Systemic Dolackian Disorder: U$ imperialism and the Kurdish dilemma

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

Originally printed on the Leftist Critic blog on Jan 7, 2019.

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

Dolack’s comment #1:

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

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

Dolack’s comment #2:

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

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

Dolack’s comment #3:

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

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

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

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

Dolack’s comment #4:

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

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

Dolack’s comment #5:

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

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

Dolack’s comment #6:

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

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

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

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

Dolack’s comment #7:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dolack’s comment #8:

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

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

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

Dolack’s comment #9:

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

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

Dolack’s comment #10:

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

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

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

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

Dolack’s comment #11:

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

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

Dolack’s comment #12:

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

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

Dolack’s comment #13:

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

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

Dolack’s comment #14:

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

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

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

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

Dolack’s comment #15:

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

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

Dolack’s comment #16:

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

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

Dolack’s comment #17:

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

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

Dolack’s comment #18:

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

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

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

Dolack’s comment #19:

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

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

Dolack’s comment #20:

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

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

Dolack’s comment #21:

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

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

Dolack’s comment #22:

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

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

Dolack’s comment #23:

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

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

Dolack’s comment #24:

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

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

Dolack’s comment #25:

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

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

Dolack’s comment #26:

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

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

Dolack’s comment #27:

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

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

Dolack’s comment #28:

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

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

Dolack’s comment #29:

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

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

Dolack’s comment #30:

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

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

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


Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

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

Reprinted from the Leftist Critic blog where this was originally posted on Dec 29, 2018.

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

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

Last year, there were many wonderful accomplishments.

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

[teleprompter explodes. Static]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

End of transmission.

[show restarts]

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


Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As I said on Twitter, this map shows the Syrian government (“Assad regime”) holding “onto much of Syria except for the Kurds in the east, Syrian rebels (“opposition”) in the North along with “Turkish and revel [sic] forces” (referring to the “Free” Syrian Army) and scattered Daesh (“Islamic State”) remnants.” There are other maps, I’ve seen, like one shown by BBC News, but they show the same thing. This map probably simplifies events in Syria a bit too much, tying into existing imperial propaganda it does give one a general idea of what is happening.
Reprinted from the Leftist Critic, where it was published on Dec 24, 2018.

This article was reprinted from anti-imperialism.org. Some changes have been made, but they are only in light of recent events. In light of some comments on Twitter, some (like @commieposting) have criticized how I describe the Kurds in this post, saying I should name the specific Kurdish groups which the U$ backed, previously. That is a valid point, and as such, I have updated the post to specifically name those groups.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We know that generally, these Kurds (part of “Rojava”) thought that the U$ would champion their cause, failing to understand that the U$ establishment acts “purely in its own interests.” Amber B., in the aforementioned article linked at the beginning of this piece put it well: that while there is some truth in the fact that U$ withdrawal is “an effective abandonment of the progressive Kurdish forces,” the Kurdish people can only resolve their problems on their own, and as such,  we should condemn those, like Debbie Bookchin (daughter of noted anarchist Murray Bookchin), a branch of the Democratic “Socialists”of America (actually social democrats), self-declared anarchist Noam Chomsky who advocates for U$ presence to “deter an attack on the Kurdish areas,” and the NYC Socialist Rifle Association, to name a few, who have “substituted genuine internationalism for mindless propaganda work for competing imperialist powers.” As such, those who criticize these Kurds in “Rojava,” like the YPG,  SDF, and PYD, for their alliance with U$ imperialists are not stooges of Erdogan as some have dumbly claimed. This is due to the fact there are questions about how “revolutionary” or “progressive” these vaulted Kurds (YPG/SDF/PYD) are since the SDF said they wanted “to be part of America,” possibly clearing the way for Turkey’s occupation. The Emergency Committee for “Rojava” goes even further in their pro-imperialist orientation, calling the withdrawal of U$ troops a  “betrayal” and calling for military, economic, and political assistance, thinking that the U$ imperialists are somehow humanitarian saviors! Of course, those in “Rojava” are no Marxists, as they do not hold, as Eleanor Marx (Karl and Jenny Marx’s daughter) and Edward Aveling that the world is restless and that the “death of the capitalistic method of production” means, simply, “resolution of society into simpler forms…a new and better order of things,” since the current society is “morally bankrupt.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Significance of Julia Salazar running as a “Socialist” Democrat

Reprinted from the Leftist Critic blog, where it was published on Sept 27, 2018.

The following was reprinted from Dissident Voice. It is the first of the two-part article on the so-called “socialist” Julia Carmel Salazar. A version of this article before its editing by Dissident Voice has been published on the Internet Archive.

On September 13, Julia Carmel Salazar won the Democratic primary against Martin Dilan, becoming the State Senate candidate for North Brooklyn’s District 18 (shaped like a praying mantis). Apart from the many dark times in her life, especially her right-wing period between 2008 and 2014, covered in Part 2 of this article, there are many other factors revolving around her role as a “socialist” of the NYC-DSA running in a Democratic primary. This article aims to talk about those factors and the significance of her candidacy, with her almost-assured victory in November, beyond Ben Beckett’s hot takes in Jacobin that her victory on September 13 “felt good” and that she was “attacked” in her supposed effort to build a “policy base that a new voter self-identity can be anchored in.”

With some media outlets calling her a “Latina democratic socialist” (Gothamist), “young and Latina, poised and progressive, and a democratic socialist” (New York Times), or a “Jewish Latina democratic socialist candidate” heading a “burgeoning progressive Jewish revolution” (Jewish Telegraph Agency) who sits among the “young progressive women” Michelle Goldberg recently wrote about in the New York Times, there are undoubtedly many articles about her positions. These media outlets see her as more than a “jumped-up nobody running for a state senate seat in Brooklyn,” allowing her campaign to become a runaway national story. She is described as a “socialist” (or as some call it “suddenly socialist”) and a DSA member, calling herself “an advocate, a tenant, a feminist, a democratic socialist, a union member.” [1]

She stands for universal rent control, tech-utopism, ending vacancy decontrol, abolishing ICE, single-payer healthcare usually described as Medicare For All, ending cash bail, fixing the subway system (and mass transit), ending “policies aimed at eliminating mass incarceration,” money for affordable housing, free tuition at CUNY and SUNY schools, and immigrant rights, while favoring reproductive rights and unions. These are socially democratic positions which aren’t necessarily “socialist.” She also endorsed the call for BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions), which held by NYC-DSA, while criticizing the two-state solution. [2]

This position on Palestine is part of the reason for the negative articles in the Daily Mail, Forward, and the Tablet, most prominently, and was likely pushed by Zionist agents and perhaps the real estate industry, connected with her gender, as I have pointed on Twitter as a person who is critical of Salazar. Some, like Ryan Grim of the Intercept, Pierre Omidyar’s plaything, have said that after Salazar’s victory, “Big winners tonight appear to be: Tablet, Page Six and the Daily Mail, who get to keep writing about @SalazarSenate18 for the foreseeable future.” That has validity except it misses the significance of her candidacy.

As Salazar said at one point:

My vision is for a more caring society in which nobody is denied what they need to thrive based on income, on property, on capital. This is not what is going to happen the day I’m elected to the state Senate — that would be cool though. I’m realistic, but without that vision, this is pretty much a futile exercise.

This “cool” factor, where she says she would be “fine” if her victory led to “the end of capitalism” (which it obviously won’t), plays into the fact that her campaign headquarters in Bushwick sits near a “hipster” shop, with scores of volunteers (many of whom are DSA members) canvassing in “friendly political territory,” and receiving a huge amount of campaign donations after Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, another “socialist” running in the Democratic Party, endorsed her, while Radix Media printed her posters. As The Intercept even admitted: “Salazar’s road to Albany might be made easier by the same counterintuitive factor that helped propel Ocasio-Cortez to victory: gentrification,” with this being the case because “white transplants…tend to support Bernie Sanders-type universal programs.”

This reality was evident from The New Yorker’s photos of a victory party for Salazar on September 13 in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which included a smattering of people of color, but more white men and women than anything else. The New Yorker addressed this directly in their article, writing that “the crowd [there] whose arrival often heralds gentrification—the young bearded types at the party—had worked on the campaign…The hipsters who come to the neighborhood for the “right reasons,” as [Tasha] Van Auken [Salazar’s campaign manager] put it, are actually working to keep older residents safely in their homes.” At the same time a BuzzFeed article noted that the supporters of Salazar, “certainly the young, mostly white, recent college graduates who flooded her victory party…didn’t recognize, at least subconsciously, that this kind of thing is just way more common than we’d like to admit,” meaning they were more like Salazar than they would admit off the bat.

This connects to what her former opponent, Dilan, called her: a gentrifier who recently moved into the area even though she opposes gentrification and she has lived in the same apartment in Bushwick for years. As one strident critic of Salazar put it recently, the campaign’s winning strategy was to target a gentrifying district, then use the “DSA as footsoldiers to turn out the white voters.” This effort, which reportedly included knocking on 100,000 doors, was a success in getting her elected, allowing her to integrate even more people into the faltering Democratic Party, which would make the head of the party smile even as they grumble about her viewpoints.

It is evident that Salazar is trying to portray herself as “hip,” with some saying that she “transformed, seemingly overnight, from an extreme right-wing Republican Right-To-Life Zionist zealot to a trendy BernieCrat. She needs to offer a plausible account of how this happened.” This is evident from the fact that she may be vegan (or perhaps vegetarian), tweeted a quote from Howard Zinn, is blocked on Twitter by Rosanne Barr, she has been called a “tattoo-wearing socialist” for her tattoo of a “large black and white rose” near her left shoulder and another of plane on her right arm which The Nation calls “a memento of her father, whose death when she was 18 “shaped [her] life,”” the look of her campaign headquarters, being interviewed by those of Chapo Trap House (a “leftist” podcast which almost verges on being anti-communist), and her long hair. It is also expressed through her “hot takes” on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, legalizing marijuana, misogyny, libertarians, Tucker Carlson of Fox News, and protest chants. With this, it is no surprise that the UAW has called her a “UAW sibling.” Also her reported “faith in humanity based on…the observation and the belief that as humans we don’t just operate selfishly, you know, that we can actually be in solidarity with one another, and not just with our people,” as she noted in a DSA podcast, it is part of this portrayal as well.

She also has garnered an unusual constituency for a politician which is “emerging as a force in electoral politics…because of the growing political threat against their industry”: prostitutes, whom many outlets like to call “sex workers” claiming that they are just like other workers, by supporting the decriminalization of prostitution and attending “sex worker advocacy meetings.” The Intercept even did a whole article on the subject, declaring that she is “shaping her policy by consulting the sex work community, is one of the first candidates to definitively support those workers, including by proposing concrete steps toward decriminalization. In that article, she told the reporter that “sex workers are workers and they deserve to be treated with dignity, including protections and decent working conditions, rather than the abuse and criminalization that they currently face. I’m dedicated to defending workers’ rights, reforming our criminal justice system and ending exploitation, and we know that criminalization puts everyone in sex work at risk rather than protecting them.” As a result, she stands against those feminists who are rightly critical of prostitution and rather with the so-called “sex worker lobby” which is probably the lobby for the sex industry.

This would be the case because those glad with Salazar’s position include Melissa Gira Grant (who doesn’t “acknowledge the issue of masculine social dominance” on her book on “sex work”) and the Red Umbrella Project (part of a group that is a front for pimps). Grant was so glad with Salazar’s position that she wrote an article in The Appeal, a project of Tides Advocacy (formerly the Advocacy Fund), which is an affiliate of the Tides Foundation, a major funder of bourgeois environmental groups, like 350.org, with Warren Buffet’s NoVo Foundation as one of the biggest funders of Tides. In her article, Grant declared, not surprisingly, that Salazar’s campaign has “provided a platform for sex workers to do some of that educational work [on prostitution], while offering a template for how the decriminalization fight could play out in other cities and states,” adding, in a joyful manner, that “her support for sex workers’ rights is unusual for a person running for office.”

As Matthew Maavak has written, “a civilization where women and children are sexually commoditized is one in terminal decline,” a thought which is connected to what Tanner Stenning has written: “if we’re to proceed in defending sex workers, let’s start by acknowledging at least this much: likeliest the vast majority would not choose sex work were the circumstances different.” This is further informed by what has been written in Feminist Current: that “prostitution endlessly erects the very patriarchal divisions between women that it allegedly destroys…As long as prostitution exists women and men will never be free from patriarchy,” that “under the narrative of “sex work” there can be no vulnerable person,” and that “pro-sex trade voices are…ubiquitous” to such an extent that the New York Times has done articles on the subject. The same publication also talked about the gentrification of prostitution, murders of prostitutes in New Zealand where prostitution has been decriminalized, certain people discounting rape of prostitutes, and trying to de-platform Chris Hedges for taking a strong anti-prostitution stand in his Truthdig columns.

While prostitutes have flocked to Salazar’s campaign, Trotskyists have endorsed her, with Socialist Alternative declaring that her campaign’s door knocking “is seen by many workers and youth as an important vehicle to fight back,” but adding that “many DSA members want to build mass movements outside the electoral arena…a broader struggle to transform the party,” while adding that “it’s essentially impossible to rip the Democratic Party as a whole from its corporate leadership. To win far-reaching change a new mass workers party will be needed.” Still, they support Salazar, saying her efforts are positive and are “generating support for many important issues that won’t be won without struggle…A Salazar victory will be a…clear indication of the growing momentum for socialist ideas.” Not so sure about that.

Additionally, the Brooklyn branch of the ISO (International Socialist Organization), a Trotskyist organization, also issued their support for Salazar, declaring their full support of her from “a nightmarish series of attacks…[a] steady and vicious smear campaign drummed up by both liberal and right-wing media outlets” and urging those “progressive allies who continue to dissect Salazar’s background…to [not] equivocate, but to stand firmly on the side of solidarity, so that one of our own does not pay such a high price for standing up for all of us.” Apparently standing on the side of solidarity means to mimic her followers by not questioning her. Even Niles Niemuth of the Trotskyist Socialist Equality Party, a candidate in Michigan, was quoted in the party’s website, the World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) as saying that:

The DSA, which is a faction of the Democratic Party, not an independent party, promotes the fiction that the interests of workers can be secured without a frontal attack on the domination and wealth of the corporate and financial elite. It advances the lie that workers can win their rights through the instrument of the Democratic Party—a right wing, pro-capitalist party.

On that point he may be right although Trotskyists have a distorted worldview which benefits the global bourgeoisie. Salazar may  use words like capitalism and capital, while calling herself a socialist and declaring that her campaign was something “revolutionary,” but she also has a progressive feel, with her website saying: “Julia is the leader we need to make New York City a safer, more just, more welcoming place for everyone” and saying that the “abolition of private property” is not “realistic.” While she seemed to differentiate “democratic socialism” and “progressivism,” in an interview for Jacobin, saying the former means “to have a vision of a world where everyone is taken care of….a society in which people are valued over profit, in which everyone has access to the things they need not just for basic survival but to thrive” and that the latter might “advocate for forcing landlords to do necessary repairs on buildings,” her talk on the campaign trail, saying she speaks for the Latinx community, drawing strength from “the long history of Jewish social justice and Latinx social justice organizing” wants to make New York a “progressive beacon” or that she wants a “true blue New York,” that she is part of a “movement” winning over the “machine,” tells a different story.

It is doubtful that her ideas will “bring us closer to a truly socialist economic system,” as she claimed her campaign was part of, since, as In These Times writes, “democratic socialism itself has always been a heterodox term, encompassing everyone from ideological Trotskyists to New Deal Democrats.” They also note that “DSA isn’t keen to enforce a strict definition of “democratic socialism,”” possibly meaning everything from “taking public goods like healthcare off the private market…to worker-ownership of the means of production.” The DSA, with a chapter in NYC, also doesn’t want to play as a “spoiler in general elections” but would rather endorse “the most progressive candidates from other parties in primaries, while also running their own, further-to-the-left candidates in local Democratic races that are safely progressive.” Salazar can warn of ideas “becoming diluted when they leave the Left and enter the mainstream, province of politicians and political expediency,”  and even admit that “the two-party system de facto disenfranchises people, and I can’t see the Democratic Party ultimately being a vessel for the democratic socialist revolution, so it would be silly and shortsighted for democratic socialists to put a lot of effort and resources into that project.”

Still, she says that “it would be great if we could all avoid the Democratic Party line…but if I were to try to do that in this district, I highly doubt people would notice much less vote for a third-party candidate in the general election.” Yet wanting to be part of a “progressive wave,” being a person supposedly with “class politics and a materialist analysis,” will not get her the “socialist movement” that she claims she is part of. This is because she cannot be for a Bernie-style “political revolution” while being a “fiery progressive” who is still socialist and is building a “movement.” Talking in Bernie-like language will just end up with her followers, after her victory, being swallowed into the Democratic Party. This is evident by the fact that there is a fundraiser for her on Act Blue, which calls Salazar “a dedicated community leader running in the Democratic primary for New York State Senate…committed to running a campaign by and for the people, sustained by grassroots donations from supporters like you,” a Democratic PAC which is independent of the Democratic Party and is part of “blue” Democratic brand. This is even the case if the words were written by her campaign, as they also publicized their efforts as “all grassroots.” It is also doubtful that while her victory will make her supporters gleeful, it will not be a “victory for workers” as she declared in her victory speech on the night of September 13.

The numerous individuals and groups who have endorsed her seem to question how grassroots her campaign was, especially considering the number of out-of-state donors (35% of her donor base). Her website lists Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, Councilman Jumaane Williams, Councilman Antonio Reynoso, Working Families, New York Communities for Change, DSA, CWA, CODEPINK, Make the Road Action, Citizen Acton of New York, New York State Immigrant Action Fund, Carlina Rivera campaign, OUR Revolution, NYC DSA, NYC Kids PAC, New King Democrats, Brooklyn Progressive Action Network, New York Progressive Action Network, New York Professional Nurses Union, The Jewish Vote, Amplify Her, Streets PAC, Grassroots Action New York, Women of Color for Progress, UAW, and The People for Bernie as endorsing her campaign. Even, the Zionist Tablet has written that “Salazar’s election [victory] would be a breakthrough for the city’s Jewish left: proof that their institutions can become a pathway to formal political power, that anti-Zionist Jews can win high-profile elections, and that big things are possible when communities grow ravenous for some kind of change.”

She has also been supported by those from the ACLU, progressive “socialist” Lee J. Carter, Insurrection magazine (which she once published for in an article about virtual reality), NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, Bhaskar Sunkara, the editor of socially-democratic Jacobin, progressive” Democrats like Cynthia Nixon and Zephyr Teachout, along with the typical support from Berniecrats and DSA people, Democratic honchos, uptight White liberals in suits and “socialists” like Benjamin Norton. Most worrisome is that Linda Sarsour is an active supporter of her (and Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign as well) campaign. Sarsour is a Berniecrat once recognized as a “champion of change” by Obama’s admin, along with also smearing Syria’s government, calling for that government’s overthrow and saying it is oppressing Syrians. Sarsour also defended head-chopping Saudis (even if she doesn’t “support” them), acts like she critical of the Zionist state but made sure there were no BDS or anti-Zionist signs at the Women’s March in DC, and supports the Zionist state’s existence, making it clear she is not really what she claims to be. [3]

With all the distortions of Salazar’s personal message caused by her inconsistency, some progressives who would be prone to support her ideas have decided to not do so, like Dave Weigel. The Salazar campaign’s “voter protection teams” won’t protect them from this form of defection, with the same applying to their get-out-the-vote efforts, with the former organized perhaps because of expected voter suppression in the district which happened on September 13.

Before her victory, one article in Vox stated that “if she wins, it’ll be more evidence that socialists in general and the DSA in particular are forces to be reckoned within the Democratic Party. If she loses — well, then the DSA will be the socialists who couldn’t even win an election in Bushwick.” Her campaign positions were clear in a smoothly-made campaign ad (the production and creation which may have violated FEC regulations) by Means Production, an entertainment company, which is less than three minutes long. It includes a Reaganesque refrain that it is “morning again in Brooklyn” (repeated three times in the video) while the video itself, worryingly, declares her campaign will deliver “moral clarity” (or “common sense” as it is put elsewhere) but not “radical ideas.” Salazar herself also only gives unnamed “corporations” & the “real estate body” as the problem without even uttering the word capitalism in the video itself!

Wanting a “more caring society” does not make you socialist either, not because of some non-existent “purity test” but rather that any progressive could say the same exact thing. As one person in Left Voice asked:

Why couldn’t someone like Julia Salazar run as a socialist, putting the hundreds of DSA members who are canvassing into dialogue with those who are disillusioned with the two-party system? Why can’t the anti-establishment feeling be put in the service of joining a movement against the parties that have sold out the working class and oppressed them again and again? She may not win the election, but the DSA will have spread socialist ideas and about working class independence from capitalists. And besides, it’s not unheard of for an independent socialist to win an election.

Not sure why she didn’t go that route. Doesn’t seem right, as it would be better to build structures independent of the Democratic Party instead. Some may have a point that the DSA is currently being opportunist by allowing her in their ranks or claiming she is spouting a form of Zionism like Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders, but there is more happening than that.

On a connected note, it is worth discussing the NYC-DSA. It is a chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), a group declaring on its homepage that “working people should run both the economy and society democratically to meet human needs, not to make profits for a few” but then just fights for “reforms that empower working people,” including decreasing the “influence of money in politics…empower[ing] ordinary people in workplaces and the economy [and] restructur[ing]…gender and cultural relationships to be more equitable,” followed by a broad “commitment to democracy.”  This may sound nice, but their “free, democratic and humane society” includes a humane international social order based both on democratic planning and market mechanisms” which sounds horrifying because the latter element means such a society would have capitalist elements!

On another page they declare that “the economy and society should be run democratically—to meet public needs, not to make profits for a few which changes in government and economic structures,” adding that they do not want “all-powerful government bureaucracy” and claiming that “worker-owned cooperatives or publicly owned enterprises managed by workers and consumer representatives” would allow social ownership, while also favoring “as much decentralization as possible.” So, they aren’t bringing on the Soviet Union, even though they favor central-planning, which they also just call “democratic planning” which would include, you guessed it, “market mechanisms are needed to determine the demand for many consumer goods.”

The group then goes into the land of anti-communism, declaring that “socialists have been among the harshest critics of authoritarian Communist states,” even saying that they “applaud the democratic revolutions that have transformed the former Communist bloc,” despite the fact the countries are now worse off, and claiming they are also against “ethnic rivalries and/or new forms of authoritarianism.” Even worse, they favor government regulation, tax incentives, and unions to “control” corporations, while favoring a “combination of social, economic, and moral incentives will motivate people to work,” and using social democratic efforts in Sweden, Canada, France, the U$,and Nicaragua, as “examples” going forward! After they say that the DSA “must work towards reforms that can withstand the power of multinationals and global banks, and we must fight for a world order that is not controlled by bankers and bosses,” they support fighting within the Democratic Party, writing: “…many of us have been active in the Democratic Party. We work with those movements to strengthen the party’s left wing…The process and structure of American elections seriously hurts third party efforts…We hope that at some point in the future, in coalition with our allies, an alternative national party will be viable. For now, we will continue to support progressives who have a real chance at winning elections, which usually means left-wing Democrats.” What a disgusting set of words!

Finally, there is the page about their history, written by Joseph M. Schwartz (active in the DSA since the beginning), proclaiming that they “made an ethical contribution to the broader American Left by being one of the few radical organizations born out of a merger rather than a split.” It also says that they “helped popularize the vision of an ecumenical, multi-tendency socialist organization, an ethos that enabled it to recently incorporate many thousands of new members, mostly out of the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign,” even welcoming those who “believe in the possibility of independent electoral work inside or outside the Democratic Party ballot line.” This history shows that in 1972 their predecessor, with Michael Harrington (who believed that the Left could take over the Democratic Party) as a major figure, supported those in the ““new politics” left-liberals in the McGovern wing of the Democrats,” while in the later 1970s they supported a progressive “Democratic Agenda,” building progressive Democratic coalitions in the 1980s, founding the DSA in 1982.

The history then complained that “the collapse of communism in 1989 proved less of an immediate boon to democratic socialists than many of us had hoped. Those who had suffered in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union did not embrace socialism with a human face, but rushed headlong into the embrace of a mythic, free market capitalism.” They thought they would benefit from that? Jeez, they do not understand capitalism or the problem with the Soviet Union’s dissolution, which can be grasped even by those critical of the country, especially after 1956 when it entered its revisionist period.

The history continues on, saying that the group then called for a single-payer healthcare system in the early 1990s to counter the Clinton health plan, opposed Clinton’s welfare reform, opposed the Iraq and Afghanistan wars early on, called for a “truly progressive tax system” in the early 2000s, joining the Occupy movement from day one, supporting Black Lives Matter, “and fighting against mass incarceration and for equitable urban public education” in more recent years. As an obvious tie into the Democratic Party, the history recalled “DSA’s decision in late 2014 to make its number one priority the movement to support Bernie Sanders running for president. DSA took the position that for maximum exposure and effectiveness, Sanders should not only run, but should run in the Democratic primaries,” even as they admitted that “Bernie’s New Deal or social democratic program did not fulfill the socialist aim of establishing worker and social ownership of the economy” but it apparently seemed “sufficiently radical and inspiring.”

And now they boast that they are “the largest socialist organization in the United States since the Communist Party before its implosion in 1956 after the [false and traitorous] Khrushchev revelations about Stalin” and then declare that “we also are committed to working in coalition with forces that oppose both right-wing rule and the dominant national corporate wing of the Democrats. We want to continue Sanders’ “political revolution” by broadening out that political trend to include a stronger base within the labor movement and, most importantly, among progressive organizations rooted in communities of color. If we take up those challenges, DSA may be able to sustain the most important socialist presence in U.S. politics since the Debsian Socialist era of 1900 to 1920.”

Once again, this positioning makes them the perfect sheepdogs for the Democratic Party, clearly as social democrats not as socialists which they call themselves, while they could very easily be using that same energy on building independent structures! Then, again, this is unlikely to happen as no Marxist theory is even mentioned on any of these pages at all, showing superficiality of their ideas. [4]

With this, we get back to NYC-DSA. It is currently an entirely member funded group that is run by more than 3,500 members, saying on its homepage that they are “socialists because we share a vision of a humane social order based on popular control of resources and production, economic planning, equitable distribution, feminism, racial equality, and non-oppressive relationships,” adding that they want to “work together to develop a concrete strategy for achieving that vision, for achieving a transition to democratic socialism in America,” calling for people to help them build a better world. Another page on their website declares their further aims:

a society free of all oppression with a democratically-run, ecologically-sustainable economy…Our goal is a socialist world….A transformation on this scale will require socialist parties and powerful social movements. The goal of NYC-DSA is to move us closer to achieving this transformation…Campaigns for reforms that would improve working-class and oppressed people’s lives are key to our ability to organize this base…ultimately it will take a political revolution and massive social transformations to make the lasting changes we are fighting for…Socialists have learned through decades of fighting for reforms that the capitalist system serves the interests of the ruling class. It is designed to meet their needs and insulate their power from threats from below. Our strategy therefore is different from the liberal one. We work to organize millions of people into democratically-led movements that take militant action against bosses and politicians…We believe that the fundamental transformations we are seeking are in the broad interests of all working-class and oppressed people, and our work is focused on organizing among this base…We must pressure Democrats to obstruct Trump’s agenda. Mass demonstrations against Trump’s actions will also be a regular feature of the next few years…The prospects for winning reforms in the interest of working-class and oppressed people at the city-level would seem to be more promising…the city Democratic Party is divided into three factions, undermining its ability to pass progressive reforms…Because the mayoral and other citywide elections this year appear to be uncompetitive and none of the candidates present a strong progressive vision for the city, we should not take a position on these races. This frees us up to focus our electoral work on a few key City Council races. In general, after full discussion, we will support the most viable progressive candidate who will use their office as a ‘bully pulpit’ to help build social movements in NYC. We will especially look to find candidates willing to run as democratic socialists…It is critical that all of this work is done with an eye towards building an electoral apparatus — which includes fundraising, canvassing, research, and volunteers — independent of the Democratic Party and corporate money….As NYC-DSA we also call on the National Convention of DSA to vote to disaffiliate from the Socialist International (SI). The SI is not helping to build an international socialist movement — its member parties work around the world to roll back welfare states and impose austerity.

While this is a bit better than the DSA, it still falls into using the “Democratic Party line,” as Salazar called it. To recall what Salazar herself said, quoted earlier in this article: “the two-party system de facto disenfranchises people, and I can’t see the Democratic Party ultimately being a vessel for the democratic socialist revolution, so it would be silly and shortsighted for democratic socialists to put a lot of effort and resources into that project.” We then can recall what Jimmy Dore, a progressive comedian who recently declared that “if they play the national anthem at work & make you stand and salute, that’s not patriotism, that’s fascism. That’s what they do in North Korea” (which you could call liberal fascism) and who doesn’t like corporatists but voted for Obama twice (which is a conundrum), said about the Democrats (as he does often). He argued that they caused the repeal of Glass-Steagall, crash of the economy, banks to get bigger, cops to crack heads at Occupy protests, not stop unions from being taken away from teachers in Wisconsin, joined with the current U$ president and McConnell to fast-track lifetime appointments of judges, worked with GOP to deregulate Wall Street again and have the biggest Pentagon budget in U$ history (717 billion dollars), take fossil fuel money, and have a new DNC rule that to run as a candidate in the Democratic Party, head of DNC gets to decide whether the candidate is sufficiently loyal to the party.

He also said that Democrats have been in decline for decades, that superdelegates are still there but just don’t vote for the President in the first-round, that many people associate with Democrats because they are an “inferior good” and that there is “no way they will allow progressives to take over the party.” But ultimately Jimmy Dore and his guests stuck with the Democrats, while one admitted that progressive victories could be sapping energy that could be used to create a new political party, but another said” right now that is not an option,” echoing what Salazar said. It is this defeatist attitude which is part of the problem.

Ultimately there is one major problem with Salazar’s candidacy, as is the case with Ocasio-Cortez.  It sucks grassroots energy into electoral politics like a vacuum cleaner bringing in loads of dust. [5] The same could even be said of Kshama Sawant in Seattle, running as part of the Trotskyist Socialist Alternative grouping.

Specifically in the case of Salazar, Ocasio-Cortez, and many others, their energy would be sucked into the Democratic Party. Even Socialist Alternative, which endorsed Salazar, admitted this, declaring that “it’s essentially impossible to rip the Democratic Party as a whole from its corporate leadership. To win far-reaching change a new mass workers party will be needed.” This seems to be embodied within the Party of Communists – USA (PCUSA), which declares that “the Republican and Democratic Parties represent and work for the basic interests of capital, the large stock-holders of General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler…The PCUSA proposes a realistic policy that is neither sectarian nor set in stone nor just latches on to the Democratic Machine.”

As such, it is clear that DSA does not fulfill this goal. Rather, they are sending more people to their spiritual deaths, not through spending “more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift” as Martin Luther King, Jr. put it in 1967, as they will be swallowed into the Democratic machine just like that Futurama episode where a beast takes in people’s life essence, expanding its ego to absurdist proportions. Some can try to be “super” progressive within the Democratic Party, but eventually those people will crack sooner or later like Ocasio-Cortez did when she could not explain what the “occupation of Palestine” meant, later declaring that “I believe absolutely in Israel’s right to exist. I’m a proponent of the two state solution. For me, this is not a referendum on the state of Israel.”

No matter what happens to Salazar ultimately, whether she wins in November or not, her candidacy serves an ultimate purpose to the corporatist leadership of the Democratic Party: it keeps the party alive and breathing, allowing it to support rampant imperialism, the actions of the current U$ administration, and continue to shaft the proletariat, among reinforcing efforts to enact their capitalist ideology. As such, while one could, without much thought, praise Salazar for her reformist ideas, there should be a more determined effort to create structures and institutions which exist outside the two-party system, allowing for a focus on more productive endeavors than just participating in elections.


Notes

[1] Salazar defines socialism as about “fighting to build a society in which everybody can live in dignity and have the resources to live as equitably as possible [and to have] the resources that we need not only to survive but to thrive in our society. It’s about empowering workers as far as my own theory of change…empowering the most marginalized and vulnerable members of our society.” She then told Teen Vogue that “being a democratic socialist means fighting to build a society in which everyone is cared for and has the resources that we need to not only to survive but to thrive in our society. It means that everybody will truly have autonomy and control over their own destinies. I think that part of the vision of fighting for a society in which everyone is able to thrive and has control of their own destiny means acknowledging gender inequality and patriarchy in our society. It requires working to dismantle patriarchy and to counteract gender inequality and fight for a society in which women and gender nonconforming people are no longer oppressed systemically.”

While that is nice, it doesn’t really sound “socialist” to me. The fourth edition of Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines it on page 1360 as “any of the various theories or systems of ownership and operation of the means of production by society or the community sharing the work and products” and as “the stage in society, in Marxist doctrine, coming between the capitalist stage and the communist age, in which private ownership of the means of production and distribution have been eliminated.” The first definition is the one I’d like to focus on, rather than the second one as the U$ is still strongly in a capitalist society despite the goofs that say it is “post-capitalist.” Nothing about building a fairer society, which Salazar says she is for, is about moving toward society or the community owning the means of production. Cuba and the DPRK, arguably, rather than the revisionist triad (Laos, Vietnam, and China), fall within the second stage, but how much they do this is obviously up for debate.

[2] When interviewed on a DSA podcast, Salazar seemed to differentiate the societies of the U$ and the Zionist state, saying that “I think that both American and Israeli society are in crisis as a result of hyper-militarization of our societies, and our law enforcement, our government institutions that are ostensibly supposed to protect us. The effects are obviously felt vastly disproportionately by one part of population. And obviously in the US, it’s disproportionately affecting Black Americans and people of color, but most obviously Black Americans, and we know it’s rooted in a hideous legacy of slavery. Whereas in Israel and Palestine, it’s rooted in a history of inequality that’s been there since the establishment of the state. I see it as a product of having a hyper-militarized police force in a society that has been and often still is taught a pretty racist narrative.” While that has validity, the history of inequality has been there since the founding of the U$. This is a statement which is ignorant without question, not realizing the parallels between the two countries and the racist, sexist, and classist [I probably shouldn’t have used that word] history of the U$ since its founding, as a state, in 1783 and as an independent entity in 1776.

[3] See more of Sarsour’s tweets on “Syria,” “Israel,” “Zionist,” “Palestine,” “apartheid,” “Saudi Arabia,” with tweets on the Saudis acting like she is critical when she has defended them in the past.

[4] Some have argued that the DSA wants socialism but that “trying to transform the imperialist core through electoral means reflects a lack of theoretical understanding of what building socialism necessarily entails,” adding that the “lack of emphasis on decolonizing (which necessitates the complete destruction of the settler colonial state) shows little practical understanding of what socialism would look like once that building process kicks off.” That opinion has validity, although it still doesn’t seem that they want socialism, but rather want a form of social democracy instead!

[5] One Princeton historian, Matt Karp, who is friends with Salazar, wrote that “if there was anything individually notable about Julia’s run for office, it was the idea that an ordinary person could pick up the mantle to run for state senate, not based on a claim of spectacular virtue, but a commitment to represent the needs and values of the people in her district. Now we see what happens when an ordinary person — bound to the ordinary extraordinary complexities of a life lived outside the confines of a resume — challenges the power of a political elite.” While that has its validity, it also poses her as some progressive shining star on a hill, something she is definitely not, and ignores the real problem with her candidacy is not her personal story or her ideas, but what it means for the political landscape and the faltering Democratic Party, with the same applying to other progressives who run on the Democratic Party line to try and push the party “to the Left,” a task which is an utter waste of time.

The Kim-Moon summit in Pyongyang: was there “modest progress” or “great strides”?

Reprinted from the Leftist Critic blog where it was published on Sept 27, 2018.

Reprinted from anti-imperialism.org, with changes of some links to this blog and text itself for reasons of smoothness.

Bourgeois media have been full of venom about the recent meeting between the leaders of both Koreas, Kim Jong-Un and Moon Jae-In, in Pyongyang.[1] At the same time, the orange menace declared on his free-wheeling twitter that the results of the meeting, which include Kim agreeing to allow nuclear inspections, permanently dismantle a test site and launch pad “in the presence of international experts” coupled with no new “Rocket or Nuclear testing,” remains of U$ imperialist foot soldiers returning back to the U$, and both Koreas filing “a joint bid to host the 2032 Olympics,” he found “very exciting.” In contrast, neocon Lindsey Graham declared that while the DPRK has “stopped testing missiles and nuclear devices, they have NOT moved toward denuclearisation” and Marco Rubio, a pawn of reactionary Cuban expats, claimed that Kim is working on a “propaganda coup” while criticizing inter-Korean cooperation showed their imperialist tendencies. Rubio, Graham, and many others (who lead the capitalist “two-party” beast) don’t even want  a possibility of detente between the U$ and the DPRK, which the orange menace still seems to believe is possible, calling Kim “calm,” leaving open the possibility of another meeting with Kim. This brings us to the real question at hand: what did the agreement between Kim and Moon say and what does it mean for peace on the Korean Peninsula?

In order to promote further understanding and knowledge of inter-Korean negotiations, I have uploaded an unofficial translation of their agreement, by Korea Times, to my personal WordPress. [2] With that, I reprint the agreement in its entirety within this article, analyzing specific sections with informed analysis. The first two paragraphs introduce the document, talks about what has been accomplished since the Panmunjeom Declaration in April 27th of this year:

Moon Jae-in, President of the Republic of Korea and Kim Jong-un, Chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea held the Inter-Korean Summit Meeting in Pyongyang on September 18-20, 2018.

The two leaders assessed the excellent progress made since the adoption of the historic Panmunjeom Declaration, such as the close dialogue and communication between the authorities of the two sides, civilian exchanges and cooperation in many areas, and epochal measures to defuse military tension.

Such a statement is undoubtedly positive, as it shows that Moon and Kim are on the same page, working to unite the Korean nation together. It connects to the fact that both Moon and Kim spoke before 150,000 Koreans at the May Day Stadium in Pyongyang, at a ceremony celebrating the 70th anniversary of the DPRK’s founding, saying their meetings will usher in a new era of peace. If what BBC says it to believed, the DPRK even revised the event to accommodate their visitors from the ROK (Republic of Korea). Moon’s speech before the crowd is a big deal because he is the first ROK leader to speak before an audience in the North. In his speech, “interrupted by thundering applause” as the New York Times described it, he praised the Korean people’s courage for overcoming the famine in the 1990s, Kim’s effort to rebuild the economy, and told the crowd that “we Koreans are exceptional, we are tenacious, we are peace-loving, And we must live together.”

The two leaders reaffirmed the principle of independence and self-determination of the Korean nation, and agreed to consistently and continuously develop inter-Korean relations for national reconciliation and cooperation, and firm peace and co-prosperity, and to make efforts to realize through policy measures the aspiration and hope of all Koreans that the current developments in inter-Korean relations will lead to reunification.

The two leaders held frank and in-depth discussions on various issues and practical steps to advance inter-Korean relations to a new and higher dimension by thoroughly implementing the Panmunjeom Declaration, shared the view that the Pyongyang Summit will be an important historic milestone, and declared as follows.

These words show that both leaders agree with the need to unify the Korean nation and increase relations between north and south. Perhaps not only can that the Panmunjeom Declaration be historic, but this statement can be a historic milestone too! Perhaps one could say it is a “landmark” in inter-Korean ties.

1. The two sides agreed to expand the cessation of military hostility in regions of confrontation such as the DMZ into the substantial removal of the danger of war across the entire Korean Peninsula and a fundamental resolution of the hostile relations.

This is also a major step toward peace on the Korean Peninsula, refuting the objectives of U$ imperialists to continue to treat the DMZ as a war zone and engender tension across the peninsula itself. Following this are two objectives for how to accomplish this goal:

① The two sides agreed to adopt the “Agreement on the Implementation of the Historic Panmunjeom Declaration in the Military Domain” as an annex to the Pyongyang Declaration, and to thoroughly abide by and faithfully implement it, and to actively take practical measures to transform the Korean Peninsula into a land of permanent peace.

② The two sides agreed to engage in constant communication and close consultations to review the implementation of the Agreement and prevent accidental military clashes by promptly activating the Inter-Korean Joint Military Committee.

The text of the “Agreement on the Implementation of the Historic Panmunjeom Declaration in the Military Domain” has not been broadly released, with media reports calling it a 55-page military agreement aiming to ease border tensions. As the LA Times described it, the agreement would create “a border buffer zone,” remove “landmines from the demilitarized zone,” create a “no-fly zone along the DMZ” and shut down the “11 guard posts” along the DMZ itself. The actual agreement, as posted by the soft anti-DPRK organization, which calls itself humanitarian, the “National Committee on North Korea” (NCNK) shows the agreement as only 17 pages long, but still important nonetheless.

2. The two sides agreed to pursue substantial measures to further advance exchanges and cooperation based on the spirit of mutual benefit and shared prosperity, and to develop the nation’s economy in a balanced manner.

① The two sides agreed to hold a ground-breaking ceremony within this year for the east-coast and west-coast rail and road connections.

② The two sides agreed, as conditions ripe, to first normalize the Gaeseong industrial complex and the Mt. Geumgang Tourism Project, and to discuss the issue of forming a west coast joint special economic zone and an east coast joint special tourism zone.

③ The two sides agreed to actively promote south-north environment cooperation so as to protect and restore the natural ecology, and as a first step to endeavor to achieve substantial results in the currently on-going forestry cooperation.

④ The two sides agreed to strengthen cooperation in the areas of prevention of epidemics, public health and medical care, including emergency measures to prevent the entry and spread of contagious diseases.

For the DPRK, especially, this is important, as these principles, if implemented, could tie the Korean people even closer together and tie the the North and South together not only economically but medically and environmentally on a mutual basis. The only problem that could develop with is the entrance of ROK capitalists into the North, leading to further exploitation of the proletariat. As the Associated Press put it in their article, Moon brought some of “South Korea’s most powerful business tycoons to Pyongyang” which some observers claimed was boosting Kim as he works to show “his citizens that he’s pivoting to economic improvement and… raising his impoverished nation up to South Korea’s level.” An article in Korea Herald specifically says who these capitalists are: “the chiefs of the country’s three-biggest family-run conglomerates — Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won, LG Group Chairman Koo Kwang-mo and 14 others.” The same article says that the prospects of “possible projects in the North appear to have grown slightly more positive in the [ROK] business community.” While a special economic zone or tourist project would theoretically limit these capitalists, their power and influence would not only affect the country as a whole, but they would likely not just be restricted to those specific areas. At the same time, other capitalists are cautious, as the Global Times, a Chinese tabloid aligning with the revisionist CPC, blared, quoting Kim Dong-man of the ROK-based Bogo International as saying “North Korea expects economic support from South Korea and the US in return for its denuclearization activities. However, we need to see more action, not promises or goodwill, to spend our money on a land that still faces international sanctions,” a real estate agent in Dandong (a city which borders the DPRK) named Zhang Xu who claims to speak for the “people” there: “people in Dandong have heard too much ‘good news’ and ‘good signals’ too many times, but business with North Korea remains stalled as the international sanctions are still in place. Though the declaration is a good signal, it is still far from real action, and the investment and trade environment in North Korea will not change until the US lifts its sanctions.” Finally, they quote a customs official in Hunchun: “what we care about most is when will the sanctions be removed, especially those relevant to aquatic products and restricting labor from North Korea” and Li Shenglin, head of the Linfeng Trade Company, based in Dandong, as saying “US President Donald Trump needs peace on the Korean Peninsula as a political asset for his mid-term election and he needs support from Kim,” adding that China needs the DPRK to have a more “favorable environment” for “investors,” another name for capitalists. Despite the article saying that “ordinary” people or residents will be quoted, they are only mentioned briefly, only quoting capitalists instead!

3. The two sides agreed to strengthen humanitarian cooperation to fundamentally resolve the issue of separated families.

① The two sides agreed to open a permanent facility for family reunion meetings in the Mt. Geumgang area at an early date, and to promptly restore the facility toward this end.

② The two sides agreed to resolve the issue of video meetings and exchange of video messages among the separated families as a matter of priority through the inter-Korean Red Cross talks.

This is another positive step, making it clear that the union of the two Koreas is even more permanent than it is currently. Some media were allowed in the DPRK apparently on restricted terms, like the the team from National Pentagon Radio (NPR), including Mary Louise Kelly, the college-educated host of All Things Considered who has been in the bourgeois media since the 1990s, and Becky Sullivan, the producer of the same show. Kelly, who wrote the NPR article, complains about renting an armband to show herself as a foreign journalist and seems to be unaware of her Orientalist views.[3] Even Michael Palin, formerly of the UK- based Monty Python comedy group, went to the DPRK with The Guardian lamenting that he only saw the country as “strange” but not “sinister,”  as they treat it as some repressive, horrible place. They note that while Palin grumbled about “the lack of internet [and] absence of phone signal,” the obvious results of UN (and U$) sanctions, “marvelled at the extravagant underground train stations and the extraordinarily robotic, choreographed movements of the traffic police…got a head massage at a state-run health complex…and was shown the centre where table tennis players practise.” In the meantime, the DOJ in the U$ has accused someone supposedly from the DPRK, named “Park Jin-hyok,” of hacking Sony Pictures in 2014, with BBC only supporting his existence because the FBI said so, which is a low source of “evidence,” making it a joke. [4] As William Blum said in his recent anti-empire report, “a statement from the FBI that Russia interfered in the election does not count as evidence. It’s merely a statement.” The same applies to this supposed person.

4. The two sides agreed to actively promote exchanges and cooperation in various fields so as to enhance the atmosphere of reconciliation and unity and to demonstrate the spirit of the Korean nation both internally and externally.

① The two sides agreed to further promote cultural and artistic exchanges, and to first conduct a performance of the Pyongyang Art Troupe in Seoul in October this year.

② The two sides agreed to actively participate together in the 2020 Summer Olympic Games and other international games, and to cooperate in bidding for the joint hosting of the 2032 Summer Olympic Games.

③ The two sides agreed to hold meaningful events to celebrate the 11th anniversary of the October 4 Declaration, to jointly commemorate the 100th anniversary of the March First Independence Movement Day, and to hold working-level consultations toward this end.

Such cultural and artistic exchanges are another attempt to tie the two Koreas together. This is manifested perhaps even by Kim himself trying to do the “baby hearts” gesture which is popular on Instagram with those in the southern half of the Korean Peninsula. [5] The DPRK is not isolated, as we should remember. Recent KCNA articles noted that Kim, received supportive letters from the leaders of Cuba, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, on the country’s 70th anniversary, to give a few examples.

5. The two sides shared the view that the Korean Peninsula must be turned into a land of peace free from nuclear weapons and nuclear threats, and that substantial progress toward this end must be made in a prompt manner.

① First, the North will permanently dismantle the Dongchang-ri missile engine test site and launch platform under the observation of experts from relevant countries.

② The North expressed its willingness to continue to take additional measures, such as the permanent dismantlement of the nuclear facilities in Yeongbyeon, as the United States takes corresponding measures in accordance with the spirit of the June 12 US-DPRK Joint Statement.

③ The two sides agreed to cooperate closely in the process of pursuing complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Turning the Korean Peninsula into an “island of peace” which is free from nuclear weapons is a laudable goal. The dismantling of a missile site is one thing, but the fact that thee DPRK is willing to permanently destroy its nuclear facilities in Yeongbyeon is a powerful concession. It is in the court of the U$ to see if they will take “corresponding measures” or maintain their current adamant position of imperialist arrogance. With the U$ (from the mouth of Pompeo) saying that it wants to complete denuclearization by January 2021, this leaves open the possibility of detente at a time, possibly with a second meeting with the orange menace. However, this is complicated by the fact that the orange menace may tell the UN Security Council next week that countries should crackdown on Iran (where there are ruminations of new negotiated nuclear and missile treaty, even in The Daily Beast), among other countries which reportedly violate UN “decrees against nuclear proliferation” as USA Today recently stated. And no, Pompeo, the U$ is not “most generous nation in the world” as you so recently declared, but is rather a bringer of global death, destruction, and unmitigated chaos as bloody imperialists!

This also connects to another article in the Global Times, focusing on Pyongyang specifically, noting that the DPRK “draws Chinese people’s curiosity by reminding them of the old days” but that is apparently changing, as part of an eight-day trip there. Specifically, they describe a Ragwon Department Store selling Panasonic 60-inch LCD TVs and “Merries baby diapers,” which they say was not crowded, adding that the country’s  exchange rate is not the same for those living in the DPRK and foreigners. They also say that “food consumption prices in Pyongyang are almost the same as that in Beijing, even a little higher,” noting that electric appliances have similar price, and that since 2004 it has been decreed that “foreign cash” cannot be circulated in the DPRK but must be exchanged for won “at appointed locations.” The article goes onto say that “on the streets of Pyongyang, you can see 1960s trucks along with the latest Land Rover. Citizens talk on mobile phones under the slogans and posters…even though the country might be known for conservative people, poverty and low levels of education, there are expensive restaurants and the city is extremely clean.” Clearly, they have some perceptions of the country before even going in. After a 54-year-old worker at the Kim Jong-suk Silk Mill told Global Times that those in the DPRK “are not like those capitalist countries, in which people cannot live without money,” the article goes onto describe a “vegetable farm in the Sadong district of Pyongyang…feeding the capital city with vegetables,” with 70% of their production purchased by the government and 30% distributed to farmers. The head of the farm was quoted as saying that “in 2017 the average income was 800,000 to 900,000 won. We don’t have many places to spend money, because the medical care is free, school is free and even the housing is free. So we only use the money to buy some necessities.” The article goes onto talk about the “country’s strong urge to modernize” and notes that DPRK officials never mention “reform and opening-up,” but says that “North Korea has become more relaxed and friendly than before…Anti-US books and posters are disappearing,” and  that “a wealth imbalance still exists in the country.” Whether the latter is true or not, it is clear that the DPRK is likely to move in the direction of China with its “opening up” but it is doing it slowly at its own pace.

6. Chairman Kim Jong-un agreed to visit Seoul at an early date at the invitation of President Moon Jae-in.

Like other parts of the agreement, this promise to visit Seoul shortly, which no leader of the DPRK has ever engaged in, is something Fred Kaplan of Slate called “not unlike Nixon’s sit-down with Mao.” With this, it is no surprise that Kim is becoming more and more popular in the South as a result of rapprochement, showing that Koreans are more ready for peace than ever before. Additionally, it is not a stretch of the imagination that Kim would say that “it’s not too much to say that it’s Moon’s efforts that arranged a historic North Korea-U.S. summit. Because of that, the regional political situation has been stabilized and more progress on North Korea-U.S. ties is expected.” While detente between the U$ and DPRK would be the start of ensuring peace on the Korean Peninsula, loosening the claws of U$ imperialism around the DPRK, it brings with it dangers.

Recently, Pompeo, in an interview with Laura Ingraham, said that he was “we’re making the progress that we need” on the DPRK nuclear negotiations but also said something far more revealing: he said that Russia has been “aggressive” toward the U$ and that it needs to be pushed back and restrained, but in the long term: “if you’re looking at the things that threaten American livelihoods, that put America truly at risk of its continued economic growth, China…presents the far greater threat to the United States.” This is the grand strategy of the current U$ imperial administration, which some have talked about before in alternative media: focus efforts against China, perhaps trying to pull China and Russia apart, turning them against each other. So far, this has not been successful, but since Russia is not some valiant anti-imperialist state, but rather a nationalist one with a capitalist economy and a vibrant bourgeoisie (which some call “oligarchs” without applying the same label to the U$), it is possible to see it pulling back from commitments in Syria, and possibly other states as well as evident from its weak response to the recent Zionist aggression in Syria. Let us not forget that China and Russia have voted for 20 U.N. Security Council sanctions resolutions focused on the DPRK since they began in July 2006. They have made no effort to even vote against these measures, despite the fact they have permanent veto powers. This shows that neither the Chinese or Russian states are friends of the Korean people since the UN sanctions (coupled with the unilateral ones of the U$) have caused untold hardship for the people of the DPRK and held back the country’s development, which could have allowed it to have more expanded cell phone and internet service by this point. The same is the case with Cuba, where the financial blockade as imports of technology are restricted, also stunting its development.

In the end, while we should remain critical, especially of the prominent entrance of capitalists from the ROK, and possibly those from other elements of the imperial core, along with increased numbers from China, this is a process which is up to Koreans themselves, who have a right to determine their own destiny.

In the end, while we should remain critical, especially of the prominent entrance of capitalists from the ROK, and possibly those from other elements of the imperial core, along with increased numbers from China, this is a process which is up to Koreans themselves, who have a right to determine their own destiny.


Notes

[1] Take long-time Slate columnist Fred Kaplan who grumbled that there weren’t enough concessions from Kim, with the declaration between Kim and Moon demands “a certain amount of denuclearization on the part of the United States.” After asking a former Bush National Security Adviser for his thoughts, he paints the orange menace as dumb and uninformed, declaring that the declaration between the Moon and Kim sets the terms for the “surrender” of the U$, showing his imperialist mindset. Alex Ward of Vox, a liberal cesspool, declare that the agreement was “extremely vague,” will be “bad” for the U$, call Kim a “dictator” (normal-speak in such media), review the agreement made between Moon and Kim, and declaring that the summit could “potentially weaken US-South Korea ties in the future,” acting like this somehow bad even though it isn’t. The same is the case in a video by The Guardian, which prominently features right-wing, anti-DPRK forces in the Republic of Korea, calls Kim a “dictator,” while declaring that the country is poverty-striken and people “repressed.” The Associated Press fell in line, claiming that the Kim-Moon “joint statement appeared to fall short of the major steps many in Washington have been looking for,” and a “propaganda set piece” in a second story which quotes many anti-DPRK experts, verging on calling the DPRK racist! At the same time, the LA Times, said in what an uninformed reader would think is “fact”: that the DPRK “has been brought to the negotiating table by crippling U.N. sanctions” which clearly denies that these sanctions are murderous against the Korean people and the New York Times seemed concerned that Kim’s “commitments fell far short of what American officials have demanded,” seeming concerned it “unclear what else he [Kim] may demand” of the U$, seeming to miss that the imperialists are demanding the surrender of the DPRK to the U$ imperialists without offering much in return. However, Kevin Drum of Mother Jones even said that “modest progress” was made, while CBC said that the meeting between Kim and Moon has “accompanied by real progress at the negotiating table” and Qatar-based Al Jazeera, which often blasts terroristic messages to the world, was also optimistic. It is funny that the New York Times would say this because Fred Kaplan of Slate seemed to have a clear idea of Kim’s goals: “a relaxation of tensions, investment in his impoverished country (including the suspension of sanctions), a withdrawal of U.S. military forces from the peninsula (which is what he ultimately means by an end to America’s “hostile policy”), and the splintering of the U.S.-South Korean alliance—all, preferably, at no cost to his regime.” While this is phrased in a way that is Orientalist and imperialist, this is a better recognition of the goals of Kim than the New York Times! This paragraph derives from the following sources: Fred Kaplan, “Close, but No Denuclearization,” Slate, Sept 19, 2018; Alex Ward, “North and South Korea just signed a major agreement. It may be bad news for Trump,” Vox, Sept 19, 2018; GuardianNews, “Why are Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in’s hugs controversial?,” YouTube, Sept 19, 2018; Associated Press, “Kim agrees to dismantle main nuke site if U.S. takes steps too,” Politico, Sept 19, 2018; Jonathan Gatehouse, “Progress at Korea peace talks overshadowed by gloom facing both leaders back home,”CBC, Sept 19, 2018; Robyn Dixon, “U.S. praises North Korea’s offer to shutter missile site and extends invitation for more high-level diplomatic talks,” LA Times, Sept 19, 2018; Foster Klug, “Summit may be the grand theater Kim needs to show his people,” Associated Press, Sept 19, 2018; Kevin Drum, “North and South Korea Make Modest Progress in Latest Talks,” Mother Jones, Sept 19, 2018; Chae Sang-Hun and David E. Sanger, “North Korea’s New Nuclear Promises Fall Short of U.S. Demands,” New York Times, Sept 19, 2018; “North Korea’s Kim agrees to ‘dismantle’ key missile test sites,” Al Jazeera, Sept 19, 2018.

[2] There is even a website for the summit hosted by the ROK, schedule of Moon‘s day 1 and day 2 in Pyongyang, motorcade through Pyongyang, Moon departing for Pyongyang, results of inter-Korean talks, instructions for envoys going to Pyongyang, and other briefings, along with other information, here, here, and here. The agreement does not seem to be posted on any English sites of official DPRK media, like KCNA or Rodong Sinmun. Perhaps it is posted in Korean.

[3] Mary Louise Kelly,  “What It Looks Like Inside A Classroom In North Korea,” NPR, Sept 20, 2018; Mary Louise Kelly, “101 Ways To Thwart A Reporter In Pyongyang,” NPR, Sept 21, 2018; Lucy Managan, “Michael Palin in North Korea review – a soothing look at a despotic regime,” The Guardian, Sept 21, 2018. Links for the NPR articles are retained here only because it is an example of their orientalist mindsets, and because the second NPR article has photographs.

[4] Alistair Coleman, “North Korea claims NHS and Sony hack suspect ‘doesn’t exist’,” BBC News, Sept. 14, 2018.

[5] Elle Hunt, “Kim Jong-un all fingers and thumbs in bid for Instagram diplomacy,” The Guardian, Sept 21, 2018.

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

Reprinted from the Leftist Critic blog, where it was published on Sept 7, 2018.

Reprinted from anti-imperialism.org. Some things have changed since this was published and I am currently keeping a close eye on developments in Zimbabwe.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Notes

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

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

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

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

Reprinted from the Leftist Critic blog where it was published on Sept 3, 2018. Editor’s note retained in article.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Notes

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

Hi, LC,

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

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

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

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

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

My reply at 9:35 AM on Sept 1:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– LC

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

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

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

Reprinted from the Leftist Critic blog, where it was printed on Sept 3, 2018. Printed here with all parts, including the editor’s note.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Human rights” and the narrative of imperialism

Originally published on the Leftist Critic blog on Aug 24, 2018.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Notes

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

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

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

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

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

A Turning Point for Zimbabwe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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