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Editor’s note: This piece was originally written on February 1, 2017 so it is outdated in some respects, but broadly still valid.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.

The Trump 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 Trump’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 Trump’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 Trump 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-Trump 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 Trump’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 Trump administration. This is especially the case since Trump 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 Trump 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,” Latinos have fanned 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 American-born workers, with many of the workers coming from India, 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 United States.

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 Trump’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 US 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 US 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 Trump administration.

As we stand now, the authoritarianism of the Obama administration has increased under Trump’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 Trump, 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: an Israeli 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.

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.

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 calls “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. [2] 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 his anti-government activism continued 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. [3]

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), who was following “economically nationalist policies reminiscent of those of Patrice Lumumba,” which the CIA had tried to overthrow many years earlier, the West was steaming. The economic measures adopted by Zimbabwe at the time included imposition of tariffs to protect new industries and providing Black investors 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 United States, showing that Mugabe was not an “errand boy for Western capital.” 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.” [4]

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” but had a less successful struggle, with his political role after independence supposedly “that of merely a figurehead” in their view. [5] 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. [6] 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. [7] 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. [8]

The imperialist assault on Mugabe, the Zanu-PF, and the socially democratic 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 China, accompanied by 12 turbofan engines from Ukraine, during the years of 2000 to 2006. [9] While Mugabe is clearly an African nationalist not a doctrinaire Marxist and the policies of Zanu-PF are socially democratic, 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.” [10] 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 neoliberal 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. [11] 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 famers 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,” 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. [12]

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 and 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 US 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 definitely about helping the Zimbabwean people pursue “peaceful democratic change” through US 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. [13] 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. [14] 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. [15] 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. [16]

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. [17] 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.” [18] 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. [19] 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. They wrote 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. It has finally been addressed by the recent programme of land redistribution, which in turn has led to the unremitting stream of vitriol that has been poured upon the Zanu administration by the imperialist press in the last few years.”

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, US 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. [20] 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! [23] 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.

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. [21] 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. [22] 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. [23] 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. [24]

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. There was still hope on the horizon with China and Russia vetoing UN sanctions on Zimbabwe, which would have put in place “an arms embargo, and financial and travel restrictions” on top leaders of the country’s government, in July. [25] 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. [26] 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, 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 US, 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 even a Chinese company challenged, showing that the country is not a “colony” of China. [27]

Speaking of China, the Zimbabwean government strongly defend their involvement in Africa. In March, the chairman of the Zanu-PF, Simon Khaya-Moyo, said that “those Western countries criticizing the relations know that China is a powerful nation which is about to overtake the United States as the world’s economic power. The West is going to China more often than other countries so China is a giant and that’s why they want to castigate it.” Other Zanu-PF officials were quoted as saying that Zimbabwe could choose its own friendly countries, instead of colonizers telling them who to associate with, while Chinese state media rightly acknowledged that “the West imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe at the turn of the century following the expropriation of White owned land by government to resettle indigenous people.” A few months later, a communique said that Chinese Communist Party and Zanu-PF dedicated themselves to strengthen “inter-party relations in a bid to promote bilateral economic cooperation.” It was also noted that the Chinese recognized that under Mugabe and the Zanu-PF’s leadership, “the Zimbabwean people have made great achievements in developing the economy and improving the living standards” while a four-point proposal was put forward to improve inter-party relations by strengthening “high-level exchange…enhanc[ing]…exchange in ruling experiences, to promote bilateral cooperation and to make efforts to promote folk or informal exchange between the two countries,” leading to the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the two parties.

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. [28] 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. [29] 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, 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.” [30] However, this may have been a way for Zimbabwe to work with both parts of Zimbabwe’s then-coalition government and feel out the opposition.

Notes

[1] Ronald Oliver and Anthony Atmore, Africa Since 1800 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004, Fifth Edition), 366-7.

[2] Patrick Bond and Richard Saunders, “Labor, the State, and the Struggle for a Democratic Zimbabwe,” Monthly Review, Vol. 57, issue 7, 2005.

[3] 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.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Andrew Meldrum, “Joshua Nkomo,” The Guardian, July 1, 1999.

[6] BBC, “Obituary: Joshua Nkomo,” July 1, 1999.

[7] 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.

[8] This information comes from the SIPRI trade register.

[9] Ibid. Zimbabwe also received one transport aircraft from Ukraine in 2001, and gave the Czech Republic 10 self-propelled guns the same year.

[10] 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.

[11] 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.

[12] Vincent Kahiya, “Zimbabwe: Controversy Over $600m Spare Parts for ZNA,” Zimbabwe Independent, May 19, 2000.

[13] Dumisani Muleya, “Zimbabwe: Minister Mourns Fall of Soviet Union,” Zimbabwe Independent, March 8, 2002.

[14] 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.

[15] BBC News, “Commonwealth suspends Zimbabwe,” March 19, 2002.

[16] BBC News, “Zimbabwe quits Commonwealth,” December 8, 2003; AFP, “Zimbabwe leaves the Commonwealth,” December 8, 2003.

[17] Ronald Oliver and Anthony Atmore, Africa Since 1800 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004, Fifth Edition), 282.

[18] “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.

[19] 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.

[20] 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.”

[21] 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.

[22] 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.

[23] 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.

[24] 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.

[25] 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.

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

[27] 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.

[28] 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. 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.

[29] Pipa Norris, World Values Survey (2010-2014) – Zimbabwe 2011.

[30] 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.

“Our country is in deep trouble”: Trump’s fast-moving authoritarianism

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 Trump of course.

In November 2015, in a campaign ad quoted by Wikiquote, Trump 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 know this could get outdated very quickly, but that doesn’t concern me at all. I could have added more analysis here I guess, 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, Trump, 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 Trump easily, no doubt.

Trump’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 US think that “the country is on the wrong track,” there are also divisions between views of former Clinton and Trump backers, but there is also agreement on high healthcare costs, the “threat” of Iran’s non-existent nuclear weapons, worries of loss of US 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 to an extent. Still, public opinion can be manipulated no doubt, even if he doesn’t “like tweeting” or the differing sources of election news for Trump and Clinton voters, so he may have no trouble after all.

In the days before Trump’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, Trump 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 Trump inauguration, with lower numbers likely coming from distraught bourgeois liberals and progressives along with those angry at the US 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 Trump 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 Trump 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 ordinary people will suffer.

In order to indicate the events of the Trump Administration so far, it is best to break down the events day by day since the Trumpster is acting very quickly indeed.

Day One: January 20

On the day of his inauguration, Trump 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 Trump’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 likely 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 US Senate pushed through three of Trump’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, Trump’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 US 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 US-backed coups in the region but a continuation of US 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 US, 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 Trump 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 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, Trump 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 Trump won’t change. In the speech, which of course was praised by Trump 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 Trump 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 a US military base, media in East Asia decried the “isolationist” nature of Trump, fearing possible diplomatic turmoil. Such concerns, of course, are not unfounded due to the increasing aggression the Trump Administration has shown to 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 US drone strikes under Trump. 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 Trump.

The same day, Trump had a call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the right-wing extremist who rules the murderous (and Zionist) state of Israel. They spoke, as a readout of the call noted, 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 Trump’s push for a border wall, as both him and Trump are engaging in racist policy and are right-wing reactionaries. [4] It is worth considering the horrid settlements Trump is supporting in the “West Bank,” a region given that name as it is the area West of the Jordan River that the state of Jordan has claimed in the past.

Day Four: January 23

On this day of the Trump 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 Trump was responding to, rather than thanking Trump for killing the agreement. There is no doubt there was “imperial aspects of the TPP” but this aspect has been replaced by aggressiveness toward 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 US military action or a naval blockade against “China’s growing naval fleets would risk dangerous escalation.” [6]

Beyond this imperial aggressiveness, the Trumpster enforced his ideological supporters. He restricted abortions, with more official sanction to “pro-life,” more accurately anti-abortion sentiment, than before. The same day, Trump 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 US Senate approved another one of Trump’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 Trump’s approval rating, mainly. Some sources said that he had a low approval rating coming into office, while others noting that Trump’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 Trump’s focus on Cuba and Mexico, how much of Obama’s “soft” coups that Trump’s admin will continue. It is also worth mentioning Trump’s other memorandums that day and staying the course with military appointments.

Day Five: January 24

On this day, the Trump administration took a hard stand against environmentalism. Apart from a memorandum “streamlining regulations,” the Trumpster 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 billionaires who funded him and others saying that it violates indigenous law clearly. 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 Trump’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, Trump 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 China in the region, while maintaining the sphere of influence of the murderous US 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 Trump.

On another topic entirely, Trump 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 US 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 Trump Administration declared support for a bill to end federal funding to abortion completely. This goes a different way than Obama, but 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 authoritarianism of Trump’s administration began to show even quicker than it did under Obama, of course. In one executive order, it 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 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 Trump 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 US imperialist intervention in Syria are under consideration by those in the highest parts of the Trump 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 Trump to review the use of CIA “black prisons” overseas. [10] The order declares that the US 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 US 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 removed. 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 Trump 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 Trump basically called for concentration camps for immigrants while the National Iranian-American Council (NIAC), a bourgeois group as I have previously described, declared that Trump’s Muslim ban is “real and even more draconian than many anticipated,” saying that it 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, Trump 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 US 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 US, 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” (link here) 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 Trump administration, Trump promoted a positive image of himself, personal propaganda on the official White House website (a shocker, not really), and guidance on Trump’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 Trump wants should begin in his own administration, and Trump 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 Trump, with Kerry’s action seeming very last minute.

Day Seven: January 26

On this day, the war of the Trump 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 Trump, some predicting that Trump 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 authoritarian, there is no doubt. While restricting newspapers in socialist countries and those under US imperialist attack is justified, in this case, it is dangerous. I’m no fan of the Washington Post or New York Times, but to restrict media from covering the Trump Administration means that all we will get is Trump propaganda, allowing no sort of room for opposition to his reactionary, right-wing nature. I do think it is interesting that he says that the media are the opposition party, not the Democrats, as it shows he recognizes that the Democrats are milquetoast and not really resisting Trump. On that, he is definitely right. Otherwise, I worry about his anti-press rhetoric not because of my belief in the “free speech” of the First Amendment which has never been “free” and should never be fully “free,” with the ability of such speech dictated by one’s social class in US capitalist society, but the fact that it will limit the information flow from the Trumpster and his goons of destruction.

Again there was more about Trump’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. Trump 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 Trump, brewing. Raul Castro, like many in Latin America, is wary and not trusting of Trump, which is part of the reason he told Trump to respect Cuban sovereignty (and also to protect the island from imperialist assault. One article in Consortium News, argued that Trump 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 Trump fared poorly with the public, claimed that few supported the border wall, many wanted Trump 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 a US 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 Trump 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 Trump’s presidency, it was clear that May, the first foreign leader to meet Trump 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 US Constitution of discrimination on basis of religion, with Trump 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 US policy is to protect US 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.” Trump 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, Trump reinforced his “economic nationalism” by meeting with business leaders from across the US to improve manufacturing which make the capitalist class smile with glee. Also, it is worth noting that Trump 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 Trump. 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, Trump 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 Trump 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 Trump 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 Trump. 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 US foreign policy won’t change, as the US 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 Trump’s horrible policies, ranging from the DAPL construction resuming, a border wall between the US and Mexico, an immigration ban, some of Trump’s tweets, Trump’s lies, and declared that there is hopefulness of resistance to Trump 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 Trump 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 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 US 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 Trump, 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 Trump 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, Trump 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 Trump’s presidency. For one, seemingly on January 30, Trump 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 Trump 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? 10 billion dollars will be spent…in the United States by Toyota car giant, in order to appease the new Emperor” but notes at Trump 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 Trump, 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 billionaires must be made extinct, and that two, Trump 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 Trumpian fascism will roll right over the US 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 Trump’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 US Navy. The message of greedy capitalists and duplicitous pacifists is very clear while some are flummoxed.

As Trump promises to increase military spending, including 350 more ships for the Navy (likely costing over $126 billion dollars), strengthening the murderous US 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 arguably 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 Americans to support war. [2] 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 US in WWI in April 1917. Many in the US, disillusioned with promises of war, distrusted European peace efforts, as the US membership in the League of Nations and World Court did not materialize, along with other failed negotiations in the 1920s, the peace movement grew. [3] 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 US, 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.” [4]

There are number of individuals who specifically pushed for “war outlawry” or the abolishment of war. Swanson cites 22 individuals. [5] 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. [6] 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. [7] 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. [8] 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.” [9] 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. [10]

From then on, there was a push for Western diplomats to negotiate what became the Kellogg-Briand Pact. Illegal diplomacy by pro-peace US 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. [11] 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. [12] Obviously in an effort to reinforce US 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. [13] 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 US and British allowed their respective imperialisms to fall under the idea of “self-defense” and not be covered by the treaty. [14] 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 US imperialism would continue, and survived the US Senate (votes in favor 85-1), despite broad questioning of its effectiveness, then entering the canons of international law in July 1929. [15]

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.” [16] 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. [17] 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 US 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. [18] Eventually, Kellogg was given a Nobel Peace Prize for his work on the treaty even as he didn’t stop advocating for US 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. [19] 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. [20] At the end of his book, he outlines numerous proposals for reducing the US war machine, [21] 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. [22]

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 US imperialists as “peacemakers” in the process. As the Great Soviet Encyclopedia argued, the US 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 US and UK battle fleets, Coolidge’s administration was unfriendly to the USSR, and US warships helped bomb Nanking in 1927. [23] 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. [24] 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.” [25] 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 US 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 US 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 US. 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.” [26] 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. [27] 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.” [28] 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. [29]

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. [30] 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 [31], 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.” [32] 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. [33] 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.” [34] Looking at articles 1 and 2 of the pact itself [35] 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.” [36] 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. [37]

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. [38] 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. [39] 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. [40] The Soviet pact also disapproved the views of Western capitalists that “Red Russia would [not] keep a pledge to disarm.” [41]

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. [42] 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. [43] 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. [44] 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 United States. 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 US 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 Israeli bombing then blacks in the United States 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. [45]

Notes

[1] David Swanson, When the World Outlawed War (Charlottesville, VA, 2011), p. 6, 11-12.

[2] Swanson, 11-15, 19-20. Such propaganda stayed in people’s minds before Wilson saw public opinion as “something to use, rather than avoid,” Swanson argues.

[3] Ibid, 16-17.

[4] Ibid, 17-18. The organization that paid for this was one group called the National Council for Prevention of War.

[5] 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.

[6] Swanson, 24-27, 30-33.

[7] Ibid, 27-28, 60-69, 111-114; LeftistCritic, “Annotating A Section of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia,” Soviet History, vol. 1, no. 1, p. 38.

[8] Ibid, 20-23, 73-74.

[9] Ibid, 34-37, 41-42. 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.”

[10] Ibid, 37-40, 43-47.

[11] Ibid, 49-59, 75-82, 90-91, 100-106.

[12] Ibid, 5, 71-72, 84-85, 92-99.

[13] Ibid, 85-89, 107-110.

[14] Ibid, p. 111-123.

[15] Swanson, 6, 125, 131-134, 136-142.

[16] Ibid, 144-146; 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.

[17] Also see “The Sino-Soviet Border Conflict, 1969: U.S. Reactions and Diplomatic Maneuvers” published on the National Security Archive’s website in 2001.

[18] Swanson, 6, 146-155. 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.

[19] Swanson, 6-8.

[20] Ibid, 5, 9-10, 49, 163-165.

[21] Other peaceful 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.

[22] Swanson, 157-162, 170-171.

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

[24] Swanson, 106.

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

[26] LeftistCritic, “Annotating A Section of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia,” Soviet History, vol. 1, no. 1, p. 39.

[27] 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.

[28] 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.  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).

[29] 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.

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

[31] 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).

[32] Triska and Slusser, 259.

[33] Triska and Slusser, 260.

[34] Triska and Slusser, 262. 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.

[35] Documents about it here on the Avalon Project’s website.

[36] Triska and Slusser, 258.

[37] 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.

[38] George Ginsburgs, Moscow’s Road to Nuremberg: The Soviet Background to the Trial (London: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1996), 4.

[39] 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.

[40] 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.

[41] Time Magazine, “RUSSIA: Litvinov’s Protocol,”KAZIMIERZ GRZYBOWSKI, “INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS FROM THE SOVIET POINT OF VIEW,” p. 885.

[42] KAZIMIERZ GRZYBOWSKI, “INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS FROM THE SOVIET POINT OF VIEW,” p. 885.

[43] Triska and Slusser, 262-263.

[44] Ibid.

[45] 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)

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 socially democratic state of Venezuela, which is struggling for dear life against US-backed neoliberal 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 US empire, a bastion of imperialism with feudal shiekhdoms in place, in no way representing Arab nationalism of the past. This Persian Gulf protectorate is not only authoritarian, but it 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 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 authoritarian (and US-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 layer 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 working class.

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 Hollywood 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, ugh), 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 Americans) 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 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 United States, which would require challenging existing norms in society. While I am not talking about the US-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