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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Salazar said at one point:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Notes

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

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

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

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

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

A Turning Point for Zimbabwe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lenin speaking before Russian workers.

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

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

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

Lenin’s words on self-determination

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Zionists enter the picture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • spurring capitalistic investment in communication

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

    • allowing the creation of large farms

    • supporting access to land for petty bourgeoisie

    • pushing for openness to the international capitalist economy

    • creating “special development zones” to attract capitalists

    • completing privatization in the Kurdish economy

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

    • helping civil servants leave government jobs and enter capitalistic enterprises

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

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

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

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

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

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


Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

“The most heinous act against humanity”: new imperial sanctions on the DPRK

Five ports in China and Russia which would be monitored/”inspected” by the US as part of the recently-passed sanctions. Map was created in Google Earth.

Originally published on the Leftist Critic blog on May 12, 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.

On the heels of the orange menace’s aggressive posture toward the DPRK, threatening them with military action (and with diplomatic isolation) if they don’t remove their nuclear weapons, which are their main form of self-defense against the imperial beast, the U$ House of Representatives in a 419-1 vote passed new round of new sanctions against the DPRK, with only GOP Representative Thomas Massie voting against it, and 10 others not voting. As to date, Mr. Massie has not explained his reasons for voting against this legislation, which is currently being considered by the Senate’s Committee of Foreign Relations. Regardless, this legislation is a direct attack upon the DPRK, trying to coax it to surrender to U$ imperialists. This article aims to show how that is the case.

DPRK and Russia respond to the law with strong criticism

Yesterday, the Supreme People’s Assembly, the duly-elected unicameral parliament of the DPRK, sent a letter of protest to the U$ House, condemning the new sanctions. As PressTV describes it, showing that the Iranians undoubtedly feel similar about the legislation, the law targets the DPRK’s “exports and shipping industry” with the new sanctions banning “ships owned or hired by North Korea from operating in US waters or docking at US ports,” prohibiting “products originating from North Korea…from entering the United States,” and requiring the orange menace to report to the Congress within 90 of the legislation on whether the DPRK “has retreated on its activities or should be reinstated on the government’s list of “state sponsors of terror”” which, if put in place, would “trigger even more sanctions.” The KCNA, in an article titled “DPRK SPA Foreign Affairs Committee’s Letter of Protest to U.S. House of Representatives” reprinted the message of the SPA’s Foreign Affairs Committee on the subject:

The SPA Foreign Affairs Committee of the DPRK avails itself of this opportunity to strongly condemn and resolutely reject the “North Korea Interdiction & Modernization of Sanctions Act” (H.R. 1644) that the U.S. House of Representatives passed on May 4, 2017, and extends this letter of protest. The passage of the above legislation amounts to the most heinous act against humanity that not only infringes upon the sacred sovereignty of the DPRK as well as its people’s rights to existence but also arbitrarily violates universal principles of sovereign equality and non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries which run through the United Nations Charter and international laws. That the U.S. House of Representatives passed the above legislation speaks volumes about the ignorance of U.S. politicians who know nothing about the root cause of the long-standing hostile relations between the DPRK and the U.S. and the essence of the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula; it is yet another product of hostile policy towards the DPRK. The hostile policy and acts of the United States of America targeting the DPRK – including but not limited to the abovementioned legislation – run counter to the efforts aimed at ensuring peace and security on the Korean peninsula; it will only further handicap the USA in its attempt to resolve the nuclear issue. If what the U.S. House of Representatives really wants is peace and security on the Korean peninsula and resolution of the nuclear issue, it would do well to delve into more relevant issues such as the establishment of lasting peace regime on the Korean peninsula, enactment of laws aimed at putting an end to the hostile relations between the DPRK and the USA, etc. There’s no denying that the DPRK is fully capable of safeguarding its sovereignty along with its rights to existence and development. The consequences will be dire if the U.S. House of Representatives, obsessed with inherent sense of disapproval towards the DPRK, misjudges the DPRK’s determination and capabilities and continues to meddle in other’s internal affairs and bring pressure to bear on another country by invoking its domestic laws. The U.S. House of Representatives should think twice. As the U.S. House of Representatives enacts more and more of these reckless hostile laws, the DPRK’s efforts to strengthen nuclear deterrents will gather greater pace, beyond anyone’s imagination. The DPRK will keep a watchful eye on the next moves of the USA and continue to take legitimate actions for self-defense to counter the hostile policy of the USA towards the DPRK. The SPA Foreign Affairs Committee of the DPRK takes this opportunity to reiterate its position that the U.S. House of Representatives must have [a] correct understanding of the essence of the current situation and make rational moves as regards the issue of the Korean peninsula.

The arguments that the law infringes on DPRK sovereignty, violates “principles of sovereign equality and non-interference” and tries to deny “the DPRK is fully capable of safeguarding its sovereignty along with its rights to existence and development,” among others in the above quote are completely valid. Similarly, within Russia, the reactions to the law have been broadly negative and rightfully so. Konstantin Kosachev, head of the upper house Committee for International Relations within the Russian Duma, argues that realization of this bill “includes a proposed force scenario in which the US Navy would conduct compulsory inspections of all ships. Such a scenario is simply unthinkable because it means a declaration of war.” In another translation of the same quote, Mr. Kosachev is more reserved, hoping that the bill is not implemented because it if it is, it “envisions a scenario of power with forced inspections of all vessels by US warships” which he argues is “beyond comprehension, because it means a declaration of war.” Other high-ranking Russian officials felt the same way. Frants Klintsevich, the deputy chairman of the State Duma Committee for Defense and Security, was more specific, saying what was important was “the list of nations where US congressmen want to have special control over sea ports” which he notes includes ports within  Russia, China, Iran and Syria, showing that “the United States is again trying to expand its jurisdiction all over the globe.” He added that doing this is almost telling “Russia, China, Iran and Syria that these nations are suspects in crime, which is nonsense, according to international law.” Finally there was Andrey Krasov, the other deputy chairman of the State Duma Committee for Defense and Security, saying that “the US administration will receive a symmetrical adequate response to any unfriendly steps toward Russia and our allies. In any case, no US ship will enter our waters.”

The law itself

Looking at the text of the law, it is clear that concerns of the DPRK and Russian governments are well founded. The section 104 of the law that talks about imperialist monitoring shows this to be the case:

(a) REPORT REQUIRED.—

‘‘(1) IN GENERAL.—Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this section, and annually thereafter for 5 years, the President shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report—

A) identifying the operators of foreign sea ports and airports that have knowingly—

‘‘(i) failed to implement or enforce regulations to inspect ships, aircraft, cargo, or conveyances in transit to or from North Korea, as required by applicable United Nations Security Council resolutions;

‘‘(ii) facilitated the transfer, trans-shipment, or conveyance of significant types or quantities of cargo, vessels, or aircraft owned or controlled by persons designated under applicable United Nations Security Council resolutions; or

‘‘(iii) facilitated any of the activities described in section 104(a)

“(b) SPECIFIC FINDINGS.—

Each report required under subsection (a) shall include specific findings with respect to the following ports and airports:

‘‘(1) The ports of Dandong, Dalian, and any other port in the People’s Republic of China that the President deems appropriate.

‘‘(2) The ports of Abadan, Bandar-e-Abbas, Chabahar, Bandar-e-Khomeini, Bushehr Port, Asaluyeh Port, Kish, Kharg Island, Bandar-e-Lenge, and Khorramshahr, and Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airport, in the Islamic Republic of Iran

‘‘(3) The ports of Nakhodka, Vanino, and Vladivostok, in the Russian Federation.

‘‘(4) The ports of Latakia, Banias, and Tartous, and Damascus International Airport, in the Syrian Arab Republic.

‘‘(c) ENHANCED SECURITY TARGETING REQUIREMENTS.—

“(1) IN GENERAL.—Except as provided in paragraph (2), the Secretary of Homeland Security may, using the Automated Targeting System operated by the National Targeting Center of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, require enhanced screening procedures to determine whether physical inspections are warranted of any cargo bound for or landed in the United States that—

‘‘(A) has been transported through a sea port or airport the operator of which has been identified by the President in accordance with subsection (a)(1) as having repeatedly failed to comply with applicable United Nations Security Council resolutions;

‘(2) EXCEPTION FOR FOOD, MEDICINE, AND HUMANITARIAN SHIPMENTS

—Paragraph (1) shall not apply to any vessel, aircraft, or conveyance that has entered the territory, waters, or airspace of North Korea, or landed in any of the sea ports or airports of North Korea, exclusively for the purposes described in section 208(b)(3)(B), or to import food, medicine, or supplies into North Korea to meet the humanitarian needs of the North Korean people.

‘(d) SEIZURE AND FORFEITURE

—A vessel, aircraft, or conveyance used to facilitate any of the activities described in section 104(a) under the jurisdiction of the United States may be seized and forfeited under [certain laws]

While these sanctions show that the imperial monitoring of “the territory, waters, or airspace of North Korea” shall not apply to those vessels or planes which “import food, medicine, or supplies into North Korea,” the fact that there would be monitoring by the U$ Navy (and Air Force?) is undoubtedly an act of war.

Ports within Iran and Syria that will be subject to imperial monitoring and inspection. Map was created with Google Earth, with titles of countries added in a photo editing software.

Section 104(a), part of an anti-DPRK sanctions law which went into effect last year,  mentioned in the above quote as part of the imperial monitoring, shows these efforts are aimed at the DPRK’s economy. An excerpt from this section shows this is the case, saying that President shall designate, except under certain circumstances [1], any person who he determines “knowingly, directly or indirectly”  imported, exported, or re-exported the following to the DPRK:

  • “any goods, services, or technology” which could be used for “weapons of mass destruction [WMD] or delivery systems”
  • luxury goods
  • “a significant amount of precious metal, graphite, raw or semi-finished metals or aluminum, steel, coal, or software” which can be used in “industrial processes directly related to weapons of mass destruction” or for the Workers Party of Korea (WPK), the Korean armed forces, “internal security, or intelligence activities, or the operation and maintenance of political prison camps”
  • “any arms or related materiel”

This isn’t all. Also, any person engages in the following can be sanctioned as well:

  • provides training or other services for such “WMDs”
  • engages in “significant financial transactions” relating to the creation or use of such “WMDs”
  • facilitates or engages in DPRK “censorship”
  • responsible for purported “serious human rights abuses” by the government
  • money laundering to support the government
  • “the counterfeiting of goods or currency” by the government
  • “bulk cash smuggling” by the government
  • narcotics trafficking that supports the government
  • “significant activities undermining cybersecurity through the use of computer networks or systems against foreign persons, governments, or other entities” on behalf of the government

Considering that the country’s industries focus on military products, building of machines, mining of coal, iron ore, and numerous other “precious metals,” along with food processing and tourism, while importing “metallurgical products, manufactures (including armaments)…and fishery products” if the CIA World Factbook is to be given any credibility on this matter [2], these sanctions are not “targeted” but are rather meant to strike a dagger in the DPRK’s economy. Furthermore, these sanctions strike at the country as a whole by attempting to stop any measures of self-defense (restricting arms transfers, cyber-defense, necessary censorship), or further development (stopping importation of purported “luxury goods”). This is followed by with the common slurs against the DPRK, including its purported “serious human rights abuses,” and other “new” ones including money laundering, counterfeit “goods or currency,” “cash smuggling” and narcotics trafficking by (or supporting) the DPRK’s duly elected government.

The use of narcotics as a slur against governments declared “communist” by imperial elites is nothing new. In his book, Strength of the Wolf, Douglas Valentine writes that while there were Chinese gangs in Shanghai in the 1920s and 1930s, with the profits from opium allowing Chiang Kai-Shek’s Nationalist government/KMT (Kuomintang of China) to survive, working directly with the drug traffickers, the New York Times alleged that Arnold Rothenstein used some of his drug money to finance “communist-sponsored strikes” in New York City’s garment district, the first time in U$ history that “politicians and policemen were linked with Bolsheviks and drug traffickers.” [3] That’s not all. He added that Chiang’s government, which came to power violently in 1927, which depended on drug smuggling profits, had created an “opium monopoly”/syndicate and paid for individuals to serve as part of their Communist suppression unit, such as Du Yue-sheng. [4] Adding to this, Henry J. Anslinger, Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics from 1930 to 1962, was unwilling to acknowledge this reality. As it was evident that the Chinese Communists were engaged in “anti-narcotics activities,” not the Nationalists, Mr. Anslinger dismissed this, continuing to seek evidence that “would link the Communist Chinese to drug rings in Japan, Korea, and China” although no such evidence existed, with later anti-China propaganda asserting that all of the “illicit dope” that reached Japan came from Communist China or People’s Republic of China (PRC) while the U$ backed the Nationalists. [5] Anslinger made these claims even though he knew they weren’t true as part of a smear campaign against the PRC as the CIA and other entities worked with the KMT in their drug smuggling operations.

Getting back to the law, other provisions show the sanctions are even more extensive section 105, prohibits DPRK vessels (or vessels of any of the DPRK’s allies, like Russia, China, Syria, or any country not complying with sanctions on the DRPK) from entering or operating in “the navigable waters of the United States” and section 106 requires a report on the “coordination” between Iran and the DPRK. Adding to this, section 107 puts in place a report delineating if UN Security Council Resolutions are being followed by other countries, section 108 denies financial messaging services to the DPRK, and sections 201 and 202 put sanctions on the DPRK for “human rights violations.” Section 203 also rewards informants who allow them to implement murderous sanctions, section 204 declares the DPRK as a “state sponsor of terrorism,” and section 103 broadens an arms embargo on the country. Finally, section 102 limits financial interactions with the DPRK, section 101 modifies and expands sanctions on the Korean populace of the DPRK. [6]

The illegality of anti-Korean sanctions

Recently, in a post criticizing the orange menace’s imperialist act of aggression against Syria, revisionist Stephen Gowans wrote that some say that military strike was illegal because it did not have UN Security Council approval and it “represented an unauthorized act of war,” only unilaterally ordered by the White House. However, he says that such discussion of illegality is “academic” because the United States has “amassed a sizable record of crimes in Syria…[including the] intrusion of US military personnel on Syrian soil” which is an act of war. Hence, he concludes that since the US is “at liberty to violate international law with impunity” as an imperial monster, with “no higher authority capable of enforcing international law through the threat of a force” greater than the Pentagon, and that, as a result, expecting the US to “yield to international law is naïve and therefore any discussion of whether this or that act of the United States violates international law is a discussion of no consequence.” While I agree that holding the U$ accountable for violating international law is near impossible, I do think it is important to highlight if acts are illegal or not, as it shows the corrupted nature of the murderous empire. So, that’s where I disagree with Gowans.

This horrible law violates many international agreements, showing that the law, in and of itself, is illegal. While the legal status of blockades is murky, there is no doubt that this law violates the Kellogg-Briand Pact which basically bans war “as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another,” the UN Charter which requires all member states to refrain from the threat or use of force against other member states while preserving state sovereignty, even as it has not acceded to the 1952 International Convention for the unification of certain rules relating to Arrest of Sea-going Ships or the 1999 replacement, both of which Syria is a party to. Even more, the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the DPRK has seemingly withdrawn, prohibits “any propaganda for war” which this law has engaged in, even if you take into account the typical imperial reservations by the U$ Congress. Inspection and monitoring required by this act would undoubtedly violate the 1988 Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against Safety of Maritime Navigation which prohibits individuals from unlawfully and intentionally seizing and taking control of “a ship by force or threat thereof or any other form of intimidation; or…[destroying] a ship or [causing] damage to a ship or to its cargo which is likely to endanger the safe navigation of that ship.” Since the DPRK, Iran, Russia, Syria, and China, all of which acceded to the previous convention, just like the U$, are serious about defending themselves from outside threats, there is no doubt they will defend themselves, meaning that U$ actions to take commercial vessels will become an act of war since those ships cannot, by any means, be considered warships.

There are many more treaties I could consider here in this section, but I do not wish to do that at this time. [7] There is no doubt that the use of force against a state would be illegal as any act of war or forceful action has to be approved by the UN Security Council but also violates the US Constitution which requires that war can only be declared by Congress, with this law basically giving that power to the President, once again. I know that citing the U$ Constitution may seem like a bourgeois approach, but it is only used here to show that the law is illegal in many forms. Hence, it isn’t worth going through every single international law since the U$ will likely never be held to account for it.

A conclusion

With all of these approaches, it is evident that the DPRK was right to say the law is “the most heinous act against humanity” and the Russians to call it “simply unthinkable” as it will lead to a declaration of war with further ban on U$ ships entering sovereign Russian waters. After all, as the murderous empire, the U$ has not ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) which has been ratified by the Russians and Chinese while the DRPK and Iran have signed the agreement, with the Syrians neither signing or ratifying it. Hence, the U$ may feel it has the “right” to enter the sovereign waters of Russia, China, Syria, and Iran so they can suffocate the DPRK’s government, making in “bow” in submission.

The DPRK is stuck in a difficult situation. Recently, the DPRK has foiled an attempted joint CIA-South Korean IS (Intelligence Service) attempt to assassinate Kim Jong Un. The Ministry of State Security of the DPRK said on May 5 that both forces “hatched a vicious plot to hurt the supreme leadership of the DPRK…[using] biochemical substances including radioactive substance and nano poisonous substance,” handing the perpetrator, part of a terrorist group that was within the country, $20,000 to commit the act. [8] This shows that the DPRK’s efforts at self-defense on its islands, with its power stations, while standing up to the U$ imperialists with “deterrence for self-defence.” These ideals are, in a sense, echoed by the 25% of Russians who believe that nuclear weapons can be a “deterrent for the most aggressive forces in the world” with the “fear of mutually assured destruction encourages peaceful conflict resolution” and honored even by the Zimbabwean state paper, The Herald. If this isn’t enough, just like Syria, to an extent, the DPRK, is surrounded by enemies (Japan, South Korea, and the ever-present U$). However, they are buoyed by the anti-THAAD protests in South Korea even as the South Korean government (not the one that was recently elected) has liked the U$ missile “shield” program in the past, even as there are daily protests against it “by villagers in Seongju and Gimcheon.” But the DPRK should rest assured even though the U$ and S. Korean forces still need to properly understand the will of DPRK that Cuba and Syria have pledged their solidarity with them. Even though this solidarity will not, by itself, stop the Pentagon from leading 300,000 troops in a rehearsal for military invasion and “decapitation” of the regime, assisted by, of course, the South Korean government, but it is an important part of an anti-imperialist alliance against U$ (and Western) imperialist actions which aim to undermine “unfriendly” governments, even if they differ in ideology.

Recently, the orange menace, the purveyor of “gunboat diplomacy,” says he is willing to talk with Kim Jong Un. However, this requires that the DPRK has to surrender to U$ imperialism, a sentiment reinforced by a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, Anthony Ruggiero, who declared that the orange menace should only meet with Kim Jong Un if the DPRK surrenders its nuclear weapons, close its supposed “prison camps,” and not “threatening” the U$, saying it should bow before US, which is equally unacceptable. It is worth pointing out that many of those living in the US have internalized anti-communist and imperial values. For one, 68% of the U$ feels it “is important that the U.S. be No. 1 in the world militarily,” 86% of the populace has unfavorable views of the DPRK, with “Iran, Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq” also in the same category. With this chauvinism of US populace, it should come as no surprise that 65% of the U$ are concerned about the DPRK with nuclear weapons, with 78%, in Pew’s results, having an “unfavorable view” of the country.

Despite the recent spat between the state media of the DPRK and Chinese media over the justified nuclear and missile program of the DPRK, it seems evident that the “strong bond between the two countries” will stay in place. [9] Hence, this “expected” victory for the U$ imperialists will not happen as the imperial threats continue from the “World’s Worst Human Rights Abuser.” After all, the U$ hopes they will remove the DPRK’s “nuclear deterrence for self-defence” is not going to happen. With the power of the DPRK pushed along by the WPK, even under current conditions, this can resist the hardline positions of the U$ State Department, with Mark Toner showing that he is one of the many faces of imperialism by saying that “our conviction that we need to apply greater pressure on North Korea to get it to comply to international concerns. There are a number of options…isolation, diplomatic isolation being another one.”

Adding to this, it is troubling that China agreed to “suspend all coal imports from North Korea until the end of this year” in order to curry favor of the U$, to appease it. After all, as some recently pointed out, if China brought the DPRK economy to its knees, U$ imperialism would win. With the WPK having the determination to not “yield to the war threats being hurled right now by the criminal agents of U.S. imperialism” with every right to self-defense, including against the “biggest nuclear weapons state in the world,” the United States, will China hold its ground? The likelihood is that they ultimately will not as they are Chinese social-imperialists after all. Likely CIA plant Brian Becker, ANSWER Coalition National Coordinator, addressed this at the end of an April 18 post in Liberation News, declaring “Today, the danger of igniting regional and global confrontation is real. China and Russia are backpedaling, hoping that their prudence, or possible appeasement, will deter or deflect the danger. Their position is understandable given the level of risk. But appeasement, as we know from history, poses its own risks in the face of bullying and aggression. Appeasing the bully, the aggressor, invites more not less aggression.”

While Mr. Becker makes a valid point, he is understating the existing revisionism and social-imperialism of China and Russia. Any concessions to the US imperialists should be strongly criticized, no matter if by Russia, China, or any other state. As the CIA creates the Korea Mission Center to “purposefully integrate and direct CIA efforts against the serious threats to the United States and its allies emanating from North Korea,” and watch the country like a persistent hawk, complains about the DPRK going to the Belt and Road Forum, the “existential threat” of the DPRK (in the strange mind of CIA chief Mike Pompeo) is being closely scrutinized, like always, by the imperialists. [10] With accusations abound by the DPRK throughout the bourgeois media, the nation can only use its own wit and existing alliances in case of an imperial attack. If war under unpredictable orange menace occurs, we should stand beside the DPRK in solidarity even if the war is popular within the United States, any Western country, and especially within those countries in the global periphery.


Notes

[1] If he grants a humanitarian waiver, there are activities relating to “identifying or recovering the remains” of past POWs taken during the Great Fatherland Liberation War (“Korean War”) from 1950-1953, complying with the agreement on the UN headquarters or Convention on Consular Relations, or allowing “financial services” by a non-DPRK foreign financial entity as part of a waiver.

[2] The CIA World Factbook lists the following as the country’s industries: “military products; machine building, electric power, chemicals; mining (coal, iron ore, limestone, magnesite, graphite, copper, zinc, lead, and precious metals), metallurgy; textiles, food processing; tourism.” It also says the country exports “minerals, metallurgical products, manufactures (including armaments), textiles, agricultural and fishery products” while importing “petroleum, coking coal, machinery and equipment, textiles, grain” with their biggest trade partner (76.4% from China, 5.5% from the Republic of the Congo).

[3] Douglas Valentine, The Strength of the Wolf: The Secret History of America’s War on Drugs (New York: Verso Books, 2004), 8, 10-11.

[4] Ibid, 12-14, 17, 37-38, 47.

[5] Ibid, 68-70, 72, 77-78, 102, 133, 195, 235, 273, 309, 392.

[6] There are numerous other miscellaneous provisions manifested in sections 1-3, 301-304.

[7] See Wikipedia pages “list of treaties,” “list of international declarations,” “law of war” and the ICRC’s “Treaties, States Parties and Commentaries” page along with the Wikipedia category “Treaties adopted by United Nations General Assembly resolutions.” While Wikipedia is never source that should be cited in general, these links are a good starting point, which is why they are included here.

[8] KCNA, “DPRK Warns U.S., S. Korean Intelligence Agencies of Merciless Punishment: Ministry of State Security,” May 5, 2017; KCNA, “Statement of DPRK Central Public Prosecutors Office,” May 12, 2017; KCNA, “DPRK Foreign Ministry Gives Briefing on Situation,” May 11, 2017; North Korea wants South’s spy chief extradited over alleged Kim plot,” CNN, May 12, 2017.

[9] A DPRK (North Korean) view on the current situation as noted in a BBC interview. On May 3, 2017, KCNA released an article titled “Commentary on DPRK-China Relations” which was reprinted in Rodong Sinmun under the title “Reckless Remarks Undermining DPRK-China Relations Should Be Stopped,” by Kim Chol, a Vice Minister in the Korean Army, the same person who the bourgeois media claimed falsely was executed by mortal bombardment even though Foreign Policy said it was pure speculation. His article says the following:

The People’s Daily and the Global Times, widely known as media speaking for the official stand of the Chinese party and government, have recently carried commentaries asserting that the DPRK’s access to nukes poses a threat to the national interests of China. They shifted the blame for the deteriorated relations between the DPRK and China onto the DPRK and raised lame excuses for the base acts of dancing to the tune of the U.S. Those commentaries claimed that the DPRK poses a threat to “the security in the northeastern region of China” by conducting nuclear tests less than 100 km away from its border with China. They even talked rubbish that the DPRK strains the situation in Northeast Asia and “offers the U.S. excuses for deploying more strategic assets” in the region. Not content with such paradox, the commentaries asserted that to remain averse to the DPRK’s access to nukes is to preserve interests common to the U.S. and China, calling for slapping harsher sanctions against the DPRK in order to avert a war which would bring danger to China. The newspapers, even claiming China holds the initiative in handling the DPRK-China relations, made no scruple of letting out a string of provocative remarks urging the DPRK to choose one among such options if it doesn’t want military confrontation with China–“whether to face protracted isolation or to preserve national security by making a U-turn” and whether to break Sino-DPRK friendship or to dismantle its nukes. This is just a wanton violation of the independent and legitimate rights, dignity and supreme interests of the DPRK and, furthermore, constitutes an undisguised threat to an honest-minded neighboring country which has a long history and tradition of friendship. China is hyping up “damage caused by the DPRK’s nuclear tests” in its three northeastern provinces. This only reveals the ulterior purpose sought by it, being displeased with the DPRK’s rapid development of nukes. As far as “violation of national interests” oft-repeated by politicians and media persons of China is concerned, it is just the issue that the DPRK should rather talk much about. It is just the DPRK whose strategic interests have been repeatedly violated due to insincerity and betrayal on the part of its partner, not China at all. Some theorists of China are spouting a load of nonsense that the DPRK’s access to nukes strains the situation in Northeast Asia and offers the U.S. an excuse for beefing up its strategic assets in the region. But the U.S. had activated its strategy for dominating Asia-Pacific long before the DPRK had access to nukes, and its primary target is just China. China should acknowledge in an honest manner that the DPRK has just contributed to protecting peace and security of China, foiling the U.S. scheme for aggression by waging a hard fight in the frontline of the showdown with the U.S. for more than seven decades, and thank the DPRK for it. Some ignorant politicians and media persons of China daringly assert that the traditional relations of the DPRK-China friendship were in line with the interests of each county in the past. They are advised to clearly understand the essence of history before opening their mouth. Their call for not only slapping stricter sanctions but also not ruling out a military intervention if the DPRK refuses to abandon its nuclear program is no more than an extremely ego-driven theory based on big-power chauvinism that not only the strategic interests but also the dignity and vital rights of the DPRK should be sacrificed for the interests of China. One must clearly understand that the DPRK’s line of access to nukes for the existence and development of the country can neither be changed nor shaken and that the DPRK will never beg for the maintenance of friendship with China, risking its nuclear program which is as precious as its own life, no matter how valuable the friendship is. The DPRK, which has already become one of the most powerful nuclear weapons state, does not feel the need to think over how many options it has now. China should no longer try to test the limits of the DPRK’s patience but make proper strategic option, facing up to the situation. China had better ponder over the grave consequences to be entailed by its reckless act of chopping down the pillar of the DPRK-China relations.

A Global Times piece DIRECTLY responds, saying that the above piece is just a “stronger disgruntling” but not mentioning China’s support for UN sanctions “against North Korea” or Pyongyang’s next step, with the editorial board claiming that the editorial is “nothing more than a hyper-aggressive piece completely filled with nationalistic passion” and claims that the DPRK does not understand “Beijing’s deep concern for the potential risks posed by Pyongyang’s nuclear tests to people living in northeastern China.” Adding to this is evidence that the Mr. Chol was onto something when he said that “the People’s Daily and the Global Times…have recently carried commentaries asserting that the DPRK’s access to nukes poses a threat to the national interests of China.” The Global Times carried many commentaries to this effect in recent days: “Is China-North Korea friendship treaty outdated?” (May 3), “China, US share goal of halting North Korean nuclear tests” (May 2), “Is breakthrough likely on NK nuke issue?” (May 1), and “Pyongyang’s failed missile test adds to Korean Peninsula tensions” (April 29). The People’s Daily has done the same thing, running similar pieces: “Responsible actions needed to ensure peace of Korean Peninsula: People’s Daily” (May 2), “Commentary: the Korean Peninsula is not the Middle East” (April 28), “US, DPRK must hold talks before it’s too late” (April 18), and “Can Korean Peninsula go from geopolitical flashpoint to stable place of peace?” (Feb. 17). Also see this article in Sina English: “China calls for end to provocations on NK issue.”

[10] Joseph Hincks, “CIA Sets Up a Mission Center to Address North Korea Threat,” The CIA has just set up a unit to deal with North Korea,” CNN,  May 11, 2017; Ben Blanchard and John Ruwitch, “Exclusive: U.S. complains to China about North Korea’s attendance at Silk Road summit,” Reuters, May 12, 2017; Matthew Pennington, “North Korea poses ‘existential’ threat, U.S. intel chief warns,” Associated Press, May 11, 2017.

The immigrant proletariat, the Muslim ban, and the capitalist class

Originally published on the Leftist Critic blog on Mar 3, 2017.

Editor’s note: This piece was originally written on February 1, 2017 so it is outdated in some respects, but broadly still valid. This is reposted from Dissident Voice, with the name of the current president changed to the orange menace.

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.

The orange menace’s administration has dug in its heels, declaring that the 90-day (for now) Muslim ban on refugees, from seven predominantly Muslim countries (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia), enshrined in a January 27th executive order, is just “extreme vetting” and that the media is engaging in “false reporting.” In contrast, hundreds of diplomats have criticized the travel ban, top Democrats have criticized the ban while Republicans like Paul Ryan have said it necessary to protect the “homeland.” Also Jewish groups, over six thousand academics, varying UN agencies, and pro-refugee groups have criticized orange menace’s action, along with protests in airports across the country, while immigrants have suffered with more crackdowns to come.

Numerous companies and CEOs have put out critical statements about orange menace’s order. This included the top executives of Microsoft, Apple, Netflix, Airbnb, Box, GE, Lyft, Uber (later on), Koch Industries, TripAdvisor, SpaceX/Tesla Motors, JPMorganCase, and Goldman Sachs, most of whom pledged to help their own employees directly affected. [1] Others that spoke out on the ban included the head of the Internet Association, an industry trade group for the Internet industry, with some investors, like Chris Sacca, sending thousands of dollars to the ACLU, just like Lyft, Tim Cook of Apple declaring that “Apple would not exist without immigration, let alone thrive and innovate the way we do” and Twitter mirroring this by saying “Twitter is built by immigrants of all religions. We stand for and with them, always.” [2] Some exploited the misery of the order by trying to help their bottom line: Airbnb said that it would “provide free housing to detainees and travelers” affected and Starbucks is planning to hire 10,000 refugees “over five years in the 75 countries where it does business,” starting with those people who “have served with U.S. troops as interpreters and support personnel.” [3] What seems clear is that the actions of the orange menace may have crossed a “red line” as Hunter Walk, a partner at the San Francisco-based venture capital firm Homebrew VC, told the Washington Post, indicating possible anti-orange menace action by Silicon Valley in the future, as more companies realize it is a “bigger risk to their investors and bottom line to stay quiet than it is to protest the orange menace’s ban on refugees and travel from seven Muslim-majority nations, betting vocal opposition to the executive order scores them a moral and fiscal victory.” [4]

Such statements mean that the one group that remains constant in opposition to the racist executive order is a sect of the capitalist class. While the recent lawsuits filed in Darweesh v. Trump, Aziz v. Trump, Doe v. Trump, Sarsour v. Trump, San Francisco v. Trump, Louhghalam et al v. Trump, have mainly made constitutional arguments against the racist immigration ban, one suit revealed more about the interests of the capitalist class, especially those in the tech industry. This lawsuit, filed by the Attorney General of the State of Washington, Bob Ferguson, and joined by Expedia and Amazon, among other companies, declared the following, showing how this industry depends on immigrants:

Immigration is an important economic driver in Washington. Many workers in Washington’s technology industry are immigrants, and many of those immigrant workers are from Muslim-majority countries. Immigrant and refugee-owned businesses employ 140,000 people in Washington. Many companies in Washington are dependent on foreign workers to operate and grow their businesses. The technology industry relies heavily on the H-1B visa program through which highly skilled workers like software engineers are permitted to work in the United States. Washington ranks ninth in the U.S. by number of applications for high-tech visas. Microsoft, a corporation headquartered in Redmond, Washington, is the State’s top employer of high-tech—or H-1B visa holders and employs nearly 5,000 people through the program. Other Washington-based companies, including Amazon, Expedia, and Starbucks, employ thousands of H-1B visa holders. The market for highly skilled workers and leaders in the technology industry is extremely competitive. Changes to U.S. immigration policy that restrict the flow of people may inhibit these companies’ ability to adequately staff their research and development efforts and recruit talent from overseas. If recruiting efforts are less successful, these companies’ abilities to develop and deliver successful products and services may be adversely affected Microsoft’s U.S. workforce is heavily dependent on immigrants and guest workers. At least 76 employees at Microsoft are citizens of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, or Yemen and hold U.S. temporary work visas. There may be other employees with permanent-resident status or green cards. These employees may be banned from re-entering the U.S. if they travel overseas or to the company’s offices in Vancouver, British Columbia. Seattle-based company Amazon also employs workers from every corner of the world. Amazon’s employees, dependents of employees, and candidates for employment with Amazon have been impacted by the Executive Order that is the subject of this Complaint. Amazon has advised such employees currently in the United States to refrain from travel outside the United States. Bellevue-based company Expedia operates a domestic and foreign travel business. At the time of this filing, Expedia has approximately 1,000 customers with existing flight reservations in or out of the United. States who hold passports from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, or Yemen. The Executive Order will restrict business, increase business costs, and impact current employees and customers.

Such a section comprises six paragraphs of Washington State’s argument against the immigration order, a section that the lawsuit depends on to be successful. Immigrants are clearly vital to the tech industry. Of the 250,000 Muslims living in the San Francisco Bay Area, who are mostly of Arab or South Asian descent, many of them work at “companies such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft.” [5] These immigrants are seen as “essential” to the growth of Silicon Valley, with 37 percent of workers in the area being foreign-born, with immigrants creating “some of America’s biggest tech companies,” like Yahoo, Apple, or Google, and allowing them to survive (and “boom”), since they rely on “talent from abroad to fill positions and to meet their global ambitions.” [6] After all, the “superstars of the high-tech industry are all immigrants” as one article points out.

Since immigrants account for a “significant part of the workforce in the tech industry,” the industry has advocated for looser laws to “increase the flow of skilled immigrants into the U.S.” and is heavily reliant on the H-1B visa program. The program, which started in 2000 with bipartisan support, “allows software engineers and other skilled workers to work in the U.S.,” resulting in their active role in the political arena to push for looser immigration restrictions. [7] Hence, Silicon Valley is afraid of the upcoming immigration restrictions during the orange menace’s administration. This is especially the case since the orange menace has reportedly drafted an executive order to overhaul the H-1B visa program, which companies depend on so they can “hire tens of thousands of employees each year,” the “talent” they need to thrive, with their support of the orange menace basically non-existent in the recent presidential campaign. [8]

By the mid-1990s, those who live in the Valley divided “along racial and economic lines” with older and wealthier whites “concentrated in the west Valley,” and Latinos (as they are often called) fanning across the floor of the valley, with many of the immigrants poor, bringing with them “crowding and new welfare burdens,” a division that angers many Latinos. [9] In recent years, the immigrant community which undergirds Silicon Valley has been in trouble. [10] With immigrant youth comprising a major portion of “both the population and the workforce in the Silicon Valley,” the Valley had “deep disparities when it comes to the lives of undocumented immigrants,” with such youth facing barriers in accessing education, concentrated in low-wage jobs, and serving as a diverse and “core part of the Silicon Valley community.” Immigrants from the Asian continent, whether Chinese, Filipino, or otherwise, form, as of April 2015, the “largest racial block in Santa Clara County, exceeding the proportion of non-Hispanic white residents for the first time.”

Despite such dependence on immigrants, the tech industry does not treat these employees fairly or justly. One academic report in 2012 says that the stated reasons of the tech industry (lack of study of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), rapid technological change, and needing to hire best and brightest workers for “innovations” to occur) cannot be confirmed upon close inspection, leaving cheap labor as “the remaining explanatory factor.” The report goes on to say that legal loopholes allow for foreign workers to be unpaid drastically compared to Amerikan-born workers, with many of the workers coming from India, revisionist China, and the Philippines, along with other Asian immigrants, comprising from 50-80% of the workforce of top technology companies, with the tech industry claiming a “labor shortage” and lack of talent, although this cannot be supported by existing data. Interestingly, even the conservative media scoffs at the claims of the tech industry, with arch-conservative National Review declaring that work permits “are basically de facto green cards and give the foreign national complete flexibility in the job market” and that the visa program will hurt the middle class (not sure if that’s true) while the similarly aligned FrontPage Magazine questioned the shortage of “high-skilled American labor,” saying that the visa program provides “a supply of lower-wage guest workers.” [11] Of course, they oppose the claims for anti-immigrant reasons and don’t really care about the well-being of immigrant workers in the U$, without a doubt.

Mistreatment of immigrants in Silicon Valley is nothing new. There is no doubt that high-skilled immigrant workers “are being exploited by employers,” with the H1-B visa program benefiting the corporate bottom line, especially providing protection against unions and labor strikes, but hurting the workers. The program itself gives employers great power over workers, allowing them to “hire and fire workers…grant legal immigration status…[or] deport the worker” if they don’t do what they like. In 2014 Wired magazine reported on a study showing that major tech companies (ex: Cisco, Apple, Verizon, Microsoft, IBM, JPMorgan Chase, and Google) have pocketed wages and benefits from workers, especially among new Indian immigrants to the Valley, leading to an “ecosystem of fear” in the area among the workforce. The tech companies collectively withheld at least $29.7 million from such workers, forcing them to pay fees they shouldn’t have to pay, creating a form of indentured servitude, as some called it, where there exists an “underground system of financial bondage by stealing wages and benefits, even suing workers who quit,” making “business and profit by having cheap labor” as one worker put it. [12] This shows that the tech companies are, in their own way, engaging in a form of organized crime against the immigrant proletariat. Such crimes are only part of their business model which includes top Silicon Valley CEOs conspiring in wage-fixing to drive down the wages of 100,000 engineers, ultimately involving one million employees in all.

With the exploitation of the immigrant proletariat, mainly those that are “high-skilled,” by the tech industry, this explains the harsh opposition from Silicon Valley to the orange menace’s executive order. Without the visa program, the industry would likely collapse or at least be weakened. As for other industries, immigrants are employed in jobs across the U$ economy, even as they face similar constraints to the native-born poor along with restrictions related to their citizenship status, especially in cities like New York. As a result, it can be said that immigrants ultimately benefit the U$ economy, even those that are undocumented, and are not a drag on the “native-born” section of the working class, making the country a better place for all, as even free-marketeers and libertarians would admit. [13] This is important to point out with nativists getting a new lease on life under the orange menace’s administration.

As we stand now, the horribleness of the Obama administration has increased under the orange menace’s nightmarish state in regards to immigrants, Muslims killed by drone bombing, and violence supported by the murderous empire across the world, among much more. While we should undoubtedly be critical of bourgeois liberals and bourgeois progressives who claim to have the “answers” and solution to fighting the orange menace, rejecting their pleas to move the capitalist Democratic Party “more left” to fight the “bad Republicans,” there is no reason to sit idly by. We must get involved in pushing for revolutionary politics by at minimum engaging in actions that show solidarity with the immigrant proletariat, whether documented or undocumented, in the United States. In the end, perhaps we should heed what Homer Simpson declared about immigrants all those years ago:

Most of here were born in America. We take this country for granted. Not immigrants like Apu [who immigrated from India and on a green card], while the rest of are drinking ourselves stupid, they’re driving the cabs that get us home safely. They’re writing the operas that entertain us everyday. They’re training out tigers and kicking our extra points. These people are the glue that holds together the gears of our society. [14]


Notes

[1] Nathan Bomey, “Elon Musk to seek CEO consensus on changes to Trump immigration ban,” USA Today, Jan. 29, 2017; Fredreka Schouten, “Koch network slams Trump immigrant ban,” USA Today, Jan. 29, 2017; Jill Disis, “Starbucks pledges to hire 10,000 refugees,” CNNMoney, Jan. 29, 2017; David Pierson, “Facing Trump’s immigration ban, corporations can’t risk keeping silent,” Los Angeles Times, Jan. 31, 2017. As Elon Musk (of Tesla Motors and SpaceX) tried to “seek a consensus” among fellow business CEOs who were affected with the order and trying to work with Trump, Uber changed course from crossing a picket line and profiting from the misery, to condemning Trump’s action as impacting “many innocent people” and the CEO of Uber, Travis Kalanick, declaring “I’ve…never shied away…from fighting for what’s right,” even as they continue their horrid practices with exploitation of their workforce.

[2] Jessica Guynn and Laura Mandaro, “Microsoft, Uber, Apple, Google: How the tech world responded to Trump’s immigration ban,” USA Today, Jan. 28, 2017.

[3] Jill Disis, “Starbucks pledges to hire 10,000 refugees,” CNNMoney, Jan. 29, 2017

[4] Brian Fung and Tracy Jan, “Tech firms recall employees to U.S., denounce Trump’s ban on refugees from Muslim countries,” Washington Post, Jan. 28, 2017; David Pierson, “Facing Trump’s immigration ban, corporations can’t risk keeping silent,” Los Angeles Times, Jan. 31, 2017; John Ribeiro, “US tech industry says immigration order affects their operations,” CIO, Jan. 29, 2017; Anthony Cuthbertson, “How Silicon Valley Is Fighting Back Against Trump’s Immigration Ban,” Newsweek, Jan. 30, 2017; Eric Newcomer, “Silicon Valley Finds Its Voice as Immigration Ban Fuels Outrage,” Bloomberg Technology, Jan. 30, 2017; PCMag staff, “Here’s What Silicon Valley Is Saying About Trump’s Immigration Ban,” PC magazine, Jan. 29, 2017; Matt Richtel, “Tech Recruiting Clashes With Immigration Rules,” New York Times, Apr. 11, 2009. On the subject of US-Mexico migration some companies have tried to get on the game as well: a Zionist company said they will help build the “great wall” on the US-Mexico border.

[5] Brian Fung and Tracy Jan, “Tech firms recall employees to U.S., denounce Trump’s ban on refugees from Muslim countries,” Washington Post, Jan. 28, 2017.

[6] John Blackstone, “Tech industry, fueled by immigrants, protesting Trump’s travel ban,” CBS News, Jan. 31, 2017; Kerry Flynn, “Immigrants have built America’s tech industry,” Mashable, Jan. 31, 2017; Carmel Lobello, “The tech industry’s case for immigration reform,” The Week, June 2, 2013; Sarah McBride, “One quarter of U.S. tech start-ups founded by an immigrant: study,” Reuters, Oct. 2, 2012. Even a Forbes contributor, David Shaywitz,” said that immigrants are an “inextricable part of the valley’s cultural fabric and a vital element of its innovative potential.”

[7] Jessica Guynn and Laura Mandaro, “Microsoft, Uber, Apple, Google: How the tech world responded to Trump’s immigration ban,” USA Today, Jan. 28, 2017; Katie Benner, “Obama, Immigration and Silicon Valley,” BloombergView, Jan. 22, 2015; Gregory Ferenstein, “No Exceptions For Tech Industry: High Skilled Visas Now Tied To Comprehensive Reform,” TechCrunch, Dec. 1, 2012; Stephen Moore, “Immigration Reform Means More High-Tech Jobs,” CATO Institute, Sept. 24, 1998; Jessica Leber, “Silicon Valley Fights for Immigrant Talent,” MIT Technology Review, July 26, 2013; Amit Paka, “How Legal Immigration Failed Silicon Valley,” TechCrunch, Sept. 7, 2015.

[8] Peter Elstrom and Saritha Rai, “Trump’s Next Immigration Move to Hit Closer to Home for Tech,” Bloomberg News, Jan. 30, 2017; Gretel Kauffman, “How Trump’s immigration stances could affect the tech industry,” Christian Science Monitor, Nov. 20, 2016; David Z. Morris, “Tech Industry Could be “First to Suffer” From Trump’s Immigration Stances,” Fortune, Nov 19, 2016; Salvador Rodriguez, “Why Tech Companies Need Immigrants to Function,” Inc, Jan. 30, 2017; Paresh Dave and Tracey Lien, “Trump’s shocking victory could squeeze Silicon Valley on immigration and trade,” Los Angeles Times, Nov. 9, 2016; David Jones, “Silicon Valley Up in Arms Over Proposed H-1B Overhaul,” E-Commerce Times, Jan. 31, 2017; Marisa Kendall, “Trump poised to overhaul H-1B visas relied on by Silicon Valley tech,” Mercury News, Jan. 31, 2017; Hansi Lo Wang, “In Silicon Valley, Immigrants Toast Their Way To The Top,” NPR News, Apr. 19, 2014; Marie-Astrid Langer, “Silicon Valley Wants High-Skilled Immigration on Campaign Agenda,” Wall Street Journal, Sept. 18, 2015.

[9] Andrew Murr, “Immigrants In The Valley,” Newsweek, Dec. 25, 1994.

[10] Some immigrants are doing well however. Even by 1998, one study found that “Chinese and Indian immigrants were running a quarter of the high-tech businesses in Silicon Valley, collectively accounting for more than $16.8 billion in sales and over 58,000 jobs.”

[11] Ian Smith, “Obama Games the Visa System to Lower Wages and Please the Tech Industry,” National Review, September 30, 2015; Arnold Ahlert, “The Tech Industry’s Immigration Lies,” FrontPage Magazine, April 2, 2014.

[12] The report shows that most of those who are the “well educated, highly skilled and specialized foreign workers” accepted under the H1-B Visa program are from China, India, the Philippines, and South Korea, with thousands of other petitions accepted from the United Kingdom, Mexico, Japan, Taiwan, France, Pakistan, Germany, Turkey, Brazil, Nepal, Venezuela, Colombia, Italy, Russia, and Spain, among other countries.

[13] H.A. Goodman, “Illegal immigrants benefit the U.S. economy,” The Hill, Apr. 23, 2014; Rowena Lindsay, “How immigration helps the US economy: Report,” Christian Science Monitor, Sept. 24, 2016; Ted Hesson, “Why American Cities Are Fighting to Attract Immigrants,” The Atlantic, Jul. 21, 2015; Daniel Griswold, “Immigrants Have Enriched American Culture and Enhanced Our Influence in the World,” Insight (CATO Institute publication), Feb. 18, 2002; Rohit Arora, “Three Reasons Why Immigrants Help the U.S. Economy,” Inc, Feb. 24, 2015; Timothy Kaine, “The Economic Effect Of Immigration,” Hoover Institution, Feb. 17, 2015; Sean Hackbarth, “Immigrants are Good for the Economy,” U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Dec. 5, 2014; A. Barton Hinkle, “Immigration Is Good for the U.S. Economy,” Reason, Jul. 21, 2014; Minyoung Park, “The vast majority of undocumented immigrants in the US are here working: BAML,” Yahoo! News, Jul. 21, 2016.

[14] This speech is made by Homer near the end of the Simpsons episode, Much Apu About Nothing (Season 7, episode 23, May 1996) when Homer has the realization that the measure that would deport immigrants from Springfield, proposition 24, proposed by the loyal mayor, Joe Quimby, to distract from the “bear tax” to pay for the worthless “Bear Patrol” is wrong. Regardless, the measure passes anyway, with 95% approval, and Homer declares that democracy “doesn’t work” while all of the immigrants have gained citizenship (after passing the citizenship test), except for Groundskeeper Willie, who goes on a ship back to Scotland.

The orange menace’s administration has dug in its heels, declaring that the 90-day (for now) Muslim ban on refugees, from seven predominantly Muslim countries (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia), enshrined in a January 27th executive order, is just “extreme vetting” and that the media is engaging in “false reporting.” In contrast, hundreds of diplomats have criticized the travel ban, top Democrats have criticized the ban while Republicans like Paul Ryan have said it necessary to protect the “homeland.” Also Jewish groups, over six thousand academics, varying UN agencies, and pro-refugee groups have criticized orange menace’s action, along with protests in airports across the country, while immigrants have suffered with more crackdowns to come.

Numerous companies and CEOs have put out critical statements about orange menace’s order. This included the top executives of Microsoft, Apple, Netflix, Airbnb, Box, GE, Lyft, Uber (later on), Koch Industries, TripAdvisor, SpaceX/Tesla Motors, JPMorganCase, and Goldman Sachs, most of whom pledged to help their own employees directly affected. [1] Others that spoke out on the ban included the head of the Internet Association, an industry trade group for the Internet industry, with some investors, like Chris Sacca, sending thousands of dollars to the ACLU, just like Lyft, Tim Cook of Apple declaring that “Apple would not exist without immigration, let alone thrive and innovate the way we do” and Twitter mirroring this by saying “Twitter is built by immigrants of all religions. We stand for and with them, always.” [2] Some exploited the misery of the order by trying to help their bottom line: Airbnb said that it would “provide free housing to detainees and travelers” affected and Starbucks is planning to hire 10,000 refugees “over five years in the 75 countries where it does business,” starting with those people who “have served with U.S. troops as interpreters and support personnel.” [3] What seems clear is that the actions of the orange menacemay have crossed a “red line” as Hunter Walk, a partner at the San Francisco-based venture capital firm Homebrew VC, told the Washington Post, indicating possible anti-orange menace action by Silicon Valley in the future, as more companies realize it is a “bigger risk to their investors and bottom line to stay quiet than it is to protest the orange menace’s ban on refugees and travel from seven Muslim-majority nations, betting vocal opposition to the executive order scores them a moral and fiscal victory.” [4]

Such statements mean that the one group that remains constant in opposition to the racist executive order is a sect of the capitalist class. While the recent lawsuits filed in Darweesh v. Trump, Aziz v. Trump, Doe v. Trump, Sarsour v. Trump, San Francisco v. Trump, Louhghalam et al v. Trump, have mainly made constitutional arguments against the racist immigration ban, one suit revealed more about the interests of the capitalist class, especially those in the tech industry. This lawsuit, filed by the Attorney General of the State of Washington, Bob Ferguson, and joined by Expedia and Amazon, among other companies, declared the following, showing how this industry depends on immigrants:

Immigration is an important economic driver in Washington. Many workers in Washington’s technology industry are immigrants, and many of those immigrant workers are from Muslim-majority countries. Immigrant and refugee-owned businesses employ 140,000 people in Washington. Many companies in Washington are dependent on foreign workers to operate and grow their businesses. The technology industry relies heavily on the H-1B visa program through which highly skilled workers like software engineers are permitted to work in the United States. Washington ranks ninth in the U.S. by number of applications for high-tech visas. Microsoft, a corporation headquartered in Redmond, Washington, is the State’s top employer of high-tech—or H-1B visa holders and employs nearly 5,000 people through the program. Other Washington-based companies, including Amazon, Expedia, and Starbucks, employ thousands of H-1B visa holders. The market for highly skilled workers and leaders in the technology industry is extremely competitive. Changes to U.S. immigration policy that restrict the flow of people may inhibit these companies’ ability to adequately staff their research and development efforts and recruit talent from overseas. If recruiting efforts are less successful, these companies’ abilities to develop and deliver successful products and services may be adversely affected Microsoft’s U.S. workforce is heavily dependent on immigrants and guest workers. At least 76 employees at Microsoft are citizens of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, or Yemen and hold U.S. temporary work visas. There may be other employees with permanent-resident status or green cards. These employees may be banned from re-entering the U.S. if they travel overseas or to the company’s offices in Vancouver, British Columbia. Seattle-based company Amazon also employs workers from every corner of the world. Amazon’s employees, dependents of employees, and candidates for employment with Amazon have been impacted by the Executive Order that is the subject of this Complaint. Amazon has advised such employees currently in the United States to refrain from travel outside the United States. Bellevue-based company Expedia operates a domestic and foreign travel business. At the time of this filing, Expedia has approximately 1,000 customers with existing flight reservations in or out of the United. States who hold passports from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, or Yemen. The Executive Order will restrict business, increase business costs, and impact current employees and customers.

Such a section comprises six paragraphs of Washington State’s argument against the immigration order, a section that the lawsuit depends on to be successful. Immigrants are clearly vital to the tech industry. Of the 250,000 Muslims living in the San Francisco Bay Area, who are mostly of Arab or South Asian descent, many of them work at “companies such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft.” [5] These immigrants are seen as “essential” to the growth of Silicon Valley, with 37 percent of workers in the area being foreign-born, with immigrants creating “some of America’s biggest tech companies,” like Yahoo, Apple, or Google, and allowing them to survive (and “boom”), since they rely on “talent from abroad to fill positions and to meet their global ambitions.” [6] After all, the “superstars of the high-tech industry are all immigrants” as one article points out.

Since immigrants account for a “significant part of the workforce in the tech industry,” the industry has advocated for looser laws to “increase the flow of skilled immigrants into the U.S.” and is heavily reliant on the H-1B visa program. The program, which started in 2000 with bipartisan support, “allows software engineers and other skilled workers to work in the U.S.,” resulting in their active role in the political arena to push for looser immigration restrictions. [7] Hence, Silicon Valley is afraid of the upcoming immigration restrictions during the orange menace’s administration. This is especially the case since the orange menace has reportedly drafted an executive order to overhaul the H-1B visa program, which companies depend on so they can “hire tens of thousands of employees each year,” the “talent” they need to thrive, with their support of the orange menace basically non-existent in the recent presidential campaign. [8]

By the mid-1990s, those who live in the Valley divided “along racial and economic lines” with older and wealthier whites “concentrated in the west Valley,” Latinos have fanned across the floor of the valley, with many of the immigrants poor, bringing with them “crowding and new welfare burdens,” a division that angers many Latinos. [9] In recent years, the immigrant community which undergirds Silicon Valley has been in trouble. [10] With immigrant youth comprising a major portion of “both the population and the workforce in the Silicon Valley,” the Valley had “deep disparities when it comes to the lives of undocumented immigrants,” with such youth facing barriers in accessing education, concentrated in low-wage jobs, and serving as a diverse and “core part of the Silicon Valley community.” Immigrants from the Asian continent, whether Chinese, Filipino, or otherwise, form, as of April 2015, the “largest racial block in Santa Clara County, exceeding the proportion of non-Hispanic white residents for the first time.”

Despite such dependence on immigrants, the tech industry does not treat these employees fairly or justly. One academic report in 2012 says that the stated reasons of the tech industry (lack of study of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), rapid technological change, and needing to hire best and brightest workers for “innovations” to occur) cannot be confirmed upon close inspection, leaving cheap labor as “the remaining explanatory factor.” The report goes on to say that legal loopholes allow for foreign workers to be unpaid drastically compared to American-born workers, with many of the workers coming from India, revisionist China, and the Philippines, along with other Asian immigrants, comprising from 50-80% of the workforce of top technology companies, with the tech industry claiming a “labor shortage” and lack of talent, although this cannot be supported by existing data. Interestingly, even the conservative media scoffs at the claims of the tech industry, with arch-conservative National Review declaring that work permits “are basically de facto green cards and give the foreign national complete flexibility in the job market” and that the visa program will hurt the middle class (not sure if that’s true) while the similarly aligned FrontPage Magazine questioned the shortage of “high-skilled American labor,” saying that the visa program provides “a supply of lower-wage guest workers.” [11] Of course, they oppose the claims for anti-immigrant reasons and don’t really care about the well-being of immigrant workers in the United States.

Mistreatment of immigrants in Silicon Valley is nothing new. There is no doubt that high-skilled immigrant workers “are being exploited by employers,” with the H1-B visa program benefiting the corporate bottom line, especially providing protection against unions and labor strikes, but hurting the workers. The program itself gives employers great power over workers, allowing them to “hire and fire workers…grant legal immigration status…[or] deport the worker” if they don’t do what they like. In 2014 Wired magazine reported on a study showing that major tech companies (ex: Cisco, Apple, Verizon, Microsoft, IBM, JPMorgan Chase, and Google) have pocketed wages and benefits from workers, especially among new Indian immigrants to the Valley, leading to an “ecosystem of fear” in the area among the workforce. The tech companies collectively withheld at least $29.7 million from such workers, forcing them to pay fees they shouldn’t have to pay, creating a form of indentured servitude, as some called it, where there exists an “underground system of financial bondage by stealing wages and benefits, even suing workers who quit,” making “business and profit by having cheap labor” as one worker put it. [12] This shows that the tech companies are, in their own way, engaging in a form of organized crime against the immigrant proletariat. Such crimes are only part of their business model which includes top Silicon Valley CEOs conspiring in wage-fixing to drive down the wages of 100,000 engineers, ultimately involving one million employees in all.

With the exploitation of the immigrant proletariat, mainly those that are “high-skilled,” by the tech industry, this explains the harsh opposition from Silicon Valley to the orange menace’s executive order. Without the visa program, the industry would likely collapse or at least be weakened. As for other industries, immigrants are employed in jobs across the US economy, even as they face similar constraints to the native-born poor along with restrictions related to their citizenship status, especially in cities like New York. As a result, it can be said that immigrants ultimately benefit the US economy, even those that are undocumented, and are not a drag on the “native-born” section of the working class, making the country a better place for all, as even free-marketeers and libertarians would admit. [13] This is important to point out with nativists getting a new lease on life under the orange menace’s administration.

As we stand now, the authoritarianism of the Obama administration has increased under the orange menace’s nightmarish state in regards to immigrants, Muslims killed by drone bombing, and violence supported by the murderous empire across the world, among much more. While we should undoubtedly be critical of bourgeois liberals and bourgeois progressives who claim to have the “answers” and solution to fighting the orange menace, rejecting their pleas to move the capitalist Democratic Party “more left” to fight the “bad Republicans,” there is no reason to sit idly by. We must get involved in pushing for revolutionary politics by at minimum engaging in actions that show solidarity with the immigrant proletariat, whether documented or undocumented, in the United States. In the end, perhaps we should heed what Homer Simpson declared about immigrants all those years ago:

Most of here were born in America. We take this country for granted. Not immigrants like Apu [who immigrated from India and on a green card], while the rest of are drinking ourselves stupid, they’re driving the cabs that get us home safely. They’re writing the operas that entertain us everyday. They’re training out tigers and kicking our extra points. These people are the glue that holds together the gears of our society. [14]


Notes

[1] Nathan Bomey, “Elon Musk to seek CEO consensus on changes to Trump immigration ban,” USA Today, Jan. 29, 2017; Fredreka Schouten, “Koch network slams Trump immigrant ban,” USA Today, Jan. 29, 2017; Jill Disis, “Starbucks pledges to hire 10,000 refugees,” CNNMoney, Jan. 29, 2017; David Pierson, “Facing Trump’s immigration ban, corporations can’t risk keeping silent,” Los Angeles Times, Jan. 31, 2017. As Elon Musk (of Tesla Motors and SpaceX) tried to “seek a consensus” among fellow business CEOs who were affected with the order and trying to work with Trump, Uber changed course from crossing a picket line and profiting from the misery, to condemning Trump’s action as impacting “many innocent people” and the CEO of Uber, Travis Kalanick, declaring “I’ve…never shied away…from fighting for what’s right,” even as they continue their horrid practices with exploitation of their workforce.

[2] Jessica Guynn and Laura Mandaro, “Microsoft, Uber, Apple, Google: How the tech world responded to Trump’s immigration ban,” USA Today, Jan. 28, 2017.

[3] Jill Disis, “Starbucks pledges to hire 10,000 refugees,” CNNMoney, Jan. 29, 2017

[4] Brian Fung and Tracy Jan, “Tech firms recall employees to U.S., denounce Trump’s ban on refugees from Muslim countries,” Washington Post, Jan. 28, 2017; David Pierson, “Facing Trump’s immigration ban, corporations can’t risk keeping silent,” Los Angeles Times, Jan. 31, 2017; John Ribeiro, “US tech industry says immigration order affects their operations,” CIO, Jan. 29, 2017; Anthony Cuthbertson, “How Silicon Valley Is Fighting Back Against Trump’s Immigration Ban,” Newsweek, Jan. 30, 2017; Eric Newcomer, “Silicon Valley Finds Its Voice as Immigration Ban Fuels Outrage,” Bloomberg Technology, Jan. 30, 2017; PCMag staff, “Here’s What Silicon Valley Is Saying About Trump’s Immigration Ban,” PC magazine, Jan. 29, 2017; Matt Richtel, “Tech Recruiting Clashes With Immigration Rules,” New York Times, Apr. 11, 2009. On the subject of US-Mexico migration some companies have tried to get on the game as well: an Israeli company said they will help build the “great wall” on the US-Mexico border.

[5] Brian Fung and Tracy Jan, “Tech firms recall employees to U.S., denounce Trump’s ban on refugees from Muslim countries,” Washington Post, Jan. 28, 2017.

[6] John Blackstone, “Tech industry, fueled by immigrants, protesting Trump’s travel ban,” CBS News, Jan. 31, 2017; Kerry Flynn, “Immigrants have built America’s tech industry,” Mashable, Jan. 31, 2017; Carmel Lobello, “The tech industry’s case for immigration reform,” The Week, June 2, 2013; Sarah McBride, “One quarter of U.S. tech start-ups founded by an immigrant: study,” Reuters, Oct. 2, 2012. Even a Forbes contributor, David Shaywitz,” said that immigrants are an “inextricable part of the valley’s cultural fabric and a vital element of its innovative potential.”

[7] Jessica Guynn and Laura Mandaro, “Microsoft, Uber, Apple, Google: How the tech world responded to Trump’s immigration ban,” USA Today, Jan. 28, 2017; Katie Benner, “Obama, Immigration and Silicon Valley,” BloombergView, Jan. 22, 2015; Gregory Ferenstein, “No Exceptions For Tech Industry: High Skilled Visas Now Tied To Comprehensive Reform,” TechCrunch, Dec. 1, 2012; Stephen Moore, “Immigration Reform Means More High-Tech Jobs,” CATO Institute, Sept. 24, 1998; Jessica Leber, “Silicon Valley Fights for Immigrant Talent,” MIT Technology Review, July 26, 2013; Amit Paka, “How Legal Immigration Failed Silicon Valley,” TechCrunch, Sept. 7, 2015.

[8] Peter Elstrom and Saritha Rai, “Trump’s Next Immigration Move to Hit Closer to Home for Tech,” Bloomberg News, Jan. 30, 2017; Gretel Kauffman, “How Trump’s immigration stances could affect the tech industry,” Christian Science Monitor, Nov. 20, 2016; David Z. Morris, “Tech Industry Could be “First to Suffer” From Trump’s Immigration Stances,” Fortune, Nov 19, 2016; Salvador Rodriguez, “Why Tech Companies Need Immigrants to Function,” Inc, Jan. 30, 2017; Paresh Dave and Tracey Lien, “Trump’s shocking victory could squeeze Silicon Valley on immigration and trade,” Los Angeles Times, Nov. 9, 2016; David Jones, “Silicon Valley Up in Arms Over Proposed H-1B Overhaul,” E-Commerce Times, Jan. 31, 2017; Marisa Kendall, “Trump poised to overhaul H-1B visas relied on by Silicon Valley tech,” Mercury News, Jan. 31, 2017; Hansi Lo Wang, “In Silicon Valley, Immigrants Toast Their Way To The Top,” NPR News, Apr. 19, 2014; Marie-Astrid Langer, “Silicon Valley Wants High-Skilled Immigration on Campaign Agenda,” Wall Street Journal, Sept. 18, 2015.

[9] Andrew Murr, “Immigrants In The Valley,” Newsweek, Dec. 25, 1994.

[10] Some immigrants are doing well however. Even by 1998, one study found that “Chinese and Indian immigrants were running a quarter of the high-tech businesses in Silicon Valley, collectively accounting for more than $16.8 billion in sales and over 58,000 jobs.”

[11] Ian Smith, “Obama Games the Visa System to Lower Wages and Please the Tech Industry,” National Review, September 30, 2015; Arnold Ahlert, “The Tech Industry’s Immigration Lies,” FrontPage Magazine, April 2, 2014.

[12] The report shows that most of those who are the “well educated, highly skilled and specialized foreign workers” accepted under the H1-B Visa program are from China, India, the Philippines, and South Korea, with thousands of other petitions accepted from the United Kingdom, Mexico, Japan, Taiwan, France, Pakistan, Germany, Turkey, Brazil, Nepal, Venezuela, Colombia, Italy, Russia, and Spain, among other countries.

[13] H.A. Goodman, “Illegal immigrants benefit the U.S. economy,” The Hill, Apr. 23, 2014; Rowena Lindsay, “How immigration helps the US economy: Report,” Christian Science Monitor, Sept. 24, 2016; Ted Hesson, “Why American Cities Are Fighting to Attract Immigrants,” The Atlantic, Jul. 21, 2015; Daniel Griswold, “Immigrants Have Enriched American Culture and Enhanced Our Influence in the World,” Insight (CATO Institute publication), Feb. 18, 2002; Rohit Arora, “Three Reasons Why Immigrants Help the U.S. Economy,” Inc, Feb. 24, 2015; Timothy Kaine, “The Economic Effect Of Immigration,” Hoover Institution, Feb. 17, 2015; Sean Hackbarth, “Immigrants are Good for the Economy,” U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Dec. 5, 2014; A. Barton Hinkle, “Immigration Is Good for the U.S. Economy,” Reason, Jul. 21, 2014; Minyoung Park, “The vast majority of undocumented immigrants in the US are here working: BAML,” Yahoo! News, Jul. 21, 2016.

[14] This speech is made by Homer near the end of the Simpsons episode, Much Apu About Nothing (Season 7, episode 23, May 1996) when Homer has the realization that the measure that would deport immigrants from Springfield, proposition 24, proposed by the loyal mayor, Joe Quimby, to distract from the “bear tax” to pay for the worthless “Bear Patrol” is wrong. Regardless, the measure passes anyway, with 95% approval, and Homer declares that democracy “doesn’t work” while all of the immigrants have gained citizenship (after passing the citizenship test), except for Groundskeeper Willie, who goes on a ship back to Scotland.