Mansudae Overseas Projects spreads the ideals of Juche worldwide

Korean artist examining his work at Mansudae Art Studio. This photograph really shows the workplace well, unlike others. There are other photos of a statue under construction at Mansudae Art Studio and what the outside of the art studio looks like.

Originally published on the Leftist Critic blog on May 18, 2018.

In the heart of Pyongyang, in Jongphyong-dong, Phyongchon District, there is what some have called the “world’s biggest art factory” or likely the “largest art production center in the world.” This is the Mansudae Art Studio, which employs 4,000 people (who  are male and female) 800 of whom are artists, with Mansudae Overseas Development Group launched in  the 1970s (Munsadae Overseas Projects or MOP is part of this group) as a subset of the studio, with this subset doing works for varying foreign countries, especially in Africa, while the studio as a whole does many works inside Juche Korea, honoring the accomplishments of the socialist state. [1] The studio’s Italian liaison and representative of the studio to the “outside world,” Pier Luigi Cecioni, described it as “more of a campus than a factory, more of a studio, the biggest in the world.” More specifically, this art studio, founded on November 17, 1959 (Juche 48), has an area of “over 120,000 square meters, 80,000 of which indoor,” occupying an a 30 acre area, as noted by the firm’s English-language website, with Cecioni facilitating “the studio’s international sales of paintings, prints, and smaller works.” The studio itself is divided into

…13 creative groups, seven manufacturing plants and more than 50 supply departments. The artistic works produced at the Mansudae Art Studio range from oil paintings to bronze sculptures, from Korean Paintings (ink on paper) to ceramics, from woodcuts to embroideries, from jewel paintings (made with precious and semiprecious stones reduced to powder) to charcoal drawings and much more. The Mansudae Art Studio is…a very high-quality art production center. The vast majority of the major artworks of the country have been made by Mansudae Art Studio artists…[most of whom] are graduates of the very demanding Pyongyang University.

Furthermore, artists who work there are members of “state-run studio complexes” with every artist with a “formal ranking,” with the top art institute in the country being “the Pyongyang University of Fine Art with various sections: brush-and-ink, oil, sculpture, ceramics, mural painting and industrial arts.” Young artists who want to go into the university are selected, and “judged sufficiently skilled they will study here,” with a minimum of “five years study,” with a total of “around 150 students a year in the fine art department,” with students, after graduating “are selected by various art studios.” The art looks like “classic Social Realist propaganda,” while abstract painting is prohibited, rightly, “as it is deemed bourgeois and anti-revolutionary,” with a yearbook published every year cataloguing official art production. Artists working at the Mansudae Art Company, whom can be viewed by foreign tourists whom can view “small-scale ceramic sculptures,” work in small studios either with ink or even with oil paint, while other non-artist workers and technicians likely help with woodblocks (a specialty of those in Juche Korea), helping production “at least 4,000 top level original works a year. Employees work a week with eight-hour days and are paid depending on the level of production, with art production, at least in 2011 (Juche 100), taking up 40% of the socialist nation’s budget, showing the importance that is put upon it. The studio produces 80% of the country’s art, with a typical artist producing “30 artworks a year, working four days a week,” with Fridays for community service, and their work critiqued by colleagues. However, as Rodong Sinmun makes clear, there are other art groups, like the Korean Central Fine Art Studio, Pyongyang University of Fine Art and Art Studio of the Ministry of Railways which produce works of significance, such as posters “dealing with the Party’s militant call for conducting a dynamic all-people general offensive to attain the five-year strategic goals with the might of self-reliance and self-development.” After all, just look at the architecture in Juche Korea to show how important art is there.

One oil painter, Ho Jae-song, working for Mansudae, said that “normally artists work from Monday to Friday, but it depends on the individual artists and what they are doing,” with the artists normally visiting “many places to get inspired, pick up information and make studies” with their visit taking “a couple of weeks, even months,” with those who are members of the studio  proud of their work. BBC News even says that “these highly skilled craftsmen, largely anonymous, working for a higher good and not interested in profit inhabit a very different world from artists elsewhere” although they claim, as one would expect from such horrid media, many would not “envy” their work, in their typical propagandistic style. There are claims in bourgeois media that in overseas environments there are “poor working conditions…and the low pay” but this is undeniably slander.

Painters at the Mansudae Art Studio, as noted by Colors Magazine. Two female artists are working on the left, and two male artists on the right.

Of course, bourgeois media  and analysts declare works coming from MOP (and would undoubtedly say the same about the studio as a whole as well) are “propaganda” with a snarl, claiming it runs afoul of UN sanctions, scrutinized by the murderous empire and UN “experts” as bringing in “significant” money for  Juche Korea, with  “large construction operations” led by Mansudae, with contracts drawn with said governments. Whether this is true or not, is unknown, but it shows that imperialists fear the influence of these monuments, some of which are 160 feet tall! Just take the words of a former IMF adviser, Naranhkiri Tith, who declared that Juche Korea is commercializing Angkor Wat (the project there described in the next paragraph), declaring laughably that “I think anything that happens in Cambodia is not normal. That is why Cambodia is called the country of the absurd…North Korea, in my opinion, is another country of the absurd where the government is engaging in smuggling and many other illegal activities to survive.” [2] What the heck does this even mean? The bourgeois media cites clowns like this person all the time, with this being only one example of the Orientalist propaganda spewed by media every day. They definitely won’t mention that in 2013 (Juche 102), a Western named Oliver Laric became “the only individual…to have hired the Mansudae studio to create a private sculptural commission.” The museum in Angkor was the most “ambitious foreign project” for MOP, taking 63 artists, who were flown in Juche Korea, “four months to paint the cyclorama,” with Yit Chandaroat, acting director of museums for Apsara, saying that “Mansudae has great talent and a good reputation in artwork, painting and construction,” which is undoubtedly the case. Even Nicholas Bonner, founder of Koryo Studio in Beijing who has worked with Mansudae for 20 years, said that “I don’t see this museum [in Cambodia] as an attempt to project soft power. Mansudae is a massive studio, and they need to keep working to bring revenue in from inside and outside of the country.” Mansudae’s official overseas gallery, called the Mansudae Art Museum is in “Beijing’s art district 798 Art Zone and has been holding exhibitions since 2009.” The head of this gallery, Zhengtai Ji, argued that “Now more than ever we need avenues like art to create understanding between North Korea and the rest of the world,” which is undeniably the case. Other bourgeois media claims that there is a huge market for artwork from Juche Korea in China. If this is true, which is may because there was a showing of Mansudae artwork in Shenyang in 2015 (Juche 104), it would be a further reason for a studio there.

These Korean workers have constructed monuments across the African continent celebrating “the rise of young, independent African nations” by merging their style of “socialist realism with African nationalism” (some say they have a “Soviet style“) with historical connections between the countries the monuments appear and those which Juche Korea supported national liberation. Currently, 17 African countries have monuments and structures built by these wonderful workers: Angola, Algeria, Benin, Botswana, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Equatorial Guinea, Egypt, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Republic of Congo, Senegal, Togo, and Zimbabwe! [3] Asian countries being Cambodia, Malaysia, and the Western European country of Germany. In Cambodia, Mansudae constructed a “multimillion dollar culture and history museum in Angkor Wat” called the Angkor Panorama Museum, which opened in 2016, which will be run jointly by the Cambodians and those from Juche Korea for ten years, then  handed over to Cambodia into its complete control by 2036. As for the African countries, one bourgeois academic, who has an anti-Korea sentiment to his work, even wrote that the monuments “celebrate the rise of young, independent nations” with Mansudae originally having the government of Juche Korea as his client, with the latter company offering “cheap” and “attractive” prices to African governments. He adds that the monument in Namibia (National Heroes Acre) honors the fight against racist South Africans, the monument in Zimbabwe (also called National Heroes Acre) honors the fight against British oppressors, and a monument in Juche Korea (in the Revolutionary Martyrs Cemetery) commemorates the fight against Japanese colonizers, with the victors “of each of these fights continue to rule the liberated countries and are basing their legitimacy on the independence struggles.” [4] In all, as one bourgeois “watcher” site for Juche Korea noted, “Mansudae Overseas Development Group undertook to build bronze statues, monuments and other works of arts, and fit out buildings and parks in over 70 countries and regions,” claiming it brings in “needed” cash to Juche Korea, not understanding it is done even more for the reasons of international solidarity. This is demonstrated by the statues, listed by the bourgeois Colors magazine, of

  • national heroes in Botswana (2005)
  • Joshua Nkomo in Zimbabwe (2010)
  • Mozambique’s first president, Samora Machel (2011)
  • Angola’s first president Agostinho Neto (2012, with production overseen by “Neto’s wife and daughter”)
  • the Tiglachin Monument for the then-Marxist Ethiopian government (1974)
  • the African Renaissance monument in Senegal (2010)
  • The Unknown Soldier representing Namibians who were killed during the independence war (2002)
  • the Monument to Laurent Kabila in the DRC (2002)

The bourgeois media claims that Juche Korea has taken in $160 million (a number first floated by the anti-Korean Daily NK and repeated by bourgeois media) “in the last ten years thanks to the construction of sculptures and other edifices in countries across Africa,” saying it is a lot because of the country’s “per capita income.” [5] Yet, if we take the most recent estimated GDP (PPP) put forward by the CIA Factbook lets say, taking  it for the sake of argument, being $40 billion, this project would be equal to .04% of that value! That means these projects are chump change generally but still enough to make the work worthwhile, not a big “cash cow” or “cash lifeline” as the bourgeois media likes to describe them, in their lying terms, like they do with everything related to Juche Korea. So, what’s the big deal? It has to do with efforts to restrict this socialist state and limit its influence while capitalism continues to maintain its dominance across the world by strangling it. This is evident by the sanctions of the murderous empire levied by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) in August 2017 (along with 15 other entities) against the Mansudae organization and in December 2016 the managing director of MOP, Mr. Tong-chol Kim, who was born on August 7, 1968, and a”Chinese subsidiary in Namibia” called Qingdao Construction. [6] That same year, the UN sanctioned Juche Korea, in an investigation led by one “Hugh Griffiths” who seemed to be anti-Korean (i.e. his statement of “they’re doing an awful lot more than producing statues in Africa”) for Mansudae constructing statues, mainly in Africa, showing that the UN was serving the interests of imperialists and being utter racist, not allowing it to make wonderful socialist realism statues celebrating African liberation. Later in 2016 (Juche 106), the UN “blacklisted Mansudae Art Studio, subjecting it to a global asset freeze and travel ban,” further manifesting imperialist efforts to isolate Juche Korea.

Choi Sang Kyun, head of Gallery Pyongyang, poses with a propaganda poster of Juche Korea that he collected. Photo is courtesy of Reuters and reprinted by The Telegraph. The image here is used here under the fair use exception to U.S. Copyright law.

With this, it is worth quoting Cecioni, who notes the value of Mansudae to the world: “I consider it very important to let people know that … North Koreans do not make only bombs but also art and are common people.” [7] Clearly, the imperialists don’t want the world to know this, which is why the studio is on the list of sanctions, with some artists going to the “Chinese border town of Dandong.” Cecioni also adds that those who work at Mansudae find “abstract and conceptual art…amusing” because they “don’t see it as necessary.” He also added that artists there “have an enviable position” because, “unlike a Western artist they don’t have to worry about selling their work” since they “have a salary…are recognized and have privileges” and ultimately “seem to live happily, they feel part of something.” That is definitely not the case in the capitalist West. In exclusive interview with horrid Vice, Cecioni told more about Mansudae, from his perspective,20 noting that in January 2006 (Juche 105) he became “the representative of the Mansudae Art Studio in the West” with one of the provisions of the agreement to “organize exhibitions of Mansudae Art Studio works in the West” and he has “returned to Pyongyang a few times, and Korean artists have come to visit in Italy.” [8] He added that

The vast majority of the best artists in the country are at the Mansudae. Practically all its artists have a university or a fine-arts degree. When a student distinguishes himself or herself at the university he or she is invited to join the Mansudae. Also, if an artist distinguishes himself or herself in another center he or she might be invited to join. It is a great honor to enter the Mansudae…From what I have seen, from about late elementary school through high school, in the afternoon, students may attend on a voluntary basis after-school programs and institutions in which they follow their interests which can be musical, artistic, sport, acting, and similar. My impression is that the training becomes really demanding at the university: North Koreans are very good and serious university students… The Mansudae Art Studio has a perhaps unexpected economic autonomy. The money that comes from our sales goes to the Mansudae Art Studio… The artists do not absolutely have big egos, nor are they humble. In a way, among the people I frequent, they all consider themselves equal, even though they are fully aware, in art, that some are better than others and that they have different positions work-wise. Western contemporary art in general does not interest them. In fact I saw them find it literally funny in the sense that they laughed at seeing some works, not with disdain but with true amusement. They are very much interested in classic art…I would not say that the purpose of all DPRK art is its political message. The socialist realism works represent North Korea in a positive light and, in a broad sense, want to inspire the viewers to have positive and patriotic feelings and celebrate, especially with some large sculptures and large paintings exhibited in public places, the leaders. The subjects are often related to work, a subject not common in the West. One particular form of socialist realism art are the posters. They are hand-painted, not printed, and they have political or social messages. Many are aimed against the US, seen as past aggressors or potential aggressors. Besides social realism, landscape paintings are very popular. Also paintings of flowers and nature in general. There are also many portraits, mainly of workers. But then there are so many kinds of art—sculptures, ceramics, embroidery, various kinds of paintings, woodcutting, calligraphy, and some others—that I cannot generalize.

Apart from this, in 2015 (Juche 104), a south Korean filmmaker Onejoon Che made a documentary named Mansudae Master Class, which attracted interest in Western  art circles, which undeniably has an Orientalist tone to it, since in an interview with him, he calls Juche Korea a “dictatorship” and acts like they exploit Africans. [9] Basically, the country is again treated as a “curiosity” in undeniably racist terms.

Even with all of this, Mansudae was able to show their works, in 2007 (and again in 2014) in London, of all places, showing that the imperialist efforts to isolate the country aren’t working in slightest. The same was the case about Mansudae’s exhibition on Australia in 2009 (Juche 98), which was even covered by AP, with a 5-minute-video. Mansudae is following in the tradition of Korean history, with maps of Korea drawn in the 19th century which were “painted with watercolors” and are “wonderfully detailed [and] hand-drawn” maps, with these artists and loyal comrades with the same vibe with their work.


Notes

[1] Caroline Winter, “Mansudae Art Studio, North Korea’s Colossal Monument Factory,” Bloomberg Businessweek, Jun 6, 2013; Statues and ammunition: North Korea’s Africa connections,” CNN, Dec. 14, 2017; “North Korea’s ‘biggest’ export – giant statues,” BBC News, Feb 16, 2017; Thomas Gordon, “A North Korean art factory is making enormous statues,” Dazed, Aug 6, 2014; Hamish Macdonald, “North Korean embassy hosts art exhibition in London,” The Guardian, Nov 3, 2014; “Floral Tribute Paid to Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Dec 26, 2017; “Floral Tribute Paid to Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Dec 19, 2017; “Floral Tribute Paid to Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Oct 12, 2017; “Floral Tributes Paid to Statues of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Oct 11, 2017; “Floral Tribute to Statues of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Sept 11, 2017; “Floral Tribute Paid to Statues of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Aug 28, 2017; “Anniversary of Publication of Kim Jong Il’s Work Observed,” Rodong Sinmun, Aug 22, 2017; “Floral Tribute Paid to Statues of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Aug 17, 2017; “Floral Tribute Paid to Statues of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Jul 29, 2017; “Tribute Paid to Statues of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Jul 10, 2017; “Floral Tribute Paid to Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Jun 21, 2017; “Floral Baskets Laid before Statues of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Apr 27, 2017; “Floral Tribute to Statues of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Apr 17, 2017; “Floral Baskets Laid before Statues of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Feb 20, 2017; “22nd Paektusan Prize Sports Contest among Officials of National Institutions Closes,” Rodong Sinmun, Feb 18, 2017; “Floral Tribute Paid to Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Feb 9, 2017; “Floral Tribute Paid to Statues of Great Leaders on Lunar New Year’s Day,” Rodong Sinmun, Jan 31, 2017; “Pyongyang Ice Sculpture Festival-2017 Opens,” Rodong Sinmun, Jan 4, 2017; “Floral Tribute Paid to Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il on New Year,” Rodong Sinmun, Jan 4, 2017; “Floral Tribute Paid to Great Leaders,” Rodong Sinmun, Dec 26, 2016; “Floral Tribute Paid to Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Dec 20, 2016; “Tribute Paid to Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Oct 18, 2016; “Floral Baskets Laid before Statues of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Oct 12, 2016; “Floral Baskets Laid before Statues of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Sept 12, 2016; “Floral Baskets Laid before Statues of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Aug 27, 2016; “Floral Tribute to Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Aug 17, 2016; “Floral Tribute to Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, July 29, 2016; “Floral Tribute to Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Jun 21, 2016; “Floral Baskets Laid before Statues of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Apr 27, 2016; “Floral Tribute to Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Apr 16 2016; “Floral Tribute to Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Apr 11 2016; “Floral Baskets Laid before Statues, Portraits of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Feb 18, 2016; “Floral Tributes Paid to Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Feb 11, 2016; “Floral Tribute Paid to Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Jan 2, 2016. In Angola, the studio has constructed the António Agostinho Neto culture center, Cabinda Park, and the Peace Monument along with a basketball stadium and athlete academic center “in the Congo, a government office building, Luba Stadium, and conference halls in Equatorial Guinea.

[2] Patrick Winn, “North Korea propaganda unit builds monuments abroad,” PRI (reprinted from Global Post), Aug 3, 2011; Amy Qin,  “An Art Powerhouse From North Korea,” New York Times, Jan 25, 2016; Guandong Hu, “Mine workers, idyllic landscapes, tigers: North Korean artists have made tens of millions of dollars for Pyongyang,” Quartz, Nov 14, 2017; Nicola Smith, “Flourishing North Korean art trade in China under threat from sanctions,” The Telegraph (reprinted in Yahoo! News) Oct 5, 2017; “North Korea’s Mansudae: The propaganda factory,” MSN News, Feb 17, 2016;

[3] Wikipedia, “Mansudae Overseas Projects,” accessed Feb 6, 2018, lists 11 African countries as places with monuments, but also says “as of 2015, Mansudae projects have been built in 17 countries: Angola, Algeria, Benin, Botswana, Cambodia, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Germany, Malaysia, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Senegal, Togo, Zimbabwe”; Derek Henry Flood, “Symbolism merges for Mali and North Korea,” Asia Times, Feb 2, 2013; Statues and ammunition: North Korea’s Africa connections,” CNN, Dec. 14, 2017; “North Korea and the World” project by the East-West Center and the National Committee on North Korea (NCNK); Tycho van der Hoog, “North Korean monuments in southern Africa: Legitimizing party rule through the National Heroes’ Acres in Zimbabwe and Namibia,” Masters Thesis summary (archived here), Leiden University, July 1, 2017, full masters thesis (67 pages), accessed February 5, 2018, archived here; Nicola Smith, “Flourishing North Korean art trade in China under threat from sanctions,” The Telegraph, Oct 5, 2017; John Russell, “North Korean Art Market Growing,” VOA, Oct 10, 2017; Sebastian Strangio, “N Korea’s multimillion-dollar museum in Cambodia,” Al Jazeera, Feb 22, 2016. VOA claims that Juche Korea has “built statues and markers in at least 15 African countries.” In the full masters thesis, van der Hoog claims he didn’t have time (or ability) to do research in Zimbabwe, but did research in Namibia, which had “old black and white photos of SWAPO officials who were visiting Pyongyang before independence,” further noting that “North Korea not only funded and supplied the liberation movements [in Zimbabwe and Namibia, but], high ranking officials also visited the Asian country and North Korean military instructors were active in the exile camps in Africa, where they trained guerrilla soldiers.” This academic specifically describes the memorials in Namibia and Zimbabwe. One site, says that “as of 2015, Mansudae projects have been built in 17 countries: Angola, Algeria, Benin, Botswana, Cambodia, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Germany, Malaysia, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Senegal, Togo, Zimbabwe.”

[4] Other large projects in Namibia built by Mansudae include the “Independence Memorial Museum, the State House and a military museum in Okahandja” while in Zimbabwe, they also built a “grand statue of Joshua Nkomo in Bulawayo,” in Angola they have engaged in “56 construction projects” as one bourgeois scholar points out. It is claimed that Mansudae “has an office in Windhoek” although this relies on the UN report which only took information from 9 African counries, with 43 not submitting “the required National Implementation Reports,” which the bourgeois scholar still thinks gives the report legitimacy! He also claims that “among the African countries that are often mentioned as hosting North Korean laborers are Algeria, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Libya and Nigeria.” They also argue that Juche Korea “may form an inspiration for Namibia and Zimbabwe, and other countries.” One article in bourgeois media says that Other North Korean statues, mostly of African revolutionary leaders, were sold to Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Benin and Congo” (Kevin Shieff, “North Korea’s surprising, lucrative relationship with Africa,” Washington Post, Jul 10, 2017).

[5] “Mansudae Overseas Development Group Projects,” North Korean Economy Watch, Jun 23, 2010; “Foreign Currency Earning Constructions in Africa,” Daily NK, Jun 21, 2010; “Korea, North,” The World Factbook, CIA, accessed Feb 5, 2018; Kevin Shieff, “North Korea’s surprising, lucrative relationship with Africa,” Washington Post, Jul 10, 2017.

[6] U.S. Department of the Treasury Press Center, “Treasury Targets Chinese and Russian Entities and Individuals Supporting the North Korean Regime,” Aug 22, 2017, accessed Feb 5, 2018, it was later reprinted by the US Embassy in Russia; “Notices,” Federal Register, Vol. 82, No. 164, Friday, Aug 25, 2017; U.S. Department of the Treasury Press Center, “Treasury Sanctions Individuals and Entities Supporting the North Korean Government and its Nuclear and Weapons Proliferation Efforts,” Dec 2, 2016, accessed Feb 5, 2018; John Bat, “Treasury slaps new sanctions on groups allegedly supporting North Korea,” CBS News, Aug 22, 2017; “Notices,” Federal Register Volume 82, Number 164, Friday, Aug 25, 2017; Bill Gertz, “U.S. Sanctions Chinese, Russians for Illicit Trade With North Korea,” Free Beacon, Aug 23, 2017; “Sanctions on North Korea Inc. Hit Kim’s Secretive ‘Office 39’,” Bloomberg News, Aug 10, 2017; Guandong Hu, “Mine workers, idyllic landscapes, tigers: North Korean artists have made tens of millions of dollars for Pyongyang,” Quartz, Nov 14, 2017; Sue-Lin Wong, Giselda Vagnoni, Fanny Potkin, “White tiger, dark horse: North Korean art market heats up,” Reuters, Oct 4, 2017; Nicola Smith, “Flourishing North Korean art trade in China under threat from sanctions,” The Telegraph, Oct 5, 2017; Reuters, “North Korea’s art market is on the rise despite UN sanctions,” New York Post, Oct 5, 2017; Liu Zhen, “8 ways North Korea evades UN sanctions,” Business Insider (reprinted from South China Morning Post), Sept 19, 2017; Eric Talmadge, “Statue export ban hits at Pyongyang’s soft power, hard cash,” AP, Dec 27, 2016; Salem Solomon, “Sanctioned and Shunned, North Korea Finds Arms Deals in Africa,” VOA, Mar 22, 2017; U.S. hits Chinese and Russian companies, individuals with sanctions for doing business with North Korea,” Washington Post, Aug 22, 2017; Xi En Lee, “North Korea still has plenty of options as it faces new sanctions and a frosty Beijing,” CNBC, Nov 23, 2017; Steve Allen, “4 Ships Banned from All Ports for Violating NKorea Sanctions,” Newsmax (reprinted from AP), Oct 9, 2017; “Kim Jong Un’s personal ‘slush fund’ known as ‘Office 39’ hit by sanctions,” Washington Post, Aug 10, 2017; “North Koreans ban statue exports” (title is totally inaccurate, the UN banned the exports, not Juche Korea), Sun Gazette, Feb 6, 2018. The latter article said that Mansudae “has generated an estimated 38,000 statues and 170,000 other monuments for domestic use and, according to the website of its overseas representative office, it is divided in 13 creative groups, seven manufacturing plants and has more than 50 supply departments.” One Treasury Dept report claimed that “the Mansudae Overseas Project Group of Companies has been reported to conduct business in countries including Algeria, Angola, Botswana, Benin, Cambodia, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Malaysia, Mozambique, Madagascar, Namibia, Senegal, Syria, Togo, and Zimbabwe.”

[7] Sue-Lin Wong, Giselda Vagnoni, Fanny Potkin, “White tiger, dark horse: North Korean art market heats up,” Reuters, Oct 4, 2017; John Russell, “North Korean Art Market Growing,” VOA, Oct 10, 2017; Lawrence Pollard, “North Korea’s biggest export? Giant statues. To African dictators,” PRI (reprinted from BBC News), Feb 17, 2016; David Sim, “Cash-strapped North Korea turns to art to beat sanctions, but all that is about to change,” International Business Times, Oct 4, 2017.

https://leftistcritic.wordpress.com/2018/05/18/mansudae-overseas-projects-spreads-the-ideals-of-juche-worldwide/

Zombie Simpsons and the cultural hegemony of Hollyweird

From S5E14, “Lisa Vs. Malibu Stacey”

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

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

Summarizing Gramsci’s theories on intellectuals and hegemony

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gramsci, Springfieldian stereotypes, and Hollyweird

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Stereotypes bowling team, The Simpsons.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Notes

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

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

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

Robert and Mabel Williams with pistols, training in Cuba.

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

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

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

Responses to the Valentine’s Day Massacre and analysis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A radical way forward

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

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

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

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

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


Notes

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

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

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

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

“Kill your idols”: Chelsea Manning and the reactionary “left”

Quotes by Chelsea E. Manning (pictured above) from a recent Washington Post article by Jenna Portnoy titled “Chelsea Manning: ‘The establishment needs to be challenged.’” Note that she has a necklace which is a hashtag, showing that what she writes on Twitter is part of who she is as a person, and connects to an analysis of her as a popular figure.

Originally published on the Leftist Critic blog on Feb 5, 2018.

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

In August of last year, Tarzie, a self-declared “queer small a anarchist” who lives in Brooklyn, delivered a biting criticism of Chelsea Manning, the trans female whistleblower, who is the subject of this article. This writer said that they are free to “weigh in at length on Chelsea Manning’s rebirth as a 14-year-old fashion icon and anti-communist.” They further commented that Manning’s stunt which recapitulates “the Cold War “truism” that Nazi Germany = The DDR = The Soviet Union requires an answer,” since this is a common false equivalence, saying that good ‘ole Snowden was saying basically the same thing. Tarzie further wrote that without question Manning and Snowden, along with others, who “liken Lenin to Robert Lee are the most misleading kind of propagandist, regardless of how they see themselves,” further concluding that their motives are not of concern but rather the fact that they are “foisting it on impressionable nitwits in thrall to their celebrity and dissident cred” is disturbing. To counter such notions of anti-communism, Tarzie offered as a disinfectant an “excellent talk from Michael Parenti, which places the failings of communism in historical perspective.”

Saying all of that and recognizing the recent debate over Chelsea Manning and her actions, which will be discussed later in this post, it is worth delving more into Chelsea Manning, the reactionary “left”, which some call the “Celebrity Left,” and related aspects.

Table of contents

  1. The contours of the reactionary “left”
  2. The reactionary nature of Chelsea Manning
  3. Manning and the saga of FitzGibbon Media
  4. The Company Manning Keeps
  5. Notes

 

The contours of the reactionary “left”

In the past, Tarzie has criticized the prominent parts of what he calls the “celebrity left,” or what can be call the reactionary “left.” On this blog, I have used the term to refer to supposed anarchist David Graeber (“Anarchy Dad”), “celebrity left personalities” Shaun King and DerayNoam Chomsky, Glenn Greenwald (who claims to hold a “higher truth“), Snowden (who is inherently deceptive and claims to be “adversarial” meaning that he should undoubtedly be criticized), Naomi Klein, and artist Molly Crabapple (her real name is Molly Klein) while implying that the term also refers to bourgeois pacifist David Swanson and Obamabot Ta-Nehisi Coates. However, in none of these did I talk about the contours of reactionary “left” or “celebrity left” as Tarzie prominently calls them. The closest I came to defining the term “celebrity left” was in my article harshly criticizing Naomi Klein’s 273-page-book No Is Not Enough and arguing that she is a brand (all links not from my own blog have been retained):

The book itself, with the title “No Is Not Enough” on an orange background…with praises from Arundhai Roy, Noam Chomsky, Junot Diaz, Michelle Alexander, Cornel West, Bill McKibben, Yanis Varovfakis, Michael Stripe, Keeanga Yamatitta Taylor, Danny Glover, and Eve Ensler. Could there not be a bigger panoply of (mostly) bourgeois progressives, some of whom have their own brands consisting of themselves?…Hence, Klein herself is a brand “in the marketplace” as was alluded to earlier in this article, and is part of a bigger brand: Haymarket Books. Sure, they sell book of “radical” and progressive authors, but they engaging in branding, just like Verso Books…Furthermore, the organization she is part of, 350.org, is branding to the max, which is interesting considering it is not mentioned AT ALL in this book, apart from the dust jacket. The book itself is a product, a commodity to put in more evident terms. How can Klein not recognize she is a brand? The same goes for Matt Taibbi, Edward Snowden, Michelle Alexander, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Glenn Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill, and Chris Hedges, to name a few. These members of the “celebrity left,” as some have called it, are not the only brands. Bourgeois progressive media like Truthdig, Democracy Now!, Mother Jones, and the Nation, foundations like the Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and non-profits like Public Citizen are all brands.

This begs the question: what is the “celebrity left”? In September 2014, Tarzie defined the Celebrity Left as those who who have an expansive “Twitter following in the tens of thousands and up” or capable of having such a following, and also “getting paid from time to time by mainstream media or larger liberal outlets to write and gab.” He also added that such individuals operate under “different or fewer constraints than the media as a whole,” that the funding sources of these individuals showing that the “presumed border between mainstream and alternative media is largely imagined,” that the higher status of these individuals “permits them a childishly despotic relationship with their critics” which usually takes the “form of sneering anti-radicalism — and the protection of fans…who dole out discipline on their behalf.” Tarzie further said that the latter is why “neoliberal billionaires and right wing media moguls find them worthy investments,” saying that such personalities are “essentially religious figures and so evaluating them becomes an issue of good and bad.” I would add  that such individuals do not like criticism and dismiss it as silly, distracting, or unfounded, some of whom have been written about by Tarzie. [1] Other possible candidates for this “celebrity left” include Johnetta Elzie, Laurie Penny (not her real name), Sarah Jeong, Sarah Kendzior, Benjamin “Ben” Norton, Medea Benjamin, Bill McKibben, Chris Hedges, and Brittany Packnett.

It is worth investigating “what they actually believe and what they actually do” as one person, as noted earlier, suggested about Manning. These individuals may have some “wide recognition; fame; renown” but only in certain circles, as they are not famous or well-publicized people, as the definition by the fourth edition of the Webster’s New College Dictionary states for the word “celebrity.” As such, it may be detrimental to radical analysis to call them the “celebrity left.” Rather, one can have a broader group, considering them left reactionaries or the reactionary “left.” This person could as easily be applied to established media personalities like Melissa Harris-Perry, Rachel Maddow, Chris Hayes, Chris Matthews, Lawrence O’Donnell, Al Gore or Michael Moore as much as Chelsea Manning. This would help put them into context of existing bourgeois politics within the murderous empire, allowing one to criticize the reactionary elements of the “left.” Others can use the term “celebrity left” if they wish, but I think it limits the realm of discussion.

The reactionary nature of Chelsea Manning

A quote from her first column in The Guardian, showing her reformist, anti-revolutionary attitude. This photo is a revised version of the original posted on Manning’s twitter account, which was re-posted from her Instagram account, in November of last year.

In late January of this year, /r/communism erupted in a storm with a post titled “i’m sorry for supporting Chelsea Manning.” Within it, the loyal comrade wrote that Manning has “gone full fucking reactionary these past few weeks” and said that he was “at least hoping she could eventually see past anarchism and move towards proper marxism,” saying at the end that “remember, comrades: kill your idols,” the latter used in the title of this article. There was over 40 comments on this thread, with some saying that it shouldn’t surprise people “she turned out to be a liberal” and that they “never thought of her as any different from Snowden or any more “left” than Sanders,” while others said that she is we should be aware of her but “actively seek to move past” as she remains “confined to the ideological trappings of capitalism-imperialism.” Comments ranged from those saying that “why would we (as a sub) support Ms. Manning anyway? She had always been an anarchist, and anti socialist,” that she is “is an inspirational figure, someone who did the right thing” but that “she is by no means a communist revolutionary” as her “announcing a Senate run under the Democrats should show just how liberal her politics are,” and others saying that she is a “big military supporter in spite of being personally aware of the war crimes they do on a regular basis” and that one should “not project revolutionary politics onto your fav celebrities” but rather “investigate what they actually believe and what they actually do.” As an active contributor on /r/communism, I of course commented as well, writing that

…I remember how people thought she was a pacifist, but she said she wasn’t anti-war or even a conscientious objector, but was only a “transparency advocate.” While she seems to be firmly anti-Trump, from a pursuing of her twitter account, she has said she wants ICE and Customs dismantled calling ICE the “gestapo”, supports universal basic income, believes the FISA court should be abolished, opposes police militarization and mass incarceration (I think?), has somewhat anti-authority beliefs and hangs out with other celebrity left as some call them. Lets say all of that is positive and genuine (not sure all those views are). It still doesn’t excuse equating the Nazi gestapo, Soviet nkvd, East German stasi, and ICE as one and the same! They aren’t! Its a bit disorienting to go through her twitter feed to say the least. I say that as a person who supported her throughout. I don’t think she has ever been radical, from what I can remember. This fulfills her self-defined “motivational” role, basically like a celebrity: “My role is to motivate people and remind them that there are ways in which we can defend ourselves”

After this, I said that I would like to know more about universal basic income, and that while Manning claims she “crashed” the party of bigots, but she actually didn’t do this at all, with the black bourgeois figure, DeRay as her “friend.” I also noted that she “believes in “radical anti-authoritarianism” (whatever that means)…doesn’t believe in borders and thinks that “anyone wanting to immigrate to America should be able to,” noted in that recent interview she had. The response on /r/communism was a change from previous more supportive responses and for good reason!

This presents a number of problems. For one, any dedicated comrade should be horrified at the idea of partying with a bunch of bigots rather than protesting them and/or engaging in other anti-racist actions. It seems illogical to say you are crashing a party when you are schmoozing up with bigots of here, there, and everywhere! To her credit, however, she has been listening to these criticisms, saying in a recent tweet that

its been over a week since ive let everyone who helped me out of prison down, so many of you have helped me thru tough times, i tried too hard to do too much, im sorry im a human being and not a symbol, i have hit rock bottom

This is positive, but her logic that she “tried using my access/privilege to find ways to fight and undermine them” seems flawed. This is part of her response to “intense criticism for attending the A Night for Freedom party at the nightclub FREQ NYC hosted by right wing leader Mike Cernovich” as noted in The Daily Beast, for which she says she is “acting as a double agent, trying infiltrate the alt-right world to gain insight into their plans for rallies, get togethers, and general political strategy” as her connection with “right wing social media leaders began in autumn of last year” as she got more “involved in direct anti-fascist action in the wake of white supremacist-led violence in Charlottesville” by her own account. The same article says that Manning’s solution was “to use her fame and celebrity to integrate with an admirer who had connections with several alt-right social media personalities.” This included her connection with “Gateway Pundit writer Cassandra Fairbanks” whom she disagreed with, and was invited to go to “Escape the Room with friends” which she agreed with, feeling that she could “use the celebrity and fame I’ve gotten since getting out of prison to gather information and to ultimately find ways in which we who are against the alt-right can undermine the alt-right,”  deciding to double down on “her decision to hunt for information on the alt-right’s dealings.” She later spent an evening in playing Cards Against Humanity at the apartment of Gateway Pundit correspondent Lucian B. Wintrich, with Manning later saying that she learned that these individuals “don’t actually believe the things that they say…they’re opportunists and that they exploit their Twitter followers’ fears.” The Daily Beast then claims that Manning’s plan to establish “relationships with alt-right media figures to gain insight into their plans isn’t as far fetched as it seems at first blush” with Manning apparently using “her celebrity to access the [Manhattan] party to confront the alt- right VIPs on hand by making her presence felt in opposition, even if she wasn’t necessarily planning on making a scene inside before joining the anti-fascist protest assembling outside” with the party headlined “by VICE co-founder Gavin McInnes,” and said that there was “a transphobic rant,” viewing her presence as a protest. This flies in the face of “a photo that have been released this week showing Manning with a relaxed demeanor and smiling, with drink in hand as she conversed with McInnes,” then emerging from there to “join the protesters outside, who by that point had surrounded the entire building.” She talked to the protest marshall “and relayed several bits of useful of information, including the number of people inside, the general mood, what people inside were talking about, and whether they were planning any after parties.” The Daily Beast concluded that “it’s impossible to really know what was going through Manning’s head as she decided to escalate her relationships with figureheads of the alt-right in order to supposedly gather intelligence on their plans” and that her “decision-making process appears nonsensical to all but the most ardently engaged in the anti-fascist movement and the whole thing has an air of impulsiveness,” leaving supporters confused and betrayed. As she said at the end of the article,

People have every right to be confused and hurt by this. Regardless of good intentions, I leveraged my privilege to gain access to spaces others couldn’t dream of entering safely. I never meant to hurt my supporters. No amount of information on the alt-right is worth losing the trust of my supporters.

I think that she made the wrong decision to enter the party. It may have had some short-term benefit, but ultimately it was worthless.

Then there’s her decision to run for office. Since she had NO established platform yet, other than what she has said on twitter, this isn’t worth discussing for more than a sentence, except to say that it shows that she doesn’t really care about the masses of people, whom the Democrats don’t really serve at all. As Ralph Nader said, in Omidyar’s plaything called The Intercept, of all places, the Democratic Party has been in decline since the 1970s, due to poor decisions and other factors:

…I’m going to give you millstones around the Democratic Party neck that are milestones. The first big one was in 1979. Tony Coelho, who was a congressman from California, and who ran the House Democratic Campaign treasure chest, convinced the Democrats that they should bid for corporate money, corporate PACs, that they could raise a lot of money. Why leave it up to Republicans and simply rely on the dwindling labor union base for money, when you had a huge honeypot in the corporate area? And they did. And I could see the difference almost immediately. First of all, they lost the election to Reagan. And then they started getting weaker in the Congress. At that time, 1980, some of our big allies were defeated in the so-called Reagan landslide against Carter, we lost Senator [Gaylord] Nelson, Senator [Warren] Magnuson, Senator [Frank] Church. We had more trouble getting congressional hearings investigating corporate malfeasance by the Democrat [congressional committee] chairs. When the Democrats regained the White House [in 1992] you could see the difference in appointments to regulatory agencies, the difficulty in getting them to upgrade health and safety regulations. The second millstone is that they didn’t know how to deal with Reagan. And the Republicans took note. That means a soft tone, smiling … You can say terrible things and do terrible things as long as you have [that] type of presentation…they took the economic issues off the table that used to win again and again in the thirties and forties for the Democrats. The labor issues, the living wage issues, the health insurance issue, pension issues. And that of course was a huge bonanza for the Republican Party because the Republican Party could not contend on economic issues. They contended on racial issues, on bigotry issues, and that’s how they began to take control of the solid Democratic South after the civil rights laws were passed…As a result they drew back geographically, to the east coast, west coast and so on. And that created another millstone: You don’t run a 50-state [presidential] campaign. If you don’t run a 50-state campaign, number one you’re strengthening the opposing party in those states you’ve abandoned, so they can take those states for granted and concentrate on the states that are in the grey area. That was flub number one. When they abandoned the red states, they abandoned five states in the Rocky Mountain area, and started out with a handicap of nine or ten senators…Next millstone, the labor unions began getting weak, weak in numbers and weak in leadership. They began shelling out huge money to the Democrats for television. And as they became weaker they lost their grassroots mobilization on behalf of the Democrats. The Democrats began the process of message preceding policy. No — policy precedes message…The last millstone is, they make sure by harassing progressive third parties that the third party never pushes them. I’m an expert on that. They try to get them off the ballot…Unfortunately, to put it in one phrase, the Democrats are unable to defend the United States of America from the most vicious, ignorant, corporate-indentured, militaristic, anti-union, anti-consumer, anti-environment, anti-posterity [Republican Party] in history.

Then we get to Manning’s endorsement, on twitter, of Universal Basic Income (UBI) which calls for a discussion of the concept itself.

Since the 1980s, the idea of UBI has been circulating in “left-of-centere” political circles in countries such as Finland, with the idea it would “combat the economic and social consequences of falling industrial employment by freeing all” to make “meaningful contributions to society” but it is also appealing to the right-wing that sees it as “a possible way to a leaner, less bureaucratic welfare system.” This is noted by Jon Henley in his article in The Guardian (“Money for nothing: is Finland’s universal basic income trial too good to be true?”),  Eduardo Porter’s article in the New York Times (“A Universal Basic Income Is a Poor Tool to Fight Poverty”) and Dylan Matthews’s article in Vox (“A basic income really could end poverty forever”).

As such, some say it is an “answer” to automation and some claim end “poverty with a stroke.” The idea’s conception is vague, but it seems to be that it means that the “government would pay every adult citizen a salary, regardless of wealth, employment income or if they worked at all” with the theory that this would solve “a host of endemic economic problems, from poverty to chronic joblessness, that are only likely to worsen in the coming century,” along with disruptions from technology, with this idea dating back years in Western political thought. [2] It is well-rooted enough that the Nixon Administration studied the idea in the later 1960s, unsuccessfully trying to “get a basic-income benefit through Congress” and is backed by Silicon Valley mavens Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Pierre Omidyar, and Bill Gates along with others like Andrew Stern (formerly of the SEIU), and Charles Murray of the AEI (American Enterprise Institute), to name a few. However, critics say it is just a way to starve the existing government programs, especially those that boost “universal child care or free college tuition” with most critics, and even some proponents, saying that the “the costs would be absurdly prohibitive in any case.” Specifically, Robert Greenstein of Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says “a check of $10,000 to each of 300 million Americans would cost more than $3 trillion a year” while Lawrence “Larry” H. Summers, the former Treasury secretary, said that “paying a $5,000 universal basic income to the 250 million nonpoor Americans would cost about $1.25 trillion a year.” [3] Even with this, there are ongoing experiments in Finland, Kenya, Scotland, Canada, the Netherlands, India, and Italy of UBI, with the one in Finland being a short two year program only targeting the unemployed, and implemented by a “centre-right, austerity-focused government interested primarily in spending less on social security” along with bringing down the unemployment rate. [4]

There are a host of problems with UBI, claimed to be utopian. For one, it could sap the “desire to work” and it “divorces assistance from need” along with not being  politically resilient as some might think. [5] It may attract those across the political spectrum, including horrid libertarian economists F.A. Hayek & Milton Friedman, former Democratic candidate George McGovern, Stephen Hawking, Bernie Sanders, Andrew McDowell, political scientist Charles Murray, CATO Institute peoples, the Brookings Institution, the IMF, and others with a bourgeois viewpoint along with interest across the world, with a global network of support. Even Killary Clinton thought that it was a great idea, thinking about it during the 2016 presidential campaign. However, its supposedly “radically simple” approach does not “liberate” people in a capitalist society, from their jobs or give them more “bargaining power,” and be “revolutionary” as some proponents seem to think it will since a good number of those who support it, especially on the right-wing, want to eliminate all social programs, an excuse to “get rid of the welfare state” especially if those in power are hostile toward social services programs which serve the proletariat. [6] Some proponents are even unsure about is success, saying that “it could fail disastrously, or it could change everything for the better,” since we don’t know what would happen if it is implemented, a worrisome thought to say the least. Also, terms like “universal” and “basic” are not defined, likely leading to discrimination by those implementing the program to exclude “bad” people, as they claim it is “universal.” [7]

Sure, you can say there is a “patchwork benefits system” in the murderous empire, for example, but UBI’s universalism is a trap in and of itself, with failures in all the “four major negative income tax experiments” within the murderous empire held from the 1960s to the 1980s. It is further problematic that UBI may be, as some proponents say, is about embracing automation despite its effects on the proletariat which would benefit the capitalist class! Some proponents go out and declare that UBI is about making sure “the market is working as efficiently and effectively” by giving everyone, supposedly, “the minimum amount of voice with which to speak in the marketplace for basic goods and services,” an improvement on capitalist democracy, and others noting that it would allow the proletariat to become petty bourgeoisie. [8] However, the claims it will “even the playing field” in capitalism is magical thinking. You can’t regulate away exploitation. You can only do that through determined effort and struggle by the masses, not some law passed by stogy legislators. Of course some capitalists oppose the concept of UBI as would be “too expensive” or expands government too much, but there are also others who support it. A major problem is that there is no unified thought on UBI with some thinking that all payroll and income taxes should be replaced with “a 25% flat tax on income regardless of source,” benefiting the bourgeoisie (as they would be paying less tax and the proletariat would be paying more!), while others want higher taxes on the bourgeoisie and elimination of certain subsidies. [9] The libertarian proponents of UBI probably hint at the obvious results of the program: “free markets” would be reinforced, welfare programs limited, supporting the exploitative relationship of capitalists over workers, and reducing “bureaucracy.” All of these effects, in existing capitalist society, would hurt the proletariat. Regardless of what the proponents claim, UBI would support the bourgeoisie plain and simple, bankrupting a society (or societies) allowing the bourgeoisie to take even more control than they already have. Even Jacobin, the magazine for butt-hurt social democrats, argued that “UBI isn’t an alternative to neoliberalism, but an ideological capitulation to it” because the most “viable forms of basic income would universalize precarious labor and extend the sphere of the market.” [10] They further added that “if UBI does take shape, current power relations will favor those who have economic power and want to profit by weakening the existing system of social protection and labor market regulations.” That should be enough to reject the program all together. After all, while having a capitalist society and operating as part of the capitalist system, exploitation will always be there, even if you think you have “tamed” it.

In sum, Manning’s support of UBI shows she is standing with the bourgeoisie with a “trendy” political position, and not supporting the proletariat, yet another aspect of her horrid reactionary politics.

Manning and the saga of FitzGibbon Media

This video still comes right after Trevor FitzGibbon of the PR firm, FitzGibbon Media, declares “we work 24/7…to get our clients injected into the national and international news cycle, online through social media, pack a punch to make sure that clients, who are the real heroes here, are going to break through.” It also quotes the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, Elyse Hogue, as praising the firm as an “extension of her campaign team.” The Executive Director of Color of Change says the same thing. This firm, as noted later in this section, has ties to Chelsea Manning herself.

Disturbingly, these views and attending a party of bigots is the least of the problems with the company she keeps. Her popularity is part due to her connection with the collapsed PR form, FitzGibbon Media (FGM). It is worth remembering what happened considering that some created crowdfunding for former FitzGibbon employees, and others said that it “can be tough out here for women in the workplace.” [11] It is worth recalling that the former worked with clients like the ACLU, MoveON, Rock the Vote, Chelsea Manning Legal Defense Fund, WikiLeaks, Purpose, Credo, The Nation Institute, “Flood Wall Street“led by their client Energy Action Coalition,to name a few. The organization also opposed “Stand Your Ground” laws, assisted SumOfUs in “fighting” against Bank of America apparently, and demanding, hypocritically due to FitzGibbon’s predatory behavior, pushed for the passage of a new and improved Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), and called out the Nature Conservancy for working with paper manufacturers (before FGM was formed).

FGM, having the same abbreviation as female genital mutilation, shutdown after various female employees, such as journalist Sierra Pedraja, Rachel Tardiff of a Democratic Party partisan organization (Media Matters), Heather Parker, “Mary,” “Beth,” “Tracey,” and “Karen,” among others, noted that Trevor FitzGibbon, former communications director for Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, had engaged in sexual harassment and assault (including groping) toward them, even inviting people to his hotel room and requesting photos of some. [12] He also treated male staffers with an “overgrown frat boy demeanor” and angrily dismissed the accusations, declaring in sexist terms that “being accused of rape was actually worse than being raped,” defending his role as a “calculating predator who knew exactly how to exploit his power.” He did something similar at his former PR firm, Fenton Communications. All of this was before the MeToo movement took off.

With employees apparently caught off guard when management said the firm was closing soon, due to the fact that they could not work under the leadership of a sexual harasser like him, staffers received no bonuses or severance, while some former clients said they were willing to “work with the company’s former employees.” Still, the “activist Left was shocked in December by the collapse of progressive communications consulting firm Fitzgibbon Media” as one article put it. This was indicated by those at The Nation engaging in hand-wringing about the disintegration of “one of the country’s most powerful PR firms on the left…[with] FitzGibbon Media is unique in [that]…the employees banded together and decided to speak out,” while Jamil Smith in the horrid New Republic declaring that “yes, you can be a liberal and a sexual abuser…[progressives] need to stop believing that liberalism elevates us over the possibility of being sexist.”

Of course FitzGibbon calling the accusations of sexual harassment “a distraction to the mission at hand” and defending his pervy behavior. Former staffers responded to this, saying the following on the tumblr of one “Ginny Simmons,” who was the VP of the firm:

The team that comprised FitzGibbon Media is incredibly sad and disappointed to confirm that allegations have been made against Trevor FitzGibbon, FitzGibbon Media founder and President, for sexual assault and harassment of multiple female staffers. Staffers reported over a half dozen incidents of sexual harassment and at least two involving sexual assault committed by Trevor FitzGibbon against his own employees. For decades, Trevor presented himself as a champion of the progressive movement, claiming to support and respect women and feminist issues, from equal pay to reproductive rights, but his actions prove a hypocrisy so great that FitzGibbon Media closed its doors today, as we could no longer continue working under his leadership. We lost our jobs standing up for what’s right, to ensure a safe workplace for all — and while we may have been left without jobs, benefits and long-term healthcare, we have our integrity and each other. We are devastated to see our beloved place of work closed at the hands of such a coward and hope to continue working on the social and political issues we love and care so deeply for in the future.

With such accusations, some of FGM’s former clients [13] condemned the actions of FitzGibbon, whose actions were aimed at a total of (at least) thirteen women, 10 who were employees and 3 who were FGM clients. This is made worse by the fact, as PR Daily observed, according to FGM’s former website, “two-thirds of the 30 employees listed are female.” That’s a pretty strong case that FitzGibbon is creep, and definitely more of a creeper than Anakin Skywalker in Episode 2 of the Star Wars series in the way he acted toward Padme. With the end of FBM, which was in the process of expanding to a London office and had a new San Francisco office, with an office in L.A. adding a new employee named Naomi Seligman in 2010, one could say that FGM clients are at least partially responsible in covering up FitzGibbon’s abusive behavior.

Beyond this, the firm, which was described as “astroturf” by Tarzie, fulfilled this reality when Andy Stepanian with FGM spoke on behalf of Bree Newsome, a Black woman who took down the Confederate flag in front of the South Carolinan Statehouse, on June 27, 2015, a connection which Newsome didn’t even acknowledge as the hashtag of “#freebree” spreading across the twitterverse. [14] One article on a PR website, is most illuminating on this subject, noting that the firm

handled publicity for the removal by activists of the Confederate Battle Flag from the South Carolina Statehouse…Bree Newsome, who climbed the flagpole to take down the flag, said her group couldn’t wait any longer for the flag to go. She said, “It’s time for a new chapter where we are sincere about dismantling white supremacy and building toward true racial justice and equality.” The flag’s removal soared to the top of Twitter’s trending topics for most of June 2y…In its piece, CNN credited FitzGibbon Media, which represented Color of Change in the flag action, for reporting the event.

This use of FGM apparently to just “report” the event is troubling as it casts doubt on Newsome’s supposed radicalism. This troubling nature is enhanced by the fact that FGM promoted the event on their Tumblr, even reporting it originally for the first time on the same Tumblr, in a post where Newsome declares that “we removed the flag today because we can’t wait any longer. We can’t continue like this another day. It’s time for a new chapter where we are sincere about dismantling white supremacy and building toward true racial justice and equality.” This association with FGM throws doubt on Newsome herself, at least in my mind. This shows that FGM had a fundamental amount of power in social justice organizations, a number of which claimed to be grassroots. This is confirmed by an article in Style Weekly, noting that”Trevor FitzGibbon…knew for a week that the flag takedown was coming, but the exact time changed when capitol security showed up unexpectedly”with FitzGibbon hiring “the videographer, created the news release, trained people on the ground on how to deliver their message, and juggled the huge volume of media requests and appearances.” [15] Furthermore, the article says that FGM client Color of Change, “helped fund the effort,” with FGM getting “the first call whenever a huge progressive moment is about to happen anywhere in the country” engaging in pro-bono work for “leading organizations and public figures in the progressive world,” with staff sent to Ferguson after Michael Brown was shot  “to assess the situation and work with youth voices, friends of Michael Brown.” The article also said that “FitzGibbon visits Manning occasionally, runs her social media accounts.”

How does Manning connect to FGM? We know that in December 2015, when FitzGibbon was forced out and FGM closed, with Manning’s account tweeting that “the crisis at @fitzgibbonmedia is hardly a “distraction.” Dozens of people are hurt, humiliated, and traumatized =( My thoughts are w/ them.” The question remains, who wrote this tweet? Was it Manning or someone else? This may seem to be worthless question. As Tarzie wrote in April 2015, in post titled “Chelsea Manning is not on Twitter. Her PR Agency is,” it was noted that the official story is that “she’s dictating tweets over the phone to a representative.” Tarzie noted that Manning’s agency is FGM, which is an organization which he describes as specializing “in co-opting non-partisan dissent for the Democratic Party.” Tarzie notes that MoveOn is the model for “niche astroturf campaigns for a variety of left-liberal concerns” and that “a number of Fitzgibbon’s larger clients are in the same vein” along with FGM participating in “soft imperialism” with the Ford Foundation and Amnesty International as clients, which makes Manning’s connection weirder considering the relationship between FGM and Manning goes back to 2011 at least. Tarzie also writes that we can “take everything her astroturfing PR Agency tweets on her behalf or publishes under her name, very, very seriously” and that he has “no illusions of unearthing a deep dark secret.” There are also a number of articles in Newsweek, NBC News, and the New York Daily News that show FitzGibbon’s involvement with Manning’s account. [16] Newsweek wrote in April 2015 that Manning created her account “with the help of Fitzgibbon Media, a self-described global, progressive communications firm,” with the account then managed by a FGM employee, while NBC News said that FBM is “handling Manning’s account…posting messages she dictates by phone and telling her about the responses.” An article in the New York Daily News added that “the note [in which Manning said her account was genuine], written on Manning’s personal letterhead, arrived late last week in Trevor Fitzgibbon’s mailbox,” with the message appearing “on her account Thursday.” with Fitzgibbon “one of two people with the keys to the Twitter account.” [17]

On December 18th, after the demise of FGM, “the Sparrow Project,” lead by the former senior director of the firm, Andrew “Andy” Stepanian (as noted on his LinkedIn), said that Manning’s account was discussed and will be “handled.” The same day, a tweet came from Manning’s account announcing that “control of this account has temporarily been transferred to a volunteer associated w/ https://www.chelseamanning.org” (dead link) likely written by Stepanian himself. Even Chuckles or Charlie Davis, an aspiring member [18] of the reactionary “left,” noted FGM’s involvement, writing that

Though owed tens of thousands of dollars, Manning’s lawyers have not stopped working (the fund paid $10,000 toward its bill in March after receiving $10,636 in donations, or $9,412 after bank fees). The shortfall has led Manning herself to appeal for funds on her new Twitter account. Her posts are currently dictated over the phone from military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, to an employee of the public relations firm Fitzgibbon Media, according to a handwritten letter from Manning. That firm has been paid by the Chelsea Manning Support Network to promote Manning’s cause.

However, according to a resolute commenter, Mr. Kal Holmann, Glenn Greenwald said that FGM represented the Chelsea Manning Support Network for pro bono (it seems that many organizations were represented by FGM on a pro bono basis) because of the “rightness” of her cause. As I said in my comment, it remains to be seen if we should trust Greenwald’s account over that of Chuckles. Even so, it is undisputed, in both stories, that the Chelsea Manning Support Network was FGM client. Mr. Holmann also argued that while the relationship between Trevor FitzGibbon and Chelsea Manning, “remains of historical interest, it’s hardly pertinent to the left’s current concerns with Chelsea’s behavior.” I tend to disagree, as FGM had a pivotal role as a PR firm in progressive circles. At the present time, Manning likely does not have ties to the creep Trevor FitzGibbon, and neither do the progressives who rightfully left him in the dust when FGM closed down in December 2015. It is possible, however, that Manning has relationships with former FGM employees and may have some doing PR efforts for her, a possibility which isn’t out of the question. Now, back to the main article, my fellow readers.

With such involvement in promoting progressives, it is no surprise that the Venezuelan embassy in DC was given a “PR voice” by FGM, under a six-month contract with Trevor FitzGibbon and Suzanne Gilbert handling “Venezuela work” and reporting to “Maximillen Arvelaiz, charge d’affairs at the embassy” and another firm, Rasky Baerlein Strategic Communications also working for “Venezuela under a one-year contract worth $420K.” Before the LinkedIn for FGM disappears [19], I think its is important to fully quote what it says so it can be saved for future analysis:

FitzGibbon Media was founded a little over four years ago, uniting a staff of communications and campaign experts to create aggressive strategies that ensure non-profits, foundations, and progressive advocacy organizations break out, break through, and get noticed. FitzGibbon Media makes an impact in the US and abroad every single day. Our expertise and aggressive strategies ensure our clients’ actions, messages, and spokespersons are a dominant force in the news cycle. Our work is second to none.

It tells you that the connection of Manning and FitzGibbon plants her within the “left” reactionaries but also shows she is not only anti-revolutionary but has the company of creeps which is disturbing. FGM, along with George Soros’s Open Society, is willing to pull in progressives for their own motives, like the support for the group, Hands Up United. You could call it a progressive PR firm, but that inherently means that those it helps will not, in any way, be radical.

What happened to Christina C. DiPasquale, Nery Espinosa, Karen Scott, Suzie Gilbert, Yasmina Dardari, Tim Rusch, Al Thomson, Lucia Allain, Michele Setteducato, and Andy Stepanian, who all worked at FGM as of July 2015 (there are others who worked there in 2013, the next time the page was archived, in 2016, it was too late)? Well, Christina DiPasquale became the “founder and CEO of Balestra Media,” leading “strategic communications for progressive clients working on human rights projects.” It should be no surprise that Andy Stepanian is the creative director of Balestra Media (archived here), with the organization’s clients seeming to be some of same that were taken up by FGM:

  • National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) (partnered with other bourgeois “Latino” groups)
  • Global Witness (pushed along with millions of funding from Soros’s Open Society Foundations, with other money coming from the Norwegian, Danish, and Swedish governments, Omidyar Network, and Ford Foundation to name a few)
  • Stand With Congo (receiving support from varying partners, media organizations, and humanitarian imperialists like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International)
  • The Raben Group (a PR firm that works among “the LGBTQ community and communities of color” with philanthropic, corporate, and nonprofit clients. It is also where former FGM employee Nery Espinosa works)
  • Luminant Media (a “production and post-production company based in Venice, California” with a site that never loads)
  • AccessNow (a group which “defends and extends the digital rights of users at risk around the world,” a mission which is complicated by their funding from Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Cisco, to name a few)
  • NARAL Pro-Choice America (a group in favor of reproductive rights with millions of dollars of assets)
  • Chelsea Manning Legal Defense Fund (now defunct)
  • ACLU (A so-called “guardian of liberty…defend[ing] and preserv[ing]…the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States” but also sides with White supremacists and is incredibly liberal, not standing by radicals. It is funded by the Ford Foundation, Pierre and Pam Omidyar, and many other groups)
  • Fight for the Future ( a group that says it is fighting to “ensure that the web continues to hold freedom of expression and creativity at its core” but is funded by the Ford Foundation, Open Society Foundations, other foundations, and varying other funders)
  • Free Press (an organization which says it “fights for your rights to connect and communicate” but is funded by the Ford Foundation, and a host of others. Michele Setteducato, former FGM director of media relations, seemed to work for Free Press at least up to 2016 but not at the present)
  • University of New Hampshire Casey School for Public Policy (a school supported by the Ford Foundation, and Goldman Sachs, to name a few)
  • International Rescue Committee (IRC) (a group which says it “responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises and helps people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover, and gain control of their future.” It is funded by Pfizer, General Electric, Google.org, Ford Foundation, Citi Foundation, Chevron, Tides Foundation, and Microsoft to name a few)
  • EducationCities (a “national nonprofit network of 31 city-based organizations in 24 cities working to significantly increase the number of great public schools across the country” which is funded by the Gates Foundation, and Walton Family Foundation, among others)
  • Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) (a group which works with and educates “immigrants, community organizations, and the legal sector to continue to build a democratic society that values diversity and the rights of all people,” and is funded by some law firms and numerous other individuals)
  • Youth First Initiative (opposes juvenile incarceration, and has Andy Stepanian of The Sparrow Project as the head of creative direction for the organization. Those who fund this organization are not known)
  • Restoration Legal Arts (a “retreat, learning and action community for artists and ministers who are creating resources within today’s movements of liberation.” It has only two staff, a small board of directors, and two advising theologians. It is not known who funds this non-profit)

It seems evident that Global Witness, Stand With Congo, AccessNow, NARAL Pro-Choice America, ACLU, Fight for the Future, NHMC, Free Press, IRC, EducationCities, ILRC, and Youth First Initiative are not grassroots. They are all, basically astroturf. Others, like the Raben Group, Luminant Media, and University of New Hampshire Casey School for Public Policy have ties to bourgeois groups and corporate funders, but that is all that is known. Restoration Legal Arts may be tied to such groups as well. Chelsea Manning Legal Defense Fund/Chelsea Manning Support Network may have been grassroots originally but it received money from Glenn Greenwald, First Look Media (the overarching organization of Omidyar’s The Intercept which is a horrid place to work by all accounts), and Courage to Resist at least.

We know where Andy Stepanian, went, as noted earlier, but what about the others? It is not known what happened to Karen Scott, former Vice President of the Artist Action Team at FGM, and Al Thomson. For others, something is known. Tim Rusch, Senior Vice President & NYC office Co-Director seemed to work for the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United at one point (and before FGM, Demos). Suzie Gilbert who was in FGM’s London office seems to have stayed progressive and is still on Twitter. Yasmina Dardari, a FGM strategist, is seemingly working for Unbendable Media, after graduating from Columbia University. Lucia Allain, a “Dreamer” and immigration activist, is a blogger and National Media Coordinator for Movimento Cosecha.

This shows that the former FGM people are everywhere. So, be careful, comrades! Perhaps some of the former FGM employees can redeem themselves, but a good amount of them still stayed in PR-like work.

The Company Manning Keeps

It is worth briefly discussing the company that Manning keeps. Lets start with Glenn Greenwald.

While I think that I don’t even think writing a post criticizing Glenn Greenwald (dead link) is worth my while, a criticism is warranted. Back in 2010, when the Supreme Court decided in favor of corporations with the Citizens United decision, Greenwald supported the decision. As even Noam Chomsky said in an interview with Truthout, “…there are some civil libertarians like Glenn Greenwald who more or less supported it on free speech grounds. I don’t agree with it, but I can see the argument.” Specifically in an article in Salon titled “What the Supreme Court got right: It’s best for the government to stay out of the business of restricting political advocacy” Greenwald said that while he was “deeply ambivalent about the court’s ruling,” he claimed that “the Government is barred from restricting speech — especially political speech — no matter the good results that would result from the restrictions. That’s the price we pay for having the liberty of free speech” which he accepted as the norm, adding that “free speech rights burdened by campaign finance laws are often significantly under-stated” while further saying he understands and sympathizes “with the argument that corporations are creatures of the state and should not enjoy the same rights as individuals,” ringing his hands over these speech restrictions.Even if we agree that such restrictions are worthless, that doesn’t mean we should applaud this decision. In fact, we should condemn it.

This opinion connects with Greenwald’s support for a Supreme Court decision that overturned a law banning videos showing kittens being crushed to death for sexual satisfaction, with Randy Shields saying in response that

the inspiration for this piece was a tweet of Salon’s Glenn Greenwald where he defended the court’s decision. Screw you, Glenn Greenwald, and your lofty liberal white bread apologetics, which don’t mean shit in the real world of “crush” videos and capitalism.

Greenwald’s view is not surprising since he has gone to conferences of the CATO Institute and Socialism conferences, as noted on his twitter. Even Socialist Worker (a Trotskyist site) writer Kolponashokti-r Doinyo was critical of Greenwald standing beside two conservatives and not challenging them [20], writing that

… Glenn Greenwald took part in a college speaking tour sponsored by the Future of Freedom Foundation (FFF) and Young Americans for Liberty (a mouthpiece for Republican presidential contender Ron Paul) in early February…At the tour stop at Ohio State University in Columbus, the speakers talked at length about the infamous federal law called the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and the evils of the state having the power to detain citizens (and non-citizens) without the due process…All three panelists shared the belief that there are certain core principles which citizens should fight for irrespective of their professed political and ideological beliefs…Additionally, while words like “empire” and “imperialism” were thrown around to describe the U.S., there was no connection made between U.S. imperialism and the economics of capitalism. WHILE GREENWALD’S critique of Barack Obama for undermining civil liberties was correct, his decision to choose a platform provided by right-wing libertarians should be a matter of concern to people on the left. At the forum, he never raised any points of political difference that he might have with the libertarians, giving the impression that civil liberties issues trump all other political and social questions. In fact, he went so far as to say that the only person challenging the narrow political spectrum of the two-party system currently is Ron Paul, effectively showing support for him before the Republican primaries…For someone like Greenwald to speak on a platform provided by a right-wing libertarian organization connected to Ron Paul–and to speak highly of Paul without even hinting at political differences–while solely concentrating on the question of civil liberties does not reflect the political perspicacity that followers of his blog at Salon.com might expect.

Then there’s Chris Floyd who notes that Greenwald fits in with Ominyar’s reformism,   unlike Douglas Valentine who once said he’d give Greenwald and others a “free pass” for working with capitalist Omidyar, arguing that

Omidyar, who founded eBay and now owns PayPal, has recently become widely known — and universally lauded — for committing $250 million to fund First Look, a publishing group dedicated to adversarial journalism. He has assembled an all-star team for his venture, including Glenn Greenwald, Matt Taibbi, Jeremy Scahill, Marcy Wheeler and others of similar reputation. It is no exaggeration to say that he has become a bonafide hero of the left, which has tended to dismiss all criticism or questioning of his new enterprise, or his wider operations, as the grumbling of jealous losers — or even as covert actions of the State, trying to derail this dangerous new threat to elite rule…Indeed, even Greenwald calls only for “reforms” of the system, for “real oversight” of the National Security State by legislators — the same legislators bought, sold, cowed and dominated by Big Money. I honestly don’t think that the powers-that-be feel threatened by an enterprise set up by one of their number that confines itself to calls for “reform” from “within”…Omidyar’s goals are limited: to protect the privacy of the individual from government. This is a noble, worthy aim. But based on his own actions, he is perfectly content for that privacy-protected individual to advance a punishing neo-liberal agenda on the rest of the world, and at home, in collusion with the National Security State if need be. Whether Greenwald, Scahill, Taibbi, Wheeler and the rest are equally content with this agenda is something we will find out in the months to come.

There are other critiques as well, like those that criticize him for misstating the charges against Chelsea Manning, and Israel Shamir’s articles (see here and here) about The Guardian, Snowden, and him getting to Moscow.

Oh, and let’s not forget the Freedom of the Press Foundation which recently waged a campaign against Wikileaks and claiming that funding still flows when it really doesn’t.  As Trevor Timm, of the foundation declared, at the last board meeting in October 2017,

…a consensus arose that we could not find any evidence of an ongoing blockade involving PayPal, Visa, or Mastercard. We decided we would therefore formally notify WikiLeaks that unless they could demonstrate that a blockade was still in effect, we would no longer provide a mechanism for people to donate to them.

Of course, Micah Lee, of the organization is saying that Wikileaks is lying (and has an “army of twitter trolls“), and trying to say Assange is anti-Semetic.  As MintPress noted, the board of the organization voted “stop accepting U.S. donations for WikiLeaks,” claiming that “the financial blockade by the major payment processors is no longer in effect” and will not process any further payments to Wikileaks, as noted by the Washington Times. While Wikileaks is clearly libertarian in willing to hire that horrid Google engineer, they are right that the foundation was “substantially taken over by US oligarch Pierre Omidyar (Paypal/Ebay) cash and influence,” which once agreed with Wikileaks that there was a financial blockade! As one Wikileaks supporter put it, the answer for ending such donations lies “a man named Pierre Odiymar who is known for founding the site Ebay and for his board position at PayPal, and also created the Intercept news organization,” further writing that

…Up until a few months ago, the Intercept’s funding was public which showed financial resources coming from Pierre Omidyar’s NASDAQ securities. Removing this, is simply a publicity stunt in order that Omidyar can distance himself from the Intercept and appear to have no influence on its journalists…The only reason for dropping support of Wikileaks is purely political in nature and may very well be instrumented by the Clintons themselves…Recently, Micah F Lee has slandered the editor of Wikileaks on Twitter and is currently trying to smear his reputation. This also is included in the “Wikileaks Threat”…The biggest critics in 2010 of the Wikileaks bank blockade are now funded by none other than Pierre himself as seen in the chart below. This is an obvious attempt to silence the critics that are against his Wikileaks agenda…Needless to say, this dropping of funds by FPF should make patrons stronger in their support of this persecuted institute that has never been wrong in 11 years.

It seems that to some extent, Wikileaks has come around to the view of Tarzie, tweeting out one of his articles earlier this year.


Notes

[1] Articles/posts by Tarzie: Greenwald on Chomsky and Staying In the Mainstream Without Compromise, Citizenfour’s Astonishing Revelation: Greenwald is a “useless” “careerist” “boob”, Greenwald’s Free Speech Absolutism and Twitter’s Foley Ban, Do Glenn Greenwald And His Fans Really Care More Than You?, Greenwald’s Fireworks Finale Postponed, Sy Hersh is an Intel Asset and Therefore No Gary Webb, Snowden Lays an Egg, a Statue Grows in Brooklyn and Manning Wins a Round, and Cornel West’s Impermissible Opinions. Bill McKibben, a primer environmental activist who is part of the former FGM client, 350.org, promotes the New York Times on a regular basis. More importantly, 350.org celebrating that the New York Times featured the march on their front cover with a cover story, despite some saying the Times’s coverage was “pitiful.” This is laughable considering, looking at the Times’s own stats, their readers are “educated, affluent and influential” with over 85% with a college degree, and readers earning more than $75,000, with a median net worth of over $156,000. Hence, those that read the Times aren’t normal people, but are those that are affluent. That’s who their protests are supposedly reaching but likely not challenging in a fundamental way.

[2] Matt Vella, “Universal Basic Income: A Utopian Idea Whose Time May Finally Have Arrived,” Time, April 13, 2017; Eduardo Porter, “A Universal Basic Income Is a Poor Tool to Fight Poverty,” New York Times, May 31, 2016; Chris Weller, “Mark Zuckerberg doubles down on universal basic income after a trip to Alaska,” Business Insider, Jul 5, 2017; Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN), “History of basic income,” accessed February 2, 2018; Issie Lapowsky, “Free Money: The Surprising Effects of a Basic Income Supplied by Government,” Wired, Nov 15, 2017.

[3] Eduardo Porter, “A Universal Basic Income Is a Poor Tool to Fight Poverty,” New York Times, May 31, 2016; Lauren Thomas, “Universal basic income debate sharpens as observers grasp for solutions to inequality,” CNBC, Mar 25, 2017.

[4] Lauren Thomas, “Universal basic income debate sharpens as observers grasp for solutions to inequality,” CNBC, Mar 25, 2017; Jon Henley, “Money for nothing: is Finland’s universal basic income trial too good to be true?,” The Guardian, Jan 12, 2018, writing for “the inequality project,” a part of the Guardian supported by the Ford Foundation; Aditya Chakrabortty, “A basic income for everyone? Yes, Finland shows it really can work,” The Guardian, Oct 31, 2017. UBI was rejected in Switzerland by voters.

[5] Lauren Thomas, “Universal basic income debate sharpens as observers grasp for solutions to inequality,” CNBC, Mar 25, 2017; Eduardo Porter, “A Universal Basic Income Is a Poor Tool to Fight Poverty,” New York Times, May 31, 2016; Michelle Chen, “Could a Universal Basic Income Work in the US?,” The Nation, August 15, 2017; Christine Emba, “Universal basic income,” Washington Post opinion, September 28, 2015; Andrew Flowers, “What Would Happen If We Just Gave People Money?,” Five Thirty Eight, Apr 25, 2016; Aditya Chakrabortty, “A basic income for everyone? Yes, Finland shows it really can work,” The Guardian, Oct 31, 2017; Ellie Mae O’Hagan, “Love the idea of a universal basic income? Be careful what you wish for,” The Guardian, Jun 23, 2017; Scott Santens, “Why Should We Support the Idea of Universal Basic Income?,” HuffPost, Jun 26, 2015; Frances Coppola, “The IMF Gives A Cautious Welcome To Universal Basic Income,” Forbes, Oct 15, 2017.

[6] Lauren Thomas, “Universal basic income debate sharpens as observers grasp for solutions to inequality,” CNBC, Mar 25, 2017; Andrew Flowers, “What Would Happen If We Just Gave People Money?,” Five Thirty Eight, Apr 25, 2016; Ellie Mae O’Hagan, “Love the idea of a universal basic income? Be careful what you wish for,” The Guardian, Jun 23, 2017.

[7] Yuval Noah Harari, “Universal Basic Income Is Neither Universal Nor Basic,” Bloomberg View, Jun 4, 2017.

[8] Scott Santens, “Why Should We Support the Idea of Universal Basic Income?,” HuffPost, Jun 26, 2015; Sebastian Johnson, senior associate with Freedman Consulting, LLC, “The case for a universal basic income,” LA Times Opinion, Jun 29, 2017; Keri Leight Merritt, “Why We Need a Universal Basic Income,” Common Dreams, Sept 17, 2017.

[9] “The Growing Need for a Universal Basic Income,” Universal Basic Income, accessed Feb 2, 2018; David Z. Morris, “Universal Basic Income Could Grow the U.S. Economy by an Extra 12.5%,” Fortune, Sept 3, 2017; Matt Oraflea, “Why Milton Friedman Supported a Guaranteed Income (5 Reasons),” Medium, Dec 11, 2015; Robert Reich, “Why We’ll Need a Universal Basic Income,” Sept 29, 2016.

[10] Daniel Zamora, “The Case Against a Basic Income,” Jacobin, Dec 2017.

[11] The tabloid publication the Daily Mail declared that “the head of a major PR firm has shut down his business after ‘an avalanche’ of sexual harassment claims from female workers” and Tom Blumer in the right-leaning Newsbusters declared that here was the “virtually complete lack of establishment press interest in the story…the establishment press did virtually nothing with the story.” Another right-wing publication, the Washington Times, declared laughably that “the Left loves to claim moral superiority over the Right when it comes to women…Perhaps the reason progressives think women in America are so oppressed is that they are treated unfairly in liberal spaces” but correctly that we should “not excuse progressives for bad behavior.” Even Michelle Malkin’s Twitchy weighed in, saying “bad news for Dems indeed as FitzGibbon Media…abruptly shut its doors yesterday…In the past, the firm was criticized for taking money from the Venezuelan government for PR work…How about allowing women at liberal PR firms to carry guns? Sounds like that’s what’s needed, and pronto.” Other sites such as the New York Post, Mashable, Fortune, Variety, Talking Points Memo, Daily Kos, RH Reality Check,Feministing, Ad Week, Jezebel, and Al Jazeera America, among others, had their respective articles as well.

[12] Amanda Terkel, Ryan Grim, and Sam Stein, “The Disturbing Story Of Widespread Sexual Assault Allegations At A Major Progressive PR Firm,” HuffPost, Dec 9, 2015;Amanda Terkel, “It Took Just One Woman Breaking Her Silence On Sexual Harassment To Take Down A Top Progressive PR Boss,” HuffPost, Dec 18, 2015; Amanda Terkel, Ryan Grim, and Daniel Marans, “FitzGibbon Media May Be Gone, But Staffers And Progressive Groups Are Rallying To Launch A New Version,” HuffPost, Dec 19, 2015; Emily Crockett, “FitzGibbon Media and the problem of sexual harassment in the progressive movement,” Vox, Dec 21, 2015; Ed Pilkington, “FitzGibbon Media sexual assault claims: alleged victims feared retribution,” The Guardian, Dec 19, 2015; Michelle Goldberg, “The Nice Guy Fallacy,” Slate, Dec 21, 2015; Marisa Kabas, “Alleged sexual assault victims describe working for Trevor FitzGibbon: ‘Every time I saw him, I feared him’,” The Daily Dot, Dec 18, 2015.

[13] The statements of numerous FGM clients were pretty similar, declaring that: “every allegation of sexual misconduct must be given the attention and seriousness it deserves” (AFL-CIO), “we admire the courage of the women who have come forward” about sexual harassment (Moms Rising), we are “shocked and outraged to hear of the alleged sexual misconduct of the President of FitzGibbon Media” (V-Day), “sexual harassment must be taken seriously and it has no place in the progressive movement or anywhere else” (Ultraviolet), “we are distressed and saddened by the alleged misconduct of the FitzGibbon Media president” (NARAL Pro-Choice America), and “we’re shocked and dismayed by the allegations of sexual assault and harassment at FitzGibbon Media” (MoveOn). Even the notoriously pro-Democratic Party joke of an organization, Working Families, said they were “stunned at the allegations of sexual harassment and assault” at FGM and that they “stand firmly with the staff who courageously spoke out.”

[14] Julia Jacobo, “Activist arrested after taking down Confederate Flag at S.C. Capitol grounds,” WPIX, June 27, 2015; CNN Wire, “NC woman climbs pole, takes down Confederate flag outside SC Capitol,” reprinted in Fox 8, Jun 27, 2015.

[15] Brent Baldwin, “The Fire Starter,” Style Weekly, Aug 18, 2015.

[16] NBC News, “Chelsea Manning Joins Twitter From Prison,” Apr 3, 2015; Nicole Hensley, “Whistleblower Chelsea Manning confronts Twitter account naysayers in prison letter,” New York Daily News, Apr 16, 2015; Lauren Walker, “Chelsea Manning, Leaker of Classified Information, Tweets From Prison,” Newsweek, Apr 6, 2015.

[17] Some of the tweets from the account included articles from The New Yorker (likely quoting FitzGibbon), USA Today implying that Snowden was a client of FGM. The latter is indicated by Snowden’s endorsement of DeRay’s proposals, promotion of the “Snowden Treaty” (see here and here) which was conceived, apparently, by Glenn Greenwald’s partner David Miranda. The homepage of the Snowden Treaty shows that some of the “partners” of the Snowden Treaty are the usual suspects, such as Glenn Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill, and Laura Poitras, to name a few. This is even more worrisome when the “description” of the Treaty literally describes nothing other than what the Treaty is supposed to do on a website that also almost no substance. It is also important to note that the Treaty was burst out of thin air in September of last year. FitzGibbon also promoted Chris Hedges (along with other clients) congratulated Chris Hayes on an Emmy, trolling about the Black Panthers, which he definitely wouldn’t support if they were around today, a rash of tweets which imply that CEPR, Color of Change, Hands Up United, and the nebulous “people’s climate” march are clients. There is also a connection between the later Michael Rattner of the Center for Constitutional Rights to FitzGibbon, with both promoting the sign “Jesus Loves Wikileaks” which may come from a guy named Sean Anderson or a number of other sources. It is worth mentioning because Rattner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Real News Network. This matters to FitzGibbon because CCR has legally represented/advised Wikileaks in the past, and Wikileaks, as noted earlier, was a FGM client. The FGM tumblr which seems to be taken over by former FGM employees, does note that FGM promoted the Google Impact Challenge, some Kansas juvenile justice organization (Kansans United for Youth Justice), served as a place for Hands Up United to publish a press release, and so on. Other posts are about a farm sanctuary (likely this is related), the black panthers, “blacktwitter,” mic.com, the Youth First Initiative, The Intercept (also see here and here), the “wear orange” campaign (see here and here), Obama, Baltimore United for Change (also see here), presente.org, black spring, White House, Kwame Rose, Nirbhaya (see here, here, and here), Chelsea Manning, and so on. FGM seemed to serve as astroturf, which is, as SourceWatch describes it, “apparently grassroots-based citizen groups or coalitions that are primarily conceived, created and/or funded by corporations, industry trade associations, political interests or public relations firms.” In days future, it is likely that this will continue under the purview of a new PR organization which serves the purpose as the old FGM. While PR is a staple of the media landscape and social justice circles, perhaps it is time to move beyond organizations and peoples in the PR industry. This means that the existing PR tactics which constitute a form of propaganda, should be critiqued, challenged, and opposed with a form of counter-propaganda which promotes radical anti-capitalist goals to improve American society and global society. It’s worth a try.

[18] Charles (Charlie) Davis or “Chuckles” has many laughable ideas. Take for example a piece on Telesur English‘s website by Chuckles (a Telesur editor) on the “humanitarian crisis” in Yemen as a result of Saudi bombing of the country. He argues that there has been mass destruction with fighting between coalition forces and Houthi rebels “aligned with the country’s former dictator, Ali Abdullah Saleh” (they are not),” saying that the only solution is the grounding of the “airforce responsible for so much destruction in Yemen by imposing a no-fly zone—and it can and should do so unilaterally.” He further adds that this is needed due to a failed peace process, citing humanitarian imperialist Amnesty International, claims that a “Saudi-led coalition” is bombing Yemen (no, it is U$-led), mocks anti-imperialists (“You Yankee imperialist pig-dog. I knew to what end all this performative ‘caring’ would ultimately lead: ‘Humanitarian’ war crimes on behalf of your Anglo-Zionist paymasters at the World Bank and Major League Soccer, which has been trying to infiltrate the Yemeni market for years”), and calling for U$ aircraft in Yemen’s skies, but not dropping bombs? He further says there should be “cease-fire, perhaps, by depriving an arson of more firepower,” grounding the “Saudi air force by refusing to restock it with weapons and spare parts,” imposing a ““no-fly zone” unilaterally without even offending the world’s multilateral organizations, saving lives and its own duplicitous face by ceasing to continue what it’s done so far.” While some may think this is ok, it is still a response allowing for anti-imperialism. Yemen should solve its own problems, meaning that the murderous empire should pull all support for Saudi Arabia without a question. With all this, Chuckles was clearly being smug, and it was more silly than anything else, utter nonsense. In some twitter exchanges with him, he claimed he wasn’t calling for a no-fly-zone even though that was part of his silly plan! If this wasn’t enough, Chuckles engaged in Chucklesplaining, which one could describe as a derivative of what some have called “mansplaining.” Beyond this, he is just like Proyect who calls out “Assadists”: he seemed to say that it is absurd that “the U.S. government would conspire to preserve the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad” as proposed by Sy Hersh, who has his own problems, but then said that this is the reality! If this wasn’t enough, he scoffed at the idea of “a U.S-Israeli plot to effect regime change,” claiming that the Obama administration’s “train-and-equip program for rebels was explicitly directed at the Islamic State” not the Syrian government which doesn’t even make sense,claiming that Assad is an “Israeli-preferred fascist” (which also isn’t true), and ringed his hands about “apologism for mass murder.” This is no surprise considering his other deluded views, including but not limited to acting like Wikileaks is in tandem with Putin. This aligns with his anger at Russia, basically calling them “imperialist,” hating those who point out that sanctions on Syria are utterly murderous, believing foolishly in the Russia conspiracy, along with some other absurd opinions (also see here, here, and here), calling Soviet Russia “imperialist,” and saying that the Workers World Party is a “delegation of old crackpot commies” because they back people he doesn’t like (whom he calls “dictators,” in keeping with imperialist propaganda), ending up thinking that the Trotskyists are more reasonable, of course. And this is only a sampling of what he is wrote! Lest us forget that even though there was a Chuckles story about NSA spying in Venezuela, his buddy, Glenn Greenwald, wrote about this in O Globo in 2013! There has been something deeper: work for Russell Brand as even a simple search of the internet confirms. The love of Brand as noted in other tweets was later over. Elsewhere, Chuckles doesn’t even stop to consider that the US government is pushing prosecution and other measures in an attempt to nab Assange, not once. The best refutation of Chuckles’s points is the agreed statement of facts which one twitter user shared in this exchange. There are also a number of things which should also be of note. One of these things is Google plus. However, more important is Chuckles’s LinkedIn (version is archived here) To me, what this shows is that Chuckles has become a mainstay in progressive movements, and easily meshes with liberal propaganda outlets like Salon whose main duty, as it will, it to counter right-wing propaganda outlets. The fact that he worked for places like Vice, FX, Michael Moore, and Change.org without shame is telling. Need I say more?

[19] There are a number of other webpages on Idealist, Foursquare, Vimeo, and Flickr.

[20] Kolponashokti-r Doinyo, “Sharing a platform with right-wingers,” Socialist Worker, Mar 6, 2012.

Imperial machinations, Mnangagwa, and gleeful capitalists

This is a graphic I created on 12/13/2017, and revised on 12/14/2017, to represent the continuing counter-revolution in Zimbabwe since Mugabe’s resignation on Nov 21 and Mnangagwa’s ascendancy the next day thanks to the ZDF’s coup d’état.

Originally published on the Leftist Critic blog on Dec. 14, 2017.

The counter-revolution of President Mnangagwa in Zimbabwe continues afoot. The Zimbabwean Communist Party, as I noted previously, is no help, so the Zimbabwean proletariat are on their own as the gains of the Black nationalist ruling party, the Zanu-PF, albeit limited by the fact that they originally accepted neocolonialism before the late 1990s as noted before, are being chipped away.

Recent Developments

Recently, on the same day that the Politburo of the Zanu-PF met, the royalty for platinum mining was slashed so that “all platinum group companies to reserve significant amounts of capital for reinvestment,” to help the bourgeoisie in that business, along with likely attracting other mining companies not native to the country, including those from the West. Again, this helps the capitalist class much more than the proletariat in Zimbabwe. If that isn’t enough, the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) agreed to provide $1.5 billion for Zimbabwe’s economy in order to “meet the forex requirement for productive foreign payments” and support the “productive sector through banks and the mining sector, especially the gold sector, as well as the retooling of the manufacturing sector, among other industries.” This leaves the country, I would argue, further open to exploitation by other forces.

The ZDF (Zimbabwe Defense Force) again re-iterated the need for “calm,” basically saying that they will not be used to settle personal scores between Zanu-PF members. They also seem to want to tamp down any opposition to their moves going forward, which will come and is likely there.

The MDC was criticized by The Herald for its foray to the murderous empire. The latter publication, which has widely taken the side of the coup plotters and the imperialist sect of the Zanu-PF, declared that the MDC alliance, part of the Western puppet “opposition” is basically “campaigning for Zimbabwe’s continued isolation, despite recent developments and popular change of Government witnessed recently.” They added by saying that the MDC “has always been associated with the West” and sponsored by them in “fruitless bid to unseat former President Mugabe for the “crime” of undertaking the land reform programme.” However, they claim that Mugabe’s removal “set Zimbabwe on a historic transition process” while noting that the MDC wants to convince “the Western community to maintain frosty relations with Zimbabwe” and saying that they “expected better in a new post-Mugabe as era; there is more than enough room to talk among Zimbabweans.” This may indicate that this “counter-revolution” will involve the Zanu-PF staying in power while the Western puppet opposition is rightfully marginalized as they should have no real importance in Zimbabwe’s politics. However, the government could easily turn and work with the Western puppet opposition, however.

In terms of the land program, there seemed to be a recent development. The government ordered “illegally resettled farmers to vacate the land immediately or face the wrath of the law,” saying that the “Zimbabwe Land Commission shall be seized with the responsibility of settling land disputes emanating from resettled farmers and shall report to the Minister from time to time.” This seems to limit the land redistribution program to an extent while it tries to imply that there was corruption when the government, with Mugabe as the President, was involved in the land redistribution program. This development follows the Bankers Association of Zimbabwe (BAZ) saying they will “now accept 99-year leases that were given to resettled farmers by Government as collateral for bank loan,” while the new government has “stressed that it will not be fickle and will stick to its policies to maintain certainty and predictability to attract investment in the economy.” It seems that the government is willing to intervene in the economy but is hard to say this is benefiting the proletariat, as its efforts to boost maize yields was done in part because of an assessment based on “the World Bank’s Enabling the Business of Agriculture (EBA) indicators.” Likely such efforts will help the bourgeoisie instead since the World Bank is one of the institutions which maintains the international capitalist economy.

Additionally, as Mnangagwa appoints a new head of Zimbabwe’s intelligence service, a new VP shortly (as some reports seem to indicate) reassigns permanent secretaries, there are considerations to raise the retirement age by five years (from 60 to 65) among civil service in Zimbabwe, if I understand that correctly. Additionally, the 2018 Budget does much more: a higher rate on spot betting, an “export tax of 5% on the gross value of exported lithium” imposed, a “zero tolerance on land barons,” amending the  Indigenisation and Empowerment Act, implemented by April 2018, that “diamonds and platinum are the only sub-sectors designated as ‘extractive’” with the “51/49 Indigenisation threshold [confined] to only the two minerals” and not to the “rest of the extractive sector, nor…the other sectors of the economy, which will be open to any investor regardless of nationality.” Furthermore, this law would allow entrance into the “reserved sector,” which is “only for Zimbabwean citizens” if a the business “creates employment…seek[s] to attract both local and foreign investments,” among other aspects. The budget also declares that “State Enterprises that exhibit potential will be reformed, while those which cannot be rehabilitated will be privatised or face outright closure,” abolishing “the Youth Officer posts under the Ministry of Youth, Indigenisation & Empowerment,” transferring it to another role, and limiting the civil service.If that isn’t enough, the government, as of January 2018, will “retire staff above the age of 65” and convince them to be petty bourgeoisie. It also includes adopting “fiscal anchors” which cap “budget deficits below 3%,” limit public debt, reduce spending on Infrastructure “by re-directing substantial resources towards capital development priorities,” and sticking to “…agreed Cabinet policy positions that entail pain and sacrifice.” If that isn’t enough, the budget says that “money creation, through domestic money market instruments which do not match with available foreign currency, only serves to weaken the value of the same instruments” and adding that the “new economic order” includes restored discipline “supported by political will in dealing with the following…Re-engagement with the International Community; Stimulating Production, and Exporting; Creation of Jobs, as well as a credible 2018 election.”

The 256-page 2018 Budget Statement, which includes financial audits of all civil servants, is basically another step in the counter-revolution, a declaration of war on the Zimbabwean proletariat as the policies have a capitalist ring to them. It is, as The Herald put it (in a supportive way, but can also be seen negatively), the beginning of an “economic cleansing” rather than just a “revival.” Clearly Mnangagwa is agreeing with commentators like Tinashe Eric Muzamhindo who serve the bourgeoisie with their words which are like a knife stabbed into the heart of the Zimbabwean proletariat.

As the Extraordinary Congress of the Zanu-PF is set to meet, with the goal “unity in the party,” it is expected to “endorse the recalling of former President Robert Mugabe and the installation of President Mnangagwa as the First Secretary and President by the Central Committee on November 19” while also expected to “uphold the decision by the Central Committee to expel G40 cabal members,” including Grace Mugabe who was attacked in an undoubtedly misogynist way, and also possibly bring back “all Central Committee members elected at the 2014 Congress but suspended or expelled from the party subsequent to the Congress on the basis of fictitious or fabricated allegations by the G40 cabal be reinstated.” The coup will then be fully legitimized and the counter-revolution affirmed by the Zanu-PF itself!

Machinations by the imperialists

Apart from a brief interruption in internet service in Zimbabwe, possibly caused by imperial machinations (or possibly not), imperialists are salivating without end. As I noted in a recent post on a radical subreddit, Zimbabwe is undoubtedly in a “bad situation.” A law recently signed by the orange menace (Trump) declares that the US will stand against “any extension by the respective institution of any loan or grant to the Government of Zimbabwe, except to meet basic human needs or to promote democracy,” unless the rule of law has returned, including “respect for ownership and title to property, and freedoms of expression, association, and assembly.” The law adds that funds may be available for “health and education,” and possibly even for “macroeconomic growth assistance” if the U$ thinks the government “is implementing transparent fiscal policies, including public disclosure of revenues from the extraction of natural resources.” This basically means that the imperial machinations in Zimbabwe will continue, that the US still wants land redistribution removed (as in the part about “property”), wants a place for the MDC hucksters, and wants an in within the market of Zimbabwe.

In the post cited in the previous paragraph I also noted a Senate hearing for a subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Subcommittee to unilaterally determine Zimbabwe’s “future.” The participants had varied views.Stephanie Sullivan, Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, declared that the coup offers an  “opportunity for reform that could allow the United States to re-engage in ways we have not recently been able to do,” said that they want the Western puppet’s opposition to have a voice “in charting a path forward” and saying that the U.S. capitalist class is “eager for improvements in the [Zimbabwean] business climate that will encourage them to invest and trade” and sees “promise in agriculture, tourism, energy, and mining.” Then the MDC Alliance representative, Tendai Biti, declared that Zimbabwe’s future was uncertain but has an opportunity for “reconstructing, rebuilding and re- fabricating a new Zimbabwean story, and a new Zimbabwean society,” declaring that the country needs “a genuine break from its tortured past…[creating] a just and prosperous society” where citizens can “pursue life, liberty, and happiness,” the Western bourgeois values in politics. He also said that there should be “political and institutional reforms” along with “major economic reforms that focus on restoring livelihoods, growing a shared economy” which includes “a commitment to real transformation other than cosmetic statements on the economy.” He feared that Zimbabwe would “pursue a Beijing model, in the respect of which there are nominal improvements on the economy while political space is closed and democracy is muzzled” while adding that Zimbabwe should not be “forgotten in our battle against tyranny and poverty and for democracy and human rights” and that once Zimbabwe shows “signs of an irrevocable and irreversible trajectory towards legitimacy, democracy, and the rule of law, we [Zimbabwe] shall require your full support as we re-engage key international institutions.”

There were two other guests. One of them was Dewa Mavhinga, the Southern Africa Director for Human Rights Watch (HRW). He did accurately describe the ZDF’s role in the coup, but he obviously cited with the imperialists by saying that ” re-engagement with the Zimbabwean government should be based on a firm commitment” of measures that “ensure tangible and long overdue democratic and electoral reforms…a clear roadmap for democratic elections.” In the meantime what does HRW want? Continuation of “existing US policy toward Zimbabwe until the military removes itself from politics and the 2018 elections are legitimately assessed to be peaceful, transparent, free and fair,” basically meaning that the murderous sanctions will continue. Finally there was the view of a Mugabe-hating “journalist” named Peter Godwin, who was more skeptical of all. He claimed that Mnangagwa will “entice his own people and the world with a ‘reformist stance’,” working to re-brand the Zanu-PF but in actuality all of his “promises don’t stand up to scrutiny.” He also added that “opposition fragmentation is enormously beneficial to Zanu-PF, allowing them a real possibility of winning at the polls,” arguing that the Western puppet opposition needs “to unify or at least broker alliances or electoral pacts.” Again, the same strategy is trotted out by the imperialists.

Looking forward

Zimbabwe seems on the road to ruin. It will intensify the “exploitative relation between the owners of the means of production…and the producers of value” with “production of knowledge…directed towards profit” even more than in the past, with “tension between the underlying forces of competition and monopoly” as Michael Roberts put it recently. As Roberts further added that “rise of intangibles means the increased concentration and centralisation of capital” and ended by saying that “capital without capitalism becomes a socialist imperative. Furthermore, let us recognize that there are no “progressive radicals” in Zimbabwe anymore. Michael Parenti, the radical scholar everyone should listen to rather than establishment “radical” Noam Chomsky, defined this term in an interview back in 2015

A progressive radical is someone who supports democratic political procedures rather than moneyed-driven ones, much needed human services, public ownership of education, utilities, industrial production, and most financing, while opposing big corporate power and global imperialism.

There is no one like that in Zimbabwean politics. In fact Mnangagwa and his cronies want to privatize government entities, reducing public ownership, and seem willing to work with the imperial West to “improve” their country. That will undoubtedly lead to further exploitation! There is no doubt of that.

Those in the murderous empire seem to be playing a “wait and see” game, with many citing the event “committed by the North-Korean trained fifth brigade in the Matabeleland and Midlands regions in the 1980’s, also referred to as Gukurahundi,” saying that Mnangagwa was involved, with Chris Coons declaring that its “critical that the people of Zimbabwe not see one dictator replaced by another and so for one I am reluctant to see us take any steps to lighten or relieve sanctions or other international restrictions on loans or partnerships until we see…concrete steps.” Other reports say that the empire is “cautiously considering re-engaging Zimbabwe, following the resignation of former President Robert Mugabe,” seeing a possibly window of opportunity. A “peace campaign” won’t stop the empire from coming in and bringing in all the corporate brands that those living inside the beast have grown to hate. At this point, let us not forget the contributions of comrade Robert Gabriel Mugabe who originally embraced neo-colonialism but ultimately led the country to one that allied with Chinese social-imperialists and was strongly anti-imperialist, supporting independence for Western Sahara and Palestine for example. No one should forget him and his contributions, which the current government seems intent on erasing without a doubt.

Then there is the role of China. One commentary recently asserted that “Zimbabwe’s economic and political ties to China could prove decisive for Africa’s perpetual underdog” and added that “more Chinese money is flowing to Zimbabwe as well” with it also noted that “China has been a partner to Africa when many Western investors preferred to stay away.” What will China’s role be? Well, they seem to be willing to keep their investments in the country and would be glad to have more “business-friendly” conditions to benefit Chinese companies. Again, this would not make Zimbabwe a Chinese colony, as those deluded commentators in the West assert, but it would show that both countries have embraced capitalism without a doubt, and that both have a developed bourgeoisie.

In other news, the relations with Botswana seem to be on upswing. This is disturbing because, as I noted on Reddit, Botswana hated Mugabe, supporting the Western puppet opposition, with suggestions they are imperial puppets of the murderous empire. A new memorandum of understanding is coming soon with Botswana, which hailed the new government. This seems to indicate that Zimbabwe could be further corrupted by imperial machinations without a doubt.

The future forward for Zimbabwe is unclear. Frantz Fanon wrote back in 1961, in the Wretched of the Earth, about how the “national bourgeoisie of under-developed countries is not engaged in production, nor in invention, nor building, nor labour; it is completely canalized into activities of the intermediary type” saying that their “psychology…is that of the businessman, not that of a captain of industry” while adding that “from now on it will insist that all the big foreign companies should pass through its hands, whether these companies wish to keep on their connexions with the country, or to open it up” and that the “national bourgeoisie will be quite content with the role of the Western bourgeoisie’s business agent, and it will play its part without any complexes in a most dignified manner.” He added that when the national bourgeoisie within an “under-developed” country is strong, it can “arrange everything and everybody to serve its power” and said that there must be “very exceptional circumstances if such a bourgeoisie…is forced into denying its own humanist ideology” while the Western bourgeoisie is racist but works to mask such racism. He also wrote that

…The national bourgeoisie turns its back more and more on the interior and on the real facts of its undeveloped country, and tends to look towards the former mother country and the foreign capitalists who count on its obliging compliance…The bourgeois dictatorship of under-developed countries draws its strength from the existence of a leader…in spite of his frequently honest conduct and his sincere declarations, the leader as seen objectively is the fierce defender of these interests, today combined, of the national bourgeoisie and the ex-colonial companies…the national bourgeoisie of under-developed countries is incapable of carrying out any mission whatever…The party, a true instrument of power in the hands of the bourgeoisie, reinforces the machine, and ensures that the people are hemmed in and immobilized…In under-developed countries, the bourgeoisie should not be allowed to find the conditions necessary for its existence and its growth. In other words, the combined effort of the masses led by a party and of intellectuals who are highly conscious and armed with revolutionary principles ought to bar the way to this useless and harmful middle class…In the colonized territories, the bourgeois caste draws its strength after independence chiefly from agreements reached with the former colonial power

While Fanon was talking about the development of independent nations in Africa, after their liberation wars against “colonial domination,” what he writes about the national bourgeoisie can easily apply to the Black bourgeoisie in Zimbabwe which seems to be happy and gleeful to work with the West while still wanting to defend their own interests.

With this counter-revolution, the Europeans who “robbed the continent of vast riches and inflicted unimaginable suffering on the African people” will be back to do what did they in Zimbabwe for over 70 years, mainly by the British imperialists like Cecil Rhodes. The European imperialists will exploit the proletariat and peasantry with a “modern flair,” followed by the gung-ho imperialists from the murderous empire. Neo-colonialism, the most dangerous form of imperialism as Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana called it, will be back “in style” as Zimbabweans continue to toil.

As Amilcar Cabral of Guinea-Bissau put it in 1964, “whether we wish it or not, we are fighting against imperialism, which is the basis of colonialism, in every form.” Apart from following this advice, we should be worried about Zimbabwe’s future trajectory as it seems to invalidate  liberation of Africa from world imperialism, which was fought for so many years ago with vigor, determination, and good cause for a better world free of capitalism, but seems to be slipping away with counter-revolutions like this one in Zimbabwe. To end this post, Fanon’s words on the future path for liberation and independence are an instructive reminder of where our thoughts should go in the days forward:

We must shake off the heavy darkness in which we were plunged, and leave it behind…We today can do everything, so long as we do not imitate Europe, so long as we are not obsessed by the desire to catch up with Europe…European achievements, European techniques and the European style ought no longer to tempt us and to throw us off our balance…Let us decide not to imitate Europe; let us combine our muscles and our brains in a new direction…a former European colony decided to catch up with Europe…[this was the] United States of America [which] became a monster, in which the taints, the sickness and the inhumanity of Europe have grown to appalling dimensions…Comrades, let us flee from this motionless movement where gradually dialectic is changing into the logic of equilibrium. Let us reconsider the question of mankind…The Third World today faces Europe like a colossal mass whose aim should be to try to resolve the problems to which Europe has not been able to find the answers…So, comrades, let us not pay tribute to Europe by creating states, institutions and societies which draw their inspiration from her…If we wish to live up to our peoples’ expectations, we must seek the response elsewhere than in Europe…For Europe, for ourselves and for humanity, comrades, we must turn over a new leaf, we must work out new concepts, and try to set afoot a new man.

A profile of the Zimbabwean Communist Party

Originally published on the Leftist Critic blog on Dec. 8, 2017.

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

There have been varied musings on radical subreddits, like /r/communism on the Zimbabwean Communist Party (ZCP), in recent days. Some have said that the party is “not significant and had no role in the land reform and subsequent turn against imperialism” and that the “reactionary nature of this event [the coup, an intra-party struggle within the Zanu-PF] is clear.” Others have said that “the ZCP ally themselves with the ANC” and some added that “our Zimbabwean comrades are not well versed in the National situation of SA, and by extension the correct or incorrectness of their communist party.” Some have also noted that “this party has only been functioning for 6 months.” This article aims to summarize what we now know about the ZCP.

The Secretary of the party was part of the MDC?

An article on Bulawayo 24 notes that “Ngqabutho Nicholas Mabhena based in South Africa has resigned from the MDC…after the formation of their new political party Zimbabwe Communist Party in which he is now the secretary general.” It quotes a Facebook post, this past May, where he explained himself:

As l sat on the bus from Bulawayo to Johannesburg, l wrote my resignation letter to the MDC Secretary General informing her of my decision to resign my membership of the MDC. I had joined the MDC in September 1999 when it was officially launched at Rufaro stadium. Before then, we worked hard with the likes of Cde Austin Moyo, Dr Morgan Sebele, Cde Danisa Zulu , Cde Linda Mthimkhulu , Dr Lawrence Mbobo (who then decided not to join the MDC) towards the formation of the MDC. I had joined the MDC , a year after l was recruited into Communism by the then SACP [South African Communist Party] spokesman Cde Mazibuko K Jaha and Cde Molly Dlamini (a trade unionist and a Communist). During my years in the MDC, l worked closely with comrades from the Keep Left, the likes of Cde Trevor Ngwane, Prof Patrick Bond, Cde Claire and others. We used to invite Prof Welshman Ncube in our Keep Left meetings but over the years, l was drawn closer to the SACP, attending its political study groups , Communist University. When we went to the MDC congress in 2006, we had to reclaim our movement as Pan Africanist in character, when the congress was held under the theme, ‘My Zimbabwe, My Pride , Our Heritage’. Unfortunately, our then President Prof Arthur Mutambara failed to articulate our political message to an extent that, we were not understood and were labeled stooges of Zanu (PF). This misunderstanding cost us the support from the working class who had to stick with MDC-T. After the 2013 elections, it became clear to me that, for us to win both the urban and rural electorate and expose Zanu (PF) for what it is, was to challenge it ideologically. This would have required us to transform the MDC into a socialist movement or a political movement biased to the left. Given that the MDC is home to various class interests and it had to stick to Social Democracy, some of us started to work towards the formation of the vanguard of the working class in Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwe Communist Party was officially launched on the 3rd May 2017 and l was left with no option but to resign my membership of the MDC. I have no hard feelings towards the leadership and the entire membership of the MDC. In fact, l respect the political leadership of Prof Welshman Ncube, an organic intellectual in his own right. Normally, when people resign from parties, they tend to trade insults and make all manner of accusations. With me, it is different. If the MDC allowed dual membership like the ANC/SACP, l would have resigned from my position in the MDC and remained a card carrying member.”

This  is already worrisome.  I say this because the MDC is clearly the Western puppet opposition which anyone with half a brain would realize. He is almost acting like the MDC is a leftist force instead of just being a force of Western imperialism! This is not good. He is acting like there are “good” people in the MDC which is laughable.

Not much can be found on the people he mentions other than that one works for the revenue authority in Zimbabwe, another as a medical doctor, one as a civil engineer, one at the Health Wellness Institute, two who are is a spokespeople for SACP, a self-declared socialist in South Africa, a current President of one of the MDC factions, the horrible anti-Mugabe “scholar,” and more. This further seems to indicate that this party, which seems to have its main roots in South Africa, has some fundamental issues, especially with its conversations with those who hate Mugabe or are part of the puppet opposition in Zimbabwe! This does not portend well at all.

The ZCP, Mugabe, and the Zanu-PF

It is already clear that the ZCP endorsed the “military takeover in the country” of Zimbabwe. They argued that

the politico-military action taken by the Zimbabwe National Army is the result of the chaotic state of Zimbabwe as a whole and the ruling party, Zanu (PF), in particular. The extravagant lifestyles of the ruling elite contrast sharply with the extreme poverty of the majority of the Zimbabwean people.

The Party also called for a “transitional arrangement that would ensure a peaceful, free and fair election” within a “reasonable time frame” and indicated they would be “willing to engage with a new government once it’s in place to establish areas of mutual concern and possible agreement in the interest of taking the country forward.”

These views already seem to be in line with the imperialist faction of the Zanu-PF and their Western sycophants who have been blabbing about “Mugabe the dictator” (or “Mugabe the homophobe”) for years. Why would anyone endorse this coup which has led to, basically a “counter-revolution” in Zimbabwe?

In this past year, the ZCP has called Mugabe and Jacob Zuma dictators, saying the former sold off the country while also declaring that there is “economic damage caused by Zanu PF’s warring factions.” This aligns with their view that Mugabe lost the chance to help Zimbabwe’s economy. They even said that Grace Mugabe has a problem with managing her anger. Even with this, the party has said they will not “even want to contest this year’s elections” but instead want more public engagement in the country apparently.

This already makes me a bit nervous from a radical standpoint. The party says they are a “class movement, a case of a three pronged struggle against imperialism, dictatorship and national bourgeoisie” making them a “Marxist -Leninist political organization whose ideology will run on scientific socialism,” adding that “we seek to embark on an exercise of genuine nation building since our people have been divided into ethnic enclaves since attaining independence. The regime has failed to resolve ethnic divisions in our society.” Other articles quote them as saying that they are “going to encourage productive capitalism and take the economy to the people” and aimed to form “a vanguard party that will see the working people of Zimbabwe, especially the poor, having their share in the country’s wealth,” influencing policy decisions “that would be beneficial to the working poor,” while criticizing “opposition” parties. It has also been noted that the party is basically a “group of committed people who are politically active in other organisation that also include the so called opposition parties.” One document, earlier this year, outlines their views to an extent:

…We are encouraging others to join our ranks. This will help in strengthening the Africa Left. Our main aim is to promote democratic principles in our region guided by Marxist-Leninist philosophy…The economic crisis in Zimbabwe is worsening…We must then comrades, find a solution to the economic crisis in Zimbabwe and the region. It cannot be correct that the South African economy can develop when surrounded by poor nations…As the ZCP, we are calling for a National Economic Dialogue to find a solution to our economic challenges…This National Economic Dialogue must be attended by the ruling party, the opposition parties, liberation movements from the SADC region, trade unions, informal sector organisations, progressive civil society organisations, faith based organisations, rural based formations, youth and women formations…As Communists, we want an economy that is free both from imperialist influence and from looting by parasites…The alternative to the capitalist system is socialism. Socialism will never be achieved unless we build peoples power in our communities and at the work place.

While you could say this rhetoric is encouraging, their lack of understanding of the power relations with the United States as the head honcho of world imperialism, working with European imperialisms, especially that of the British, shows that their viewpoints have fundamental problems to say the least. Could it be said that they are just an organization to distract the Zimbabwean proletariat? Perhaps it can. Having revolutionary forces work together is a good idea but I’m not sure they are a revolutionary force, especially when they endorse the idea of “productive capitalism” at the present! The Zanu-PF are socially democratic, as it currently stands, and support a bourgeoisie in Zimbabwe, but how the ZCP any better? They seem to be woefully misinformed with fundamental falsehoods.

Looking at the ZCP’s Facebook page and a conclusion

Their page tells a bit about their positions. They declare that “Prof Jonathan Moyo…should be clasified as a terrorist,” say that they are “extremely overwhelmed with great joy upon learning that Mr Mugabe has tendered his resignation letter today” even as they “appreciate his contribution and achievements for his 37 years of reign,” and argue that “Mugabe must step down with immediate effect,” adding that they need to show their “anger over Mugabe’s four decades of gross misrule. No to Mugabeism of our state.” Other posts said that “the ZCP party,its ex[ec]utive council,the membership and its affiliate organisation are proud and satisfied by the conduct of the country’s military at a time Zimbabwe was sliding into chaos.” One final post said that the “ZCP’s Executive council has yesterday taken off from the Airport to [revisionist] China” in order to “attend the Congress of the CPC where the interim leadership will engage their CPC counterparts to take some notes on how we can hold our own elective Congress back home.”

Using this and what is currently known, it is hard to trust the ZCP, especially since they think the Chinese revisionists are “socialist” or “communist.” Perhaps they can pull off something and change their reputation but this seems unlikely at the present.

Update on Jan 14, 2019

Looking at their page today I find that they urge the Zimbabwean people to join nationwide protests, calling police and soldiers “our sons and daughters. They are fellow workers, not the enemy. Shops and vendors are not there to be looted. If you drink alcohol, do no drink when attending serious demonstrations. A better Zimbabwe starts with us,” which seems like a weird (and conservative) position. In a statement only a few days ago, they write that “when Mnangagwa was inaugurated, there was some hope [among whom?] that there would be some opening-up of the economy ― even if on a highly exploitative, neo-liberal basis,” adding that “we DID expect factories and other workplaces to open even if they were to pay starvation wages.  BUT the ZCP warned that the habits of the past within ZANU(PF) might not allow this to happen,” saying that under the current circumstances, “Mnangagwa had little choice other than to raise fuel prices,” criticizing the existence of the bond note, asking “Why is Trafigura allowed to maintain a monopoly over Zimbabwe’s fuel importation?,” saying they had concluded in the past that “highly placed officials in the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and probably elsewhere in government had a vested interest in preserving the black market which is a natural consequence of officially maintaining the 1:1 parity of the Bond Note and the US Dollar.” As such they have three demands: the need for abolishing the bond note, ending the Trafigura Fuel Monopoly and calling for a National Economic Dialogue. Such a confusing statement is not all. They have allied themselves with a teachers trade union called the Amalgamated Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, even getting arrested with them. Apart from sharing articles from time to time, they also paid tribute to the late Fidel Castro. At the end of 2018 they also released a message wishing comrades a “revolutionary new year.” In this message they wrote with an optimistic tone (bolding is my emphasis):

We end 2018 on a militant note with working people taking to the streets and demanding pay increases. Doctors, teachers and security guards are all demanding wages which can sustain them and their families.

There seems to be an opinion among our rulers that Zimbabwe can get over all its economic problems ─ if only workers can accept wages that are at least 50% below the poverty datum line! The ruling élite seems very perturbed by the demands by workers for incomes sufficient to feed and clothe them and their families, pay rent and pay school fees. To the wealthy, this seems very unreasonable.

The militarised capitalist approach since the 2017 coup is noticeable with the firing of any workers who demand (plus the firing of assault rifles in our streets) better working conditions and living wage.

We welcome the Motlanthe Commission of Inquiry , our view as dialectical materialists, as followers of Leninist strategy and tactics is to recognise the importance of small victories, small steps forward while not losing sight of more important objectives and at every stage supporting the workers just call for a living wage.

The findings of the Dumbutshena Commission of inquiry into the Entumbane disturbances between ZIPRA and ZANLA skirmishes in 1981 and the Chihambakwe Commission of 1983-1984 which was concerned with the question of armed dissidents and the killing of unarmed villagers by state security forces were never released. In contrast the recent Motlanthe Commission investigating the Harare riots of August 2018, interviewed a substantial number of witnesses of all categories. These included relatives of the deceased, eye-witnesses, police, doctors, senior members of the ruling party, the opposition and other parties.

The Commission visited Gweru, Bulawayo and Mutare as well as Harare and produced a report highly critical of both those in the opposition who instigated and directed the violence and the police and army which used live ammunition against demonstrators, killing bystanders as well as some of those demonstrating. Although diplomatic language is used, the report makes it clear that senior members of the government and ruling party on the one side and the main opposition on the other, lied under oath

We must regard the successful conclusion of the Motlanthe Commission, with its published witness testimony and Final Report as a small victory for the democratic forces and demand the release of the reports of the Dumbutshena and Chihambawe Commissions.

As we go into 2019 we do so at the height of the doctor’s strike. At the time of writing, striking junior doctors have all been dismissed but they are now being supported by both their senior colleagues and newly qualified graduates who government had hoped to use as scab labour. Nurses who were so badly treated earlier this year, also seem prepared to join in. Through the intransigence and incompetence of our government we are now facing a total shut-down of our health service.

But what does it matter to them?

Mnangagwa and both his Vice-Presidents come to South Africa for treatment, while former president Mugabe goes to Singapore.

Both the actions and the bizarre and embarrassing television presentation by Vice-President Chiwenga when announcing the dismissal of striking doctors , has demonstrated that the ZANU (PF) government is the enemy not only of the working class but of the peasants and the poor people of Zimbabwe.

Towards the end of December, teachers under the banner of the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) spent days on the road from Mutare to Harare demanding salaries in US dollars while other teachers under the banner of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe are demanding to be paid a minimum of $3000.

On the 7th January 2019, members of the Amalgamated Teachers Union of Zimbabwe will camp at the offices of the Minister of Finance, this should extend to the Reserve Bank which is fraught with corruption. As reported in our theoretical journal Vanguard Issue 6 (17th November 2018), the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has been captured by dubious characters.

Members of the Zimbabwe Security Guards Union, ZISEGU are also demanding better wages. Very recently, members of the ZISEGU in both Harare and Gweru have been demonstrating not only for higher wages but for employers to honour existing agreements.

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) is calling for a day of action in February next year. We must ensure full mobilisation on that day. It is imperative that we build a workers’ movement independent of the two neo-liberal parties, ZANU(PF) and MDC Alliance. We must not let this movement be captured by pro-capitalist and, in particular, pro-imperialist elements. We must also remember that most of the NGOs from which many of our political activists receive funding have their own agendas which are ultimately against both our national and our class interests.

With the change of farming season due to climate change, workers who have travelled to their rural communities over the holidays to till their land are experiencing low rainfall. Urban workers now depend on the food harvested from their small family rural land holding to feed their families in cities, with low rainfall. The first part of 2019 will be disastrous to most families. Peasants are struggling with their livestock which are dying due to drought and high prices of stock feed and animal medicine which is now out of reach to many families in rural communities.

Climate change is upon us. We risk Zimbabwe becoming a desert. In fact, some scientists have warned that if the problem is not tackled timeously, the whole of humanity can perish. Fortunately, a number of governments, notably that of China, previously the world’s worst polluter, have taken measures to reduce pollution. In Europe, Germany, Sweden and Portugal have been at the forefront of battling climate change. Obviously, most of the decisions to reverse this trend must come at government level. But there are things that ordinary people can do.

So what can we do in Zimbabwe?

The answer is simple. Use solar panels ―and plant trees.

Trees immediately reduce temperatures at ground level. If ground temperatures are lower, rain clouds are more likely to release their rain rather than passing overhead and releasing their water into the sea. More importantly in the long term, the trees extract carbon from the atmosphere and store it in their tree-trunks. Trees may be fruit trees, gum trees, wood lots for fuel or simply shade trees. But our people must be taught that tree planting has now become a necessity for survival. We must campaign on this in the coming year, especially in rural areas.

As the Zimbabwe Communist Party, we share the pain of the working people in cities, towns and with the peasants in rural communities.

The Zimbabwe Communist Party, maintains its call for the National Economic Dialogue. Our view as Communists is that if we are to resolve our immediate economic challenges, we must dialogue amongst ourselves. We can not outsource the rebuilding of our economy to anyone other than us Zimbabweans. There are those calling for a Government of National Unity, if the National Economic Dialogue will produce such, we are likely to support it. Currently there is no single party that can claim to hold keys to persuade the international community to come to our aide as was the case in 2009 [and how did that work out?].

The international balance of forces has changed from 2008 when parties represented in parliament signed the Global Political Agreement. In 2008, the opposition held the keys in engaging the Western countries on behalf of Zimbabwe. Since the military coup of November 2017, ZANU(PF) has gone through reformation. They have abandoned the populist policies fronted by Robert Mugabe used for simple plunder by a section of the élite in favour of a neo- liberal agenda which has brought them closer to the West.

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions has correctly characterised the ZANU(PF) economic policy as Economic Structural Adjustment Programme Part 2. This is a stark reminder to the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme which was adopted in 1991 by the ZANU(PF) régime. During the first decade of our independence, ZANU(PF) was guided by social democratic philosophy in implementing its economic policy. During that time, we saw improvement in infrastructural development (schools, clinics). When funds ran out, to continue with the social agenda initiative, the ZANU(PF) government adopted the neo-liberal ESAP programme of 1991 which intensified the suffering of the workers, peasants and poor and was the beginning of our economic collapse. The adoption of the neo-liberal agenda in 1991 coincided with the counter-revolution and destruction of the USSR.

The adoption of ESAP in 1991 was a catalyst in mobilising the working people and social movements in working towards the formation of the broad mass movement known as the Movement for Democratic Change in 1999. The convening of the National Working Peoples’ Convention in 1999 was aimed at building an alternative political formation that would advance, defend and deepen the struggle of the working-class and peasants.

Unfortunately, the MDC as we have come to know it was hi-jacked at its formation by white commercial farmers and British and American imperialism alarmed over Zimbabwe’s intervention in their proxy war of conquest against the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola.

The current economic challenges are once again forcing the mobilisation of the workers and peasants. In 1999, when the working-class formed the MDC, there was no vanguard party to give theoretical guidance and practical leadership based on the scientific socialist theory of Marxism-Leninism.

In this period of the intensification of class struggle our Party, the Zimbabwe Communist Party has the massive task of politically educating a dedicated cadre force to lead the masses. We cannot allow our movement to be once again usurped by selfish demagogues.

The ZCP is alive to the fact that, under the current conditions, we cannot immediately transition to socialism. Creating a national democratic economy, in our view, is an important stage in the building of socialism. It will require an alliance with sections of the petit-bourgeoisie and even of big capital including controlled foreign investment, but we can never again allow an amorphous “multi-class” régime in which the workers are co-opted to serve the interests of the capitalists to dominate. Even in a multi-class alliance, the working-class must be the dominant class.

It is clear ZANU(PF) and the main opposition parties, even if they form a Government of National Unity, will never build a democratic economy that will respond to the needs of the people of Zimbabwe as a whole. The unity talks said to be taking place behind the scenes will have at the top of its agenda the taming of the working-class.

Once the MDC is in Government of National Unity with ZANU(PF), its leader will call on the labour unions to return to work and give the President Emmerson Mnangagwa a breathing space to rebuild the economy. We saw this in 1980. After Independence, when workers took to the streets demanding better working conditions and a living wage, the Mugabe administration responded by establishing the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union with his brother Albert Mugabe becoming its first Secretary-General. This must be avoided at all costs.

WHAT IS TO BE DONE?

1. We must pressure the ZANU(PF) government to resolve the Currency Question. This can enable some of the demands of the workers, fighting for a living wage, and the rural people, who need to purchase stock feed, to be met. Without resolving the Currency Question, there will be no economic recovery in Zimbabwe, even in the short term, even on a neo-liberal basis. We must here recognise the differences within the political élite between those seeking to normalise capitalist production and accumulation and those accustomed to plunder who see no need to change what is benefitting them. If we do not do this, the régime will continue printing more Bond notes and continue raiding the real money from the people of Zimbabwe. As the ZCP we see this as a major area of struggle in 2019. ZANU(PF) will not just resolve the Currency Question unless the working-class and the urban poor stage a real fight. We must take this fight to the door steps of the Reserve Bank.

2. End Corruption ― the ruling party is corrupt to the core but we must mobilise society and declare war on corruption. The Report of the Motlanthe Commission has shown that we now have a small democratic space within which we can criticise government and its functionaries. We must enlarge that space and use it to bring down at least some of the most corrupt.

3. Build the Unity of the Working-Class and Peasants― unless we unite the unions, the informal sector organisations, residents associations, faith based organisations, youth organisations, women organisations, rural organisations, black farmers organisations, the progressive section of the war veterans, we will not end the suffering of the people. Attacking the peasantry for voting ZANU(PF) as we have often seen the MDC youth do, is counter-productive.

4. In the rural areas we must begin by having a tree-planting campaign. As this gains traction, we must also advise on other ways in which our rural population can improve its living standards.

5. Intensify Political Education ― our struggle must be led by cadres schooled in Marxist- Leninist philosophy, strategy and tactics. Marx, Engels and Lenin all talked about the British dislike of theory. It is painfully obvious that Zimbabweans have inherited this characteristic from the British and as much as we can criticise both our current rulers and our wannabee rulers clustered around the opposition. We must also criticise our own working-class movement for the disastrous consequences of ignoring theory. If wrong people with wrong policies have destroyed Zimbabwe, it is at least partly because we have let them.

We must establish study groups, use social media, face to face meetings and most of all encourage people to read in order to develop cadres for the socialist revolution.

Issued by the National Steering Committee.

There is some positive thinking here (and elsewhere), and while I am optimistic, I am also very wary of their specific moves as they want capitalism to come in a positive in the short term, which I’m not sure is good. After all, these are the people who think Nkomo (the person backed by the Soviet social-imperialists) is good instead of Mugabe. Really? This makes me think they are a revisionist party, while they also call for nationalization of state enterprises rather than privatization. Even so, I will continue to watch the ZCP (which is having, according to its Facebook page, its 1st Party Congress in December 2019) closely in the days to come, as Zimbabwe continues to be engulfed by crisis as evidenced by recent articles in bourgeois media with titles like: “Zimbabwe army deploys to disperse fuel protests, 13 injured” (AP), “Zimbabwe fuel protests grow violent; gas prices now highest in the world” (LA Times), “Zimbabwe protests after petrol and diesel price hike” (BBC), “Zimbabwe Unions to Strike as Fuel Prices More Than Double” (Bloomberg), “Zimbabwe plans new currency as dollar shortage bites: Finance Minister” (Reuters), “Zimbabwe’s Farmers Urge Cloud Seeding as Drought Withers Crops” (Bloomberg), “Fuel protests turn deadly in Zimbabwe” (AFP), “Zimbabwe deploys police in Harare to control fuel price protests” (Reuters), “Zimbabwe Just Doubled Gasoline and Diesel Prices. Overnight” (Bloomberg), “Zimbabwe president doubles price of gas as fuel crisis bites” (Washington Post), “Zimbabwe fuel hike sparks national shutdown” (Al Jazeera), and “Fuel price protests in Zimbabwe turn deadly” (Reuters), to name a few.

The counter-revolution of Mnangagwa and Zimbabwe’s military

Originally published on the Leftist Critic blog on Dec. 5, 2017.

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

As I wrote on December 29, “Mnangagwa, even more than Mugabe, seems to favor the Zimbabwean bourgeoisie” while adding that “while I hope for the best as always, I fear for the worst. We should stand with whatever forces have the interests of the Zimbabwean proletariat at heart,” arguing that the current government does not have those interests at heart. Current events seem to demonstrate that the “corrective measure” that removed Mugabe was nothing short of a coup that seems ready to benefit Western capitalists.

Amending the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act (IEEA)

Already, the new government has amended the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act “to reflect its policy position that the 51-49 percent requirement only applies to natural resource-based investments.” This position runs contrary to what Mugabe issued in April 2016, meaning that the government felt that having across all sectors promised “empowerment for the indigenes without delivering it on the other hand, while creating discomfort or even suspicion to would-be investors on the other” and instead supporting a “new investment framework…clear cut in terms of what’s on offer to both domestic and foreign investors.” What is this new framework? Well, they posit “Zimbabwe as an investment destination,” and open up the “non-resource sector and reserved sector” to more foreign investment. The non-resource sector includes, as the article describes, “beneficiation of raw materials, transfer of appropriate technology to Zimbabwe for the purposes of enhancing productivity,” which is coupled with “creation of employment and imparting of new skills to Zimbabweans, granting of ownership and/or employee share ownership for value to indigenous Zimbabweans.”

This sector is even larger than that, however. This is clear from the National Economic Empowerment Strategy issued in 2015 by Patrick Zhuwao, then the Minister of Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment (original link). This strategy describes the non-resource sector as including the manufacturing, finance services, tourism, education & sport, arts entertainment & culture, engineering & construction, energy, services, telecommunications, transport & motor industries.

The reserved sector includes those areas “reserved for Zimbabwean entrepreneurs, except for existing businesses” (specific Zimbabwean bourgeoisie), including businesses such as

retail and wholesale trade, transportation (passenger buses, taxis and car hire services), estate agencies, grain milling, bakeries, tobacco processing, advertising agencies, valet services, employment agencies and provision of local arts and crafts and marketing and distribution of the same

The latter were once “non-indigenous businesses” who had to pay “the full amount of the Empowerment Levy proposed herein as part of measures designed to ensure compliance with the indigenisation legislation.” This levy, to summarize without bogged down in the details, depends on the “extent to which a business simply decides to comply with the laws of Zimbabwe, on indigenisation and economic empowerment.” This is no longer to be enforced at all, cutting away at the gains since the 1990s even under the nationalist Zimbabwean bourgeoisie allied with varied Zanu-PF governments.

With this, foreign investors (read: foreign bourgeoisie) can have control of businesses in these sectors. With this new policy, only businesses are national resources sector is required that Black Zimbabweans “hold a 51 percent stake…with the remaining 49 percent belonging to the partnering investor(s).” As a result, the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act’s purpose has been subverted! As Mugabe put it in 2016 (original link), the law meant to enable “historically indigenous Zimbabweans” to be “significant players” in Zimbabwe’s economy, granting them ownership of “the country’s means and factors of production.” Only allowing it for one sector benefits the global capitalist class.

I doubt that weakening of this law will put forward “goals of indigenisation and economic empowerment” of the Zimbabwean people as Mugabe stated in 2013. Even so, the resources sector is wide-ranging, as provided by the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment (General) Regulation in 2010:

Air, soil, waters and minerals of Zimbabwe…Mammal, bird, fish and other animal life of Zimbabwe…The trees grasses and other vegetation of Zimbabwe…Springs, vleis, sponges, reed beds, mashes, swamps and public streams of Zimbabwe…Any landscape, scenery or site having aesthetic appeal or scenic value or of historic or archaeological interest

I doubt that Mnangagwa and his government will stand by that interpretation of natural resources. The National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Board (“NIEEB”) which is currently “tasked to spearhead this process of transforming the peripheral role of the indigenous majority in the economy to a leading role in the mainstream economy together with the attendant benefits of improving their standards of living” still has a role but not as much as they once had.

This decision, applauded by The Herald, seems to hold the line of the pro-imperialist Zanu-PF adherents, which are nothing like Mugabe’s presidency over the years, opening up Zimbabwe to exploitation from international capital. This should be condemned by anyone with sense as it will hurt the Zimbabwean proletariat without a doubt.

What we have now is the beginning of what I’ll call a counter-revolution. It is almost like, one could say, the efforts pushed by Nikita Khrushchev after the death of comrade Joseph Stalin in 1953. The difference is that Zimbabwe is not a socialist country like the USSR and does not have a communist party in that position of power, as Zimbabwe is a country with a progressive political party which socially democratic tendencies. However, there are some parallels that could be drawn since comrade Robert Mugabe is being taken down by Mnangagwa who is not a comrade in the slightest meaning of the word! Even if The Herald says it time and time again, that doesn’t make it true!

The new presidential cabinet of Mnangagwa

Currently the cabinet has 22 members with a varied number of new members, some of which are just appointed. These include:

  1. Patrick Chinamasa as new Minister of Finance and Economic Planning
  2. Obert Mpofu as new Minister of Home Affairs and Culture
  3. Air Force of Zimbabwe Commander Air Marshal Perrance/Perence Shiri as the new Minister of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement
  4. Lazarus Dokora still in charge of the Primary and Secondary Education portfolio
  5. David Parirenyatwa still as Health and Child Care Minister
  6. Kembo Mohadi as new Minister of Defence, Security and War Veterans
  7. Ziyambi Ziyambi as new Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs
  8. Major-General Sibusiso Moyo as new Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
  9. Kazembe Kazembe as new Minister of Sports, Arts and Recreation
  10. Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWA) chairperson Christopher Mutsvangwa as new Minister of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services
  11. Mike Bimha as new Minister of Industry, Commerce and Enterprise Development
  12. July Moyo as new Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing
  13. Sithembiso Nyoni as new Minister of Women and Youth Affairs
  14. Head of the University of Zimbabwe Geography and Environmental Science department Professor Amon Murwira as new Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology Development
  15. Supa Mandiwanzira as new Minister of Information Communication Technology and Cyber Security
  16. Former National University of Science and Technology (NUST) pro-vice chancellor Professor Clever Nyathi as new Minister of Labour and Social Welfare
  17. Joram Gumbo still as Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister
  18. Mimosa Mining Company executive chairman Mr Winston Chitando as new Minister of Mines and Mining Development
  19. Simon Khaya Moyo as new Minister of Energy and Power Development
  20. Oppah Muchinguri (Kashiri) as new Environment, Water and Climate Minister
  21. Prisca Mupfumira as new Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister
  22. Simbarashe Mumbengegwi as new Minister of State for Presidential Affairs and Monitoring of Government Programmes

Other ministers not in the cabinet were as follows:

  • Miriam Chikukwa (Harare), Provincial Affairs Minister still
  • Martin Dinha (Mashonaland Central), Provincial Affairs Minister still
  • Webster Shamu (Mashonaland West), Provincial Affairs Minister still
  • Angeline Masuku (Bulawayo) Provincial Affairs Minister new
  • Monica Mutsvangwa (Manicaland) Provincial Affairs Minister new
  • David Musabayana (Mashonaland East) Provincial Affairs Minister new
  • Cain Mathema (Matabeleland North) Provincial Affairs Minister still
  • Josiah Hungwe (Masvingo) Provincial Affairs Minister new
  • Owen Ncube (Midlands) Provincial Affairs Minister new
  • Abednico Ncube  superintending over Matabeleland South province
  • Chrsiopher Mushohwe remains the Minister of State for Government Scholarships in the President’s Office

And then there are six deputy ministers appointed by President Mnangagwa:

  • Terence Mukupe (Finance and Economic Development)
  • Davis Marapira (Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement)
  • Paul Mavima (Primary and Secondary Education)
  • Victor Matemadanda (War Veterans)
  • Pupurai Togarepi (Youth Affairs)
  • Joshua Malinga (Social Welfare)

The bourgeois media saw this in an interesting light. Bloomberg News quipped that “his cabinet announcements have been dominated by loyalists to the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, dashing hopes of significant change,” quoting the thoughts of the opposition People’s Democratic Party,  Tendai Biti. [1] Reuters said something similar. They noted how Mnangagwa swore in his cabinet, “giving top posts to the generals who helped his rise to power” including Air Marshall Perrance Shiri who declared that “who says military people should never be politicians? I‘m a Zimbabwean so I have every right to participate in government,” even as he kept “several faces from the Mugabe era, including Patrick Chinamasa as finance minister.” [2] The end of the article added the following quote from MDC’s Vice President Nelson Chamisa, “as far as we are concerned there was no contact whatsoever between President Mnangagwa, ZANU-PF and our party regarding the possibility of inclusion or involvement of our members in the government,” but we can’t completely. A German publication, DW, said that “Mnangagwa came under heavy criticism for recycling officials from Mugabe’s era” even as it was noted that “Mnangagwa still has important allies” in the military who he “nominated two of them to cabinet positions, further angering the public.” [3] It was also claimed that “Zimbabweans hoping that members of the opposition would be appointed to the new cabinet were ultimately disappointed with the outcome.” Other sites said that “the new Cabinet is just a collection of the old, corrupt and incompetent people who created the present economic shambles in the first place” with another saying that the new cabinet had “two senior military officials who played a central role in bringing him [Mnangagwa] to power were given key jobs.

As for The Herald, it said that “Zanu-PF, as the ruling party, is in a clear majority and therefore doesn’t require outsiders…There is no doubt peace and unity are key requirements for national development…What we don’t understand is why that noble role should be predicated on them [the opposition] getting positions in Government.” They added that “his Cabinet…includes a number of new faces, and a sprinkling of women in the interest of gender representation, and the disabled too and war veterans…it is the President’s prerogative to appoint and disappoint whoever he wants…common sense teaches us of the importance of continuity and institutional memory…let us give the new administration the benefit of the doubt.” Another opinion said the same, criticizing Jonathan Moyo (part of the pro-Mugabe G40 group) declaring at the end that the military’s coup “was not a revolution. Nor was it a subversion of a constitutional order, which is why our unique-coup-that-was-no-coup has become a global marvel” and claimed that “good times are promising to roll, and it will be for the national good.” This is a similar position to that held by the National Economic Consultative Forum (NECF).

Mnangagwa declared, as quoted by PressTV, that “I have sworn in a new cabinet just to finish the term of the former president, which is a period of six to seven months. I believe with my team we will stand up to the challenge. I want them (Zimbabweans) to be united, we must grow our economy.”

This doesn’t seem to be a “moment of madness” as one article in The Herald scoffed at. Instead, it is directly planned. It is more than what the media above say it is. Using a Zimbabwean wiki and general online searching we find that:

  • 23 are Zanu-PF partisans (Mpofu [supportive of trade with China], Ziyambi,  Dokora, Parirenyatwa, Mohadi, Moyo (and the other two Moyos) Nyoni, Gumbo, Muchinguri, Mupfumira, Mumbengegwi, Chikukwa, Dinha, Shamu, Masuku, Mutsvangwa, Musabayana, Mathema, Ncube (1),  Ncube  (2), Mushohwe, Marapira)
  • Six are Mnangagwa allies and/or coup plotters (Chinamasa, Moyo, Kazembe, Hungwe, Matemadanda, Shiri (supportive of land reform, participated in 2nd Congo War, and seems to have some feelings against Mugabe))
  • Four are former bourgeoisie in communications, travel, and mining, among others (Mutsvangwa (anti-Mugabe), Bimha, Makupe, Mavima)
  • Two are academics (Murwira, Nyathi)
  • One is part of mining bourgeoisie (Chitando)
  • One is part of telecom bourgeoisie (Mandiwanzira)
  • One works in the insurance and pension industry (Togarepi)
  • One is a consultant (Malinga)

This does not look like a collection of people who will help the Zimbabwean proletariat but rather one that will help the Zimbabwean bourgeoisie and their friends! Capitalism will win out here, as will the technocrats and the imperialist faction of the Zanu-PF represented by the partisans while the cries of the oppressed are drowned out in money. This is not something that Zimbabwe needs. Mnangagwa will hear what he wants to hear, and the “reform” of the economy will lead to ruined livelihoods as suffering increases beyond its current level.

In comes the IMF

According to the South African press, the IMF is sending officials to Zimbabwe to help it “design policies to revive the economy” with a statement that Mnangagwa “is putting in place his Cabinet and we stand ready to work closely with the country and the staff should help us to make progress in that direction.” It was also noted that Mnangagwa “appointed a new acting finance minister and announced a three-month amnesty window for the return of public funds illegally stashed abroad by individuals and companies.” The IMF is probably smiling that the Mugabe family, which the U$ white propaganda outlet named VOA called the “Mugabe clan,” is not really in political life as directly as they once we and see an opening.

Mnangagwa claims he is aiming to “revive the economy” of Zimbabwe, at least from the mouth of his supporters, like the new minister Mutsvangwa, head of the Zimbabwe War Veterans group. This same person claimed that Mnangagwa talked with the opposition (Tsvangarai’s MDC-T) but that “the MDC, through their leader Tsvangirai, turned around and said he wanted to give him people of his choice.” It was also noted how Zimbabwean white farmers saw Mugabe’s exit as a positive and Mnangagwa’s rise seeming to benefit them, perhaps as part of push for “reform.” Likely Amnesty will cheer too. Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Southern Africa declared, after smearing Mugabe in typical imperialist fashion, that “Mugabe’s departure offers Zimbabwe an opportunity to make a break from its past.” [5]

Even more, the country has foreign debt that the Zimbabwean bourgeoisie in the construction industry complained about. So the IMF is in luck. Perhaps the new government will come begging to the IMF (and World Bank) for help, allowing them to shape the economy and screw over the Zimbabwean proletariat. Any attempt to do so should be strongly opposed by comrades anywhere, especially in the West.

Where do we go from here?

The Extraordinary Congress of the Zanu-PF is coming later this month. Already the “party is no longer going to have another Congress in 2019” with the upcoming Congress “expected to endorse the recall of former President Robert Mugabe and election of President Emmerson Mnangagwa as the First Secretary and President made by the Central Committee on November 19” and this Congress is “expected to uphold the decision by the Central Committee to expel G40 members such as former First Lady Grace Mugabe, Mr Phelekezela Mphoko, Professor Jonathan Moyo, Mr Saviour Kasukuwere, Dr Ignatius Chombo, Dr Walter Mzembi, Mr Kudzanai Chipanga, Ms Mandi Chimene, Mrs Letina Undenge and many others.” Additionally, it is “expected to discuss the state of the party, the economy and preparations for next year’s harmonised elections, including the manifesto for the polls.” The Herald added that after the coup, “the ruling party is now shifting its attention to dealing with economic challenges that are affecting the generality of the Zimbabwean population.”

The current Congress may feature Mugabe, although this is highly unlikely. It may even be time to say that the Zanu-PF is something that the Zimbabwean proletariat should abandon, but not exactly yet as Mnangagwa has only begun his term. Hopefully it is not as bad as I’ve outlined, but I am not completely optimistic in this realm whatsoever. I really am not. I can’t think of any forces that stand with the Zimbabwean proletariat. I wish for the best but will brace for the worst.


Notes

[1] Godfrey Marawanyika, “Zimbabwe President Changes Cabinet After One Day,” Bloomberg News, Dec 2, 2017.

[2] Emelia Sithole-Matarise, “Zimbabwe swears in first post-Mugabe cabinet,” Reuters, Dec 4, 2017.

[3] Cristina Krippahl (with Reuters, AFP), “Zimbabwean cabinet sworn in amid criticism,”  DW, Dec 4, 2017.

[4]  Eddie Cross, “How Mnangagwa deceived the world: Zimbabwe emerges as military junta,” BizNews, Dec 4, 2017; Key ‘coup’ leaders appointed to Zimbabwe cabinet,”

[5] Deprose Muchena, “Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe’s legacy,” Amnesty International, Dec 4, 2017.

Is Dennis Rodman a comrade?: A study of “basketball diplomacy” and DPRK solidarity

From Rodman’s recent visit to the DPRK, he gave them the orange menace’s book, The Art of the Deal

Originally published on the Leftist Critic blog on Sept. 28, 2017.

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

Editor’s note: This piece was, four days after it was published here, published on anti-imperialism.org in an earlier format. I have also changed all the words of “baseball” to “basketball” as the editors there pointed out, something I wouldn’t have caught despite reading the piece over. The version below adds some content but the two versions are relatively similar and I stand by both articles. The one paragraph about anti-imperialism.org has been eliminated, as it has been published there now. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been so hasty!

Every day, the people of the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), derisively called “North Korea” in the West, is threatened or under attack. This was most recently on display in a hateful, bigoted, reactionary, and generally awful speech, to the UN General Assembly by the orange menace, accusing the DPRK of mass human rights violations, and threatening the world while he threatened the country and its leadership, which called “a band of criminals,” by declaring that in purported “self-defense,” the U$ “will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea” and offensively calling Kim Jong-Un “Rocket Man,” a name due more to the orange menace’s obsessions than the Elton John song of the same name.If that isn’t enough, Muslim ban 3.0 includes the DPRK and Venezuela on the list, along with six other countries (Iran, Somalia, Chad, Libya, Syria, and Yemen), with increased restrictions on those from Venezuela and Iran specifically, which are predominantly Muslim.

The speech (similar to what Obama would have said), in which the orange menace outlined his “axis of evil” (DPRK, Iran, Syria, Cuba (implied), and Venezuela), was panned by drone-loving imperialist Dianne Feinstein, former Chief of Staff to Colin Powell, Col. Larry Wilkerson (in a sense), Richard Haass of the elitist Council of Foreign Relations, Ian Bremmer of the Eurasia Group, Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Daniel Larison in The American Conservative, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani who described the orange menace as a “rogue newcomer…to the world of politics,” Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom, Rep. Ted Lieu of California, and Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer, along with worries from the elected leaders of Britain and France. [1] However, it was embraced by the hard-core Zionist President, Benjamin Netanyahu, who declared that he had “never heard a bolder or more courageous speech” in 30 years, conservative commentator Katie Pavilich who said that “it’s a new rhetorical day at the U.N. The next step is action toward real change and results,” and CIA propagandist David Ignatius who called the speech “conventional” even as he describes the orange menace as the “Great Disrupter.” Also, Rep. Ron DeSantis of Florida, Bret Baier of “Fox News,” former Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, former U$ Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, the orange menace’s cheerleader in the UK, Nigel Farage, Ivanka Trump, and North Carolina evangelist Franklin Graham, praised the speech, a typical show of support. After all, the speech was reportedly written by an ally of white nationalism, Stephen Miller, making sense it would get “cheers from the president’s xenophobic base.” All of this makes it no surprise that the envoy to the DPRK left “the room before Trump took to the podium and made more threats against Pyongyang,” since the orange menace rejected the possibility of an “Iran-style deal” with the DPRK, even supported by one GOP representative. Lest us forget, however, that both parties in the U$ “support militarism” because they “support the interests of the oligarchy” which is interested in “maintaining the empire.” Kim Jong-Un responded to the orange menace’s diatribe in a statement that the co-editor of Dissident Voice (usually anti-imperialist) Kim Peterson grumbled about as “raising” tensions. The statement, which was carried in a KCNA article on September 22nd titled “Statement of Chairman of State Affairs Commission of DPRK” and referenced in another titled “Kim Jong Un Makes Statement” is strongly anti-imperialist and shows how the DPRK is standing up to U$ aggression:

The speech made by the U.S. Chief Executive in his maiden appearance on the UN arena in the prevailing serious circumstances, in which the situation on the Korean peninsula has been rendered tense as never before and is inching closer to a touch-and-go state, is arousing worldwide concern.  A certain degree of my guess was that he would make stereo-typed, prepared remarks a little different from what he used to utter in his office on the spur of the moment as he had to speak on the world’s largest official diplomatic stage.  But, far from making somewhat plausible remarks that can be helpful to defusing tension, he made unprecedented rude nonsense one has never heard from any of his predecessors. A frightened dog barks louder. I would like to advise Trump to exercise prudence in selecting words and to be considerate of whom he speaks to when making a speech in front of the world.  The mentally deranged behavior of the U.S. president openly expressing on the UN arena the unethical will to “totally destroy” a sovereign state, beyond the boundary of threats of regime change or overturn of social system, makes even those with normal thinking faculty reconsider discretion and composure.  His remarks remind me of such words as “political layman” and “political heretic” which were in vogue in reference to Trump during his presidential election campaign. After taking office Trump has rendered the world restless through threats and blackmail against all countries. He is unfit to hold the prerogative of supreme command of the military forces of a country, and he is surely a rogue and a gangster fond of playing with fire, rather than a politician.  His remarks which described the U.S. option through straightforward expression of his will have convinced me, rather than frightening or stopping me, that the path I chose is correct and that it is the one I have to follow to the last. Now that Trump has denied the existence of and insulted me and my country in front of the eyes of the world and made the most ferocious declaration of war in history that he would destroy the DPRK, we will consider with seriousness taking a corresponding, highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history. Action is the best option in treating the dotard who, hard of hearing, is uttering only what he wants to say. As a man representing the DPRK and upon the dignity and honor of my state and people and upon all my own, I will make the man holding the prerogative of supreme command of the U.S. pay dearly for his rude nonsense calling for totally destroying the DPRK.  This is not a rhetorical expression loved by Trump. I am now thinking hard about what response he could have expected from us when he allowed such eccentric words to trip off his tongue. Whatever Trump might have expected, he will face results beyond his expectation. I will surely and definitely tame the old lunatic of America with fire.

Dennis Rodman, a Black retired NBA star and “washed-up celebrity” by bourgeois media standards is sometimes at the brunt of attacks on the DPRK. Rabid nationalists who concoct and engage in these attacks have no life other than attacking anyone who “dishonors” the murderous empire like a pack of wild, rabid dogs foaming at the mouth, waiting for “the kill.”

In order to analyze if Dennis Rodman (called Rodman in the rest of this piece) is a “comrade” and/or define his role in concern to DPRK-U$ relations, it is worth explaining a bit about his life, political leanings, and past statements (and trips to) on the DPRK and its current leadership.

Rodman’s political views, life, and “basketball diplomacy”

The picture of Rodman and Kim Jong-Un the imperial apologists often use.

At age 3, Rodman was abandoned by his father, Philander Rodman Jr., who ran off with a “military chaplain’s daughter.” Since then, Rodman’s father has become the parents of 28 siblings (from four wives) and lives in the Philippines, proud of Rodman although he has slamming his father before for personal benefit, distorting the reality. [2] Due to his father’s abandonment, he lived with a white family in Oklahoma and, more recently, called his father a “friend.” As his “status” increased due to his sports career, and even after his retirement from the NBA, the family in Oklahoma felt that they had “lost a son” as he started “drinking hard and partying.” [3] His time in the NBA began in 1986 and ended in 2000, playing on Detroit, San Antonio, and Chicago teams. While this got him the nickname, “the worm,” he was remembered more for: calling out another all-star player Larry Birth, by saying he only had a lot of publicity because of his white skin, kicking a “cameraman in the groin” in 1997, having a rocky relationship with popstar Madonna, and general moodiness. [4] Apart from the police being called to Rodman’s house for loud parties 70 times between 2000 and 2006, having a flamboyant personality, to say the least, he has a varied “rap sheet,” which is common among such superstars, to be “cool.” These included accusations of felony burglary, assault (he pleaded guilty to “spousal battery” in 2004), sexual harassment, and was a raging alcoholic. [5] For this, he was in and out of rehab for years, booted for restaurants for his drunken behavior and “wild ways.” This included drinking heavily in the mostly “dry” DPRK, and general drunk driving. In my recent article about DPRK’s healthcare system, I pointed out that almost 79% of the population abstains from drinking, with stronger alcohol consumption among males than females, among those who drink. To top it off, Rodman even released his own vodka brand, and is as much a brand as the orange menace or even Naomi Klein.

Politically, Rodman leaned, not surprisingly, to “the right.” Apart from advocating for a Black pope at the Vatican, he stripped naked for an anti-fur campaign by the PR-savvy animal welfare group, PETA, and endorsed the orange menace for President in 2015. [6] Lest us forget that the Vatican, the mainstay of the Catholic Church, has cooperated with Nazi Germany’s butchers, purged Jews from their ranks, sometimes endorsed the fake doctrine of “creationism” rather than the evolving scientific theory of evolution, bestowed sanctity on “right-wing” religionists, suppressing liberation theology in favor of terror and destruction, and opposed abortion. They have also opposed stem cell research, divorce, and gay rights, all while sex predators lurk throughout the church hierarchy from the top to the bottom. [7] As for Rodman, he called the orange menace a “great friend for years” and said that “we don’t need a politician for president, we need a businessman like Mr. Trump,” not recognizing government and capitalist combines function differently. He also defended the horrid Hulk Hogan as “not” racist despite Hogan plainly saying the n-word and being generally a horrible person, for example, saying that those suffering from Hurricane Irma (in the US) are “crybabies.”

This puts Rodman’s “basketball diplomacy,” as he calls it, into context. In 2013, when he said he would go “anywhere’ he was needed, it was reported that Kim Jong-Un, who only become First Secretary of the Workers Party of Korea, marshal, and Chairman of the Central Military Commission the previous year, had told him the DPRK “doesn’t want to go to war with America” but only wanted to “talk basketball with Obama.” [8] At the same time, he said Kim Jong-Un should do him a “solid” and release Kenneth Bae. Hence, he positioned himself almost an unofficial ambassador trying to break ice between “hostile countries.” [9] Earlier that year, his trip to the DPRK questioned how much a neutral observer he was, after all. The trip was the brain child of Shaun Smith at VICE, who saw the DPRK as a “bizarre place.” This is in-keeping with their bigoted content, blasting onto TV and websites for their millions within their white hipster/dudebro audience, which has amplified white power in part by giving white nationalists, like Christopher Cantwell and Weev, a platform, and is generally imperialist in character, even as some could say it has “good people” on its staff, whoever they are. [10] While Rodman famously (in the minds of arch-imperialists) called Kim Jong-Un his “friend for life” and said he was a “friend [of]…the DPRK people,” the fact that the trip was filmed by VICE for a capitalistic, orientalist purpose questions his intentions. This is especially the case considering that he worked for the orange menace, then heading “the Celebrity Apprentice,” afterward, who called Rodman’s trip that year “smart,” which could be seen as an endorsement although he called the country the “last place on Earth I [would] want to go to” in May 2014. [11]

Rodman’s jingoistic feelings were evident, much more than Mohammad Ali who didn’t want to criticize U$ imperialism or be “misquoted” in the bourgeois media in his trip to the DPRK in 1995. Rodman declared that “it’s all very anti-American. North Korean kids are fed anti-American propaganda” since their birth. [12] Such statements raise red flags about if Rodman is even a comrade at all. Someone who believes in solidarity against imperialism would never, if they were earnest in their beliefs, say something as orientalist and jingoistic as Rodman, instead asserting that politicians of all levels in the DPRK are elected by the populace. His words are racist (yes, Black people CAN say things that are racist to those races they are “above” or are perceived to be “above” of). To use the words of Satre, racism is a form of violence that is self-justifying since it is “violence presenting itself as induced violence, counter-violence and legitimate defence” and is based in making individuals (in this case Koreans living in the DPRK) “sub-human.”

Later that year, Rodman displayed his “basketball diplomacy” once again. He called Kim Jong-Un a “good guy” who wants “to change” the DPRK, with Rodman hoping he could change Obama’s mind in favor of diplomacy rather than imperial aggression. [13] Playing on the idea of nuclear families, deeply rooted in the beliefs of traditionalists of the U$, Rodman declared that Kim Jong-Un was a “good dad and has a beautiful family” after meeting his wife Ri Sol-Ju, and their newborn Ju-ae. As he continued to push the “sports angle” in the DPRK, sometimes journalists tagged along, but not when he sung the happy birthday song to Kim Jong-Un, angering U$ imperialists to no end. [14] The following year, 2014, the U.S. Treasury Department reportedly investigated whether Rodman’s thousands of dollars in luxury gifts to the DPRK violated murderous sanctions. At the same time, the idea of a Hollywood movie on Rodman’s “relationship” with Kim Jong-Un was floated but seemed to die a quick death. [15]

Fast forward three years. A few months ago, in June 2017, Rodman said he wanted to bring sports to the DPRK, and nothing else, with some speculating if the orange menace was somehow behind the meeting. [16] This speculation is not completely unsubstantiated because Rodman is a “mutual acquaintance” of the orange menace and Kim Jong-Un. More significantly was what Rodman gave to Kim Jong-Un and his family: the orange menace’s The Art of the Deal, soap, Where’s Waldo? books, and autographed jerseys. [17] While the giving of soaps and other products might be harmless, and are mostly for Ju-ae one could presume, the gifting of The Art of the Deal, ghostwritten by Tony Schwartz, could be a book that may inform Kim Jong Un’s strategy in dealing with threats from the murderous empire. The ideas expressed in the book are that you either dominate or submit, you create or exploit fear or you succumb to it, with every encounter seen as a content to be the winner, and the conception of “immediate self-interest.” [18] While the description of the book so far shows that it could, for Kim Jong-Un and the DPRK’s leadership, give them insights into the orange menace’s “management style” (if he has one), there are further elements which would more likely be used by the DPRK: making “deals,” some of which are “great,” and having many options available, using available “leverage.” If giving the DPRK the orange menace’s book is somehow a secret strategy to make the country more capitalistic and individualistic, which isn’t beyond belief, then it didn’t work at all.

Back to Rodman. Near the end of June, he said he was glad that the young White college student Otto Frederick Warmbier, a jingoistic disrupter, was released. On the other side of the token, he bellowed that the country is more “modernized” now, with people not seeing the “good side” of the DPRK with Kim Jong-Un as a “friendly guy.” [19] In keeping with his idea of “neutrality,” he said that Kim Jong-Un and the orange menace need an open dialogue. Just last month he expanded on these remarks. He was quoted in the New York Daily News as saying that the DPRK was becoming a “24th century country” with a “homemade feel” for everything, and how his status as a “famous athlete” meant nothing there. [20] This is by far, the most positive thing he has said about the DPRK. In the interview quoted by the New York Daily News, in the literal magazine for wealth, Du Jour, Rodman described the DPRK’s people as taking pride in “simple things” (similar to what was recently said in PressTV) and people living through Kim Jong-Un, looking up to him. [21] Again, like his other statement, this was not “noble” as most of what he said (apart from the possibly orientalist statement about people living through Kim Jong-Un) has been said and recognized, mainly by those in solidarity with the DPRK, for many years. Adding to this, his seemingly “comradely” statement was thrown into question with his “clarification” earlier this month. He told a British TV show that he hardly ever talks politics with Kim Jong-Un, calling himself an “ambassador for sports” and declaring that he doesn’t love Kim Jong-Un but wants to “straighten things out for everyone to get along together.” [22] While this seems to be positive, let us consider that he still admires the orange menace despite the fact he admits that the orange menace can be a “little bit crazy sometimes.”

Ultimately, Rodman seems more like a partisan of the orange menace than a neutral observer or unofficial ambassador. While he is written five basically auto-biographical books (three in the 1990s), he is no scholar. It is too much of a stretch for Rodman to be “Comradman” by any measure. What has been explained so far makes clear his life story, political beliefs, and views on the DPRK (mostly on Kim Jong-Un). It is a possibility, which should not be discounted, that his visits to the DPRK are supported covertly by more “moderate” elements in the U$ foreign policy establishment since diplomacy for the murderous empire is imperialistic in nature no matter what way you spin in. As Satya Vatti wrote, generally the U$ capitalist class prefers “moderate bourgeois elements” even as it, in desperation or seeing a good opportunity, relies on “far-right, fascist forces,” like in Ukraine, to accomplish their objectives. [23] Rodman is fundamentally a “moderate bourgeois element” to put it plainly. There are, additionally, a number of aspects that throw into question the thought of Rodman even being a comrade. If he was in solidarity with the state, he would support the launch of two missiles “over Japan” (not really in realistic terms) as a show of force against blood-thirsty imperialists. He would also publicly oppose U$ efforts to strangle the country such as proposed fuel cutoffs, asset freezes, and threat of total annihilation, instead supporting more than a “dialogue” but immediate and direct talks between the U$ and DPRK, which the U$ has clearly rejected for imperialistic reasons. [24] Rodman is not the same side as Bruce W. Bennett of Rand Corp, the CIA, or Seth Rogan who wanted to hurt the DPRK with their box office bomb, “The Interview.” But, he also is not supportive of the DPRK’s nuclear tests and by extension exposing nuclear tests by the murderous empire, which are much more dangerous to the idea of a peaceful world free of exploitation. [25] Along with that, a comrade would oppose harsh sanctions on the DPRK and possibly be for a freeze-to-freeze in which the ROK (Republic of Korea or “South Korea”) and U$ military would limit or end huge exercises in military aggression in exchange for the DPRK’s nuclear program ending. This is just a small list of what make one a comrade in solidarity with the DPRK. There is no set list but these basics follow along with established radical and communist principles. Rodman is not a hater of U$ imperialism, like the Black Panther Party which allied themselves with the DPRK, or an “aficionado of U.S. popular culture” as Kim Jong-Un is, but he is a “washed-up celebrity” who sees himself as “neutral.” Most likely, he is being used to create a wedge in U$ policy. Hence, his “basketball diplomacy” is not necessarily a “success” but is rather something that is easily exploited.

For the DPRK, they may not mind meeting with Rodman because they see it as a way to open up diplomatic relations with the U$. While Rodman is clearly on the right-wing, he is much more level-headed than anyone currently in power, so in that sense those in the DPRK leadership don’t mind talking to him. But, if he rarely talks about politics, it could just be to show that the DPRK is welcoming to non-white and oppressed peoples. Whatever the reason, the capitalist ideals of Rodman are not brushing off on the DPRK.

The Russians and Chinese

President Xi Jinping of China (left) and President Vladimir Putin of Russia (right) in 2014

The Chinese and Russian governments have some positive foreign policy, when it comes to helping countries like Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe. But, since neither of these countries (Chin are Russia) are socialist, they easily cut deals with Western capitalists to help their respective bourgeoisie. This is part of the reason why capitalist Russia and revisionist China have not stood behind the DPRK’s acts of self-defense against aggression by the murderous empire and its allies. Instead, if to “buy time” from the orange menace and/or to prevent nuclear contamination of their citizenry (in the case of China), they have held a moderating tone, supporting peaceful negotiation, condemning the DPRK’s actions, and supporting murderous sanctions, like the others on the UN Security Council. [26] Where has the solidarity gone? Perhaps it is past viewpoints of the leadership of the DPRK, if this has any validity at all, are also a sticking point for China, even though China is bound to protect the DPRK if it is attacked. With the “zigzag approach” to the DPRK by the orange menace, Russia and China would benefit the world by defending the socialist state, but they have not done so, instead proposing the idea of a “freeze for freeze” which the US has rejected, as noted earlier. [27] As Gregory Elich recently put it, “unless China and Russia can find a way to oppose U.S. designs without becoming targets themselves, the North Korean people will stand alone and bear the burden of Trump’s malice.” Recently, according to some reports, food exports from China to the DPRK surged showing that the Chinese are playing an interesting game. Luckily, some have taken stands in favor of the DPRK that Russia and China have not.

There is more to say than this short section, but this is meant as a starting point on this topic since the Russian and Chinese governments are both not socialist. The capitalist roaders, as Mao Zedong described them, have taken power and hold of the Communist Party of China, basically “bourgeoisie inside the party” as some describe it. Russia has no Communist Party leading it, but has a nationalist party. As one article put it recently, U$ policy toward Russia has remained unchanged because U$ imperial policy is “driven by Wall Street’s drive for profits, not the good or bad wishes of individual politicians.”

Once again, there is more to say on this topic as I have not fully explored my argument on this issue, but it is still in progress.

Steps forward and concluding thoughts

These photos come from a Sept. 22 article in KCNA. [30]
Rodman has the right idea that the “good side” of the DPRK is not talked about, but its more than that. There is a whole media campaign to demonize the state. Even a recent issue of the “respected” partially bourgeois Smithsonian magazine has photographs from Pyongyang showing industrialization, newly-built high-rises, morning commuters on tram buses, a deep metro center, reading rooms in the People’s Study House (in the central library of Pyongyang), people watching videos at a sci-tech center, and an amusement park called the “Youth Fun Fair” to name a few. [31] While the photographer, a Brit named Tariq Zaidi, clearly has internalized Orientalist values, he still said that the county is “a scenic beautiful country…the cleanest you will ever visit with…hospitable people who will go out of their way to help you.” Stories like this pale in comparison to the “amazing infrastructure, free housing and medical care, impressive agriculture and green energy,” along with bustling cities, touted rightly by Eva Bartlett. This is the side of the DPRK which should be widely shared, not the distorted, “hellish” “stories” from the humanitarian imperialist spinsters at Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First, and Amnesty International, along with varying bourgeois NGOs often called out by Wrong Kind of Green, accompanied by those within the bourgeois media (and U$ government).

It is hard to counter every piece of imperialist propaganda about the DPRK but its possible to show what it’s really like to the best of our collective abilities. We don’t need Russian smugglers, DPRK defectors, or anyone else to “save” the country. [32] Regardless of what the smarmy “North Korea watchers” (i.e. North Korea Economy Watch and 38 North), talking heads, or any other individual with an orientalist mindset says, the leadership of the DPRK is “understandable and rational,” having nukes to only be used in self-defense if the U$ attacks, not having a “first strike” policy like the murderous empire. Like all oppressed people, they can choose how they will struggle or do what is “best suited for their conditions.” [33]

The existence of the DPRK is a breath of fresh air. It shows that a “greater collective human spirit” and more satisfaction can come from something other than what is in the West. [34] They do not want war. While bourgeois experts bemoan the travel ban of U$ citizens to the DPRK, as it will be harder to subvert socialist society there, perhaps this can be taken as an opportunity for more self-development as the orange menace’s racism and “economic nationalism” embodies the murderous empire. [35] Why not counter the demonization, begun with an illegal war in 1950 (and even earlier since the DPRK’s formation in 1948) which destroyed much of the country, with continued strengthening of universal and state-funded education, a strong healthcare system, and expanding alliances internationally from a few African countries to the whole continent? Those decisions are ultimately up to the people of the DPRK and their elected leadership.

I end with a quote from self-declared Black nationalist Robert F. Williams before his escape from the spotlight after returning to the U.S. in 1971, from exile. Many of the words of his 1964 speech, reprinted in his publication, The Crusader, still ring true today. The DPRK has developed, as they describe it, a hydrogen bomb which should be seen as a necessity under current conditions, celebrated as an achievement by an oppressed people, by people of color. Williams said, in part, words which are optimistic but are worth recalling:

“…We, the captive people of the free world of racist America, support the right of all oppressed people to meet violence with violence. We resolutely support the right of all people to self determination…the U.S. Government has sunken to the level of devil of the world…the anti-racist, anti-imperialist forces of the socialist camp are growing more powerful everyday…We believe in the right of armed struggle. We believe in the people’s right to defend themselves…We proudly hail the nuclear achievements of the staunch defenders of the oppressed, our Chinese brothers, in developing weapons for self-defense against nuclear intimidation by the racist USA. Our people, who have for many generations been defenseless victims of monopolized white supremacy terror, consider the Chinese bomb, a people’s bomb, a freedom bomb of the oppressed.”


Notes

[1] Robin Wright, “Donald Trump’s War Doctrine Débuts, at the U.N.,” The New Yorker, Sept. 19, 2017; Margaret Talev and Nick Wadhams, “Trump Bluntly Threatens to Wipe Out North Korea in UN Debut,” Bloomberg News, Sept. 19, 2017; David Rothkopf, “Trump’s first speech to the United Nations was a disastrous, nationalistic flop,” Washington Post, Sept. 19, 2017; Peter Baker and Somini Sengupta, “Trump Soft-Soaps the U.N. Of Course, It Was Only Day 1. . .,” New York Times, Sept. 18, 2017; David Ignatius, “The most surprising thing about Trump’s U.N. speech,” Washington Post, Sept. 19, 2017; AAP, “’Shameless and ignorant’: World stunned after Trump’s fiery speech,” SBS, Sept. 19, 2017; Jeffrey Rodack, “Conservatives Welcome Trump’s ‘Blunt’ Speech to the UN,” Newsmax, Sept. 19, 2017; Abbie Bennett, “Franklin Graham says Trump’s speech was ‘one of the best ever’ at the UN,” The News & Observer, Sept. 19, 2017; Joseph D. Lyons, “Ivanka Praises Trump’s UNGA Speech Despite Criticism From Everyone Else,” Bustle, Sept. 19, 2017. Some, like George Eaton of The New Statesman, even argued that “Trump’s words merely provide further justification for its nuclear weapons programme,” while they predictably followed the bourgeois media in condemning the country’s government, a point which has validity. Recently, a British tabloid, the Daily Mirror, quoted a reported “defector” from the DPRK, Hee Yeon Lim, to tell a wild story of executions, sex slavery, luxury, bribery, privilege, and torture, which undoubtedly a total lie, appended with the call for nuclear weapons to be brought back to south Korea!

[2] Jet Magazine, “Dennis Rodman’s dad had 27 kids and runs bar in the Philippines,” Sept. 23, 1996; Kurt Hean, “Just for the record, Rodman only has 28 siblings,” NBC Sports, Aug. 15, 2011; AP, “NBA Hall of famer Dennis Rodman finally meets his father after 42 years,” CBS News, Jul. 19, 2012.

[3] AP, “NBA Hall of famer Dennis Rodman finally meets his father after 42 years,” CBS News, Jul. 19, 2012; Bruce Newman, “Black, White—and Gray,” Sports Illustrated, May 2, 1988; Shaun Powell, “A long way from home,” Sports on Earth, Mar. 22, 2013.

[4] Bruce Newman, “Black, White—and Gray,” Sports Illustrated, May 2, 1988; NBA profile, “Dennis Rodman,” accessed Sept. 14, 2017; Mike Puma, “Rodman, King or Queen of Rebounds?,” ESPN.com, Feb. 21, 2006.

[5] Shaun Powell, “A long way from home,” Sports on Earth, Mar. 22, 2013; Dave Hannigan, “The top 10 Dennis Rodman moments,” The Times, Jan. 8, 2006; Espn.com, “Dennis Rodman, Chris Mullin into Hall,” Apr. 5, 2011; Jeanette Settembre, “Former NBA star Dennis Rodman to launch his own Bad Boy vodka brand,” New York Daily News, Jul. 12, 2013; Megan Masters and Aly Weisman, “Dennis Rodman Rebounds Back to Rehab,” E! News, May 3, 2009; Steve Forrest, “Dennis Rodman checks into alcohol rehab after N. Korea trip,” CNN, Jan. 19, 2014; Stephen Smith, “Dennis Rodman in debt, faces possible jail time,” CBS News, Mar. 28, 2012; TMZ, “Boozy Dennis Rodman Booted from Restaurant,” Jan. 10, 2010; CBS News/AP, “Rodman pleads guilty to DUI,” CBS News, Jul. 28, 2000; Reuters Staff, “Dennis Rodman arrested in L.A.,” Reuters, May 1, 2008; AP, “Police arrest Rodman after report of dispute at hotel,” May 1, 2008; People Staff, “Dennis Rodman pleads no contest in domestic assault,” People magazine, Jun 25, 2008; AP, “Dennis Rodman pleads no contest to DUI,” USA Today, Apr. 21, 2004; James Queally, “Dennis Rodman facing criminal charges in July hit-and run, prosecutors say,” LA Times, Nov. 21, 2016.

[6] Shaun Powell, “A long way from home,” Sports on Earth, Mar. 22, 2013; WEMM, “Rodman to strip for PETA,” Contactmusic.com, Dec. 22, 2004; Pay Owen, “Dennis Rodman at the Vatican: ‘I want to be anywhere in the world I’m needed,’” The Guardian, Mar. 13, 2013; Sophie Tatum, “Dennis Rodman endorses Trump for President,” CNN, Jul. 24, 2015; Adam B. Lerner, “Dennis Rodman endorses Trump for President,” July 24, 2015.

[7] Michael Parenti, God and His Demons (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2010), 60-62, 77, 95, 131-132, 135, 139, 143, 147.

[8] Kranz Lidz, “Dennis Rodman,” Sports Illustrated, Jul. 8, 2013.

[9] David K. Li, “Dennis Rodman’s ranting saved me from North Korean gulag,” NY Post, May 2, 2016. Bae later claimed that Rodman’s drunken ranting had brought international attention to his plight, leading to his release back into the world of Western capitalism.

[10] Lynn Zinser, “Tensions Rising with North Korea, but Dennis Rodman is there,” NY Times, Feb. 26, 2013; Alan Dulz, “Dennis Rodman to North Korea: ‘I come in peace,’” CNN, Feb. 27, 2013; Johee Cho, “Rodman worms his way into Kim Jong Un meeting,” ABC News, Feb. 28, 2013; Justin Rocket Silverman, “Vice finale tracks Rodman’s strange days in North Korea,” New York Daily News, May 21, 2013.

[11] Politico, “Donald Trump praises ‘smart’ Dennis Rodman North Korea trip,” Mar. 4, 2013.

[12] Lynn Zinser, “Tensions Rising with North Korea, but Dennis Rodman is there,” NY Times, Feb. 26, 2013; IBT staff report, “Dennis Rodman and Kim Jong-Un chat courtside at Pyongyang Basketball Game,” International Business Times, Feb. 28, 2013; ROK Drop, “Ric Flair Describes How Muhammad Ali Told Off North Korean Officials,” Jun 8, 2016; Austin Ramzy, “Muhammad Ali in Pyongyang: A Little Less Love than Rodman,” Time magazine, Mar. 3, 2013; Ronald Kirk, “Muhammad Ali At N. Korea Sports Festival — Unlike Rodman, He Spurned Regime,” Forbes, Jun 4, 2016.

[13] Josh Lewis, “North Korea: Reality vs. the world according to Dennis Rodman,” CNN, Sept. 10, 2013; James Pearson and Megha Rajagopolan, “Rodman returns to Pyongyang but says won’t bring back jailed American,” Reuters, Sept. 2, 2013; Caitlin McDewitt, “Rodman; Kim Jong Un is ‘a good dad,’” Politico, Sept. 9, 2013; Evan McMurry, “Dennis Rodman to train North Korean Olympic Basketball Team,” Medialite, Sept. 9, 2013; Christopher Black, “North Korea: The Grand Deception Revealed,” New Eastern Outlook, Mar. 13, 2017.

[14] AFP, “Rodman heading back to N Korea to Train Basketball Team,” Newsmax, Dec. 4, 2013; RTE, “Dennis Rodman Departs for North Korea for basketball exhibitions,” Jan. 6, 2014; Kurt Helin, “Dennis Rodman still planning exhibition game in North Korea with former NBA players,” NBC Sports, Nov. 22, 2013; News Desk 2, “Dennis Rodman announces basketball diplomacy for upcoming games in North Korea,” the Florida News Journal, Jan. 6, 2014; AP, “Dennis Rodman: ‘I had been been drinking,’” ESPN, Jan. 9, 2014; “Today FM’s Matt Cooper is in North Korea with Dennis Rodman,” thejournal.ie, Jan. 6, 2014.

[15] Fox News, “Feds reportedly investigating Rodman for violating sanctions against N. Korea,” Jan. 25, 2014; Hugh Armitage, “Kim Jong-Un, Dennis Rodman film planned by Ride Alans director Tim Story,” Digital Spy, Feb. 24, 2014; Tatlana Siegel, “Dennis Rodman North Korea Mission to Become Fox Movie (Exclusive),” The Hollywood Reporter, Feb. 23, 2014.

[16] Matt Rivers, Will Ripley, and Joshua Berlinger, “Dennis Rodman hopes to ‘something pretty positive’ in North Korea,” CNN, Jun. 13, 2017; Anna Fifield, “Dennis Rodman is back in North Korea. Was he sent by Trump?,” Washington Post, Jun 13, 2017.

[17] AFP and staff writers, “Dennis Rodman gives North Korean minister a copy of Donald Trump’s the Art of the Deal,” news.com.au, Jun 10, 2017.

[18] Tony Schwartz, “I wrote ‘The Art of the Deal’ with Trump. His self-sabotage is rooted in his past,” Washington Post, May 16, 2017; Jeremy Greenfield, “10 Things You Learn Reading Donald Trump’s ‘The Art of the Deal,’” The Street, Sept. 16, 2015; Josh Barra, “10 things I learned about Donald Trump in ‘The Art of the Deal,’” New York Times, Sept. 22, 2015; Richard Feloni, “Donald Trump’s core business philosophy from his best-selling 1987 book ‘The Art of the Deal,’” Business Insider, Jun 6, 2015.

[19] Catherine Thorbecke, “Dennis Rodman speaks out about his visit to North Korea,” ABC News, Jun 23, 2017.

[20] New York Daily News, “Dennis Rodman praises Kim Jong Un for modernizing North Korea,” Aug. 30, 2017.

[21] DuJour magazine, “Candid moments with Dennis Rodman,” Fall 2017 edition, p. 58. He also says that citizens kind and live lives through Kim Jong-Un; Eric Wilson, “Us Weekly, for a Lot Fewer of Us,” New York Times, Aug. 8, 2012; Jane L. Levere, “Two Luxury Names Expand Collaboration,” New York Times, Aug. 11, 2014; Katja Presnal, “Lifestyle: New Luxury Lifestyle Magazine DuJour,” Skimbaco, Sept. 9, 2012; Robert Channick, “DuJour magazine on the menu for those with the most money in Chicago, U.S.,” Chicago Tribune, Oct. 10, 2012.

[22] Reuters Staff, “Dennis Rodman talks of skiing friendship with Kim Jong Un,” Reuters, Sept. 6, 2017.

[23] Satya Vatti, “U.S. government a friend to the far right around the world,” Liberation News, Aug. 29, 2017.

[24] Michael Ellemean, “North Korea’s Hwasong-12 Launch: A Disturbing Development,” 38 North, Aug. 30, 2017; “DPRK Nuclear Weapons Institute on Successful test of H-Bomb for ICBM,” Rodong Sinmun, Sept. 4, 2017; David F. Sanger and Cahoe Sang-Hun, “U.S. Urges Fuel Cutoff for North Korea, Saying It’s ‘Begging For War,’” NY Times, Sept. 4, 2017; BBC News, “North Korea crisis: US seeks Kim Jong-Un asset freeze,” Sept. 7, 2017; Al Jazeera, “US: N Korea to be ‘destroyed’ if behaviour continues,” Sept. 18, 2017; Jon Schwartz, “North Korea says it might negotiate on nuclear weapons. But the Washington Post isn’t reporting that,” The Intercept, Sept. 25, 2017; “U.S. dismisses immediate talks with N. Korea,” Yonhap News, Sept. 6, 2017; David Tweed, “Trump’s olive branch to North Korean opens slim path to talks,” Bloomberg Politics, Aug. 23, 2017.

[25] Tom Shorrock, “How Sony, Obama, Seth Rogan, and the CIA secretly planned to force regime change in North Korea,” Alternet, Sept. 5, 2017; Al Jazeera, “North Korea conducts most powerful nuclear test yet,” Sept. 3, 2017; NNSA, “B61-12 continues to meet qualification test schedule,” Aug. 2017; RT, “US holds 2nd test of B61-12 gravity nuclear bombs,” Aug. 29, 2017; Binoy Kampmark, “Unnerving the Donald: North Korea’s Sixth Nuclear Test,” Sept. 4, 2017; AP, “The latest: Haley: US to push for more North Korea sanctions,” Washington Post, Sept. 4, 2017; Moon of Alabama, “Why North Korea Needs Nukes – And How to End That,” Apr. 14, 2017; Robert Ramptor and David Brunnstram, “Trump says tougher steps needed on North Korea after new U.N. sanctions,” Reuters, Sept. 11, 2017.

[26] “China rejects possibility of military intervention in North Korea,” TASS, Sept. 4, 2017; “Russian envoy warns any slip-up on Korean peninsula may lead to military outbreak,” TASS, Sept. 4, 2017; Zachary Cohen and Richard Roth, “US passes fresh sanctions on North Korea,” CNN, Sept. 12, 2017.

[27] Anne Gearar, “Trump’s zigzagging approach to North Korea veers toward military options,” Washington Post, Sept. 6, 2017; “Sanctions Against North Korea a Dangerous Dead-End,” The Real News, Sept. 6, 2017.

[30] The article says the following: “The Moranbong Band, the State Merited Chorus and the Wangjaesan Art Troupe Music and dance performances gave a music and dance performance in Wonsan City from September 13 to 21. The numbers of the performance included male solo and chorus “Song Dedicated to the Motherly Party”, light music “Pyongyang Is Best”, orchestra and male chorus “We’ll Travel One Road Forever”, dance “Dash toward Future” and tap dance “Young Days”. The performers sang high praises of the dynamic spirit of socialist Korea dashing ahead like the wind toward the final victory at the speed of Mallima despite all sorts of difficulties and trials of history, rallied close around respected Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un. The artistes of the Moranbong Band in light music and serial songs “Oh Party, It’s Thanks to Your Care,” female solo “We Call You Father,” female chorus “Fatherland and I,” etc. impressively represented the profound trust and gratitude of the army and people to the Workers’ Party of Korea which made a history of great changes under the banner of independence, Songun and socialism, winning great victories. Those of the State Merited Chorus in male solo and chorus “Korea, Forward under the Line of Simultaneously Developing the Two Fronts” and male trio and chorus “Only along the Road of Socialism,” strikingly showed the rock-firm faith and will of the Korean army and people to dynamically advance along the road of simultaneous development of the two fronts under the leadership of the great Party and attain the final victory of socialism. The Wangjaesan Art Troupe presented lively dynamic dances showing the stirring reality of the DPRK where the people are working great innovations in building a socialist power while resolutely foiling the U.S. imperialists and their vassal forces’ unprecedented sanctions and pressure. The performance deeply impressed the audiences.”

[31] Lorraine Bussaneault, “The view from Pyongyang: An Exclusive Look at the World’s Most Secretive Nation,” Smithsonian magazine, Sept. 6, 2017.

[32] Pepe Escobar, “North Korea: Fire, Fury and Fear,” Global Research, Aug. 10, 2017; Tania Branigan, “Hope, Pride, Fear: How North Koreans feel about their homeland,” The Guardian, Aug. 10, 2017; The Moscow Times, “North Korea Receiving Russian Supplies Despite Sanctions—Reports,” Sept. 12, 2017.

[33] Ri Hak Nam, “DPRK is certain to win Thanks to Peerlessly Great Man,” Rodong Sinmun, Aug. 12, 2017.

[34] Kang Choi Su, “No Force on Earth Can Block Advance of DPRK,” Rodong Sinmun, Aug. 22, 2017; Jo Hak Chai, “WPK’s Line of Simultaneously Developing Two Fronts Is Eternal Banner of Peace and Prosperity,” Rodong Sinmun, Aug. 19, 2017.

[35] Robert Rennebohm, “Understanding North Korea,” Global Research, Aug. 21, 2017; Christopher Black, “North Korea: The Grand Deception Revealed,” New Eastern Outlook, Mar. 13, 2017; Samuel Romani, “North Korea’s African Allies,” The Diplomat, July. 4, 2016; Prof. Michel Chossudovsky, “North Korea: Their Health System Sucks, Do They Have Schools and Hospitals…In America We’ve Got Medicare…,” Global Research, Aug. 16, 2017; Brian Wilson, “Korea and the ‘Axis of Evil,’” Global Research, Apr 27, 2002; Doug Palmer, Megan Cassella, and Andrew Restuccia, “Trump mulling withdrawal from Korea trade deal,” Politico, Sept. 2, 2017; Yonhap, “Trump says to weigh withdrawal from S. Korea trade deal,” The Korean Herald, Sept. 3, 2017; Andray Abrahamian, “Commentary: The downside of banning Americans from North Korea,” Reuters, Aug. 31, 2017; Felicity Arbuthnot, “North Korea an Aggressor? A Reality Check,” Dissident Voice, Aug. 24, 2017.

The orange menace, bigotry, and the murderous empire

Quotes from the orange menace’s recent speeches spewing racism and/or jingoism time and time again.

Originally published on the Leftist Critic blog on Aug 31, 2017.

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

While much of Texas (and now Louisiana) reels from a capitalist crime scene which was made clear nationwide across the U$ with the “unprecedented” flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey, another storm is brewing: racism in the White House, the “President’s House” was built on the backs of enslaved and wage laborers.

The orange menace is undoubtedly a racist and bigot as proven during his campaign. Most recently this was manifested in his pardon of Sheriff Joseph Michael Arpaio or “Sheriff Joe” of Maricopa County, Arizona. Defending the action, he claimed that Arpaio did “great” for the Arizonan people and was “loved” there. He further spewed out that his pardon was justified by previous pardons of Marc Rich, Susan Rosenberg, and Carlos Vignali by Bill Clinton, and famed whistleblower Chelsea Manning and noble Puerto Rican independence fighter Oscar Lopez Rivera. He hates them all. Manning, who sadly fell in line with supporting Apple’s fake “privacy” battle with the U$ government, played a major part in interrupting “imperial scheming,” often called diplomacy, of the murderous empire, revealed, for example, that there were “the Kingdom [of Saudi Arabia] proposed energy ties with China if Beijing backed sanctions against Iran, and [showed] that the country is a major source of financing of Islamic reactionary groups.” The same is the case for Rivera, who is also a brave, and arguably heroic figure. As I wrote back in January, which I still stand by

In the days before the orange menace’s inauguration…Obama made some “last minute” actions, some of which were symbolic. Due to public pressure and likely to give himself a “good” legacy…he pardoned transgender whistleblower Chelsea Manning  and Puerto Rican independence fighter Oscar Lopez Rivera, along with a number of nonviolent drug offenders…many political prisoners are still locked behind bars and his action was symbolic…It worth saying however that if Manning’s sentence had not been reduced, the orange menace likely would have extended the sentence and left her in prison for life

Yet, he thinks that Arpaio “is a patriot [who]…loves our country…protected our borders” and the Obama administration “unfairly” treated him. Lest us forget that Arpaio is well-established believer in the theory that Obama’s birth certificate was faked (which the orange menace ran on in an unsuccessful campaign for the 2012 Presidential election) and Maricopa County had to pay millions for his racial profiling to Chican@ people who were profiled as he continued his illegal immigration patrols. Only more recently he was cited as “guilty of criminal contempt of court” since he did not follow a “federal judge’s order that halted his signature immigration round-ups,” which the orange menace could not stand, so he pardoned the bigot. To summarize what Arpaio did, he enforced hardline racist anti-immigration policies which were dictated on the federal level, with sweeps that zeroed in on immigrant neighborhoods, with many of “those taken into custody were not accused of violating a state crime but only of living in the country illegally.” [1]

The orange menace brought his racism to another level, beyond the pardon. He threatened to shut down the federal government over border wall funding (which he did not pull back even he had the opportunity to do so). In his jingoism, he declared that “Mexico is going to pay for the wall….one way or the other,” slammed NAFTA as “one of the worst trade deals ever signed at any time, anywhere in the world” (which isn’t wrong, but what he would replace it with is a bunch of bilateral-NAFTA-like agreements), and said that the U$ needs “the wall very badly” since it will “stop a lot of things” including “drugs” which he bellows is “pouring in at levels like nobody has ever seen,” which sounds like clear and simple fear mongering. There is no doubt about this since he wants to be “very, very tough on the southern border,” in his own words, to protect the supposed “prosperity” he will bring White people in the U$, which isn’t going to materialize. Recently, he praised the mobilization of the Homeland Security Search Capacity Force, in response to Hurricane Harvey, declaring that with law enforcement we have to “make sure that we’re overcoming and anticipating any security needs that we have.” This is consistent with his moves to give the police even more weaponry, which was partially limited by the Obama administration because of public pressure, so they can further terrorize communities consisting of people of color.

Before putting the orange menace in his appropriate context, it is worth discussing his comments on the anti-racist protests in Charlottesville. On August 12 he declared that “we” (by which he meant the US government) condemn “in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides” and said that “it’s been going on for a long time in our country,” nothing new. In his mind, what was needed was “swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives,” and coming together as a nation to “heal the wounds of our country.” While this may seem more measured than chasing people down who are of a certain color of the skin, it still has a White supremacist tone to it, especially when he talks about the “healing procedure” which, when coming from him, sounds like David Duke. Considering that the police and capitalist state in the U$ are of a white supremacist character, calling for “restoration” of “order” means that his “moderation” is nothing of the sort, when he does not categorically condemn bigotry, saying that it happened on “many sides” but not the side of the white supremacists.

Two days later, on August 14, after controversy and anger over his “many sides” comment, he read from a teleprompter, declaring that the “egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence” in Charlottesville has “no place in America,” going onto say that “racism is evil…those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups.” He went onto say that their beliefs are “repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans” and adding that “those who spread violence in the name of bigotry strike at the very core of America.” His solution was the idea of “bonds of love and loyalty that bring us together as Americans” which has echoes of the bygone era when the murderous empire was “fighting” those it called “subversives” and “communists,” a fight against those who stand for justice and a better world which continues to this day. While he condemned hatred, he did not condemn those who engage in bigotry in ways that are not outwardly violent like police killing Black men (and women) on the streets of the U$, the symbols of the Confederacy that still stand in thousands of locations across the country, mostly in the U$ South but some in the North as well. This was to be expected. After all, from his definition, HE should be “repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans” and his words of hate strike at “the very core of America.”

The orange menace’s definitions are contorted, since bigots of any type manifest basic U$ values of White Amerika from redlining, de facto re-segregation in urban areas, and dirty environmental projects placed in poor Black and Brown communities (called environmental racism for short) that cannot readily fight off the challenge as much as affluent White communities. These values, the conception of a safe White neighborhood with white picket fences, barking dogs, and areas removed from the perceived (and sometimes real) “problems” of the city, which does not, in general, include people of color. There are some exceptions, but there areas are broadly created for White people. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said in 1968, there is “no more dangerous development in our nation than the constant building up of predominantly negro central cities ringed by white suburbs” saying this will “invite social disaster.” Yet, nothing was done.

To give more historical context, the U$ Constitution, which is still used as a “blueprint” by the Supreme Court and is a “highly regarded” document, was formed by 55 men who were well-off white property owners, slaveowners, speculators, and other elements of the “new” capitalist class of the burgeoning nation. Anti-Black provisions were written into state laws, proven by the Supreme Court in decision after decision (i.e. Dred Scott v. Sandford, Civil Rights Cases, and Plessy v. Ferguson), and became part of the legal code of the U$ at-large. Racism is NOT “repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans” because it is part of the DNA of the murderous empire itself from transatlantic slavery to indigenous genocide and immigrant expulsion. Sure, it should have “no place in America,” but the orange menace himself stoked the flames of the “egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence,” in places such as Charlottesville, Boston, and San Francisco, to name a few, which was becoming “re-energized” by the united hatred of the U$’s first “Black president” (he was actually mixed race, half White, half Black) Barack Obama, who, as noted before, put a happy face on the murderous empire. If racism” is “evil” as he says, and those who cause “violence in its name are criminals and thugs,” which strikes “the very core of America” (either indicating his dwindling core of supporters or the Midwest of the U$), then the orange menace himself is “evil” and so is the murderous empire, since HE and the empire cause violence in the name of racism,  in terms of inherently racist imperialism.

One day after he, in scripted remarks, condemned in a PR statement, the hatred spewed in Charlottesville, he doubled back on his August 12th comments. This showed that inherently he still believed that both the anti-racists and bigots committed acts of violence. Apart from defending a racist, hate-filled man named Steve Bannon who was, not many days later, fired as his chief strategist (after which he returned as editor of the conspiratorial bigoted site called Breitbart) as a “friend of mine…he’s a good man…not a racist…a good person” who gets “very unfair press in that regard,” he charged that the “alt-left” (which doesn’t exist) was guilty of violence, “charging with clubs in their hands, swinging clubs” at the bigots. Basically he defended the bigots as those with a protest permit and the anti-racists as those without a permit (whether that is true or not), declaring that not all of the people protesting “the taking down of a statue of Robert E. Lee” (which he claimed was “very, very important”) were white supremacists. Furthermore he portrayed the bigots (“bad people”) as “violently” attacked by anti-racists, claiming that there were “very fine people, on both sides.” In his shouting match with reporters of the bourgeois press he said, in his White supremacist language, that those who want Confederate monuments to come down, since they honor a failed nation which explicitly defended and promoted Black slavery, are “changing history…[and] culture” (why is this bad?). [2] He further said that those who are neo-confederate were “treated them absolutely unfairly” by the same press and saying that there were “troublemakers…with the black outfits and with the helmets, and with the baseball bats.” Those people are what is commonly called the Black Bloc. While further comment on the would require more analysis of their tactics and history over time, there should be no debate that those who are facing bigots should be able to use any tools at their disposal to defend themselves.

It was then that the orange menace said that the taking down of the Confederate monuments was only the beginning, like a first domino of a series of dominos falling:

…this week it’s Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down…is it George Washington next week?…Thomas Jefferson the week after?…you…have to ask yourself, where does it stop?…George Washington was a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner? So will George Washington now lose his statues?….are we going to take down statues to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson?…Are we going to take down the statue? Because he [Thomas Jefferson] was a major slave owner. Now, are we going to take down his statue?

When the orange menace feels under attack he predictably spews garbage like this. This just gives pure ammunition to the forces of bigotry within the United States, at least, giving them an easy counter-argument. The fact is that such forces are, as it stands now, on the losing side, on the defensive. The fact that governments (and universities) across the country are taking down Confederate statues shows the power of the anti-racist forces, forces for justice, forces for a better world. To think that people would support taking down the statues of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson within the murderous empire is a joke. Founding myths, as progressive historian Ray Raphael calls them, about such Founding Patriarchs are inherent to the national consciousness. They are drilled in inhabitants of the United States from an early age, through schooling, and used by politicians, whether Democratic or Republican to make “patriotic” arguments. Reading the writings of progressive historians like Howard Zinn, Ray Raphael, William Hogeland, and Christina Synder, who are not always radical in their writing, can help to counter this worship of the Founding Patriarchs.

In the same press conference, the orange menace boasted that he owned “a house in Charlottesville…one of the largest wineries in the United States,” flaunting his capitalistic wealth once again. On the ground, people are resisting at the Charlottesville City Council against the pathetic white moderates who let the calamity unfold, even as it is a “watershed” in the anti-fascist struggle, and people worked together to topple a Confederate statue in Durham, North Carolina.

MLK, mentioned earlier, a self-defined democratic socialist who seemed to incorporate Black nationalism more into his beliefs between 1965 and his death in 1968, once said that “the bombs in Vietnam explode at home. They destroy the hopes and possibilities for a decent America.” [3] The same is the case today, with the violence in the streets of Charlottesville, on the streets of decaying urban metropolis after metropolis by the hands of cops, connecting to the imperial war in Afghanistan. The orange menace already thinks that everyone who puts on a uniform “makes our nation proud” with a shared purpose, wanting the US to be like the military with “love and loyalty to one another – and to our nation – as we seek to heal divisions from within,” speaking out against “the voices that try to sow hatred and division” (which includes the orange menace himself), treating fellow citizens “with love and affection” while honoring “our heroes” with supposed “sacred bonds of loyalty that unite us together as one.” This talk of loyalty not only harkens back to Cold War era loyalty oaths but it inherently fascist as he doesn’t want any sort of dissent, a nation of “yes men” and “yes women.” Furthermore, he doesn’t like transgender people in the U$ military, allowing those who currently are within the ranks to stay, but not allowing others to join, an uneasy compromise for the bigot-in-chief. This could provide an opportunity to organize against military recruitment in the transgender community instead of joining the jingoistic forces that want a bigger recruiting pool for imperialist footsoldiers. That topic is for another article, but should be written about.

In short, the orange menace wants to escalate the war in Afghanistan which was begun by George W. Bush, continued by Obama (who had a “withdrawal” plan that wasn’t about withdrawing) and revved up by the orange menace. The latter likely believes it is part of some Christian crusade as he is almost evangelical in his religious beliefs, asking “God for his wisdom and strength,” declaring that “we will be bigger, better, stronger than ever before.” In his much hyped speech, by the bourgeois media in the U$, he declared that there is a “special class of heroes” in the U$, of “American patriots from every generation” (undoubtedly including, in his mind, the Confederate States of America), saying that the county is at “war with itself at home” and falsely claiming that the U$ is a “force for peace in the world,” with imperialism only possible in his conception if everyone falls in line and doesn’t question him. His “policy” is not really a declarations that there must be “an honorable and enduring outcome” in Afghanistan (reminiscent of Nixon’s idea of an “honorable end to the war in Vietnam” or “Peace with Honor” which was actually ramped up imperialism), no “rapid exit…[or] hasty withdrawal” from Afghanistan, “immense” threats to US security apparently from the region, and facing the “reality of the world as it exists right now.” In his simplistic conception, terrorists who “slaughter innocent people” (like him with his drone killings or the U$ military killing innocent civilians) are “losers” while those in the U$ are apparently “winners.” He further showed that the military really controls the policy on Afghanistan by firstly saying that “conditions on the ground…will guide our strategy from now on” with secret plans to attack without public notice, ” integration of all instruments of American power…toward a successful outcome,” not engaging in nation-building or constructing “democracies in faraway lands,” but allowing the military to do what they please without restrictions with expansion of authority “for American armed forces to target the terrorist and criminal networks that sow violence and chaos throughout Afghanistan.” He basically wants to give more power to the military that lied about its number of troops in the country (admitting that 2,600 more troops were there than they said publicly), killed 15 Afghanis in an airstrike, “accidentally” killed Yemeni families, killing 10 Somalis (with the help of the U$-backed Somali army).

He seemed to eerily echo Obama’s 2016 State of the Union Speech:

Again, toward the end of the speech, he called for those in the U$ to “unite” to defend the country “from its enemies abroad” by restoring “the bonds of loyalty among our citizens at home” and achieving an “honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the enormous price that so many have paid.” The latter is not possible at this point and the former just reflects his obsession with loyalty and no dissent, his inherent mindset. Anyone who challenges him, even liberals and progressives of a bourgeois character are disloyal, especially those who point out the contours of his brand, working to poke holes in this super-brand as Naomi Klein, a progressive of the bourgeois variety who is part of what some call the “Celebrity Left,” writes who is clearly a brand herself, just like many other “exalted” figures on the “Left” like Noam Chomsky.

The orange menace’s racism and outright bigotry is only one manifestation of the foulness of the murderous empire. He has embodied the empire as its head, so to speak, with a changing strategy in Syria, threats against the DPRK (and more recently Venezuela), along with horrendous sanctions, reinforcing the imperial interrelationship with Saudi Arabia, bombing Syria in what seems to be a one-time event to send a message to Moscow and Damascus to name a few aspects. While Bannon is gone, the bigotry continues. He will remain, an informal adviser to the orange menace in his position at the head of a hateful propaganda network. After all, the Muslim ban was greenlighted by the Supreme Court as only a partial ban, showing their role in reinforcing racist legalism once again. The orange menace’s advisers, like H.R. McMaster, have more pull with Bannon gone, but perhaps that was part of the plan. It is hard to discern. To put it simply, in the grand scheme of things, the orange menace is only one cog of the machine. Bigotry of all types, runs rampant in the murderous empire from gentrification in the “fixed up” urban areas to more dirty energy pipelines forced through the land of indigenous nations. The capitalist monster can only be stopped in its tracks with determination, solidarity, knowledge of past history, and a well-developed analysis, to name a few elements.


Notes

[1] He also boasted that “Nobody is higher than me. I am the elected sheriff by the people. I don’t serve any governor or the president.”

[2] Bringing down Confederate monuments should be applauded but it only the start and should not be done to replace necessary racial justice not of the kind proposed by Ta-Nehisi Coates but that which is written about by Cornel West or those over at the always well-spoken Black Agenda Report.

[3] While his belief in non-violence and “loving your enemy” doesn’t really have a place in today’s society, he did truly care about the Black people of America, and the disenfranchised of all races.