The recent decision by Governor Ron Desantis (R-FL) to fire the President of New School University, replace the board of trustees, and to abolish diversity equity and inclusion programs in higher education came as a shock to even most conservatives. His swift enactment of policy is yet another casualty in the “war on wokeness.” However, to far right researchers, and those working on university campuses this was less surprising.
Most people have a view, largely shaped by the media, that college and university campuses are bastions of left-wing ideology. However, even during the 1960s antiwar protests movements, colleges and universities have always had a sharp conservative bent. Over time the work of student movements has been folded into the corporate structure of the institution. What most people are likely unaware of is a new phenomenon happening across college campuses in which far-right organizers have sought to use them as a place for contestation, recruitment, and protest/counter protest.
Since 2011 hate crimes on college campuses has been on a sharp rise in the United States. The latest available data, at time of publication, from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) found a total of 313 cases of white supremacist material on campuses for the 2018-2019 school year. These cases include bomb threats to historically Black Colleges and University, gag orders against teaching, threats to specific scholars, and the weaponization of critical race theory to create controversy over curriculum.
Far right ideology has been mainstreamed largely through online community building and organizing, and manifested in physical space with use of violence—like when conservative pundits Richard Spencer or Milo Yinappplous schedule lectures on campuses and planned marches such as the Unite the Right Rally on University of Virginia campus in 2017.
This would explain, at least anecdotally, why there are increasing reports from educators (that we have spoken with) about the increased presence of racist, sexist, and discriminatory behavior across college campuses. Some of these incidents, like the recent controversy at the University of Missouri where a student used racial slurs in a snapchat message to another students and joked about the murder of three Black University of Virginia student athletes, illustrating the limited power that University administrators have over these kinds of situations.
While administration later condemned the student’s post, the University was unable to take disciplinary action under the First Amendment. This is a major area of controversy and contradiction in the contemporary era of the American university—that condemns racial discrimination, yet rarely takes action against racist incidents or confront many systemic issues within the institution.
Students took to social media, first to bring the incident to the administration’s attention, and when nothing was done, to express their outrage. Mizzou YDSA (Young Democratic Socialists of America), posted their annotated version of the announcement made by administration.
Incidents like the one above are in fact nothing new for college campuses. While a few anecdotes might be hand waved away as a few bad apples, our own research on the far right reveals something a bit more deliberate than a leaked electronic communication. The Southern Poverty Law Center tracked recruitment flyers by white nationalist groups from 2016-2017, reporting 329 flyers across 241 college campuses—like the one’s below.
It would seem, based off these early observations, that far-right groups are initiating the same tactics across University systems. Even here we see administrators either unable, or unwilling, to act against these flyers. Despite conservative accusations that they are being silenced, or censored, empirical studies and experts have show that this is not the case at all.
As Vegas Tenold observed in his 2018 book “Everything You Love Will Burn” the demographic of the Alt-Right that attend universities consists mainly (but by no means exclusively) of “white frat boys [who] could now explain to the world how white frat boys were the true victims of feminism, affirmative action, and other forms of anti-white persecute and could, with a straight face, stand up in public and rejoice in someone finally fighting for their rights as white, affluent college guys.” These individuals are often armed with the full strength of their connection to the University, outside online communities, formal organizations with resources, and even the support of some politicians.
As educators we have both seen the impact that conservative leadership has had on the state of higher education. This includes cuts at the state and federal level, but also a retooling of higher education towards a consumer model. The impact on higher education has been an erosion of standards in favor of student retention and satisfaction. While the move to a more “student centered” model has some merits, under conservative leadership it has been weaponized to remove people who disagree with conservative ideology—including those trying to make their students think critically about religion, those with low teaching evaluations (which are disproportionately women, people of color, and other minorities), or those who would criticize the University.
While University leadership is unable, or unwilling, to challenge the status quo (i.e., Board of Trustees or other elected officials) students are mobilizing to change this system. Some of this is already taking place such as within the University of California school system in which students went on strike over low wages, poor health care, lack of COVID-19 protections, and a variety of other issues. The growth of far-right ideology is a result of the University adopted a consumer “student centered” model of education.
Just as students in the 1960s had to learn how to find their voice, students today are doing the same. However, speaking out on campus can come with consequences. As we write, striking Temple University graduate students are losing their tuition remission, health care coverage, and have one month to pay their tuition bill in full. Perhaps through the actions of these students, and their allies on the ground, a vision of the future that runs counter to that of the alt-right can be more clearly articulated--something the left has failed to do.
A.F. Lewis is a PhD candidate in Sociology with a graduate minor in Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Missouri, Columbia. Their areas of interest are political sociology, social movements, and social theory. Their work has been featured in The Activist History Review and in “Politics as Public Art: The Aesthetics of Political Organizing and Social Organizing.” Their forthcoming book from Lexington Books, part of The Frankfurt School In New Times Series, is based on a five year ethnographic study of a Midwestern University. They are currently a lecturer at Université Paris Nanterre in France.
Peruvian President Pedro Castillo wearing an indigenous hat and a Wipala flag draped over his shoulders. Photo: Carlos Mamani/AFP/FIle photo.
On Tuesday, February 7, El Salto published an exclusive interview with Peruvian President Pedro Castillo. Castillo has been detained for two months since being ousted by congress, which immediately placed Dina Boluarte in power. In the interview, Castillo stressed that he did not want to obey “social and economic power groups… putting the people above all else.”
From the moment of his irregular arrest, protests began in Peru. More than 60 deaths have occurred due to the repression ordered by Boluarte, plunging the country into a deep and violent political and institutional crisis. The discontent manifested in various areas of Peru and has moved to the capital, Lima. Protesters are demanding Boluarte’s resignation, early elections and the constituent assembly that Castillo had promised.
On December 7, 2022, the political crisis that kept Castillo’s government stagnant worsened with the forced change of dozens of ministers and legislative and judicial persecution against Castillo, a rural school teacher who became president through democratic elections and was the first president outside the elites in almost 200 years.
The El Salto team interviewed Castillo exclusively in Barbadillo, the maximum security prison where former dictator Alberto Fujimori is also being held, convicted for crimes against humanity by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
During the interview, conducted through questions were delivered to Castillo via lawyers, including the Argentinians Eugenio Zaffaroni, judge of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and Guido Croxatto, director of the School of the State Lawyers Corps in Argentina. Castillo is in jail due to a controversial preventive measure and is accused of sedition. He noted that he still considers himself president of Peru.
Lawyers Zaffaroni and Croxatto were accompanied by the president’s legal team, namely, the lawyers Indira Rodríguez Paredes and Wilfredo Robles. The entry of the Argentinian lawyers was, according to El Salto, hindered by the National Penitentiary Institute of Peru, attempting to create obstacles and inconveniences so that the meeting would not take place.
“The meeting was finally able to take place: the notes that constitute this interview resulted from this meeting, conducted orally and handwritten between the last days of January and the first week of February,” wrote the news outlet. “All recording devices, including mobile phones, were expressly prohibited.”
Castillo fears for his life in the face of hatred and racism
When asked about his safety, Castillo stated that he has feared for his life since he made it to the second round of the elections that would designate him as president on July 28, 2021. He said that the incitement of hatred and racism from the far right constitutes a risk for him, his family, and all the leftist militants in the country.
“Yes, I fear for my life right now. In Peru, there is no type of legal, political or civil security. I must say that I do not fear for my life as of right now. I fear for my life since the second round of the campaign to be president,” he reported.
“There has been political persecution since I was campaigning. The right wing was merciless with my family and me, especially with my minor children and my wife. They slandered us. They falsely accused us of terrorism. They did not let us develop personally or in my government. The harassment was constant, daily and disturbing. These actions incited hatred and racism.”
Castillo also noted that he had “received death threats from unknown phone numbers.”
“My children and wife too. That is why I sought, at all times, security for my children since they are the most precious thing I have,” he stated. “Security for my little daughter, my young son, my older daughter and my wife.”
The president stressed that he suffered mistreatment from the right wing, where they accused him of being a “terrorist.” “They have wanted to hurt me. I would say that they even wanted to assassinate me. For example, in Tacna, I suffered a situation in which several people from the extreme right beat me with bolts and iron sticks, I was injured, but I did not file a complaint. That is one of my most vivid memories of the runoff campaign.”
“I have also received public threats, for example, from Rafael López Aliaga [extreme right-wing businessman and mayor of Lima], who openly asked that they kill me. He said at his rally: ‘Death to Castillo,’” Castillo said.
He also pointed out that he has not been able to communicate with his family and that he fears for their safety. Castillo explained that the attacks against him and his family went to the extreme of preventing his son from studying at a school when they discovered his relationship. He highlighted the harassment his young daughter suffered after images of a birthday party they organized for her were leaked. And even surrounded by security, she was insulted in the streets. “They yelled at her: ‘You are the daughter of the donkey,’ and she cried and felt bad. They attacked my minor children to attack me,” Castillo added.
President Castillo repudiated how “the historical racism that Peru has experienced and continues to experience, as well as classism and social and economic inequality, is why there is currently a massacre and multiple human rights violations in Peru.” He then added that these crimes against the Peruvian people “will firmly and courageously be taken to international institutions by the lawyers.”
Boluarte and Fujimorism
When asked about Boluarte’s relationship with Fujimorismo and the Peruvian oligarchy, Castillo replied that she “works with Fujimorismo. They all organized the plot.”
“Everything was prepared with the police and the armed forces. Her [Boluarte], the Prosecutor’s Office, the Peruvian right, especially Fujimorismo,” he stated.
Castillo explained in the interview that he now knows that Boluarte “had a rapprochement with the Peruvian right since before December 7, 2022. She was and is friendly with the far right. They have allied and talked. And that was from before, as far as I know now.”
“She hired people from Fujimorism in the ministry. She never gave the opportunity to ordinary Peruvians and those from the regions. And now she has been exposed. She has called the entire right wing that violates human rights the most to the cabinet. The list is known. She only pretended to be a democrat, but now her true personality is evident,” Castillo added, calling her a dictator.
It’s time for the constituent assembly
Pedro Castillo also pointed out in the interview that “it is the constituent moment. We are not going to look for it. History is looking for us. Changing the constitution is the desire of the people, to escape the Fujimori legacy. I reaffirm that we need a popular constituent assembly.
Regarding the Parliament’s refusal to move elections forward, he stressed that “congress is delegitimized,” its actions are alien to the popular will because it is not “in sync with the peoples” and that “the majority (in the Peruvian Parliament) continues to follow local media scripts.
“For example, why don’t they hold a plenary session in a region?” he said. “Let’s see, let them go to Ayacucho, Puno, Apurímac, Ica, Cusco, regions with murders at the hands of the police and the armed forces. The people would tell them what they think. Let them get out of the congressional bubble and go find out what the people really think.”
The US and the EU work to oppress the peoples
When asked about the international community’s reaction, especially that of the United States and the European Union, to his case and their participation in the systematic violation of human rights in Peru, Castillo pointed out that “the United States is working with the European Union to oppress our countries, peoples and communities.”
“That is why they want me imprisoned, and that is why the power embedded in those spaces is silent in the face of the systematic violation of human rights in Peru: murders, arrests, injuries and political persecution of leaders, as in my case and of many others,” he said.
This article was republished from Orinoco Tribune.
The Requirements of the European Left: A Conversation with Peter Mertens, General Secretary of the Workers Party of Belgium By: Vijay PrashadRead Now
Peter Mertens & Vijay Prashad
Part I: Building a Counterforce
Vijay Prashad: Peter, tell us a little bit about the origins of the Workers Party of Belgium, the PTB, of which you were the President from 2008 to 2021 and of which you are now the General Secretary.
Peter Mertens: There were three kinds of movements in Europe in the years before the PTB was founded in 1979. There was obviously the uprising of May 1968 and the student movement around that. There was the opposition to the American war in Vietnam. And there were these wildcat strikes, that is to say, strikes that were not covered by the trade unions in Belgium. So, you had the student movement, the movement against the American war, and the working-class struggles. The party was born out of these movements as a Marxist-Leninist formation, after ten years of preparation before the first Congress in 1979. From the beginning, there was a discussion about the road to socialism, and how to build that road. The first members of the party created Medicine for the People, together with the doctors amongst them. They organised local Health Centres in working-class areas in Belgium, so now we have eleven such centres. They work for free and are expanding. It is very important for our party that it is not an intellectual get-together, but that it merges with the common people in the working-class neighbourhoods. Other pioneers of our party went to work in factories and built working-class units of the PTB.
At the time, the party was rather influenced by the Maoist perspective, inspired by the positive things we learnt about the liberation of China and the construction of socialism there. We had our dogmatic side, but we grew, and we developed our thinking. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989, there was a standstill. We had a lot of discussion about how we were going to orient the party. From that point on, there was a discussion for a renewal of the party, to remain a Marxist and a Communist Party with a broader sense of the new working-class and with new tactics. We grew at the grassroots level, which prepared us to expand in the 2000s. I became the party president in 2008.
VP: You emerged in the struggle to defend the shipyards in Belgium. Tell us a little about your own political formation.
PM: I became active in the party at a very particular momentum, with the Soviet Union in decline and everyone saying that communism was gone forever. At the same time, the extreme right was rising in Europe. As a student at the University of Antwerp, I helped to create Students against Racism in 1987. A few years later, we saw the terrible pogrom in Rostock, Germany, when right-wing extremists attacked refugees in the city. These were really Nazi, fascist parties with pogroms against migrants. It shocked me a lot. I was an anti-racist and will always be an anti-racist. My opposition to the US war on Iraq in 1991, revealing a new kind of aggressive US imperialism, was another motivation that convinced me to join the party. What definitively marked me during that period, was the struggle of the shipyards you mentioned. In the early 1990s, the government of Belgium planned to restructure the shipyards. I took the opportunity to go on-site and live with the trade union rank-and-file as well as leaders during their struggle. I really see it as a kind of second university. I thought I knew something about the working conditions and the working-class, but in fact I did not know much. The workers went on strike for seven weeks. They occupied the shipyards, where they built these huge mastodont ships. The workers taught me how they took these huge iron plates and built these large ships. I realised: who is constructing these ships? Who is creating the value by changing the metal plates into an ocean-going ship? It is the workers. An understanding, as simple as it is essential, of how our society works. I was also impressed to what point they were anti-racists. Turkish contract workers were being paid less for the same job. The whole shipyard went on strike for these contract workers, with no xenophobia. It was not like that everywhere, of course. But I learned a lot from those workers. The Party was involved in these struggles, and I watched how essential it was for a workers’ party to offer political direction to the movement.
VP: In many cases, when foreign workers are being used to undercut wages, it creates the material basis not for solidarity but for xenophobia and hatred. How do you account for the fact that these workers in that shipyard did not succumb to racism?
PM: It was the spirit of what we call the class consciousness of the trade union leaders. This was not the case in other places. It happened to be the case that these trade union leaders had already waged from anti-racist struggles, fairly small struggles, but experiences with a defining impact, nonetheless. They ended practices that made workers bring their bosses coffee and so on, things that did not uplift their dignity. They built a trade union force with equality. There was no racism tolerated, no place for racist remarks. It is true that no-one is born with racism. What do working-class families want? They want a good education for their children, good working conditions. If you can build a trade union movement that does not tolerate racism but that focuses on these common desires of the workers, then you can create the situation we saw in the shipyards.
VP: At that time, Peter, I travelled to Denmark, where there were large demonstrations against fascism. But the sincere people who organised them had a very limited analysis of racism. They took a position against the rise of fascism, but it did not have a class content. They were motivated by human feelings, anger for instance, but they did not have a public analysis of how racism is shaped in society and how it can be overturned. What you saw in the shipyards was a class-based assessment of racism.
PM: What the trade unions in the shipyards were doing was very convincing, both as a theory and as a practice. It was not textbook anti-racism, but concrete anti-racism for four thousand shipyard workers. The link to the PTB helped, of course. Later on, we saw a lot of anti-racist and anti-fascist groups organised around universities and in communities. These were very good struggles. At the same time, however, the fascist party continued to grow and grow, where our party didn’t. This was confusing, because we went from morning to night trying to fight fascism. But at the electoral level, we were nowhere. On the contrary, we remained below the 1% threshold, while the fascist party was growing to 20 and 25% of the vote in Flanders, the northern part of Belgium. We saw that large sections of the working-class that once voted for the social democrats, but now saw that it was dead, voted for the fascist party.
Some of those in the anti-racist and anti-fascist movements blamed these developments on the people, stupid people, they would say. We had to fight to say that we can’t just dismiss the people, denigrate them. Our adversary was those who believed in libertarian left theories who had no interest in mass struggle. We said that we must go and discuss the problems of the people and win them over. One at a time. The working-class struggled with poverty, with life in areas of rising crime, and with depoliticization of their lives. Look, we said, someone who votes for the fascists is not the real enemy. We are going to drink a beer with them, ok? We have to search the working-class cafes and bars and try to win people over, rather than sit in the intellectual cafes and discuss the nature of the working-class. You need intellectual discussions, of course, but you have to engage the working-class in a debate. We had to reflect on our political work and the reasons why the working-class chose for the fascists and not for us. We had to look in the mirror and cast out that little bit of sectarianism that might have divided us from the people.
VP: I want to ask you about a debate that is going on in the European Left about the working-class and neo-fascism. Some sections of that Left have made the argument that their parties need to take up the concerns of ‘native-born workers’ against migrants, in other words to cede some ground to the fascist argument. What do you make of this debate?
PM: Well, I do not think that the combination of nationalism and socialism will give birth to anything good for the world, as history teaches us. I don’t think that getting back to the national territory, to language, to tradition, will provide answers to our problems in Europe, largely because our working-class is diverse. The entire working-class, both in one workplace and along the chain of subcontractors, is fundamentally diverse, like the Irish subcontractors in England when Friedrich Engels wrote his study of Manchester, so too today with workers in Belgium from Bangladesh, Portugal, and Ukraine. The task is to unify the working-class, not divide it. Even in Belgium, we speak different languages in the north (Dutch) and in the south (French), and over the course of our history this language difference has been used to divide people. We believe we must work together. We talk to people every day, and they tell us that their worries are about wages, pensions, the state of the world for young people, climate – these are the problems that we must solve, not false problems of social divisions. In the mines in Belgium, the slogan was ‘everyone is black in the mine’, which referred to the coal dust that covered all the miners, including the miners of Turkish and Italian origin. What was interesting was that the miners who came from places such as Italy brought with them their own experience of the class struggle to Belgium.
There is a problem with the way we sometimes feel that you must produce leaflets of six to eight pages long, which tell the truth, and which will ‘allow the working-class to see the light’. Of course, texts and analyses play an important role, but they are not enough. The working-class and other strata have their own experiences, and by struggling, by their confrontation with the state apparatus, and experiencing the lies of social democracy, this process is what transforms their consciousness. Then you can advance the struggles. It is not enough to tell the truth; you need to be able to convince people. It is important to tell the truth, but you have to – at the same time – be inside struggles, go with the people. The consciousness of workers in different factories and in different regions must be taken into consideration.
VP: The context of these debates about organising the working-class was the new globalisation, the establishment of the World Trade Organisation in 1994, the closing down of industries in some parts of the world and the opening of them in others, the break-down of the factory form, the creation of commodity chains, and so on. This globalisation hit Belgium hard, since it meant the end of the shipyards at the scale with which they previously operated. That means that the reservoir of working-class strength was depleted, and the buoyancy of the trade union movement and the Party must have been impacted. How did the Party react to these changes?
PM: This process happened all across Europe. The coal mines closed. The shipyards closed. The industrialisation of Europe first took place in Belgium in the textile industry, which means that the European industrial working-class has its origins in Belgium. The trade union in this sector – the Union of Belgian Textile Workers – was about a hundred years old, and it remained strong into the 1990s. It takes a generation to construct the class struggle’s institutions, to build the trade unions. And then, with the closing down of the industry, the union – and their entire history – vanished. At that point, you can do two things. You can be nostalgic, and maybe some of us still are sometimes. Or, you can start from this concrete reality, go forward, try to understand the actual situation of the working-class and build new formations. I wrote my first book [The Working Class in the Era of Transnational Corporations, Marxist Studies, 2005] against the thesis put forward by Antonio Negri about post-industrialism and the end of the working-class, about the time of the service economy, and so on. Contrary to what Negri claimed, there remained a big working-class, not only in Belgium but across Europe. We said, ok, like the pioneers of the working-class movement, we have to support the unions and to learn how to unionise the new sectors. We had to learn how to organise the informal sector, the platform workers, and others. You have to construct the future. You cannot surrender.
VP: I agree with you that nostalgia is debilitating. We want to know the history, but we don’t want to wallow in nostalgia. We know that it takes a long time to build a union, but even longer to sharpen class consciousness. Twenty years to build a union, perhaps, but longer to build up class consciousness of the working-class and peasantry. But our generation had to face a serious problem. Earlier unions were built in places where there were thousands of workers, places where union density could be built. But in our time, workplaces were fragmented, with subcontracting and informalisation breaking down the density of workers. Of course, Negri and André Gorz (in Adieux au proletariat, Galilée, 1980) were wrong to say that the working-class had ended. They were not looking at the right places. The working-class was still there, but it was a deeply fragmented working-class. What did the Workers Party do to build working-class power? What were the institutions that you were able to build and utilise to build the clarity and confidence of the working-class out of its many social fragments?
I’m reflecting on the book you wrote during the pandemic, They Have Forgotten Us. It has an interesting title, at least the English edition that we did at LeftWord Books. It refers to the care workers and the working-class during the pandemic, but indeed it refers as well to the working-class in general in this period, say after 1994. All political formations of the Left in the 1990s were seized by this debate about organising in the workplace or in neighbourhoods. This raised questions of women workers and of household labour, opening avenues for debate and discussion. The point that emerged out of this debate was that the purpose of the Left is to build working-class power, not to build a trade union by itself, or indeed the trade union was an instrument to build working-class power.
PM: It is an old debate about organising on the factory floor or in the neighbourhoods. Earlier, the main energy was to organise on the factory floor. Now we do it both. It is not easy to organise the workers at their workplaces due to the scattered nature of production and the whole procedure of subcontracting. But it remains very important. To organise both in working-class areas and on the factory floor, in either way we are building working-class power. This is what we also do with Medicine for the People, to build local Health Centres to provide advice on health issues. We have lots of meetings, lots of spaghetti dinners, small gatherings to bring people together. We use social media, a weapon for us, and a place to hold our debates. We agree with Marx: use any technology, because technology is not the enemy, but the problem is how to use it and for what end. We have networks on WhatsApp, we tweet, we make short movies, we distribute them in different ways, to a wide range of workers. Take the case of the people who work at Brussels’ airport in Zaventem, which is not where they live. They come from all over the country, working in shifts that start and end at different times. It is difficult to reach these workers, so we build from the working-class neighbourhoods and then take that politicisation to the airport itself.
VP: You mentioned that during the early days of the party building one of the instruments was Medicine for the People, which set up Health Centres in neighbourhoods. I suspect that the success of Medicine for the People played a role in the debate over organising in neighbourhoods. In Recoleta, in Chile, the mayor, Daniel Jadue and the communists led a process to build popular clinics. This is a very good idea because it both addresses an important need of the people, and it also demonstrates the importance of reaching into people’s lives to build their confidence that better worlds can be built. This combination of serving the people and organising the people where they live is a very powerful one. Could you tell us a little about Medicine for the People?
PM: The idea came up during the May 1968 movement. It was inspired by Norman Bethune, the Canadian doctor who went to work against fascism in the Spanish Civil War and later on with the communists in China. It was the motto of the young doctors in Belgium to serve the people, to go into working-class areas and build free local health centres. That was in the years 1973 and 1974. At that time, the official corporate organisation of doctors was very business oriented. They did not recognise the first Medicine for the People health centres, thereby denying them accreditation. So, the party mobilised the people to demand the recognition of these health centres. We did not want to create charities but to create people’s health centres that would sustain themselves. We ensured that doctors would get paid a fair, but not high salary, and that they would provide the needs of working-class families. We expanded from medicine to giving Dutch lessons to migrant and refugee families and helping with schooling for young people. We created places for working-class people to gather and build projects. With the energy crisis, for instance, we work in these places to help people understand and contest their expensive energy bills, not with money but with information. We have lawyers that help us. Trust is built that way. It is important because in our time people simply do not trust institutions any longer, they don’t believe in the bourgeois political parties, or even the State. Building trust of the people is important to our work but building trust not by words alone but by acts, not on one day, but over a generation and more. We find more and more people trust us these days.
VP: I believe that there needs to be a great discussion about the concept of trust in the world of socialism. I know that socialists can build trust with people, but that trust does not necessarily convert into electoral gains. I remember campaigning for communist candidates in India and going into working-class areas, where one would see the red flag, the communist flag, flying high above peoples’ homes. And when we went to ask them for their votes, they would say, comrade, we love you, we agree that you are the best, most decent, and honest people, and we are with you in the factory, but here, in our neighbourhoods, we have to vote for them because they will get us electricity connections and water supply. In other words, we could not break the old patron-client relations that had been established. The workers also seemed to feel that we would not be able to provide these goods, that we would not be able to manage the State, that we were the party of protest and not the party of government. Well, the Workers Party in Belgium has built a significant electoral capacity with your members in the chamber of deputies, in the Senate, in the regional parliaments, and in the European parliament. What has been your experience with trust and confidence?
PM: We are in a process to build a counterforce. People want to know if you have immediate solutions to their problems. We do not make false promises or say it is enough to vote for us. We say that even if you need immediate solutions, there is no alternative than to build a counterforce and to use this counterforce to establish a new situation. We know that participation in government is not going to be sufficient if we are not able to break this neoliberal approach to capitalism that dominates us. We do not want to be the fifth wheel to the capitalist wagon. We are in the midst of a very difficult debate about these issues, because the question presents itself very concretely today. In the French-speaking region of Belgium, we got up to 20% of the vote, and we were asked to go into government in 2019. We said no. A lot of people said, oh, you don’t want the responsibility. We said that we did want to shoulder the responsibility, but we also want to have the power and the leverage to change something. We don’t want to be in the backseat of a car driven by a capitalist. We are not going to be able to build a counterforce with 20% of the vote. We are trying our best to build the counterforce. We are not just waiting around for socialism to happen and in the meantime doing nothing. We are campaigning against inflation, putting concrete demands such as the blocking of energy prices on the social and political agenda. We support trade-unionists who are organising strikes on these demands. You have to organise yourself, mobilise yourself. We are fighting against an ingrained attitude that if you elect someone, they will get things done for you. We are trying to build the attitude that you have to build organisations to fight for ourselves. Our message: take your fate into your own hands.
VP: There are some concrete barriers here. Workers are working very long hours, often more than one precarious job, and then with long commute times, they barely get time to spend with their families. Leisure time is absorbed by travel to and from work. People sometimes watch videos on their phones while they commute because they have no other free time. And when they get home, they have to take care of elders and children, and take care of themselves. This is even starker for women. Where is the time to build a more participatory democracy in this concrete situation? I agree with you that this debate about politics is a form of education. Demoralisation sets in for two reasons. First, if we enter government as a passenger, we can create disappointment if we cannot move an agenda, since we don’t have a counterforce. Second, if we do not enter government when the opportunity presents itself, we cannot reveal these ‘granite blocks’ as Fanon called them. So we are caught between two hard realities. What you are saying, when you talk about the counterforce, is that as people are agitated and as we build our organisations, we develop the political consciousness and power to contest the barriers set in place by the ruling class. We enter the terrain of contesting the grammar of what is considered to be politics, namely bourgeois democracy, which generates a cycle of expectation, disappointment, and then cynicism. Lenin said that politics is also art, which means you have to feel the wind and judge when to act, when to seize the day, building the counterforce with organisational work each day to change the political grammar.
Part 2: Europe at War
VP: Belgium is the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). You are a leader of an anti-imperialist, socialist party whose office is not that far from NATO’s headquarters! Tell us a little about this proximity.
PM: We have built large campaigns about energy prices, which are now sky-high, and we have set up a confrontation with the big energy monopolies in Europe. This is a real challenge to the neoliberal consensus in the country. When we mention NATO, however, that’s a magic set of letters, and everyone in the parliament remains silent. The pro-NATO consensus is even more sacrosanct than the neoliberal consensus. NATO was set up after World War II, and it was subsequently established in Belgium. The second Secretary General of NATO was Paul-Henri Spaak, a former prime minister of Belgium and leader of the Belgian social democratic party. Belgian social democracy was implicated in the NATO project, which was built on fear of the Russians. This pro-NATO sentiment is rooted in Belgian politics. Giorgia Meloni, the far-right Prime Minister of Italy since October 2022, campaigned against NATO in the Italian elections of 2022. She was challenging – from the right – the consensus that was set up during the US occupation of Italy during World War Two. But, when she became the Prime Minister, she changed her view in one week. Why did she change her view? Because you can’t be the prime minister of Italy if you are not pro-NATO. We are aware of this. We do challenge the consensus, but mainly by trying to explain to people what the pro-NATO position has brought for people’s lives. We know that over the past twenty years we have not done enough to hold this conversation with the masses. This is changing now due to the European sanctions on Russia, and the impact these sanctions are having on working-class people across Europe, hitting them more than it is hitting the elites in Russia. The pro-NATO consensus is a bit weakened. If we challenged NATO, we were falsely called pro-Putin. Now, the conservation is less hysterical. When people say, we don’t want to become a puppet of Putin, we add, we don’t want to be a puppet of Putin nor of the United States. What is the project of the European Union by itself, we ask? Inflation is high. Europe is importing gas and military equipment from the United States and is more and more dependent on the United States. That is the debate we are having, on inflation and on our dependency to the United States.
VP: Meloni’s rapid pro-NATO orientation after the election in Italy has to be part of the story, but even more so are the cost-of-living protests across Europe that are being joined by forces of the extreme right. The programme of the Left – for better living conditions for the people, for security for human life – is being used here and there by the forces of the right in an opportunistic way to attack the social democrats, who have totally capitulated to the United States. The US, meanwhile, is blocking any meaningful negotiations between Ukraine and Russia, wanting to prosecute this war to ‘weaken Russia’, as the US says. Could the European Left – led by forces such as the PTB – orient anti-militarism and a pro-people policy to side-line the extreme right in this context and drive a socialist agenda across the continent?
PM: It is painful to see the extreme right in these protests against the attack on people’s living standards. Of course, this is the contest on the streets, such as in Germany, where the extreme right is there, but so is Die Linke, and this is in France, and also in Belgium. There is a shadowy story that is not well-known that links NATO with the forces of the far-right, who collaborated together in Operation Gladio (1956) in the World Anti-Communist League (1966). The extreme right is shameless about the way it lies about its own history, denying its complicity with NATO and the CIA, and then NATO lies about its links to the extreme right.
We confront this reality in our own practice. It is mandatory for our elected officials to live on an average worker’s wage, not to fill up their own pockets and to allow themselves to be corrupted. We must be with the people. We are present in the popular neighbourhoods. From there on we deploy anti-establishment demands, to both critique the whole elite from an anti-capitalist standpoint, but also to instil optimistic language about the possibilities of the future. We are not going to leave the anti-establishment rhetoric to the extreme right. We want to make clear from a position of integrity that we stand against the establishment on principle. We are not going to line our pockets and lie. We have developed a language that clashes with the language of traditional politicians. We have to build the association of the Left with the working-class and not allow the Left to be seen as a middle-class concept about culture that is not associated with the working-class. The Left needs to be involved in both the economic debate, the class debate, and the identity debate, but not one opposed to the other. The political leaders of the PTB cannot look like the politicians of the bourgeoise, in their tight suits and white teeth. Now we hear from people, oh, that’s the PTB. We like them. They are willing to go against the prime minister at a difficult time. They are willing to say what no one else is saying. We have to respond to the votes we receive from the people with integrity so that we don’t just follow how the other politicians behave in parliament. It is dangerous to have flirtations with the establishment. You have to be alert to the need to be rooted in the mass struggles and in the mass sentiment.
VP: That’s the battle of emotions, alongside the battle of ideas. We are in a difficult period in places such as Europe. If you try to be nuanced about the war in Ukraine or about the role of NATO, you’ll be called an apologist for Putin. This war is part of an intensified conflict between the western states led by the United States against China and Russia. Discussing this conflict is near impossible. Are you finding this as a political party of the Left committed to advancing human goals, which of course means being against war? Is it difficult to open a discussion about the need to have a rational policy vis-à-vis China and Russia?
PM: Well, yes and no. On Russia, when the war started, we said that the Russian invasion of Ukraine is illegal. But we should equally be able to say that this conflict started at least a decade earlier, if not even earlier. It began with the NATO project of moving eastwards. Even raising these issues was sufficient to be called an ally of Putin. I was afraid that we were revisiting the early 20th century in Europe, when national chauvinism suffocated the socialists into world wars. With chauvinism and nationalism and militarism, you can make an entire nation, across class boundaries, completely in favour of war. Such confusion is sown in the country. But even with the anti-Russian feeling there is also a feeling of despair about the rising energy prices. A lot of people feel that something is wrong, that the support for a long war is not beneficial. There are also all kinds of inter-capitalist conflicts, with European businesses interested in opportunities in China and even in Russia. For geostrategic reasons, the German government – for example – is now obeying the United States. But the CEO of BASF – the German company that was part of the construction of NordStream 2 – has to swallow his dislike for the German policy regarding Russia. Germany has to cut its considerable interests in China because of the United States. These inter-capitalist conflicts open up areas of discussion that we need to have in a rational, normal way. To cut all ties with China, for instance, would be very, very bad for the European economy. To cut purchases of Russian energy has already created serious problems. What happened to independent Europe, people are asking?
VP: It is interesting to watch the dance being done by France’s Emmanuel Macron, who seems to have tried to revive in a small way the old Gaullist traditions in Europe. When NATO was formed, Charles de Gaulle called for an independent European foreign policy. That Gaullist strain has never died out, despite the dominance of NATO and the Atlantic Alliance. Both the Treaty of Amsterdam (1997) and the Treaty of Lisbon (2007) created offices for European foreign policy heads, but neither seems to have been able to establish an independent European foreign policy orientation. They seem to take orders from Washington. Is such an independent European orientation possible to imagine in this heightened context of war and the cost-of-living crisis?
PM: I do think so. The only bourgeois force that is still resisting the Americanisation of Europe is in France. Your reference is historically correct, since much of the suppression of European independence comes from the time of the US occupation and the Marshall Plan. The construction of the new Europe depended totally on the bond between Germany and France, the source of conflict from the 19th century. The whole project of the European Union – a capitalistic and imperialistic project – was built on the relation between France and Germany, but both having to be subordinate to the United States. During the Korean War, the West German Bundestag voted hastily in favour of that war and even voted for money to that war. The balance was constructed so that Germany was the economic powerhouse – with the European Central Bank in Frankfurt and the German monetary system underlying the European market – while France was the military power – since it was the only nuclear power, it had the main arms industry, etc. That was the sharing of power between Germany and France. Now, for the first time, Germany is not buying weapons primarily from France but from the United States. This crisis is dividing Europe. The unity between Germany and France has been weakened. The European Central Bank has raised interest rates, which is not going to help with the inflation. So that’s another source of tension and fracture, with the poorer countries in Europe greatly impacted by these moves. These fractures will shift the conversation, and that provides us with an opening.
We have to open the conversation to talk about the ideological, political, and economic domination of Europe by the United States. Even in Germany there is a lot of resistance to the pro-US turn of the government, a sentiment visible in the eastern part of the country and not led only by the extreme right. The anger of the people is real. The people are saying that this war is creating real pain. It is urgent for people on the Left to overcome some of its differences. We think it is necessary for our currents to drive a programme to unify all forces that aim at the emancipation of the working-class and for real international solidarity. We have to sit together and build common actions that are based on common ground. I don’t think it is correct for us to build only with those who agree totally with ourselves. It is cheaper to buy a mirror.
Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor, and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter. He is an editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He is a senior non-resident fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. He has written more than 20 books, including The Darker Nations and The Poorer Nations. His latest books are Struggle Makes Us Human: Learning from Movements for Socialism and (with Noam Chomsky) The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U.S. Power.
This article was republished from Monthly Review.
This article is taken from a section of the author’s forthcoming book, The Purity Fetish and the Crisis of Western Marxism.
It is an imperative that we remember the words of Georgi Dimitrov, a giant of the world communist movement, in his speech to the Seventh World Congress of the Communist International in 1935. Here he would say the following comments on national nihilism, a phenomenon so rampant in American Marxists today:
Mussolini does his utmost to make capital for himself out of the heroic figure of Garibaldi. The French fascists bring to the fore as their heroine Joan of Arc. The American fascists appeal to the traditions of the American War of Independence, the traditions of Washington and Lincoln…
I have quoted this document at length because it magnificently captures one of the central forms the purity fetish expresses itself through in the US: national nihilism. We cannot allow the most reactionary segments of our monopoly capitalist class to win the ideological war over the national history of our people. We must be able to work creatively, to take the progressive elements of our national past – which, although obscured by our ruling class, exist in abundance – and to rearticulate these elements towards socialism. This is what Dimitrov means when he says that we must “enlighten the masses on the past of their people in a historically correct fashion, in a genuinely Marxist-Leninist spirit.” National and historical nihilism must be destroyed. As J.V. Stalin correctly said, “national nihilism only injures the cause of socialism, because it plays into the hands of the bourgeois nationalists.” It is a quintessential manifestation of the purity fetish – because the national past is impure, the purity fetish Marxists reject working with its progressive elements and incorporating these into the struggle for socialism.
Our country’s history, indeed, is a history marked by conquest, enslavement, genocide, exploitation, imperialism, and all the other evils brought by the development of the capitalist era in world history. It is also marked, however, by the struggles against feudal absolutism; by a promise for universal life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness – all demands which are unfulfillable within the capitalist mode of life; by the struggles against chattel slavery, wage slavery, genocidal attacks on indigenous communities; by the struggles, in the 20th century, against fascism, imperialism, for civil rights, for peace, etc. This is a complex, heterogeneous, and impure history. It is, in short, a contradictory history, containing within itself a unity of opposing forces – one which fights for human emancipation, the other which fights for preserving the tyranny of capital. We must learn how to use these objective contradictions to our advantage. The task ahead of us requires aligning our struggles today with the positive elements of the past and connecting the moribund capitalist-imperialist forces of our day with our past’s negative elements.
This is not an easy task. As Mao argued while condemning national nihilism,
Every nation in the world has its own history and its own strengths and weaknesses. Since earliest times excellent things and rotten things have mingled together and accumulated over long periods. To sort them out and distinguish the essence from the dregs is a very difficult task, but we must not reject history because of this difficulty. It is no good cutting ourselves off from history and abandoning our heritage. The common people would not approve.
This difficulty is embedded in the need to develop socialism according to the concrete conditions of a country. As Lenin said,
All nations will move towards socialism; it is inevitable. But the process will not be exactly the same for all nations … each nation will have its own characteristics.
This is why, the same Lenin which in one breath condemns Russia’s role as “a prison of nations,” in another says:
Are we class-conscious Great-Russian proletarians impervious to the feeling of national pride? Certainly not. We love our language and our motherland; we, more than any other group, are working to raise its laboring masses (i.e., nine-tenths of its population) to the level of intelligent democrats and socialists. We, more than anybody are grieved to see and feel to what violence, oppression and mockery our beautiful motherland is being subjected by the tsarist hangmen, the nobles and the capitalists.
With details adjusted to context, we may say something similar about the US today. We, too, could say that we are proud of our revolutionary class and its rich revolutionary history. We, too, could say that precisely because we are proud of this history – and because we are driven by the “great feelings of love” for the people that Che mentions – we wholeheartedly condemn our genocidal, slavish, exploitative, and imperialist past and present.
For Lenin, Mao, Fidel, Ho Chi Minh, Chávez, and other successful socialist leaders, the question they asked themselves concerning their national past was never “is it pure enough?” but “how can we use the national traditions ingrained in our people’s common sense and feelings to fight for socialism?” In China this has taken the form of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics; in Cuba this has meant incorporating José Martí and the anti-colonial traditions into socialist construction; in Venezuela this has taken the form of Bolivarian socialism; in Bolivia this has taken the form of combining Marxism (scientific socialism) with the indigenous communist traditions which have been around for centuries. The same can be seen in the socialist struggles in Africa (Pan-African Socialism), the Middle East (Islamic Socialism), and other parts of Asia and Latin America. One would have to be blinded by a liberal tinted American exceptionalism to think that the struggle for socialism in the US will itself not have to follow this concrete universal tendency seen around the world, where scientific socialism functions as the content which takes form (i.e., concretizes) according to the unique circumstances in which it is being developed.
Dialectics (both in Hegel and in Marxism) rejects the idea of an unchanging, pure, ahistorical universal, and instead urges that universals are necessarily tied to historically changing concrete particulars. Universals are always concrete – that is, they exist and take their form through the particular. “The universal,” as Hegel and Lenin emphasized, “embraces within itself the wealth of the particular.” There is no such thing as abstract socialism. Socialism is the universal which cannot exist unless concretized through the particular. Socialism in the US will have to take form in accordance with the unique history and conditions of the country. By embracing a petty historical and national nihilism, the contemporary American Marxist finds themselves unfit to 1- understand their national past concretely (i.e., dialectically and correctly) and 2- build a successful struggle for socialism. This infantilism is a manifestation of the purity fetish and will be removed when such an outlook is overcome by the dialectical materialist worldview.
Few people have studied the counterrevolution in the Soviet Union closer than the Chinese, who are keen on not repeating the same mistakes as the Soviets. One of the most important lessons the Chinese take from the fall of the USSR is precisely the existential importance of rejecting historical nihilism (lishi xuwuzhuyi), which they describe as the view that “Marxism was outdated and socialism had ‘failed’ (after 1989 in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union); the CPC was an aberration in Chinese history; fawning on foreign powers; and the denial of or ‘farewell’ to the revolution.” As Roland Boer has noted, “the disaster that befell the Soviet Union is seen as a clear example of the effects of historical nihilism.” As Xi Jinping has argued,
[One] important reason for the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the collapse of the CPSU is the complete denial of the history of the Soviet Union, and the history of the CPSU, the denial of Lenin and other leading personalities, and historical nihilism confused the people’s thoughts.
Unlike in the USSR, as Carlos Martinez notes,
Although the Chinese leadership made serious criticisms of certain policies associated with Mao (in particular the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution), it has never come anywhere close to repudiating Mao and undermining the basic ideological and historical foundations of Chinese socialism. No Chinese Wall has been constructed between the Mao-era and the post-Mao era; the two phases are inextricably linked.
As Deng Xiaoping said in 1980:
We will forever keep Chairman Mao’s portrait on Tiananmen Gate as a symbol of our country, and we will always remember him as a founder of our Party and state. . . . We will not do to Chairman Mao what Khrushchev did to Stalin.
Although these comments are specifically made within the context of socialist states, the universal we can observe concretized in the particular is the general condemnation of historical nihilism. Historical and national nihilism share a common logic – a rejection of the past because of its impurity. If the past contains errors, excesses, imperfections, it is nothing. Only that which is pure is salvageable. This manifestation of the purity fetish not only prevents a correct dialectical assessment of the past, but also works as a deadly fetter for the movement towards socialism. In the US, historical and national nihilism are not simply attitudes about the past – they are attitudes about the present and future. Their relevance is far from being merely scholarly. If we are unable to connect our people’s progressive history to our contemporary struggle for socialism, then socialism will be unachievable. The battle against historical and national nihilism is one we must win if we want any chance at winning the class war.
 Georgi Dimitrov, The United Front: The Struggle Against Fascism and War (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1938), 61-64.
 Dimitrov, The United Front, 62.
 J. V. Stalin, Collected Works Vol. 4 (Moscow: Foreign Language Publishing House, 1953), 94.
 Mao Tse-Tung, “Chairman Mao’s Talk to Music Workers,” in Selected Works of Mao Tse-Tung Vol. 7, Marxist Internet Archive: https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-7/mswv7_469.htm
 V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, vol. 28. [In Chinese.] (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 1990). Cited in Hui Jiang, “The Great Contribution of the CPC to the World Socialist Movement over the Past Hundred Years,” International Critical Thought 11(4) (2021): https://doi.org/10.1080/21598282.2022.1996836
 Lenin, CW Vol. 20, 219.
 Lenin, CW Vol. 21, 103-104.
 Ernesto Guevara, Che Guevara Reader (New York: Ocean Press, 2003), 225.
 G. W. F. Hegel, Science of Logic, Trans. A.V. Miller (Atlantic Highlands: Humanities Press International, 1993), 58.
 Roland Boer, Socialism with Chinese Characteristics: A Guide for Foreigners (Singapore: Springer, 2021), 93.
 Boer, Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, 10.
 The China Questions: Critical Insights into a Rising Power, edited by Jennifer Rudolph and Michael Szonyi (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2018), 23.
 Carlos Martinez, No Great Wall: On the Continuities of the Chinese Revolution (Carbondale: Midwestern Marx Publishing Press, 2022), 54.
 Deng Xiaoping, “Answers to the Italian Journalist Oriana Fallaci,” The Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping (August 1980):
Author Bio: Carlos L. Garrido teaches philosophy in Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, where he received his M.A. and is currently finishing his PhD. He is an editor at the Midwestern Marx Institute for Marxist Theory and Political Analysis and the author of Marxism and the Dialectical Materialist Worldview: An Anthology of Classical Marxist Texts on Dialectical Materialism and the forthcoming book, The Purity Fetish and the Crisis of Western Marxism.
Diversity is important. But when it is devoid of a political agenda it recruits a tiny segment of those marginalized by society into unjust structures to help perpetuate them.
The brutal murder of Tyre Nichols by five Black Memphis, Tennessee, police officers should be enough to implode the fantasy that identity politics and diversity will solve the social, economic and political decay that besets the United States. Not only are the former officers Black, but the city’s police department is headed by Cerelyn Davis, a Black woman. None of this helped Nichols, another victim of a modern-day police lynching.
The militarists, corporatists, oligarchs, politicians, academics and media conglomerates champion identity politics and diversity because it does nothing to address the systemic injustices or the scourge of permanent war that plague the U.S. It is an advertising gimmick, a brand, used to mask mounting social inequality and imperial folly. It busies liberals and the educated with a boutique activism, which is not only ineffectual but exacerbates the divide between the privileged and a working class in deep economic distress. The haves scold the have-nots for their bad manners, racism, linguistic insensitivity and garishness, while ignoring the root causes of their economic distress. The oligarchs could not be happier.
Did the lives of Native Americans improve as a result of the legislation mandating assimilation and the revoking of tribal land titles pushed through by Charles Curtis, the first Native American vice president? Are we better off with Clarence Thomas, who opposes affirmative action, on the Supreme Court, or Victoria Nuland, a war hawk in the State Department? Is our perpetuation of permanent war more palatable because Lloyd Austin, an African American, is the secretary of defense? Is the military more humane because it accepts transgender soldiers? Is social inequality, and the surveillance state that controls it, ameliorated because Sundar Pichai — who was born in India — is the CEO of Google and Alphabet? Has the weapons industry improved because Kathy J. Warden, a woman, is the CEO of Northop Grumman, and another woman, Phebe Novakovic, is the CEO of General Dynamics? Are working families better off with Janet Yellen, who promotes increasing unemployment and “job insecurity” to lower inflation, as secretary of the treasury? Is the movie industry enhanced when a female director, Kathryn Bigelow, makes “Zero Dark Thirty,” which is agitprop for the C.I.A.? Take a look at this recruitment ad put out by the C.I.A. It sums up the absurdity of where we have ended up.
Colonial regimes find compliant indigenous leaders — “Papa Doc” François Duvalier in Haiti, Anastasio Somoza in Nicaragua, Mobutu Sese Seko in the Congo, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in Iran — willing to do their dirty work while they exploit and loot the countries they control. To thwart popular aspirations for justice, colonial police forces routinely carried out atrocities on behalf of the oppressors. The indigenous freedom fighters who fight in support of the poor and the marginalized are usually forced out of power or assassinated, as was the case with Congolese independence leader Patrice Lumumba and Chilean president Salvador Allende. Lakota chief Sitting Bull was gunned down by members of his own tribe, who served in the reservation’s police force at Standing Rock.
If you stand with the oppressed, you will almost always end up being treated like the oppressed. This is why the F.B.I., along with Chicago police, murdered Fred Hampton and was almost certainly involved in the murder of Malcolm X, who referred to impoverished urban neighborhoods as “internal colonies.” Militarized police forces in the U.S. function as armies of occupation. The police officers who killed Tyre Nichols are no different from those in reservation and colonial police forces.
We live under a species of corporate colonialism. The engines of white supremacy, which constructed the forms of institutional and economic racism that keep the poor poor, are obscured behind attractive political personalities such as Barack Obama, whom Cornel West called “a Black mascot for Wall Street.” These faces of diversity are vetted and selected by the ruling class. Obama was groomed and promoted by the Chicago political machine, one of the dirtiest and most corrupt in the country.
“It’s an insult to the organized movements of people these institutions claim to want to include,” Glen Ford, the late editor of The Black Agenda Report told me in 2018. “These institutions write the script. It’s their drama. They choose the actors, whatever black, brown, yellow, red faces they want.”
Ford called those who promote identity politics “representationalists” who “want to see some Black people represented in all sectors of leadership, in all sectors of society. They want Black scientists. They want Black movie stars. They want Black scholars at Harvard. They want Blacks on Wall Street. But it’s just representation. That’s it.”
The toll taken by corporate capitalism on the people these “representationalists” claim to represent exposes the con. African-Americans have lost 40 percent of their wealth since the financial collapse of 2008 from the disproportionate impact of the drop in home equity, predatory loans, foreclosures and job loss. They have the second highest rate of poverty at 21.7 percent, after Native Americans at 25.9 percent, followed by Hispanics at 17.6 percent and whites at 9.5 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department for Health and Human Services. As of 2021, Black and Native American children lived in poverty at 28 and 25 percent respectively, followed by Hispanic children at 25 percent and white children at 10 percent. Nearly 40 percent of the nation’s homeless are African-Americans although Black people make up about 14 percent of our population. This figure does not include people living in dilapidated, overcrowded dwellings or with family or friends due to financial difficulties. African-Americans are incarcerated at nearly five times the rate of white people.
Cynical Moral Superiority
Identity politics and diversity allow liberals to wallow in a cloying moral superiority as they castigate, censor and deplatform those who do not linguistically conform to politically correct speech. They are the new Jacobins. This game disguises their passivity in the face of corporate abuse, neoliberalism, permanent war and the curtailment of civil liberties. They do not confront the institutions that orchestrate social and economic injustice. They seek to make the ruling class more palatable. With the support of the Democratic Party, the liberal media, academia and social media platforms in Silicon Valley, demonize the victims of the corporate coup d’etat and deindustrialization. They make their primary political alliances with those who embrace identity politics, whether they are on Wall Street or in the Pentagon. They are the useful idiots of the billionaire class, moral crusaders who widen the divisions within society that the ruling oligarchs foster to maintain control.
Diversity is important. But diversity, when devoid of a political agenda that fights the oppressor on behalf of the oppressed, is window dressing. It is about incorporating a tiny segment of those marginalized by society into unjust structures to perpetuate them.
A class I taught in a maximum security prison in New Jersey wrote “Caged,” a play about their lives. The play ran for nearly a month at The Passage Theatre in Trenton, New Jersey, where it was sold out nearly every night. It was subsequently published by Haymarket Books. The 28 students in the class insisted that the corrections officer in the story not be white. That was too easy, they said. That was a feign that allows people to simplify and mask the oppressive apparatus of banks, corporations, police, courts and the prison system, all of which make diversity hires. These systems of internal exploitation and oppression must be targeted and dismantled, no matter whom they employ.
My book, Our Class: Trauma and Transformation in an American Prison, uses the experience of writing the play to tell the stories of my students and impart their profound understanding of the repressive forces and institutions arrayed against them, their families and their communities. You can see my two-part interview with Hugh Hamilton about Our Class here and here.
August Wilson’s last play, “Radio Golf,” foretold where diversity and identity politics devoid of class consciousness were headed. In the play, Harmond Wilks, an Ivy League-educated real estate developer, is about to launch his campaign to become Pittsburgh’s first Black mayor. His wife, Meme, is angling to become the governor’s press secretary. Wilks, navigating the white man’s universe of privilege, business deals, status seeking and the country club game of golf, must sanitize and deny his identity. Roosevelt Hicks, who had been Wilk’s college roommate at Cornell and is a vice president at Mellon Bank, is his business partner. Sterling Johnson, whose neighborhood Wilks and Hicks are lobbying to get the city to declare blighted so they can raze it for their multimillion dollar development project, tells Hicks:
“You know what you are? It took me a while to figure it out. You a Negro. White people will get confused and call you a nigger but they don’t know like I know. I know the truth of it. I’m a nigger. Negroes are the worst thing in God’s creation. Niggers got style. Negroes got. A dog knows it’s a dog. A cat knows it’s a cat. But a Negro don’t know he’s a Negro. He thinks he’s a white man.”
Terrible predatory forces are eating away at the country. The corporatists, militarists and political mandarins that serve them are the enemy. It is not our job to make them more appealing, but to destroy them. There are amongst us genuine freedom fighters of all ethnicities and backgrounds whose integrity does not permit them to serve the system of inverted totalitarianism that has destroyed our democracy, impoverished the nation and perpetuated endless wars. Diversity when it serves the oppressed is an asset, but a con when it serves the oppressors.
Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for 15 years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East bureau chief and Balkan bureau chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor and NPR. He is the host of show “The Chris Hedges Report.”
Originally Published in ScheerPost
Winning candidates Paola Pabon (Pichincha Prefecture) and Pabel Muñoz (Quito Mayor), Feb. 5, 2023. | Photo: Twitter/ @pabelml
On Sunday, former President Rafael Correa celebrated the results achieved by his Citizen Revolution party in the subnational elections held in Ecuador.
"We achieved the impossible: we are the Citizen Revolution again! Until victory, always!" he said in a video where he appears playing the guitar and singing "It Changes, Everything Changes," (Cambia, Todo Cambia) an emblematic song of Latin American social struggles.
"Do you know what we have achieved after being persecuted for six years of persecution and with just one year of the Citizen Revolution party?," Correa asked to emphasize the magnitude of the leftist victory over right-wing parties.
On Sunday, over 13.4 million Ecuadorians went to the polls to elect 23 provincial prefects, 221 mayors, and 7 members of the Council for Citizen Participation and Social Control, an entity that appoints authorities such as the Attorney General and the Comptroller.
They also participated in a referendum through which President Guillermo Lasso intended to modify the Constitution so as to consolidate a conservative political project.
Former President Rafael Correa's tweet reads, "Omar Menendez, our winning candidate for mayor of Puerto Lopez, has just been murdered. The Homeland is falling apart. Hugs to his family and all the comrades from Manabi."
The Ecuadorian right-wing parties, however, suffered a resounding defeat both in the subnational elections and in the referendum. The Citizen Revolution candidates for the prefectures triumphed in the provinces with the largest population.
This happened with Paola Pabon (Pichincha), Marcela Aguiñaga (Guayas), Leonardo Orlando (Manabi), Juan Lloret (Azua), Johana Nuñez (Santo Domingo), Richar Calderon (Imbabura), and Yofre Poma (Sucumbios).
The progressive forces also prevailed in the main cities with Pabel Muñoz in Quito, Aquiles Alvares in Guayaquil, Wilson Erazo in Santo Domingo, Vicko Villacis in Esmeraldas, Pedro Solines in Milagro, and Alexis Matute in Quevedo.
The magnitude of the people's support for the Citizen Revolution became evident in an unprecedented event: Ecuadorians elected Omar Menedez as mayor of Puerto Lopez, despite the fact that this young man was murdered by hitmen on the day before the elections.
This article was republished from TeleSUR.
Socialism is increasingly popular in the US. So the House of Representatives denounces it By: Peoples DispatchRead Now
Conservatives in the House of Representatives passed a resolution “denouncing the horrors of socialism” and opposing the implementation of socialist policies.
Photo: Party for Socialism and Liberation
On Thursday, February 2, the United States House of Representatives passed a resolution denouncing “the horrors of socialism.” All 219 members of the Republican party voted in favor. Most Democrats did as well, with 109 voting with the Republicans, 86 voting against, and 14 voting “present,” which is effectively an abstention.
At a time when socialism is becoming increasingly popular in the US despite decades of red-baiting and persecution of the left, the House denounced “socialism in all its forms” and further opposed “the implementation of socialist policies in the United States of America.”
The resolution repeated widely-debunked allegations of mass murder in socialist countries and accused the revolutionary processes in Cuba and Venezuela of causing great economic harm to the people while remaining silent on the impact of US sanctions which have been the primary reason for the hardships faced by people in these countries.
“The United States of America was founded on the belief in the sanctity of the individual, to which the collectivistic system of socialism in all of its forms is fundamentally and necessarily opposed,” reads the text.
The resolution was sponsored by Cuban-American representative Maria Elvira Salazar of Miami-Dade County. The resolution is now on its way to the Senate.
This resolution also comes at a time when socialism as an ideology has been gaining popularity in the past few years, while support for the capitalist system is decreasing in popularity. Even among Republicans and Republican-learners aged 18-34, an Axios poll showed that from 2019 to 2021, capitalism has dropped in popularity from 81% to 66%. The percentage of US adults overall with favorable views of socialism increased from 39% to 41% in that same time period.
Among the 86 Democrats who voted against the resolution are progressives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Cori Bush, who were all endorsed by the Democratic Socialists of America, a large socialist organization in the US. Ilhan Omar, Democratic Representative from Minnesota, also voted against the resolution. Omar was recently voted out of the House Foreign Affairs Committee by the Republican House majority, due to her previous anti-imperialist and anti-Zionist statements.
This resolution comes at a time of crisis for the working class. 34 million people, including nine million children, are food insecure in the United States. According to the Poor People’s Campaign, almost half of people in the US are poor or have low incomes. After a devastating global pandemic, which led to over one million deaths in the US and generated a national recession, the people of the United States were hit by a record-breaking wave of inflation in 2022. In response to this, the Federal Reserve is pushing to slow wage growth, claiming that this will help alleviate the inflation crisis. This is while rents across the country are skyrocketing, and over 40% of tenants are spending more than 30% of their income on rent.
“I think it’s very telling of how threatened establishment politicians are somehow losing their footing, losing their power, really, where they’re positioning themselves to utterly defend a capitalist system that we see has only caused problems,” Karla Reyes, union leader and socialist organizer in New York City, told Peoples Dispatch. “[This is] In contrast to what they could be focusing on, which is the crises that are afflicting the working class in the United States, which include homelessness, and killer cops who are still murdering Black people with complete impunity.”
“[The House is] trying to perpetuate an ideology that, frankly, is getting old,” said Reyes. “Capitalism has looted countries, has poisoned the world, and has created unsustainable lifestyles that push us toward individualism and toward consumerism…socialism is the complete opposite.”
This article was republished from Peoples Dispatch.
1942: After aerial bombardment has almost totally cleared their path into the city of Stalingrad, German troops make their way through the ruined suburbs. Almost every standing building in Stalingrad served as a firing point for Germans or Soviets, forcing house-to-house combat. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
A war against the Soviet Union was wanted by the industrialists, bankers, large landowners and other members of Germany’s upper class, the “elite” of the land. That was one of the reasons, and arguably the paramount reason, why they had enabled the coming to power of Hitler, a politician of whom it was widely known that he considered the destruction of the Soviet Union as the great task entrusted to him by providence. Hitler’s so-called “seizure of power”(Machtergreifung) was in reality a “transfer of power,” and this transfer was orchestrated, logically enough, by those who, behind the democratic façade of Weimer Germany, ensconced in the army, judiciary, state bureaucracy, diplomacy, and so forth, wielded power, namely the upper-class.
However, to win the great war planned by Hitler, Germany, a highly industrialized country but lacking colonies and therefore woefully short of strategic raw materials, had to win it fast, before the depletion of the stockpiles of imported rubber and above all petroleum that Germany could establish before the start of the conflict. These reserves, much of which consisted of imports from the US, could not be adequately replenished by synthetic fuel and rubber produced at home (on the basis of coal) and/or oil supplied by friendly or neutral countries such as Romania and – after the Hitler-Stalin Pact of August 1939 – the Soviet Union. It is in this context that the Nazis developed the strategy of Blitzkrieg, “lightning warfare”: synchronized attacks by massive numbers of tanks, airplanes, and trucks (for transporting infantry), piercing the defensive lines behind which the bulk of the enemy’s forces were typically ensconced in the style of World War I, then encircling these forces, leaving them to face either annihilation or capitulation.
In 1939 and 1940, this strategy worked perfectly: Blitzkrieg produced Blitzsieg, “lightning victory,” against Poland, Holland, Belgium, and – spectacularly so – against France, supposedly a great military power. When, in the spring of 1941, Nazi Germany was poised to attack the Soviet Union, everyone–not only Hitler and his generals but also the army commanders in London and Washington – expected a similar scenario to unfold: the Red Army would be finished off by the Wehrmacht within a maximum of two months. Hitler and his1 generals despised the Soviet Union as a ‘giant with feet of clay”, whose army, presumably “decapitated” by Stalin’s purges during the thirties, was nothing more than “a joke,” as the Führer himself put it on one occasion. On the eve of the attack, Hitler felt supremely confident: he reportedly “fancied himself to be on the verge of the greatest triumph of his life.”
Soviet sharpshooter. Stalingrad, September 1942. (Photo by: Sovfoto/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
From the Ostkrieg, their Blitzkrieg in the east, on what would later be called the “eastern front,” Hitler and his generals expected much more than from their previous lightning campaigns. Their stockpiles of fuel and rubber had already dwindled after their gas-guzzling planes and panzers had embarked on a conquest of Europe from Poland to France via Norway; by the spring of 1941, the remaining supplies of fuel, tires, spare parts, etc. sufficed to wage motorized war for no more than a couple of months. The shortfall could not be compensated by imports from the Soviet Union as part of the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact of August 1939, as is claimed by some historians. According to a meticulous study by Canadian history professor Brock Millman, published in The Journal of Contemporary History, merely four percent of Germany’s fuel came from Soviet sources. In 1940 and 1941, Germany depended mostly on petroleum imported from two countries: first, Romania, initially a neutral country but an ally of Nazi Germany as of November 1940; second, the United States, whose “oil barons” supplied the Hitler regime with enormous quantities of “liquid gold” via neutral countries such as Franco’s Spain and occupied France; these exports were to continue until the United States entered the war in December 1941. As for the relatively modest imports of Soviet petroleum, they actually troubled Hitler deeply because according to the terms of the 1939 Pact, Germany had to deliver high-quality industrial products and state-of-the-art military technology, used by the Soviets to strengthen their defenses in preparation for a German attack that they expected sooner or later.
Hitler believed this dilemma could be resolved by attacking the Soviet Union, and by attacking as soon as possible, even though stubborn Britain had not yet been vanquished: the“lightning victory” that was confidently expected to materialize quickly in the east would deliver to Germany the rich oil fields of the Caucasus, where the gas-guzzling Panzers and Stukas would in future be able to fill their tanks to the brim at any time. Germany would then be a truly invincible über-Reich, capable of winning even long, drawn-out wars against any antagonist. This was the plan, code-named “Barbarossa,” and its implementation got underway on June 22, 1941; but things would not work out as its architects in Berlin had expected.2
Soviet morale boost: German prisoners parade in Moscow, 1944. Stalingrad and other great defeats ended up entrusting the Soviet Union with more than three million German prisoners, a colossal figure to care for in a nation practically destroyed, and lacking essentials even for its own population.
While the Red Army took a terrible beating at first, it had not massed its forces at the border but opted for a defense in depth; withdrawing in relatively good order, it managed to elude destruction in one or more of the kind of huge encirclement battles that Hitler and his generals had dreamed of. It is this “defense in depth” that prevented the Wehrmacht from destroying the Red Army, as Marshal Zhukov has emphasized in his memoirs. The Germans advanced, but increasingly slowly and at the price of great losses. By late September, that is, two months after the start of Barbarossa, when victory should have been a fait accompli and the German soldiers ought to have been heading home to be welcomed there as conquering heroes, they were still a very long way from Moscow and even farther from the Caucasian oil fields, a major object of Hitler’s desires in his Ostkrieg. And soon the mud, snow and cold of fall and early winter were to create new difficulties for troops that had never been expected to fight in such conditions.
In the meantime, the Red Army had recuperated from the blows it had received initially, and on December 5, 1941, it launched a devastating counter-offensive in front of Moscow. The the Nazi forces were thrown back and had to adopt defensive positions. With great difficulty, they would manage to arrest the Red Army’s offensive and survive the winter of 1941-1942. In any event, on the evening of that fateful fifth of December, 1941, the generals of the Wehrmacht’s high command reported to Hitler that, on account of the failure of the Blitzkrieg strategy, Germany could no longer hope to win the war. The Battle of Moscow heralded the failure of the lightning-war strategy against the Soviet Union. From a Blitzsieg, a “lightning-like victory,” on the eastern front, in 1941, Nazi Germany’s political and military authorities had expected that it would have made a German defeat in the entire war impossible, and that would almost certainly have been the case. It is probably fair to say that if Nazi Germany had defeated the Soviet Union in 1941, Germany would today still be the hegemon of Europe, and possibly of the Middle East and North Africa as well. However, in front of Moscow, in December 1941, Nazi Germany suffered the defeat that made an overall German victory impossible, not only victory against the Soviet Union itself, but also victory against Great Britain and victory in the war in general. In other words, December 5, 1941, was the real turning point of the Second World War. It ought to be noted that at that point –a few days before Pearl Harbor – the United States was not yet involved in the war against Germany. In fact, the US only became involved in that war because of the Battle of Moscow.3
Shortly after Germany’s Führer received the bad news from Russia, he learned that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7 and that the Americans had reacted with a declaration of war against Japan, but not against Germany, which had nothing to do with this attack. However, Hitler himself declared war on the United States, namely on December 11. His alliance with Japan did not require him to do so, as some historians have claimed, because it required to come to the aid of a partner that was attacked by a third country; however, the land of the rising sun was not attacked but had itself initiated the hostilities. With this dramatic gesture of solidarity vis-a-vis his Japanese partner, Hitler undoubtedly hoped that would cause Tokyo to reciprocate and declare war on his own mortal enemy, the Soviet Union. In this case, the Red Army would have to fight a war on two fronts, and this might have revived German prospects for victory in the titanic Ostkrieg. But Japan did not take the bait, and Nazi Germany was thus saddled with another formidable enemy, though it would take a long time before American forces would engage in actual combat against Nazi troops.
The Battle of Moscow was definitely the turning point of World War II, but other than Hitler and his generals, hardly anyone knew that Germany was henceforth doomed to lose the war. The general public certainly was not aware of this, not in Germany, not in the occupied countries, not in Britain, and certainly not in the US. It looked as if the Wehrmacht had suffered a temporary setback, presumably – according to Nazi propaganda – due to the unexpectedly early onset of winter; but it was still ensconced deep in Soviet territory and continued to occupy a huge part of the country. It was therefore expected that the Germans would resume the offensive in 1942, as indeed they would.
In the spring of 1942, Hitler scraped together all available forces for an offensive —code-named “Operation Blue” (Unternehmen Blau) – in the direction of the oil fields of the Caucasus. He had convinced himself that he still had a chance of winning the war, but certainly not “if he did not get the petroleum of Maikop and Grozny.” The element of surprise had been lost, however, and the Soviets still disposed of huge masses of men, oil, and other resources. The Wehrmacht, on the other hand, could not compensate for the huge losses it had suffered in 1941 in its “crusade” in the Soviet Union: 6,000 airplanes and more than 3,200 tanks and similar vehicles; and more than 900,000 men had been killed, wounded, or gone missing in action, amounting to almost one-third of the average strength of the German armed forces.4
The forces available for a push toward the oil fields of the Caucasus were therefore extremely limited and, as it turned out, insufficient to achieve the offensive’s objective. Under those circumstances, it is quite remarkable that in 1942 the Germans managed to make it as far as they did. But when their offensive inevitably petered out, in September of that year, their weakly held lines were stretched along many hundreds of kilometres, presenting a perfect target for a Soviet counterattack. This is the context in which an entire German army was bottled up, and ultimately destroyed, in Stalingrad, in a titanic battle that started in the fall of 1942 and ended in early February 1943, precisely eighty years ago. After this sensational victory of the Red Army, the ineluctability of German defeat in World War II was obvious for all to see. It is for this reason– but also because of the long duration of the battle, the huge numbers of troops involved, and the unprecedented losses suffered by both sides – that most historians consider this battle, rather than the Battle of Moscow, as the turning point of the worldwide conflict of 1939-1945. It must be recognized that, from a strictly military point of view, the Battle of Moscow of September 1941 had already ensured that the bulk of the German armed forces would be tied down on the eastern front, with a length of approximately 4,000 kilometers, and that it was there that the Germans would have to use the bulk of what remained of their meager resources in petroleum and rubber.
This situation had eliminated the possibility of any new German military initiatives against the British and made it impossible to supply Rommel in North Africa with sufficient men, equipment, and fuel to prevent his defeat at El Alamein in the fall of 1942. However, it is obvious that the fiasco at Stalingrad made the lamentable military situation of the Reich infinitely worse and made it impossible to station a sufficient number of troops on the Atlantic coast of Europe to deal with an Anglo-American invasion that was certain to materialize sooner or later. In June 1944, at the time of the landings in Normandy, the Western Allies experienced considerable difficulties, even though they only confronted a small fraction of the Wehrmacht, while the once fearsome Luftwaffe was virtually absent from the skies over the beaches because of a debilitating shortage of fuel. Without the successes of the Red Army, first in front of Moscow and then around Stalingrad, the entire Wehrmacht would have been available to fight on the western front, and the Luftwaffe would have disposed of inexhaustible quantities of Caucasian petroleum. An Anglo-American landing in Normandy would have been “mission impossible.”5
If, after the Battle of Stalingrad, they wanted to get rid of Hitler, it was because they feared that he would drag them with him into ruin. Awareness of the significance of the German defeat on the banks of the Volga similarly demoralized the allies of Nazi Germany and caused them to start looking for ways to exit the war. As for the neutral countries, many of which had hitherto sympathized with Nazi Germany, mostly because their rulers shared Hitler’s anti-Sovietism, they became considerably more benevolent towards the members of the “anti-Hitler coalition,” and above all towards the “Anglo-Americans.” Franco, for example, pretended not to notice the allied airmen whose planes had been shot down over occupied countries and who, assisted by resistance fighters, crossed the Pyrenees from France into Spain to return that way to England.
In France and in other occupied countries, the leading political, military, but also economic collaborators, that is, bankers and industrialists, started to discreetly distance themselves from the Germans. Relying on the benevolent services of the Vatican and the Franco regime, they sought contact with the Americans and the British, from whom they received sympathy and assistance as both sides were eager to preserve the established capitalist social-economic order. (The French historian Annie Lacroix-Riz has focused on this little-known aspect of the war in a couple of her thoroughly researched and documented books.) Conversely, the news from Stalingrad boosted the morale of Germany’s enemies everywhere. After many long years of darkness, when it had seemed that Nazi Germany would dominate all of Europe forever, resistance fighters in France and elsewhere finally perceived the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. And their ranks were now increasingly reinforced by many who had been too lethargic before they received the happy tidings from Stalingrad. In France, in particular, the name of Stalingrad became a battle cry of the resistance. After the great victory of the Red Army on the banks of the Volga, the specter of an inevitable defeat haunted 6 Germany, while in the occupied countries everybody knew that the hour of liberation approached– slowly, perhaps, but surely.
Let us know consider the post-Stalingrad situation from the viewpoint of Uncle Sam and his British (junior) partner. There is no doubt about it: the prospect of Germany being defeated and of France and the rest of Europe being liberated by the Red Army caused alarm bells to ring in the halls of power in London and Washington. The Western Allies had been happy to remain on the sidelines, minimizing their losses and maximizing their military strength, while the Nazis and Soviets were locked in mortal combat on the Eastern Front. While the Red Army provided the cannon fodder needed to vanquish Germany, they would be able to intervene decisively, like a deus ex machina, whenever the Nazi enemy as well as the unloved Soviet ally would be exhausted. With Britain on its side as a junior partner, the USA would then be able to play the leading role in the camp of the victors and dictate the terms of the peace to the Soviets as well as the Germans. It is for this reason that, in 1942, Washington and London had refused to open a “second front” by landing troops in France. Instead, they had implemented a “southern” strategy by sending an army to North Africa in November 1942 to occupy the French colonies located there. Because of the outcome of the Battle of Stalingrad, the situation had changed dramatically.
Of course, from a purely military perspective, Stalingrad proved to be a boon to the Western Allies, because this defeat had impaired the Nazi enemy’s war machine to their advantage as well. But Roosevelt and Churchill were far from happy with the fact that the RedArmy was now grinding its way towards Berlin and possibly even farther westward, and that the Soviet Union – and its socialist social-economic system – now enjoyed enormous popularity among patriots in all the occupied countries and encouraged the resistance movements in France and elsewhere to make plans to introduce far-reaching, virtually revolutionary changes after the liberation of their countries. Conversely, the “Anglo-Saxons” were far from popular in countries such as France, partly because of their hitherto meagre contribution to the fight against Nazism, and partly because their air raids on cities in France and other occupied countries caused considerable civilian casualties; it was also unhelpful that Washington had long maintained diplomatic relations with the collaborator government of Marshal Pétain in Vichy and was known to look unfavourably on the plans for radical changes after liberation. In view of all this, it “became imperative for American and English strategy to land troops in France,” as two7 American historians, Peter N. Carroll and David W. Noble, have written and thus to prevent Western Europe and most of Germany to fall “in Soviet hands” or at least under Soviet influence.
Despite the Hollywood hoopla, the D-Day landings had a far less noble purpose than what Anglo-American media, politicians, and historians would admit.
However, when the news of the Soviet triumph at Stalingrad became known and its implications started to sink in, which was in early 1943, it was too late to plan a landing in France for that same year, so things had to wait until the spring of 1944.
The landings in Normandy in June 1944 did not constitute the turning point of World War II. Militarily, Nazi Germany had already received fatal blows at the Battles of Moscow and Stalingrad, and again, in the summer of 1943, at the Battle of Kursk. And while the landings officially purported to liberate France and the rest of Europe, their “latent,” that is, unspoken but real function was to prevent the Soviet Union from singlehandedly liberating Europe, possibly including Western Europe all the way to the English Channel– a prospect that was first raised by the Red Army’s victory on the banks of the Volga. Liberating France – or occupying it, much as the Germans had occupied the country, as General de Gaulle described the outcome of the Normandy landings on one occasion! – also purported to prevent the French resistance leaders, of whom the majority had great sympathy and admiration for the Soviets, as did the rank-and-file, from playing a major role in the reconstruction of their country.
Washington and London detested this “philosovietism,” which was actually shared at the time by the majority of the French population. But it was feared, above all, that these patriots might come to power and proceed to implement radical social-economic reforms, including the nationalization of corporations and banks that had collaborated with the Nazis. (Dire warnings to that effect were emanating regularly from the leading American spy based in Switzerland, Allen Dulles, later to become head of the CIA.) To sabotage the radical projects of the Resistance, which were incompatible with the American plans for France and all of Europe, namely the introduction of a capitalism as unbridled as possible, Washington and London decided, after much hesitation, to rely on General Charles de Gaulle, a rare bird in the sense that he was a popular resistance leader who was conservative. The Americans considered him to be an annoying megalomanic, but eventually realized his usefulness and made it possible for him to come to power in liberated France. That strategy involved orchestrating a kind of triumphant entry into Paris for de Gaulle, featuring a rather theatrical stroll down the Champs Elysées, during which other, arguably equally or even more important resistance leaders were forced to follow behind him. Even so, working with de Gaulle 8 would prove to be far from easy for the Americans. It proved impossible, for example, to prevent him, once he had been anointed as head of the government, from adopting some radical reforms wanted by the resistance and by a majority of the French people. Without him, however, the Left might have come to power and many more far-reaching, quasi-revolutionary changes might have been introduced. And in that case, the Americans would not have been able to integrate France into the anti-Soviet alliance they were to set up in Europe after the defeat of Nazi Germany and in the context of the Cold War. In fact, membership in this so-called alliance equated vassalage to Uncle Sam, and the alliance’s objective proved to be the same as that of operation Barbarossa, namely, the destruction of the Soviet Union.
As the Second World War came to an end, and for quite a few years afterward, most denizens of Western European countries victimized by Nazi Germany, but France in particular, were keenly aware that the libération of their homeland was above all due to the efforts and sacrifices of the Soviet Union, a fact that had become evident a the time of the Red Army’sglorious victory in the Battle of Stalingrad. It was a period of time when these same people, in stark contrast to the present situation, harboured enormous gratitude and goodwill vis-à-vis the Russians and other ethnic groups – Ukrainians, Georgians, Armenians, Azeris, Uzbeks, etc. – of the Soviet Union. The name given in June 1945 to one of the largest squares in Paris still recalls that distant and brief moment in time: Place de la Bataille-de-Stalingrad, ‘Square of the Battle of Stalingrad.
(Sources are available on request) 9
Resident historian Jacques R. Pauwels is the author of The Myth of the Good War: America in the Second World War, Big business and Hitler, The Great Class War 1914-1918, and Myths of Modern History.
This article was republished from Greanville Post.
ALL regimes based on class antagonism require a discourse to legitimise class oppression and this discourse in turn requires a vocabulary of its own. The neoliberal regime too has developed its own discourse and vocabulary and a key concept in this vocabulary is “populism”. This concept is given great currency by the media, which is peopled by members drawn from the upper middle class who have been major beneficiaries of the neo-liberal regime and have therefore developed a vested interest in its continuation. So pervasive is the reach of this concept that even well-meaning and progressive members of the literati have fallen victim to its abuse and employ the term with the pejorative connotation typically imparted to it by the corporate-owned media.
The term “populism” of course is not an invention of the neo-liberal intelligentsia. It has been used much earlier but with a meaning very different from what is given to it now. The Russian Narodniks for instance were called “populists” by Russian Marxists, including Lenin, but the term was used to denote the fact that the Narodniks did not make class distinctions within the mass that they indiscriminately called the “people”. The idea was not to discredit the use of the term “people”, for Lenin himself used the term “working people” to denote workers and peasants; it was to avoid the obliteration of distinctions among them which needed to be theoretically drawn. Under neo-liberalism, however, the term is used to refer to any appeal made to any segment of the working people, whether to mobilize them on grounds of religious chauvinism or by making fiscal transfers to them.
The term “populism” in its current use, therefore, covers both fascist and semi-fascist appeals to the people on issues that deliberately camouflage their oppression, as well as all attempts to secure some gains for them to alleviate their oppression. The former is sometimes called “Right-wing populism” while the latter is called “Left-wing populism”. The ideological obfuscation is obvious here: not only is there no class perspective behind the use of the term, but by treating both “Left-wing” and “Right-wing” populism on a par as unwholesome tendencies, there is a privileging of the “middle”, i.e., a liberal bourgeois position as the only “sensible” one. A concept used in a rigorous theoretical critique with regard to the cognition of a mass entity, as was the case with the Russian Marxists, has now been converted into an apotheosis of the liberal bourgeois position.
This is not just a case of obfuscation; it is positively misleading as well. The hallmark of the fascist, neo-fascist and semi-fascist positions that are labelled “Right-wing” populism is that they have nothing to offer by way of economic benefits to the masses. By contrast, what is called “Left-wing” populism demands welfare state measures, and, at the very least, economic transfers to the people; by putting the two on a par and debunking “populism” in general, the dominant discourse essentially debunks all economic transfers to the people. It, therefore, advances a position according to which any economic concessions made to the people must be eschewed and the government’s focus must be entirely on the growth of the GDP; since transfers to the people eat into resources that could have been used for making investments which would have accelerated growth, such transfers are a waste, made under duress only because of electoral compulsions, but otherwise utterly unwise. An extension of this logic is the argument that any attempt on the part of the government to reduce economic inequality in society is also unwise.
This discourse is perfectly in keeping with a neo-liberal regime. Before it was introduced, nobody would have been critical if an agenda of reducing inequality and eliminating poverty had been advanced. In fact, Indira Gandhi won an election on the slogan of Garibi Hatao; of course, she did not do it, but the criticism against her was not that she advanced the slogan but that she did not do it. Amartya Sen had argued long ago that devoting just 5 per cent of GDP would eliminate poverty in India and that the country should do it by foregoing total consumption by an amount equal to just one year’s GDP growth (which was then about 5 per cent per annum). Reduction in inequality and the elimination of poverty were thus considered primary tasks before the economy during the dirigiste period; but not so now, even though there has been a massive increase in income and wealth inequality under the neo-liberal regime. And recourse to the pejorative use of the term “populism” is a means of debunking all such demands for greater egalitarianism, an ideological weapon in the hands of corporate capital and the burgeoning upper middle class to beat down all proposals for economic transfers to the poor.
Prioritising economic growth has always been a feature of bourgeois economics, but with a difference. Adam Smith had argued for the removal of state interference that, he believed, stood in the way of economic growth, even though he knew perfectly well that the benefits of this growth would not come to the working class. In his view an increase in the wealth of the nation was an important goal per se; where he differed from his predecessors was in arguing that this wealth consisted not in the acquisition of gold and silver but in the accumulation of capital stock that could be used for producing goods. David Ricardo too was all for the accumulation of capital stock and hence for the growth of output, even though he knew that there was a limit to such accumulation. (Indeed, Karl Marx had lauded Ricardo for advocating accumulation even though the latter believed that such accumulation would run into a cul-de-sac when what was called a stationary state was reached). Ricardo also believed that the working class would not be benefitted by such accumulation.
The reason why both Smith and Ricardo thought that the working class would not be benefitted by such accumulation is because any improvement in its condition tended to bring forth an increase in its population. The only way that workers could benefit from capital accumulation, therefore, was if they restricted their propensity to procreate. But that was a matter that they alone could influence, though the classical economists were in favour of their becoming better off through restricting their population growth. The classical advocacy of growth however was independent of whether workers benefitted from it.
The current advocacy of growth is different. Nobody today believes that the conditions of the working people are miserable because they procreate too much; nobody believes that their conditions cannot be improved through the efforts of the State by bringing about income transfers in their favour. And yet such transfers are sought to be avoided by neo-liberal bourgeois economists on the grounds that they would jeopardise economic growth. The classical advocacy of growth is taken over by modern neo-liberals, but without the classical economists’ sympathy for the working class. Thus, the bourgeoisie’s class animosity against the working class is now reflected in the attitudes of the economists as well.
The emphasis on growth to the exclusion of economic transfers to the poor, which are sneeringly labelled as “populist measures”, is doubly offensive to the poor. On the one hand it prevents an improvement in their living standard that could have been achieved if the transfers had taken place; on the other hand, the quest for growth invariably involves a number of projects that entail the ousting of peasants and labourers from the land that they cultivate, and of people at large from their habitats, which leaves them even worse off than they were to start with. True, employment is created on such projects and also in downstream activities created by them; but the displaced are scarcely the beneficiaries from such employment generation, and even the employment that is created often falls short of the employment that is destroyed. And rehabilitation of the displaced people that is promised when the project is undertaken is scarcely ever realised. If growth was being effected under the aegis of collectives of the people themselves, through for instance peasant collectives themselves starting industrial projects, then matters would be different; but that is not the way that growth occurs under capitalism.
The debunking of welfare state measures by referring to them pejoratively as “populist”, and emphasising GDP growth exclusively as the objective of state policy, are cynically anti-people; but that is the hallmark of neo-liberalism.
This article was republished from Peoples Democracy.
The past several days have seen feverish accusations by US authorities and media outlets of an alleged Chinese spy balloon “hovering” over ballistic missile launch sites in Montana.
Pentagon spokesman US Air Force Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder discussing Chinese weather balloon at media briefing, Friday, Feb. 3, 2023, in Washington. [AP Photo/Alex Brandon]
From China’s response and expert accounts, however, it appears that a clumsy, hard-to-manoeuvre, high-altitude weather test balloon was blown by winds across North America. On its current course, the balloon was expected to drift off the US east coast on Saturday.
The claim that China would use such outmoded and difficult-to-control means to conduct surveillance over sensitive nuclear war sites, rather than sophisticated low-orbit satellites, is patently ridiculous. But the hysteria points to the increasingly strident war propaganda emanating from Washington against China, as well as the potential for such an incident to be inflated to trigger a military conflict.
The Pentagon said it had readied fighter jets, including F-22s, to shoot down the craft if ordered to do so by President Joe Biden. On Friday, the White House abruptly used the incident to postpone a major two-day visit to Beijing by Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.
Prominent figures in the US ruling establishment, including 2024 Republican presidential candidates ex-president Donald Trump and former South Carolina governor and UN ambassador Nikki Haley, demanded that the US military immediately shoot down the balloon.
Biden apparently took Pentagon advice not to blow up the errant balloon, citing the danger of falling debris from the craft, which was said to be the size of three buses. Yet the administration took the confrontational step of calling off Blinken’s trip, just before he was due to embark. The top-level visit had been agreed between Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping at a summit last November in Indonesia. Blinken was due to meet Xi to discuss the worsening US-China relations.
In what appeared to be a conciliatory statement, the Chinese foreign ministry said on Friday that the balloon was a civilian airship used mainly for meteorological research. It said the airship had limited “self-steering” capabilities and “deviated far from its planned course” because of winds. “The Chinese side regrets the unintended entry of the airship into US airspace due to force majeure,” it said, citing a legal term used to refer to events beyond control.
Nevertheless, the Pentagon effectively dismissed the statement. “We are aware of the PRC [Peoples Republic of China] statement,” Pentagon press secretary Brigadier General Patrick Ryder said. “However, the fact is, we know that it’s a surveillance balloon. And I’m not going to be able to be more specific than that. We do know that the balloon has violated US airspace and international law, which is unacceptable.”
Seeming to contradict the hype about surveillance over missile silos, Ryder said the balloon was currently over the centre of the continental US and did not “present a military or physical threat to people on the ground.” A Pentagon official confirmed that the US had assessed that the balloon had only “limited” value in terms of providing intelligence China could not obtain by other technologies, such as spy satellites.
Despite playing down the threat, Ryder left open the option of military action. He said the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) was closely monitoring the balloon, which was roughly 60,000 feet above ground level, while the Biden administration weighed its options.
All the circumstances surrounding the balloon affair are dubious. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden had been briefed about the balloon on Tuesday. But nothing was said publicly until Thursday evening, when the Pentagon announced it was tracking “an intelligence-gathering balloon, most certainly launched by the People’s Republic of China.”
The Pentagon said one of the places the balloon was spotted was over the northwestern state of Montana, which is home to one of America’s three nuclear missile fields at Malmstrom Air Force Base. That base reportedly has 150 intercontinental ballistic missile silos.
US media quoted anonymous Pentagon officials as saying that the balloon had travelled from China to the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, and through northwest Canada for a few days before arriving somewhere over Montana, where it was supposedly hovering on Wednesday.
Just after World War II, the US military started exploring the use of high-altitude spy balloons, which led to a large-scale series of missions called Project Genetrix. But this technology has been superseded by satellites, which can be accurately steered and equipped with advanced photographic and telecommunications-interception technology.
Singapore-based security analyst Alexander Neill, an adjunct fellow at Hawaii’s Pacific Forum think tank, told Reuters: “China has its own constellation of spy and military satellites that are far more important and effective in terms of watching the US.”
An editorial in the China Daily, a state media outlet, was scathing. “There is no way to know who fabricated the lie, but we can be sure about the ignorance of the fabricator,” it commented. “Surveillance balloons being used as military technology dates back to the early 20th century, the technology is outdated, one can hardly imagine any nation like China still resorting to it today; at the same time, the shortest route between Beijing and Montana is over 9,000km, which makes it impossible to precisely control the flight of this or any balloon.”
The extraordinary outburst of anti-China propaganda is entirely hypocritical to say the least. The US military undoubtedly uses its network of satellites to spy on Chinese military bases and activities. These are supplemented by ongoing intelligence gathering by US aircraft and spy ships operating close to the Chinese mainland. Moreover, the Pentagon has orchestrated one military provocation after another in the South China Sea by sending warplanes and warships through airspace and waters claimed by China, in the name of “freedom of navigation.”
Whatever the exact political and geostrategic calculations by the White House in delaying or scrapping Blinken’s visit, the decision came amid a mounting series of aggressive and provocative moves by the US against China.
These steps have included trips by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, an ex-general, to South Korea and the Philippines this past week to strength military alliances directed against China, including gaining access to five further military bases in the Philippines.
At the same time, the US has ramped up efforts to sabotage China on hi-tech industries, including by ceasing approval licenses for American firms to export most items to Chinese technology giant Huawei and coercing the Netherlands and Japan to agree to join the US in limiting exports of advanced chipmaking equipment to China.
US House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy is also reportedly planning to visit Taiwan, recognised internationally as part of China, a trip that is calculated to lead to a flare-up of tensions as did a similar trip last August by his Democratic Party predecessor Nancy Pelosi.
As reports about the balloon were splashed in the media, CIA Director William Burns was speaking at an event at Washington’s Georgetown University, at which he called China the “biggest geopolitical challenge” currently facing the United States. That declaration reiterated the Biden administration’s public naming of China as an existential threat to US global power. Burns also claimed that the US knew “as a matter of intelligence” that Xi had ordered his military to be ready to conduct an “invasion” of the island of Taiwan by 2027.
Burns’ assertion followed this week’s leaking to the media of a blunt internal memo by Air Force General Michael Minihan predicting that the US would be at war with China over Taiwan by 2025 and ordering his commanders to implement detailed preparations.
Thus, far from China seeking to intimidate or trigger a conflict with the US via a “spy balloon,” as shouted by the US and allied ruling elites and media, it is Washington that is escalating its confrontation with China.
This article was republished from World Socialist Website.
On November 25, 2022, toward the end of the 1st Academic Peace Delegation to Koreans in Japan, I testified at the Japanese Diet—along with others from Japan and South Korea—about the need to protect Koreans in Japan from racist government and right-wing discrimination. This was my fourth time there, and I spoke, as an associate professor of education studies in the U.S., about the remarkable quality of education taking place in ethnic Korean schools there. As testimonies proceeded, the Japanese representatives continued to deny that there was any problem. “We are following the law,” they said.
After, we went to the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology for the weekly Friday protest Korean students organize in defense of their right to education. As students and their supporters spoke, amplified racist messages tried to drown us out.
Meanwhile, even the U.S. media was covering the recent escalations of attacks against Korean residents in Japan and their schools, something that is incredibly significant and important, despite the ahistorical and often incorrect framing. In early December, the Washington Post even ran an article on the threats facing Korean schools in Japan. They noted how the schools were subjected to “threatening phone calls, arson attacks, and more,” the former of which are regular occurrences and the latter of which are not the worst physical attacks they’ve suffered.
Anti-Korean Racism a Central Feature of Japanese Society
Education is a central feature of life and human society, and this is even more pronounced in the people’s struggles against oppression. There’s perhaps no sharper contemporary example of the struggle for education than the recent escalations of attacks on Korean residents in Japan and their schools. Now is the time for the international left to show our unconditional solidarity with this community, their schools, and their cause.
The violence described in the Washington Post article is, unfortunately, not unique; it is a regular feature of lives for all Koreans, and especially those affiliated with Chongryon, or the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan. In 2018, a Japanese man attacked a young Korean man with a knife, and he admitted to police he did so “because he had ‘looked down’ on him.” That same year, two men shot up Chongryon’s headquarters in downtown Tokyo.
Far-right activists routinely protest outside of elementary, middle, high, and university schools, despite Japan’s anti-hate speech law. Zaitokukai regularly stages protests outside of elementary, middle, high, and university schools, calling them “cockroaches” and chanting “Korean schools are spy schools, kick them out of Japan!”
In late October 2022, the Japan Network toward Human Rights Legislation for Non-Japanese Nationals and Ethnic Minorities verified that there were “nine incidents of physical violence and verbal intimidation experienced by students at six Korean schools around the country as of Oct. 8.” An October 06 the same bodies “said discrimination had become so rampant that children are afraid to wear traditional Korean uniforms outside their schools.”
In August 2021, a Japanese man set fire to seven buildings housing descendants of Korean forced-laborers. In a separate incident in April 2022, a Japanese man set fire to a Korean school in Osaka. At trial, he stated that “he hated Korean residents in Japan and that he came to believe after reading Twitter posts that they, and their groups, were a threat to the Japanese people.” He received a suspended sentence.
The Japanese government denies facilitating such acts of racist violence but is itself one of the primary antagonists.
When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, school authorities in Saitama city provided free personal protective equipment to all day care centers and schools in the city--except for Korean schools. When the Japanese government provided funding for university students to compensate for hardships during the pandemic, only Korea University was excluded.
None of this, for the Japanese government, constitutes discrimination. In order to understand why, we have to grasp the centrality of education in the struggle for justice and peace in general and, in East Asia in particular.
The modern origins of Koreans in Japan
From their founding after World War II, Koreans in Japan—who are sometimes called Zainichi Koreans, meaning “foreign Koreans”)—have always had to struggle to create and maintain educational spaces and systems where they can teach and learn about their own history, culture, traditions, and languages, in addition to other essential disciplines and languages. This was a basic human right as well as a political struggle, as Japan’s colonization of Korea, which officially started in 1910 but began about 5 years earlier, forced over 2 million Koreans—about 90 percent of whom came from the southern part of the peninsula—to move to Japan through either physical violence, coercion, and deceit. The story of the formation of a Korean population in Japan in the 1900s is one of profound violence.
Some were “recruited” by Japanese companies after colonial forces stole their lands and gave them to landlords, promised great jobs and good pay but receiving the opposite. Many Korean women, hundreds of thousands, were kidnapped into Japan’s sexual slavery network, which the U.S. inherited after it replaced Japan as the occupying force in the south. In 1938, Japan forcibly conscripted and kidnapped workers from Korea and brought them to Japan as slave laborers, where they were forced to build the military, munitions buildings and construct secret underground bases and bunkers for the air force. In the latter instance, children were particularly valuable, as their small bodies and hands were essential for creating the tunnels with pickaxes.
The historic struggle of Chongryon and Koreans in Japan
fter Japan’s defeat and the liberation of the northern half of the peninsula, around 600,000 Koreans remained in Japan involuntarily. They were forced to remain there because of property restrictions, the U.S. occupation of the southern half of the peninsula, and eventually the formal—but still temporary--division of their homeland.
There was one unique aspect to Japan’s colonization of Korea: the Koreans forced to Japan were granted Japanese citizenship. In 1952, however, with the adoption of the San Francisco Peace Treaty, they lost their nationalities and were officially stateless overnight with no formal rights at all. They had—and still have—the option of applying for Japanese citizenship, but this would mean abandoning their heritage, culture, and being forced to assimilate fully into Japanese society. With the official creation of the Republic of Korea and the subsequent formation of the Democratic Republic of Korea, many became citizens of the former and more became citizens of the latter, although some went without citizenship as they await reunification. Today, there are around 600,000 Koreans in Japan living under these circumstances, although as a result of increased oppression in Japan and sanctions against the DPRK, more now hold RoK citizenship.
Like their counterparts on the peninsula, Koreans in Japan were forced to take Japanese names and were prohibited from speaking their own language, wearing their own clothing, and generally practicing and transmitting their culture, from dancing and singing to cooking and sporting.
As Kim Wooki of the Human Rights Association for Korean Residents in Japan explains in a presentation for a 2016 Global Minority Rights Summer School in Budapest:
After being liberated from colonization by Japan, Koreans in Japan established Korean language classes in various parts of Japan to pass on their own language and culture that had been deprived in colonial times to their children who had been born and grown up in Japan. Those classes had gradually been developed into schools which provided not only Korean language but also various subjects like mathematics and science.
However, far from ensuring the ethnic education of victimized Koreans in Japan, the Japanese government and Allied Occupation Forces jointly issued an ordinance to close down Korean schools in 1948 and 1949 and suppressed those schools by military power. As a result, many schools were driven to a close down, and the pupils and students were forced to transfer into Japanese schools. Some Korean schools, which Koreans had defended by desperate resistance at that occasion, became a basis for current schools.
That is, just a few years after Japan’s defeat, the Japanese government—at that time functioning under the direction of the U.S.—ordered the closing of the few ethnic schools. After the Korean people protested, the government issued its first state of emergency. In April 1948, Japanese and U.S. military forces invaded and destroyed the schools, physically removing the students, some of whom were killed in the process. More than that, they went on a spree of repression, arresting and killing at least 1,700 people who they thought looked to be Korean (but many of whom were not).
Resistance continued and the situation was radically improved when the DPRK started to send funds to support their compatriots in Japan, even as they were rebuilding their own country from scratch after the devastation of the U.S. war against Korea. In 1955, Chongryon—the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan—formed in part to counter the influence of Mindan, which wanted to organize Koreans around the RoK. Chongryon was more attractive, not only because of the national liberation in the north but also because it meant organizing themselves for the peaceful reunification of their homeland and creating their own educational and cultural. Institutions.
They built—again, with their own hands and money—hundreds of schools and cultural institutions, from sports leagues to women’s groups. The schools aren’t actually “schools” but “miscellaneous schools,” meaning they have some autonomy over their own curriculum but are self-funded through donations and tuition. In 2010, however, Japan’s tuition-waiver program for foreign nationals provided free access for all kinds of schools, from Chinese to American schools. The only schools excluded from the program are Chongryon schools, something made official in 2013. Similarly, the only school donations that aren’t tax exempt are those made to Chongryon schools. The businesses that largely fund the schools are subject to repression by the government, tied up in legal proceedings of all sorts.
The fact that Chongryon and the network of schools still exists is a testament to the resilience of the Korean liberation struggle and their quality and importance, for DPRK citizens and RoK citizens, many of whom send their children there so they can retain their identity and be free of anti-Korean racism. Still, the organization has to spend tremendous resources recruiting students and enrollment numbers drop after middle school, as high school graduates of Korean ethnic schools are the only ones who have to take and pay for a separate exam to qualify for university admissions. Those who go to Korea University—the one higher educational institution—do so at significant costs, as they graduate with incredibly precarious futures, as most employers won’t hire their graduates.
Defending “Our Schools!”
When Korean ethnic schools in Japan get coverage in the press, they’re painted as ideological indoctrination factories. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. Not only are their students free to watch and read the same news we are, but their curriculum is incredibly well-rounded and centered on critical thinking. I haven’t spoken with a single Korean student in Japan who didn’t have a unique perspective on anything related to Korea, and neither have any of my students, whom I've been bringing since 2019.
U.N. agencies like the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination have officially condemned Japan’s racist policies. A 2014 CERD investigation found that, 10 years after they recommended the “State party ensure that there is no discrimination in the provision of educational opportunities and that no child residing in its territory faces obstacles to school enrolment,” Japan had taken no relevant action to undo the racist exclusion of Korean schools.
The same committee expressed concern in their 85th session about “the spread of hate speech, including incitement to imminent violence, by right-wing movements or groups” protesting outside of schools, with hate-speech by public officials and the lack of investigation into them. In their 2001 report, they stated they were “concerned about reports on violent actions against Koreans, mainly children, students and about inadequate reaction of the authorities in this regard and recommends the Government to take more resolute measures to prevent and counter such acts.”
Despite international pressure, Japan refuses to protect Korean schools and, in fact, only intensifies their oppression, using them as nothing more than pawns in their struggle for growing economic and political dominance.
For any person, the immediate issue is clear: Korean students and their schools should be free from violence, hatred, and bigotry. Discrimination should be outlawed, and reparations paid. For those on the left, our task is to link that immediate issue to the larger context, demanding that the U.S. finally sign a peace treaty, recognize the right of the DPRK to self-determination, and allow both sides of the peninsula to peacefully reunify according to their own will.
The Koreans refer to their educational institutions as “our schools.” They are, indeed, “our schools”—schools of progress, justice, and humanity.
This article was republished from International Magazine.
Exploring Friedrich Engels’ Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy: Part 1 – Hegel By: Thomas RigginsRead Now
* Notes and comments by Thomas Riggins, PhD: Chief Editorial Counselor, Midwestern Marx Institute, former Associate Editor, Political Affairs magazine
In the middle of the 1880s Friedrich Engels was asked by the editors of Die Neue Zeit, the theoretical journal of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, to write a reply to the Danish philosopher C. N. Starcke’s book, Ludwig Feuerbach (1885). This book was originally Starcke’s (1858-1926) PhD dissertation in philosophy. Besides the book read by Engels, he also wrote Baruch de Spinoza. Interestingly, he was also interested, as was Engels, in the work of Lewis Henry Morgan (1818-1881) who published Ancient Society (1877). This work, as we know, inspired Engels to write The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State (1884).
Starcke’s book on the family came out in 1888— Die primitive Familie in ihrer Entstehung und Entwickelung (The Origin and Development of the Primitive Family). He mentions Engels critically in passing. He was not a socialist but a left leaning liberal. He founded the Justice Party in Denmark in 1919, which still exists, on the principles of Henry George (1839-1897).
At any rate, it is this book on Feuerbach which set off some nostalgic memories in Engels of The Way We Were kind to the world of Engels’ and Marx’s youth, the revolutionary era of forty years previously when the 1848 Revolution convulsed Europe. All that happened in Germany since then, Engels remarks, “has been merely a continuation of 1848, merely an execution of the testament of the revolution.”
Part One “Hegel”
1848 was the foster child of 1789 and both the French and German revolutions (1848 was pan European but greatly affected Germany) and were preceded by new movements in philosophy — the Enlightenment in France, and in Germany, Hegelianism.
Engels focuses on one sentence of Hegel (one of the most misunderstood of many), namely, the infamous “All that is real is rational; and all that is rational is real.” The reactionaries of the world and the ultra-rights have loved this sentence, and have treated it as “the philosophical benediction upon despotism.” In recent times prominent philosophers such as Bertrand Russell and Karl Popper took this as Hegel’s meaning and denounced him as a pro-fascist.
Engels, however, is going to defend Hegel and explain what he really means — this sentence needs to be seen in its proper context in Hegel’s philosophy. Hegel’s actual sentence was “What is real is rational and what is rational is real” (The Philosophy of Right). “Was vernünftig (reasonable, rational) ist, das ist wirklich (real, actual) und was wirklich ist, das ist vernünftig.”
Engel points out a major qualification of this sentence and that is, in Hegel’s words, “In the course of its development reality proves to be necessary.” On the surface this doesn’t seem very helpful. The Trump administration was ‘actual,’ but was it ‘rational’? It was ‘real’ but was it ‘necessary’? Well, it was necessary according to the US constitution and was actual and rational in that respect, but it lost its necessity in 2020 by that same constitution and became irrational and lost actuality. But was it necessary that Trump, not Ms. Clinton, be president? That depends on what you think the amerikanische Geist is.
What this means is that reality is in constant flux (you can’t step into the same river twice as new waters are ever flowing) determined by the laws of dialectics. In human history, this means institutions which once were necessary for society to function and were considered rational become, with the further development of knowledge and science, irrational and non-functioning. Engels says nothing is real without qualification, its reality is contextual, and this context determines its rationality (reality) and a change of context can make it lose its rationality, its raison d'être and it eventually ceases to exist— it is no longer vernünftig.
This is Hegel’s view according to Engels: “All that is real in the sphere of human history becomes irrational in the course of time….everything that is rational in the minds of men is destined to become real, however much it may contradict existing apparent reality.” This view constitutes the revolutionary essence of Hegel’s philosophy. Truth, “the business of philosophy,” is no longer a system of “dogmatic statements” (think of the creeds of religions — the Nicene or the 39 articles of the Anglicans).
Truth is relative to the historical development of human understanding and science “which ascends from lower to ever higher levels of knowledge without ever reaching” the end point of “absolute knowledge”. Dialectical philosophy is the “reflection” of this process in the human brain. And we, dear reader, will understand both Hegel and Marxism-Leninism when this process is reflected in our own brain, and we no longer need prayer beads or unscientific religious dogmas to deal with reality (assuming this is not already the case).
Now, Engels says, this view he gives of Hegel’s philosophy are the logical consequences of Hegel’s ideas, but Hegel himself does not explicitly draw them. The dialectic is an endless project and the Absolute Idea, which harmonizes all reality, could never be reached, but Hegel, against his own dialectic, nevertheless reaches it, and it turns out to be Hegel’s philosophy itself. Nevertheless, even though Hegel’s system per se cannot be accepted, there was no field in philosophy, religion, history, ethics, or aesthetics that Hegel did not comprehend and make intellectual contributions that still astound us (and not only in Engels’ day).
Hegel’s system ends up being used by both conservatives and radicals as the Absolute Idea seems to have so far become embodied in existing social striations of the more advanced developed parts of the world— or at least on the road to that end. But the dialectical method which negates whatever is to bring about new realities has no end point. In Hegel’s day religion and politics were the most serious concerns of the educated classes and practical plans and programs were looked for in these two spheres of thought and action. “Whoever placed the emphasis on the Hegelian system could be fairly conservative in both spheres; whoever regarded the dialectical method as the main thing could belong to the most extreme opposition, both in religion and politics.”
In the 1840s in Germany the conservative elements, for king, church, and country, justified their positions with the conservative tendencies in Hegel’s thought, while the group of young radicals who were known as the “young Hegelians” waged philosophical war on traditional religion and the Prussian state. Engels says the Hegelian “school” decomposed into several right and left factions arguing with each other.
Although Engels goes over the most important ideas of some of these 1840s thinkers, we will concentrate on the most important philosopher by far of the radical thinkers of this period, the one whose philosophy was transitional between Hegelianism and Marxism.
This is, of course, the title character of the essay, Ludwig Feuerbach (1804-1872). In The Essence of Christianity (1841) he wrote: “Nature exists independently of all philosophy.” Here was the book that finally established Materialism as the basic doctrine of any scientific outlook or philosophy. “Nothing exists outside nature and man, and the higher beings our religious fantasies have created are only the fantastic reflection of our own essence.”
Although this was stated before Marx and Engels created what has become Dialectical Materialism, and much of Feuerbach’s philosophy has been sublated by later developments, at least these two views of Feuerbach’s form the basis of Marxism-Leninism and the political and social praxis of all Communist Parties, not only in the United States, but throughout the world (except for those who have fallen into revisionism á la Bernstein and/or have incorporated various mistaken ideas derived from opportunism and Euro-Communism into their programs and dogmatically adhere to them).
This book, Engels says, gave its readers a feeling of liberation from the old dogmas and the spell cast by Idealism. He wrote, “How enthusiastically Marx greeted the new conception and how much — in spite of all critical reservations— he was influenced by it— one may read in The Holy Family.” [Book by Marx and Engels published in 1845]
Engels ends Part One (of four) of his work by remarking that the Revolution of 1848 eclipsed all of these philosophical disputes and not only the Young Hegelian’s, but both Hegel and Feuerbach themselves, were pushed aside in the ongoing political eruptions occasioned by the revolutionary activity of the masses.
Part II “Materialism” will appear sometime in February.
Thomas Riggins is a retired philosophy teacher (NYU, The New School of Social Research, among others) who received a PhD from the CUNY Graduate Center (1983). He has been active in the civil rights and peace movements since the 1960s when he was chairman of the Young People's Socialist League at Florida State University and also worked for CORE in voter registration in north Florida (Leon County). He has written for many online publications such as People's World and Political Affairs where he was an associate editor. He also served on the board of the Bertrand Russell Society and was president of the Corliss Lamont chapter in New York City of the American Humanist Association. He is the author of Reading the Classical Texts of Marxism.
Passengers walk out of Haikou Meilan International Airport on December 9, 2022. Photo: VCG
On January 6, 2023, China's National Health Commission (NHC) and National Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine issued China's 10th edition of its diagnosis and treatment protocol for novel coronavirus infection. This is the NHC's first national guiding protocol after China announced to downgrade management of COVID from Class A to Class B from January 8. Two items are worth noting here: the definition has changed from "novel coronavirus pneumonia" to "novel coronavirus infection" and its classification is now at a "B" level. The classification has significant implications for the measures taken to deal with the virus, but a question arises: Has China "lain down" before the virus, has it given up on dealing with it? The answer is a resounding no. Instead, China is the first country in the world to move from the coronavirus being a pandemic to it being endemic. This point needs some explanation.
First, for a little over three years I have been closely following China's approach in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. The results have been nothing less than stunning: the number of per capita infections and deaths are at the lowest level in the world, life expectancy has increased during this time, and the dialectic of economic development and public health has been managed very well.
The health of the population has not been significantly compromised - as has happened in some other countries - by the earlier and more toxic mutations of the virus, and the level of full vaccinations among the population above 3 years old is over 90 percent. In many respects, China has set a new "gold standard" for dealing with a pandemic. As one example, I have noted the huge amount of discussion with each revision of the measures for dealing with the pandemic, seeing how medical specialists and scientists were dealing daily with the many questions people had. The specialists were always "on message," seeking to explain the content, connotations, implications, and reasons behind each revision of the measures. Friends and colleagues in China gave me regular updates concerning the experiences with their own families, their workplaces, their concerns, and - most importantly - their hopes.
This leads to the second point: the "people-centered approach," or "taking the people as the center." While this has been a core position of the CPC, a people-centered approach has seen renewed emphasis in the new era since the CPC's 18th National Congress in 2012, when Xi Jinping was elected general secretary of CPC Central Committee. During the pandemic, this approach became absolutely central, expressed in "people come first, and life comes first," which has been the commitment of the CPC to the whole Chinese people since the first days of the pandemic. Without the health of the people, development and a moderately well-off society is not comprehensive, or is not complete is all respects.
Third, an international observer cannot avoid noticing how all of the policy measures are based on rigorous and comprehensive science. For example, on December 15, 2022, I listened to a two-hour lecture by Zhong Nanshan, the "hero of SARS" and recipient of the Medal of the Republic, China's highest state honor, for his services in fighting the COVID pandemic. The lecture has been watched by tens of millions of people across China, since it explains the immense amount of science that is behind China's huge success in dealing with the pandemic. Zhong Nanshan's lecture summarised much of the science, but this requires an immense amount of evidence, research, and collaboration between scientists, in China and across the world. For example, it is precisely because China has undertaken such comprehensive testing that we know now that 90 percent of Omicron infections are asymptomatic and that those who are symptomatic are mostly mild. Only rigorous science produces such results. Zhong Nanshan's message was very clear: Do not get infected but do not be afraid of the virus in its Omicron form.
Fourth is the comprehensive approach. As we well know, departmentalism is typical of the few Western societies, with their individualism and liberalism. The result has been that their "single solution" approach to the pandemic was an obvious failure. By contrast, one finds again and again that China takes a comprehensive approach: Health and economic development; all effective measures for ensuring a healthy population, and so on. For example, one's risk of infection or reinfection is very low with mixed vaccines (especially deactivated and adenovirus-based vaccines), Traditional Chinese Medicine, wearing quality face-masks, opening windows regularly, focusing on the elderly and children, and maintaining a high level of attention with disinfected surfaces. Clearly, this is a comprehensive approach, considering all aspects of what is effective. It is in this sense that we can see how China is the first country in the world where the coronavirus is moving from a pandemic to an endemic - and thus seasonal and non-threatening - status. Yes, China is stepping out of the pandemic, with 1.4 billion people. This is a momentous achievement and I am waiting eagerly to see how 2023 unfolds.
Fifth, I am struck by the way that China has identified where and how the health system can be improved. This feature always impresses me about China: no matter how good a practice may be, there is always room for improvement. This is also true with the all-important health system. It goes without saying that the improvements are comprehensive, leveraging the strengths of grassroots health services through to the highest research hospitals. As others have observed, with the lessons learned from the last three years, China's health system has seen impressive improvement.
By now it should be obvious why China is stepping out of the pandemic, and why the coronavirus has become endemic. I would like to conclude on a note of hope. As I have been engaging with friends and colleagues in China, I have seen a distinct hope and eagerness as 2023 begins. People are very much looking forward to returning to their home towns for the Spring Festival, which for many will be the first time in three years. All of this has also given me hope and put me in a very good mood, since I know that in 2023 I will finally be able to return to China.
Roland Boer is a Marxist scholar from Australia, distinguished overseas professor at Renmin University of China, and on editorial board of the Australian Marxist Review. firstname.lastname@example.org
This article was republished from Global Times.
Amílcar Cabral – African Marxist liberation leader – murdered 50 years ago by agents of Portuguese colonialism By: Carlos Lopes PereiraRead Now
The author, a former member of the Secretariat of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde (PAIGC), writes of African events for Avante, the newspaper of the Portuguese Communist Party. Translation: John Catalinotto.
Half a century ago, on Jan. 20, 1973, Amílcar Cabral, a prominent leader of the national liberation movement, was assassinated in Conakry [Guinea] by agents of colonialism on behalf of the fascist government of Portugal.
The crime provoked revulsion and indignation throughout progressive humanity. The United Nations, the Organization of African Unity and governments, parties and personalities from different parts of the world condemned the ignoble action by Portuguese colonialism.
The Portuguese Communist Party (PCP), then operating underground in Portugal, asserted that although the African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde (PAIGC), and the entire national liberation movement, had lost a unique leader, the objectives of the colonialists who commanded the assassins would remain unmet. It expressed its full confidence that the struggle for which Cabral gave his life would continue until the final victory.
The PCP paid tribute to the ardent patriot, who was wholly devoted to the liberation struggle of his people, to the consistent revolutionary leading the construction of a progressive society in his liberated homeland, to the irreconcilable enemy of Portuguese colonialism and sincere friend of the people of Portugal, whom he always considered an ally in the struggle against the common enemy. And the party reaffirmed to the PAIGC and to the peoples of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde the entire solidarity and the active and fraternal support of the Portuguese communists in all circumstances.
Can’t assassinate the struggle!
Cabral’s assassination failed to destroy the independence of the Guinean and Cape Verdean peoples. The PAIGC continued to fight on various fronts and intensified the armed struggle, winning significant victories over the colonial army.
In July 1973, the Second Congress of the PAIGC elected Aristides Pereira as secretary-general of the party. On Sept. 24, the Popular National Assembly, meeting in the liberated zone of Boé in eastern Guinea-Bissau, proclaimed the State of Guinea-Bissau — and most U.N. countries immediately recognized the young republic. [Washington didn’t recognize Guinea-Bissau’s independence until a year later, when the new Portuguese government did. — WW]
With Portugal’s heavy political, military and diplomatic defeats in Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and Angola, and the rise of the workers’ and people’s struggles in Portugal, Portuguese colonialist fascism was at death’s door. On April 25, 1974 — 15 months after Cabral’s assassination — the Armed Forces Movement (MFA) overthrew the dictatorship in Portugal. The military uprising and the popular uprising that followed paved the way for the April Revolution. [Called the “Carnation Revolution,” it involved a deepgoing worker uprising in Portugal — WW.]
Following talks between the new Portuguese authorities and the PAIGC, an agreement was signed in Algiers on Aug. 26, in which Portugal recognized the Republic of Guinea-Bissau and reaffirmed the right of the people of Cape Verde to self-determination and independence. The Portuguese government recognized the de jure independence of Guinea-Bissau on Sept. 10, 1974, and Cape Verde became independent on July 5, 1975.
The peoples of the two countries proclaimed Cabral their national hero and the founder of both the Guinean nation and the Cape Verdean nation.
Nothing can stop the march of history
Son of Cape Verdean parents, Cabral was born on Sept. 12, 1924, in the city of Bafatá, in the then-colony of Guinea. Years later, the family moved to the island of Santiago, in Cape Verde, and there the young Amílcar finished elementary school. Between 1938 and 1944, he attended São Vicente High School. A brilliant student, he promoted cultural initiatives, wrote poetry, presided over the students’ association and played soccer.
In 1945, Cabral came to Portugal with a scholarship and enrolled at the Instituto Superior de Agronomia in Lisbon. In the post-World War II environment, with the defeat of Nazi-fascism, the growing prestige of the Soviet Union, and the emergence of emancipatory struggles of peoples in Asia, Latin America and Africa, Cabral studied and socialized with other Portuguese and African youth.
Among his colleagues were Agostinho Neto, Mário de Andrade and Lúcio Lara, from Angola; Marcelino dos Santos and Noémia de Sousa, from Mozambique; Alda Espírito Santo, from São Tomé and Príncipe; Vasco Cabral, from Guinea, among others. Cabral participated in the activities of the Empire’s Student House, created an African Studies Center (for the “re-Africanization of the spirits”), gave literacy classes to workers, demonstrated against the rise of NATO and was an active member of the Youth Democratic Unity Movement (MUD), which opposed the fascist dictatorship.
After finishing his degree and internships with high marks, he chose in 1952 to work for the Guinea Agricultural and Forestry Services. In the then-colony, as an agricultural engineer, Cabral held several positions and directed the agricultural census of the territory, thus deepening his knowledge of the reality on the ground. In 1954, he tried to create a sports and recreational association in Bissau, but the colonial authorities considered it subversive, forbade it and forced him to leave his native country.
Cabral builds a liberation movement
Cabral went on to live and work in Portugal and Angola — where he came into contact with patriots who would later form the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) — with brief trips to Guinea. On one of these trips, on Sept. 19, 1956, he founded the African Independence Party (PAI) in Bissau with other patriots, which later became the PAIGC. In January 1960, he left Lisbon for good, and in May he set up the PAIGC leadership in Conakry, in the Republic of Guinea [a former French colony bordering Guinea-Bissau].
From then on, Cabral and his companions — among them Luís Cabral, his brother, and Aristides Pereira, who would become the first presidents of the Republic of Guinea-Bissau and the Republic of Cape Verde — prepared the conditions for the coming struggle. First he attempted, once again, a peaceful solution for the liquidation of colonial domination in the two territories. On Dec. 1, 1960, the PAIGC sent the Portuguese government a memorandum proposing negotiations on independence. It received no response.
Thus, faced with the total intransigence of the Portuguese fascist and colonialist dictatorship and, on the other hand, with the widening of the political struggle and the increase of international support, on Jan. 23, 1963, the PAIGC opened the armed struggle for national liberation in Guinea with an attack on the military barracks of Tite, in the south of the territory.
From then on the struggle developed constantly, both politically and militarily, and diplomatically, with successive successes by the PAIGC, which coordinated the liberation struggle with the MPLA, which began the armed struggle in Angola in 1961, and FRELIMO, which proclaimed a “general armed insurrection” in Mozambique in 1964.
In desperation, the colonialists tried to stop the PAIGC’s advances — especially the proclamation in the liberated regions of the national state of Guinea-Bissau, the first in its history — by assassinating Amílcar Cabral.
A few days before his death, in his New Year’s message to his party militants in January 1973, the PAIGC leader warned that “the situation in Portugal is deteriorating rapidly, and the Portuguese people are asserting, with increasing vigor, their opposition to the criminal colonial war.” And that for this reason, “the fascist colonial government and its agents in our land are in a hurry to see if they can change the situation before they are completely lost in their own land.”
Anticipating the future, Cabral predicted: “But they are wasting their time, and they are wasting in vain and without glory the lives of the young Portuguese they send to war. They will commit even more crimes against our people; they will make many more attempts and maneuvers to destroy our Party and our struggle. They will certainly carry out many more acts of shameless aggression against neighboring countries.
“But all in vain. Because no crime, no force, no maneuver or demagogy of the criminal Portuguese colonialist aggressors will be able to stop the march of history, the irreversible march of our African people of Guinea and Cape Verde toward independence, peace and the true progress to which they are entitled.”
A valuable contribution to the peoples’ struggle
Cabral’s assassination was not the first attempt by the Portuguese colonialists and their servants to destroy the PAIGC and halt the struggle for national and social emancipation of the peoples of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde.
As early as the late 1950s and early 1960s, while the party was being established and strengthened, “the criminal Portuguese colonialists and other enemies of our people used opportunists to create false movements outside our territory, to throw confusion around our struggle, to bar the way to the glorious march of our Party,” Cabral recalled, less than a year before his death.
In a March 1972 circular entitled: “We will reinforce our vigilance to unmask and eliminate the agents of the enemy, to defend the party and the struggle and to continue to condemn to failure all the plans of the Portuguese colonialist criminals,” the PAIGC secretary-general denounced that, over the years, “the Portuguese colonialist criminals have spared neither effort nor money to try to buy off party leaders and officials.”
Along with bribing and recruiting traitors, the colonialists promoted permanent campaigns based on racism, “tribalism” and religious differences, seeking to sow division in the Party’s ranks, to break its unity and to “destroy the PAIGC from within.” And they always made plans to arrest or kill the party leaders, particularly the secretary-general, because they were convinced that the arrest or death of the main leader would mean the end of the party and the struggle.
In November 1972, the liquidation of the PAIGC leader was the main objective of the Portuguese colonialists’ and their lackeys’ participation in the invasion of the Republic of Guinea, in the failed Operation Mar Verde, organized at the highest level by the fascist and colonialist government of Portugal.
The fascist colonialists never gave up on decapitating the PAIGC, until they physically eliminated its leader on Jan. 20, 1973, in an attempt to stop the struggle of the people of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde for liberation. But their effort was in vain, as history has shown.
Today, the legacy of Amílcar Cabral, revolutionary, patriot and internationalist, constitutes a valuable contribution to the struggle of the peoples for freedom, sovereignty and independence, for social progress, as well as a heritage of those who fought against the Portuguese fascist and colonialist regime.
This article was republished from Workers World.
It’s true that the number of uninsured Americans has dropped to an all-time low. But that fact obscures the failures of our patchwork, profit-driven health care system.
Here’s one of many indicators about how broken the United States health care system is: Guns seem to be easier and cheaper to access than treatment for the wounds they cause. A survivor of the recent mass shooting in Half Moon Bay, California, reportedly said to Gov. Gavin Newsom that he needed to keep his hospital stay as short as possible in order to avoid a massive medical bill. Meanwhile, the suspected perpetrator seemed to have had few obstacles in his quest to legally obtain a semi-automatic weapon to commit deadly violence.
Americans are at the whim of a bewildering patchwork of employer-based private insurance plans, individual health plans via a government-run online marketplace, or government-run health care (for those lucky enough to be eligible). The coverage and costs of plans vary dramatically so that even if one has health insurance there is rarely a guarantee that there will be no out-of-pocket costs associated with accessing care.
It’s hardly surprising then that the latest Gallup poll about health care affirms what earlier polls have said: that a majority of Americans want their government to ensure health coverage for all. In fact, nearly three-quarters of all Democrats want a government-run system.
Gallup also found that a record high number of people put off addressing health concerns because of the cost of care. Thirty-eight percent of Americans said they delayed getting treatment in 2022—that’s 12 percentage points higher than the year before. Unsurprisingly, lower-income Americans were disproportionately affected.
Women are especially impacted, with more women than men delaying treatment as per the same Gallup poll. The findings were consistent with results published by researchers at New York University’s School of Global Public Health—that women’s health care was increasingly unaffordable, compared to men’s—in a study that solely focused on people with employer-based health coverage. Imagine how out-of-reach health care is for uninsured women.
Added to that, Republican-led abortion bans have made it even harder for American women to obtain reproductive health care. On the 50th anniversary of the recently overturned Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, abortion providers in Massachusetts, for example, reported a steady stream of people driving to their state—one where abortion remains legal—to access care.
President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party appear to think that this grim status quo is perfectly acceptable. Democrats’ reliance on the Obama-era Affordable Care Act (ACA) as a bulwark against Republican opposition to any government intervention in health care seems to be resoundingly successful—on paper. In December 2022, Biden touted the fact that 11.5 million Americans, a record high number, had signed up for ACA plans during the last enrollment period. He said, “Gains like these helped us drive down the uninsured rate to eight percent earlier this year, its lowest level in history.”
His administration, rather than working to fulfill what a majority of his party’s constituents want—a government-run health care system—has continued instead to tweak the ACA by extending a period of discounted monthly premiums for private insurance plans. Such tweaks are not permanent. Neither are they a panacea for accessing adequate care. If anything, they are a façade protecting profit-based private insurance companies.
A survey by the Commonwealth Fund found that although the number of insured Americans is now at an all-time high, more than 40 percent of those who bought ACA plans and nearly 30 percent of those with employer-based plans were underinsured—that is, the plans were inadequate to cover their health care needs.
By focusing solely on the number of people who had health plans as a measure of success, the White House is participating in a great coverup of the ongoing American health care tragedy.
Meanwhile, just over the horizon from Biden’s celebration of record numbers of ACA signups is the fact that millions of people currently enrolled in the Medicaid government health plan could lose access because of the end of an emergency provision that allowed for “continuous enrollment.” That provision expires at the end of March 2023. If all Americans were automatically enrolled in government-provided health care regardless of eligibility, this would not be a concern.
Right-wing sources, so terrified that too many Americans want a government-run health system, are busy shaping public opinion against it. The Pacific Research Institute’s Sally Pipes published an op-ed about how Canada’s national health system was a good reason why the U.S. should not have a similar program. Using the deadly logic of a free marketeer, she wrote, “In Canada, health care is ‘free’ at the point of service. As a result, demand for care is sky-high.”
The implication is that charging people for service would reduce the demand, just as it would for, say, an electric vehicle. In Pipes’ world, people are accessing health care just for fun, and if they were charged money for it, their ailments might resolve themselves without treatment.
The Heritage Foundation also published an attack on Britain’s National Health Service (NHS), gleefully claiming that it is “cratering,” and warning that it is a lesson for American liberals who might support a similar “single-payer” system in the United States.
The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board published a similar warning, claiming that the NHS was “failing patients, with deadly consequences.”
It’s puzzling why the Pacific Research Institute, Heritage Foundation, and Wall Street Journal appear unconcerned about the 330,000 Americans who lost their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic simply because they don’t live in a nation with a universal health care program.
The U.S. spends nearly twice as much per capita on health care than other comparable high-income nations. According to Health Affairs, excessive administrative costs are the main reason for this discrepancy—these are nonmedical costs associated with delivering health care in a patchwork system of employer-based private health and publicly subsidized plans. In fact, “administrative spending accounts for 15–30 percent of health care spending.”
Again, right-wing media outlets and think tanks appear unconcerned by this disturbing fact. They only want to convince Americans that a government-run health plan is a bad idea. And, sadly, the Democratic Party leaders like Biden seem to agree implicitly.
The National Union of Healthcare Workers together with Healthy California Now created an online calculator for individuals to determine how much money they would save if the U.S. had a single-payer system.
I have an employer-based health care plan that is considered very good. Using the calculator, I determined that I would save more than $16,000 if California, the state where I live, had a single-payer system. That’s money I could be saving for my children’s higher education or for my retirement.
The victims of mass shootings, like the Half Moon Bay survivor, are saddled with high costs of care on top of the trauma of having been shot. Every year, there are more than 80,000 survivors of injuries from firearms in the United States. Having a single-payer health care system would not fix our epidemic of gun violence. But it would certainly make it easier to bear.
Canada and Britain’s state-run systems of health care may be imperfect, but they are a vast improvement on the survival-of-the-fittest approach that the U.S. takes.
Sonali Kolhatkar is an award-winning multimedia journalist. She is the founder, host, and executive producer of “Rising Up With Sonali,” a weekly television and radio show that airs on Free Speech TV and Pacifica stations. Her forthcoming book is Rising Up: The Power of Narrative in Pursuing Racial Justice (City Lights Books, 2023). She is a writing fellow for the Economy for All project at the Independent Media Institute and the racial justice and civil liberties editor at Yes! Magazine. She serves as the co-director of the nonprofit solidarity organization the Afghan Women’s Mission and is a co-author of Bleeding Afghanistan. She also sits on the board of directors of Justice Action Center, an immigrant rights organization.
This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.