Zombie Simpsons and the cultural hegemony of Hollyweird

From S5E14, “Lisa Vs. Malibu Stacey”

Originally published on the Leftist Critic blog on Apr 13, 2018.

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

Summarizing Gramsci’s theories on intellectuals and hegemony

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gramsci, Springfieldian stereotypes, and Hollyweird

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Stereotypes bowling team, The Simpsons.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Notes

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

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

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

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

Originally published on the Leftist Critic blog on Mar 16, 2018.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lenin speaking before Russian workers.

Originally published on the Leftist Critic blog on Mar 9, 2018.

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

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

Lenin’s words on self-determination

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Zionists enter the picture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“A calamitous defeat”: Using Stalin to interpret the “Kurdistan” referendum

Some of the past borders of “Kurdistan” posed by bourgeois Kurdish nationalists, as noted in this map reprinted from “The Automatic Earth.”

Originally published on the Leftist Critic blog on Mar 2, 2018.

Note:  This article was written in late October, 2017, so it is a bit dated, as the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) announced on October 24 that they would “freeze the results of referendum conducted in the Iraqi Kurdistan” and Massoud Barzani stepped down on October 29. The abandonment of the referendum is evident because the KRG has clearly accepted the federal constitution of Iraq as the reality, rather than their failed “independence,” saying that the Kurdistan Region “wants to resolve its problems within the framework of the Iraqi constitution” especially after the Supreme Federal Court of Iraq ruled that no province or region of Iraq can secede. Saying all of this, this article, the first of a four-part series, never got published on Dissident Voice, partially because they had a lot of articles coming in and partially because I forgot about it, busy with other tasks. Rather than waiting on them once again, I think it is best to post it here. Enjoy!

In a recent article by Patrick Cockburn, a well-respected journalist for The Independent, he wrote about the Iraqi military’s effort to keep control of their borders and resist efforts for “Kurdish independence.” As Cockburn notes, as Iraqi military forces retook control of the oil-rich Kirkuk province, they faced “little resistance so far from the Peshmerga fighters,” with the dream of real independence slipping away as the Kirkuk oil wealth became under Iraqi control, as he further wrote. Adding to this, “Baghdad’s highly-trained and experienced Counter-Terrorism Force…drove unopposed to the quarter of Kirkuk occupied by…administration buildings” while the streets of the city were deserted, the Peshmerga abandoned their positions, and ethnic Turkmen reportedly celebrated takeover by the Iraqis. All in all, the success and speed of this victory against almost no Kurdish resistance is a “blow to President Masoud Barzani who ignited the present crisis” who held the referendum on “Kurdish independence” on September 25 and is seen as a “disastrous miscalculation” for him. This is because there are fundamentally, as Cockburn points out, “deep divisions between the Kurdish leaders and their parties” with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) led by Barzani and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) led for decades by Jalal Talabani, recently deceased. Part of the later group “opposed the independence referendum as a manoeuvre by Mr Barzani to present himself as the great Kurdish nationalist leader” while the US, officially, “strongly opposed the independence referendum” seeing it as divisive, along with regional powers like Iran and Turkey. More simply, the Kurdish leadership was clearly more “divided than expected” while Iraqi armed forces were stronger. At the same time, “Mr Barzani had alienated his traditional allies.”

The Kurdish national dream is over. As Reuters put it, the loss of territory such as Kirkuk is a “severe blow,” leading some to say that the referendum was premature since without control of that region, “independence is problematic, since they would be financially worse off than inside Iraq,” while the New York Times declared that “the Kurds themselves were divided…the Kurds may now have to defer their independence dreams.” Already the Kurdish leadership has proposed to engage in unconditional talks with Baghdad as some sources report.

How can we interpret this development? After all, as James M. Dorsey wrote in September, “if Myanmar’s Rohingya are the 21st century’s rallying cry of the Muslim world, the Kurds could be one of its major fault lines.” Taking that into consideration, it is worth using the words of Joseph Stalin on the principle of self-determination, within an appropriately Marxist context, in order to understand the conundrum of “independent Kurdistan,” and this referendum.

One declaration or the other by bourgeois scholars will not help anyone of sense interpret the dilemma of “Kurdistan.” Josef (or Joseph) Stalin wrote on varying topics to promote communism and advocate for a better world. One of those topics was self-determination and nations. Stalin gave a concrete definition of a nation. [1] In this section I aim to use the writings (and speeches) of Stalin to give a more radical analysis of “Kurdistan” as it currently stands.

One can examine at the Kurds as a prospective “nation.” Bourgeois authorities definite “Kurdistan” as a “geographic region” which is mainly inhabited by the Kurds, with an “extensive plateau and mountain area” across northern Iraq, western Iran, eastern Turkey, parts of northern Syria, and northern Armenia, covering a total of 74,000 square kilometers. Along with that, Jeffrey B. White of the “Defense” Intelligence Agency (DIA) declared that “Kurdistan” was a “political-geographic microclimate,” among others in the world, where there is a “continuous struggle” among the Kurdish population itself “based on tribal and family allegiances” but also an “ethnically based struggle against the Governments of Iraq and Turkey.”

Furthermore, the anti-communist entry in the Encyclopedia of World Cultures, written in 1996, adds that “…Kurds staunchly retain a national self-consciousness” and focuses on certain Kurds, the Yezidis, who are “adherents of the syncretistic religion known as Yezidism” but also says that most Kurds are Muslim since Islam “spread among the Kurds in the seventh and eighth centuries.” The entry adds that “the Kurdish nation is justifiably proud of its extremely rich oral literature…many of which have achieved popularity among other peoples.” BBC News, in one of their many online “profiles” to “explain” the world, through their imperialistic lens, to their English-speaking audience, says that 25-25 million Kurds currently live in a “mountainous region straddling the borders of Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Armenia,” consisting the “fourth-largest ethnic group in the Middle East.” [2] The description adds that the Kurds are “indigenous people” of the highlands of the region and Mesopotamian basin, forming a “distinctive community, united trough race, culture and language” but have no “standard dialect,” adhering to a number of “different religions and creeds” although most are Sunni Muslims. Business Insider further claims the Kurds are currently “the largest stateless national group in the world” and says that while “Iraqi Kurdistan” is currently fully autonomous. [3] Additionally, they have expanded territory since Daesh “took over Mosul” with fears fueled in Iraq that “Kurdistan” would declare “itself a fully independent state” even though it currently “runs itself in much the same way an independent nation would.” Finally, one Kurdish site claims that Kurdish history has no “beginnings” because the Kurds are “native inhabitants,” the products of “thousands of years of continuous internal evolution and assimilation” while another claims that some time in the past Kurdistan was a “recognized geographical entity.”

Now, for such a wide region to be a considered a nation, it would need to meet the simple definition proposed by Stalin in his seven-chapter work, Marxism and the National Question, published in 1913. He defined a nation as the following:

“…A nation is a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture…a nation, like every historical phenomenon, is subject to the law of change, has its history, its beginning and end…none of the above characteristics taken separately is sufficient to define a nation”

Accepting what the bourgeois scholars say, as noted previously, the Kurdish people would seem to be “historically constituted,” have a language, culture, and territory that was common. However, it is hard to say how “stable” this community was over time, or what its economic life constituted as the years past, using the sources above. Perhaps the Kurds have a “common language,” hold a common territory from people living together in the same place “generation after generation,” but their “internal economic bond,” which ties together the parts of the nation is questionable. Furthermore, continuing to use Stalin’s words, he adds in his book that a nation must be a community of people which is not racial or “tribal” (ethnically comprised) but is rather “historically constituted” and is stable to an extent but not “casual or ephemeral.” It is within question of whether the Kurds are racial or ethnically comprised. While they seem to have a “specific spiritual complexion” or a “common psychological make-up,” which forms a common culture, if the Kurdish people are a community which constitutes a race or ethnicity, then they are not a nation as it currently exists.

However, there is an exception as Stalin outlines. If the bourgeois scholars are right, the Kurds seem to possess a common “national character” but are “economically disunited, inhibit different territories, [and] speak different languages.” Hence, people can have a common territory and common economic life but are not considered a nation because they do not have a common language or “national character.” At the same time, a union of people who think similarly and speak similarly, even if disconnected, can constitute a nation, with a “national character” based on a “common destiny.” The latter seems to apply to the Kurds. As Stalin wrote in 1904, in a piece outlining the view of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, “we want to demolish national barriers…Language is an instrument of development and struggle. Different nations have different languages…it is precisely in anticipation of such possible circumstances that the nationalities are accorded a right which will prompt them to strive to arrange their national affairs in accordance with their own wishes.”

Accepting what the bourgeois scholars said, for the time being, and using Stalin’s characteristics, seems to indicate that the Kurds are a nation. If we accept this as the reality, what action should be taken? Later in Marxism and the National Question, Stalin defines the “right of self-determination,” which is very logical, saying that it means

“…that only the nation itself has the right to determine its destiny, that no one has the right forcibly to interfere in the life of the nation, to destroy its schools and other institutions, to violate its habits and customs, to repress its language, or curtail its rights…the right of the nation itself to determine its own destiny…The right of self-determination means that a nation may arrange its life in the way it wishes. It has the right to arrange its life on the basis of autonomy. It has the right to enter into federal relations with other nations. It has the right to complete secession. Nations are sovereign, and all nations have equal rights…Nations have a right to arrange their affairs as they please; they have a right to preserve any of their national institutions, whether beneficial or harmful – nobody can…forcibly interfere in the life of a nation.”

Taking this as it may, Stalin adds that regional autonomy, which deals with “a definite population inhabiting a definite territory,” breaks down barriers, unites the population, and makes it possible to utilize a region’s national wealth. Hence, he says that regional autonomy serves as an “essential element” in the solution to the “national question” as is equal rights for all nations, the idea that workers are member of one class, part of a “united army of socialism” and the principle of “international solidarity of the workers.” While the above quote and description by Stalin seems to apply to the Kurds, and ultimately to “Kurdistan,” the reality is a bit more complicated.

Let’s give a little history first before moving into the current referendum. In their description quoted earlier, BBC claims that “after World War One and the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, the victorious Western allies made provision for a Kurdish state in the 1920 Treaty of Sevres.” The treaty does have a section titled “Kurdistan.” This would seem, at one glance, to be the endorsement by Western imperialists of a Kurdish state:

“A Commission sitting at Constantinople and composed of three members appointed by the British, French and Italian Governments respectively shall draft within six months from the coming into force of the present Treaty a scheme of local autonomy for the predominantly Kurdish areas lying east of the Euphrates, south of the southern boundary of Armenia as it may be hereafter determined, and north of the frontier of Turkey with Syria and Mesopotamia…If within one year from the coming into force of the present Treaty the Kurdish peoples…shall address themselves to the Council of the League of Nations in such a manner as to show that a majority of the population of these areas desires independence from Turkey, and if the Council then considers that these peoples are capable of such independence and recommends that it should be granted to them, Turkey hereby agrees to execute such a recommendation, and to renounce all rights and title over these areas…If and when such renunciation takes place…an independent Kurdish State of the Kurds inhabiting that part of Kurdistan [will be created]”

However, these provisions, in articles 62, 63, and 64 of the Treaty of Sevres, basically puts Kurdish “independence” at the mercy of the Western imperialists, going against any idea of self-determination. Even if this “independence” had been accepted, they would have been a vassal state of the global capitalist class, with each bourgeoisie working to get a piece in the “Kurdish” pie. For this to be touted as some official recognition of “Kurdistan” is short-sighted to say the least.

BBC then claims that the “hopes” for a “Kurdish state” were dashed when “the Treaty of Lausanne…made no provision for a Kurdish state and left Kurds with minority status in their respective countries.” The fact is, that this treaty does not mention the Kurds at all, not in Article 29 which talks about certain oppressed peoples in Turkey or within the section on nationality within Turkey, only saying later on that: “the Turkish Government undertakes to assure full and complete protection of life and liberty to all inhabitants of Turkey without distinction of birth, nationality, language, race or religion…All the inhabitants of Turkey, without distinction of religion, shall be equal before the law.” However, to say that “over the next 80 years, any move by Kurds to set up an independent state was brutally quashed” as BBC says next is not accurate in the sense that the Kurds did have allies in this effort and were not completely alone. They had allies among the Western capitalists and later among the Zionists, as will be mentioned later in this series.

While Stalin clearly lays out the definition of a nation and the concept of self-determination in Marxism and the National Question, he also says that certain forms of self-determination are not always the right thing for a nation based on certain conditions. This is despite the fact that he does not provide many exceptions to support for self-determination or writes about international solidarity as way to support self-determination, although he does so in other works. Stalin describes how the urban petty bourgeoisie in oppressed nations battle the big bourgeoisie in dominant nations, seeing the market as a place to learn their nationalism, appealing to the masses to rally behind their cause although workers continue to “combat the policy of national oppression in all its forms.” [4] He adds that the fate of a “national movement” in such circumstances is bound up in the fate of such bourgeoisie, saying that as a result national struggle can be reduced and undermined, rendered “as harmless as possible to the proletariat.” Even so, he says that “social democracy,” or what can be broadened to include all of those fighting imperialism and capitalism, do not have to support “every demand of a nation,” especially not the “trampling on the rights of all other nations.” He further adds that autonomy or separation in all circumstances should be “everywhere and always be advantageous for a nation” and the masses who toiling, nations arranged in a way that “will best correspond to the interests of the proletariat.” [5]

For the Kurds, the question remains if their “nation” would correspond with the interests of the proletariat in the region. This question is hard to answer on one hand because the Kurds are not currently asserting the creation of a state that covers Turkey, Syria, and northern Iraq, to name a few regions. Instead, the Kurds in Syria are asserting an illegal state in Rojava, the Kurds in Turkey have given up nationalistic aspirations, and the Kurds in northern Iraq voted for their own state of “Kurdistan”. In order to continue this analysis, let us suppose that the “Kurdistan” by itself, not including the Kurds in other parts of the Mideast is a nation and a state.

The biggest clue of the future trajectory of a possible “Kurdistan” in northern Iraq is the KRG’s 66-page-document titled “Kurdistan Region of Iraq 2020: A Vision for the Future.” This document declares there will be more social services, making liberals smile with glee at the “progressivism,” but it also says that companies should have more ability to exploit the resource riches in oil and natural gas (and even mineral resources) in the region. Interestingly, in citing past “struggles of the past” for “self-determination against hostile neighbors and…a hostile world” it notes how the UN gave sanction to the KRG in 1992, and that helped them overcome the Iraqis.[6] The document then begins to read like what would be said in a corporate boardroom:

“to capitalize on these [development] opportunities [in Kurdistan], young residents of Kurdistan will need to learn languages and information technology skills and become work and service oriented…to make part of their lives…a strong work ethic…[while] the government must relieve regulatory and legal barriers to the private sector”

The Western capitalists would definitely be cheering! While the vision says that the infant mortality and other health problems in Kurdistan can be addressed by having a “package of basic health services to be covered by public financing” but making people “pay for all other services” with and expanding “network of private sector hospitals.” This takes away the idea there will be any progressiveness in this plan at all. The following are the case in this plan:

    • a “social insurance system” but pushing for the creation of private insurance companies, developing the “private” health sector, and putting in place a system that benefits those who exploit people’s health for profit

    • embracing universal education, but supporting public-private partnerships to build schools, coordinate with the “private sector” on education, and limits on “bureaucracy”

    • supporting the development of NGOs, which only benefit imperialistic liberals in the West,

    • having a “flexible labor market” (benefiting employers), pushing for a more skilled workforce, “reforming” pensions and benefits, having unemployment insurance only for those in the non-public sector, and incorporating women more into the capitalist market

    • having efficient infrastructure in order to expand the “private sector,” economic development near airports in “free zones” for capitalistic exploitation, and more mass transit after working with big capitalists

    • having a robust water (and sewage) system, but only supporting alternative energy when it makes sense “financially” and expanding the electricity industry

    • spurring capitalistic investment in communication

    • having “concessions to real estate developers” in certain instances

    • allowing the creation of large farms

    • supporting access to land for petty bourgeoisie

    • pushing for openness to the international capitalist economy

    • creating “special development zones” to attract capitalists

    • completing privatization in the Kurdish economy

    • wanting to be open and transparent, but supporting the idea of bureaucratic “efficiency,” making sure “mobile capital” doesn’t leave the region

    • helping civil servants leave government jobs and enter capitalistic enterprises

Even if there are some positive policies put forward by the KRG which would impress progressives or “benefit” oppressed peoples, they are couched in capitalist logic. There are more aspects of the plan than what is listed above but from the ideas noted above it is clear that the plan itself has an underlying capitalistic basis. This should worry anyone and makes you think: how progressive would an “independent” “Kurdistan” really be? This seems to indicate it would be a capitalistic paradise in more ways than one. This means that “Kurdistan” in northern Iraq would certainly not correspond to the “interests of the proletariat” instead currying the favor of up-and-coming Kurdish bourgeoisie and bourgeoisie of Western capitalist states. This does not make “Kurdistan” a socialist nation by any stretch, which Stalin defined as ones which pushed for elimination of capitalistic, nationalistic, and national oppressive elements, with “a united front with all oppressed and unequal nations in the struggle against the policy of annexation and wars of annexation,” led by the working class and an internationalist party. Instead, “Kurdistan” sounds more like a bourgeois nation in the making, not at the level of France, Britain, Italy, and the US, which Stalin put in this category, which fosters “national distrust, national isolation, national enmity and national conflicts,” with the bourgeoisie and nationalistic parties pushing for territorial expansion, hatred of other nations, a “suppression of national minorities [and a clear]….united front with imperialism.”

In 1917, at the Seventh Conference of the Bolsheviks, Stalin expanded on what he wrote in Marxism and the National Question. He defined the term “national oppression” and said that this conception, as manifested in capitalist states, should be opposed by his fellow comrades:

“National oppression is the system of exploitation and robbery of oppressed peoples, the measures of forcible restriction of the rights of oppressed nationalities, resorted to by imperialist circles…national oppression is maintained not only by the landed aristocracy…[but by] the imperialist groups”

Now, those in northern Iraq’s “Kurdistan” are arguing that they are being oppressed, basically, by the Iraqi state, and by extension the Iranian state, Syrian state, and Turkish state, all of which strongly oppose an independent “Kurdistan.” This is thrown into question considering that none of these states is imperialistic. Each of them has justified reasons for opposing an independent “Kurdistan,” other than the Turkish state. The latter is inherently anti-Kurd, has their own bourgeoisie, and wants to overthrow the duly elected government of the socially democratic state, the Arab Republic of Syria. As for the Iraqi, Syrian, and Iranian states, they rightly see the U.S. and other Western imperialists exploiting the situation to establish a firmer foothold and “balkanize” the region, leading to chaos of the highest order. It does not seem right to say that the states in the region are engaging in “national oppression” against the Kurds, except perhaps the Turks.

As for “Kurdistan” in northern Iraq, it could be said that while the Kurds have the right to self-determination and can secede freely, this does not mean they should “necessarily secede at any given moment,” with the decision on whether or not to secede up to “the party of the proletariat in each particular case.” Furthermore, Stalin is right when he says that imperialism should be the common enemy of all since, after all, imperialists use brutal methods with “enslaved nationalities.” Still, he does say when “particular nations” secede, to decide their “political destiny,” this should be generally supported while recognizing that this right of succession is not an obligation, only done in “accordance with the interests of the proletariat, of the proletarian revolution.” Hence, he argues that the question of whether to secede or not should be determined on a case-by-case basis, with the “the right of secession…not be confused with the expediency of secession in any given circumstances.” Taking this into account, it means that not every nationalist movement or every declaration of self-determination should be supported, especially if the effort is not the result of a “proletarian revolution” or would not favor the working class at large. [7]

There is further context worth considering here. In 1924, in his book, The Foundations of Leninism, Stalin talked about self-determination once again. In Chapter 6 of this book, he wrote specifically about “the national question.” After talking about how Leninism expands the conception of self-determination to become the “right of the oppressed peoples of the dependent countries and colonies to complete secession,” he said that annexations is not a form of self-determination, meaning that this principle can become an instrument for “exposing all imperialist aspirations and chauvinist machinations…an instrument for the political education of the masses in the spirit of internationalism.” He further added that this principle leads to “real and continuous” support to oppressed nations with “in their struggle against imperialism for real equality of nations, for their independent existence as states.” This was foreshadowing the support of anti-colonial and anti-capitalist movements throughout Africa and Asia, against White imperialists, in years to come. [8]


Notes

[1] He also says that every nation has the right of secession or autonomy, with national autonomy’s starting point is the “conception of a nation as a union of individuals without regard to a definite territory,” while self-determination gives a state “complete rights.” Even so, he says that national autonomy is against the “whole course of development of nations,” may be unsuitable in the future, and leads to nationalism.

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

[3] Jeremy Bender, “Here’s The New Kurdish Country That Could Emerge Out Of The Iraq Crisis,” Business Insider, Jun 19, 2014.

[4] Stalin specifically describes how nations are a “historical category” within the “epoch of rising capitalism.” Hence, conditions change on what path is right for a nation, with the “solution of the national question” relating to historical, “economic, political and cultural conditions” of the nation at that’s time. For further analysis, a dialectical approach is necessary, as he notes.

[5] He also argues that the “harmful institutions of nations and against the inexpedient demands of nations” should be combated and agitated against. Specifically, he says that “national oppression” needs to be fought as part of liberation of humankind from the oppressive system of capitalism.

[6] They also cite the 1920 treaty of Sevres as a Kurdish “victory” (it really wasn’t), along with the 1958 Constitution of Iraq which stated, in article 3, that “Arabs and Kurds are considered partners” in Iraq, as another “victory,” an agreement on autonomy in 1970, and Iraq government attacks from 1974 to 1991 as a “dark time.”

[7] This connects with a speech Stalin gave to the Third All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies the following year. He said that the Soviet government supported the “right of all nations of self-determination” and that this principle should be interpreted as a right which applies to the “labouring masses of the given nation” and not a bourgeoisie. He adds that this principle should be a “means in the struggle for socialism and should be subordinated to the principles of socialism.” Once again, this is an important point when it comes to supporting (or not) efforts of self-determination around the world.

[8] He also argued that “…the road to victory of the revolution in the West lies through the revolutionary alliance with the liberation movement of the colonies and dependent countries against imperialism…the necessity for the proletariat of the “dominant” nations to support-resolutely and actively to support-the national liberation movement of the oppressed and dependent peoples [is evident]…the revolutionary character of a national movement under the conditions of imperialist oppression does not necessarily presuppose the existence of proletarian elements in the movement…the national movement of the oppressed countries should be appraised…from the point of view of the actual results…of the struggle against imperialism…Without such a struggle it is inconceivable that the proletariat of the oppressed nations can maintain an independent policy and its class solidarity with the proletariat of the ruling countries in the fight for the overthrow of the common enemy, in the fight for the overthrow of imperialism.”

 

Armed resistance, “gun control,” and inherent capitalist violence

Robert and Mabel Williams with pistols, training in Cuba.

Originally published on the Leftist Critic blog on Feb 28, 2018.

Reprinted from anti-imperialism.org and written by yours truly. Since I’ve written  this article, on February 28, the orange menace has engaged in his own political gymnastics acting like he endorses gun control, then backing of and siding with the NRA. Additionally, he has, as noted by varied news outlets, openly called for the killing of drug dealers. I’ve also read a number of other articles, one talking about how the Second Amendment ties back to settler colonialism, White supremacy and  slavery, with others noting how guns have been helpful for self-defense of Blacks over the years, and another asking that if police can’t protect the public, then what are they good for, anyway? These are all good food for thought.

The bourgeois media in the U$, “a garrison of armed citizens,” has been talking incessantly about the Valentine’s Day Massacre by Nikolas Cruz in Florida which some have called “state-sponsored domestic terrorism” or a “major abuse of human rights.” There have been articles sent off every day on this subject, so many that I can’t even summarize them all in this article. Conservative media have directly attacked the armed deputy who was “assigned to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School,” Scot Peterson, as a “coward” for not entering the building to stop the shooting (which he reportedly thought was outside) while possibly four other deputies also did nothing to stop the violence. [1] Peterson has resigned since then, with others declaring saying that the sheriff of Broward County, Scott Israel, is “a hack politician whose primary concern is protecting his own political reputation and little fief” and saying this why “we don’t trust our public institutions.” This criticism also focused on the fact that Broward County received many calls “concerning Cruz” while the FBI failed to act on a tips it “received about shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz.” As such, 73 Republicans in Florida called for Sheriff Steve Israel to be suspended (which was happily reprinted by the progressive media outlet, Mother Jones with little comment) by the state’s governor, Rick Scott, who has already launched an official investigation of the response of law enforcement to the shooting itself. This echoes the calls from conservation publications like the National Review and some survivors of the shooting calling for Israel’s resignation. These views are understandable considering that sheriff’s deputies “responded to at least 45 calls about the shooter before the shooting” but still took no action.

Responses to the Valentine’s Day Massacre and analysis

With this, there have been two responses. For one, conservatives, U$ House Republican leaders, the NRA (with a “large, ideologically committed membership” as one conservative publication put it) and their lackeys, like the orange menace (Trump) who is exploiting the tragedy for his own gain, have called for more guns in schools, specifically that teachers be armed, which has been widely panned by progressives, and the general population, for good reason. [2] They also rail against gun-free zones in schools and inherently support further militarization of schools, declaring the liberals are “gun grabbers, saying the media has a “liberal bias” and “loves” mass shootings, and declaring they have the “facts” about gun use, even citing Bob Dylan to support their distorted arguments while laughing at liberals. The reality is that the bourgeois media will profit regardless in such a capitalist society and don’t “love” the shootings as not even bourgeois journalists are subhuman enough to have such beliefs. Still, it is worth pointing out that CNN held a town hall about gun violence, which at minimum raised their stature while the surviving family who was part of it sent doctored emails about the CNN town hall to varied outlets. The liberal response, trumpeted by progressive media, is not much better. They, apart from criticizing hypocritical conservatives, like one that reportedly owned a rifle factory but blamed video games on the shooting, have pushed for further gun control. Over 150 Democrats in the House of Representatives have co-sponsored a bill which would ban on semi-automatic “assault weapons,” with some conservatives call it a “non-ban” because “assault weapons” is a broadly defined term, which comprises “205 specific firearms that are prohibited, including the AK-47 and AR-15,” leading to further pressure on Congress. At the same time, many firms are dropping their endorsement of the NRA as liberals cheer at their “victory” which will be further enhanced with the upcoming march on March 24th in Washington, D.C., called “March for Our Lives,” organized by a student-led organization named Never Again MSD, while it is co-sponsored by the gun control organization, Everytown for Gun Safety (formerly Mayors Against Illegal Guns), led by former cop-defending NYC mayor, Michael Bloomberg. The march, according to their website, has a mission statement arguing for school safety and reducing gun violence, is followed by other actions across the country. This new push is mainly led by young people, even though they are not more “liberal” on gun control than those of other ages, especially those who are students, some of whom were survivors of the shooting. Of course, these individuals seem to not grasp, by pushing for gun control, that there is seldom “ever any one single cause for such an outrageous act of violence as a mass murder, especially when aimed at school children” with environmental and emotional causes.

This shooting should be no surprise: violence is inherent to the society of the murderous empire, just as it is to capitalist society in general. For the murderous empire, it is expressed through the white supremacist who is running for the U$ Senate in Washington State, the orange menace declaring that he wants to execute drug dealers just like fascist (and anti-communist) Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte or domestic violence in homes across the country, among many other forms of violence. [3] As one writer, Jay Janson, put it, “violence and heroic gun play is in the air children breath in the USA” since members of the military are “hailed in US media as heroic for ‘serving their country’ in other peoples countries” with the NRA having “a financial interest in the sale and proliferation of guns,” adding that “most Americans, or at least those addicted to their TV screens, might not see what the Third World and even America’s European allied peoples see clearly… the Third and Second World see that the seventeen mercilessly slain in Florida last week were the result of American fire power backfiring on its own kids and teachers.” He ended by saying that everyone “should try to end the era of colonial genocide earlier than it will end in any case,” closing by saying that “the human species…will soon end this period of profitable genocide for a relatively small group of insane speculative investment bankers of Western de-civilization.” It is my hope that happens, although I’m not always as optimistic and do not share his view of revisionist China leading the world out of an era of Western “colonial imperialism,” as he calls it, for one, and secondly feel that his analysis is not completely in keeping with radical principles.

As it always happens in the discourse about guns, it goes back to the Second Amendment of the U$ Constitution: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Some have declared that this amendment has “no practical value in thinking about gun control,” saying that the debate over firearms is not between those in favor of gun rights or gun control, but about “what kind of controls and restrictions of firearms are right and proper” with the U$ government having the “right” to hold certain arms for military use since the Western Pennsylvania rebellion of 1794, falsely called the “Whiskey Rebellion” after the moniker adopted by aristocrat Alexander Hamilton, with self-proclaimed militias having, in his view, no “basis in the Constitution.” This same author bloviated that “hiding behind the Second Amendment to advocate few or no restrictions on firearms is a nasty scam and misunderstanding of American history. Others said that the magical, mystical “founding fathers” (a conception which is racist and patronizing) didn’t give people the “right” to bear arms. Such views, as one would expect, do not take in the full picture, the reality of the situation.

Recently, Wayne LaPierre of the NRA spoke to CPAC, where he complained about Karl Marx taught on college campuses and declared that “students are even earning academic credit for promoting socialist causes” (which I doubt), while implying that such students favor gun confiscation, while ignoring the U$ Constitution and U$ history, in his distorted view. The reality is very different. Despite what LaPierre said, the reality is that communists are not, by in large, supporters of gun control. Just take a post on a Marxist-Leninist tumblr, as an example. This individual, Steff Yorek, opposed the NRA as a “vile, racist, reactionary organization,” was proud of students taking “reins of leadership,” opposing arming of teachers, turning schools into “prisons or military installations,” and putting more school resource officers in schools because it will disproportionately effect Black, indigenous, and Chican@ kids. At the same time, he wrote that he believed in the “right to bear arms and the right to community self-defense are democratic rights and I want to expand democratic rights not shrink them,” adding that the growing anti-fascist, anti-capitalist, and anti-racist group (founded in June 2016 as a “community defense formation” and working to reclaim the word “redneck”), Redneck Revolt assisted in evacuating a church in Charlottesville during White supremacist violence. This is forgotten by those who say that the U$ should follow the path of the Chinese and institute gun control.

A short history of armed resistance in the U$ and analysis of the current “gun culture”

Echoing this, I return to my articles on gun control and armed resistance, as it worth summarizing the history I put forward there. In the first article, I wrote that gun laws have been “interlinked with racism and racial politics,” noting that the first targets were enslaved Blacks but also included “farmers and dispossessed revolutionary war veterans” to prevent them from revolting, in the 1790s and 1820s, with such laws as a form of social control. I also noted that for Blacks who were enslaved, guns were “an important and vital tool (one of many tools) of resistance against their chains of human bondage,” adding that they were used to “protect against violent White supremacists, police, and terrorist vigilantes” with these use of guns feared by brutal slaveowner Thomas Jefferson, among others, while armed White men in slave patrols went around to maintain order and keep enslaved Blacks in their “place,” with their prohibition ruled as still legal in the South, and cited in the Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) case as a reason to not give Blacks their full rights. I further added that many of those pushing for abolitionism said that guns were necessary to help Blacks become free, with Harriet Tubman carrying a firearm, while southern Blacks used weapons to defend themselves against racist Whites and White terrorist groups during the Reconstruction. The Supreme Court during the Reconstruction effectively dismantled the 14th Amendment (it was only restored in the 1960s), allowing the “forcible disarmament of free Blacks” and basically “imposing White supremacy…throughout the American South” which did not occur without resistance. In the years to follow, W.E.B. Du Bois of the NAACP defended himself with a gun and championed armed self-defense as a duty of individuals, a position held by other NAACP members and declared often in the organization’s publication, The Crisis. This right to self-defense was later manifested by a Black sharecropper, Pink Franklin, in 1910, Sgt. Edgar Caldwell in 1918 Ossian Sweet in 1925, all of whom were supported by the NAACP, with Black capitalist and Black nationalist Marcus Garvey, despite his faults (like his claim that communism would only benefit White people, calling it a “dangerous theory of economic and political reformation” which puts power in the hands of ignorant White masses), strongly believing in armed self-defense of Blacks. Jumping forward many years, after the Plessy v. Ferguson decision in 1896 which legalized racial segregation in the U$ South, handgun permit and gun registration laws were enacted by varied Southern states, with gun control laws expanding to encompass social control of Whites, Blacks, and other marginalized groups, such as Mexican and Chinese immigrants. The latter was manifested by the Sullivan Act which passed in New York State in 1911. As for the NRA, it promoted gun laws, “embedded with racism,” in the Northern U$, passed in response to “urban gun violence and crime often pegged on immigrants, especially those from Italy and Eastern Europe.” The Harvard-educated lawyer heading the NRA, Karl Frederick, drafted model legislation to “restrict concealed carry of firearms in public” which later led to the 1934 National Firearms Act. Adding further to the history, the Communist Party USA (CPUSA), before it was corrupted by revisionists, mobilized mass support for the Scottsboro Boys and other dispossessed individuals, having an organization of armed self-defense as they prepared workers for battles in the 1930s, with sharecroppers in the South engaging in pitched armed battles across Alabama in 1931, 1932, and 1935.

Fast forward to the 1950s. By this time, no new gun control legislation had been passed, dedicated Black comrade, Paul L. Robeson, threatened that Blacks would “exercise their right of armed self-defense” if Truman didn’t sign anti-lynching legislation, a threat not based in thin air, with Robeson hounded by the FBI for his strong communist and Marxist views for years, with the Civil Rights Congress, which he was involved with, charging the U$ with genocide in 1951. Robeson traveled abroad after 1958 (when his passport was renewed) and didn’t return to the U$ until 1963, dying 13 years later in 1976. Apart from Robeson, Martin Luther King, Jr., “took measures to protect himself,” with his home as an arsenal of guns and protected by armed guards, as he even applied for a “concealed carry permit, under a law that the NRA had promoted thirty years earlier” in 1956 but his “application was rejected.” Around the same time, Robert F. Williams was beginning his activism for Black freedom. After many years of activism, heading a NAACP branch in Monroe, North Carolina, in May 1959, after a Monroe court acquitted a “white man for the attempted rape of a black woman,” he declared that justice in the courts cannot be expected from Blacks, saying that they must “convict his attackers on the spot. He must meet violence with violence, lynching with lynching.” Of course, this caused a lot of controversy, but he clarified it by saying that if the U$ Constitution could not be enforced, Blacks need to “defend themselves even if it is necessary to resort to violence,” adding that there is no law in the South, and no need to “take the white attackers to the courts because they will go free” while the federal government is “not coming to the aid of people who are oppressed,” adding that Black men should “stand up and be men and if it is necessary for us to die we must be willing to die. If it is necessary for us to kill we must be willing to kill.” That was a strong statement then, and would be a strong statement now. Apart from heading the NAACP branch, he organized, with his wife Mable, and other community members, a rifle club, called the Black Armed Guard, to defend the community from “attacks by the KKK, with the base of the club coming from the NAACP branch that Robert led” and while Black men “dominated the new club, some Black women were members, and the club’s actions were broadly a success” and even using guns to defend Freedom Riders. Robert would later, with his family, live in Cuba to escape a “kidnapping” charge imposed on him by the FBI, later arguing for racial internationalism even as he shied away from Marxism and the then-revisionist CPUSA disliked him, drawing Robert closer to the Trotskyists. Later, he moved with his family to the People’s Republic of China in 1965, where he stayed in exile until 1969 and was pardoned of his “crimes” in 1975.

As the years passed, armed self-defense was advocated by even more people in the Black community, with field organizers in the South standing against racial segregation were often protected by armed farmers and workers, with Robert Moses in SNCC saying in 1964 that “it’s not contradictory for a farmer to say he’s nonviolent and also pledge to shoot a marauder’s head off, “with James Foreman admitting the same year that “I dare say that 85 per cent of all Negroes do not adhere to non-violence. They are allowing the non-violent movement to go ahead because it is working.” Other groups saw such protection as necessary as they refused to “publicly criticize the use of armed self-defense,” even including Martin Luther King. Others noted that gunfire and the threat of gunfighter helped nonviolence, with the latter not a “way of life for many in the southern Black community” as many households had guns, with “armed supporters protecting field organizers.” By this time, radical Black activists who believed in varied “forms of Black liberation and Black nationalism,” splitting from the bourgeois civil rights movement, including those such as Malcolm X, among others. This was expressed even by the pro-China Progressive Labor Movement, saying that “Black people…must develop political power outside of the present power apparatus through armed self-defense, political councils, the creation of an economic base, seizing land and factories and…uniting with all workers struggling for revolution” and Malcolm X calling for Black rifle clubs while he threatened Lew Rockwell with “maximum physical retaliation” if MLK and his fellow demonstrators were harmed. Sadly, on February 21, 1965, the Nation of Islam, likely with the “help of the NYPD, CIA, and FBI,” gunned down Malcolm X.

Other than Malcolm X, there was a group called the Deacons for Defense and Justice. This group “defended civil rights workers against attacks from the KKK and other White supremacists,” using masculinist appeals, expanding across the Deep South, with Black women participating informally and individually, defending their homes with armed force, but not directly in the group itself. This group, “roughly active from 1964 to 1968” helped the civil rights movement move forward, by allowing this movement “to have victories in the Deep South,” and without the Deacons protecting civil rights workers, “it would have been harder to push for such laws,” like the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act, “regardless of how much they accomplished in retrospect.” While the Progressive Labor Party (PLP), earlier called the Progressive Labor Movement, saw the Watts rebellion (in 1966) as unorganized and facing tremendous odds, saying that people “liberated their own community and kept out the police,” while advocating for “self-defense organizations to help them organize to defend themselves,”Martin Luther King did not agree, even as he saw “riots” as the “language of the unheard.” The same year, in October, a group founded by Bobby Seale and Huey Newton, the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (BPP), came onto the scene in Oakland. It centered around the idea of armed self-defense and a whole program of self-defense with demands for basic needs and a program to unfold into socialist revolution, inspired by the efforts of Robert and Malcolm X, using guns as self-protection, carrying them “in public and displaying them for everyone, especially for the local police to see.” At the same time, they pushed the belief that “the gun would be a way to gain liberation,” with recruits “taught about socialism and Black nationalism,” as they famously “electrified the nation and brought gun control back into the picture” in 1967 with a “number of Panthers, with loaded weapons, went to the state legislature in Sacramento” to oppose a gun control law, the Mulford Act, which was supported by the NRA! Bobby Seale read a statement by Huey Newton saying that the Black Panthers opposed such legislation “aimed at keeping the Black people disarmed and powerless at the very same time that racist police agencies throughout the country are intensifying the terror, brutality, murder and repression of Black people,” adding that “repression, genocide, terror and the big stick” is the policy of the empire, arguing that “the time has come for Black people to arm themselves against this terror before it is too late.” The following year, in 1968, the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act and the Gun Control Act were passed, laying the foundation for “existing carceral state” with the latter law clearly about controlling Blacks, and was again supported by the NRA!

In the years to follow, armed self-defense continued to be important for marginalized groups. The Republic of New Afrika (RNA) formed in 1968, and lasting until 1971, aimed to create a Black nation in the South, along the “Black Belt” of the country, having a group of young Black men with rifles for self-defense and had “armed women serving as security for the RNA’s Land Celebration Day in 1971.” In the Black Panther newspaper, the publication of the Black Panther Party, Emory Douglas drew varied illustrations showing “poor black women resisting authority in everyday life” especially women with guns and being “equals with men,” with such ideas later leading to a split in the Party, with the creation of the Black Liberation Army (BLA). As for the White establishment, Bobby Kennedy, George McGovern, Ramsey Clark, and the National Violence Commission all supported gun control, while hardliners led by Harlon Carer took control of the NRA in May 1977 in a coup ousting Maxwell Rich. The latter action changed the NRA into a “pro-gun powerhouse and juggernaut where mistrust of law enforcement was one of the main beliefs” which was echoed by Republicans while Blacks embraced gun control due to increased violence in urban areas. Still, there were some groups which continued to support armed self-defense, and armed resistance such as a “Revolutionary Union” group in Detroit, the Brown Berets, a Chican@ nationalist organization, advocating for armed self-defense and armed struggle, as part of their anti-capitalist viewpoint, as necessary tools for liberation,” other Black radicals, and those fighting against White supremacist violence with strength. Specifically, in the later 1970s, the phrase “Death to the Klan” was spread across the U$, with some left-wing groups supporting “militant, anti-racist opposition to the Klan” by organizing within unions and against racism in varied communities. The result was the Greensboro Massacre in 1979 where Nazis, as the police and federal authorities looked the other way, opened fire on these left-wing activists, resulting in many deaths. Other groups supporting such methods included the United League in North Mississippi which “organized the masses, engaging in armed self-defense” and took “precautions against Klan threats,” with other groups coming out of the efforts by left-wing groups to oppose the Klan, especially among the Puerto Rican and Black communities. Since the 1980s, there has not been any organized efforts of armed self-defense until very recently, as I noted in my next article.

In the next part of the series, I specifically focused on gun control in the murderous empire. I wrote that indigenous peoples heroically resisted White European settlers but they were suppressed due to a superiority of weapons among the former, adding that armed resistance “has been an effective form of self-defense,” especially since the “long history of racial domination” in the Americas for Black people (1510-2018), beginning on January 22, 1510, noting the ahistorical arguments by gun rights supporters and by those for gun control, with the latter disregarding “the fact that enslaved Blacks gained guns during the Civil War and due to evasion of gun control laws, allowing them to engage in armed resistance.” I also pointed out that apart from the Deacons, Black Panthers, and Brown Berets (a new version formed in 1993), there are other groups, historically such as the Young Lords among the Puerto Rican Community, the Young Patriots, and the American Indian Movement (still existing). At the present, I pointed out that the Nation of Islam has armed wings for men and women, while also highlighting the Red Guards in Texas, Brothas Against Racist Cops, Redneck Revolt (including the John Brown Gun Club), the Huey P. Newton Gun Club, with other groups I listed not seeming to be that active. [4] After talking about recent developments on gun rights, such as the District of Columbia v. Heller, and McDonald v. Chicago cases, I noted that Antonin Scalia in the majority decision in the latter decision arguing that “the Fourteenth Amendment contemplated guns rights because it was based on the Civil Rights Act of 1866.” This is interestingly enough, correct, as a Black Code enacted by Mississippi in November 1865 worked to restrict gun and weapon use, while the Second Freedman’s Bill passed the same year said that states should honor the “constitutional right of bearing arms” saying that it cannot be “refused or denied to negroes, mulattoes, freedmen, refugees, or any other persons, on account of race, [or] color” and likely influencing the 1868 Mississippi Constitution which declared that “all persons shall have a right to keep and bear arms for their defense.”

After highlighting gun clubs and debate over guns, I noted that some asked if it as “time to start resisting police with violence.” With this, I highlighted that “firearms are used far more often to intimidate than in self-defense” and said that “guns can frighten and intimidate” which is part of self-defense, even quoting a liberal who argued against gun laws saying that they contribute, like other criminal laws, to Black incarceration. As such, I focused on a group for Black gun owners called the National African American Gun Association, protests with guns by the problematic “New Black Panther Party” (which do not legitimately hold claim to the name), a group called the Liberal Gun Club, comprises of “gun-owning liberals and moderates,” and still-existing group called the Pink Pistols, which argues against gun control, argues that there is a connection between “gay rights and gun rights.” The latter group is a self-defense group for non-binary folks (often called LGBTQ+) which was founded in 2000 with the idea that “armed queers don’t get bashed,”filing court cases on their behalf. Additionally I noted that some had floated the idea of Communist Gun Clubs and argued that “we should not reject those in the heartland of the United States who may oppose fracking but also strongly believe in their right to have firearms” as an example. I also added that gun laws, as they stand now, “contribute to the white supremacist order” with such laws connected a “correctional control” in the country as a whole, saying that as a practical measure, funding for mental health programs should be increased, while adding that gun laws don’t “help protect marginalized communities, arguably disarming them at most, or weakening their protection at minimum.” I also quoted a person on the “Left” as saying that the right of “necessary self-defense against oppressive force” should be recognized with a gun culture on the Left, arguing that “guns are a small business in the US at large,” and saying that “gun control won’t bring us to a humane society.” This same writers noted that Eugene Debs called for guns after the Ludlow Massacre to “protect from Rockefeller’s assassins,” the story of armed miners “in Harlan Country in the 1930s,” and urban labor unions providing “armed protection,” even as he rejected the “right-wing’s fetishization of brute force” without a doubt.

From there, I noted that due to the fact that society of the empire is “racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, and otherwise bigoted,” it would be “criminal and irresponsible to fight for gun control” because anyone considered “a “minority” in current society, should have the right to defend themselves with arms as necessary” since this is claimed by White, straight men, so it is only logical that others in society should have this right, in order to “fight off bigots.” I further added that a revolution cannot be fought with “flowers and sayings, but political power” and said that “gun control, if decided as necessary, should happen after a socialist revolution, not before it.” Adding to this, I said that armed self-defense “cannot occur as effectively with gun control measures in place,” adding that “the focus on gun control should be removed from the equation, with other approaches instead, which are more effective.” After that, I cited the writings of Karl Marx, who argued in 1850 for organizing and arming the proletariat “with rifles, guns, and ammunition” with the proletariat under no pretext giving “up their arms and equipment” with any “attempt at disarmament must be forcibly resisted,” and those of Vladimir Lenin who argued for “special bodies of armed men,” even saying at one point that “only an armed people can be a real stronghold of national freedom…the sooner the proletariat succeeds in arming itself, and the longer it maintain its position of striker and revolutionary, the sooner the soldiers will at last begun to understand what they are doing, they will go over to the side of the people.” With this I concluded that guns can be a tool to “allow socialist revolution to succeed,” noting that guns can “be used for malevolent ends” but can also “be used to allow socialist revolution to succeed.” From there, I analyzed the Second Amendment, arguing that the amendment says that “militia units in states should be well-regulated for the purposes of securing the State…but also declares that “the people” which means the whole population of the US…have the right to “keep and bear Arms” interpreting the word “arm” to apply to “ALL weapons, not just guns” meaning that people have the “right to defend themselves with “fists, feet, stones, bricks, blades, and gasoline firebombs”” apart from just guns. I ended the article by saying that rather than “waiting” for revolution there must be action at the present “against the threats that face this planet and its people, even when one should do so without illusion, whatever form that takes offline or online.”

A radical way forward

There is no doubt, as Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz argues, the murderous empire has a gun culture because of the tradition of “killing, looting, burning, raping, and terrorizing Indians” as inherent to the murderous empire itself, even before the Constitutional Convention. Dunbar-Ortiz, who notes that Richard Hofstadter coined the term “gun culture,” adds that the Second Amen dent specifically gave “individuals and families the right to form volunteer militias to attack Indians and take their land” with later, slave patrols drawn from these very militias! She added that the main problem with the current gun debate is that neither side, those for gun control or those for gun rights, don’t wish to admit what the “Second Amendment was originally about and why its sanctity has persisted” as she argues, in a new book (Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment) that the Second Amendment is “key to understanding the gun culture of the United States,” and key to a new consciousness about the “linger effects of settler-colonialism and white nationalism,” with a necessary reflection needed on “how the violence it [the Amendment] has spawned has deeply influenced the character of the United States.” There is no doubt she is right. There’s more to what’s happening now than what is declared in think pieces by liberals or conservatives. While is is valid that the Second Amendment was part of an effort by the South “determined to ensure that slave owners could pursue runaways.”

There is more as is states the column by self-declared socialist, but really liberal-at-heart, Chris Hedges. In his piece, he says that proliferation of guns in the murderous empire benefits gun manufacturers but  “fools the disempowered into fetishizing weapons as a guarantor of political agency,” saying that gun ownership is “largely criminalized for poor people of color, is a potent tool of oppression,” saying it is “an instrument of tyranny,” saying that “mass culture and most historians do not acknowledge the patterns of violence that have played out over and over since the founding of the nation.” He adds that a gun, as it stands in the U$, “reminds Americans that they are divine agents of purification, anointed by God and Western civilization to remake the world in their own image” with American “vigilantes are the shock troops of capitalism” and gun ownership being the “fear by white people of the black and brown underclass, an underclass many whites are convinced will threaten them as society breaks down” with guns rarely deployed against the state, as the gun, in his summary, “seems to be the last tangible relic of a free and mythic America.” He ends by saying that attacks on gun violence and gun culture is seen “by many gun owners as an attack on their national identity” with the almost always White Male lone killer “celebrated by Hollywood and in our national myth.”

Hedges makes a good point, as does Dunbar-Ortiz. However, Hedges seems to whitewash any history of armed resistance by the oppressed over U$ history, likely because of his beliefs in “peaceful” revolution, a laughable concept if I ever heard one. In terms of gun violence, there is a better way forward, which is not posed by Hedges. One can, as a start, push for the banning of “ROTC from public schools,” against expanded military recruitment, and further militarization. This obviously will not address gun violence at its root. That would require, all armaments should be taken away from the capitalist state and its armed forces. This includes the military, police forces, and any other forces of terror in society as a whole. Some may say this is impossible in a capitalist society as the bourgeoisie would never allow this, which is the reality. As such, there would need to be a revolution in the empire, as it splinters and explodes into different pieces, benefiting the world as a whole, giving an opportunity for the proletariat, allowing these weapons to be taken away. Of course, this cannot be imposed from above, and has to be a process of working with the proletariat itself, as anything but this approach would be fundamentally elitist and betray efforts to build a revolution. Taking this into account, calls for taking or limiting guns used by the populace, the latter favored more by liberals than seizure of guns, which is an inherent aspect of gun control, is a death nail to revolution and brings with it more social control without question, increasing the already strong system of mass incarceration in the U$ which liberals only flit about with “reforms” of prisons, rather than favoring efforts at abolition. It is only after a socialist revolution was completed that gun control could be implemented, as it was in Cuba or in Juche Korea, to give two examples of countries under imperialist attack.

This may seem all too fantastical for some, however those people don’t see the full picture. There is no doubt that many gun owners are well-off White Males who live in rural areas (and smaller urban areas), with 3% of the population owning nearly half of the country’s guns, having them mainly for “protection,” and do not have any revolutionary feelings or much developed class consciousness. These are the same people who broadly favor repressive agencies such as the FBI and CIA, among varied other government agencies, even as they feel the government helps the wealthy more than any other group in society. With that, there is slight dissatisfaction with current gun laws. As such, in the current situation of the empire, those with guns will not magically join up a revolution against capitalism and wave a red flag like Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times, before he was beat up by the police. Instead, the development of a revolution in the murderous empire would take time and organization, perhaps with soviets like the one put together by the Party of Socialism and Liberation last year, or those endorsed by the Venezuelan Communist Party, as I read recently in their publication, Popular Tribune.

While my opinions are still developing as I learn more about varied topics, writing about issues relating directly to the murderous empire and efforts at resisting imperialism in other corners of the world whether it be Palestine or Juche Korea, I continue to stand strongly against capitalism in all its forms and in solidarity with all those resisting it, not any flunkeys like the so-called “revolutionary” Kurds of Rojava who are utter posers. Violence is inherent to the murderous empire and it has been that way since its legal creation in 1783 with the Treaty of Paris, and from 1607 until that point, as the White English settled their part of the North American continent, creating another colony of the British empire, while the Spanish, French, and Dutch also staked out their claims, expanding their imperialist systems. While a revolution to bring down the murderous empire is developed, all efforts of armed resistance should be supported while typical “nonviolent methods” still has some value in social movements, but not as much as it used to have. After all, there should be a diversity of tactics that are used. The same goes for supporting all those being oppressed by the capitalist poles of power in the world and all of those who appease these poles of power.


Notes

[1] “Scot Peterson: ‘Patently untrue’ that he failed to meet standards during Parkland school shooting,” Associated Press (reprinted in conservative Washington Times), Feb 26, 2018; Rich Lowry, “The Broward County Sheriff Is Everything That’s Wrong with American Authority,” National Review, Feb 27, 2018; Laurel Wamsley, “Broward Sheriff Under Scrutiny For Handling Of Parkland Shooting,” NPR, Feb 26, 2018; “Florida Sheriff Denies Claims That 4 Deputies Were on Scene During School Shooting,” Associated Press (reprinted by Atlanta Black Star), Feb 25, 2018; Editors of the National Review, “Broward’s Cowards,” National Review, Feb 25, 2018; Christian Datoc, “Parkland Survivor Slams Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel: ‘Absolutely Needs To Resign’,” The Daily Caller, Feb 25, 2018; Derek Hunter, “Sheriff Israel To Local Reporter On His Deputy’s Failure: ‘That’s Not My Responsibility’,” The Daily Caller, Feb 25, 2018; Victor Morton, “Florida to launch official investigation of law enforcement response to school shooting,” Washington Times, Feb 25, 2018; “Broward County Sheriff DIDN’T Respond to 39 Calls Regarding School Shooter — There Were MORE,” Red State, Feb 25, 2018; Madison Pauly, “74 Florida Republican Lawmakers Are Calling for the Sheriff in the Parkland Shooting to Be Suspended,” Mother Jones, Feb 25, 2018; John Sexton, “School Resource Officer who stood outside during shooting thought he did a good job (Update: ‘You’re despicable’),” Hot Air, Feb 24, 2018; Alex Swoyer, “Grassley: FBI didn’t contact Google during probe on Florida shooter,” Washington Times, Feb 23, 2018; Sarah Rumpf, “Three Other Broward Cops Were Outside School During Shooting But Didn’t Enter,” Red State, Feb 23, 2018; Max Greenwood, “Additional deputies did not enter Florida high school during shooting: report,” The Hill (relying on a CNN report), Feb 23, 2018; Michelle Mark, “Local authorities and the FBI got multiple warnings that the suspected Florida shooter was dangerous — but no one followed up,” Business Insider, Feb 23, 2018; Rod Dreher, “Disgraceful Broward County Deputies,” The American Conservative, Feb 23, 2018.

[2] Jennifer Van Laar, “Get Rid of Do-Nothing ‘Gun-Free’ Zones and Give Schools Real Security,” Red State, Feb 25, 2018; Carl Arbogast, “Stop Lying to Those Kids and Telling Them They’re Going To Win the Gun Debate,” Red State, Feb 26, 2018; Jay Cost, “The NRA Is Not Your Typical Interest Group,” National Review, Feb 26, 2018; Chris Enloe, “Dozens of companies boycott NRA over Florida shooting — but it’s backfiring big time,” The Blaze, Feb 25, 2018; Madison Pauly, “The Trump Campaign Is Trying to Raise Money Off the Parkland Shooting. Here’s What It Sent Supporters,” Mother Jones, Feb 25, 2018; Chris Enloe, “Father of girl killed in Florida shooting eviscerates the media for pushing gun control narrative,” The Blaze, Feb 25, 2018; “The Gun-Grabbers Don’t Care About the AR-15 — They Are After All Guns,” Red State, Feb 25, 2018; Martin Cizmar, “Oklahoma congressman who owns rifle factory blames video games and lack of Jesus in schools for Florida massacre,” Raw Story, Feb 25, 2018; Julia Conley, “Reporters Call Foul on NRA Claim That Media “Loves” Mass Shootings,” Common Dreams, Feb 23, 2018; Susan Wright, “This Looks Bad: Trump Campaign Raising Money off the Image of Parkland Survivors,” Red State, Feb 25, 2018; Laura King, “NRA rejects Trump’s call for raising the age limit to buy rifles,” LA Times, Feb 25, 2018; Rivera Sun, “Stopping Mass Shootings: Less Finger Pointing, More Action,” Common Dreams, Feb 25, 2018; John Sexton, “House Democrats back new ban on semi-automatic weapons,” Hot Air, Feb 26, 2018; Melissa Quinn, “House Democrats introduce bill prohibiting sale of semi-automatic weapons,” Washington Examiner, Feb 26, 2018; David Weigel, “Most House Democrats get behind effort for new assault-weapons ban,” Washington Post, Feb 26, 2018; Jena Greene, “FedEx Backs Away From NRA: Restrict ‘Assault Weapons’ To Military,” The Daily Caller, Feb 26, 2018; Kate Harloe, “A Guide to the Upcoming Gun Control Marches,” Mother Jones, Feb 26, 2018; “Md. Rep. Cummings Joins Democrats Introducing Bill To Ban Assault Weapons,” WJZ(CBS affiliate), Feb 26, 2018; “US gun control: Congress returns under pressure to act,” DW, Feb 26, 2018; Sarah Quinlan, “Hold up! Here Are Some Facts Too Many Get Wrong When Talking About Guns,” Red State, Feb 25, 2018; Anna Wu and David Desroches, “Educators Fear And Embrace Calls For Concealed Carry In The Classroom,” NPR, Feb 24, 2018; Jesse Byrnes, “NRA strikes back at Florida sheriff: ‘Your office failed this community’,” The Hill, Feb 23, 2018; Daniel J. Flynn, “Bob Dylan on Guns,” The American Spectator, Feb 23, 2018; Eliza Redman, “Parkland shooting survivor’s family shops doctored emails with CNN to media outlets,” Business Insider, Feb 23, 2018; Kira Davis, “Vice is SHOCKED That the NRA Thinks Women Should Be Allowed to Own Weapons,” Red State, Feb 23, 2018;Brandon Morse, “Dana Loesch Reveals What Went Down Behind the Scenes at that CNN Town Hall, and It Doesn’t Help CNN,” Red State, Feb 23, 2018; Patrick J. Buchanan, “Don’t Confiscate Guns: Protect Schools,” The American Conservative, Feb 23, 2018; Mark Ossolinski and Katie Pickrell, “‘Protect Kids, Not Guns’: Maryland High Schoolers’ Walkout to Demand Action,” AlterNet (reprinting from The American Prospect), Feb 23, 2018; Hansi Lo Wang, “Millennials Are No More Liberal On Gun Control Than Elders, Polls Show,” NPR, Feb 24, 2018; Susan Cornwell and Richard Cowan, “U.S. congressional Republicans reject new limits on guns,” Reuters, Feb 27, 2018; David French, “It’s Time for Real Talk about the Assault-Weapons ‘Ban’,” National Review, Feb 27, 2018; Bob Eller, “The father of a Parkland school shooting survivor admits to altering an email exchange with CNN and shopping it to other media outlets,” Business Insider (reprinted from AP), Feb 27, 2018.

[3] Martin Cizmar, “Notorious Washington extremist whose rallies attract violent white supremacists to run for US senate,” Raw Story, Feb 25, 2018; Mark Abadi, “Trump reportedly told friends he wanted to execute every drug dealer in America,” Business Insider, Feb 25, 2018.

[4] At the time, I listed Black Guns Matter, the John Brown Militia, and the Indigenous People’s Liberation Front but they do not seem to have active websites/webpages.