ capitalist system, and more than before, people said they were satisfied with immigration levels into the US which actually may not be a bad thing. And finally, a report was released saying that the orange menace and his team were aiming for dramatic cuts in the Departments of State, Justice, and Education, along with other social programs while growing the budget of the Pentagon. Not only does this show that those who thought that the orange menace was non-interventionist, like the libertarian goofs at Antiwar.com, are wrong, but it shows that he is playing a key role in the coming years of capitalism in the United States. Such a report indicates that cuts on social spending will increase, aggressive imperial posturing (and wars) will spike, and the proletariat will suffer.

In order to indicate the events of the orange menace’s administration so far, it is best to break down the events day by day since the orange menace is acting very quickly indeed.

Day One: January 20

On the day of his inauguration, the orange menace made a speech written by two of his closest advisors: white supremacist (and bigot) Steve Bannon and anti-immigrant political operative Stephen Miller, which set a tone for dark days ahead. On the streets, some were rightfully restless, with smashing of windows “of a Starbucks and Bank of America in Washington, DC.” [2] While some may criticize these actions as counter-productive or that we should be “peaceful,” it is clear that they are a justified form of resistance in a society that values capitalist property so highly.

With the media focusing on that, they clearly passed over the orange menace’s first executive order, which targeted Obamacare, in preparation for legislation to ultimately repeal it. While the law is absolutely horrid, leading to a growth of underinsurance in the United States which had not been there before and benefits pharmaceutical and health insurance companies, the GOP replacement for this law will make conditions worse. Of course, Democrats are not pushing for universal healthcare at this stage but instead are clinging to their sacred cow of Obamacare.

Also, the same day, the U$ Senate pushed through three of the orange menace’s appointees. One of them was only approved to go forward, while John Kelly for Secretary of Homeland Security and James Mattis for “Defense” Secretary were passed with overwhelming supermajorities, indicating yet again that the Democrats are not an opposition party, but are easily falling in line.

There is one more aspect to note about the events of January 20. On that day, Rex Tillerson, the orange menace’s nominee for Secretary of State, was interviewed by a site which declares that “the tendency to view Latin America and the Caribbean in isolation of world policy and under the shadow of U.S. hegemony is anachronistic,” as noted by Libya 360 a few days later. In the interview, with the imperialist news outlet almost handing him the answers, Tillerson declared that the U$ would continue cooperating with Mexico on “important issues of common interest,” endorsed the imperialistic Plan Colombia, thought that a “calamity that has befallen Venezuela” as a product of “its incompetent and dysfunctional government-first under Hugo Chavez, and…Nicolas Maduro,” arguing that there should be a “negotiated transition to democratic rule in Venezuela.” This not only gives an indication of continuation of U$-backed coups in the region but a continuation of U$ policy. Beyond this, Tillerson said that he would “denounce the Maduro government’s undemocratic practices,” engage with Cuba but “reform of its oppressive regime” by supporting supposed “human rights defenders and democracy activists,” promote TV and Radio Marti, work to extradite Assata Shakur to the U$, try to “mobilize international support to share the burden of U.S. assistance for Haiti,” and enforce “all congressionally-mandated sanctions including the measures in the Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Extension Act of 2016,” along with much more.

Five days before, one article in the bourgeois liberal Huffington Post, written by those who want to privatize state organs in Venezuela, argued that Tillerson had a troubled relationship with the country. [3] They wrote that “ExxonMobil’s history in Venezuela starts in 1921,” that Venezuela’s ties to the company were “severed in 1976, when president Carlos Andres Pérez sought to nationalise the oil industry” and were “reestablished in the 1990s” but then ended in 2007 when Hugo Chavez re-nationalized “the oil business” under the Venezuelan state oil company, PDVSA. The article went on to say that ExxonMobil, then under Tillerson’s leadership (since the year before), won an arbitration decision by the World Bank to “compensate ExxonMobil $US1.6 billion” and that when “ExxonMobil launched oil operations off the coast of neighbouring Guyana,” the Venezuelan government not surprisingly, and rightly so, accused the horrid oil company of “trying to destabilise the region by siding with Guyana.” The article ends by saying that while “Tillerson and ExxonMobil have been against economic sanctions as international policy,” the current relationship with Venezuela could lead to increased sanctions, maybe even including “severing diplomatic relations or suspending or significantly reducing Venezuelan oil purchases” but that another possibility is that Tillerson would “compel Venezuela to honour its international financial commitments” and privatize its oil (and other) “unproductive industries” (in the minds of the writers).

Day Two: January 21

On this day, the second day of the orange menace’s administration, the opposition began to come to more fruition, giving hope for the future, maybe (unlikely though). There were clearly mixed ideologies among the millions joining women’s marches that day, but of course, anti-imperialism from the marchers was absent. Some may be right that such marches were “a watershed mark in American activist history” and that “the list of speakers was impressive and widely divergent” but that “tone and militancy of marches in other areas were mixed.” However, I think, it had more problems that and was almost a “Farce on Washington” like the famed 1963 March on Washington, as Malcolm X put it, with saying that everyone should be “nonviolent” not defending themselves with force. I think there could be some change and the movement could separate from the Democrats, I also think it will dissipate and not go on an independent path. But we’ll see.

The same day, apart from an article showing how connected the Obama Foundation was to the capitalist class, the orange menace gave a speech to the spooks at the CIA. In a speech which was first reprinted by the UK tabloid, The Daily Mirror, was boastful but also telling on what the orange menace won’t change. In the speech, which of course was praised by the orange menace himself and by CIA apologist David Ignatius, calling the CIA “very, very special people,” saying that “we have to get rid of ISIS.  Have to get rid of ISIS.  We have no choice,” praising his team, while saying that the Senate will get through all the intelligence and military appointments “through, but some will take a little bit longer than others.” There’s need to even quote anything else in the speech other than noting that the orange menace being arrogant while praising the military and CIA as “important” and “special,” not changing their current role in the imperial structure of the United States, saying that he is behind the CIA “1,000 percent” and that he respects them. The fact that his first real speech, was to the CIA, apart from the inaugural speech which is usually worthless listening to or reading in any way, shape or form, is significant and should be noted.

Day Three: January 22

On the same day that hundreds protested in Northern Italy against an U$ military base, media in East Asia decried the “isolationist” nature of the orange menace, fearing possible diplomatic turmoil. Such concerns, of course, are not unfounded due to the increasing aggression the orange menace’s administration has shown to revisionist China as I noted in my post about his “diplomacy” late last year. On this day, the libertarian Antiwar.com folks declared that there had been the first U$ drone strikes under the orange menace. This was also confirmed by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism which has noted four confirmed drone strikes, some engaged in even without Presidential approval. Further strikes were noted on January 25 and numerous days before. So the global assassination program is not ending, clearly. Yet another set of powers that Obama literally handed to the orange menace.

The same day, the orange menace had a call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the right-wing extremist who rules the murderous (and Zionist) state. They spoke on “ways to advance and strengthen the U.S.-Israel special relationship, and security and stability in the Middle East,” including consulting “on a range of regional issues, including addressing the threats posed by Iran” and promising Netanyahu that the US will have an “unprecedented commitment to Israel’s security.” Of course, Netanyahu would praise the orange menace’s push for a border wall, as both him and the orange menace are engaging in racist policy as right-wing reactionaries. [4] It is worth considering the horrid settlements the orange menace is supporting in the “West Bank,” a region given that name because is is west of the Jordan River, claimed previously by the state of Jordan.

Day Four: January 23

On this day of the orange menace’s administration, he fulfilled one of his key promises during the presidential campaign. He issued a memorandum which withdrew the US from TPP. While some complained that “foes of war should rejoice and congratulate Trump” but didn’t do so, this seems silly because to “give credit where credit is due,” it is better to thank the grassroots movement and numerous individuals across the spectrum against the deal which the orange menace was responding to, rather than thanking the orange menace for killing the agreement. There is no doubt there was “imperial aspects of the TPP” but this aspect has been replaced by aggressiveness toward revisionist China. While Sean Spicer, the White House Press Secretary has been more cautious and less hawkish than Tillerson who outwardly pushed for imperialism, he did say that “The U.S. is going to make sure that we protect our interests there [in the South China Sea]. It’s a question of if those islands are in fact in international waters and not part of China proper, then yeah, we’re going to make sure that we defend international territories from being taken over by one country.” [5] Some have noting that Tillerson and Spicer’s comments imply U$ military action or a naval blockade against “China’s growing naval fleets would risk dangerous escalation.” [6]

Beyond this imperial aggressiveness, the orange menace enforced his ideological supporters. He restricted abortions, with more official sanction to “pro-life,” more accurately anti-abortion sentiment, than before. The same day, the orange menace ended the mortgage rate cuts, which the National Realtors Association was not happy about whatsoever, saying it will hurt homeowners. If that wasn’t enough, the U$ Senate approved another one of the orange menace’s nominees 66-32-1, Mike Pompeo, to be the head of the CIA. As a reminder, Pompeo supports NSA surveillance, opposes the current “Iran deal,” wants the CIA’s “black site” prisons to come back, and wants the Guantanamo Prison to stay open.

The only other news that day was about the orange menace’s approval rating, mainly. Some sources said that he had a low approval rating coming into office, while others noting that the orange menace’s positions broadly do not “resonate with majority public opinion on a number of his most visible policy and issue positions” except in his “direct attack on the federal government itself.” Another worthwhile poll is a Pew Research Center survey finding that “65% of Americans give priority to developing alternative energy sources” while only 27% “would emphasize expanded production of fossil fuel sources.” Other than this, some wondered, considering the orange menace’s focus on Cuba and Mexico, how much of Obama’s “soft” coups that the orange menace’s admin will continue. It is also worth mentioning the orange menace’s other memorandums that day and staying the course with military appointments.

Day Five: January 24

On this day, the orange menace’s administration took a hard stand against environmentalism. Apart from a memorandum “streamlining regulations,” the orange menace passed memos that approved the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) for now, declaring that TransCanada can resubmit its application to the Keystone XL pipeline, and declaring that all new pipelines have to use materials from within the United States. The memo on DAPL received the most attention, with some saying that it clearly benefits capitalists who funded him and others saying that it violates indigenous law. As for the Keystone XL pipeline which is barreling ahead more than under Obama’s deceptive “rejection” of it, seemingly under pressure from the environmental movement and bourgeois environmentalists, resubmitted its application for the pipeline which is likely to be approved.

Beyond orange menace’s pro-business and anti-environmental moves, he reinforced imperial inter-relationships. In a readout of a call with Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, the orange menace declared that “the United States considers India a true friend and partner in addressing challenges around the world” and continued this imperialistic relationship, obviously as a way to ensure “security in the region of South and Central Asia” which means countering the influence of revisionist China in the region, while maintaining the sphere of influence of the murderous U$ empire. Also on the foreign policy front, Nikki Haley was confirmed by the US Senate in a 96-4 vote in which only four senators voted against, showing once again the milquetoast nature of the Democratic Party in relation to the orange menace.

On another topic entirely, the orange menace reinforced his ideological supporters and economic nationalism (some of which is likely a put on). He met with big automakers, from General Motors, Ford Motor and Fiat Chrysler, telling them to create factories in the U$ and saying he would change environmental regulations to make them more business-friendly. [7] Interestingly, “foreign automakers such as Toyota and Honda were not invited” which may indicate where his interests lie and which companies will be benefited by corporate subsidies and which will not in the years to come. In terms of ideological supporters, the orange menace’s administration declared support for a bill to end federal funding to abortion completely. It is worth noting that Obama supported abstinence-only education in Africa up to at least 2013, if not later. [8]

Day Six: January 25

The repression of the orange menace’s administration began to show even quicker than it did under Obama, of course. In one executive order, it was declared that it would be administration policy to crack down on sanctuary cities (called “sanctuary jurisdictions” in the order) for undocumented immigrants, that such immigrants would have to be removed, and that 10,000 new immigration officers would need to be hired. The order also put sanctions on individuals from numerous countries and, to continue the racist, anti-immigrant measures, an office on immigrant crimes was established, tasked with producing quarterly reports on “the effects of the victimization by criminal aliens present in the United States,” along with engaging in surveillance and data gathering on immigrants.

To give even more specifics of the order, in section 12, the Secretaries of Homeland Security and State work together to implement sanctions, with the Secretary of State specifically ensuring that “diplomatic efforts and negotiations with foreign states include as a condition precedent the acceptance by those foreign states of their nationals who are subject to removal from the United States.” Like his other executive orders, the specifics are shrouded in legalistic language. The specific provision of law, available here and here  says that the Attorney General is the person who determines that if an “alien who is a citizen, subject, national, or resident” of a certain country is banned, with the Secretary of State ordering “consular officers in that foreign country to discontinue granting immigrant visas or nonimmigrant visas, or both, to citizens, subjects, nationals, and residents of that country” until the Attorney General let the Secretary know if “the country has accepted the alien.” Basically, this implies that such refugees or immigrants would be detention until they can be fully deported.

This executive order was only the beginning. The same day the orange menace declared that the US-Mexico border wall will be built, he declared that sanctuary cities would be stripped of funding. The same day, the New York Times claimed that “Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia or Yemen” were listed in draft executive order, but the exact law cited, which was Division O, Title II, Section 203 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016, only lists the Iraq and Syria, along with “any other country or area of concern.” [9] Clearly, this means that this draft would only apply to Iraq and Syria, meaning that mentioning Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, or Yemen is just guesswork.

It is worth also mentioning that the draft of the order, apart from obvious “Muslim Ban,” as it is accurately called, creates “safe zones” in Syria. However, considering this was not on the final order, which will be noted later in this article, but it is in consideration. This means that “safe zones” which are obviously just code for a no-fly-zone and increased U$ imperialist intervention in Syria are under consideration by those in the highest parts of the orange menace’s administration. This is not a good sign and it would not be a surprise if something like the “safe zones” surfaces again at some point.

Even more disturbing is the draft executive order of the orange menace to review the use of CIA “black prisons” overseas. [10] The order declares that the U$  needs “critical intelligence” on “developing threats” and that it was wrong for Obama to push for civilian trials for those at Gitmo. Even more than that, it says that the push to “close” it should end, military commissions should return, and Gitmo should remain open. If that isn’t enough, the order complains that the CIA is limited in maintaining an “effective and lawful interrogation program” by NDAA in 2016 and revokes executive orders 13491 and 13492 while reinstating executive order 13440. This means that E.O. 13491 which pushed for “lawful interrogations” and E.O. order which ordered the closure of Gitmo are taken away while E.O. 13440, a Bush order in 2007, allowing only limited compliance with the Geneva Convention among those captives captured by the CIA and held in extrajudicial detention. If this isn’t enough, this draft order declares that keeping Gitmo open is critical to fight “radical Islamists” across the world, says that the U$ remains in global conflict with ISIS, Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and “associated forces” across the world (a continuation of language of the Obama era) and says that any existing transfer efforts out of Gitmo will be stopped. The order ends by saying that the DIA director, Attorney General, CIA director, and other senior members will recommend if interrogation of “high-value” terrorists should be reopened, if “black sites” of the CIA should reopen, if executive order 13440 should be revised, and recommend how “enemy combatants detained in the armed conflict with violent Islamic extremists” should be tried swiftly and justly. It then claims that no one will suffer cruel or unusual punishment, which seems silly with such torture chambers revived.

The weirdest part about this order is that is was basically denounced by the orange menace’s administration. First of all, it was blasted by Rand Paul and John McCain, while other Republicans took a “wait and see” approach. [11] However, reportedly, the order “shocked” Mattis & Pompeo, with White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, saying he didn’t know where it came from. [12] Now, this could be denial just for the case of denial. At the same time, they could also be covering their tracks and bring back the order at an “opportune” time. If the order is not a statement of administrative policy, then who would draft this and why? I don’t know.

As for immigrants, they took even more of the brunt on January 25, just like on other days. One article said that the orange menace basically called for concentration camps for immigrants while the National Iranian-American Council (NIAC), a bourgeois group as I have previously described, declared that the orange menace’s Muslim ban is “real and even more draconian than many anticipated,” saying that it is “written in such a broad manner that it may also prohibit dual nationals of those countries who are citizens of non-targeted countries from entering the U.S. on a visa.”

More directly, the orange menace issued another immigration-related executive order, which was as racist as his previous pronouncements. In order to understand it, it is best to look at specific sections. One section, section 7, declares that the Secretary of Homeland Security will “take appropriate action, consistent with the requirements of section 1232 of title 8, United States Code, to ensure that aliens described in section 235(b)(2)(C) of the INA (8 U.S.C. 1225(b)(2)(C)) are returned to the territory from which they came pending a formal removal proceeding.” Once again, this is legalistic language, and needs to be broken down. The section of US code referenced talks about “treatment of aliens arriving from contiguous territory,” saying that immigrants arriving on land from a foreign country “contiguous to the United States,” like Canada or Mexico, can be returned by the Attorney General to the country “pending a proceeding.” Going further from there, in the case of an immigrant (called “alien” throughout the code) who is applying for admission to the US, if an “examining immigration officer” determines that an immigrant seeking to enter the US is “not clearly and beyond a doubt entitled to be admitted,” then they are detained. If this happens, then an immigration judge conducts proceedings, with determination whether the immigrant is deported, with such a judge having the power to “administer oaths, receive evidence, and interrogate, examine, and cross-examine the alien and any witnesses,” even to issue “subpoenas for the attendance of witnesses and presentation of evidence” if need be. Such powers of a judge may seem fundamentally undemocratic, but apparently it is allowed. The judge also has the ability to “sanction by civil money penalty any action (or inaction) in contempt of the judge’s proper exercise of authority under this Act,” meaning that an immigrant can be sanctioned for not following “proper procedures” or accused of not following them, then fined. The proceeding for the immigrant can take place either in person, through a video or telephone conference, and the immigrant can be represented by a lawyer of their choosing, who can “examine the evidence” against the immigrant, present evidence on their behalf, and cross-examine witnesses. However, immigrants do not have the right to “examine such national security information” used to justify their deportation, which almost dooms the immigrant to losing their case. After this is all done, then the immigration judge decides whether the immigrant is to be deported, with their decision based “only on the evidence produced at the hearing” and the immigrant will have access to their visa or entry document, or otherwise which is “not considered by the Attorney General to be confidential.”

The U$ code goes on. Other sections of related code say that any immigrant claimed to have a “communicable disease of public health significance,” who has a “physical or mental disorder” which “threatens” others, a “drug abuser or addict,” who wants to enter the U$, will be denied on the spot! Now, if that doesn’t sound racist, I don’t know what is. The last section of code I’ll reference here is one about “classes of Deportable Aliens.” saying that immigrants can be deported if they: (1) overstay their VISA, (2) fail to maintain their “nonimmigrant status,” (3) are convicted “of a crime involving moral turpitude” committed within five or ten years depending on their status, (4) if they are convicted of a crime with a sentence of more than one year, (5) if they are convicted of “two or more crimes involving moral turpitude,” (6) if they violate supposedly (or in reality) any drug laws, (7) if they are a “drug abuser or addict,” (8) if they sell, purchase, or exchange “any weapon, part, or accessory which is a firearm or destructive device,” (9) if they are convicted of “domestic violence…stalking…child abuse, child neglect, or child abandonment,” (10) if they lie to immigration authorities, (11) if they engage in any “activity to violate any law of the United States relating to espionage or sabotage,” (12) if they engage in “any other criminal activity which endangers public safety or national security,” (13) if they engage in an activity opposing the control or advocating “overthrow of, the Government of the United States by force, violence, or other unlawful means,” among many other aspects. Apart from some of these measures, like #13 being anti-communist, others of these measures, even if you agreed with them, are part of a racist immigration system aimed at Latin American immigrants clearly, especially with crimes like “moral turpitude” which can be so broadly defined as it can mean something that isn’t “socially acceptable.” It is also worth noting here that an immigrant owning a gun, which is justified under the Second Amendment as the “right to bear arms” is a deportable offense, saying that immigrants, under law do not have the legal right to defend themselves with force and showing that gun control is again used as a form of social control like I noted in my previous post.

On January 25, there were many other developments. A National Security Advisor was announced by the orange menace’s administration, the orange menace promoted a positive image of himself, personal propaganda on the official White House website (a shocker, not really), and guidance on the orange menace’s federal hiring freeze was released publicly. If that wasn’t enough, news media reported that Steve Bannon was registered in two places which says that maybe the “major investigation” into voter fraud that the orange menace wants should begin in his own administration, and the orange menace seemingly backing away from efforts to scrub climate change information from EPA websites even as “political appointees are exerting more oversight over the agency’s scientific communications.” [13] Other news worth noting is that Ben Carson, a person who believes that the housing market should be deregulation, was approved by a Senate committee, even by bourgeois progressives like Elizabeth Warren who apparently believed in his lies and that the millions of dollars John Kerry handed to the Palestinian Authority (was it just a PR stunt?) was canceled by the orange  menace, with Kerry’s action seeming very last-minute.

Day Seven: January 26

On this day, the war of the orange menace’s administration with the media took another step forward. Steve Bannon, the White House Chief Strategist, declared that because of the election result, “the media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while. I want you to quote this. The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.” [14] He went on to say that “the elite media got it [the presidential election] dead wrong, 100 percent dead wrong…[the election was] a humiliating defeat that they will never wash away, that will always be there. The mainstream media has not fired or terminated anyone associated with following our campaign. Look at the Twitter feeds of those people: They were outright activists of the Clinton campaign…That’s why you have no power. You were humiliated.” He was also quoted as saying that “you’re [the media are] the opposition party. Not the Democratic Party. You’re the opposition party” with Bannon citing The New York Times and Washington Post, saying that “the paper of record for our beloved republic, The New York Times, should be absolutely ashamed and humiliated. They got it 100 percent wrong.”

While I am critical of the bourgeois media, I don’t think what Bannon is saying should be brushed off so easily. There is no doubt that much of this media favored Clinton over the orange menace, some predicting that the orange menace would lose. However, to say that the media is the “opposition party” and to be so opposed to the press in the manner he is acting is utterly repressive, there is no doubt. While restricting newspapers in socialist countries and those under U$ imperialist attack is justified, in this case, it is dangerous since it could mean that all we will get is orange menace’s propaganda, allowing no sort of room for opposition to his reactionary, right-wing nature.

Again there was more about the orange menace’s anti-immigrant policy. Reuters claimed that they had seen a “draft executive order” which would “block the entry of refugees from war-torn Syria and suspend the entry of any immigrants from Muslim-majority Middle Eastern and African countries Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Iran, Libya and Yemen while permanent rules are studied.” [15] Coming days would prove if this was true or not. What was clearly true was the payment of the expanded border wall with a 20% tariff on Mexico. One article noted that Republicans support the 20% tariff on Mexico, called a “border adjustment,” but major retailers oppose it. [16] The same article said that such retailers argued that it would drive up consumer prices and violate WTO rules, the former which is more of a valid concern than the latter. Steve Horn of DeSmogBlog argued that the wall would grease the way for a “handful of gas pipelines proposed to cross the U.S. border into Mexico, several of them owned by Keystone XL builder TransCanada and another one owned by Dakota Access pipeline owner Energy Transfer Partners,” sending fracking gas south of the border, but that if the 20% tariff passes, then the volume of oil from Mexico to the US could rise. Horn also argued that this proposal has “split the oil refining and oil-producing sectors, with producers supportive and refiners critical of the tax scheme” with companies like American Fuels and Petrochemical Manufacturers and Koch Industries against it, and Rex Tillerson for the measure, with Goldman Sachs mildly for it.

The other news of that day was not any better. The orange menace’s declared national school choice week showing that he endorses school privatization (continuing the anti-public education policy of Obama), the impact of the anti-Obamacare order was explicated. Shockingly, one poll, released the same day said that almost half of Americans think that there are “some circumstances under which the use of torture is acceptable in U.S. anti-terrorism efforts.” Luckily there was also resistance to the  orange menace brewing. Raul Castro, like many in Latin America, is wary and not trusting of the orange menace which is part of the reason he told the orange menace to respect Cuban sovereignty (and also to protect the island from imperialist assault. One article in Consortium News, argued that the orange menace was continuing to lie and disdain the truth, so that people think it is true, with the consequence of this action leading to “an ill-informed constituency, incapable of engaging in the kind of well-informed debate that serves as a check against ill-advised foreign policies and can muster solid support for well-advised ones.” Of course, such a development should be criticized. Finally there was a new poll saying that the orange menace fared poorly with the public, claimed that few supported the border wall, many wanted the orange menace to “fully divest from his business interests” and few with a “favorable opinion of Russia” or of Putin reportedly.

Day Eight: January 27

Statements of imperial policy became even clearer on January 27. Mattis, the new head of the Pentagon, declared that the US would continue to be committed to the NATO alliance, citing that importance of Germany as an U$ base, and that NATO is important to fight against terrorism. [17] The same day Mattis also told the Israeli Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, that he had “unwavering commitment to Israel’s security.” Such statements are not a surprise since the orange menace declared the same day to the Pentagon’s top brass that the military should be bulked-up, even as he “pointed to expensive programs,” calling for an increased “military campaign against the Islamic State,” likely expanding the “about 6,000 military personnel in Iraq and Syria, including trainers, advisers and special operators.” [18]

In terms of foreign policy, more imperial inter-relationships were reinforced. In the first press conference of the orange menace’s presidency, it was clear that May, the first foreign leader to meet the orange menace in the Oval Office, wanted to discuss “post-Brexit trade opportunities” with him, while the British government made it clear that Britain was still a “fully engaged member of the European Union.” What more comes of this will only be known in the days ahead.

Beyond this, it as clear that other relationships were supported. This included support for the existing one with Australia and possibly an improved relationship with Mexico though these is unlikely. Before moving onto the horrendous executive order, it is worth noting that since 2012, net flow of migration from Mexico decreased, with people who were “fleeing gang-related violence spiraling out of control in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala,” with stricter enforcement of “immigration laws and greatly expanded its use of deportations” by Obama. [19] Along with more Asian immigrants recently who are “well educated and as such compete with a different set of Americans for jobs, but also contribute to faster-growing sectors of the American economy.”

With this background it is worth discussing the horrid executive order. The Guardian described the order as a “draconian shift in US policy,”says that the action would close “US borders to refugees fleeing the humanitarian crisis in war-torn Syria,” with a de facto ban of those across North Africa and Middle East, with “a 90-day block on entry to the US from citizens from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia” and runs counter to the principle in the U$ Constitution of discrimination on basis of religion, with the orange menace saying that he would elevate “persecuted Christians in the Middle East and North Africa” above Muslims. [20] The article also noted that Republicans were embraced the order, while “Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi…invoked dramatic images of a sorrowful Statue of Liberty” and the pro-Syrian war Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said they would challenge the order with a lawsuit.

Beyond The Guardian’s quibs is the text of the executive order itself. The order says, in section 2, that U$ policy is to protect U$ citizens “from foreign nationals who intend to commit terrorist attacks in the United States; and to prevent the admission of foreign nationals who intend to exploit United States immigration laws for malevolent purposes.” The following section said that the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security, along with the Director of National Intelligence, conducting a review to determine information needed from any country to determine “that the individual seeking the benefit is who the individual claims to be and is not a security or public-safety threat.” The section adds that all of those individuals will then submit to the President “report on the results of the review” within 30 days of the order, with reducing investigative burdens during the review “to ensure the proper review and maximum utilization of available resources for the screening of foreign nationals.” The orange menace declared that “the immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens from [certain] countries…would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants, of such persons for 90 days from the date of this order.” After that, the Secretary of State requests that all foreign governments “start providing such information regarding their nationals within 60 days of notification,” and after this expires, then the Secretaries of Homeland Security and State would submit to the President a list of different countries that were “recommended for inclusion on a Presidential proclamation,” with such secretaries submitting “the names of any additional countries recommended for similar treatment.”

The specific law referenced in section 3 of the executive order notes two specific countries: Iraq and Syria, but also says that it can include those from

“a country that is designated by the Secretary of State…a country, the government of which has repeatedly provided support of acts of international terrorism; or any other country or area of concern designated by the Secretary of Homeland Security.”

The law adds that by Feb. 16, 2017, the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security, in consultation with the Director of National Intelligence determines whether other countries will be part of the ban, with the Secretary considering

“whether the presence of an alien in the country or area increases the likelihood that the alien is a credible threat to the national security of the United States…whether a foreign terrorist organization has a significant presence in the country or area; and…whether the country or area is a safe haven for terrorists.”

If this is taken to its fullest extent, then it would imply that people could ultimately be banned, if the executive order was expanded, from Libya, Egypt, Gaza, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Algeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Sudan, Syria, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, and Mauritania, Tunisia, Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Senegal, India, Somalia, Uzbekistan, and the Philippines. [21]

Getting back to the executive order, the DIA director, Secretaries of State and Homeland Security, FBI director, in section 4, would be told to implement a program which will identify those individuals “seeking to enter the United States on a fraudulent basis with the intent to cause harm, or who are at risk of causing harm subsequent to their admission,” which they would report on within 60 days, then again within 100 days, and another report within 200 days. Section 5 of the order than declares that the Secretary of State would “suspend the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for 120 days,” with the “entry of nationals of Syria as refugees” suspended until the program is improved so that Syrian refugees can be admitted in a way “consistent with the national interest,” that there can only be 50,000 refugees entering “in fiscal year 2017,” that Secretaries of State and Homeland Security can jointly “determine to admit individuals to the United States as refugees on a case-by-case basis.” Then section 6 says that Secretaries of State and Homeland Security, along with Attorney General, might rescind certain authority, and section 7 says that the Secretary of Homeland Security would “expedite the completion and implementation of a biometric entry-exit tracking system for all travelers to the United States,” another racist measure, with reports every 180 days until the horrid system is “fully deployed and operational.” Also, the Secretary of State, is told in section 8, to suspend the Visa Interview Waiver Program, while requiring “that all individuals seeking a nonimmigrant visa undergo an in-person interview, subject to specific statutory exceptions,” while expanding the Consular Fellows Program in part by “substantially increasing the number of Fellows, lengthening or making permanent the period of service.”

To end the discussion of the order, section 9 and 10 need a some attention. Section 9 says that the Secretary of State will “review all nonimmigrant visa reciprocity agreements to ensure that they are, with respect to each visa classification” and section 10 says that the Secretary of Homeland Security and Attorney General, will collect and publicly display “information regarding the number of foreign nationals in the United States who have been charged with terrorism-related offenses while in the United States; convicted of terrorism-related offenses while in the United States; or removed from the United States based on terrorism-related activity, affiliation, or material support to a terrorism-related organization, or any other national security reasons.” Yet again, this is meant to attack immigrants in a racist and bigoted way which fuels those anti-immigrant organizations on the right-wing that already exist. Other than this, in the order, sections 11 and 12 are basically boilerplate, as is section 1.

There are a number of other aspects of January 27 worth noting. For one, the orange menace reinforced his “economic nationalism” by meeting with business leaders from across the U$ to improve manufacturing which make the capitalist class smile with glee. Also, it is worth noting that the orange menace signed his bigoted executive order on the SAME DAY as Holocaust remembrance day, which shows how insensitive and disgusting he is. Additionally, the “pro-life”/“right to life,” actually anti-abortion, received official sanction as Pence addressed their rally in DC on the behest of the orange menace. Pence then declared that

“we will not grow weary. We will not rest, until we restore a culture of life in America for ourselves and our posterity…next week President Donald Trump will announce a Supreme Court nominee who will uphold the God-given liberty enshrined in our Constitution in the tradition of the late and great Justice Antonin Scalia…Life is winning again in America. That is evident in…the historic election of a president…who I proudly say stands for the right to life.” [22]

Of course, the orange menace’s advisor Kellyanne Conway, addressed the crowd too, saying that “yes, I am pro-life…This is a new day, a new dawn, for life…[the right to life] is not a choice. It is God-given…This is a time of incredible promise for the pro-life, pro-adoption movement. We hear you. We see you. We respect you. And we look forward to working with you.” It seems that with anti-abortion to gain such official sanction is dangerous as it hurts any effort to advance reproductive rights, and hurts impoverished women, whether cisgender, transgender, or otherwise.

The same day there were a number of news releases. One was a poll showing that many of those in the US still support Obamacare, many are concerned about health insurance convergence, many oppose cutting federal funding to Planned Parenthood by a large martin, even among Republicans, only 31% think that abortion should be illegal in most or all cases, with everyone else thinking it should be legal in all or most cases, and 70% support Roe v. Wade. In the realm of foreign policy, Hollande, the horrid (neoliberal and disgraced) leader of France declared that “there are challenges, there are the challenges the US administration poses to our trade rules, as well as to our ability to resolve conflicts around the world.” [23] Others commentators noted that the orange menace is making up facts, ignoring realities, which mirrors the lies during the Obama administration about chemical weapons by the Syrian government (proven false) and concealing evidence about “who was behind the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014,” but that the orange menace is not helping himself by “making easily debunked claims about crowd sizes and voter fraud” meaning that for now he “has gotten off to a very rocky start by telling some very petty lies.” Other commentators went beyond the orange menace. One specifically noted that Rex Tillerson “confirmed before the US Congress that hostilities and agitation toward both Moscow and Beijing will only expand over the next 4-8 years,” saying that U$ foreign policy won’t change, as the U$ will “continue meddling across Asia and provoking conflict with China,” just like under Obama, tensions with Russia will continue, and that “nothing, short of war, will backup Tillerson’s statements about a sea literally an ocean away from US shores.” The final commentary was on Global Research Center. This commentator noted the orange menace’s horrible policies, ranging from the DAPL construction resuming, a border wall between the US and Mexico, an immigration ban, some of the orange menace’s tweets, the orange menace’s lies, and declared that there is hopefulness of resistance to the orange menace, despite Wall Street seeming to warm up to him but saying such resistance should change:

“…The ascendancy of Trump provides an important opportunity for the building of a broad-based united front of democratic forces including African Americans, Latin Americans, Native peoples, immigrants, women, LGBTQ communities, environmentalists and other working class constituencies. However, this alliance which represents the majority of the population within the U.S. must be based on sound political principles and not opportunism…This coalition of genuine popular forces should be organized outside the framework of the Democratic Party which represents the same ruling class elements as the Trumpist Republicans and their Wall Street and Pentagon supporters…A revolutionary mass party of the working class and the oppressed is the only solution to the current political and economic crises.”

Day Nine: January 28

Note: I published this right at midnight on Jan. 29, meant to cover everything Jan. 28 and before, so when it says “today” it is referring to Jan. 28, not today

The racist and bigoted immigration order of the orange menace played out today. For one, many “refugees and migrants holding valid visas” who were en route to the US were stopped, specifically “detained at U.S. airports and restricted from the country as a result of President Trump’s executive order,” with such people detained or not allowed in including Iraqis, Yemenis, Syrians, and Iranians, to say the least, with groups like the International Refugee Assistance Project on their side. [24] Even those who have green card holders from target countries, all of which are Muslim majority but do not include Saudi Arabia or any of the Gulf autocracies of course, are banned.

Rightly so, many reacted with anger. Arabs and Iranians who planned trips to the US were angry, saying that the ban was “insulting and discriminatory,” and some said it made them feel humiliated. [25] Even the director of an Oscar-nominated film, Asghar Farhadi, was apparently not allowed to attend the Academy Awards next month as a result of the ban. [26] His film is a French-Iranian drama, titled The Salesman, which tells the story of a couple who play lead roles in Death of a Salesman, have a fraught relationship. Not surprisingly, Silicon Valley, also called Sexist Valley or Surveillance Valley more accurately, was at least partially mad. Google and Facebook CEOs slammed the orders as “loss of talent,” detracting from those who are “real threats,” and making people live in “fear of deportation.” [27] This of course was driven more by the fear of loss of profit by these mega-corporations than caring about actual people, no doubt.

The reality of the order has been playing out all day. One Iraqi man was released even as another is detained (or was before he was released also) as a result of the order. Additionally, as a result of the ban, enforced by Customs and Border Protection officials on the ground, led to warnings from Qatar Airways to travelers, Iran criticizing the ban, The International Rescue Committee, The International Organization for Migration, UNHCR, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, and weepy Democrats slamming the order, while House Speaker Paul Ryan defended it, saying that “our number one responsibility is to protect the homeland.” [28] The same article even claimed that “the list of seven countries [Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia] whose citizens are now banned from the US was likely just a starting point” with the administration weighing it if could add even more countries to the list! The racism clearly continues.

Many other organizations and individuals condemned the ban today. These included Jewish organizations ranging from the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society and J Street to the Anti-Defamation League,” the latter of which are horribly pro-Israel, without a doubt. [29] The revolutionary Iranian government struck back as well. The Iranian Foreign Ministry declared that while respecting people of the US is important, with it being vital to distinguish between them and hostile U$ actions, “Iran will implement the principle of reciprocity until the offensive U.S. limitations against Iranian nationals are lifted,” as they argued that “restrictions against travel by Muslims to America…are an open affront against the Muslim world and the Iranian nation in particular and will be known as a great gift to extremists.” [30] Additionally, President Hassan Rouhani said earlier today that there is no reason to build walls between nations, implying the orange menace, saying

“Today is not the time to erect walls between nations. They have forgotten that the Berlin wall fell years ago. To annul world trade accords does not help their economy and does not serve the development and blooming of the world economy. This is the day for the world to get closer through trade.”

While he makes a valid point against walls, he is also endorsing corporate globalization which has devastated indigenous peoples across the world and allows capitalism to gain new markets wherever it nests, leading to exploitation and destruction, including in Iran. So, his statement is wrongheaded (in part because he doesn’t note the anti-fascist nature of the Berlin Wall) but also aligned with Western business elites without a doubt.

Sudan echoed the statement of Iran. Their foreign ministry declared that the ban was unfortunate after progress on sanctions, saying that “It is particularly unfortunate that this decision coincides with the two countries’ historic move to lift economic and trade sanctions…and just as economic and financial institutions as well as businessmen in the country were set to continue developing their investment projects.” [31] Then there’s education campaigner Malala Yousafzai, who seems she has been taken in by the glamor and acceptance of Western bourgeois institutions, saying that she is “heartbroken that today President Trump is closing the door on children, mothers and fathers fleeing violence and war. I am heartbroken that America is turning its back on a proud history of welcoming refugees and immigrants – the people who helped build your country, ready to work hard in exchange for a fair chance at a new life…I ask President Trump not to turn his back on the world’s most defenseless children and families.” [32]

I’ve also heard recently that the bigoted immigration order has been stayed by several federal judges which turns it to be correct. It was after a case filed by the ACLU which has a horrible history, along with other cases across the country. It is also clear that the orange menace will stay in defending it, saying it isn’t a “Muslim ban,” working out as he planned, with the former an utter lie. [33]

Beyond his bigotry, the orange menace made outreaches on the foreign policy front. He called Russian President Vladimir Putin today in hopes of having “a great relationship” between the US and Russia (and stabilizing US-Russia ties), along with calls to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on “security and trade issues between the two countries and the mutual threat posed by North Korea,” speaking to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, along with likely calls with French President François Hollande and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. [34] It has also been reported that there has been a “sudden resignation” in Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) by Norman Bay, resulting in leaving the commission with only two commissioners, “not enough for the required quorum to make decisions,” meaning that “even if the president chooses someone quickly, the process will likely take several months,” with an appointment process that “requires Senate confirmation.” [35]

Beyond January 28

There is much still to come in the later days of the orange menace’s presidency. For one, seemingly on January 30, the orange menace will announce that the US embassy in Israel will move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He also will continue to advocate on path, making it worth looking at those financial disclosures of his nominees who include as I previously noted:

“…former Goldman Sachs partner Steve Mnuchin as Treasury Secretary, arch-conservative Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, ex-Navy Seal Ryan Zinke as Secretary of the Interior, conservative (and wife of Mitch McConnell) Elaine Chao as Secretary of Transportation, former governor of Texas Rick Perry for Energy Secretary, long-time investment banker Wilbur Ross as Secretary of Commerce, restaurant CEO Andrew Puzder as Secretary of Labor, Georgia politician Tom Price as Secretary of Health and Human Services, conservative commentator Ben Carson as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, billionaire education “reformer” Elisabeth “Betsy” DeVos as Secretary of Education, investment banker Gary Cohn as Director of the National Economic Council, and Director of Ameritrade Todd M. Ricketts as Deputy Secretary of Commerce…Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as administrator of the EPA, California politician Mick Mulvaney as director of the OMB (Office of Management and Budget), pro-wrestling tycoon Linda McMahon as administrator of the SBA (Small Business Administration), and Wall Street lawyer Walter “Jay” Clayton as director of the SEC (Securities and Exchanges Commission).”

At the same time, it is worth noting that the orange menace has only signed, so far, a small number of executive orders” but is in a “long line of incoming commanders-in-chief flexing their executive muscles the first week on the job” and likely many of those before him, “the President is using his new executive powers to make his campaign promises a reality.” [36]

That’s not all. The Japanese government is apparently fearful, trying to “please the new foul-speaking lord,” with “10 billion dollars will be spent…in the United States by Toyota car giant, in order to appease the new Emperor” but notes at the orange menace is “preaching protectionism and an extreme form of nationalism” while he also “decides to exceed all previous rulers by his brutality and aggressiveness, and re-hire the old and well-tested samurai, Japan, for his deadly onslaught against humanity.”  It is also worth noting that Russia is still quite muted about the orange menace, likely even after the call today, as they are “carefully reading the signals from Trump” and that Moscow is “literally gun-shy of America, the distance between micro-events, like my treatment a couple of days ago on Russian television, and macro-developments, like improving bilateral relations, is very small indeed.”

I don’t have much else to add here, other than saying that for one the capitalists must be made extinct, and that two, the  orange menace should be resisted at all costs but bourgeois liberals and bourgeois progressives cannot be trusted, instead independent and radical structures (and movements) should be built and expanded, because otherwise fascism of the orange menace will roll right over the U$ without a real fight, something that none of us really should want if we care about the world around us.


Notes

[1] Roberta Rampton and Ayesha Rascoe, “Obama shortens sentence of Manning, who gave secrets to WikiLeaks,” Reuters, Jan. 18, 2017.

[2] Daniella Diaz, Sophie Tatum, Amanda Wills and Alysha Love, “Inauguration live coverage,” CNN, January 20, 2017.

[3] Sary Levy-Carciente and María Teresa Romero, “Rex Tillerson Has A Long, Troubled History With Venezuela,” HuffPost, Jan. 15, 2017.

[4] Rory Jones, “Israel PM Netanyahu Praises Trump’s Plan for Mexico Border Wall,” Wall Street Journal, Jan. 28, 2017.

[5] Alex Lockie, “White House: The US will stop China from taking over territory in international waters,” Business Insider, Jan. 23, 2017; Reuters, “Trump White House Pledges to Block China from Taking South China Sea Islands,” Jan. 23, 2017, reprinted in Newsweek.

[6] Reuters, “Trump White House Pledges to Block China from Taking South China Sea Islands,” Jan. 23, 2017, reprinted in Newsweek.

[7] Bill Vlasic, “Trump, in Meeting, Urges Automakers to Build in United States,” New York Times, Jan. 24, 2017.

[8] Michaeleen Doucleff, “U.S. Spent $1.4 Billion To Stop HIV By Promoting Abstinence. Did It Work?,” May 3, 2016, NPR News; Andy Kopsa, “Obama still funding failed ‘faith-based’ programmes,” Al Jazeera, March 27, 2013.

[9] Julie Hirschfeld Davis, “Trump Orders Mexican Border Wall to Be Built and Is Expected to Block Syrian Refugees,” New York Times, Jan. 25, 2017.

[10] Greg Miller, “White House draft order calls for review on use of CIA ‘black site’ prisons overseas,” Washington Post, Jan. 25, 2017.

[11] Katie Bo Williams, “Trump review exposes GOP divide on torture,” The Hill, January 25, 2017.

[12] Austin Wright, “Mattis, Pompeo stunned by CIA ‘black sites’ report,” Politico, January 25, 2017.

[13] Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin, “Trump administration backs off plan to scrub climate pages from EPA website,” Washington Post, January 25, 2017; Michael D. Shear and Peter Baker, “After His Claim of Voter Fraud, Trump Vows ‘Major Investigation’,” New York Times, Jan. 25, 2017.

[14] Michael M. Grynbaum, “Trump Strategist Stephen Bannon Says Media Should ‘Keep Its Mouth Shut’,” New York Times, Jan. 26, 2017.

[15] Julia Edwards Ainsley, “Trump moves ahead with wall, puts stamp on U.S. immigration, security policy,” Reuters, Jan. 26, 2017.

[16] Neil Irwin, “How to Interpret the Trump Administration’s Latest Signals on Mexico,” New York Times, Jan. 26, 2017.

[17] The article also says correctly that “the US accounts for nearly 70 percent of the NATO budget and has long urged its European allies to step up their contributions, particularly in the face of what Washington calls the “Russian aggression” in Ukraine.”

[18] Greg Myre, “At Pentagon, Trump Declares His Aim Of ‘Rebuilding’ The Military,” NPR News, Jan. 27, 2017.

[19] Max Bearak, “Even before Trump, more Mexicans were leaving the U.S. than arriving,” Washington Post, Jan. 27, 2017.

[20] Sabrina Siddiqui, “Trump signs ‘extreme vetting’ executive order for people entering the US,” The Guardian, Jan. 27, 2017.

[21] These countries come from ISIL territorial claims, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, an Islamic group, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, other organizations listed by the State Department, and state sponsors of terrorism.

[22] Julie Zauzmer and Sarah Pulliam Bailey, “Mike Pence tells March for Life in Washington: ‘We will not rest, until we restore a culture of life’,” Washington Post, Jan. 27, 2017, reprinted in National Post.

[23] This article also says and I quote, “the US president is also expected to scrap the agreement’s European equivalent, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and renegotiate the North American Free Trade Area (Nafta),” but this is ultimately questionable.

[24] Emma Brown and David Nakamura, “Refugees, migrants detained at U.S. airports challenge Trump’s executive order,” Washington Post, Jan. 28, 2017; Michael D. Shear and Nicholas Kulish, “Trump’s Immigration Ban Blocks Travelers at Airports Around Globe,” New York Times, Jan. 28, 2017; Amy R. Connolly,”Syrian refugees detained at N.Y. airport file legal challenge,” UPI, Jan. 28, 2017.

[25] Eric Knecht and Maher Chmaytelli, “In Middle East, US travel curbs decried as unjust, insulting,” Reuters, January 28, 2017.

[26] CBS, “Oscar-nominated film’s director can’t attend amid Trump immigration ban, group’s leader says,” Jan. 28, 2017.

[27] Laura Mandaro, “Google CEO troubled by Trump refugee ban that ‘creates barriers’ to talent,” USA TODAY, Jan. 28, 2017.

[28] Jeremy Diamond, “Trump’s immigration ban sends shockwaves,” CNN, Jan. 28, 2017

[29] Laura Koran, “Jewish groups pan Trump for signing refugee ban on Holocaust Remembrance Day,” CNN, Jan. 28, 2017.

[30] Parisa Hafezi, “’An open affront against the Muslim world’: Iran says it will ban Americans in response to Trump’s refugee order,” Reuters, Jan. 28, 2017, reprinted in Business Insider

[31] Reuters, “Sudan calls Trump ban unfortunate in light of sanctions progress,” Jan. 28, 2017

[32] The same article notes that in December 2015, those who denounced the orange menace’s proposed ban included “Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Republican House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.), who said the ban was “not what this party stands for.” “More importantly,” Ryan added at the time, “it’s not what this country stands for.”” Ryan, of course, has switched his position in favor of bigotry now.

[33] Doug Stanglin and Alan Gomez, “Trump says immigration ban working ‘nicely’ as protests, detainments hit airports,” USA Today, Jan. 28, 2017.

[34] Philip Rucker and David Filipov, “Trump holds calls with Putin, leaders from Europe and Asia,” Washington Post, Jan. 28, 2017; Laura Smith-Spark and Ivan Watson, “Trump and Putin talked about stabilizing ties, Kremlin says,” CNN, Jan. 28, 2017.

[35] Marie Cusick, “As Trump Reboots Pipeline Expansion, An Unexpected Delay Emerges,” NPR News, Jan. 28, 2017.

[36] Lauren Said-Moorhouse, “What’s Trump done so far? His productive first week and how it stacks up to previous presidents,” CNN, Jan. 26, 2017.

David Swanson, the USSR, and the Kellogg-Briand Pact

screenshot_2017-01-06-01-59-55-1
A screenshot from a 1949 animated Soviet propaganda film by Victor Gromov, titled “Mr. Wolf,” focusing on a pacifist capitalist, like Andrew Carnegie perhaps, who, fed up with the horrible nature of war, moves to an “island of peace.” But when he finds oil, he gets greedy, dropping his belief in pacifism, demands control of it, reveals his secret stash of arms, and seizes control of the oil with the help of (presumably) the U$ Navy. The message of greedy capitalists and duplicitous pacifists is very clear while some are flummoxed.

This post was analyzed for mistakes and other content in January 2019, as part of an effort to engage in self-criticism. Like the other post on Soviet history, this is a good first attempt at the subject, although it could be improved, of course.

As the orange menace promises to increase military spending, including 350 more ships for the Navy (likely costing over $126 billion dollars), strengthening the murderous U$ empire, which builds off the brashly imperialist foreign policy of the Obama administration, it is important to recall our history. This article will first outline the narrative by David Swanson, a former press secretary for bourgeois Democratic “peace” politician, Dennis Kucinich, during his presidential candidacy, and peace activist, on the history of how the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928 came into fruition, summarizing his book to the best of my ability, there will be a counterpoint to his history, and finally it will end with my conclusion on where to go from here.

David Swanson’s narrative of what happened

David Swanson’s book is a good place to start. While he is not radical, and is a bourgeois pacifist, he does help tell this story. As he tells it, the peace movement in the 1920s, depending on new female voters, united around the idea of war outlawry, previously split by the League of Nations, seen as a glorious and noble cause. [1] This movement was strengthened by outrage at the horrible effects of WWI, despite the manipulation of emotions, by Woodrow Wilson’s “propaganda machinery,” in the form of the Committee of Public Information, to influence Amerikans to support war. Such manipulation was preceded by Wilson winning election in 1916, with slogans like “he kept us out of the war,” but turning around and involving the U$ in WWI in April 1917. Many in the U$, disillusioned with promises of war, distrusted European peace efforts, as the U$ membership in the League of Nations and World Court did not materialize, along with other failed negotiations in the 1920s, the peace movement grew.  Leading intellectuals, robber-barons, like Andrew Carnegie who founded the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and politicians, like Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, promoted peace. At the same time, “peace societies” were created in the U$, along with a litany of other pro-peace organizations, such as the American Friends Service Committee and the Fellowship of Reconciliation, some of which spread  “a barrage of peace propaganda.”

There are number of individuals who specifically pushed for “war outlawry” or the abolishment of war. Swanson cites 22 individuals. [2] One of these individuals was Salmon Oliver Levinson, a Yale graduate and Chicago lawyer who led the American Committee for the Outlawry of War, which tried to make war illegal and recognized as an institution. [3] Others, such as Kirby Page and temperance activist Carrie Chapman Catt, also pushed for war outlawry, allied with other forces, like the Progressive Party which represented interests of farmers, petty urban bourgeoisie, and trade unions, collapsing after the 1924 election, along with public opinion in favor of prohibiting war. Pro-peace clubs and organizations sprung up by the hundreds, with thousands of members, eliminating the divides in the past between more wealthy organizations, like the Carnegie Endowment and the American Foundation for Peace, and more radical ones pushing for disarmament and opposing militarism. The former profited from war with hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonds from the U.S. Steel Corporation. However, it is worth pointing out that Outlawrists, tapping into widespread skepticism of collective defense agreements, “favored the rule of the written word” to prevent war, creating a world court which had international jurisdiction, but were muddled when they didn’t always consider the distinction between “aggressive” and “defensive war.” Beyond this, such a push for outlawing war was an effort to change people’s conceptions of what they consider “morally acceptable,” hoping that society could be organized for peace, but not always taking into account that some engage in statements of desire about ending war and peaceful resolution rather than the reality.

From then on, there was a push for Western diplomats to negotiate what became the Kellogg-Briand Pact. Illegal diplomacy by pro-peace U$ citizens, led to debate among French, German, and British diplomats about being involved in the treaty, boosted by supportive writings in The New Republic, New York Times, and Foreign Affairs, along with sympathetic congressmembers like socially conservative William Borah and Republican Robert LaFollette, among others. [4] Aristide Briand, a long-time prime minister, advocate of “personal diplomacy,” and breaker of a railroaders strike, made the first move, with a Minnesota Republican, Secretary of State Frank Kellogg, no active advocate of peace, forced into action even as he cursed pacifists privately. Obviously in an effort to reinforce U$ imperialism, Kellogg was willing to threaten war to enforce the Monroe Doctrine in the Americas, derided by the new Soviet government, but was pushed into action by a strong peace movement, negotiating a treaty with the French secretly, making it multilateral even though Briand did not want this to happen originally. Some of the French showed their true colors, like Paul Claudel, who said that outlawing war was sentimental and would please “cranks,” Bolsheviks and socialists, proposing a joint declaration of principles but Kellogg stuck by his demand for a treaty, later coming over to public negotiations of the treaty as the U$ and British allowed their respective imperialisms to fall under the idea of “self-defense” and not be covered by the treaty. The Kellogg-Briand Pact, also called the Pact of Paris, was signed in Paris in 1928, picketed by feminists saying that an equal rights treaty should be proposed and anti-imperialists who said that U$ imperialism would continue, and survived the U$ Senate (votes in favor 85-1), despite broad questioning of its effectiveness, then entering the canons of international law in July 1929.

Swanson continues by saying that the pact’s ideas were influential. He says that it inspired the UN’s principles in 1945 and International Criminal Court, claiming the pact was the “first U.S. recognition of the Soviet Union’s existence.” [5] He also says that Henry Stimson tried to stop the USSR and nationalist China from supposedly going to the “brink of war.” He doesn’t note that this was part of a “Sino-Soviet conflict over the Manchurian railway line,” which was settled with a protocol that “affirmed the original status of the railroad as a joint enterprise” and Soviet victory. At the time, Persia (Iran) defended the USSR rhetorically when it took defensive measures against nationalist China in the 1929 spat. Swanson also points out Japan’s invasion of Manchuria in 1931, Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia in 1935, and Germany invading Poland on Sept. 1, 1939 and the Soviets on Sept. 17, 1939 as violations of the pact. Not surprisingly, Swanson does not say that this intervention was in accordance with the secret Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact since the Soviets felt that the Polish could no longer defend themselves because of the collapse of their state after a Nazi attack, and the Soviets were welcomed by the Polish people as “true liberators.” Swanson goes on to say that the treaty was not ordinary, but meant to outlaw war, with the reality that the U$ quickly violated the pact, with peace structures not stopping the coming war. Some supported Outlawry at the time (Stimson) but opposed it later, and others, such as, a Wall Street lawyer named William Chanler, a friend of Stimson, used it as a basis for criminal trials of the Germans and Japanese for war crimes at Nuremberg and the UN Charter as a whole. Eventually, Kellogg was given a Nobel Peace Prize for his work on the treaty even as he didn’t stop advocating for U$ imperial aggression.

Before ending the section on Swanson’s narrative, it worth noting how taken in he is about this story. He thinks war outlawry be revived and that we should have a “Kellogg-Briand Day” on August 27 every year, celebrating a “step toward peace” but war’s abolishment or end. [6] He goes on to say that his book, dispelling the well-kept secret that war is illegal, continues the campaign for outlawry, which includes pushing countries to comply with the pact, and says that a public referendum on war is an intriguing idea. At the end of his book, he outlines numerous proposals for reducing the U$ war machine, and says that his self-published book, where he had complete editorial control, is meant to help people learn about the Kellogg-Briand Pact and study peace activism that got us to Outlawry.

What Swanson missed

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

In his happy good lucky story of the road to the Kellogg-Briand Pact, Swanson glosses over a number of details, almost portraying the U$ imperialists as “peacemakers” in the process. As the Great Soviet Encyclopedia argued, the U$ tried to use the Paris Peace Conference, from 1919-1920, to marginalize the USSR, Harding’s administration, favoring monopolies, used the Washington Conference of 1921-1922 to force the UK to agree to equality between U$ and UK battle fleets, Coolidge’s administration was unfriendly to the USSR, and U$ warships helped bomb Nanking in 1927. [7] Additionally, Swanson’s book barely ever mentions the Soviets, usually only referring to them in passing except for one time when he notes that a delegate from the USSR,  Maxim Maimovich Litvinov, proposed to the League of Nations’s commission on disarmament in Nov. 1927 that there be the “immediate and total abolition of all armies, navies, and air forces; the sinking of all warships; the scrapping of all war material; and the demolition of all arms factories” but Western governments rejected this, and the French even voted to expand their navy. He never expands on other Soviet policies in favor of peace but has a very Western-centered approach, likely written with his audience of liberals and progressives in mind who scowl at the Soviet Union.

There is another aspect of the process that Swanson barely talks about, if he even alludes to it: the interests of Western capitalist states who engaged in the pact. Kellogg himself wanted to desperately avoid the treaty, which was, as some writers put it, “the product of Realpolitik and cynical political calculations,” with the French seeing the pact as a possibility for a “defensive alliance aimed at Germany” while in the US, many believed that “the solution to the scourge of war lay in the universal renunciation of its practice.” [8] More specifically, while Briand’s offer for negotiations on a treaty to end war “thrilled pacifist-minded Americans,” it also served “France’s strategic needs,” a way to sideline the US “should France go to war” but Kellogg understood “what Briand was trying to accomplish and wanted nothing to do with the offer” and did not like Briand’s “bid to energize U.S. peace groups and thereby box in the Coolidge administration.” Beyond this, Kellogg agreed to talk with the French, engaging in a multilateral treaty outlawing war rather than a bilateral treaty, which supposedly “rendered it largely ineffective, more a toy handcuff than an iron manacle” and Briand was hardly in a position to argue against it. Paris served as “the site for the historic meeting to renounce war” and U$ Senators had few illusions about the treaty, knowing “it was the international equivalent of an air kiss,” voting the same day “to fund the construction of fifteen new warships.”

The U$ State Department admits this much in their write-up about the pact. They argue that the pact had “little effect in stopping the rising militarism of the 1930s or preventing World War II” but also note the movement that pushed for the peace pact. France was facing, they note, “continuing insecurity from its German neighbor and sought alliances to shore up its defenses,” but the US was less eager to enter into a bilateral peace pact, worrying that it “could be interpreted as a bilateral alliance and require the United States to intervene if France was ever threatened” so they suggested that it be multilateral, which aligned with war outlawry being “immensely popular in international public opinion.” The State Department history also says that the pact’s language “established the important point that only wars of aggression – not military acts of self-defense – would be covered under the pact,” resulting in many nations signing it, and the U.S. Senate ratifying the agreement after making “reservations to note that U.S. participation did not limit its right to self-defense or require it to act against signatories breaking the agreement.” The pact was first tested, argues this history, during the Mukden Incident which led to the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, but the fact of a “worldwide depression and a limited desire to go to war to preserve China” led to no action from the League of Nations or the U$. Later threats to the agreement “from fellow signatories Germany, Austria and Italy” made it clear there “was no way to enforce the pact or sanction those who broke it” with many ways around the terms, the pact not helping prevent WWII but very idealistic in the view of the State Department history.

In missing this aspect of the pact, Swanson, of course, did not mention the imperial nature of the pact itself. The Great Soviet Encyclopedia argued that the pact was originally used by the US and other imperialist powers as a “means of isolating the USSR” but that under “the pressure of public opinion they were forced to invite the USSR to subscribe to the pact.” [9] The Soviets adhered to the pact on August 29, 1928, details of which will be discussed later in this article. Such an action led to anger from Trotskyists who saw themselves as righteous in their “revolutionary” feelings, even though Leon Trotsky supported a continuation of the NEP, opposed measures to ensure the security of the Soviet state from opportunists and foreign enemies, and pushed the idea of “permanent revolution” while rejecting the more practical idea of “socialism in one country” proposed by Joseph Stalin, as noted in a previous post on this blog. The Trotskyists claimed that the signing of this pact marked a departure from a “revolutionary path,” strengthened “bourgeois illusions,” struck at Lenin’s work, and that Western powers are not interested in peace but wanted to check the “successful robber activities of the Nipponese competitor,” Japan. While most of these statements take an unrealistic counter-revolutionary viewpoint, the last statement about Western powers is one the Soviets would actually agree with.

The Soviet government had a good reason for signing the pact regardless of what the counter-revolutionary Trotskyists said. While they would have, a few years before, possibly sneered at the effort as “bourgeois sentimentalism,” the USSR wanted to join the world community even as the initial invitations for the pact excluded the Soviets, leaving them to believe there was the tacit formation of an anti-Soviet bloc, but the French invited the Soviets to be signatories and they did so, with their affirmation of the pact showing a “Soviet desire for peace.” [10] Signing the pact was also a continuation of previous Soviet policy. Beyond what Swanson briefly mentioned, in the 1927 and 1928 disarmament conferences, Litvinov offered wide-sweeping proposals for disarmament, which was popular among the public, even when the USSR adhered to the pact, one newspaper, the Inprecor, argued that Britain, France, and capitalist satellites like Poland, were continuing preparation for war on the USSR.

However, not everyone in the Soviet government wanted to ratify the pact. The People’s Commissar of the Soviet Union (1924-1930) Georgy Chicherin, opposed ratification, while Nikolai Bukharin (who supported NEP’s continuation and wanted socialism at a “snail’s pace”) and Litvinov supported it, arguing that it would allow Western powers to interfere in Soviet foreign affairs, the same reason he opposed the Soviets joining League of Nations. [11] His supporters pointed to British & French reservations about the pact, arguing that it would have no effect.

Despite this argument, the Soviets signed the pact, but mad they were not invited to signing ceremony, taking the position that “all international wars must be prohibited, in particular, wars with the aim of suppressing movements of national liberation,” along with prohibition of “intervention, blockade, military occupation of foreign territory, foreign ports” along with “severance of diplomatic relations” since this “contributes to…an atmosphere that favors the occurrence of war.” [12] The Soviet government as a whole took the position that signing the pact showed they were consistent advocates of peace, and believed that only a “universal and complete disarmament plan” could prevent armed conflicts, while admitting the pact would be a dead letter unless growth of arms was limited. Some, such as Evgeny A. Korovin, argued that the pact was a “serious blow to the system of the Anglo-French capitalist bloc” and that it weakened the League of Nations. The Soviets also declared that the pact did not go far enough renouncing war by “failing to cover all methods of aggression,” saying that the fact that the pact didn’t have provisions for disarmament showed the “insincerity of bourgeois pacifism.” Looking at articles 1 and 2 of the pact itself shows their criticism to be valid, as it is very loosely worded, only condemning recourse to war internationally and renouncing it as form of national policy:

ARTICLE I: “The High Contracting Parties solemnly declare in the names of their respective peoples that they condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies, and renounce it, as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another.”

ARTICLE II: “The High Contracting Parties agree that the settlement or solution of all disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be, which may arise among them, shall never be sought except by pacific means.”

Additionally, the pact, unlike Soviet treaties of nonaggression which renounced war “completely, totally, and without qualification,” seemed to exclude warlike action and the right of self-defense from the pact’s operation, meaning that it, arguably, watered down and truncated the “concept of nonaggression.” [13] Later on, the Soviets would argue that a declared war or any “de facto military actions initiated by any state” should be considered a breach of the pact.

More importantly, the pact inadvertently gave Soviet foreign policy a boost. As a result of the pact, the Soviets proposed their own security policy, inviting neighbors to bring the pact into force by themselves, with what was called the “Litvinov Protocol,” named after the Soviet diplomat, signed by the USSR, Poland, Latvia, and Estonia, later joined by Lithuania, Turkey, Persia, and Free City of Danzig, with Finland not as a signatory. This showed that the USSR was a champion of the principles in the pact and an “active proponent of the idea of curbing the freedom of states to indulge in waging war in order to promote their interests.” This pact, signed in February 1929, represented the “spirit of the Pact of Paris,” while it renounced the use of force and recourse to warlike measures, and while it provided little security for the neighbors of the USSR, its intention was more important than its application. Part of the text of the agreement is reprinted below:

“…[the following governments] being desirous of promoting the maintenance of peace between their respective countries and for this purpose of putting into force without delay, between the peoples of those countries, the Treaty for the renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy, signed at Paris on August 27, 1928, have decided to achieve this purpose by means of the present Protocol…

Article I. The Treaty for the renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy, signed at Paris on August 27, 1928…shall come into force between the Contracting Parties after the ratification of the said Treaty of Paris of 1928 by the competent legislative bodies of the respective Contracting Parties.
Article II. The entry into force in virtue of the present Protocol, of the Treaty of Paris of 1928 in reciprocal relations between the Parties to the present Protocol shall be valid independently of the entry into force of the Treaty of Paris of 1928…
Article IV. In order to give effect to Article I of the present Protocol, each of the High Contracting Parties, after ratification by its legislative bodies of the Treaty of Paris of 1928, shall immediately notify the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and all the other Parties to the present Protocol, through the diplomatic channel.”

This agreement, also called the Moscow Protocol or more formally the “Protocol for the Immediate Entry into Force of the Treaty of Paris of August 27, 1928, Regarding Renunciation of War as an Instrument of National Policy,” was immediately effective unlike the prolonged Kellogg-Briand Pact, with the Soviet negotiated agreement entering into force many months before the latter pact, and helping to improve Soviet relations with Poland. [14] The Soviet pact also disapproved the views of Western capitalists that “Red Russia would [not] keep a pledge to disarm.”

Later on, in 1933, the USSR concluded a convention on the definition of aggression with Afghanistan, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Persia, Poland, Romania, and Turkey, and the next day a similar convention with Czechoslovakia, Turkey, and Yugoslavia. [15] This agreement defined aggression as a “declaration of war, invasion, assault, naval blockade and support of armed bands” along with outlining false excuses and justifications for such aggression by capitalist states. Over the years to come, as even noted by this anti-communist but partially fair account of Soviet foreign policy, the Soviets recognized the danger posed by the Nazis, trying to “restrain German militarism by building coalitions hostile to fascism,” adopting a policy of “cooperation with socialists and liberals against fascism, thus reversing its line of the early 1930s,” with the county joining the League of Nations in 1934, and Litvinov advocating “disarmament and collective security against fascist aggression.” Beyond this, the Soviets also, in 1935, made alliances with France and Czechoslovakia, and “from 1936 to 1939 it gave assistance to antifascists in the Spanish Civil War,” leading to Germany and Japan signing the “Anti-Comintern Pact in 1936” but the West did not want to “counter German provocative behavior,” and after France and Britain appeased “Hitler’s demands for Czechoslovak territory at Munich in 1938,” Stalin then abandoned his “efforts to forge a collective security agreement with the West” apparently.

After this, Stalin came to an “understanding with Germany,”replacing Litvinov with his confidante, Viacheslav Molotov as commissar of foreign affairs, with the Nazis and Soviets engaging in “intensive negotiations,” leading to the Nonaggression Pact of August 23, 1939, which “pledged absolute neutrality in the event one of the parties should become involved in war, while a secret protocol [that] partitioned Poland,” and soon thereafter the WWII began. Despite this, one cannot blame the Soviets for war, since felt they could not trust the Western powers to fight the Nazis by allying with them, and they did not want destruction of their country like happened during WWI. In later years, the Soviets pushed the UN for a new definition on aggression which encompassed viewpoints from across the Third World in 1953 and 1956. [16] After that point, when Khrushchev unfairly and traitorously denounced Stalin in his “secret speech” and cozied up more to the Western capitalists, revisionism took hold in the country, only to be uprooted by 1964, seemingly, when Leonid Brezhnev took power. All of these aspects will be covered in later articles about Soviet history.

The fact that Swanson did not address the Soviet perspective on the pact at all is not much of a surprise. While he is good-intentioned in writing about this subject and his book is a worthy history, he also is a bourgeois pacifist who does not talk about the role of capitalism, class relations, or imperialist struggle in bringing this agreement to fruition. I don’t wish to talk about that history in regards to the Kellogg-Briand Pact, as that would require a good amount of additional research on the subject. As a result, this article is just meant to criticize Swanson and bring a new perspective to light on this subject, leading to future discussion.

Concluding thoughts

Final screenshot from the Soviet animated film "Mr. Wolf" I'm using in this article.
Final screenshot from the Soviet animated film “Mr. Wolf” I’m using in this article.

Some may say that it isn’t even worth reading the works of a bourgeois pacifist like David Swanson and that I’m giving him free press. While I can see where such a viewpoint is coming from, I also think it is unfair. It is worth reading other points of view in order to improve your own. There is no doubt that Swanson spent time and resources on writing his history, but his ideological viewpoint distorted his history so he did not, as a result, recognize the full reality. What I mean by this is that he is writing from a white, privileged, and Western perspective geared toward audiences in the U$. You could even add in that his perspective does not mention perspectives by women, not even white women, since only a smattering of the war outlawrists he cites are women. Additionally, where is a mention of race in this book? Doesn’t the Kellogg-Briand Pact effect people of color across the world? Also, a more robust analysis of European imperialisms and U$ imperialism would have improved the narrative to be more critical of established power structures. This agreement led to a sort of “capitalist peace” you could say.

The current Kellogg-Briand Pact, coupled with Articles 1 and 51 of the UN Charter, is a good tool to restrain the murderous empire. However, one must be wary of the demands of bourgeois pacifism in this regard, as such pacifism does not recognize the possibility of revolutionary wars for liberation and often says that people should not have the right to armed self-defense, instead just engaging in peaceful measures. This should be rejected wholesale. If Palestinians have the right to fire back rockets in response to never-ending Zionist bombing then blacks in the U$ have the right to defend themselves with arms against bigots trying to harm them. To be realistic, there will only be peace once socialist revolutions sweep the world and remove the virus of capitalism because militarism is deeply tied to such a horrid economic system. Sure, we can support the idea of outlawing war. However, we should not think that it, even if connected with an international court and other instruments of international law, will bring justice in a way that prevents capitalist exploitation. This is especially the fact if such a push does not include a demand for strong enforcement mechanisms, something that the Kellogg-Briand Pact lacks, not even allowing for sanctions, as much as they can be destructive and an instrument of imperialist aggression, of countries that violate its provisions. [17]


Notes

[1] David Swanson, When the World Outlawed War (Charlottesville, VA, 2011), p. 6, 11-18, 19-20. Such propaganda stayed in people’s minds before Wilson saw public opinion as “something to use, rather than avoid,” Swanson argues. The organization that paid for this was one group called the National Council for Prevention of War.

[2] War Outlawrists that Swanson cites: John Dewey, Robert Farrell, Thomas Hall Shastid, Sherwood Eddy, Robert Farrell, Murray Butler, James Thomson Shotwell, Andrew Carnegie, Salmon Oliver Levinson, John Chalmers Vinson, John E. Stoner, Kirby Page, Charles Clayton Morrison, Arthur Capper of Kansas, William Borah, Warren G. Harding, John Haynes Holmes, Raymond Robins, Frances Keller, Calvin Coolidge, James Brown Scott, and Carrie Chapman Catt.

[3] Swanson, 20-28, 30-33, 34-47, 60-69, 73-74, 111-114; LeftistCritic, “Annotating A Section of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia,” Soviet History, vol. 1, no. 1, p. 38. The idea of such enforcement was a court of law, with enforcement of rulings relying on good faith of nations, not military action, an economic blockade or sanctions, with the court as a form of “dispute resolution.”

[4] Swanson, 5, 6, 49-59, 71-72, 75-82, 84-89, 90-99, 100-106, 107-110, 111-123, 125, 131-134, 136-142.

[5] Ibid, 6, 144-155.  Kellogg said that the pact did not mean the US recognized the USSR, but the Soviets hoped the pact would be a way to gain rapprochement (American Foreign Relations Since 1600: A Guide to the Literature, Vol. 1 (ed. Robert L. Beisner and Kurt W. Hanson, Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2003), 851. Also see “The Sino-Soviet Border Conflict, 1969: U.S. Reactions and Diplomatic Maneuvers” published on the National Security Archive’s website in 2001.As Chen Tiqiang argues, “Article 1 of the Anti-War Pact of Paris concluded on August 27, 1928, stipulates that the signatory countries to the pact “renounce…recourse to war as an instrument of national policy.” The Judgment of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East; pronounced on November 12, 1948, pointed out that a war in violation of the Paris pact is illegal by international law and that “those who plan and wage such a war with its inevitable and terrible consequences are committing a crime in doing so.” Thus, it is clear that wars of aggression had already been prohibited by international law before Japan launched its war of aggression. The Japanese Government, therefore, had launched its war of aggression against China wittingly and deliberately with full knowledge of its legal significance” (Chen Tiqiang, “Conclusions Confirmed by History,” Beijing Review, Aug. 30, 1982, vol. 25, no. 35, p. 27). Another writer notes that “in the 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact (or Pact of Paris), the States Parties solemnly declared “that they condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies and renounce it as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another.” The Pact did not, however, specify criminal liability either for States or for individuals in the event of a violation of the Pact; whether the norm set forth in the Pact reflected a general rule of international law or one binding solely upon those States that had ratified the Pact was uncertain. As such, after the outbreak of World War II, many believed that no “international agreement criminalising wars of aggression was in force in 1939, and therefore, on the basis of the nullum crimen sine lege principle, the Allies were not legally entitled to prosecute the top Nazi leaders for aggression” but at the San Francisco conference in April 1945 they asserted that the original intent of the Kellogg-Briand Pact requires trying Nazis and Japanese fascists as war criminals (Sean D. Murphy, “The Crime of Aggression at the ICC,” Public Law and Legal Theory Paper No. 2012-50, Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2012-50, 2012, p. 3-4). It is worth noting that WWII commenced even with the pact in place, but that the pact influenced Japan’s pacifist constitution.

[6] Swanson, 5, 6-8, 9-10, 49, 157-162, 163-165, 170-171. Other proposals include simple disarmament, disentangling ourselves from alliances that cause us to go to war like NATO, pressure those in power, enacting numerous strategies and create a holiday for the pact on August 27, that war is good for nothing (p. 165-167, 169). His ideas, outlined in p. 166 to 167 include: (1) cutting half of a trillion dollars out of the national security budget, half into tax cuts for everyone, half into useful social spending; (2) bring the National Guard back home and de-federalize it; (3) ban redeployment of personnel suffering from PTSD; (4) ban no-bid military contracts; (5) restore constitutional war powers to Congress; (6) have a public referendum before any war; (7) close foreign bases; (8) ban weapons from space; (9) ban extralegal prisons; (10) ban “kangaroo courts” outside the US justice system; (11) restore habeas corpus; (12) ban use of mercenaries; (13) limit military spending; (14) ban secret operations, agencies, and budgets; (15) ban drone strikes; (16) forbid transfer of student info. to military recruiters without permission; (17) comply with Kellogg-Briand Pact; (18) reform or replace the UN; (19) join the ICC and make it independent of the UN; (20) disarm.

[7] LeftistCritic, “Annotating A Section of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia,” Soviet History, vol. 1, no. 1, p. 35, p. 37-39; Swanson, 106.

[8] James M. Lindsay, “TWE Remembers: The Kellogg-Briand Pact,” Council on Foreign Relations, August 27, 2011.

[9] LeftistCritic, “Annotating A Section of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia,” Soviet History, vol. 1, no. 1, p. 39; Max Shachtman, “War, Kellogg Pact and the Soviet Union,” March 1929, The Militant, Vol. II No. 5, 1 March 1929, pp. 1 & 4; Jack Weber, “March of Events,” July 13 1935, New Militant, Vol. I No. 29, 13 July 1935, p. 3; Sam Gordon, New Developments in Far East: Western Imperialists Register Protests as Japs Hold on to Booty, February 1932, The Militant, Vol. V No. 6 (Whole No. 102), 6 February 1932, p. 1.

[10] Alastair Kocho-Williams, Russia’s International Relations in the Twentieth Century (New York: Routledge, 2013), 52; Akira Iriye, The New Cambridge History of American Foreign Relations: The Globalizing of America, 1913-1945, Vol. 3 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 84-85, 106; J.L. Black, Canada in the Soviet Mirror: Ideology and Perception in Soviet Foreign Affairs, 1917-1991 (Canada: Carleton University Press, 1998), 66. The Comintern didn’t take Litvinov’s moves them seriously and got ready in case of invasion.  Some say that the USSR remained “somewhat isolated diplomatically” by the West at least, but this is only one opinion on the matter. It is also worth noting that the provisions of the Kellogg-Briand Pact also applied to Soviet relations with Finland, Latvia, and Lithuania (Jan F. Triska and Robert M. Slusser, The Theory, Law, and Policy of Soviet Treaties (Sanford, CA: Sanford University Press, 1962), 250-251).

[11] Jan F. Triska and Robert M. Slusser, The Theory, Law, and Policy of Soviet Treaties (Sanford, CA: Sanford University Press, 1962), 259.

[12] Triska and Slusser, 259, 260, 262. On August 5, 1928, Chicherin argued that “the exclusion of the Soviet government from these negotiations leads us…to the assumption that among the real objectives of the initiators of this pact there obviously was and is an endeavor to make of this pact a weapon for isolating and fighting the Soviet Union. The negotiations regarding the conclusion of the Kellogg Pact was obviously an integral part of the policy of encircling the Soviet Union, which at present occupies the central point of the international relations of the whole world” (Xenia Joukoff Eudin and Harold Henry Fisher, Soviet Russia and the West, 1920-1927: A Documentary Survey (Sanford, CA: Sanford University Press, 1957), 352).On the subject of the Litvinov Protocol also see Rudolf Bernhardt, Use of Force · War and Neutrality Peace Treaties (N-Z) (New York: North Holland Publishing Company, 1982), 36. Also see documents here on the Avalon Project’s website.

[13] Triska and Slusser, 258; International Law and International Security: Military and Political Dimensions (ed. Paul B. Stephan and Boris Mikhaĭlovich Klimenko, London: M.E. Sharpe, Inc., 1991), 9, 296; George Ginsburgs, Moscow’s Road to Nuremberg: The Soviet Background to the Trial (London: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1996), 4; Richard C. Hall, Consumed by War: European Conflict in the 20th Century (Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 2010), 97; Miron Rezun, The Soviet Union and the Iran: Soviet Policy in Iran from the Beginnings of the Pahlavi Dynasty until the Soviet Invasion of 1941 (Geneva: Institut Universitaire de Hautes Etudes Internationales, 1981), 148, 154, 247; Marcel Mitrasca, Moldova: A Romanian Province Under Russian Rule : Diplomatic History from the archives of the Great Powers (New York: Algora Publishing, 2002), 8, 124, 330, 372, 377.

[14] KAZIMIERZ GRZYBOWSKI, “INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS FROM THE SOVIET POINT OF VIEW,” p. 885; David A. Kaplow, “Nuclear Kellogg-Briand Pact: Proposing a Treaty for the Renunciation of Nuclear Wars as an Instrument of National Policy,” Georgetown University Law Center, p. 139; “When the Soviet Union Entered World Politics” ebook, “Diplomatic Isolation and the Beginnings of Stalinism” chapter, UC Press; Time Magazine, “RUSSIA: Litvinov’s Protocol,”KAZIMIERZ GRZYBOWSKI, “INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS FROM THE SOVIET POINT OF VIEW,” p. 885.

[15] KAZIMIERZ GRZYBOWSKI, “INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS FROM THE SOVIET POINT OF VIEW,” p. 885; Triska and Slusser, 262-263.

[16] Triska and Slusser, 262-263.

[17] The lack of such provisions in the Kellogg-Briand Pact is not a surprise because Western capitalist states would have never stood for strong enforcement, rejecting it in an effort to defend their own empires.

A bastion of imperialism: the corrupted nature of Saudi society

A shopping mall in Saudi Arabia (2011)
A shopping mall in Saudi Arabia (2011)

This post was analyzed for mistakes and other content in January 2019, as part of an effort to engage in self-criticism.

Editor’s note: Reading this again, I see it as wholly underdeveloped in structure and content. I think it necessary to keep on here, but it is not one of my better pieces. Perhaps I’m being too hard on myself, but I’m a bit embarrassed to have a piece like this on such a site like this where I engage in better, more thoughtful analysis. Still, I think this is a necessary part of understanding Saudi Arabia. As always, I’m open to comments and criticism.

Every day, more of a black gooey substance, black gold as some call it, is pumped out of the ground in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). Like the state of Venezuela, which is struggling for dear life against U$-backed opposition, “oil is the economy of Saudi Arabia,” meaning that depletion of oil will undoubtedly weaken their economy. The Saudi economy is so dependent on the substance, despite some efforts to purportedly diversify their economy in recent days, that officials overstated their country’s crude oil reserves by about 40 percent and owe billions of dollars to contractors which they did not pay because of an “oil slump.” As it stands now, the oil Kingdom is a client state of the murderous U$ empire, a bastion of imperialism with feudal shiekhdoms in place, in no way representing Arab nationalism of the past. This Persian Gulf protectorate uses its “oil weapon” to push its agenda. This article is the first in a series about Saudi Arabia, focusing on the corrupted nature of Saudi society as it currently stands.

At the current time, there is the possibility of political instability in the country. The KSA is backed by the imperial juggernaut. Its leaders, a royal bourgeoisie if you will, can easily placate the Saudi citizenry with decisions like slashing the salaries of government ministers, even as they ask ordinary families to cut back their salaries. Another method to maintain control could be the acquisition of millions of acres of prime farmland, mostly in the Senegal River Valley. One of the corporations participating in the land grab is owned by the father of now-deceased Osama Bin Laden: the Bin Laden Group. These land grabs were fully supported by the Saudi state, headed by late King Abdullah, with an idea of acquiring cropland abroad, growing corn, wheat, and soybeans, to feed those in the homeland. In Ethiopia, 1,000 locals every day load, pick, and pack hundreds of tons of fresh produce into waiting trucks, with the food going through the country, one of the “hungriest places on the planet,” and back to those living in the Kingdom. The Saudis are not the only ones engaging in such land grabs, with other states taking land in order to feed those living in their respective homelands. This practice, which leads to exploitation of the poorer, “underdeveloped” countries by ones that are much more wealthy, a form of imperialism which is inherent in the dynamics of capitalism itself.

At the same time, the Sauds can also stir nationalism in an effort to gain territory , such as two islands in the Red Sea, Tiran and Sanafir, handed over by Egypt’s U$-backed government to the Saudis. This was in exchange for Saudi aid to the Egyptians, to boost their ailing economy, a deal which was recently greenlighted by a court in Cairo. The Saudis could exploit this incident to cull nationalistic feelings in their own country.

The class dynamics of Saudi society are important to recognize in order see its true nature. For one, in imperial client states such as Bahrain, KSA, Qatar, and other monarchies, there has been a large rallying cry against US presence in the country by Islamic reactionaries and by a significant part of Saudi society which see foreign troops, partially, as an affront to national pride. However, an armed uprising in the country could be unlikely due to oil wealth since “Saudi citizens enjoyed a high standard of living” if they stayed quiet and didn’t engage in democratic debate. At the same time, tensions are rising because new migrant workers plus unemployment among young Saudis is creating much resentment, with the creation of a “native Saudi working class.” This could lead to a possible social basis for Saudi social movements and resistance from the proletariat.

The thousands of migrant workers in the country are also part of the dynamics of the Saudi class society. Due to few opportunities in their home countries in Southeast Asia and the horn of Africa, “millions of poor, desperate men and women” annually immigrate, and are vulnerable at home and abroad. Many are abused, killed, and enslaved through the kafala sponsorship system which ties the status of migrant workers to their employers. This system means that employers control any ability for the eight million workers, comprising one-third of the Saudi population, to leave the country. Additionally, there are excessive working hours, wages withheld, and numerous forms of personal abuse and horrific events, such as sexual violence.

Adding to the misery of workers in KSA, racism is spread across the country’s society. Migrant workers are tarred as “black” and Ethiopians are placed at the bottom of this racist hierarchy. This is reinforced by the fact that all religions, but Islam, are banned inside the country and access to translators is denied to migrants. Some migrants are deported (“repatriated”), in theory, to help native Saudis, but this actually hurts them  since the crackdown on migrants weakens the fabric of society in and of itself even as many Saudis are caught up in anti-migrant sentiment. Some have argued that unless root causes of “poverty, poor education and lack of opportunities…extreme social and economic inequality” are not addressed than many immigrants will “migrate elsewhere…placing themselves at risk of further exploitation, abuse and even death.” Recently, a building bust has trapped thousands of starving (South Asian) Indian workers in Saudi Arabia who are stranded in the desert leading to a “food crisis” and direct action by workers.

The class and racial elements of Saudi society are addressed in the recent Hollyweird comedic drama named A Hologram for the King which bombed at the box office. Usually movies about Arabs are utterly horrible. Jack G. Shaheen, an authority on media images and stereotypes of Muslims and Arabs, argues in his tome which reviews 900 Hollyweird films, says that the vast majority of them distort Arabs of all ages and genders, saying that from 1896 to the present, “Hollywood’s caricature of the Arab has prowled the silver screen…[staying] as repulsive and unrepresentative as ever…[with] Arabs are brute murderers, sleazy rapists, religious fanatics, and abusers of women,” treated as the other. [1] The problem with this, of course, is while Arabs can be villains in movies, “almost all Hollywood depictions of Arabs are bad ones” with repetitive and duplicitous images going across generations.

This movie was a bit different in that there were no heroes, no villains, just star actor Tom Hanks playing a businessperson, Alan Clay, who is trying to find his way in a culture foreign to him. Without getting into the movie too much, in one instance, one character, a Saudi cab driver, Yousef (a white actor named Alexander James Black who acts as a person of color, yet again), asks Clay “so if I start a democratic revolution here, you would support me?,” to which Clay says that he would personally fight for a revolution, but that the US would not send troops, air support, or other assistance. The conversation, of course, is just brushed off, but is telling since it seems to indicate the tensions in society itself. At another point, Clay says when looking at workers working on the roads of a future “desert city” that “I’m guessing these aren’t union men.” Yousef responds “Oh, we don’t have unions here. We have Filipinos.” This is also not addressed any further and is passed by, but is worth noting regardless.

Later, there is a scene when Clay talks to a nearby Saudi who asks “You work for CIA or something?” after seeing him take a lot of picture, with him joking “Just a little freelance work. Nothing full-time.” Of course, the Saudi takes this joke seriously and Hanks tells his cab drive to head off what he deems is a “ludicrous question” by telling the Saudi “if I was from the CIA, I wouldn’t tell the first person who asked me” and shakes his hand. You could say this makes Saudis look dumb for asking about the CIA, but at the same time it is treated as normal and expected as Saudis, like many in the “Third World,” know to watch out for the CIA based on what they’ve done. Also, it pokes at Hanks’s character (and by extension all Amerikans) are naive about the actions of the CIA. All Hollyweird movies have problems, but this one seemed more positive about Arabs and Saudis than other movies, so that is a good thing. To be clear, I’m not trying to promote this movie, I’m just trying to bring in something I thought was relevant to the subject of this article. If you wish to watch or not watch this movie, that’s up to you.

Back to Saudi society, apart from the racist and class elements, there is a sexist dimension. A recent article on Time’s website described the country as having a private society “rooted in a conservative strand of Islam” that requires adult women to have male guardians, which some call “gender apartheid.” The article further noted that men have more power in relationships since they are allowed to unilaterally divorce their wives while women cannot do the same thing. When men do divorce their wives, mediators and judges are typically conservative men, and the husband remains the guardian of the wife. The article describes specific cases and says that there are consequences for women who engage in legal challenges to male authority, with many women have struggling with “being a women in Saudi” showing that none of them are passive.

The horrid nature of the kingdom is evident. Any dissent or perceived challenge to the absolute monarchy of the Saudi Royals, a royal bourgeoisie, is crushed either by brutal force, concessions, or is outright banned (like unions and labor strikes). The Saudi state includes an internal security agency, the Ministry of the Interior, which has used its power and unlimited budget to train their forces, purchase cameras and surveillance technology in an effort to put in enforce social control. During the so-called “Arab Spring,” the Saudi religious establishment declared that peaceful demonstrations were “a sin against God,” and $36 million in monies was given to the general population with promises of housing and employment. [2] While Pakistan helped suppress dissent in the country, the late King Abdullah granted “reforms” such as the ability of women to participate in local elections in 2015 and the ability to be members of the Consultative Assembly, a formal advisory body, in an effort to blunt protest.

After reading all of this, no one of the right mind should support a relationship with this country. If one considers themselves a feminist or defender of gay rights, they should oppose this country for demeaning women and homosexuals. This can reflexively apply to the U$, which would require challenging existing norms in society. While I am not talking about the U$-Saudi imperial interrelationship, these aspects are covered in the next article in this series. This article, for any of those critics out there, is just meant as a brief overview to start a conversation, not to say everything that is possible to say about Saudi society, which would fill a large book easily.


Notes

[1] Jack G. Shaheen, Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People (New York: Olive Branch Press, 2001), 1-2, 6-8, 11, 13, 21-22, 28.

[2] Saudi forces also suppressed protest in the nearby kingdom of Bahrain, with a huge military base, after they were asked by the government for assistance.