Is “The Simpsons” dead or zombiefied?

Lisa talking to the producer of the Itchy and Scratchy Show (S8e14).

Originally published on the Leftist Critic blog on Apr 22, 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 reader may know, I’m an avid fan of animated sitcom, the Simpsons. I’ve cited it on this blog when mentioning that strange “human rights watcher” guy and how the show has mocked Apple (and addiction to online games) by calling it “Mapple,” the character of “Steve Mobbs” (Steve Jobs) declaring to Homer that he must “submit” to Apple’s control, and Bart dispelling the idea that Mobbs is a “genius,” saying he is self-absorbed while stirring up people’s homophobic urges. I’ve also cited the Simpsons as an example of better politics than Star Wars, Simpsons episodes about Cuba, the episode called “Simpsons Tide” as a comparison for recent Russophobic attacks on the Trump Administration, and mentioned it at the end of an article about the immigrant proletariat in the United States. This is only scratching the surface as my twitter account shows. By the time this is published, there will soon be another episode in the works, which isn’t worth watching. As it stands now, The Simpsons is going into the latter half of its 28th season, with plans of it continuing until Season 30, as announced last fall. I’m not trying to advocate on behalf of the Simpsons here, but look into this topic with a clear mind, since this show can be relevant culturally and politically, so this analysis is justified. This post aims to answer the question, is show dead and/or does it constitute the “Zombie Simpsons” as those over at Dead Homer Society argue?

Definitions and establishing terms

Before proceeding it is best to set forward a number of definitions. For the word dead, the Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines it as “no longer living; having died…naturally without life; inanimate…lacking positive qualities…without feeling…barren…time of greatest darkness, most intense cold…was alive but is no loner so.” As for zombie, the same dictionary defines it as “…a corpse…brought to a state of tracelike animation and made to obey the commands of the person exercising the power…a person considered to like a zombie in listlessness, mechanical behavior…a weird, eccentric, or unattractive person.”

The general agreement is that there was a “Golden Age” of the Simpsons. [1] Some say it lasted from Seasons 1 to 8, others say Seasons 3 to 8, some say Seasons 4 to 10, and then there are those that say it lasted from Seasons 1 to 10, or maybe 11. So, the term is very loose. This is why some media critics say it is a “fool’s errand to pinpoint when and how modern-day Simpsons diverged from its golden age,” while others say that the term is misleading because while it was “an extraordinary, even masterful thing,” over those years, it could be an overstatement even if the show would be, arguably, by seasons 10 and 11, in a “gaping valley [and]…never get anywhere near those heights again.” Then there are those who say that the show has not “overstayed its relevance” and that the show still holds up, with a “New Renaissance…and then a Postmodern period where they got self-reflexive about their own legacy.” While you could argue this has a bit of validity, it almost implies that the show was never off, its character didn’t change, whether it because of episodes like “The Principal and the Pauper,” or otherwise. [2]

You know the show has changed when it has averaged at approximately 5.53 million viewers per show since Season 21, until Season 28 (as of Feb. 25), but before then, during the “Golden Age” (Seasons 1 to 7 for this computation) the show averaged at 19.88 million viewers per show, much more. [3] This below chart shows the decline in viewership over the years, of the show. Despite the slight increase in viewership from seasons Seasons 12 to Season 14, it dropped again by the end of Season 15.

For the first star, Season 8 on Wikipedia has incomplete data on viewership, but it is used in this analysis anyway. For the second star, data on viewership in the 27th and 28th seasons stops at the episode titled The Cad and the Hat.

The Simpsons has been written about critically in The Psychology of the Simpsons, The Simpsons and Philosophy: The D’oh! of Homer, and Planet Simpson: How a Cartoon Masterpiece Documented an Era and Defined a Generation, to name a few. I may look at those books more in the future, but for now, I’ll propose my own analysis.

The Simpsons is a show that shows that cartoons aren’t just “a bunch of hilarious stuff” without messages, as Bart quipped in one episode. The information available at The Simpsons Archives shows, that there can be many interpretation of the episodes. Some say that fat, incompetent Homer is seen by some as a “homophobic hero” while others point to the show’s criticisms of consumerism (also see here) environmental destruction, and religious belief (also see here and here). Beyond this, some talk about allusions in the animated sitcom, masculinity, mocking the advertising of beer companies with “Duff Beer,” poking at the “ideal” nuclear family which the Simpsons family stereotypically represents, its satirical qualities, and ethics, among other subjects.

For the purpose of my analysis, the show is divided into three eras: the Golden Age (Seasons 1-8), the Silver Age (Seasons 9 to 12), and the Bronze Age (Seasons 13 to 28, possibly 30). For the Golden Age, there were varying showrunners, or head writers, ranging from season to season:

  • Matt Groening, James L. Brooks, & Sam Simon (Seasons 1 and 2)
  • Al Jean & Mike Reiss (Seasons 3 and 4)
  • David Mirkin (Seasons 5 and 6)
  • Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein (Seasons 7 and 8)
  • Mike Scully (Seasons 9 to 12)
  • Al Jean (Seasons 13 to present)

Hence, you could call the “Silver Age” the Mike Scully era and the “Bronze Age” the Al Jean era.

Originally, when I thought of writing up this analysis, I was going to go through each Season and pick some of my favorite episodes, apart from its politics, however that is not sufficient for the task at hand. Instead, it is best to highlight the changing nature of the show from each era to the next. Let me make clear that I’m not trying or attempting to be nostalgic here either, it is just that the show has changed over time.

The Golden Age of the Simpsons

In Season 1, the show began with a bang, after 49 animated shorts on The Tracy Ulman Show. The pilot episode, Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire, introduced the Simpsons family to American audiences, showing Homer, his wife Marge, and their child Maggie. Without going into a summary, the episode not only pokes at uptight Americans through the developing anti-authority nature of their son, Bart, but illustrates the class dynamics in society. Homer wants to “keep up the Joneses” and prove his worthiness “as a man” by getting a job as a mall Santa, as his ruthless boss, Mr. C. Montgomery Burns of the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, refuses to give his workers a Christmas bonus. The latter shows that workers (who are shown as supposedly middle-class even though they could be seen as proletariat), are under the thumb of the big capitalists, that want to cut costs so they can profit off the back of wealth created by laborers. Finally, the losing dog, Santa’s Little Helper, for which he bets $13 dollars, Marge and Lisa, Homer and Marge’s daughter, say is the  “best gift of all,” and brings the family together, reasserting his role as “man of the house.”

While it worth recounting the first episode, it is best to categorize the episodes into categories to show the social, personal and political themes among the seasons. Even though the first season was still the show in development, it began touching on many  themes, along with being insightful and often funny.

Bart celebrates his victory over Nelson Muntz (“Bart the General”)

The first of these themes is Bart opposing the constraints of the schoolyard while also trying to maintain his “rebellious” social standing:

  • In Bart the Genius, he sprays graffiti mocking Principal Seymour Skinner of Springfield Elementary, utters the phrase “eat my shorts” which will later become his catchphrase, cheats on a test giving him a ticket into “higher” schooling and learning in which he cannot thrive since he isn’t really a genius at all and was “faking it.” By the end of the episode, everything is “back to normal” in the Simpson home.
  • In one episode, Bart leads kids to fighting back against those who bully him (Bart the General), with the episode even touching on the seriousness of war
  • Bart’s attempts to assert his “rebellious” social standing, the beginning of criticism of TV comedians/showbusiness with the introduction of Krusty the Clown, and the town defending its own insular identity after Bart decapitates the Jebeddiah Springfield statue in the center of town are manifested in The Telltale Head.
  • The next three episodes focus on Bart’s rebellious nature (The Crepes of Wrath), the Cold War tensions between Albania and the U$ which results in this argument between Lisa and Adil
  • Bart shows that he wants to succeed enough to get a passing grade by working with the stereotypical nerd Martin Prince (Bart Gets an “F”)
  • Bart’s cruel nature toward his sister which he eventually apologizes for (Bart vs. Thanksgiving)
  • Bart trying to be a daredevil with the infamous (and hilarious) scene by Homer trying (and failing) to jump the Springfield gorge (Bart the Daredevil)
  • Bart’s mischievous antics and Homer trying to relieve himself of the pressure of Marge’s “hideous” sisters Patty and Selma (Principal Charming)
  • Bart recognizing emotional pain he can cause people (Bart the Lover)
  • In Radio Bart, he manipulates the town with his microphone, but the worthlessness of a funding campaign by celebrities which mimics “We are the World,” and that you should be careful what you wish for, with Bart saved after a massive digging effort with the wishing well as dangerous as ever.
  • Bart having a taste of authority with Lisa becoming rebellious but coming back to her usual self with the help of Bart (Separate Vocation)
  • Bart learns the ins and outs of love as he ruins Milhouse’s budding relationship with Samantha Stankey (Bart’s Friend Falls in Love)
  • Bart recognizing the importance of love with his admiration of Laura Powers which doesn’t go as he planned (New Kid on the Block)
  • another about Bart becoming famous for catchphrase (“I Didn’t Do It”) which shows the roughness of show business (Bart Gets Famous)
  • one about Bart becoming Burns’ heir until he refuses to fire his father from his job
  • Bart helps his nemesis, Skinner, get his job back (Sweet Seymour Skinner’s Baadasssss Song)
  • Bart “acting bad” attracts the daughter of Rev. Lovejoy, Allison, but it doesn’t go as he planned (Bart’s Girlfriend)
  • Bart pranks an Australian boy, sparking an international controversy (Bart vs. Australia)
  • Bart sells his soul to Milhouse for five dollars which he comes to regret and tries to get it back
  • Bart fails in his shoplifting, leading to his punishment by Marge for his behavior (Marge Be Not Proud), which the Dead Homer Society did not like
  • Bart travels the open road with Milhouse, Nelson, and Martin, with them stranded out there (Bart on the Road)
Mr Burns looks down, watching over the crowd gathering in front of the nuclear plant in protest. They are listening to then-“safety” advocate Homer, with his role as obviously an ironic one since he is often a buffoon (Homer’s Odyssey)

The next category focuses mocks corporate propaganda, control, and/or focuses on struggles of those working in the nuclear plant, especially Homer:

  • In Homer’s Odyssey, shows that Bart continues to be disobedient, pokes at propaganda for nuclear power, and establishes Homer’s story, as he goes from being an incompetent buffoon to becoming safety inspector at the Nuclear Plant after his wide-ranging campaign for safety across the town of Springfield, cementing his job for the rest of the show. You could say that Mr. Burns made a concession to the protesters campaigning for safety by hiring Homer, which not gave Homer a job and saved Mr. Burns from scrutiny of the plant’s safety.
  • In There’s No Disgrace Like Home, which focus on family problems, introduce the Itchy and Scratchy show which mocks “Tom and Jerry” (or so I thought) the corrupt (and incompetent) police force in the town.
  • Homer rising up the executive ladder in the nuclear power plant by deceit and deception with hair growth product which he falsely paid for on the company health plan (Simpson and the Deliliah), showing that what Frank Grimes says many episodes later rings true while also showing that Marge will stand by him even as Homer is demoted to old job by the end of the episode, and that people discriminate against those who are bald, not taking them seriously.
  • The first episode of the season, Stark Raving Dad, shows the regimented, corporate control of the workplace for which Homer is targeted for wearing a pink shirt and put in a mental institution where he meets a man who claims to be Michael Jackson (this character is the guest appearance of Michael Jackson), who cheers up Lisa.
  • Krusty the Clown’s Jewish roots, perhaps poking at the number of Jewish comedians within Hollywood (Like Father, Like Clown)
  • corporate consolidation and the unforgettable daydream of Homer about the “Land of Chocolate,” with the power dynamics returning to “normal” when Mr. Burns buys his plant back from the Germans by the end (Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk)
  • Kamp Krusty is one of the best episodes to date, not only highlighting Krusty the Clown’s cost-cutting measures to “save” money and his fraudulence in that regard, but the naivety of Marge and Homer about the camp, along with the infotainment aspect of the news media represented by Kent Brockman’s report about the situation
  • Homer starting his own snowplowing business, Mr. Plow, moving up to the status as part of the petty bourgeoisie which doesn’t last very long at all.
  • the sleaziness of corporate spokespeople (Marge vs. the Monorail),
  • shifty lawyers like buffoon Lionel Hutz and the power of the capitalist class in the courtroom (Bart Gets Hit by a Car)
  • a strike of the workers at the Springfield nuclear plant with Homer elected as head of the union (Last Exit to Springfield)
  • the sometimes redeeming aspects of showbusiness, at least for Krusty (Krusty Gets Kancelled)
  • While Homer’s Barbershop Quartet basically parodies the Beatles
  • wonderful episode that makes fun of “feel good” therapists (Bart’s Inner Child)
  • the allure of gambling for Mr. Burns and the town as a whole, with the title parodying the full title of Dr. Strangelove ($pringfield (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Legalized Gambling)
  • Bart realizes he needs to testify, showing that Quimby didn’t beat up a waiter, going against everyone’s conceptions about the Quimby family, and that it was the waiter’s fault (The Boy Who Knew Too Much)
  • Springfield hosts a film festival with Hans Moleman’s funny short, “Man Hit By Football,” an insightful movie by Barney, and a propaganda film by Mr. Burns which everyone hates (A Star is Burns)
  • The Radioactive Man movie is filmed in Springfield, and the project quickly goes into disarray
  • In Scenes from Class Struggle in Springfield, Marge and Lisa try to enter the high life of Springfield but it is short-lived
  • Bart gets Krusty the Clown fined by the IRS and tries to make it up to him (Bart the Fink)
  • Bart unwittingly bankrupts the studio that produces Itchy and Scratchy (The Day the Violence Died)
The best visual and non-spoken line of Lisa’s Substitute.

Another major theme in the show is the intelligence of Lisa (the heart of the show and representative of liberalism) being undermined while she also tries to impress people:

  • the importance of jazz as an art to express one’s emotions is manifested in Lisa’s saxophone playing (Moaning Lisa)
  • One of my favorite episodes, other than Bart the Daredevil, Itchy & Scratchy & Marge, Bart Gets Hit By a Car, Three Men and a Comic Book, and Blood Feud, to name a few, is Lisa’s Substitute, which I just rewatched. This episode shows Lisa’s fragile nature but also how she wants to be valued for her intelligence, admonishing her father for his aloofness and seeming “uncaring” nature, while she makes up with him by the end. Also, in a sub-story, Bart doesn’t get all he wants either as he thinks his popularity will push him forward to be class president, when everyone but him treats it like a joke, showing that his “popularity” is only constructed, not real, almost a facade, in a sense.
  • Episodes such as Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington show Lisa as a person who stands up for what’s right
  • Lisa trying to impress people with her “beauty” before she realizes it is a scam to promote Laramie Cigarettes, yet another poke at corporate advertising like “Duff Beer” (Lisa the Beauty Queen)
  • There’s also Ralph Wiggum’s short-lived relationship with Lisa (I Love Lisa)
  • One great episode about gender roles in society (Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy)
  • Lisa faces a rival in class, Allison Taylor, which angers her so much he compromises her values, but this doesn’t matter because Ralph wins for his Star Wars action figures (Lisa’s Rival)
  • Lisa’s cruel tricks on her brother and Homer swearing off beer for a month (Duffless)
  • Lisa is thrown into a tizzy when the teachers go on strike (The PTA Disbands)
  • Lisa becomes sad about the death of Bleeding Gums Murphy, but plays with his ghost in the clouds (‘Round Springfield)
  • After a trip to see a cute lamb, Lisa decides she cannot eat meat anymore and becomes a vegetarian, working to stick to her view (Lisa the Vegetarian)
  • Lisa discovers the real truth behind the founder of Springfield and works to try to reveal it (Lisa the Iconoclast)
  • Lisa leaving behind her “nerdy” self to fit in with those on the beach (Summer of 4 Ft. 2)
Bart, Lisa, and Maggie subdue the “Babysitter Bandit” (Some Enchanted Evening) I think this is a promotional image, not from the episode itself.

In a sort of related theme, there’s family togetherness as manifested in these episodes:

  • family togetherness (The Call of the Simpsons)
  • Homer’s ineptness in letting the “Babysitter Bandit” get away who the Simpson children had bound up to protect themselves in a “Home Alone” style (Some Enchanted Evening)
  • Santa’s Little Helper becoming more part of the family than before while mirroring Bart’s school troubles at the beginning of the season (Bart’s Dog Gets and F)
  • love of family and togetherness (Lisa’s Pony and Saturdays of Thunder)
  • family is more important than gambling by far (Lisa the Greek)
  • Herb forgiving Homer for ruining his auto business in “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” while showing that people can be forgiving even after people have been cruel to them in the past (Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?)
  • Selma trying to test her maternal instincts as Lisa gets drunk for the first time in the show, which is pretty hilarious to say the least, after Homer eats a spoiled sandwich which he treats like a person (Selma’s Choice)
  • tensions between Bart and Homer getting a boiling point (Brother from the Same Planet)
  • Homer tries to connect with Bart by getting him an elephant (Bart Gets an Elephant)
  • Abe Simpson falls in love with Marge’s Mother (Lady Bouvier’s Lover)
  • The Simpsons family is brought together by the vacation at Itchy & Scratchy Land
  • Lisa and Bart face each other on the ice, but it ends with an unexpected twist (Lisa on Ice)
  • Abe and Homer Simpson worth together to produce a tonic (Grampa vs. Sexual Inadequacy)
  • The story about Maggie’s birth, which brings the family together (And Maggie Makes Three)
  • Homer has to ask Patty and Selma for a loan, which he tries to keep secret from Marge (Homer vs. Patty and Selma)
  • The Simpson kids are put in the custody of the Flanders Family, with Homer and Marge having to save them from being baptized (Home Sweet Homediddly-Dum-Doodily)
  • Mona Simpson, Homer’s Mother, makes her debut in the series, with the backstory her her escape as a hippie in 1969 explained (Mother Simpson)
  • Selma marries Troy McClure, a reality show personality, but it doesn’t go as she thought it would (A Fish Called Selma)
Marge plays Blanche DuBois in “A Streetcar Named Desire” (A Streetcar Named Marge)

One related theme is Marge being devalued, just like Lisa:

  • Homer seems to fall into the role of Marge as a mother (Homer Alone)
  • Others focus on how Marge is not being valued at home, threatening Homer’s social standing in the family, and mocking Ayn Rand’s ideas directly, represented by the daycare provider (A Streetcar Named Marge)
  • Marge getting her first job of the series other than homemaker as a worker at the nuclear plant (Marge Gets a Job)
  • the importance of Marge in the town’s social life (Marge in Chains)
  • Marge as an outlaw with Ruth Powers (Marge on the Lam)
  • Secrets of a Successful Marriage focuses on marital tensions between Homer and Marge, with the latter forgiving him
  • Marge has to come to grips with her secret fear of flying
  • Marge gets a job as a police officer, which seems to “threaten” Homer’s manhood (The Springfield Connection)
Homer dances with Princess Kashmir in Homer’s Night Out.

A related theme is Homer trying to maintain his “middle-class” standing and status as a male rolemodel, “man of the house” for his children:

  • seductions of another man pulling Marge in but she still comes back to Homer, showing their lifelong bond, while Homer’s role as an effective “male role model” is clearly shown as a facade (Life on the Fast Lane)
  • This bond is challenged in Homer’s Night Out, which some people as I know from watching some YouTube video which claimed to tell the “worst Simpsons episode,” did not like, in which Marge doesn’t like the picture of Homer with Princess Kashmir because it says that Homer doesn’t respect women, which he makes up by the end of the episode.
  • an episode about Homer dancing for attention (Dancin’ Homer)
  • a golf competition to maintain his “middle-class” status (Dead Putting Society), poking at how many see the “American Dream” as something that should continually strive to
  • Homer’s drunkenness, selfishness, and working to maintain his marital ties (The War of the Simpsons)
  • When Flanders Failed shows that Homer has a redeeming quality despite the fact that he is still envious of the Flanders Family for seemingly being “better off” than the Simpsons.
  • Homer’s ineptness “saving” the day showing him an imbecile, “gaining” him a phrase and “entry” in the visualized dictionary, with this episode showing more about who Homer is as a person (Homer Defined)
  • Homer being tempted by pretty woman, Lureen Lumpkin, while also parodying country music (Colonel Homer)
  • the cruelties of Homer’s treatment of Bart by not letting him see the new Itchy and Scratchy movie (Itchy & Scratchy: The Movie)
  • The one about Homer going to college (Homer Goes to College) is one of my favorites. I say that not only because it includes the great scenes about the mystery box but it shows how Homer doesn’t care about school at all, basically treating it like an utter joke. While I personally wasn’t that type of student, I did watch this one again after graduating last year, so it still has holding power.
  • Homer proves himself as a father figure (Boy-Scoutz ‘n the Hood) after Bart becomes a junior camper, saving the day by bringing a Krusty map with him, eating at a restaurant on an offshore oil rig
  • Homer resisting his exact doppleganger, Mindy Simmons, and staying with Marge (The Last Temptation of Homer)
  • There’s the episode which seems to be the Simpsons version of Clockwork Orange, with Homer and others becoming a vigilante (Homer the Vigilante)
  • Homer helping Apu out after getting him fired, showing the former to be an utter jerk (Homer and Apu)
  • Homer going into space as an astronaut “by default” after Barney drank non-alcoholic champagne, along with the infamous line by Kent Brockman “welcoming our new insect overlords” showing him to be too hasty and sensationalized nature of the news media (Deep Space Homer)
  • Homer breaking from his usual routine of disliking Flanders to treating him as a friend, which Ned eventually detests so much to separate himself (Homer Loves Flanders)
  • When Homer is falsely accused of molesting a woman, he tries to defend himself, but the sensationalized media treats him like a perpetrator until someone unexpected comes to try to prove his innocence (Homer Badman)
  • Homer becomes the leader of the Stonecutters, but not everything goes the way that he would have expected it (Homer the Great). Also a parody of secret societies.
  • Homer becomes a clown but runs into trouble with the mob (Homie the Clown)
  • Homer becomes fat to avoid getting on the plants exercise program and barely saves the town from catastrophic meltdown (King-Size Homer)
  • Homer brings together a baseball team as school rules clampdown (Team Homer)
  • Homer takes the role of Smithers, leading Mr. Burns to become self-reliant (Homer the Smithers)
  • Homer traveling with a music festival (Homerpalooza)
Sideshow Bob is arrested for his tomfoolery, mainly with framing Krusty for a crime he didn’t commit, and vows revenge on Bart (Krusty Gets Busted)

Then there’s the running villain throughout the series, Sideshow Bob, along with other related themes like the evilness of Mr. Burns and funny “horror” episodes:

A classic poster from Itchy & Scratchy & Marge which shows how people are misled in their thinking about cartoon violence.

There are others that poke at social conservatives, shifty lawyers, morals, and much more. These include poking at a socially conservative response to cartoon violence (Itchy & Scratchy & Marge), about living life to the fullest (One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish), and stealing from the cable companies contrasting with morals Lisa professes, showing the limits of liberalism perhaps (Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th commandment). Others focus on how wealth can come and go in flash and provides commentary on the failing “big three” automakers in Detroit (Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?), inheritance of money and discrimination of the elderly (Old Money), importance of artistry and artistic impressions even if they aren’t popular, showing that everyone is a human being regardless of class (Brush with Greatness), and helping out those in need even if they have a higher status than you (Blood Feud). More beyond this focus on the importance of sharing rather than infighting over material goods (Three Men and a Comic Book), the power of the mob in society (Bart the Murderer), Moe’s shifty, selfish nature (Flaming Moe’s), the relation of dogs to humans who can brainwash them for their own interests (Dog of Death), and how people are false religious figures, heretics, like Homer in once case (Homer the Heretic). Some episodes are heartwarming, talking about Lisa’s First Word, while others Homer’s horrible eating habits causing him to have a heart attack and necessary surgery (Homer’s Triple Bypass). Then there are others about Otto’s shifty behavior is noted, while highlighting his important role in the community as a bus driver for the schoolchildren (The Otto Show), a creative, well-written show about cartoon writers (The Front), and the town coming together as “Bart’s Comet” threatens the town, the Springfield community working to get their beloved lemon tree back (Lemon of Troy). 22 Short Films About Springfield is be one of my favorite episodes because it connects the stories of other Springfieldians, telling the story of many minor characters who don’t get much airtime. Another great episode is one against animal cruelty episode which shows that whacking snakes should be condemned, with Lisa morally on the right side with Bart helping her (Whacking Day). There’s also one which shows the faultiness of anti-immigration measures (Much Apu About Nothing), and the Simpsons moving to Cypress Creek with the James Bond villain Hank Scorpio (You Only Move Twice). Tacked on are the flashbacks about Homer and Marge (I Married Marge and The Way We Was), three which are “clip shows” (So It’s Come To This: A Simpsons Clip Show, Another Simpsons Clip Show, and The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular), one which is a flash forward about Lisa’s Wedding (this is not canon).

Flanders snaps for the first time in the series, calling out Marge, Bart, Lisa, Moe, Krusty the Clown, Lenny, and Homer for “treating him badly” showing that he has bottled up rage, a problem seemingly solved by the end of the episode (Hurricane Neddy)

When we get to season 8, there are episodes about Homer boxing and failing (The Homer They Fall), Mr. Burn’s half-witted brother Larry (why?) (Burns, Baby Burns), Bart working at a local burlesque house angering the uptight people in Springfield (Bart After Dark), division in the Milhouse family (A Milhouse Divided), Lisa dating Nelson (Lisa’s Date with Density), Flanders showing that he has been repressing uncontrollable rage since childhood (Hurricane Neddy), and Homer realizing after a long journey that Marge is his soulmate (El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer (The Mysterious Voyage of Homer)). If that isn’t enough, there are episodes parodying the X-Files (The Springfield Files), Marge getting in the business of selling pretzels, becoming petty bourgeois (The Twisted World of Marge Simpson), Mr. Burns and Homer facing off when trapped in a cabin the woods (Mountain of Madness), parodying Mary Poppins (Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala(Annoyed Grunt)cious), and showing the desperate nature of some cartoon shows to create a new, unnecessary character to raise viewer interest (The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show). Then there’s the classic one that counters Homer’s homophobic tendencies (Homer’s Phobia), Sideshow Bob returning on the scene (Brother from Another Series), Lisa’s babysitting reputation ruined by Bart which isn’t the best episode (My Sister, My Sitter), commentary on prohibition of alcohol (Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment), the relationship between Skinner and Edna (Grade School Confidential), and the Simpsons abandoning Santa’s Little Helper (The Canine Mutiny). Apart from the non-canon Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase, Lisa’s stint in military school (The Secret War of Lisa Simpson), showing that Mr. Burns is evil even if he tries to do “good” (The Old Man and the Lisa), and possibly In Marge We Trust are reputable episodes. While some may disagree, I think that Homer’s Enemy is one of the more brilliant episodes because it shows how hard-working people would feel if they met Homer, who is lazy, takes breaks whenever, and doesn’t respect his boss in a sense even though he is a good family man. It could also be said that Frank Grimes, a hard-working individual, also represents those who don’t like the Simpsons show, facing up with the fans, but it is also true that what Grimes says in criticism of Homer is basically correct. Saying all of this, I don’t think it is right for those at the Dead Homer Society to put Season 8 within the “Mayday, Mayday, we’re going down!” category, meaning that it is part of the Simpsons decline.

Beyond the Golden Age

With Mike Scully coming to the fore in Season 9, the beginning of the Silver Age which lasted to Season 12, the Simpsons began its decline. Some, like the Dead Homer Society which was mentioned earlier, say that by Season 12, the Simpsons became the “Zombie Simpsons,” without a pulse. Instead of going into detail about this in the main text, I think it is best to put what I wrote into a footnote. [4]

Homer finds his mother dead in Mona Leaves-a.

With the end of the Silver Age or Mike Scully era, there was the inauguration of the  Bronze Age or Al Jean era, lasting from Seasons 13 to Season 28 (present). Since the Simpsons went downhill for so many episodes, it isn’t worth mentioning all the bad episodes. Instead, I’ll just put some of them in a footnote. [5] Even if there are some that are redeemable like She of Little Faith, Moe Baby Blues, My Mother the Carjacker, and  Mona Leaves-a. There are a number of episodes I listed in footnote 5 which are “passable” but not redeemable. Hence, these episodes should not be taken as an indication that the Bronze Age episodes were “good” or “brilliant” but that there are some better than others. Then we get to The Simpsons Movie which is redeemable because many of the writers from the Golden Age came back to work on the movie, making it much better than the seasons up to that point.

A defense of the Simpson “Golden era” and why the current show stinks

The Dead Homer Society is completely right. The show has become inanimate, barren, cold, listless, mechanical, and weird. It has become a “Zombie Simpsons.” Even the Consequence of Sound site, in listing the “top 30” episodes of the series, chooses episodes that ALL fall within the Golden Age of the Simpsons (Season 1-8), calling the other seasons “bad” by comparison. Roughly the same goes for the “10 Most Heartfelt Moments” although they choose one from Season 12. Many YouTubers I’ve watched put it perfectly: the show has become hollow and run out of ideas, what you could call stale.

Recently, I watched a list of YouTube videos listing the movie references across the Simpsons history. There is no doubt that the Treehouse of Horror, even into the Silver and Bronze eras, continues to pay homage to cinema, but beyond that, there is much more. [6] Even the Simpsons Movie has its share of movie references. The tribute to cinema is rich in the early seasons. In the Treehouse of Horror episodes from Season 1 to 6, they hit many of the classics. [7] Looking at these movie tributes, there is an average of over seven per episode, which may even be low since many more likely exist:

Some of the classics featured in these episodes include: Frankenstein (1931) and Poltergeist (1982) [Treehouse of Horror I]; Robocop (1987) and The Thing With Two Heads (1972) [Treehouse of Horror II]; A Clockwork Orange (1971) and Gremlins (1984) [Treehouse of Horror III]; The Birds (1963) and Fantasia (1940) [Treehouse of Horror IV]; Jurassic Park (1993) and Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) [Treehouse of Horror V]; A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and Predator (1987) [Treehouse of Horror VI]. And lots of references to The Twilight Show.
These references continue throughout the Simpsons’ Golden Era [8], cinema references blossoming from Seasons 1 to 8:

I could go on and mention the interviews with the voice actors from the Simpsons which I watched recently or a host of other videos here, but it should be clear to any reader with some sense that the Golden Era of the Simpsons was the best they have offered, much better than episodes in the Silver or Bronze eras.

A Conclusion

I could go on with this, but I think you get the point. While I still think that The Simpsons can be cited, I personally refuse to watch any episode made after Season 13 ever again, and encourage those fans of the Simpsons to do the same. There is no reason to watch something which is dead and has no pulse. Why not take heed from what Bart says in Itchy & Scratchy and Marge when asked about watching the rest of the “cute cartoons” by Marge: “Nah…Maybe there’s something else to do on this planet.” Other than that, with the Simpsons going to Season 30 and beyond, it is worth watching episodes in the Golden Age or Silver Age (cumulatively up to Season 12), but anything beyond that is not worth anyone’s time. That’s the reality. I know that some may have found this post unnecessary but I think it needs to be discussed. I look forward to your comments as always.


Notes

[1] Dead Homer Society Manifesto; Rob Hunter, “The Golden Age of The Simpsons“; Rob Hunter, “The Goldener Age of The Simpsons“; Rob Hunter, “Golden Age Of The Simpsons: The Greatest Show of All Time“; Pop Matters, “The Complete Tenth Season“; Empire Online “The Simpsons Movie Review,” BBC, “The Simpsons: 10 classic episodes“; “What Do White Supremacists Think Of The Simpsons?“; “Best. Episodes. Ever. ‘The Simpsons’: Seasons 1-10“; “What is your ‘golden age’ of Simpsons, season-wise?,” The Simpsons subreddit; “Why Season 8 Is A Part of the Golden Age of The Simpsons“; “TruthMedia Review: The Simpsons: Golden Age“; “The Golden Age of The Simpsons“; “Simpsons: The Golden Age“; “The 40 Best Songs in The Simpsons History“, Paste Magazine; “‘The Simpsons’ Take on Climate Change,” Yale Climate Connections.

[2] The link to “never off” is a forum where one user says that “to me its not so much one episode that ends the Golden Age really, its more like the flow and feel of the season that determine it. The tenth season overall just felt off compared to past years. On my list I like to separate the show into three simple Ages: The Golden Age (1-9), The Bronze Age (10-12), and The Silver Age (13-26).”

[3] The exact numbers are 5.533676767676767225 for the average of millions of viewers for seasons 21 to season 28, 19.889416215144713675 for the average of millions of viewers for seasons 1 to 7. The most recent episode to surpass 20 million viewers was “Homer and Ned’s Hail Mary Pass” in 2004, THIRTEEN YEARS ago.

[4] Season 9 began badly. It began with the worthless and horrible “The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson” which was not only unfunny but it has no point, it is just about Homer being mad at New York despite the fact that the whole situation (his car ending up in New York) was caused originally by his drunkenness. The Principal and the Pauper was even worse, declaring that Principal Skinner is a fraud which not only guts previous storylines in the Golden Age about his time in Vietnam but it says that the audience dedication to this character is worthless. As I remember from one YouTube video, some say that it is with this episode that the Simpsons “died” in their view. I would venture to say that due to this, the episode is not canon in my view. Other episodes revolve around the destruction of Lisa’s Sax (why?), Homer getting a gun (The Cartridge Family), Homer’s favoritism to Bart on a neighborhood football team (Bart Star), Apu getting married (The Two Mrs. Nahasapeemapetilons), Lisa the Skeptic about a marketing company conning the town’s residents, and Realty Bites about Marge becoming an honest realty broker. While some of those are passable, the Miracle on Evergreen Terrace involves the Simpsons conning the town out of money, there’s yet another clip show (All Singing, All Dancing), the Simpsons get their house back from carnies (Bart Carny), well-intentioned criticism of cultish religions like Scientology (The Joy of Sect), parody of the Lord of the Flies (Das Bus), The Last Temptation of Krust about Krusty changing his comedic style, and one about Moe burning down his bar for insurance money (Dumbbell Indemnity) (not as strong as it could be). The season partially redeems itself with Lisa the Simpson which shows that only men have the defective “Simpsons Gene,” Homer making a fool of himself in Simpsons Tide with the wonderful gif of the marching Lenin and the return of the Soviet Union, Mr. Burns screwed over, ultimately, by the Cuban government (The Trouble with Trillions), one about kid’s news shows (Girly Edition), Homer becoming an over-enthusiastic commissioner of waste management (Trash of Titans), and climbing a mountain as a commercial promotion (King of the Hill). Then there’s four other episodes which I can’t recall their specifics too well, so I have a feeling they bring the season down (This Little Wiggy, Lost Our Lisa, and Natural Born Kissers). Season 10 is also a bit lackluster. There’s one about Lisa trying to become popular but strangely (Lard of the Dance), Homer’s strange, in-practical inventions (The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace), raising destructive lizards (Bart the Mother), Homer living with celebrities (When You Dish Upon a Star) (why?), Homer figuring out his middle name and trying to “live like a hippy” (D’Oh In the Wind), and Lisa cheating on a test with Skinner and Chalmers deceiving her (Lisa Gets an “A”). Even worse, there are ones where Homer is cruel to his father, causing his kidneys to burst (Homer Simpson in: “Kidney Trouble”) which is considered non-canon, Homer serving as a body-guard for Mayor Quimby (Mayored to the Mob), an unnecessary trip to Las Vegas which adds nothing to the storyline (Viva Ned Flanders), Bart telling the town about secrets of its citizens (Wild Barts Can’t Be Broken), a worthless episode about the Superbowl (Sunday, Cruddy Sunday), and Homer weirdly changing his name to “Max Power” (Homer to the Max). If that isn’t enough, there are episodes about weird Valentine’s Day gifts (I’m With Cupid), Marge becoming an aggressive driver (Marge Simpson in: “Screaming Yellow Honkers”), Homer showing he doesn’t care about Lisa by building a cell phone tower in her room (Make Room for Lisa), Homer becoming a lazy truck driver (Maximum Homerdrive), the Simpsons version of Bible stories (Simpsons Bible Stories), Homer’s junk which people think is art (Mom and Pop Art). Other episodes this season focus on Bart working in the Springfield Retirement Home (The Old Man and the “C” Student), Mr. Burns trying to gain the town’s admiration (Monty Can’t Buy Me Love), the smartest people running the town in a temporary and short-lived “utopia” (They Saved Lisa’s Brain), and the Simpsons traveling to Tokyo in a strange vacation (Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo). We then come to Season 11. There’s a mediocre episode about films (Beyond Blunderdome), another about Bart becoming smart, even a “conspiracy theorist” (Brother’s Little Helper), Homer becoming a food critic (Guess Who’s Coming to Criticize Dinner?), Homer and the Simpsons growing “Tomacco” a cross-between Tomatoes and Tobacco, a sort of GMO in a sense (E-I-E-I-D’Oh), Homer becoming a local celebrity (Hello Gutter, Hello Fadder), showing that lots of children are bad apparently, an episode which is pretty weak (Eight Misbehavin’), Homer’s gang fighting with another gang of the same name (Take My Wife, Sleaze), and Homer trying to “save” the town from destructive toys (Grift of the Magi). Other episodes result in Lisa becoming the head of the family (Little Big Mom), Bart becoming a faith healer (Faith Off), the Simpsons in charge of Mr. Burns’s mansion (The Mansion Family), Homer and Bart involved in horse racing (Saddlesore Galactica), Maude dying because of Homer (Alone Again, Natura-Diddily), Homer as an incompetent missionary (Missionary: Impossible), Moe changing his appearance (Pygmoelian), and the often cited (because of Trump) non-canon Bart to the Future. Other episodes, such as Days of Wine and D’oh’ses, Kill the Alligator and Run, Last Tap Dance in Springfield, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Marge, and non-canon Behind the Laughter are as lackluster as the others in this. The last season within the Silver Era, Season 12, isn’t any better. There are episodes about Homer becoming a rocker in a divided Springfield (A Tale of Two Springfields), Krusty the Clown meeting his daughter Sophie (Insane Clown Poppy), Lisa trying to join “Dirt First” by camping in a redwood scheduled to be cut down (Lisa the Tree Hugger), Homer becoming Mr. Burns’s personal jester (Homer vs. Dignity), the bizarre The Computer Wore Menace Shoes which I would consider non-canon, the Simpsons conning people (The Great Money Caper), and children snowed into the elementary school (Skinner’s Sense of Snow). Beyond this, Homer is supposedly “dumb” because a crayon is lodged in his brain, which again seems to cut at the story of Homer established in previous episodes and is a bit cheap (Homr), Marge vouches for a prisoner (Pokey Mom), Bart and Milhouse taking over the comic book store in the “Worst Episode Ever,” and Homer becomes a tennis star (Tennis the Menace). In another bad plot, Sideshow Bob works to hypnotize Bart to kill Krusty on air (Day of the Jackanapes), the partially satirical pro-military songs by the boy band of Bart, Ralph, Nelson, and Milhouse (New Kinds on the Blecch), Homer’s worthless hunger strike (Hungry, Hungry Homer), bullying of Lisa (Bye Bye Nerdie), an unexpected safari for the Simpsons (Simpsons Safari), and Lisa getting into a relationship (Trilogy of Error). Then there’s Ned’s plan to open an amusement park (I’m Goin’ to Praiseland), Homer trying to recover from an injury (Children of a Lesser Clod), and other Simpsons version of certain “tall tales” (Simpson Tall Tales).

[5] See “The Parent Rap“, “Homer the Moe“, “Brawl in the Family“, “Sweet and Sour Marge“, “Jaws Wired Shut“, “Half Decent Proposal“, “The Bart Wants What It Wants“, “Blame It One Lisa” (the one that Brazil hated), “Weekend at Burnsie’s“, “I Am Furious (Yellow)“, “Little Girl in the Big Ten“, “The Frying Game” (about that dumb “Screamapillar”), and “Poppa’s Got a Brand New Badge” in Season 13, “How I Spent My Stummer Vacation“, “Large Marge“, “Helter Shelter“, “The Dad Who Knew Too Little“, “The Great Louse Detective” (cheapens Frank Grimes’s story), “Pray Anything“, “Barting Over“, “A Star Is Born-Again“, “Mr Spritz Goes to Washington“, “The Strong Arms of the Ma” (Marge has moved so far from her original self this isn’t even funny), “Three Gays of the Condo“,  “Dude, Where’s My Ranch?“, “Old Yeller Belly“, “Bart of War” in Season 14. “The President Wore Pearls“, “The Regina Monologues“, “The Fat and the Furriest“, “‘Tis the Fifteenth Season“, “Marge vs. Singles, Seniors, Childless Couples and Teens and Gays“, “I (Annoyed Grunt)-Bot“, “Diatribe of a Mad Housewife“, “Milhouse Doesn’t Live Here Anymore“, “Smart and Smarter“, “Co-Dependents Day“, “The Wandering Juvie“, “My Big Fat Geek Wedding“, “Catch ‘Em if You Can“, “The Way We Weren’t” (seems to mess with the previous flashback episodes in the Golden Age of the Simpsons and is a bit hard to believe) in Season 15. “All’s Fair in Oven War“, “She Used to Be My Girl“, “Fat Man and Little Boy“, “Midnight Rx“, “Homer and Ned’s Hail Mary Pass“, “Pranksta Rap“, “On  A Clear Day I Can’t See My Sister“, “Goo Goo Gai Pan” (pathetic jokes about revisionist China within), “Mobile Homer“, “The Heartbroke Kid“, “A Star Is Torn“, “Home Away from Homer“, “There’s Something About Marrying” in Season 16. “The Bonfire of the Manatees“, “The Girl Who Slept Too Little“, “Milhouse of Sand and Fog“, “The Last of the Red Hat Mamas“, “The Italian Bob“, “Homer’s Paternity Coot“, “We’re on the Road to D’ohwhere“, “The Seemingly Never-Ending Story“, “Bart Has Two Mommies“, “Homer Simpson, This Is Your Wife“, “Girls Just Want to Have Sums“, “Marge and Homer Turn a Couple Play” in Season 17. “The Mook, The Chef, The Wife and Her Homer“, “G.I. (Annoyed Grunt)“, “Moe’N’a Lisa“, “Ice Cream of Margie (with the Light Blue Hair)“, “Kil Gil, Volumes I & II“, “The Wife Aquatic“, “Springfield Up“, “Yokel Chords“, “Rome-Old and Julie-Eh“, “Homerazzi“, “The Boys of Bummer“, “Crook and Ladder“, “24 Minutes” (self-promotion of 24 on FOX, a bit cheap) in Season 18. “He Loves to Fly and He D’ohs“, “The Homer of Seville“, “Midnight Towboy“, “I Don’t Wanna Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” (almost seems like a parody of Scorpio but isn’t), “Little Orphan Millie“, “Husbands and Knives“, “Funeral for a Fiend“, “That ’90s Show” (messes again with the timeline in the Golden Age years of Marge & Homer’s relationship), “The Debarted“, “Dial “N” for Nerder“, “Smoke on the Daughter“, “Papa Don’t Leech“, “Any Given Sundance“, “All About Lisa“, “Sex, Pies, and Idiot Scrapes” in Season 19. “Double, Double, Boy in Trouble“, “Dangerous Curves” (again messing with the timeline of Marge & Homer’s relationship in weird ways), “Homer and Lisa Exchange Cross Words“, “The Burns and Bees“, “Lisa the Drama Queen“, “How the Test Was Won“, “Gone Maggie Gone“, “In the Name of the Grandfather“, “Wedding for Disaster“, “Father Knows Worst“, “Four Great Women and a Manicure“, “Coming to Homerica” (does not measure up with the episode in the Golden Ages, “Much Apu About Nothing” which is strongly against restrictions on immigration) in Season 20. “Homer the Whopper“, “The Great Wife Hope“, “The Devil Wears Nada“, “Rednecks and Broomsticks“, “O Brother, Where Bart Thou?“, “Thursdays with Abie“, “Million Dollar Maybe“, “Boy Meets Curl“, “Postcards from the Wedge“, “Stealing First Base“, “The Greatest Story Ever D’ohed“, “American History X-cellent“, “Chief of Hearts“, “Moe Letter Blues“, “The Bob Next Door“, “Judge Me Tender” in Season 21. “Elementary School Musical“, “Loan-a Lisa“, “Lisa Simpson, This Isn’t Your Life“, “The Fool Monty“, “The Fight Before Christmas“, “Donnie Fatso“, “Mom’s I’d Like to Forget“, “Flaming Moe” (very different from the much better Flaming Moe’s in Season 3), “Angry Dad: The Movie” (cheapens the show in a major way), “The Scorpion’s Tale“, “A Midsummer’s Nice Dream“, “Love is a Many Strangled Thing” (this episode is horrible in so many ways, especially how Bart tortures his father…how is this supposed to be funny?), “The Great Simpsina“, “The Real Housewives of Fat Tony“, “Homer Scissorhands“, “500 Keys“, and “The Ned-liest Catch” in Season 22. “The Falcon and the D’ohman” (this episode is a bit 24-ish and more ridiculous in its plot than funny), “Bart Stops to Smell the Roosevelts” (basically a Teddy Roosevelt promotion), “Replaceable You“, “The Food Wife“, “The Man in the Blue Flannel Pants“, “The Ten-Per-Cent Solution” (features Joan Rivers which you know is a bad sign), “Politically Inept, with Homer Simpson“, “Moe Goes from Rags to Riches“, “At Long Last Leave” (seems strange since they could have kicked out the Simpsons earlier, but why now? Are the townspeople that rash?), “Exit Through the Kwik-E-Mart“, “How I Wet Your Mother” (parody of Inception but almost a promotion of it too), “Them, Robot“, “Beware of My Cheating Bart“, “Lisa Goes Gaga” (one of the worst episodes yet, basically is a promotion for Gaga’s total bullshit, buys into the whole fad then, shows the town’s people to be very weak. This episode should have never been made) in Season 23. “Moonshine River” (to like this, you have to like Season 19 and onward), “Adventures in Baby-Getting“,  “Gone Abie Gone“, “Penny Wiseguys“, “The Day the Earth Stood Cool“, “To Cur, with Love” (reportedly this was one of the least watched episodes of the series), “Homer Goes to Prep School“, “Changing of the Guardian“, “Love Is a Many-Splintered Thing” (only seems good if you like Moonshine River), “Hardly Kirk-ing“, “Gorgeous Grampa“, “Dark Knight Court“, “What Animated Women Want“, “Whiskey Business” (too many stories intersecting in one episode, too busy), “Fabulous Faker Boy“,  “The Saga of Carl” (an unnecessary episode with a mediocre storyline) in Season 24. “Homerland“, “Four Regrettings and a Funeral“, “Yolo“, “Labor Pains“, “The Kid is All Right“, “Yellow Subterfuge“, “White Christmas Blues“,  “Steal This Episode“, “Married to the Blob“, “Specs and the City” (supposed to parody Google Glass but it isn’t funny), “Diggs“, “The Man Who Grew Too Much“, “The Winter of His Content“, “Luca$“, “Pay Pal“, “The Yellow Badge of Cowardge” in Season 25. “The Clown in the Dumps“,”The Wreck of the Relationship” (this episode is a total joke which is not portraying it positively), “Super Franchise Me“, “Opposes A-Frack” (good criticism of fracking but not really funny at all, basically a polemic), “Blazed and Confused” (a bit strange and weird, how is this funny?), “Bart’s New Friend“, “The Musk Who Fell To Earth” (basically an unmitigated promotion of Musk like the episode about Gaga), “Walking Big & Tall“, “The Princess Guide“, “Sky Police” (while the Sky Police tune is ok, the rest of this episode is horrid), “Waiting for Duffman“, “The Kids Are All Fight” (another worthless flashback episode), “Bull-E” in Season 26. “Cue Detective“, “Puffless“, “Halloween of Horror“, “Friend With Benefit“, “Lisa with an “S”” (supposed to say show business is bad, but really is a lackluster episode like Friend With Benefit, or any of the other mentioned her), “Paths of Glory” (why would Homer and Marge think Bart is a sociopath and then trust a test saying he is one?), “The Girl Code” (thinking back to this one, it is a strange one with a bizarre plot), “Teenage Mutant Milk-caused Hurdles” (it’s almost like they want to force older Lisa and Bart on us), “Much Apu About Something” (this is kinda of cheap), “Love Is in the N2-02-AR-CO2-Ne-He-CH4” (its good Frink has more of a role, but this is really stretching it), “Gal of Constant Sorrow“, “The Marge-ian Chronicles“, “The Burns Cage” (this episode in trying to “reveal” that Smithers is gay (which we all know) not only doesn’t do that but it has a weak plot), “How Lisa Got Her Marge Back“,  “Fland Canyon” (this one makes me very mad because it makes it seem that Lisa has only been a vegetarian for two years or less which cheapens Lisa the Vegetarian), “To Courier With Love“, “Simprovised“, “Orange is the New Yellow” (this episode has to be one of the worst EVER. It not only is not funny but its “parody” element is weak and tasteless) in Season 27. “Monty Burns’ Fleeing Circus” (this episode is not funny at all and is a weak story), “Friends and Family“, “The Town” (a very pathetic “criticism” of Boston which actually turns into a promotion), “Trust But Clarify“, “There Will Be Buds“, “Havana Wild Weekend” (thinking about it, this episode is pretty horrid and makes Cuba look even worse than in “Trouble for Trillions”), “Dad Behavior“, “The Last Traction Hero” (a strange story which makes the connection between Marge and Homer seem non-existent when it isn’t), “The Nightmare After Krustmas“, “Pork and Burns” (Spider Big returns and a they adopt a minimalistic style of living but not really), “The Great Phatsby” (one of the most horrible as it not only is unfunny but there is really no reason we should sympathize with Mr. Burns), “Fatzcarraldo” (this episode seemed passable, in reality it really isn’t, it’s the same as the others), “The Cad and the Hat” (this episode was cheap and pathetic about “guilt”), “Kamp Krustier” (this is no squeal to Kamp Krusty, it is horribly written, not funny, and shows how the show is not worth watching), “22 for 30” (The Simpsons tries to make an episode like a basketball show but it fails miserably), “A Father’s Watch” (A plot which makes little sense and is not funny), The Caper Chase (an episode which is supposed to poke at Trump University I guess but it isn’t even worth watching at this point), and many more. As for ‘Scuse Me While I Miss the Sky, Bart-Mangled Banner, Margical History Tour, Fraudcast News, Thanks God It’s Doomsday, See Homer Run, My Fair Laddy, Kiss Kiss Bang Bangalore, The Monkey Suit, Please Homer, Don’t Hammer ‘Em, The Haw-Hawed Couple, Little Big Girl, Marge Gamer, Eternal Moonshine of the Simpson Mind, E. Pluribus Wiggum, Apocalypse Cow, Lost Verizon, Mypods and Broomsticks, Eeny Teeny Maya, Moe, The Color Yellow, To Surveil with Love, A Tree Grows in Springfield, Barthood, they are passable but not redeemable.

[6] See “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 4“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 5“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 6“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 7“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 8“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 9“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 10“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 11“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 12“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 13“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 14“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 15“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 16“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 17“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 18“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 19“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 20“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 21“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 22“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 23“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 24“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 25“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 26.”

[7] See “The Simpsons Tribute to Cinema – Treehouse of Horror” for information used in the chart.

[8] See “The Simpsons Tribute to Cinema: Part 1“; The Simpsons Tribute to Cinema: Part 2“; “The Simpsons Tribute to Cinema: Part 3“; “The Simpsons Tribute to Cinema: Part 4“; “The Simpsons Tribute to Cinema: Part 5“; “The Simpsons Tribute to Cinema: Part 6“; “The Simpsons Tribute to Cinema: Part 7“; “The Simpsons Tribute to Cinema: Part 8.”

The Great October Socialist Revolution and early history of the Soviet Union

“Woman-worker, the cooperative frees you from the reign of the kitchen and the cooking pot.” A 1923 poster in the Soviet Union as noted in a post by Soviet Visuals.

Originally published on the Leftist Critic blog on Dec 21, 2016.

This post was analyzed for mistakes and other content in January 2019, as part of an effort to engage in self-criticism. While I would probably make it stronger today, this was a first good step in the process of writing a solid history of the Soviet Union!

The absurd, unsubstantiated conspiracy that Russia (or more specifically Vladimir Putin) rigged the U$ election so the orange menace could win is currently dominating the bourgeois media. Recently, Western-friendly reformer Mikhail Gorbachev, who presided over the end of the Soviet Union and past Estonian president Toomas Hendrick Ilves declared that a new Russian nationalist union could be formed within the borders of the former Soviet Union. [1]

Regardless of whether such a union is a possibility, with the strong degree of nationalism and justified anger at the U$ within the Russian Federation, the history of the Soviet Union is more important than ever. Due to the bourgeois and Trotskyist distortions of Soviet history and the nature of the socialist state, writing such a history is a challenge but is possible in a way that depicts the nation accurately, rather than within malice. This article is the beginning of a series on Soviet history, this article covering the Great October Socialist Revolution in 1917, the early years of the revolutionary Bolshevik government which fought against imperialist invaders (1917-1922), and the first decade of Soviet existence (1923-1933).

The Czarist monarchy and the lead up to the Great October Socialist Revolution

The peasants and the population as a whole suffered under the iron fist of the Tsar/Czar. Meanwhile, the Russian middle class, which can be viewed as synonymous with the bourgeoisie, enjoyed leisure tine, the “western import” of national theater, in which actors were commodities, and were supported by heavy state subsidies in certain industries, a feature of Russian capitalism.” [2] These privileged Russians included Sergey Produkin-Garsky who traveled around the empire with funding from Tsar Nicholas II to take “more than 10,000 full cover photographs” which captured “the diverse people who…made up the Russian Empire, before the revolution.”

In 1905, the equation changed. Only two years earlier the Bolshevik sect was formed, with the overarching party, the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (RSDRP), agreeing on the need for a coming revolution with the ultimate end of establishing socialism. In this party there were also the Mensheviks who believed in the broad base of membership but the Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin, believed that there should be only militant revolutionaries in the party. Both of ideas were formed as the proletariat rose up. This was described by Lenin, in late January 1905: “…the proletariat has risen against Tsarism…the general strike in Petersburg is spreading…The revolution is spreading to waiver.” [3]

Lenin further called for the “arming of the people,” saying that “only an armed people can be a real stronghold on national freedom,” and that all revolutionaries must unite for the immediate overthrow of the bourgeois Tsarist government. [4] Years later he was much more critical. While he talked about the massacre of workers (“Bloody Sunday”) who petitioned the Tsar on January 22, 1905, the mutinies in the army, and the proletariat were at the head of the revolution and struggle forming Soviets (worker’s councils) but that its social content was “bourgeois-democratic.” Still, the revolution had a broad significance. Even as bourgeois scholars like Max Weber downplayed it, the revolution was “the prologue of the coming…proletarian socialist revolution” which occurred twelve years later. This was even confirmed by anti-communist scholars like Louise McReynolds. She wrote that the revolution in 1905 not only led to fears about the “violent potential of the lower classes” but it led to easing of restrictions on political expression, which, when combined with an expanding economy, led to growing commercial leisure for the bourgeoisie. [5]

After the revolution, elements of the RSDRP went head-to-head once again. The Mensheviks were dedicated to the idea of the proletariat being a revolutionary force on their own while the Bolsheviks argued that the proletariat, along with the peasants, would lead the revolution. Furthermore, the Bolsheviks said that the 1905 revolution was bourgeois, showing that there was a strong capitalist Russia, while the Mensheviks believed that an autocracy still existed meaning the that Tsar should be overthrown and replaced with a bourgeois government! Ultimately, as the 1910s passed, the Bolsheviks would take a hard-line against the First Wold War, calling it, rightly, an imperialist war which would slaughter and divide the working classes of Europe, leading to vicious police persecution of the party itself.

At the same time, the laborers in North and Central Russia were suffering. A British correspondent for the Manchester Guardian, Morgan Phillips Price wrote that the peasants, skilled artisans, and others all suffered “in different ways under the same yoke of Tsarism” while the Russian capitalist class shared spoiled with French, Belgian, German, and British capitalists, who owned much of the economy. [6] This was all part of, as Price put it, the “maintenance of Tsarism and the system of exploitation of the Russian workers and peasants.”

1917 was an eventful year for the Russian people. In the first two months of the year, thousands of soldiers deserted, the Bolsheviks organized demonstrations to commemorate Bloody Sunday (mentioned two paragraphs earlier), crowds of women in Petrograd (later called Leningrad and currently Saint Petersburg) sporadically broke into stores, and thousands upon thousands of workers from 58 workers went on strike. On February 23, the “February Revolution” began.

The Tsarist government was in total turmoil. While the non-cohesive Russian army was breaking down, so was the economy, coupled with industrial mobilization during wartime which hurt the proletariat and led to violent demonstrations in Petrograd in late February. [7] As the established Duma, dominated by bourgeois members, discussed its mandate, the worker’s councils (Soviets), that represented the common people, wanted to replace and supplant Tsarist authority. On March 2, the Tsar abdicated, leading to the creation of a provisional government the next day which was supported by the Ispolkom/Petrograd Soviet, not yet with Bolsheviks in the majority. Of course, the Bolsheviks wanted immediate peace and to end the imperialist war in Europe even when the majority of the members in the Soviets, like the one in Petrograd, did not necessarily agree with them.

In March 1917, Lenin wrote about the situation in Russia, just like he had written about the revolution in 1905:

“The first revolution engendered by the imperialist world war has broken out…the first stage of our revolution will certainly not be the last…the February-March revolution of 1917…has been marked…by a joint blow at Tsarism…the workers of the whole of Russia…fought for freedom, land for the peasants, and for peace, against the imperialist slaughter…[but] this new government…[is made up of a] class…of capitalist landlords and bourgeoisie which has long been ruling our country economically…the Tsarist monarchy has been smashed, but not fully destroyed.”

The provisional government was by no means a revolutionary one. Years later, the Great Soviet Encyclopedia described as a “bourgeois-democratic revolution” which made US elites uneasy so they recognized the provisional government with millions of dollars. [8] This provisional government, soon led by Alexander Kerensky, was timid. While the peasants, urban workers, and other members of the proletariat wanted peace to prevent a “terrible catastrophe” in Russia caused by German invasion, but the Kerensky government did not try and control the war profiteers or industrial syndicates created by the Tsar. Of course, the Mensheviks supported this governments, with hopes of influencing it, which led to “industrial anarchy” as pro-landlord policies came down the pipe, with, as Price puts it, “complete anarchy…reigning in the central provinces of Russia on the eve of the Bolshevik revolution” as the outlook of the masses seemed hopeless.

Lenin acknowledged these issues in his articles through March. He wrote that the proletariat cannot support a “war government” and that a workers militia should be formed, along with mass organization of all able-bodied people of “both sexes.” Later in the month, he added that the new government could only be overthrown if bourgeois intelligentsia and the Russian bourgeoisie’s organization is countered, with the need of revolutionary government which is not bourgeois. The same month, Lenin wrote about the imperialist nature of World War I, saying that there can only be peace when power is in the “hands of the workers and poorest peasants” rather than the Russian bourgeoisie, and that victory is possible even as the “transition to socialism” cannot be established in one stroke.

As the months neared toward the socialist revolution, the Bolsheviks were under attack. While socialist intellectuals and populists had excluded the Bolsheviks from power in Kerensky’s provisional government, Lenin was rallying the Bolsheviks, telling them that property, land, and banks needed to be nationalized, a people’s militia created, end to the imperialist war, and all power given to the Soviets. [9] As the months passed, the “masses of people” opposed the Kerensky government, supported by the Menskeviks and Socialist Revolutionaries, with some Soviets remaining conservative, meaning that, as socialist writer John Reed put it, Russia before the “November insurrection seems…almost incredibly conservative.” More specifically, during this time period, Pravda, the Bolshevik publication begun publishing again, Poland’s independence was refused by the provisional government, there were massive May Day celebrations, the First All-Russian Congress of Soviets met, and the Mensheviks not surprisingly became very anti-Bolshevik. Beyond this, the Russian font against the Germans began folding away as soldiers deserted and millions went on strike in early July. As time went on, it was on the side of the Bolsheviks, who, after a failed attempt to seize power in Petrograd in July, were itching for a “second revolution,” this one of socialist and proletarian character and content.

As revolution came to its final conclusion, the Bolsheviks were gaining ground. In September, General Lavr Kornilov tried to make himself a “military dictator” in Russia, with the Socialist Revolutionaries and Mensheviks not helping protect the city of Petrograd from imminent attack. [10] Ultimately, the government could do nothing to maintain order, but the Petrograd garrison, mainly composed of the pro-Bolshevik and working class elements, defended the city and its inhabitants. Even as the Petrograd soviet voted to not strike and voted against the death penalty, the Bolsheviks held off Kornilov’s invading forces and resolved to create a socialist (and Soviet) government. In September, the Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries (SRs) tried to reassert their influence in the Petrograd Soviet, but failed, and in October, there was mass mutiny in the front lines. The Bolsheviks took an understandable hard-line, saying that they would not participate in the conferences put on the Kerensky government, and instead were fully dedicated to overthrowing it instead.

Recounting the Great October Socialist Revolution

In Late October, the revolution sprung to life. On October 24 and 25th, the Red Guards, under the command of Lenin, seized important institutions in Petrograd, allowing the Bolsheviks to be in control. [11] The following day, October 26, Lenin announced the formation of a new government. By November 5, the Mensheviks and SRs had walked out of the Second All-Russian Congress of the Soviets, Kerensky fled and started a counter-revolutionary rebellion, and the Bolshevik government (The term “Bolshevik government” is used here to refer to the rule from 1917-192 and the government that was created after 1922, is called the “Soviet government”) said it will censor hostile bourgeois newspapers, a declaration of rights for the Soviet people was announced and Moscow was secured by the Bolsheviks.

John Reed meticulously accounts the days of the Great October Socialist Revolution (October Revolution for short). On November 4, he writes that immense meetings were planned across Petrograd as the provisional government seemed hopeless. Three days later, on November 7, the Bolsheviks declared they had overthrown the provisional government as Red Guards fought “Junkers,” former imperial Russian officers, and there was an “atmosphere of recklessness,” with all “great Russia to win–and then the world,” begging the question if others would follow. [12] The following days led to more excitement. On November 8, the whole nation was up in “long hissing swells of storm” with rumors of Kerensky spreading throughout Petrograd, with vitriol from anti-Bolshevik newspapers, some of which was consolidated into the Committee for Salvation in the planned offensive against the Bolsheviks. Still, they held on, as did the left SRs (right SRs were anti-Bolshevik), with Lenin and Leon Trotsky/Trotzky leaving themselves dedicated to the new Bolshevik government while others, like followers of anarchist Peter Kropotkin, refused to support this new government because the revolution had “failed” to arouse the “patriotism of the masses” in their view.

The following days only increased the pressure on the young Bolshevik government. On November 9, the Soviets in Petrograd defended the city, with the Red Guard and sailors fighting to defend the revolution, a government of “united democracy” which did not ally with the bourgeoisie, with the Bolsheviks thinking that the fate of the revolution rested on their shoulders. [13] The following day, the Committee of Salvation, right SRs, and Mensheviks all worked against the Bolsheviks, with the arsenal in Petrograd remaining in the hands of counter revolutionaries, and, as the invasion of Petrograd seemed imminent, the “revolutionary proletariat [was] defending…the capital of the workers’ and peasants’ republic!” The following day, Kerensky entered the city of Tsarskoye Selo, trying to command soldiers to disarm, but they refused to do so and were subsequently killed. Also on that day, the city of Petrograd was clearly under Bolshevik military control with desperate fighting by the Junkers/Yunkers, and the Bolsheviks seized the switchboard room in the city. As John Reed tells it, when the hardened fighters entered the room, “many pretty girls” who had been switchboard operators left and hurled insulted at them even though these fighters did not insult anyone, with the result of their departure meaning that there few volunteers to operate the telephone line switchboard. Still, with the force and dedication to revolution, enough people were found to make sure the telephone lines were operational. Later in the day, the Committee of Salvation was outlawed, and the “telephone girls” who had insulted the Bolsheviks told the committee that they “suffered” at the hands of the proletariat, as they kissed up to established power structures.

Two days later, the revolution was advancing with speed. Petrograd was clearly under Bolshevik control but there was the “question of finances” since banks didn’t want to cooperate with the new Bolshevik government. [14] In the days that followed, it was clear that the Bolsheviks, on whom the landless peasants, “undemoralised soldiers,” sailors, and rank-and-file workers supported, were up against investors, landowners, army officers, students, shopkeepers, and many more, were a powerful force. In Moscow, on November 16, Bolsheviks hung banners declaring the beginning of the revolution, with poor and toiling marching across Red Square. Additionally, the Bolshevik government published a declaration of rights (mentioned earlier), which said that all peoples shall have sovereignty, equality, ability to develop minority and ethnic groups freely, right to self-determination, and abolition of privileges and disabilities for nationalities and religious persuasions. The provisional government was gone but the Bolsheviks were in for a big fight, with restrictions on newspapers that were anti-Bolshevik, fighting to “erect the framework of the new” and against those who tried to win in the coming civil war.

Imperialists try to destabilize a new nation: 1917-1922

The Bolshevik government had acted quickly. Not long after its creation, the Second Congress of Soviets had declared that land would be given back to the peasantry and peace formed on all fronts. Some, such as feminist and political scientist Valerie Bryson, have declared that feminist concerns of Russian women were pushed aside by the revolution (and Bolshevik government), seen as not a “political priority” by Lenin, and praised Trotsky for a “progressive” view on the subject. Beyond this, Bryson also cites Left Oppositionist Alexandra Kollantai’s “failed efforts” and “sexual morality” of communism preventing needed changes in society, including in child rearing, before Kollantai apparently lose “real influence” in Soviet society in 1923, painting Stalin as “bad.” [15] Apart from the obvious bourgeois analysis here, Bryson is clearly wrong on the implication that the October Socialist Revolution was not “feminist.” Sir Arthur Newholme and John Adams Kinsbury wrote in the early 1930s the following about women in Soviet Russia:

“Sex differences were swept away by an early act of the Soviet government; and equality was carried into the marriage relation. Either partner is free to dissolve it [marriage] at his or her own free will or caprice.”

Another place to look for evidence of Bolshevik accomplishment is the constitution of 1918, of the RSFSR, a precursor to the USSR in 1922. This constitution declared that:

  1. “all private property in land is abolished, and the entire land is declared to be national property and is to be apportioned among agriculturists without compensation of the former owners, to the measure of each one’s ability to till it” (Article One, Chapter 2)
  2. “All forests, treasures of the earth, and waters of general public utility, all equipment whether animate or inanimate, model farms and agricultural enterprises, are declared to be national property” (Article One, Chapter 2)
  3. “complete transfer of ownership to the Soviet Republic of all factories, mills, mines, railways, and other means of production and transportation” (Article One, Chapter 2)
  4. “annulment of loans made by the Government of the Czar, by landowners and the bourgeoisie” (Article One, Chapter 2)
  5. “…transfer of all banks to the ownership of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Government” (Article One, Chapter 2)
  6. “Universal obligation to work” (Article One, Chapter 2)
  7. “decreed that all workers be armed, and that s Socialist Red Army be organized and the propertied class disarmed” (Article One, Chapter 2)
  8. “abrogating secret treaties, of organizing on a wide scale the fraternization of the workers and peasants of the belligerent armies, and of making all efforts to conclude a general democratic peace” in the first imperialist war (WWI) (Article One, Chapter 3)
  9. Insistence on ending “the barbarous policy of the bourgeois civilization which enables the exploiters of a few chosen nations to enslave hundreds of millions of the working population of Asia, of the colonies, and of small countries generally” (Article One, Chapter 3)
  10. Supports “the full independence of Finland, in withdrawing troops from Persia, and in proclaiming the right of Armenia to self-determination” (Article One, Chapter 3)
  11. “the exploiters should not hold a position in any branch of the Soviet Government” (Article One, Chapter 4)
  12. “…leaving to the workers and peasants of every people to decide the following question at their plenary sessions of their soviets, namely, whether or not they desire to participate, and on what basis, in the Federal government and other Federal soviet institutions” (Article One, Chapter 4)

Article 2 continued in the same vein. This article declared that working people and peasants shall have the power in the country, especially in their Soviets, along with the declarations that:

  1. “For the purpose of securing to the workers real freedom of conscience, the church is to be separated from the state and the school from the church, and the right of religious and anti-religous propaganda is accorded to every citizen.”
  2. “…abolishes all dependence of the Press upon capital, and turns over to the working people and the poorest peasantry all technical and material means for the publication of newspapers, pamphlets, books, etc., and guarantees their free circulation throughout the country.”
  3. “offers to the working class and to the poorest peasantry furnished halls, and [the government] takes care of their heating and lighting appliances.”
  4. “the task of furnishing full and general free education to the workers and the poorest peasantry” is offered by the government
  5. The government “considers work the duty of every citizen of the Republic, and proclaims as its motto: ‘He shall not eat who does not work.'”
  6. The government “recognizes the duty of all citizens of the Republic to come to the defense of their socialist fatherland, and it therefore introduces universal military training. The honor of defending the revolution with arms is accorded only to the workers”
  7. Granting “all political rights of Russian citizens to foreigners who live in the territory of the Russian Republic and are engaged in work and who belong to the working class.”
  8. Offering “shelter to all foreigners who seek refuge from political or religious persecution.”
  9. Recognizing “equal rights of all citizens, irrespective of their racial or national connections, proclaims all privileges on this ground, as well as oppression of national minorities, to be contrary to the fundamental laws of the Republic.”
  10. The government “deprives all individuals and groups of rights which could be utilized by them to the detriment of the socialist revolution.”

I could go on, as the Constitution has Articles 3, 4, 5, and 6, but I think you get the point.

As the revolution’s conclusion was evident, the bourgeois press in England and France bellowed about “cruelties” of the Bolsheviks. [16] So, the propaganda spewed against revolutionary governments of Iran, Syria, and Cuba (to give a few examples) in the present-day, is nothing new. What the propagandists in 1917 and 1918 didn’t realize was that, as deaf-blind socialist and writer Helen Keller wrote

“…the Russian revolution did not originate with Lenin…I see the furrow Lenin left sown with the unshatterable seed of new life for mankind, and cast deep below the rolling tides of storm and lightning, mighty crops for the ages to reap.”

The seizure of power by the proletariat, which had been carefully thought out and planned, was what, Anne Louise Strong, a long supporter of communist movements in Russia and China, called this “common consciousness in action.” Mao Zedong, who later was one of the leaders of China’s communist revolution, recognized the same in 1927, when he wrote that “the October Socialist Revolution ushered in a new epoch in world history…it exerted influence in the other countries of the world.” The Great Soviet Encyclopedia also echoed this, writing that the impact of the “Great October Socialist Revolution,” as they called it, had profound significance, especially by “strengthening the revolutionary movement in the USA.” [17]

While there were many forces aligned against the Bolshevik government, the Russians still defended the social revolution, fighting for the working class, with Russians seeing the revolution as meaning “peace, land to the peasants, and workers’ control of industry.” The Bolshevik government was trying to keep in place its proletarian state as the capitalist apparatus of power instilled by the provisional government, was swept away, following the ideas of Lenin. [18] By this time, the revolution had matured, clearly, from its earlier days. But it was not wholly secure. For one, the socialist revolution in October had pushed to lead the country out of “imperialist war and economic ruin” as Josef Stalin put it. While the path to socialism was cleared for the “middle non-proletarian peasant strata of all nationalities and tribes,” getting Russia out of the imperialist war was harder.

The necessity of ending Russia’s participation in the imperialist war was evident, as it was necessary to preserve “the social revolution in Russia.” [19] The Bolshevik government tried to push for peace. However, after the Germans lost patience with the new government, they advanced at an alarming pace into the country in “Operation Thunderbolt” as they called it. With the signing of the Treaty of Breast-Livotsk, on terms that, arguably, benefited Germany and their empire but removed Russia from the war. Lenin’s words about soldiers deserting from the front, as “voting with their feet” with peace could also be applied to the signing of this treaty. After this peace was evident, the Bolshevik government did not have many traditionally disciplined soldiers, leading to the creation of a Red Army, and recognizing Finland’s independence. What followed was civil war.

The Bolsheviks were under attack from all sides. While they were under siege, they tried to take control of strategic natural resources in central Asia but were originally unsuccessful. [20] Famed British military (and bourgeois) historian, John Keegan, who supported wars in Vietnam, Kosovo (1998), and Iraq (2003), had an interesting and bizarre perspective on the Western intervention in Russia. He first claimed that Trotsky invited British marines to help the Red Army gain armaments and fight anti-Bolshevik forces, that the Bolsheviks held a “common interest” with the Western allies until at least April 1918, that the allied intervention was apparently not originally anti-Bolshevik but became so with Western allies supporting the White Russians, Czech forces, and other anti-Bolsheviks, while the Germans were “neutral” in the civil war.

Like with all propaganda, there is a kernel of truth. In 1918, after the end of the imperialist world war, the British, French, Japanese, and US intervened in Russia. However, to act like they are “innocent” in this intervention is silly. The U$ State Department admitted this much, saying that “all these operations were to offset effects of the Bolshevik revolution in Russia,” showing that the idea the Allies entered to stop Germany from seizing Russian supplies and assisting Czech troops, who had been part of the Austro-Hungarian empire’s forces, was a convenient excuse to deny imperialist aims. [21] As Stalin put it in a speech commemorating the 24th celebration of the Great October Socialist Revolution, which was on the eve of the Great Patriotic War, often called World War II in the West:

“Recall the year 1918, when we celebrated the first anniversary of the October Revolution. At that time three-quarters of our country was in the hands of foreign interventionists. We had temporarily lost the Ukraine, the Caucasus, Central Asia, the Urals, Siberia and the Far East. We had no allies, we had no Red Army–we had only just begun to create it–and we experienced a shortage of bread, a shortage of arms, a shortage of equipment. At that time 14 states [Czechoslovakia, the UK, Canada, Australia, India, Japan, Greece, Poland, the United States, France, Romania, Serbia, Italy, and China] were arrayed against our country but we did not become despondent or downhearted. In the midst of the conflagration of war we organized the Red Army and converted our country into a military camp. The spirit of Lenin inspired us at that time for war against the interventionists, regained all our lost territories and achieved victory.”

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia added to this. They noted that the U$ and other countries tried to engage in broader intervention and a blockade of Russia even as the Soviets proposed normalization of relations with the US as an option, but this was rejected. [22] While the imperialists may have schemed to use the Kellogg-Briand Pact to isolate the Soviet Union in later years (originally they excluded them but included them after international pressure) and the Paris Peace Conference of 1919-1920 in the same way, the masses of the world didn’t necessarily agree. There was a campaign against US intervention in Russia from those such as John Reed (quoted extensively earlier in this article), socialist leader Eugene Debs, and ordinary folks in Seattle and San Francisco. Ultimately, the Great October Socialist Revolution not only led to the formation of a pro-Bolshevik Communist Party, in the US, in 1919, but it resulted in the end of US involvement in Russia in 1920 due to popular pressure, deportation of radicals to Russia, and the partially failed Palmer raids in 1920.  Sadly, in Germany, in 1919, a communist revolution, led by Rosa Luxembourg and Karl Liebkrecht, among others, was brutally crushed, with both of them killed by state police.

The situation back in Russia is worth noting. During the five-year brutal civil war, mainly fought from November 1917 to October 1922, with some resistance hanging on until June 1923, the government adopted an economic program of “War Communism” as it was later called, in order to survive, which was later replaced during the rebuilding period with the New Economic Policy and other policies. At the same time, the officers of the Red Army were in hundreds of schools, with the most important part a political-cultural department which tried to spread communist propaganda among the ranks of the army, which was made up of “ignorant peasants” as John Reed described it. There were also “labor armies” which were helping repair destroyed bridges, once the war was over, with a more established Bolshevik (and later Soviet) order than ever. Such labor armies harkened back to the idea of “industrial armies” in agriculture proposed by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels in the Communist Manifesto. [23] As for the education in the Red Army, an organization that was like the “special corps” of armed workers envisioned by Marx in his 1850 address to the Communist League, it was similar to the ideas of political education proposed by Lenin on multiple occasions.

Of course, bourgeois scholars like Louise McReynolds have declared that the Bolsheviks saw themselves as intelligentsia (wrong), created a new Soviet culture that nationalized the commercial market (likely true), and co-opted leisure which had been for the bourgeoisie to promote socialist ideals (also likely true). [24] By 1921, the 21 people who were on the Bolshevik’s Central Committee in 1917 had gone their separate ways, with some going into the Political Bureau, and others (Lenin, Trotsky (until later), and Stalin) were in a more of a leading role, and some joining the anti-Bolshevik forces. Still, as Helen Keller argued, the Russians were a people who “were trying to work out their form of government.” She also said, in words that some favorable to the Russian government could repeat today, that she loved “Russia and all who stand loyally by her in her mighty wrestlings with…imperialist greed,” while condemning workers in the US for not standing with the new country, and saying that famine in Russia was a result of war and imperialist blockade.

The first Soviet decade: 1923-1933

On December 29, 1922, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was formed. The measures of War Communism were abandoned in place of the New Economic Policy (NEP) which introduced market measures in order to, in theory, rebuild the country from war, an ideas which was proposed (and advocated by) Lenin. This led to a struggle within the Russian Communist Party, which had evolved from the RSDRP’s Bolshevik section established in 1912, or Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) formed in 1918. Ultimately, in order to preserve the USSR as a socialist state, the “Left Opposition” was purged in 1927, as was Trotsky and Nikolai Bukharin. While some may say this is anti-democratic, they must consider that Stalin was following, for one, what he said years earlier: that the Communist Party needs to have “iron discipline,” unity of will, and purge “opportunist elements” so it can effectively serve the proletariat. [25] Other than this, Stalin was also preserving the party as an “organized detachment” of the proletariat, a vanguard of the working class, allowing the party to reorganize along “new, revolutionary lines.” Additionally, there needed to be unity in order to counter the “need of a constantly expanding market” for the bourgeoisie and to make sure the Soviets are the “grave-diggers” of capitalism in Russia and elsewhere, not supporting it with certain measures, like NEP, even if it was partially good. Ultimately, there cannot be a “revolution in permanence,” a precursor to Trotsky’s idea of “permanent revolution” which is discussed later, without a unified party.

Before getting to the other aspects of the first years of the USSR, it is best to acknowledge a number of aspects, including of the NEP period (discussed more in detail later). Anna Louise Strong said that in 1925, at least, every factory, mine, and economic entity was hungry for credit, and industries were supposed to be “self-supporting” after the beginning of NEP. While some may cringe at this, justifiably, there were a number of good strides, even in hard times. For one, there were strong restrictions on alcohol in society, a war against bootleggers, with the focus on drinking not as an individual problem but as a “social injury.” At the same time, there was a major focus on teaching in Russia, just like the political education of Red Army members mentioned in the previous section of this article. As Strong noted, from April to August 1923, the Moscow Government Publishing House printed 160 million copies of textbooks for the new system of education modeled on the “Dewey ideas of education.” This form of education was advanced and a “gorgeous plan,” with education projects assisted by the government even as some teachers were antagonistic to the changes in education due to their ignorance.

While this was going on, there was political strife, which was referenced earlier. Strong, in 1925, in an opinion that seemed to lean toward Trotsky, after Lenin’s death, claimed that Lenin was the “father of the revolution,” Trotsky as “popular” leader, and Stalin as a tactful politician. She continued by claiming that the old Bolsheviks were behind Stalin, who didn’t know many Western languages as Trotskyists, and differ on the debate over socialism in Russia, with Trotsky “broken” by Stalin. She even claimed that “no one would die for Stalin” which is totally absurd. Putting aside the pro-Trotsky viewpoint of Strong, it is important to talk about the debate between Trotsky and Stalin over socialism in Russia. In the Foundations of Leninism, a quote of which is reproduced here, Stalin wrote that socialist revolution which is successful in one country must not be self-sufficient but should aid the “victory of the proletariat in other countries” so that the victory of socialism is clear. The main debate is this, as highlighted by one WordPress blogger: the idea of “permanent revolution” posed by Trotsky expands on the idea that revolution can occur in a “backward” country rather than an “advanced country” and that revolution cannot succeed if cannot be successful in the rest of the world. As for Stalin’s idea of “socialism in one country,” this recognizes the successful socialist revolution in Russia, but says that socialist construction under NEP, for example, can happen in one country, with socialism ultimately successful worldwide. [26]

Stalin himself, explained what “socialism in one country” meant in December 1925:

“… the possibility of the victory of Socialism in one country…mean[s] the possibility of solving the contradictions between the proletariat and the peasantry with the aid of the internal forces of our country, the possibility of the proletariat assuming power and using that power to build a complete Socialist society in, our country, with the sympathy and the support of the proletarians of other countries, but without the preliminary victory of the proletarian revolution in other countries. Without such a possibility, the building of Socialism is building without prospects, building without being sure that Socialism will be built. It is no use building Socialism without being sure that we can build it, without being sure that the technical backwardness of our country is not an insuperable obstacle to the building of complete Socialist society. To deny such possibility is to display lack of faith in the cause of building Socialism, to abandon Leninism…the impossibility of the complete, final victory of Socialism in one country without the victory of the revolution in other countries…mean[s] the impossibility of having full guarantees against intervention and consequently against the restoration of the bourgeois order, without the victory of the [proletarian] revolution in at least a number of countries. To deny this indisputable thesis is to abandon internationalism, to abandon Leninism…And if our country is discredited the world revolutionary movement will be weakened.”

Christina Kaier, a professor at Northwestern University who specializes in “Russian and Soviet Art,” among other aspects gives the next part of the story. She describes the NEP, a period she says lasted from 1921 to circa 1928, was a “relatively peaceful and semicapitalist period in Soviet history,” which retreated from the War Communism during the Russian Civil War, with “free exchange” legalized and pushed by Lenin, which was seen as the next step to a socialist future, with Soviet state-owned enterprises competing in the NEP market. [27] A major downside of NEP was the creation of the “Nepmen” or NEP bourgeoisie which supported avant-garde artists but also were very greedy, with a noticeable disparity between workers and management, class distinctions reappearing in society, and firms dominated by the profit motive. Despite all these downsides, in a country with a mainly agricultural economy at the time, there were positive elements. The creation of a “communist culture” in the new nation was realized by making constructivist art a political project of the state to counter bourgeois art with useful, utilitarian objects for the “new socialist collective” but also the ideas of an “object as comrade” or “socialist object” to replace commodity pleasures. To promote such utilitarian objects, and tap into “commodity aesthetics and consumer desires” during the NEP, with advertising to promote products, which were seen as “transitional objects” as well, they were displayed at an avant-garde exhibition in Paris in 1924, at a time that Soviet industry was still recovering from wartime The philosophy of those creating the objects was put forward by Aleksander M. Rodchenko in the spring of 1925:

“The light from the East [the Soviet Union] is not only the liberation of workers, the light from the East is in the new relation to the person, to women, to things, our things in our hands must be equals.”

Examples of this are abound, some of whom were in the October Group of Soviet constructivist artists. Vladimir Tatlin, who shifted to creating utilitarian objects, creating a stove, pot, and other items to help in the home. [28] As for Lubov Popova and Varvara Stepanova (married to Rodchenko), they proposed designs for “everyday, utilitarian things,” specifically a simple “flapper dress” which was “mass-produced and distributed in Soviet economy.” These dresses were austere but unisex and androgynous.

By 1926, the gradual dismantling of NEP was beginning, scrapped by the 1928/1929, when Stalin was in a more powerful position than before. [29] Kaier, apart from her bizarre Freudian claims about Soviet objects, seemed to be writing a fair history (not communist or radical however) except when it came to what happened next and aspects of the Soviet government. In an almost negative tone, she mentioned the “mechanisms of party control over people’s lives,” the “Stalinist socialist realism in the 1930s,” and seemed to be snarky about the hardline approach by the Soviets toward prostitution and “nonparty women.” Hence, while Kaier makes valuable contributions to history of the USSR, she falters by acting like Stalin is “bad” as he came to the scene. Trotskyist Chris Harman, in a similar vein, claims that Stalin gained “real” power in 1923-1924 and “absolute” power in 1928-1929. Without citing the specific page in his book, A People’s History of the World, praised by “popular historian” Howard Zinn, Harman is deluded. Even a quick glance at Stalin’s wikipedia page shows that he was the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU from April 3, 1922 to October 18, 1952, over thirty years, but Harman may be referring to his “consolidation” of power in 1928-1929 possibly, who knows.

Kaier and Harman are not the only ones that sneer at Stalin. Louise McReynolds, who was criticized earlier in this article, follows suit, treating the trumpeting of socialist values in mass culture of the USSR by the CPSU as “bad.” [30] These claims are further preposterous when one considers that Stalin pushed for rapid industrialization and end to the NEP, coupled with collectivization of agriculture when there was a shortfall in grain stores. Of course, a few, such as Nikolai Bukharin and Alexey Rytov opposed these policies but the Politburo rightly sided with Stalin, meaning that Rytov and Bukharin were pushed out for good reason. Lest us forget that under Stalin’s direction (and not only him), the first five-year plan was proposed in the USSR, in 1928, as a centrally-planned economy began to be constructed. [31] Stalin did make mistakes including thinking that the KMT, led by Chiang Kai-Shek was an effective force to defeat the imperialists, an idea discarded after the Shanghai Massacre in 1927 when the KMT murdered 300-400 Chinese Communists. Still, the continuation of the anti-religious campaign, which began in 1921, was wholly justified in an attempt to counter the nasty aspects of religious distortions in society which would ruin the attainment of human betterment.

The Soviet Union was at a good place, especially after Stalin took power. By 1932 and 1933, the medical field in the country was well-organized and well established. Doctors were state officials who worked 6-6 1/2 hours every day and there were a total of 76,000 physicians, an increase of 50,000 since the Great October Socialist Revolution. There was also free social and medical help, open attendance at child-birth regardless of class, free dental work, public medical centers for workers, the idea of unified medical work in the factory and hospital, and vacations ranging from 12 days to one month depending on the age and type of work. Doctors were also in touch with other elements of the medical practice, there was a specific focus on venereal disease, along with integration of medicine within and outside institutions, coupled with more hospital beds and progress in medical provisions. Other than this, the USSR made progress in fighting tuberculosis, venereal disease, especially syphilis, doctors outside the “field of monetary compensation” and near fulfillment of a “good medical service” with improvements needed to make it better since no medical service is perfect. The 1930s report on Soviet medicine concluded by saying that the Soviet government was “the most gigantic experiment in the deliberate public organization of social and political life in the world” with abolition of the “motive of private profit,” and engaged in “socialization of medicine” which in some respects goes beyond Western countries, presenting a challenge to other countries. [32] In times that we despair about the horrid condition of abortion rights in America, we should remember that abortion in the USSR was legally allowed under a number of parameters, which are reprinted below, showing that there were feminist policies in place:

“In most countries the purposeful production of abortion except for medical reasons is regarded as murder. The Soviet Government in 1920 repealed the existing laws against abortion and legalized it under certain specific conditions. This law contained the provisions summarized below, which are more fully stated in Mrs. Field’s Protection of Women and Children in Soviet Russia.

1. Abortion must be undertaken only by a licensed surgeon. Midwives are prohibited from performing abortions.

2. It must, as a rule, be the result of a surgical operation, and not of drugs.

3. The patient must afterwards remain in bed in the hospital or place of operation for three full days.

4. She must not be allowed to go to work for two weeks after the operation.

5. For a first pregnancy an abortion must not be performed unless childbirth would seriously endanger the mother’s life.’

6. Abortion is forbidden if the pregnancy has lasted for more than two and a half months.

7. A doctor cannot refuse an application for abortion, except as stated under 5 and 6. He may, however, discourage it in any way he thinks fit.

8. It is recommended that all abortions be performed in those State hospitals which have a division for this purpose. An insured woman or the wife of an insured man can claim abortion free of charge in a State hospital. For others a small charge may be made.

9. A private doctor or anyone else producing an abortion which results in death can be tried for manslaughter. Women cannot be punished for performing on themselves.

10. The doctor is recommended to discourage a woman from abortion if there are no social, economic, or medical reasons for it, and particularly if she has fewer than three children, or has adequate means for supporting another child.

It is stated that few abortions are asked for by women desiring to conceal illicit relations…No difficulty has arisen because of the unwillingness of women to come to hospitals for this purpose. No distinction is drawn between married and unmarried women.”

With the available resources, there isn’t much else I can say about this time period. I can say that on November 16, 1933, the U$ finally established diplomatic relations with the USSR as noted in the Great Soviet Encyclopedia. [33]

Conclusion

Looking through the sources I gathered for this article, I realize now that I missed a number of aspects: I could have looked more at Stalin’s writings, spanning 1901-1952, a book about the early times of a Bolshevik (1894-1914), and histories of the USSR, among many other aspects. [34] There are a number of bourgeois and academic sources I found, but alas, I did not go through those either. This article could undoubtedly be better, but I am only a learner on this subject.


Notes

[1] Adam Taylor, “Soviet leader, Gorbachev says a new union could rise again,” Washington Post, December 13, 2016; Damien Sharkov, “Mikhail Gorbachev on the Soviet Union collapse, Democracy in Russia and Putin’s popularity,” Newsweek, December 13, 2016; Paul Goble, “If the Russians Come Back Again, They Won’t Be Constrained By Communism,” Estonian World Review, December 14, 2016.

[2] Louise McReynolds, Russia at Play: Leisure Activities at the End of the Tsarist Era (London: Cornell University Press, 2003), 4-6, 14, 29, 54.

[3] V.I. Lenin, “The revolution in 1905: The beginning of the revolution in 1905” (January 25, 1905), The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 500-507,

[4] Ibid, 508-509; V.I. Lenin, “The State and Revolution” (1918), The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 588-591; V.I. Lenin, “Lecture on the 1905 revolution” (1917),  The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 510-513, 518-519, 524, 529

[5] McReynolds, 9, 136.

[6] See Morgan Phillip Price’s four penny pamphlet titled “Capitalist Europe and Socialist Russia,” published in 1918.

[7] John Keegan, An Illustrated History of the First World War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2001), 300-301, 306-308.

[8] “A Soviet View of the American Past: An Annotated Translation of The Section on American History in the Great Soviet Encyclopedia,” The Wisconsin Magazine of History, Vol. 43, No. 1, Autumn 1959, p. 33. Also see Morgan Phillip Price’s four penny pamphlet titled “Capitalist Europe and Socialist Russia,” published in 1918.

[9] Keegan, 308, 309, 311, 316.

[10] See Chapter 2  (“The Coming Storm“) of John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook the World.

[11] Keegan, 316. By the end of the year, the Bolshevik government said that citizens could recall politicians from office, salaries of high-paid officials were limited, peace talks with the Axis powers began, leaders of the Cadet Party (anti-Bolshevik) are ordered arrested, an eight-hour day is introduced for railway workers, and public education is no longer monopolized by the Russian Orthodox Church. Beyond this, the Council of People’s Commissars says that Ukraine has a right to succeed, the nationalization of banks is announced, and the independence of Finland is accepted.

[12] See chapter IV (“The Fall of the Provisional Government“) of John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook The World, see Chapter V (“Plunging Ahead“) of John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook The World, and see Chapter VI (“The Committee of Salvation“) of John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook The World.

[13] See Chapter VII (“The Revolutionary Front“) of John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook The World, see Chapter VIII (“Counter-Revolution“) of John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook The World.

[14] See Chapter IX (“Victory“) of John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook The World, see Chapter X (“Moscow“) of John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook The World, see Chapter XI (“The Conquest of Power“) of John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook The World, and see Chapter XII (“The Peasants’ Congress“) of John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook The World.

[15] Valerie Bryson, Feminist Political Theory: An Introduction (New York: Palgrave MacMillian, 2003, Second Edition), 114-125.

[16] See Morgan Phillip Price’s four penny pamphlet titled “Capitalist Europe and Socialist Russia,” published in 1918.

[17] “A Soviet View of the American Past,” p. 34

[18] V.I. Lenin, “The State and Revolution” (1918), The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 569-570, 572, 582-583; V.I. Lenin, “Marxism and Uprising” (Sept. 1917), The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 606-607; V.I. Lenin, “The crisis has matured” (October 12, 1917), The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), p. 612-613; Josef Stalin, “The October Revolution and the National Question” (1918),  The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 620-621; Josef Stalin, “The October Revolution and the Question of the Middle Strata,” The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 632.

[19] See Morgan Phillip Price’s four penny pamphlet titled “Capitalist Europe and Socialist Russia,” published in 1918; Keegan, 317, 318, 354-356, 359.

[20] Keegan, 356, 359-360-361, 363-364.

[21] Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States (New York: HarperPerennial, Fifth Edition, 2003), 409; Chronicle of America, “U.S. severs ties with Bolsheviks” (Mount Kisco, NY: Chronicle Publications, 1988), 605.

[22] “A Soviet View of the American Past,” 34, 36, 37; Zinn, 373, 380, 400, 409; Chronicle of America, “Pacifist Debs gets 10 years in prison,” p. 606; Chronicle of America, “Left-wing socialists establish own party,” p. 611; Chronicle of America, “US withdraws troops from Soviet Russia,” p. 610; Chronicle of America, US in crusading mood, deports 249 radicals to Soviet Russia,” p. 611; Chronicle of America, “Palmer raids net thousands of leftists,” p. 612; “A Soviet View of the American Past,” p. 35; Keegan, 392, 403.

[23] Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, “The Communist Manifesto,” The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 46; Marx and Engels, 67; V.I. Lenin, “What Is to Be Done?,”  The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 483; V.I. Lenin, “Lecture on the 1905 Revolution” (1917),  The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 516.

[24] McReynolds, 12-13, 33, 292.

[25] Josef Stalin, “Foundations of Leninism” (1924),  The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 637-638, 640-641; Marx and Engels, 26, 36; Marx, “Address to the Communist League” (1850),  The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 71.

[26] This blogger claims that speeding up “socialist construction” in the USSR ultimately led to the USSR’s demise, which is silly since the USSR was in existence from 1922 until 1911, so this person doesn’t know what they are talking about. At the same time, they claim that “the possibility of eventual failure of socialism was built into Stalin’s theory” which just isn’t true. Still, they make a possibly valid point that Stalin’s theory’s includes ideas from Trotsky.

[27] Christina Kaier, Imagine No Possessions: The Socialist Objects of Russian Constructivism (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005), 1, 2, 4-5, 8, 10, 17-20, 23, 25, 27, 29, 38, 47, 49, 81, 140, 165, 173, 183, 200-201, 206, 212, 264-265.

[28] Ibid, 43, 52, 71-73, 82-83, 89, 92, 100-101, 113-114, 117, 124.

[29] Ibid, 27, 58-59, 61, 244, 259.

[30] McReynolds, 293.

[31] Revisionist Stephen Gowans noted, in his article about publicly-owned and planned economies, that they work despite the bourgeois propaganda, although he seems to ignore the problems in the USSR that started after 1953: “The Soviet Union was a concrete example of what a publicly owned, planned economy could produce: full employment, guaranteed pensions, paid maternity leave, limits on working hours, free healthcare and education (including higher education), subsidized vacations, inexpensive housing, low-cost childcare, subsidized public transportation, and rough income equality. Most of us want these benefits…when the Soviet economy was publicly owned and planned, from 1928 to 1989, it reliably expanded from year to year, except during the war years…What eventually led to the Soviet Union’s demise was the accumulated toll on the Soviet economy of the West’s efforts to bring it down, the Reagan administration’s intensification of the Cold War, and the Soviet leadership’s inability to find a way out of the predicament these developments occasioned…the Soviet economic system had…worked better than capitalism…The benefits of the Soviet economic system were found in the elimination of the ills of capitalism…Among the most important accomplishments of the Soviet economy was the abolition of unemployment…From the moment in 1928 that the Soviet economy became publicly owned and planned, to the point in 1989 that the economy was pushed in a free market direction, Soviet GDP per capita growth exceeded that of all other countries but Japan, South Korea and Taiwan…Every year, from 1928 to 1989, except during the war years, the Soviet economy reliably expanded, providing jobs, shelter, and a wide array of low- and no-cost public services to all, while capitalist economies regularly sank into recession and had to continually struggle out of them on the wreckage of human lives.”

[32] It turns out that these authors are at least partially Trotskyists. Still, they offer good analysis when it comes to medicine. Other chapters I didn’t include talk about the USSR’s government, industrial and agricultural conditions, religious and civil liberty, women in Soviet Russia (cited earlier in this article), care of children, and maternity.

[33] “A Soviet View of the American Past,” p. 46

[34] Other aspects worth mentioning are Alexandra Kollontai talking about the years of revolution, a first-hand account of the October Socialist Revolution by Louise Bryant, a book with biographies of certain personalities in the revolution, Anne Louise Strong’s book about John Reed’s colony on the Volga, a page about party Congresses, a page about Soviet foreign policy, a page about Kronstadt, a page chronicling Lenin’s writings, a page chronicling Luxembourg’s writings, a page about the Soviet government, a page chronicling John Reed’s writings, and a page chronicling Soviet history. Also see “The History of Both the February and October Russian Revolutions” on About.com, “War and Revolution in Russia 1914-1921” by Dr. Jonathan Snee on BBCNews, “Causes of the Russian Revolution” on About.com, “Russian Revolution, October, 1917” on Spartacus International, Owen Hatherley, “The constructivists and the Russian revolution in art and architecture” on The Guardian, and Leon Aron, “Even Vladimir Putin Cannot Kill the Russian Revolution” in Foreign Policy. Academic sources include “The Deepening of the Russian Revolution: 1917” on a MIT website, the Internet Sourcebook documents on the Russian Revolution, and a book about the Russian revolution hosted in part by the Library of Congress.

The US-Saudi imperial interrelationship

Originally  published on the Leftist Critic blog on Nov 13, 2016.

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

While the society of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is corrupted, there is another dimension to mention: the U$-Saudi imperial interrelationship and where it currently stands. It seems that this relationship is good straits, but could easily bounce back as the masters of war of the murderous empire smile with glee. [1] The plan to “mold” opinion proposed in 1950 has not worked:

“…if the President and the Government and the Department of State…felt there was a menace to the interests of the United States, American public opinion could be molded, if not for the sake of Ibn Saud, for the sake of the interests of the United States and Saudi Arabia”

The KSA was founded in 1932, the year that Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) won the presidential election against “discredited” Republican Herbert Hoover. For years, the Saud family had been hiding in Kuwait, a protectorate of the British Empire, while the Ottomans controlled much of the Mideast. After the collapse of Ottoman Empire in 1923, the Saud family sprung into action. They began establishing the foundation of what would become the KSA. By 1932, when the state was declared to the world, few countries recognized it as there were no resources “of importance” and the country was composed mainly of nomads, delineated into varying ethnic groupings. Later that year, the fortunes changed for the Saud family, the new bourgeoisie of Saudi Arabia abeit underdeveloped of course, which was experiencing an “economic crisis,” when black gold was found. With the oil wealth, the Saud family became the Royals, and their brutal monarchy was cemented. With that, the teachings by Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab on the Arabian Peninsula, originally part of am “18th-century revival and reform movement,” often called Wahhabism in the West, received state sanction. This form of Islam, which insists on a “literal interpretation of the Koran” and declares that those who don’t practice it are “heathens and enemies,” would be promoted for years to come even as it was used by all sorts of Islamic reactionaries.

As years passed, the U$, along with many other countries, swooped in and recognized the KSA as a state, and Western oil corporations, like Standard Oil, established their roots in the country. Later a camp was established for foreign oil workers, creating a sort of bubble of security, at least in theory. Years later, some argued that Saudi Arabia and the Islamic movement were part of an anti-imperial front. Canadian socialist Paul Saba, wrote in 1980 that colonialists tried to suppress Islam, which made it stronger and part of anti-colonial struggle, meaning that many Muslim groups often played a “progressive role in supporting national liberation.” He also said that because sentencing in the Islamic world is “far less than severe than the torture and murder which existed under the Shah,” that it is fine, a position which should be unacceptable to any reasonable person. Saba also said that the Islamic movement wanted development and progress apart from “imperialist control,” with the US as a key target for hatred and defiance due to, as he put it, “historical plunder and domination of the Middle East and its backing for Israeli Zionism and the Shah of Iran.” While he makes valid points about countries such as Iran, which is currently at a crossroads geopolitically, he does not recognize that many of these countries are religiously conservative and as a result, do not have true liberation, especially for women, homosexuals, and non-Muslims.

In the 1940s, the equation changed once again. While the US sent engineers to work on Saudi roads, financial loans to the KSA were nixed by the U$ government because of British support for the Kingdom. [2] Even as veteran diplomat Alexander Comstock Kirk agreed with this assessment, he rejected the idea of “a division of hemispheres of influence” in which the British would take a leading role instead of the U$. U$ diplomats even debated sending agricultural and technical assistance to the KSA based on what was done on reservations of the remaining indigenous nations in the U$! [3] At the same time, certain policymakers turned their attention to the Kingdom where a “massive oilfield has been discovered in 1938,” and strengthened a relationship with the country, trying to cultivate it as a friend.

All of this happened even as the Kingdom and its bourgeoisie had established diplomatic relations with the Nazi and Italian fascists, both of whom tried to bring the Saudis to their side, sometimes by promising to send armaments. [4] Even so, the U$ was successful in bribing the Saudis to switch sides and declare war on the Nazis by 1945, even inviting them to a UN conference, a proposal which was roundly rejected by the Soviets.

As time passed, relations changed. Not only did FDR’s meeting with Ibn Saud (known in the Arab world as Abdulaziz), in Great Bitter Lake, Egypt, reinforce the U$-Saudi relationship, but the US began sending the oil-rich country military aid. [5] The U$ began seeing protection of the KSA as vital to the security of the empire. This was a time that the US saw the Kingdom as “a bulwark to peace in the Near Eastern world” supported the extension of a 15 million dollar Export-Import Bank loan to the country to develop its railroads, highways and generally its transportation system. [6]

This relationship was helped because the Saudis were staunchly anti-communist. Millions of dollars of U$ investments in the country were considered as an “effective weapon against the advance of Communism.” In exchange for such investment, the Saudis allowed their airfield of Dharan to hold U$ warplanes and US commercial flights by the early 1950s. Afterword, the U$ sent military advisers to “protect” the Kingdom and reassert U$ military rights in the country. In later years, during the 1972 border conflict between North Yemen (backed by Jordan, KSA, the U$, UK, Taiwan, and West Germany) and South Yemen, also called the Peoples Democratic Republic of Yemen (backed by the Soviet Union, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, and Libya), and after, the Saudis saw South Yemen as a threat. The country was even praised by the World Bank for satisfying basic needs of the population, raising education standards, and more. The government of South Yemen also engaged in campaigns to eradicate illiteracy, emancipate women, develop a safe drinking water system, and engage in agriculture collectivization. Eventually, the imperial and capitalistic forces got their way, uniting the North and South Yemen behind Ali Abdullah Saleh, a former leader of North Yemen, in 1990, who would be predictably US-friendly until his ousting in 2012. However, in 1994 there was a civil war between the pro-Western northerners and socialist southerners, which was launched by North Yemen, which again led to reunification and purging of the left from Yemeni society. Even since 2013, people resisted Yemeni occupation of the southern part of the country “through the division of labor and through popular committees” which is mainly expressed through peaceful protest as the last secretary general of the Yemeni Socialist Party, Ali Salim al-Beidh, noted in a 2013 interview.

While the Saudis became anxious for not receiving military assistance, they were likely glad that the U$ negotiated an agreement between them and ARAMCO (Arab-American Oil Company). [7] At the same time, the U$ had the appearance as a “neutral mediator” in disputes, mainly between the British and Saudis, handled in arbitration sessions. These disputes were over oil field claims near Farsi island, Qatar, the town of Buraimi, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, and other border areas. Those involved in the disputes, which had been festering since the late 1940s, included Aramco and British oil companies such as Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC). Ultimately, the Saudis found the British, who were exploring oil drilling in a disputed zone, to be impolite and were angry at them, which the British found disconcerting, with their bourgeoisie likely worried on losing a market.

In subsequent years, as the formal British Empire weakened, which would become, at least for the Saudis, “hostile,” the U$ would pledge to protect them and their oil from those they perceived as the “aggressors”: the Soviets. Still, in 1952, the Join Chiefs of Staff believed that “from a military point of view, grant aid to Saudi Arabia and certain other Middle East countries is not justified,” even though they agreed that the Kingdom had unique position in the Mideast. The U$ pledge for support was noted in a summary of a March 1950 conversation, between the U$, Britain, and the KSA:

“the United States has an extremely strong interest in the American investment in petroleum in Saudi Arabia. This is an interest which is vitally important to the security of the United States and to the world…it is necessary that the United States render assistance to nations who find themselves threatened by aggression or subversion from the north…The United States feels that the only important long-range security menace that faces the world is the obviously aggressive designs of the USSR…if at any time it [Saudi Arabia] is menaced by aggressive action or subversive activities from any neighboring power, the United States Government will take most definite action…The United States on its side is gratified that American investors, both oilmen and others, have chosen to come here to work with the Saudi Arabian Government”

However the relationship between the U$ and the KSA developed a hiccup in the form of the murderous Zionist apartheid state.

In 1947, after years of Zionist efforts to establish a state, the murderous apartheid state. was established in the Holy Land of Palestine. The area was already torn by strife between Jews and Arabs, which the British imperialists saw as a dilemma to quickly extricate themselves from. This new state was founded on violence and religious ideals like the KSA, but was specifically founded on the genocide of the Palestinians. The Saudis were strongly opposed to this new state and seemed to favor the Palestinians. Ibn Saud, from 1947 to his death in 1953, was strongly anti-Zionist (perhaps even anti-Semitic) and warned the U$ of consequences if they supported Israel. [8] Even as FDR has reassured Ibn Saud that the U$ would not change its policy on Palestine, “without consulting the Arabs,” this was disregarded. Ibn Saud stayed outspoken on Zionism, even canceling an Aramco concession, alarming the military and foreign policy establishment. Eventually, Saud found he could distinguish between U$ foreign policy elsewhere in the Mideast and ARAMCO, arguing that oil royalties could allow Arab states to resist “Jewish pretensions,” and staying formally hostile to Zionism. For years to come, he U$ supported the Zionist state, although not as strongly until the 1960s and 1970s.

Despite this, the U$-Saudi relationship persisted. Presidents, whether from the capitalist Democratic and Republican parties, have tried to favor the KSA in whatever way they can, whether that is through arms deals or accepting ceremonial gifts. The U$ even sent a medical team, led by President Truman’s personal physician, to the Kingdom to make sure that Ibn Saud was healthy before his death! In 1957, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower declared the “Eisenhower Doctrine,” said that the U$ would, within constitutional means, oppose “overt armed aggression” in the Kingdom and the Middle East by Soviet and Soviet-aligned agents. Years later, John F. Kennedy, still lauded by conservatives and liberals alike, ordered that a squadron of fighters be sent to the country to protect it from Egyptian air assaults. Years later, the U$ was grateful for the Saudi effort to avoid a “serious shortfall in oil supplies,” stabilize the world oil market, and the Saudi decision to increase production due to the Iranian revolution in 1979.

In later years, the relationship between the KSA and the U$ strengthened. A senior fellow at the elite Council on Foreign Relations, Rachel Bronson, wrote in 2004 that the “close, cozy relationship” between the two countries began with Ronald Reagan, not George W. Bush, with the relationship cemented in efforts to counter claimed “Soviet aggression.” She continues, saying that the Saudis had their own reasons for fighting the Soviets including their fear that the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan would “threaten” their Kingdom. Bronson goes on to say that the Saudis also played a role in funding the contras in Nicaragua, Reagan’s “freedom fighters” for capitalism, along with funding opposition to Ethiopia’s Soviet-aligned government and horrid rebel leader Jonas Savimbi’s UNITA to fight the Soviet-backed government in Angola. She then claims that current attention to Bush family “misses the longer history of the American and Saudi Arabian contemporary relationship.” However, by saying this, she is whitewashing the Bush family’s history with the Saud family.

In 1990, former CIA director and then-President George H.W. Bush brought troops into the Kingdom during the Persian Gulf quest for oil, declaring that the U$ would “assist the Saudi Arabian government in the defense of its homeland.” This was not a surprise as then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney personally flew to the oil kingdom to ask King Fahd to allow the US to “station thousands of troops there,” saying to the U$ Senate that the US was coming to their aid because of the agreement between Roosevelt and Ibn Saud all those years ago. [9] Not long after, he subsequently supported the war against Iraq. Years later, George W. Bush would declare the country was “expanding the role of its people in determining their future” even as they remained a brutal state.

Still, there have been disagreements and snipes over the years. Even disgraced war criminal Killary Clinton, in excerpts of speeches, released by Wikileaks and organized later by the National Security Archive, to bankers and well-off constituencies, criticized the Saudis. She said that they (and the Emiratis) feared “organized efforts for political Islam,” saw the Muslim Brotherhood as threatening, and were against missile defense in the Mideast. She also said that the Saudis did not have a stable government (perhaps indicated by the killing a Saudi royal by head chopping), that the Saudis have backed the Sunni fighters in Syria with large amounts of arms, and that the “Saudis have exported more extreme ideology than any other place on earth over the course of the last 30 years.” [10] This statement aligns with earlier Wikileaks cables saying that the country was “the world’s largest source of funds for Islamist militant groups,” with the government not even trying to stop the flow of money, and recent releases saying that the Kingdom and Qatar “fund ISIS.”

As for Clinton, while she may have angered top policymakers when she spoke her mind about Zionist and Saudi actions, she also stated the obvious. She said that that as a result of the so-called “Arab Spring,” the Zionist state and the KSA are “more closely aligned in their foreign policy…[on] Iran…Egypt…Syria and…a lot of other things.” [11] This is was also clear when the late King Abdullah said that the U$ should “cut off the head of the snake” and bomb Iran before it was too late. [12] More recently, the Saudis even allowed Zionist newspapers to be viewed in the country.

Apart from the powerful (but currently weakened) Saudi lobby, there is the bourgeois media. When King Abdullah died in January of last year, this media could not let down on its praise, calling him “something of an advocate for women” (The Telegraph), “a reformer at home” (BBC), a “reformer and often came up against the more hard-line clerics” (CNN), “accepted limited change” (The Guardian), “pushed cautious changes” (Reuters), “earned a reputation as a cautious reformer…[and] became, in some ways, a force of moderation” (New York Times), “to his supporters, [he]…was a benign and…progressive monarch” (Wall Street Journal), “was seen by many as a gentle reformer” (The Independent), and “was considered a savvy and plainspoken modernizer, if not a reformer” (The New Yorker). [13] While BBC, the Wall Street Journal, and The Independent were more reserved in their praise, they were still part of the general trend.

Apart from crap infotainment sites like BuzzFeed claiming that King Abdullah’s “legacy” was important to care about, President Obama declared that the Saudi king was “always candid and had the courage of his convictions” and corporatist Secretary of State John Kerry, in a bubble of misunderstanding and confusion, said that the U$ “lost a friend…the world has lost a revered leadera man of wisdom and vision…a brave partner in fighting violent extremism.” To top this off is the State Department-connected and bourgeois Human Rights Watch declaring that King Abdullah’s reign has “brought about marginal advances for women but failed to secure the fundamental rights of Saudi citizens,” which basically offering of praise.

Some criticized such praise at the time. One of these people was Jacob Mchangama, the director of the Justia think tank, on the conservative website of Forbes. He wrote that the reactions to the death of the Saudi king “has been a rude awakening.” He criticized the responses of leaders including John Kerry, former UK prime minister David Cameron, and IMF chief Christine Lagarde, saying that “acknowledging the victims of King Abdullah rather than singing false praises would be a good start” in the right direction. His tepid criticism doesn’t go far enough: the bourgeois media and Western capitalist leaders are supporting the imperialist U$-Saudi relationship by whitewashing the crimes of the authoritarian Kingdom. If anything, people should be celebrating the death of a tyrant like King Abdullah, not praising him as a reformer, and should be recognizing that Saudi society is still violent, like that of the U$, but also in a very different way, with routine executions of “subversives.”

The Iranian leaders clearly agree with Clinton on this point. In a recent speech to the UN General Assembly, the moderate reformist President, backed by the Western capitalists, Hassan Rouhani, argued that if the Saudis are serious about development and regional security they must stop their “divisive policies, spread of hate ideology and trampling upon the rights of neighbors.” He further criticized the U$ government for not following on the Iran deal, along with the Supreme Court decision earlier this year, to which only chief justice John Roberts and associate justice Sonia Sotamayor dissenting, to seize Iranian assets because they “committed terrorism.” He also said that Iran had a good relationship with the people of the United States, and that their “problem is with the American government, not companies, people and universities.”

Apart from the internal dynamics and land grabs, there are obvious realities which should be pointed out. For one, the Saudis are backing the religiously reactionary opposition in the Syrian Arab Republic, which was not “moderate” but are basically Al Qaeda type-organizations, like Al Nusra. They even offered Russia an oil deal secretly if they withdrew backing of the Syrian government, which they refused, and they provided chemical weapons to Syrian “rebels.” The goal of the Saudis interconnect directly with U$ imperial interests, which entail the displacing the progressive government headed by Bashar Al-Assad and replacing him (and the government) with one that benefits imperial power and allows Western investments to flow. The Kingdom is, as as result, an arm of U$ imperial foreign policy. The KSA even allied with the U$-supported  state of Kazakhstan, and the U$, which has a drone base in the Kingdom, has propped up the brutal autocratic state and its leaders. All of this isn’t a surprise since in 2011, the U$ Senate Intelligence Committee found a list of direct members of the Saudi royal family who were connected with 9/11, a discovery which connects to the fact the Kingdom arguably divided into fiefdoms, with specific princes having their own interests which may have had a “severe impact on 9/11.”

Recently, the relationship between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and the U$ has been decisively shaken. On September 28th, the U$ Congress roundly overrode President Obama’s veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), a law which allows families of victims of the 2001 terrorist attacks to sue Saudi Arabia for involvement in the attacks, which makes sense since 15 of the 19 hijackers came from the country. [14] Scholar Binoy Kampmark argued that the law was a “very American formula, one born in the court room and litigation process,” that any avenue of legal action “against an ally was tantamount to a confession,” and noting that the Saudi foreign minister said that their assets could be seized due to the law. He also argued that this bill’s passage meant that “various imperial efforts of the US would be compromised,” with U$ imperial engagements and actions, along with those of US allies, suddenly facing “the prospect of legal targeting,” with the law serving as one the most overt challenges to “assumptions of sovereign immunity.”

Those for the law include president-elect (and fascist) the orange menace, Killary, Nancy Pelosi, John Cornyn, and a majority of Congress. The main force behind the law, other than feelings of jingoism conjured up even by mention of the September 11 attacks, was a New Jersey group named 9/11 Families & Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism, which is pro-military but critical of the Saudis. The group’s chair, Terry Strada, a former director of J.P. Morgan Chase’s Human Resources department, joined the group in 2002 and became chair in 2012. [15] One of their lawyers, James P. Kreindler, declared that “Saudi Arabia doesn’t want to see this continue in the media or court…we are going to prevail. We are going to win. Either the Saudis will come to the table or we’ll go to court and win there.”

The groups against the law are varied. They include the Saudi government, President Obama, who warned it would lead countries to sue the US in foreign courts for war crimes, CIA director John Brennan, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Gulf Cooperation Council, a bipartisan group of former executive officials saying that the law would harm US interests and undercut security of the empire. [16] The Saudi foreign ministry declared that the law would lead to “serious unintended repercussions” such as threats to sovereign immunity. Some have said that the law, coupled with other measures, is a setback for the Saudis, whose influence on Capital Hill is waning, and that “anti-Saudi activity” on the Hill is the strongest it has been in decades. [17] These “concerns” were as bad as an ABC News fluff piece about the law, with their hand-picked experts saying that the law cold lead to “potentially any nation” sued, could make the U$ “much more vulnerable,” is “very dangerous…a huge mistake,” undermining counter-terrorism, and hilariously that “some countries would be interested in saying our military aid to Israel is aiding and abetting things that they would allege are sometimes war crimes against the Palestinians” which “we” need immunity from.

A Yale-educated individual formerly in the military establishment, named Michael Rubin, went the furthest of all. He said that without oil, the KSA “would be a very different place” and that oil money led the country into “modernity.” After saying that JASTA would shake “Saudi financial stability,” he declared that the Kingdom would become “bankrupt” because of the law, saying that this is not “good for America” since “what happens in Riyadh doesn’t stay in Riyadh.” Then, almost like a giddy neo-con, he worried that political instability in the country would not be “good” because decades of “Islamist education and indoctrination” would lead unemployed Saudi youth to not embrace “liberalism and tolerance if suddenly put in desperate straits.” Basically, this means that the country would not be a bastion of imperialism and could become, hypothetically, anti-imperialist and antagonistic to the U$, which he sees as “dangerous.” Reasoned people should welcome such a change in Saudi Arabia if it is pushed by those who want to challenge imperial control, apart from the Islamic reactionaries.

Congressional criticism and efforts to curtail the Saudis only goes so far. In late September, the U$ Senate passed a law, by a supermajority, to approve the sale of Abrams tanks and other armaments to the KSA, with bigwig Senators like John McCain, Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham, and Mitch McConnell in support. Those that objected were led by libertarian-Republican Senator Rand Paul and liberal-Democratic Senator Chris Murphy. While Paul opposed giving the KSA more arms because Congress hadn’t discussed the Saudi bombing of Yemen, which has killed over 3,800 civilians and resulted in much turmoil, Murphy had other reasons. He argued that there is “an American imprint on every civilian life lost in Yemen,” a statement proved by the fact that that the KSA is using U$-supplied white phosphorous in Yemen. He also said that the KSA was not “immune from criticism” and that the US should not dictate what “form of Islam wins out around the world.” However, he said that the U$ should still have a strong relationship with the KSA, which he considered vital, that allows “for one party to object to the behavior of the other when it’s not in the party’s mutual national security interests” and that the relationship can survive U$ challenges. Despite these reservations, criticism of the Saudis in Congress, and generally, is a good sign of things to come. Bourgeois left-liberals have their answer to these problems in (and relating to) Saudi Arabia embodied by veteran peace activist Medea Benjamin. She argues in her new book that the current US-Saudi relationship is destructive and that the US State Department should use its existing policies to sanction the KSA. [18] While this may be satisfying to some, this article will go further be recognizing how the relationship is connected to the capitalist system, imperialism, and the murderous US empire.

On the other hand, the imperial interrelationship with Saudi Arabia could be in trouble. For one, during the continuing U$-backed Saudi war in Yemen, some top government officials, especially in the State Department were worried. They said in emails, from mid-last year to earlier this year, that they were concerned about legal blowback from U$ participation in the Saudi bombing. These officials believed that the US could be “implicated in war crimes” and that the Saudis would kill civilians due to their “lack of…experience with dropping munitions and firing missiles” coupled with weak intelligence, even as they attempted to maintain the U$-Saudi relationship. Further emails showed that the Saudis disregarded a list prepared by senior officials to prevent destruction of “critical infrastructure” and reduce casualties, bombing a bridge to the Yemeni capital of Sanaa which was a major rout for humanitarian food aid. Even former military prosecutor and California liberal senator Ted Lieu declared, that due to the assistance in the horrid bombing, the Obama administration is “now in an untenable situation.” This situation is complicated by the fact that risks to U$ military personnel, the footsoldiers of empire, even those on Navy destroyers, is increasing due to Saudi airstrikes on Yemeni civilians. [19]

Still, there is no doubt that the murderous empire had purposely turned looked away from the abuses of women, non-Muslims, foreign workers, and many others in the Kingdom, as previously noted. Not only is the country a murderous state, but it is effectively a client state of the empire, since without US support it could not destabilize the region whether it is backing horrid “rebels” in Syria or decimating the small country of Yemen. This is not a surprise since diplomats, even in 1946, declared that the U$ should provide “such assistance as may be necessary and feasible to strengthen and maintain that country as a sovereign state free of internal and external disturbances which might threaten its stability.” But the empire is not the only one that is defending the Kingdom.

As it should be obvious, supporting a relationship, even a “bilateral partnership,” with a tyrannical government like the KSA is against the principles of democracy, freedom, and justice the US supposedly stands for. Some policymakers might speak of the “reforms” in the country such as “expanding rights of women in Saudi Arabia,” but they will never gut the relationship. The fact that the NSA partnered with brutal Saudi state police and that the country’s currency is directly tied to the U$ dollar, showing that the relationship is entrenched. Even Bernie Sanders, the professed progressive and “antiwar” candidate in the capitalist Democratic Party, believed that rich authoritarian Arab states, such as the Kingdom, should fight against Daesh. Such an approach is not anti-interventionist since it means that the US-backed imperial proxies would be fighting against it, which does not, in any way, shape, or form undermine U$ imperialism. It also provides the potential for Saudi aggression to expand beyond Syria to the whole Mideast, causing more reactionary responses.

Readers may be looking for a “call to action” after reading this piece. I’m not going to follow the pattern of so many liberal documentaries which say you should go to a website and sign a petition. However, it is my hope that this article helps people start to challenge not only the accepted narrative about Saudi Arabia in the West but informs criticisms of bourgeois liberals. Much of the criticism of the US-Saudi relationship, and the Kingdom itself, mainly focuses on violations of “human rights,” as flawed a concept as that is, and stays within the bounds of accepted discourse in our capitalist society. There needs to be an analysis of Saudi Arabia and U$ imperial power which recognizes the interconnected nature of imperialism, capitalism, and other systems of oppression. This includes even criticizing states, even those one may be inclined to support, which have relationships with Saudi Arabia. While this article does not have all the answers and is only a first stab at this subject, but hopefully it opens the door for more discussion.


Notes

[1] Under the Obama administration, there was biggest arms deal in U$ history, at the time, with up to $60 billion dollars of military equipment bought for the Saudis, which was largely ignored by the corporate media.

[2] Wallace Murray, “Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs (Murray),” May 29, 1941, 890F.51/21, Foreign Relations of the United States Diplomatic Papers, 1941, The British Commonwealth; The Near East and Africa, Vol. III, Accessed October 14, 2016; Alexander Comstock Kirk, “The Minister in Egypt Kirk to the Secretary of State,” June 26, 1941, 890F.21/23: Telegram; Foreign Relations of the United States Diplomatic Papers, 1941, The British Commonwealth; The Near East and Africa, Vol. III, Accessed October 14, 2016; Cordell Hull, “The Secretary to the Minister in Egypt (Kirk),” August 22, 1941, 890F.51/29: Telegram; Foreign Relations of the United States Diplomatic Papers, 1941, The British Commonwealth; The Near East and Africa, Vol. III, Accessed October 14, 2016; Alexander Comstock Kirk, “The Minister in Egypt (Kirk) to the Secretary of State,” August 30, 1941, 890F.51/30: Telegram; Foreign Relations of the United States Diplomatic Papers, 1941, The British Commonwealth; The Near East and Africa, Vol. III, Accessed October 14, 2016; Cordell Hull, “The Secretary to the Minister in Egypt (Kirk),” September 10, 1941, 890F.51/30: Telegram; Foreign Relations of the United States Diplomatic Papers, 1941, The British Commonwealth; The Near East and Africa, Vol. III, Accessed October 14, 2016; Alexander Comstock Kirk, “Minister in Egypt (Kirk) to the Secretary of State,” September 23, 1941, 890F.51/39: Telegram; Foreign Relations of the United States Diplomatic Papers, 1941, The British Commonwealth; The Near East and Africa, Vol. III, Accessed October 14, 2016; Sumner Welles, “Memorandum by the Under Secretary of State (Welles) to the Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs (Murray),” September 26, 1941, 890F.515/1⅓, Foreign Relations of the United States Diplomatic Papers, 1941, The British Commonwealth; The Near East and Africa, Vol. III, Accessed October 14, 2016. Even the US was not on board with a Saudi request for 2 million in gold pieces in 1946.

[3] Harold I. Ickes, “The Secretary of Interior (Ickes) to the Secretary of State,” May 21, 1941, 102.64/100; Foreign Relations of the United States Diplomatic Papers, 1941, The British Commonwealth; The Near East and Africa, Vol. III, Accessed October 14, 2016; Gordon P. Merriam, “Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Gordon P. Merriam of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs,” September 19, 1941, 800F.00/67; Foreign Relations of the United States Diplomatic Papers, 1941, The British Commonwealth; The Near East and Africa, Vol. III, Accessed October 14, 2016.

[4] Francis R. Nicosia, Nazi Germany and the Arab World (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 43, 76, 88, 110-114, 124-125, 126-127, 130-132. Reportedly, late Saudi King Abdullah treasured the dagger Hitler gave the Saudis in 1939.

[5] Adam Taylor, “The first time a US president met a Saudi King,” Washington Post, January 27, 2015. Accessed October 14, 2016; Rudy Abramson, “1945 Meeting of FDR and Saudi King Was Pivotal for Relations,” Los Angeles Times, August 9, 1990. Accessed October 14, 2016; G. Jefferson Price III, “Saudis remember FDR’s broken promise,” Baltimore Sun, September 1, 2002. Accessed October 14, 2016.

[6] “Memorandum by the Deputy Director of the Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs (Villard) to the Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs (Clayton),” September 27, 1946, 890F.51/9–2746, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1946, The Near East and Africa, Volume VII. Accessed October 14, 2016; “Memorandum by the Acting Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs (Hare) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Affairs (Thorp),” June 30, 1950, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1950, The Near East, South Asia, and Africa, Vol. V. Accessed October 14, 2016; “Memorandum of Conversation, by the Acting Officer in Charge of Arabian Peninsula Affairs (Awalt),” July 28, 1950, 866A.10/7-2850, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1950, The Near East, South Asia, and Africa, Vol. V. Accessed October 14, 2016; “Editorial Note,” Foreign Relations of the United States, 1950, The Near East, South Asia, and Africa, Vol. V. Accessed October 14, 2016.

[7] “Editorial Note,” 1950, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1950, The Near East, South Asia, and Africa, Vol. V. Accessed October 14, 2016; “Editorial Note,” 1950, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1950, The Near East, South Asia, and Africa, Vol. V. Accessed October 14, 2016; Fred H. Awalt, “Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Fred H. Awalt of the Office of African and Near Eastern Affairs,” October 5, 1950, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1950, The Near East, South Asia, and Africa, Vol. V, Accessed October 14, 2016; “The Chief of Staff of the United States Army to the Vice Chief of Staff of the United States Army, 786A.5/4–350: Telegram, April 3, 1950, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1950, The Near East, South Asia, and Africa, Vol. V. Accessed October 14, 2016; Raymond A. Hare, “The Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs (Hare) to the Secretary of Defense (Johnson),” March 8, 1950, 711.56386A/2–1350, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1950, The Near East, South Asia, and Africa, Vol. V. Accessed October 14, 2016; “No. 1441: Memorandum of Conversation, by Robert Sturgill of the Office of Near Eastern Affairs,” August 19, 1952, 786A.5 MSP/8–1952, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952-1954. The Near and Middle East (in two parts): Volume IX, Part 2. Accessed October 14, 2016; “No. 1432: Memorandum of Conversation, by Robert Sturgill of the Office of Near Eastern Affairs,” January 21, 1952, 711.5886A/1–2152, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952-1954. The Near and Middle East (in two parts): Volume IX, Part 2. Accessed October 14, 2016; “No. 1451: Memorandum by the President to the Director for Mutual Security (Stassen),” March 14, 1953, 786A.5 MSP/3–1453, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952-1954. The Near and Middle East (in two parts): Volume IX, Part 2. Accessed October 14, 2016; “No. 1453: The Under Secretary of State (Smith) to the Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister (Faisal),” 786A.5 MSP/3–2653, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952-1954. The Near and Middle East (in two parts): Volume IX, Part 2. Accessed October 14, 2016; “No. 1510: Memorandum of Conversation, by the Officer in Charge of Arabian Peninsula–Iraq Affairs (Fritzlan),” April 1, 1953, 780.022/4–153, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952-1954. The Near and Middle East (in two parts): Volume IX, Part 2. Accessed October 14, 2016; “No. 1448: The Officer in Charge of Arabian Peninsula–Iraq Affairs (Fritzlan) to the Ambassador in Saudi Arabia (Hare),” January 16, 1953, 786A.5 MSP/1-653, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952-1954. The Near and Middle East (in two parts): Volume IX, Part 2. Accessed October 14, 2016; “No. 1454: Editorial Note,” Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952-1954. The Near and Middle East (in two parts): Volume IX, Part 2. Accessed October 14, 2016; Walter B. Smith, “No. 1450: The Under Secretary of State (Smith) to the Director for Mutual Security (Stassen),” Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952-1954. The Near and Middle East (in two parts): Volume IX, Part 2. Accessed October 14, 2016.

[8] He was also reportedly anti-Semitic. As Tariq Ali writes in his review of Gilbert Archar’s book about Arabs and the Holocaust, he writes that Archar didn’t add that “the late Ibn Saud…was in the habit of presenting visiting Western leaders with copies of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” a virulently anti-Semitic book. Other sources such as an article by Anthony Sampson in the Observer Review titled “Desert Diary” on March 9, 1975 partially confirms this.

[9] Additionally, it is worth noting that Osama Bin Laden used the fact of U$ troops in the country as a rallying cry to bring support to his cause. He argued that he hated the US also for U$ sanctions against Iraq and “American policies toward Israel and the occupied territories,” also noting he was infuriated by U$ troops stationed in the country as he told journalist Robert Frisk.

[10] Clinton also asserted that the Iranians were behind the planned murder of a Saudi ambassador, which was proven false. Investigative journalist Gareth Porter argued, convincingly, that the U$ government’s narrative on the assassination plot was an an elaborate set up to implicate Iran as part of a campaign against the country and possibly lead to war.

[11] Perhaps this is also why Erdogan thanked Saudi Arabia for its post-coup solidarity as he tries to make Turkey and the Saudis have a common cause.

[12] Wikileaks cables, from the 2010 release with documents gathered by Chelsea Manning, also suggested deals for jetliners given to heads of states and airline executives in multiple Mideast countries, that the Kingdom proposed energy ties with China if Beijing backed sanctions against Iran, and that the country is a major source of financing of Islamic reactionary groups.

[13] “King Abdullah Ibn Abdulaziz al-Saud – obituary,” The Telegraph, January 22, 2015. Accessed October 24, 2016; “Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz dies,” BBC, January 23, 2015. Accessed October 24, 2016; Anas Hamdan, Catherine E. Shoichet, and Dana Ford, “Saudi Arabia’s ‘reformer’ King Abdullah dies,” CNN, January 23, 2015. Accessed October 24, 2016; Ian Black, “Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah dies at 90,” The Guardian, January 23, 2015. Accessed October 24, 2016; Angus McDowell, “Saudi King Abdullah dies, new ruler is Salman,” Reuters, January 22, 2015. Accessed October 24, 2016; Douglas Martin and Ben Hubbard, “King Abdullah, Shrewd Force Who Reshaped Saudi Arabia, dies at 90,” New York Times, January 22, 2015. Accessed October 24, 2016; Ellen Knickmeyer and Ahmed Al Omran, “Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Dies,” Wall Street Journal, January 23, 2015. Accessed October 24, 2016; Helen Nianias, “King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz dead: What did he do for Saudi Arabia?,” The Independent, January 23, 2015. Accessed October 24, 2016; Robin Wright, “Postscript: King Abdullah, 1924-2015,” The New Yorker, January 23, 2015. Accessed October 24, 2016.

[14] CBS News, “Obama vetoes bill allowing 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia”, Sept. 23, 2016. Accessed October 10, 2016; Associated Press, “Obama’s veto of 9/11 bill aimed at Saudi Arabia sets up standoff with Congress,” September 23, 2016. Reprinted in The Guardian. Also see articles in NBC News and Politico.

[15] For more information, also see Strada’s posts on Huffington Post and her appearance on C-Span. Also of note is the response of their lawyers. I would add all of the press releases of Strada’s group here, but there are so many that the links would take up too much space.

[16] See articles in Al Arabiya, Slate, Al Jazeera, ABC (Australian), BBC, DW, and ABC (American).

[17] Karoun Demirjian, Washington Post, “Saudi Arabia is facing unprecedented scrutiny from Congress,” Sept. 21. Accessed October 12, 2016; Steven T. Dennis and Roxana Toxon, Bloomberg, Sept. 21, 2016, “Saudi Arabia’s Clout in Washington Isn’t What It Used to Be.” Also see an article in Euro News.

[18] This is mild compared to the absurd, silly, downright dumb approach of Charles Davis, called Chuckles by many critical radicals on the twittersphere, instituting a no-fly-zone over Saudi Arabia to stop their war.

[19] Articles in Fortune, Bloomberg, and Foreign Policy claimed when the war began that oil prices were negatively effected. However, a CNBC piece quoted a high-level Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Francisco Blanch, who argued that “I don’t think that Yemen had a lot of importance for the oil market…I’m not very worried about physical supply disruptions coming out of Yemen…The main issue…is whether the airstrikes…end up being a proxy war…a proxy war in the Middle East is always a risky event for oil market; there’s no question about it.” Some even claimed that the war in Yemen was a “proxy battlefield” between Iran-backed Houthis and US allies (Yemen and Saudi Arabia). Recently, the Saudis intercepted a missile from the Houthis which they claimed was headed to Mecca, but they could be twisting the truth.

A bastion of imperialism: the corrupted nature of Saudi society

A shopping mall in Saudi Arabia (2011)

Originally published on the Leftist Critic blog on Nov 13, 2016.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Notes

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

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