Before Class Struggle: Primary Communism, Human Nature and Mutual Aid. By: Mitchell K. JonesRead Now
Longhouse at Ganondagan State Historic Site, Boughton Hill, Victor, NY. Haudenosaunee means “people who build a house."
Communists often hear the objection that communism can never work because it is against humanity's essentially greedy, selfish human nature. But is human nature really essentially greedy? Karl Marx and Frederick Engels argued that human nature evolved along a dialectical trajectory based on conflict over material resources. In light of this view, their bold proclamation in the 1848 Communist Manifesto that “the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle” begs the question: What came before class struggle, before hitherto existing society? In the Manifesto, Marx and Engels sketched out a path of social evolution that continues to influence historical materialists today. They wrote:
In the earlier epochs of history, we find almost everywhere a complicated arrangement of society into various orders, a manifold gradation of social rank. In ancient Rome we have patricians, knights, plebeians, slaves; in the Middle Ages, feudal lords, vassals, guild-masters, journeymen, apprentices, serfs; in almost all of these classes, again, subordinate gradations.
They described historical epochs, ancient, feudal and bourgeois, characterized by the complex relationships of oppressors to oppressed. However, it would not be until Engels’ book The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, published in 1884, that Engels attempted to explain what came before hitherto existing society, before the history of class struggle. Engels wrote The Origin of the Family using Marx’s notes for a book Marx had planned to write about the work of anthropologist Lewis Henry Morgan around the time of his death in 1883. Engels described the pre-society, pre-class struggle period as primitive communism. Today the less Eurocentric term primary communism is more appropriate. According to anthropologists, this period has made up over 99 percent of human history. What can this history before society, before class struggle teach us about human nature and the potential for the revolutionary transformation of society today?
Lewis Henry Morgan
Morgan’s book League of the Haudenosaunee or Iroquois.
The cover of the original 1884 German edition of On the Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State acknowledges Morgan’s influence on the front cover.
Pioneer anthropologist Lewis Henry Morgan was the first to identify the political economy of the extensive pre-class period as “primitive communism.” Morgan was a profound influence on Marx and Engels’ anthropological thought. Engels praised Morgan in the preface to the first edition of his book The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State published in 1884:
For Morgan in his own way had discovered afresh in America the materialistic conception of history discovered by Marx forty years ago, and in his comparison of barbarism and civilization it had led him, in the main points, to the same conclusions as Marx. And just as the professional economists in Germany were for years as busy in plagiarizing Capital as they were persistent in attempting to kill it by silence, so Morgan's Ancient Society received precisely the same treatment from the spokesmen of “prehistoric” science in England.
Much later socialists such as Sam Marcy, founder of the communist Workers’ World Party would use the less pejorative term “primary communism.” Marcy wrote in 1992, “Lewis Henry Morgan's writings on the communal life of the Iroquois in North America confirmed what the socialist movement in Europe had deduced about early societies elsewhere before written history: that there was a universal period when property was communal, there was no state, and the products of human labor were shared equitably.”
In 1851 Morgan published the League of the Ho-De-No-Sau-Nee, Or Iroquois, which became a founding text of ethnography, the scientific study of cultural customs. Morgan discovered that the Haudenosaunee had practiced “communism in living” for centuries. Haudenosaunee society planned for and met the needs of each individual. Extended families lived communally in large longhouses and shared their belongings in common. They organized inter-communal trade networks based on reciprocity. In 1881, Morgan wrote:
Among the Iroquois hospitality was an established usage. If a man entered an Indian house in any of their villages, whether a villager, a tribesman, or a stranger, it was the duty of the women therein to set food before him. An omission to do this would have been a discourtesy amounting to an affront. If hungry, he ate; if not hungry, courtesy required that he should taste the food and thank the giver. This would be repeated at every house he entered, and at whatever hour in the day.
Hospitality and harmony were key values in Haudenosaunee society.
Engels explained the conditions that made primary communism possible:
A division of the tribe or of the gens into different classes was equally impossible. And that brings us to the examination of the economic basis of these conditions. The population is extremely sparse; it is dense only at the tribe’s place of settlement, around which lie in a wide circle first the hunting grounds and then the protective belt of neutral forest, which separates the tribe from others. The division of labor is purely primitive, between the sexes only. The man fights in the wars, goes hunting and fishing, procures the raw materials of food and the tools necessary for doing so. The woman looks after the house and the preparation of food and clothing, cooks, weaves, sews. They are each master in their own sphere: the man in the forest, the woman in the house. Each is owner of the instruments which he or she makes and uses: the man of the weapons, the hunting and fishing implements, the woman of the household gear. The housekeeping is communal among several and often many families. What is made and used in common is common property — the house, the garden, the long-boat.
Key to Engels’ interpretation of Morgan was Morgan’s discovery of matrilineal society where the family lineage is traced through the female line. Marcy explained, “Primary communism based on food gathering and hunting succumbed to private ownership because it lacked the necessary concentration and development of the means of production. But private property, while more productive, also brought subjugation and degradation, first of women.” The overthrow of matrilineal society signaled the beginning of inequality and class society according to Engels:
The overthrow of mother-right was the world historical defeat of the female sex. The man took command in the home also; the woman was degraded and reduced to servitude, she became the slave of his lust and a mere instrument for the production of children. This degraded position of the woman, especially conspicuous among the Greeks of the heroic and still more of the classical age, has gradually been palliated and glossed over, and sometimes clothed in a milder form; in no sense has it been abolished.
Engels saw Morgan’s discovery so key to understanding the origins of inequality that he wrote in the preface to the 1884 fourth edition of Origin of the Family:
This rediscovery of the primitive matriarchal gens as the earlier stage of the patriarchal gens of civilized peoples has the same importance for anthropology as Darwin’s theory of evolution has for biology and Marx’s theory of surplus value for political economy. It enabled Morgan to outline for the first time a history of the family in which for the present, so far as the material now available permits, at least the classic stages of development in their main outlines are now determined. That this opens a new epoch in the treatment of primitive history must be clear to everyone. The matriarchal gens has become the pivot on which the whole science turns; since its discovery we know where to look and what to look for in our research, and how to arrange the results. And, consequently, since Morgan’s book, progress in this field has been made at a far more rapid speed.
Engels considered Morgan’s work as groundbreaking as Darwin’s. Indeed, many of Engels’ conclusions in The Origin of the Family were as influenced by Darwin’s theories as they were by Morgan's.
When Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of the Species was first published in 1859 it caused a sensation in the academic world. Scientists, biologists and philosophers interpreted Darwin's evolutionary model in different ways. Social Darwinism was a belief that the strong survive through natural selection and that this idea should be applied to humankind as much as Darwin applied it to the rest of nature. Social Darwinism came to dominate North American social theory in the 1870s. Social Darwinism really had little to do with Darwin. In fact, conservative Anglican Thomas Robert Malthus’ Essays on Population established the idea that “on the whole, the best live,” an idea which influenced Darwin’s concept of natural selection. It was social Darwinist theorist Herbert Spencer that actually coined the term “survival of the fittest.” Social Darwinists argued that society was rightly dominated by the powerful because they were the best of society. They argued that competition was the rule of success, not cooperation. Social Darwinism has been used to justify eugenics, imperialism, capitalism and eventually fascism. However, others combined Darwin’s theory of evolution with other kinds of evidence from zoology and anthropology and derived very different conclusions.
Russian anarchist, zoologist and theorist Peter Kropotkin argued in 1902 that mutual aid, reciprocal exchange for mutual benefit, not competition and violence, was a key factor for evolutionary success. Kropotkin wrote:
As soon as we study animals -- not in laboratories and museums only, but in the forest and the prairie, in the steppe and the mountains -- we at once perceive that though there is an immense amount of warfare and extermination going on amidst various species, and especially amidst various classes of animals, there is, at the same time, as much, or perhaps even more, of mutual support, mutual aid, and mutual defense amidst animals belonging to the same species or, at least, to the same society.
Kropotkin listed many examples of intra- and inter-species mutual aid in the animal world and concluded, “The animal species, in which individual struggle has been reduced to its narrowest limits, and the practice of mutual aid has attained the greatest development, are invariably the most numerous, the most prosperous, and the most open to further progress.” He cited a study done by a Russian zoologist Karl Kessler who concluded that “all classes of animals, especially the higher ones, practise mutual aid” using empirical evidence collected from burying beetles, birds and mammalia. Humans were no exception. Kropotkin concluded, “It is evident that it would be quite contrary to all that we know of nature if men were an exception to so general a rule: if a creature so defenseless as man was at his beginnings should have found his protection and his way to progress, not in mutual support, like other animals, but in a reckless competition for personal advantages, with no regard to the interests of the species.” Although leader of the Russian Revolution Vladimir Lenin and Kropotkin disagreed on tactics, the two agreed that communism was the right course for humankind. Kropotkin said upon meeting Lenin:
How glad I am to see you, Vladimir Ilyich! You and I have different views. We have different points of view about a whole series of problems, both as far as the execution and organization is concerned, but our goals are the same and what you and your comrades are doing in the name of communism, pleases me very much and makes my already aging heart happy.
Lenin was so impressed by Kropotkin’s work that approved a state funeral in Moscow for Kropotkin in 1921 and allowed anarchists to march and carry anti-Bolshevik banners.
Funeral of P.A. Kropotkin in Moscow, February 13, 1921: album
Recent research has proven Kropotkin’s statement to be true of the earliest of human ancestors. Anthropologists Tim White, Gen Suwa and Berhane Asfaw discovered the Ardipithecus ramidus, one of the earliest human ancestors not shared with chimpanzees, in the Afar region of Ethiopia 1994. Their discovery was dated to about 4.5 million years ago. The discovery of Ardipithecus ramidus shed light on the trajectory of human evolution when compared with that of one of our closest relatives, the chimpanzee. Chimpanzee teeth have what is called a honing-complex, which means they have long canines that are used to rip apart tough meats. Homo sapiens and Ar. ramidus do not have a honing complex. The canines of Ar. ramidus are significantly “feminized,” meaning they are not sexually dimorphic. Sexual dimorphism is when species develop traits specific to the male or female sex. Smaller canine teeth indicate that the Ar. ramidus likely exhibited significantly less male-male aggression, when compared with primates like chimpanzees. A lesser degree of sexual dimorpohism could also mean a greater amount of equality between the sexes. Suwa et al write, “The dental evidence leads to the hypothesis that the last common ancestors of African apes and hominids were characterized by relatively low levels of canine, postcanine, and body size dimorphism. These were probably the anatomical correlates of comparatively weak amounts of male-male competition, perhaps associated with male philopatry and a tendency for male-female codominance as seen in P. paniscus and ateline species.” This evidence indicated that the earlier work of primatologists like Jane Goodall, who tried to make inferences about human nature from studies with chimpanzees and other aggressive ape species, was less relevant to human nature since decreased aggression seems to be what set the human line apart from the apes. The human evolutionary line appears to indicate that parental investment, cooperation and gender equality, not competition and violence, were at least partially responsible for the evolutionary adaptations like upright walking and larger brain size that contributed to the formation of more complex modern Homo sapiens.
The anthropologist Alfred Radcliffe-Brown applied Kropotkin’s concept of mutual aid to his ethnological and ethnographic work in the 1930s. He said of Kropotkin’s influence, “Like other young men with blood in their veins, I wanted to do something to reform the world – to get rid of poverty and war, and so on. So I read Godwin, Proudhon, Marx and innumerable others. Kropotkin, revolutionary, but still a scientist, pointed out how important for any attempt to improve society was a scientific understanding of it.” Radcliffe-Brown studied kin relationships in South Africa and found that joking was one way to defuse potentially disruptive behavior. He wrote, “The show of hostility, the perpetual disrespect, is a continual expression of that social disjunction which is an essential part of the whole structural situation, but over which, without destroying or even weakening it, there is provided the social conjunction of friendliness and mutual aid.” He also proposed that the primary factor in the maintenance of society is not governmental pressure, but social pressure. He wrote, “A social relation does not result from a similarity of interests, but rests either on the mutual interest of persons in one another, or on one or more common interests, or on a combination of both of these…. [W]hat is called conscience is thus in the widest sense the reflex in the individual of the sanctions of society.” Radcliffe-Brown acknowledged, as Kropotkin did, that cooperation and mutual aid drove social evolution through collective responsibility, not coercive force.
Other anthropologists have suggested the origins of trade and material exchange were not the result of greed and competition, either, but the result of the law of reciprocity. Reciprocity is mutually beneficial exchange without immediate reward. It is also known as gift economy. The French anthropologist Marcel Mauss wrote on gift-giving economy in his book The Gift: Forms and Functions of Exchange in Archaic Societies. In it he wrote, “In Scandinavian civilization, and in a good number of others, exchanges and contracts take place in the form of presents; in theory these are voluntary, in reality they are given and reciprocated obligatorily.” He described the process of gift giving as potlatch, using the North American Chinook term. Anthropologist Frans Boas demonstrated the meaning of potlatch by quoting Chief O'wax̱a̱laga̱lis of the Kwagu'ł of British Columbia for his 1888 article “The Indians of British Columbia”:
We will dance when our laws command us to dance, we will feast when our hearts desire to feast. Do we ask the white man, 'Do as the Indian does'? No, we do not. Why, then, will you ask us, 'Do as the white man does'? It is a strict law that bids us to dance. It is a strict law that bids us to distribute our property among our friends and neighbors. It is a good law. Let the white man observe his law; we shall observe ours. And now, if you are come to forbid us to dance, begone; if not, you will be welcome to us.
Mauss describes the potlatch tradition as universal amongst archaic societies. In the Maori culture of New Zealand, for example, all goods possess a spiritual power that is exchanged along with the gift. This spiritual power is called hau and the physical gift is called tonga. A Maori juridical expert explained it best in Mauss’ book:
The tonga and all gods termed strictly personal possess a hau, a spiritual power. You give me one of them, and I pass it on to a third party; he gives another to me in turn, because he is impelled to do so by the hau my present possesses. I for my part, am obliged to give you that thing because I must return to you what is in reality the effect of the hau of your tonga.
This system of reciprocity was a form of exchange that predated both barter, direct trade, and mercantile, trade for currency, exchange. In his conclusion Mauss was optimistic about the elevation of the social over the individual. He wrote, “The brutish pursuit of individual ends is harmful to the ends and the peace of all, to the rhythm of their work and joys – and rebounds on the individual himself.” He then critiqued capitalism, saying that under the contemporary system men are turned into machines forced to exchange their labor for less than its true value. He argued that the workers of all societies and historical epochs expected to be fairly rewarded for their efforts, and that the individualistic type of economy did not do this. He stated that there was self interest in gift giving, but it is only self interest in the sense that what is good for the whole is good for the individual.
Another French anthropologist, Pierre Clastres, wrote about the institution of the chief and his role in mutual aid and gift giving. In his book Society Against the State, published in 1974, Clastres studied the Guaraní and Chulupi of Paraguay and Argentina and the Yanomami peoples of Venezuela and Brazil. He wrote that chiefs in so-called “Indian” societies of South America were required to give most of what they had for the greater good of the community. Clastres argued there were no societies without political power, but there was a difference between coercive power and non-coercive power. He wrote, “The model of coercive power is adopted… only in exceptional circumstances when the group faces an external threat.” Normally, civil power was based on consensus and its function was pacification. The chief existed to maintain the peace and harmony of the group. The chief was required to give up his belongings to help the greater good of the community. Therefore, greed and power were incompatible. In this way the chief was not so much a ruler, but a servant of the people.
Italian communist theorist Antonio Gramsci argued that there were two main factors at play in the maintenance of a society: the state and civil society. The state was a coercive apparatus represented by the violent dictatorship of the military, police and carceral apparati. Civil society was the realm of soft power, dominated by the social and cultural hegemony of the ruling class that legitimized that class’s domination. However, there was another force, that of counter-hegemony, that existed in the realm of the proletariat. This kind of hegemony existed in subversion of the ruling class. Gramsci argued that a permanent proletarian hegemony must exist to oust the bourgeoisie, the ruling class of bourgeois or capitalist society.
Clastres argued the chiefdoms of South America had achieved a healthy balance between hegemony and counter-hegemony. He wrote, “It is in the nature of primitive society to know that violence is the essence of power. Deeply rooted in that knowledge is the concern to constantly keep power apart from the institution of power, command apart from the chief.” In his conclusion he writes, “…what the Savages exhibit is the continual effort to prevent chiefs from being chiefs, the refusal of unification, the endeavor to exorcize the One, the State.”
Anthropologist Marshall Sahlins argued in his book Stone Age Economics, published in 1972, that while industrial society attempted to achieve affluence through producing much, primary communist society actually achieved affluence through desiring little. Sahlins based his claims on data from two contemporary hunter gatherer societies: the Arnhem Landers of Australia and the Dobe Bushmen of Kalahari Africa. His most surprising claim was that the average amount of time spent in the procuring of food for these primary communists was about four to five hours a day. The rest of their time was spent in leisure and sleep activities. Despite problems with Sahlins’ data and conclusions, his theory of “original affluence” turned hunter gatherer society from a painful life of toil to an enviable, easy life of leisure and affluence in anthropological discourse.
Data from anthropologists suggests the opposite of the social Darwinist and “objectivist” claim that human nature is essentially greedy. In fact, the research of anthropologists reveals that the vast majority of human history was stateless, egalitarian and communal. Mutual aid, reciprocity and communal kinship bonds, not greed, completion and violence, prompted the first leaps in human evolution. If humanity had communism for most of its history we can have communism again. According to Sam Marcy, “The discovery of the early communist societies refuted the canard assiduously cultivated by apologists for the bourgeoisie: that a planned society is utopian, that humankind cannot plan its own society on the basis of common ownership of the means of production and equitable distribution of the products of labor. People had done just that for hundreds of thousands of years.”
 Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, “Manifesto of the Communist Party,” Communist Manifesto (Chapter 1), https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/communist-manifesto/ch01.htm#007.
 Marx and Engels, Communist Manifesto.
 Richard B. Lee and Richard Daly, The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Hunters and Gatherers, (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 1.
 Frederick Engels, “Preface to the First Edition, 1884,” Origins of the Family- Preface (1884), https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1884/origin-family/preface.htm.
 Sam Marcy, “Soviet Socialism: Utopian or Scientific - Utopian socialist experiments,” https://www.marxists.org/history/etol/writers/marcy/sovietsocialism/sovsoc1.html.
 Morgan, Houses and House-Life of the American Aborigines, 44.
 Lewis Henry Morgan, Houses and House-Life of the American Aborigines, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1881), 45.
 Engels, The Origin of the Family.
 Marcy, “Soviet Socialism.”
 Frederick Engels, “Preface to the Fourth Edition, 1891,” Origins of the Family. Preface (1891), https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1884/origin-family/preface2.htm.
 Gregory Claeys, “The ‘Survival of the Fittest’ and the Origins of Social Darwinism.” Journal of
the History of Ideas. 61.2 (2000): 223.
 Claeys, “The Survival of the Fittest.”
 Peter Kropotkin, Mutual aid: A factor of evolution, 1902,, https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/kropotkin-peter/1902/mutual-aid/ch01.htm.
 Kropotkin, Mutual Aid.
 Vladimir Bonch-Bruyevich, “A meeting between V.I. Lenin and P. A. Kropotkin,” accessed January 22, 2022, https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/kropotkin-peter/1917/a-meeting.html.
 Emma Goldman, Living My Life, (New York: Dover Publications, 1970), 867.
 Gen Suwa et al., “Paleobiological Implications of the Ardipithecus Ramidus Dentition,” Science 326, no. 5949 (February 2009): pp. 69-99, https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1175824.
 George W. Stocking Jr., After Tylor, British Social Anthropology, 1888–1951, (Madison, Univ Wisconsin, 1995), 305.
 Richard J. Perry, “Radcliffe-Brown and Kropotkin: The Heritage of Anarchism in British Social
Anthropology,.” Kroeber Anthropological Society Papers, 51-52, (1975): 63.
 Perry, “Radcliffe-Brown and Kropotkin,” 63.
 Marcel Mauss, The Gift: The Form and Reason for Exchange in Archaic Societies, Trans. W. D.
Halls, (London: W. W. Norton, 1990), 3.
 Franz Boas, "The Indians of British Columbia," The Popular Science Monthly, March 1888 (vol. 32), p. 631.
 Marcel Mauss, The Gift: The Form and Reason for Exchange in Archaic Societies. Trans. W. D.
Halls, (London: W. W. Norton, 1990), 11.
 Mauss, The Gift, 77.
 Ibid., 77
 Pierre Clastres, Society Against the State, Trans.: Robert Hurley and Abe Stein, (New York:
Zone Books, 1987), 30.
 Ibid., 30
 Dominic Mastroianni, “Hegemony in Gramsci,” https://scholarblogs.emory.edu/postcolonialstudies/2014/06/20/hegemony-in-gramsci/
 Pozo, Luis M. “The Roots of Hegemony: The Mechanisms of Class Accommodation and the
Emergence of the Nation-people.” Capital and Class. 91. (2007): 55-89.
 Clastres, Society Against the State, 154.
 Ibid., 218.
 Marshall David Sahlins, Stone Age Economics, (Chicago: Aldine-Atherton, 1972).
 A key objection to Sahlins’ conclusion is that he did not factor food preparation into the “food question” calculations he did on the Dobe !Kung and Arnhem Landers. David Kaplan, “The Darker Side of the ‘Original Affluent Society,’” Journal of Anthropological Research 56, no. 3 (2000): pp. 301-324, https://doi.org/10.1086/jar.56.3.3631086.
 Marcy, “Soviet Socialism.”
Mitchell K. Jones is a historian and activist from Rochester, NY. He has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and a master’s degree in history from the College at Brockport, State University of New York. He has written on utopian socialism in the antebellum United States. His research interests include early America, communal societies, antebellum reform movements, religious sects, working class institutions, labor history, abolitionism and the American Civil War. His master’s thesis, entitled “Hunting for Harmony: The Skaneateles Community and Communitism in Upstate New York: 1825-1853” examines the radical abolitionist John Anderson Collins and his utopian project in Upstate New York. Jones is a member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation.
About the Leninist theory of imperialism. By: Néstor Kohan -Translated By: Valeria BacaRead Now
Lenin. Indomitable. Indigestible. Hard nut to crack. The mere mention of his name makes businessmen, bankers, policemen, soldiers, intelligence agents tremble.
Capitalism as a worldwide system
Lenin. Indomitable. Indigestible. Hard nut to crack. The mere mention of his name makes businessmen, bankers, policemen, soldiers, intelligence agents tremble.
Unlike other members of the Marxist family (which encompasses in its plurality fathers, mothers, brothers, uncles, cousins, grandparents, etc., with an immense kinship in common and, sometimes, with quarrels and internal disputes, as happens in every family), Lenin constitutes the element of discord. He is the true watershed in contemporary social sciences and politics. The culture of the ruling classes, trained in the daily exercise of exerting their hegemony, tried to sweeten, neutralize, and even engulf or incorporate Walter Benjamin, Antonio Gramsci, Rosa Luxemburg, reaching to the limit of manipulating the very founding grandfather of the family, Karl Marx. With Lenin they never could. He continues to generate panic, despair, and horror.
Not only is his thought impenetrable to the bourgeoisie and imperialism on a world scale, but Lenin became the main antidote against any Eurocentric temptation, a senile disease of Marxist theory. From his actions, socialism, communism, and the revolution ceased to be the property of the white and civilized population. Ho Chi Minh's words still resonate when he recalled his tears of emotion upon reading Lenin for the first time and discovering that with the thought of the Bolshevik leader, communism was beginning to truly become universal, ceasing to be an article of European, white, urban, modern, and exclusively western consumption. With Lenin, communism became for the yellow, the indigenous, the black, the subaltern classes and the subjected peoples of the Third World. Therefore, Lenin represents the indissoluble link between Marx's Capital (the theory of power, domination, and exploitation at its highest level of theoretical abstraction) and the specificity of the economic and social formations of Our America.
His theory of capitalism as a worldwide system, today globalized to unimaginable levels, is condensed in his work Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism (1916), a work that is more than a century old. In many of his theses it is possible to find articulating links between the theory of the general and structural crisis of capitalism, the hefty agenda of the international revolution, and the specific problems of Latin American dependency and the Third World revolution.
There is only one Lenin?
The answer to the question at the head of this section is obviously negative. As a working hypothesis it is assumed that there are many Lenins. Not only because his work changed in the heat and rhythm of the class struggle, but also because subsequent appropriations prioritized one aspect of his work over another, depending on the political angle of his interlocutors or followers. It is not the same Lenin, the young man who began to study Capital at the age of 18 (1), the one who fought in 1894 against late Russian populism and postulated Marx as the objectivist founder of sociology and the social sciences (still without having studied Hegel). To the one who at the beginning of the 20th century became a theoretician of the revolutionary organization with his unforgettable What is to be Done? (text in which the media are fundamental for the Bolshevik thinker); the one who reflects on the insurrection of 1905; the theoretician of abstentionism, clandestine organization and guerrilla warfare; the one that argues during 1908 with liquidationist fractions in exile, seduced by the neopositivism of Mach and Avenarius; the one that breaks up with his teachers Plekhanov and Kautsky (both in theory and in practice) while compiling and reconstructing Marx's incendiary correspondence with Kugelmann. The one who argues with his admired comrade Rosa Luxemburg. The one who during the First World War studied Hegel's Science of Logic in the Zurich libraries (revising his own previous books). The one who at that time reads and annotates Clausewitz’s On War, Hilferding's Financial Capital, Hobson's Study of Imperialism and, meanwhile, builds his own theory of imperialism that would come to light in 1916. The one that systematizes the Marxist theory of the State from his analysis of the work of Marx and Engels, in the heat of the Paris Commune. The one who returns in the famous armored train and poses the ground-breaking and iconoclastic April Theses in 1917 (which unsettles the entire Bolshevik Central Committee). The one who prepares the insurrection of October of the same year; the one that commands the civil war and defeats various invading armies with war communism; the founder of the Communist International. The one that has no choice but to go back economically with the New Economic Policy (NEP) and change the international strategy by adopting the united front. The one who deeply ill -no longer able to write with his own hands- leaves a testament where he warns about the enormous difficulties to the other members of the central committee to lead the Bolshevik party and the Soviet state (Lenin, 1974b; 1987).
Was he always the same Lenin? Yes and no. He was invariably the same indomitable, radical, unyielding revolutionary. From a very young age, until his death in January 1924, he had the same aspirations that he would never abandon: to change the world, demolish capitalist institutions and emancipate, through revolution and socialism, all the oppressed and exploited people in history. But his work was changing, it was becoming richer and more complex, with emphasis on one or another aspect of reality and theory according to the concrete analysis of the concrete situation and according to the various levels of the relationship of forces in the confrontation of the social classes, both internationally and nationally. For this reason, reducing Lenin to a single book, to a single sentence, betrays or, at least deforms and petrifies, the spirit of his permanently boiling thought.(2)
Foto: Periódico La Vanguardia
Where to read Lenin?
If it is accepted, at least as a hypothesis, that there is not a single Lenin -canonized a posteriori at the taste and pleasure of the good consumer, according to the conveniences and opportunities of the moment-, from where to read this great teacher of revolutionaries? Everyone will do it from their own interests and political positions. And it is not wrong, it is inevitable.
This article proposes only one angle among many: the study and, therefore, the vindication of its scandalous validity. Lenin assumes for this analysis the look that several readers of his work have had on him. Here we mention just a few. In each of the referenced books a different Lenin is offered:
His theory about imperialism, a century later
Although this short essay intends to reminisce about Lenin and invite others to study him, it cannot ignore various challenges, demonizations and supposed overcomings that circulate, mainly at the academic level, but also, in some segments of the left, who follow trends that circulate in the market of ideas according to the latest craze, without asking who starts it?(3)
Of all the literary mass that focuses its cannons against Lenin, the name of Ernesto Laclau deserves to be mentioned locally (who belonged to the so-called national left, first, then in Europe turned postmodern, and finally, during the last decade, Kirchnerist). With less prestige and repercussion than this former follower of Abelardo Ramos (recycled as a neogramscian, supporter of the last Wittgenstein and Derrida) but with the same rancor against Lenin, is the collective volume compiled by Werner Bonefeld and Sergio Tischler, of a clear autonomist invoice, with neozapatist pretensions (Bonefeld y Tischler, 2002). In the specific case of the challenge against the Leninist theory of imperialism, J. Warren and John Weeks can be cited, summarized in the voice "Imperialism and world market" of the famous Bottomore dictionary (1984).(4)
Leaving aside all that anti-Leninist arsenal, which enjoys the applause of the media, the "disinterested" financing of NGOs and other "philanthropic" foundations and academic celebration, it is necessary to return to the underlying hypothesis of this article. Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, constitutes in Lenin's thought a point of arrival, both theoretically and politically.(5)
In terms of theoretical research, Lenin spent a long time in exile at the Zurich Library (in Switzerland) in order to understand, first, the transformations of capitalism that resulted from the First World War and, secondly, the intimate reasons that made it impossible for the Socialist International (where he was a member, alongside Rosa Luxemburg, and others) to understand the nature of the imperialist war and adopt a dignified and internationalist position before it.
In said library, as early as 1915, Lenin wrote 15 notebooks from which he extracted 148 books, (106 in German, 23 in French, 17 in English, and 2 translated to Russian); 232 articles of 49 periodic publications (206 of those in German, 3 in French, and 13 in English) (Aguilar, 1983, p.86). These works, polished and transited in Lenin’s mental laboratory, speak of the seriousness with which he worked and researched (so distant from the postmodern frivolousness and empty and superficial rhetoric of the contemporary poststructuralism) (Lenin, 1984).
Within this material, at least, four works should be highlighted: three books (John A. Hobson: Imperialism: A Study from 1902, Rudolf Hilferding: Finance Capital -1909, translated to Russian in Moscow in 1912-; Rosa Luxemburg: The Accumulation of Capital -1912-) and Nikolai Bukharin’s article, prefaced by Lenin: Imperialism and World Economy (1915). To these texts Lenin adds the use of many others, such as the writings and analysis of Heymann, Herman Levy, Vogelstein, Riesser, Kestner, Liefmann, Tafel, Lansburght, Kaufmann, Schulze-Gaevernitz, Stillich, Sombart and Lysis (from who he adopts the expression financial oligarchy), among many others.
But Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism goes far beyond those primary sources, filled with statistics and empirical analysis on the centralization and accumulation of capital. In said work, Lenin fuses various paradigms into the same theory, overflowing, by far, the economic literature consulted in the Zurich library. His text, which has a simple prose since it was written for militant purposes, contains substantive theses that still deserve to be discussed today (demonstrating, once again, that the depth and sharpness of thought do not necessarily have to be accompanied by a baroque prose, cryptic, and inaccessible to ordinary mortals).
The Leninist theory of capitalism, understood not as a mechanical sum of national social formations, unconnected and juxtaposed, but rather as a global system, polarizing and hierarchical of domination between societies and nations, creates a general picture of the world capitalist economy; unit of analysis that corresponds to the most concrete dialectical category according to the various research plans of Karl Marx in his Grundrisse (1857-1858), with the plasmation of a theory of world war, violent continuation of politics under other means of exertion of material force that he evidently adopts from Clausewitz (Lenin, Ancona, et al., 1979, pp. 49-98).(6)
Foto: Getty Images
Imperialism, war, and dialectics
"World capitalist system" and "world war" are notions that can only be understood from the Leninist theory of “uneven and spasmodic development” (Lenin, 1960, p. 458),7 because the contradictions, hierarchies, and dominations of those are produced between imperialist, dependent, semi-colonial and colonial countries. These qualitative leaps in history (from free competition to monopoly, from the hegemony of industrial capital to the merger and assembly of industrial and banking capital under the absolute aegis of finance capital, of "peace" as a stable international rule between nations to the open war for the distribution of markets and natural resources, from anarchy to planning, from the trade union to the industrial branch union, etc.), can only be understood from a logic in which identity is transformed in difference, one in opposition and another in antagonism. This gave life to contradiction as the main engine for the movement of the whole system. It was not the classical logic of Aristotle nor the mathematical logic of the Vienna circle (then in vogue) that allowed us to understand such global capitalist confrontation. For not understanding these qualitative leaps, the old social democracy remained a prisoner of its mentality, typical of times of relative stability of nineteenth-century capitalism, unable to understand the outbreak of the acute crisis, the emergence of war and the appearance of revolutionary situations that opened the door to revolutionary civil war.
In order to understand these qualitative leaps in the capitalist world system that branded the turn of the century, Lenin chose to study in depth Hegel's Science of Logic, which Marx had used in the writing of Capital, as a key substrate to deploy the notion of the contradictory identity of merchandise that already, in its simplest social form, contained the possibility of the capitalist crisis and the outbreak of war in the confrontation between classes and between oppressor and oppressed nations. Not coincidentally, in the epilogue of 1873 to the second German edition of Capital, it was Marx who made this use of dialectical logic explicit in his great work, coming to declare himself, without any ambiguity, as a disciple of Hegel, when at that time in all official philosophy of Germany (in a way analogous to what happens today under postmodern and poststructuralist influence) Hegel was declared a “dead dog.” In the midst of the monstrous accumulation and centralization of financial capital and the First World War, Lenin read those 148 books and 232 articles on political economy, while studying and commenting on Hegel's Science of Logic. The results were his now famous Philosophical Notebooks (Lenin, 1974a).1 The conclusion reached by Lenin in this analysis was the following: “It is impossible completely to understand Marx's Capital, and especially its first chapter, without having thoroughly studied and understood the whole of Hegel's Logic. Consequently, half a century later none of the Marxists understood Marx!” (Lenin, 1974a, p. 168).2
Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, condenses all the economic literature of the moment (from the socialist and Marxist to the bourgeois statistics of the ideologues of the capitalist banks), combining them with Clausewitz's theory of war and Hegel's dialectical logic. Constellation, already rich and extremely complex in itself, to which Lenin adds an acute reading of Marx's writings on the Irish National Question, which led him to publish his famous thesis: “The Socialist Revolution and the Rights of Nations to Self-Determination” (1916) -in which the phrase of the indigenous Peruvian Dionisio Yupanqui reappears, delivered in the Cortes of Cádiz at the beginning of the 19th century, read and assumed as his own by Marx when he was studying the Spanish revolution: “no nation can be free if it oppresses other nations.” The Leninist theory of imperialism has as its necessary and inescapable correlate the vindication of anti-imperialist wars of national liberation and the right of the oppressed nations to self-determination. In this way a mental opening begins in world Marxism towards the peripheral world, colonial and dependent, lightening, at last, the civilized shoulders of "the heavy burden of the white man" and his "duty to bring civilization" to the subjugated peoples from the Third World. From then on, Marxism became truly universal and the battlefield against the domination of capitalism encompasses the entire world, not just France, Germany, England, and the United States.
The central theses on imperialism
Obsessive scholar, rigorous thinker and radical revolutionary, Lenin wrote for the popular militancy. That is why he used to synthesize and summarize his conclusions in such a way that they were understandable to the majority. In this way, he summarizes in five conclusions -even enumerating them, because his popular pedagogy reached that far- the corollary of his extensive, detailed, and acute studies on the theory of imperialism. According to his own pen, his five central traits were as follows:
To these central theses, Lenin added many others of lesser explanatory rank but no less political importance, such as the co-optation of the labor aristocracy in the imperialist countries, fractions of the working class that are inoculated with political opportunism and the lack of internationalism in exchange of colonial crumbs and insignificant fractions of surplus value extracted from the Third World. Lenin detailed a long series of explanatory sequences associated with those central theses. For example, he wonders where the world economy and imperialism emerge from. His response, based on overwhelming empirical evidence and on chapters 22 and 23 of Karl Marx's Capital, maintains that this transformation of the capitalist system is a product of the tendency to accumulate, concentrate and centralize capital, from which trusts, cartels, and monopolies are generated under the predominance and hegemony of financial capital. Monopolies are defined as the merger or assembly of banks, industries, and States; therefore, they are not only or exclusively economic entities, but also include elements of a political and even political-military order. The export of capital (not only of merchandise, although it contributes to the extortion of dependent countries so that they buy merchandise from the imperialist countries) is carried out and is poured into socialized and regulated industrial branches according to a plan. Although the world capitalist system continues to be governed by the rationality of the part that prevails over the irrationality of the whole, there are specific branches and sectors of what is now called the value chain where planning goes hand in hand with generalized anarchy and profligacy of global social work. Within this imperialist horizon, the reign of multinational monopolies perpetuates the conquest of raw materials and natural resources, mainly in the dependent periphery. From a political point of view, this presupposes the corruption of the labor aristocracy and opportunism as a legitimizing ideology within the exploited classes in the imperial metropolises. How else can the enthusiastic support of large segments of the European and US working class for the genocidal bombings of defenseless populations in the Third World, still today in the 21st century be understood?
The appropriation and prolongation of Lenin by Ruy Mauro Marini and the Marxist theory of dependency
An old and ancient medieval debate between realists and nominalists left among its main conclusions that suppressing a word from the language does not eliminate the reality that this term designates. Therefore, canceling the notion of dependency or proscribing the expression imperialism in the field of social sciences in no way annuls the processes that these expressions -central in the social sciences and, in particular, in the Leninist theory of the world system- pretend to explain. The cruel capitalist reality of our days refuses to be happily swallowed by the linguistic turn.
Having already spent more than forty years since Eurocommunism, social democracy, and their various ideological modulations, mainly associated with post-1968 metaphysics, were weaving together to tame, sweeten and make critical social theory lighter, perhaps the time has come to recover the most radical currents of Latin American social theory. The one that tried to appropriate Lenin to critically study and discuss the character and conflicts of the social formations of Latin American capitalism. Among them the work of the revolutionary militant of Brazilian origin Ruy Mauro Marini (1932-1997) stands out.
Several decades after Lenin (who died in 1924), Marini once again recovered in politics and in the social sciences the internationalist perspective fostered by the Bolshevik thinker. He did so long before the term globalization became fashionable, and even, reached the zenith of his fame and prestige with Wallerstein's modern world systems theory.
The general context in which Marini elaborated the foundations of his Marxist reading of capitalism is marked by the rise of anti-imperialist and anti-colonial revolutions in the Third World, the Vietnam War, the Cuban Revolution, and the expansive force of Latin American insurgencies, of which he was one of its main organic intellectuals. In his particular case, the 1964 coup d'état in Brazil accelerated his political radicalization, but did not trigger it, since it is possible to verify that Marini already had a production of this type before and would continue developing it during and after the coup.3
If both Lenin and Marini summarized in their analyzes of the capitalist regime the asymmetric character between social formations, the levels of domination, conflicts, wars and exploitation, they always located their methodological axis on a world system scale plane.4
Coinciding with this general methodological perspective -which is none other than the one advocated by Marx from his Grundrisse-, Lenin and Marini approached the world system in various ways, highlighting in each case diverse and complementary angles of said system. If Lenin was the great theoretician of imperialism in its imperial centers, Marini ventured from the opposite side of said relationship, that is, he approached the same problem and the same questions from the perspective of dependency (also present in Lenin's writings). From both, complementary and mutually interdependent, foreshortenings they explored the various changes that the capitalist mode of production went through directly, on some occasions, indirectly, on others; in its implementation of the law of value and in its falling rate of profit. Both authors agree that the aforementioned law constitutes the heart of Capital.5
However, both also affirm that its empire was exercised not in a direct and linear way (as a superficial, depoliticized, and naive reading of Capital might suppose), but through convoluted mechanisms. For example, Lenin considered that the concentration and centralization of capital under the hegemony of the financial oligarchy gave a central role in the contemporary economy to the capitalist monopolies and that these, in turn, competing with each other for markets on an international scale, through the law of value, they applied planning within the production branch and the sector of the economy they controlled.
For his part, Marini maintains, with a slight nuance, that the law of value governs each sector and branch of production of the value chain, but it is transgressed when exchanging between different spheres, which allows value to be transferred (that is, to cede a part of the extracted value and surplus value for free to the working class and its exploited workforce). Said transfer of value is not only due to the deterioration of the terms of trade (as ECLAC and developmentalist intellectuals such as Raúl Prebisch affirmed long ago). Nor exclusively to greater productivity present in the metropolitan capitalist economies, as the most orthodox Marxism insists to this day (notably Eurocentric: because it never explains how two analogous factories and clones, belonging to the same firm and the same capitalist monopoly, managing the same technology and identical constant capital, pay remarkably different wages in different social formations, with the same technology and with the exact same technical productivity!).
The transfer of value, then, would be due to a combination of both, since the recolonization and ferocious plundering of the natural resources of the Third World -which has not disappeared to this today, except for those who only watch bourgeois TV news or read the newspapers of the system- made it possible to reduce the prices of goods produced by monopolies. In addition to the reduction in investment in constant capital, the reduction in investment in variable capital and, therefore, in this way the fall in the profit rate is counteracted (momentarily), a cancer that corrodes the world capitalist system from within.
If Lenin emphasized the analysis of one pole of the world capitalist system in its imperialist phase, precisely the one that was leading the First World War when he studied and analyzed the phenomenon, Marini emphasized and explored the other pole of the same equation. The "strength" of his theory is located, precisely, in the study of dependent capitalism, its cycles of reproduction and accumulation, the gaps between production and consumption and, mainly, the compensation mechanisms that the lumpen and dependent bourgeoisie exercise, through the super-exploitation of the labor force of the proletariat and other subordinate classes, to temper each new extended cycle of capitalist dependence, under the horizon of the general crisis of capitalism in its imperialist phase. Therefore, unequal exchange and dependency, subordination to imperialism and super-exploitation of labor power, constitute mutually interconnected hypotheses in Ruy Mauro Marini's Marxist research. Only at the risk of caricature can they be unraveled as if they were juxtaposed. Furthermore, all of them, neither annul nor degrade, but rather complement, the macro analysis that Lenin made of imperialism as a world system in expansion. It is no coincidence that the political conclusion of both authors -derived in both cases from their empirical and theoretical research, but also from their militant political-ideological identity in the cause of revolutionary Marxism- aim to promote a socialist revolution with a global reach, without ever settling for partial changes on a regional or national scale.
Open questions in the contemporary agenda
Today's society is increasingly hyperconnected, contaminated and flooded with liquid ties, as Bauman says, even in its most intimate and everyday privileges (friendship, love, social and family ties). However, although Lenin's work on imperialism is a century old and Ruy Mauro Marini's more than forty years old, the questions formulated on a macro scale that the Asian politician opened, and the specific analyzes and developments that the Brazilian explored (to make observable how they were fulfilled and what specific role they assumed in the social formations and general analyzes of Lenin), continue to challenge contemporary ears.
Has this international capitalist system of relations of exploitation, hierarchy, and various dominations, as well as the scandalous division of the world, ceased to take place? Are we living, as Hardt and Negri argued in Empire (2000), a flat and homogeneous capitalism, without centers or peripheries, without subordinations or dependencies, where all societies have a development with merely quantitative differences and their social formations are easily and kindly interchangeable? (Kohan, 2002; 2005). Has the conquest of dependent territories and the expropriation/dispossession of their natural resources stopped taking place? Is there no longer super exploitation? Did the asymmetry of the world system evaporate? Are there no longer wars over oil and other non-renewable resources such as gas, water, biodiversity, and so on? Have the issue of financial securities and derivatives and the artificial fabrication of external debts ceased to be mechanisms of spoliation and social discipline? Is there no longer dependency between societies? Are coups and military and intelligence interventions in the internal affairs of weak countries over? Are there no more national oppressions and does everyone enjoy cultural, linguistic, and national autonomy? What characteristics does international trade take? Have the antagonistic contradictions disappeared, and the very meaning of the socialist revolution been confined to the museum of history? Is resistance against imperialism no longer valid?
Whatever the answer to each of these questions, and whether or not one maintains sympathy or antipathy for Lenin, Marini and their supporters, the questions of both remain open and deserve to be included in the contemporary agenda by the social sciences and popular militancy as a priority, as one of the main problems to be solved.
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Néstor Kohan is a philosopher, intellectual, and an Argentinean militant Marxist, he also forms part of LatinAmerican Marxist. As part of this tradition of political thought and culture he has published 25 books on the topic of social theory, history, and philosophy. He actively participates as an investigator for CONICET and is a professor at the University of Buenos Aires.
This article was republished from Granma.
The American Healthcare System is Failing Rural America: What’s Causing it and how do we fix it? By: Edward Liger SmithRead Now
The following essay started as a technical analysis of the disparities in American healthcare between rural and urban communities. It was originally written in an academic style with very dry language and the use of vocabulary words that are not well known outside the field of healthcare administration. However, the essay has been revised into a summary of the healthcare system in rural America, and a persuasive argument in favor of moving towards a socialistic system of healthcare. The purpose of this is to demystify the healthcare system for American workers, to reveal the contradictions laying at the base of the system and explain how they have led to the system’s many failures. Any thorough analysis of the U.S. healthcare system such as this will blatantly reveal the contradictions of capitalism itself, and the many ways that capital has infected American healthcare.
Additionally, this analysis critiques the toothless ‘solutions’ to the problems in healthcare being proposed by ‘healthcare policy experts.’ While these experts are deeply knowledgeable about the existing system, they almost always overlook the blatant contradiction between the profit motivations of healthcare capitalists, and the intended goal of the system, which is to maximize health outcomes for the population. Policy experts generally suggest technocratic changes to the system, which never threaten the billions of dollars in revenue that shareholders make from the system each year. Solutions produced by these policy experts are often funded by enormous healthcare conglomerates such as United Health Group Inc. Therefore, the very companies who constitute the root of the healthcare system’s problems, are those who oversee producing solutions for fixing the same problems they caused. This shows how deeply capital has infected the system and captured the discourse surrounding it.
The Deficiencies in Rural Healthcare & Solutions Being Proposed
One of the primary healthcare concerns that has plagued the rural United States for decades has been lack of access to hospitals and emergency care. Rural America has a general shortage of physicians and healthcare professionals, a lack of sufficient healthcare facilities, and has experienced overall economic stagnation throughout the last 40 years. Four decades of neoliberalism, the political-economic ideology favoring unregulated capitalism and minimal social safety net, has battered the economies and healthcare systems of most every town in the rural U.S. In the last decade alone over 100 rural hospitals were shut down due to lack of revenue, leaving many rural residents without access to a hospital within a reasonable distance. An overall shift in healthcare, towards outpatient care and away from inpatient, has also contributed to the falling number of rural hospitals.
Various solutions have been proposed to tackle the issue of declining rural hospital access. Many policy experts have called for Freestanding Emergency Departments (FSEDs) to provide emergency care for rural areas in desperate need. FSED’s are essentially mobilized emergency care departments, that don’t offer the other services traditionally associated with hospitals. Proponents of FSEDs argue they deliver care faster and are farther reaching than traditional hospitals but are cheaper to maintain as they require less staff. FSEDs have seen some success in practice, however, that success is usually dependent on the economic conditions of the community it’s implemented in, as well as how much Government financing the FSED receives. FSEDs are not a viable solution to the massive problems facing the rural healthcare system. Based on the existing barriers between rural Americans and hospital care, and the consistently decreasing number of hospitals in rural areas, much larger scale changes are needed to improve access to quality hospital care for the rural U.S.
To better understand the problems facing rural America specifically, we can compare relevant health statistics between urban and rural communities. Over the past four decades a large body of literature has been produced detailing the disparities between rural and urban healthcare. A comparative study was done in 2007 analyzing the differences in healthcare quality indicators between urban acute care hospitals and rural critical access hospitals in the U.S. Of the 12 quality indicators measured, 8 showed a statistically significant difference between urban and rural, with 7 of the 8 favoring the urban acute care hospitals (Lutfiyya, 2007). The study concluded that urban communities have access to higher quality healthcare services than rural communities overall. Since that study, 164 new rural hospitals have closed according to the University of North Carolina’s Shep Center for Health Services Research, further decreasing the already low level of hospital access for rural residents. This data reveals that poor access to health services and low-quality hospital care have been issues in rural communities for many years and have only gotten worse with time.
Many policy experts believe the solution to decreasing healthcare access is mobilizing FSED’s for the purpose of providing emergency care in rural areas. Thus, we must take a closer look at FSEDs and how they function. The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) define an FSED as “a facility that is structurally separate and distinct from a hospital and provides emergency care.” There are two types of FSEDs: Hospital Outpatient Departments (HOPDs) also known as Hospital-Based Off-Campus Emergency Departments (OCEDs) and Independent Freestanding Emergency Centers (IFECs).
HOPDs belong to, and are controlled by, larger medical centers or hospital systems. These systems tend to accept Medicare and Medicaid payments, thereby placing them under the regulatory rules of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The CMS regulations governing HOPD style FSEDs, are the same regulations that most Emergency Departments in the U.S. operate under.
The other style of FSED are IFECs which differ from HOPDs in that they can be owned by individuals or private businesses. CMS does not recognize IFECs as Emergency Departments, which prevents them from taking Medicare or Medicaid payments, and exempts them from the regulations that govern HOPDs and traditional emergency departments. Because of this the regulations for IFECs are incredibly inconsistent and vary by state. Some states have decided to regulate IFECs under guidelines of the Emergency Medical Treatment and labor act (EMTALA), which ensures hospitals treat and stabilize patients regardless of their ability to pay. A handful of states have taken no regulatory action at all, allowing FSEDs to act largely unregulated. Many states will not give licenses for any kind of FSED, and others will only license HOPDs style facilities governed by CMS regulations.
So, who is advocating for this move to Freestanding Emergency Departments as the mode of delivering healthcare in the rural U.S.? In an article from the Rural Health Information Hub discussing FSEDs as an alternative healthcare model for rural communities, the organization spoke to MD and ACEP member David Ernst who advocated for the IFEC model, the model which allows for FSEDs to be privately owned. Ernst argued that independently owned IFECs are more sophisticated, efficient, and economically streamlined compared to other models which are hampered by federal enforcement of Medicare mandates (though Ernst does not explain here what he means by any of these statements specifically.) He also mentions that IFEC facilities tend to thrive in high income urban and suburban areas where most the population has high quality insurance (Lukens, 2016).
How the large-scale implementation of IFEC facilities would improve healthcare quality and access in rural areas is truly a mystery. Anyone who genuinely offers this as a solution likely does not understand the nature or the gravity of the problems facing rural healthcare, and the U.S. healthcare system in general. Most who offer it as a solution likely have contradictory motivations leading them to believe that this is a viable solution.
Let’s take a closer look at what’s causing poor health outcomes for rural Americans. The National Library of Medicine did an analysis of the historical problems in rural healthcare and found that the general lack of rural hospitals is largely due to ‘financing issues,’ as rural healthcare facilities often struggle bringing in enough revenue to remain profitable in sparsely populated rural areas. Additionally, when larger healthcare systems realize they are no longer making a net profit from selling healthcare within a certain geographic area, they have historically chosen to remove healthcare providing facilities from that area, regardless of how it effects the residents in that area. The analysis identified that the primary elements contributing to rural healthcare’s worsening condition are decreasing and disproportionately elderly populations, economic stagnation, high rates of underinsured residents, and the trend towards outpatient over inpatient care (Weisgrau). All the relevant scholarly literature agrees that the most influential problems facing rural healthcare are economic in nature.
These issues highlight the inefficiencies of the market when it comes to protecting the interests of working-class citizens, and the lunacy of the idea that profit driven private companies working within healthcare will prioritize the interests of vulnerable populations over their own monetary interests. In fact, companies could not prioritize population health outcomes even if they wanted to. Market competition rewards those who sell the most healthcare at the greatest margins, but harshly punishes those who would bring healthcare to a population of people who can’t afford to pay both the costs of the healthcare services provided, as well as the profits of the private shareholders who own the facilities providing care.
So now that we have a more concrete understanding of the problems rural healthcare is facing, let’s turn back to the proposed IFEC model to ask whether it truly addresses the economic barriers in rural healthcare? Given that IFECs can’t accept Medicaid payments, it is unlikely that underinsured populations will have access to IFEC care. In many states IFECs can turn away underinsured without giving care, as they are not subject to CMS regulations and therefore EMTALA. For the private business entity who owns the IFEC this is a positive, as IFECs can avoid the revenue loss that traditional hospitals incur from being forced by regulation to provide unpaid care. However, IFECs do nothing to improve deficient access to care for the underinsured, or the 12.3% of rural residents who are completely uninsured (Day, 2019). IFECs may be a less costly way for businesses entities to maintain Emergency Department style facilities in rural areas that can’t support full-service hospitals, but they do little to address the most impactful barriers to healthcare affecting rural citizens. IFECs do nothing to provide healthcare for those who lack insurance coverage, which is one of the foremost barriers to healthcare in the U.S.
The proposed system could easily be exploited by predatory business interests. With a declining number of rural hospitals, business entities could theoretically wait for an area’s hospital to close, then fill the healthcare void in that area by implementing an IFEC style FSED. The facility would be under no obligation to treat those residents who cannot afford to pay for care. They could perform services exclusively for people with income levels high enough to afford them, or those desperate enough to pay more than they can afford. After operating in this manner for a period, the IFEC owners would get an understanding of who in the rural community can afford ED services and how much they’re willing to pay. The facility could then be staffed with only as many employees as necessary for performing those services, decreasing variable costs for the facility, and maintaining sufficient revenue levels for the business owners. Moving towards IFECs would allow healthcare investors to generate revenue in rural areas where they previously could not but would do little to address poor health outcomes for rural populations that need it most.
So why did MD David Ernst promote the IFEC model in his interview with Rural Health Information Hub? Well, it may have something to do with the fact that Ernst is the president of a company that provides telemedicine software to 325 emergency departments and hospitals across the U.S. Ernst thus stands to profit from the implementation of more FSEDs, as the facilities are reliant on telemedicine software to communicate with other facilities. Creating more FSEDs would increase demand for the software produced by Ernst’s EPOWERdoc company. Obviously, there is a conflict of interest here, and Ernst is likely promoting the FSED model to boost his private companies’ revenue. Despite the conflict of interest, Rural Information Hub present Ernst’s interview as if he were an unbiased expert. A clear example of how the solutions to the healthcare systems many problems are being produced by profit driven interests, who do not prioritize the health outcomes of the communities they serve, but rather the revenue of the companies they belong to.
A detailed cost analysis of FSEDs concluded that IFECs would not be financially viable in rural areas, especially if they are not allowed to accept Medicare and Medicaid payments. The analysis also found that the alternative HOPD model has only worked in areas with relatively high population density and favorable payer mixes. They have been far less successful in the sparsely populated and poorer areas of rural America. Hospital systems rarely think it is worth their effort and resources to implement and maintain FSEDs in these areas. Doing so rarely generates revenue and can even work in reverse as a drain on total revenue (Williams, 2015). While FSED implementation may be an improvement in rural areas with no nearby hospitals at all, they are a deeply flawed concept, and one that has been debated since the early 1970s. Bringing high quality healthcare to rural America will require new solutions that seek to enact macro level changes, rather than outdated solutions which have largely failed to address historically prevalent issues.
Conclusion: Socialist Healthcare is the Real Solution
The primary contradiction in rural healthcare, and the healthcare system in its totality, are the profit incentives of the various entities who provide healthcare services and mediate payment. Cuba is a vastly poorer country than the U.S. that has faced an embargo limiting its economic activity for decades. Despite that, Cuba has achieved and maintained universal health care for many years, including the rural and mountainous regions of the island. Since 1959 Cuba has invested substantial resources towards developing their healthcare infrastructure and training new doctors. Cuban doctors receive free medical school in exchange for pledging to serve the rural areas of Cuba for a certain time after graduation. A beautiful example of a policy designed to both train new staff and ensure that the staff serve the neediest parts of the country.
In 1999 Cuba assisted Venezuela in implementing similar policies, as well as an effort to increase the level of preventative care services. Their efforts resulted in a substantial increase in the number of rural clinics, physicians, nurses, and dentists as well as a 30% decrease in ER visits thanks to the newly implemented preventative care (Westhoff). If the U.S. were to implement a similar program, focusing their resources on developing the healthcare system, similar policies to those enacted in Cuba and Venezuela could be implemented on a massive scale. The problem is that Cuba’s reforms required Government initiatives to ensure the nation’s resources were utilized to develop the rural health infrastructure, and train more rural healthcare staff. Government planning was used to do what the free market could not.
The healthcare markets and private hospital systems in the U.S. have shown time and time again that they will not adequately serve rural communities unless it is profitable. In sparsely populated communities across rural America, it is rarely profitable. Thus, the state of rural healthcare can only be improved if the U.S. abandons the dogmatic belief that market forces always generate optimal outcomes for everyone – especially in the realm of healthcare where profit motivations so clearly contradict the effort to create an optimal system for everyone. The healthcare system itself must abandon the idea that it can maintain the current profits that it generates for investors, while also meeting the needs of rural populations. Rational economic planning is what is needed to fix the system’s problems in the future. Rational planning is impossible under the system’s current ownership, whose only rationale is maximizing their own revenue. Workers must seize control of the healthcare system from the shareholders and executives who have captured it and turned it into a profit generating monstrosity. This change in ownership over the healthcare system’s ‘means of production’ is the only way to create a rational system which works to optimize health for the working masses of society.
Lutfiyya, M. N., Bhat, D. K., Gandhi, S. R., Nguyen, C., Weidenbacher-Hoper, V. L., & Lipsky, M. S. (2007). A comparison of quality of care indicators in urban acute care hospitals and rural critical access hospitals in the United States. International Journal for Quality in Health Care, 19(3), 141–149. https://doi.org/10.1093/intqhc/mzm010
University of North Carolina. (2022, January 11). Rural Hospital closures. The Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research. Retrieved April 18, 2022, from https://www.shepscenter.unc.edu/programs-projects/rural-health/rural-hospital-closures/
Lukens, J. (2016, November 30). Freestanding emergency departments: An alternative model for rural communities. The Rural Monitor. Retrieved April 18, 2022, from https://www.ruralhealthinfo.org/rural-monitor/freestanding-emergency-departments/
American College of Emergency Physicians. (2020, April). Freestanding emergency departments. acep.org. Retrieved April 18, 2022, from https://www.acep.org/patient-care/policy-statements/freestanding-emergency-departments/#sm.00000p5gnbn6o8e9rs6g9980zvd72
Weisgrau, S. (1995). Issues in rural health: Access, hospitals, and reform. Health care financing review,17(1),1-14.
Day, J. C. (2019, April 9). Rates of uninsured fall in rural counties, remain higher than Urban counties. Census.gov. Retrieved April 18, 2022, from https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2019/04/health-insurance-rural-america.html#:~:text=Residents%20of%20rural%20counties%20still,percent%20for%20mostly%20urbhttps://www.census.gov/library/stories/2019/04/health-insurance-rural-america.html#:~:text=Residents%20of%20rural%20counties%20still,percent%20for%20mostly%20urban%20counties.an%20counties.
Williams, J. D., Song, P. H., & Pink, G. H. (2015, November). Estimated costs of rural freestanding emergency departments. ShepsCenter.unc.edu. Retrieved April 19, 2022, from https://www.shepscenter.unc.edu/wp-content/uploads/dlm_uploads/2015/11/Rural-Freestanding-ED.pdf
Esposito, C. L., Gilbert, J., Ciampa, A., & Markman, J. (2017, August 1). Against All Odds: Cuba Achieves Healthcare for All- An Analysis of Cuban Healthcare. nysna.org. Retrieved April 19, 2022, from https://www.nysna.org/sites/default/files/attach/ajax/2020/08/NYSNA.Response.to_.the_.New_.York_.State_.Department.of_.Health.Final_.pdf
Westhoff, W. W., Rodriguez, R., Cousins, C., & McDermott, R. J. (2010). Cuban healthcare providers in Venezuela: A case study. Public Health, 124(9), 519–524. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.puhe.2010.05.008
Edward Liger Smith is an American Political Scientist and specialist in anti-imperialist and socialist projects, especially Venezuela and China. He also has research interests in the role southern slavery played in the development of American and European capitalism. He is a co-founder and editor of Midwestern Marx and the Journal of American Socialist Studies. He is currently a health care administration graduate student and wrestling coach at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.
Reply to Ben Burgis: G.A. Cohen’s work is useful, but not mandatory to understanding Marxism. By: Paul SoRead Now
Ben Burgis, an analytic philosopher and Marxist, wrote a short essay defending the contribution of G.A. Cohen to Marxism. G.A. Cohen, like Burgis, is both an analytic philosopher and a Marxist. While Cohen is known for his contributions to egalitarianism and distributive justice in response to Rawls’ Theory of Justice, he’s most well known for his arguments for Marxism. However, what differentiates Cohen as a Marxist from many academic and non-academic Marxists is manifold.
First, Cohen attempts to divorce historical materialism from the dialectical method because of the perceived lack of rigor and precision in the latter. Second, as a result of the first, Cohen presents his own analytic interpretation of historical materialism that identifies the development of forces of production (e.g., complex instruments used to produce commodities) as the primary and fundamental driver for socioeconomic development (whereas changes of social relations is secondary insofar as they facilitate development of productive forces). Third, Cohen sees himself as having interpreted historical materialism in such a way that could easily explain the fall of the Soviet Union and avoid being falsified by the rise of socialist countries in relatively less industrialized countries. In short, historical materialism predicts that a successful socialist economy will emerge as a result of a revolution in a developed and industrialized capitalist society. Since the Soviet Union emerged as a result of a revolution in an undeveloped semi-feudal society with pockets of capitalism in the cities, it was bound to fail.
Burgis takes all three above points to be positive. In particular, he argues that Cohen’s contribution to Marxism is invaluable because it fixes a perceived theoretical deficiency in Marxist theory which could not sort out the causal relationship between the productive forces and social relations. The apparent theoretical deficiency according to Burgis and Cohen is the lack of clarity to the question: “which one comes first with respect to the changes in the mode of production - changes in social relation or changes in productive forces?” Which one is more fundamental and basic? A standard answer from a classical Marxist is that both contribute to the change; neither is more fundamental than the other. Social relations function as “fetters” on the development of productive forces and the development of productive forces eventually facilitates the replacement of outdated social relations with new ones. Burgis thinks that Cohen’s answer- that productive forces are primary and fundamental illuminates historical materialism. While Burgis never explicitly says that Cohen divorces historical materialism from the dialectical method, it is well understood by many readers of Cohen’s work that his project, Analytic Marxism, aims to sever the tie between the two precisely because Cohen believes that the dialectical method contributed to the theoretical deficiency (e.g., lack of clarity and confusion) in historical materialism.
While there is more to Burgis’ essay, these three points he made are the focus of my paper. I wish to address all three points. I’ll begin with the third point and then proceed backwards to the second and then the first. Before I begin, I wish to make it clear that I do believe G.A. Cohen’s contribution should not be ignored. His rigor and precision are definitely valuable to Marxists. For instance, I wholeheartedly agree with G.A. Cohen’s definition of the proletariat as someone who lacks ownership of the means of production which he could use to make a sufficient living without working with a capitalist. There are some proletarians who technically own some means of production, but they clearly do not make a sufficient living working such means of production without selling their labor power to the capitalists. I also think G.A. Cohen’s normative approach to Marxism (see Self-ownership, freedom, and equality) which supplements Marxism with some normative ethical arguments is valuable. Even though Marxism is not a normative ethical theory and often emphasizes its scientific nature, there is still room to make a normative ethical argument for socialism and this is the space Cohen helped fill up. Now, let’s address Burgis’s points.
With regard to the third point, Cohen and Burgis seem to be committed to some variation of stageism- an interpretation of historical materialism that societies must pass through all the perquisite stages of development in the right order before reaching socialism or the lower stage of communism. For instance, before society A reaches socialism, A must experience the capitalist stage of development first. Why? Because the capitalist stage of development involves the development of productive forces which in turn creates the necessary capacity as a precondition for a flourishing socialist economy that will emerge in the next stage of development. But there is one problem with this view that is not well known among many people. Karl Marx himself did not really hold this view in his later life. While Marx does believe that in Western Europe a proletarian revolution will create socialism from the ashes of a developed capitalist society, he doesn’t necessarily universalize this to all societies around the world.
For instance, a Russian revolutionary Vera Zasulich wrote a letter to Marx asking for his position on whether or not a socialist revolution could take place in Russia. For context, Russia during the time of Zasulich’s correspondence with Marx was largely a feudal economy with some pockets of capitalist development. There was a debate among revolutionaries on whether or not Russia should first complete its capitalist development before reaching socialism or boldly jump forward to a socialist revolution. Many self-declared Marxists argued that Marx himself would argue in favor of the former while others resisted the argument. Zasulich sympathized with the latter camp, so she contacted Marx with a letter to confirm whether or not the self-declared Marxists interpreted his argument accurately. Marx tried to respond to Zasulich’s letter by writing many drafts worth many pages, but eventually he settled with a final draft that was concise and brief.
Marx argued that the so-called Marxists misinterpreted his argument because they generalized Marx’s prediction about western Europe to the entire globe, while Marx had made it clear that a bulk of his works and predictions about economic development were about western Europe alone. What this means is that Marx is sensitive to the fact that each region has different present material conditions due to the differences in their past socioeconomic development. Furthermore, based on Marx’s research on Russia’s political economy and material conditions he believed that Russia was suitable for socialism because it had peasant communes. These peasant communes had social or communal ownership of agrarian productive forces. They had the suitable social relations (e.g., communal social relations) that would engender a communist-like social consciousness, but they lacked the appropriate productive forces to reach socialism.
Given the content of Marx’s correspondence with Zasulich, it seems that Marx’s understanding of historical materialism was much more nuanced than the stageist interpretation. Marx thought that it is not only possible, but, in fact, a reality that each region has a different path to socialism. Western Europe had to undergo complete capitalist development before it could reach socialism, but Russia did not necessarily need to do the same because it already had suitable social relations in peasant communes. In effect, Burgis’ claim that Joseph Stalin’s prediction that socialism will arise and flourish from some pre-capitalist societies would not undermine historical materialism, instead, it would confirm historical materialism as understood by Marx towards the end of his life.
With regards to the second point that development of productive forces are much more fundamental than changes in social relations to overall societal development, Burgis makes the following complaint about Marx’s understanding of the causal roles of social relations and productive forces:
“Marx’s answer is that when an old system “fetters” the further development of the productive forces the old system is defeated and the new one is born. But this is confusing. If the idea is that later technological progress explains earlier shifts in social systems, that sounds suspiciously like effects are being used to explain causes instead of the other way around” (my underline).
In other words, Burgis argues that Marx’s answer that old social relations fettering further development of productive forces implies backward causation: the later development of productive forces explains the earlier shifts in social relations. It’s not entirely clear how Burgis comes to this interpretation of Marx’s answer. Burgis proceeds to introduce Cohen’s theory of how fettering works in such a way that doesn’t indicate backward causation. Cohen writes:
Imagine a productively weak society whose members live in equality at subsistence level, and who wish they were better off. One of them suspects that the introduction of treadmills on the bank of the river on which they rely for irrigation would increase the flow of water onto the land, raise its yield, and thus enhance their welfare. He puts his idea to the community, who are impressed, and a group is forthwith commissioned to design and construct the devices. These are then installed at suitable points on the river bank, and tested, all members of the community participating in the test. They correctly perceive the benefits regular use of the treadmills would bring, and there is a request for volunteers to man them. But none come forward: it is a task relished by no one in the society. Nor is it feasible, for reasons we allow the reader to conjecture, for everyone to contribute just some of his time to treadmilling. Many full-time treaders are needed. It is agreed to select them by lot, and this is done. So rebarbative is the job, however, that it becomes apparent it will not be efficiently performed without severe supervision. For that role there is no dearth of applicants, and a number are, by some means, selected for it. Gradually a class structure (supervisors, farmers, treaders) rises in what was an egalitarian community. One may now say that the relations have changed because otherwise the forces would not have progressed, and that the forces do progress because the relations have changed. But it is clear, despite the second part of the last sentence, that the change in the forces is more basic than the change in relations: the relations change because the new relations facilitate productive progress.
Cohen’s explanation is that it’s not social relations that cause development of productive forces, but rather it’s the development of productive forces that ultimately cause old social relations to die out and determines which new social relations are suitable for the new productive forces to facilitate their further development. Ultimately, productive forces determine the social relations and social relations themselves at most facilitate the development of productive forces. When productive forces reach a certain stage of development, the same social relations that previously facilitated the development of productive forces become fetters on productive forces. Once the productive forces “mature,” they determine new social relations that further facilitate their development.
While there is an undeniable theoretical elegance to Cohen’s argument, Sean Sayer brings up the fundamental problem with Cohen’s understanding of historical materialism: by treating development of productive forces as more fundamental or basic than social relations, insofar as productive forces determine what social relations are suitable for facilitating the development of productive forces, Cohen overlooks the important role social relations play in a dialectical outlook on the relationship between productive forces and social relations. In particular, productive forces are productive forces rather than a meaningless amalgamation of parts because they exist in the context of certain social relations. If productive forces are abstracted away from social relations, they’re merely physical objects without social significance. Nikolai Bukharian made a similar argument:
“Present-day society, for instance, with its vast stone cities, its giant structures, its railroads, harbors, machines, houses, etc.; all of these things are material technical ‘organs’ of society. Any specific machine will at once lose its significance as a machine outside of human society; it becomes merely a portion of external nature, a combination of pieces of steel, wood, etc. When a great liner sinks to the bottom, this living monster with its powerful engines that cause the whole marvelous structure of steel to vibrate, with its thousands of appliances of every possible kind, from dish-rags to wireless station, now lies at the bottom of the sea and the whole mechanism loses social significance. Barnacles will attach themselves to its body, its wood constructions will rot in the water, crabs and other animals will live in the cabins, but the streamer ceases to be a streamer; having lost its social existence, it is excluded from society, has ceased to be a portion of society, to perform its social service, and is now merely an object- no longer a social object- like any other part of external nature which does not come in direct contact with human society. Technical devices are not merely pieces of external nature: they are extensions of society’s organs.”
Bukharin uses an example of a great liner that exists as a great liner because it bears relationship to society, but when it’s permanently detached from society by sinking into the bottom of the ocean it becomes merely a physical object rather than a social object. A similar point can be said about productive forces. A productive force is not merely a physical object, but rather it is a social artifact, or more specifically a productive asset, by virtue of being owned by a social group for the purpose of production and, possibly, expropriation of surplus value from laborers. In this respect, productive forces aren’t more fundamental than social relations precisely because they literally cannot exist as productive forces without social relations. Another way to put it is that if nobody owned and used a particular productive force, it would cease to be a productive force at all. An abandoned and disused steel factory is no longer a steel factory. What’s implicit in the concept of steel factory, from a Marxist point of view, is that some social artifact owned by some social group (usually shareholding capitalists) is used for the purpose of production of steel by steel workers, and, under capitalism, for the creation of surplus value for the bourgeoisie. If a physical object no longer bears such purposes circumscribed by social relations, it’s no longer a productive force. Contrary to what Burgis and Cohen think, the dialectical method is useful for historical materialism because it explains the nature of productive forces as social objects.
This brings me to the first point: Cohen attempts to divorce the dialectical method from historical materialism because he believes it introduces theoretical vices into historical materialism. But the dialectical method helps us understand productive forces as social objects rather than merely physical objects. How? The central feature of the dialectical method is the recognition of the interpenetration of opposites or unity of opposites. Productive forces and social relations are opposites that interpenetrate one another or constitute one another. The existence of a productive force implies a social relation and, conversely, the existence of a social relation implies a productive force. Furthermore, they are opposites insofar as at a certain stage of development they are in tension with one another.
At an initial stage of development, a set of social relations will contribute to the development of productive forces, but at a much later stage the causal role of the same set of social relations changes from contributing to development of productive focus to fettering the development of productive forces. This movement from contributing to development of productive forces to fettering development of productive forces is a dialectical movement of a phenomenon turning into its opposite. In particular, a social relation’s causal role of contributing to the development of productive forces changes into its opposite: fettering development of productive forces. The fettering of productive forces causes the productive force to malfunction because its original purpose at its earlier stage of development has changed into something new in its later stage of development that is no longer congruent with the old social relations. In the context of capitalism, the members of the capitalist class constantly need to improve the efficiency of their productive forces in order to compete with one another. But the same capitalist class that improves the productive forces to survive competition becomes a fetter on productive forces.
One of the features of improving productive forces is consolidating or “socializing” productive forces under the control of monopolistic corporations. This increases efficiency in terms of mass production of commodities, but it also increases the amount of fixed capital (e.g., factories, raw resources, instruments for repair, and so on) and possibly variable capital. This increase in fixed capital, variable capital, and efficiency eventually contributes to the falling rate of profit. Monopolistic corporations can produce so many commodities at such a relatively cheap price, but they do not pay workers enough wages to buy back all commodities. Moreover, the increase of cost in fixed capital and variable capital cuts into the profit margin of monopolistic corporations. This leads to a capitalist crisis in which workers are eventually laid off in order to alleviate the crisis; but laying off workers is not contributing to the development of productive forces, rather, it is preventing concentrated productive forces from developing into the kind whose primary purpose is for human flourishing rather than for profit. This is the fettering of productive forces in the context of capitalism. At some point, workers will expropriate productive forces from the capitalists in order to reorganize production primarily for use rather than for profit.
The above process shows how the same set of social relations that facilitate development of productive forces eventually fetters the development of productive forces. The capitalists contribute to the development of productive forces through intra-class competition, but when productive forces are consolidated and intra-class competition becomes narrower, the capitalists no longer contribute but function as fetters on their development. Precisely because the capitalist class’s fettering of the development of productive forces harms the working class in the form of layoffs, reduction of wages, and so on to keep the profit margins high, the working class will eventually become a class-for-itself (class conscious) and expropriate the productive forces from the capitalist class whose role is no longer progressive with respect to the development of production, but reactionary.
 Sean Sayer, “Marxism and the Dialectical Method: A Critique of G.A. Cohen,” Radical Philosophy (1984): 5.
 Nikolai Bukharian, Historical Materialism: A System of Sociology (New York: International Publishers, 1925). 132-133.
Paul So is a graduate student who studies philosophy in a PhD program at University of California Santa Barbara. While Paul’s research interests mostly lie within the tradition of Analytic Philosophy (e.g. Philosophy of Mind and Meta-Ethics), he recently developed a strong passion in Marxism as his newfound research interest. He is particularly interested in dialectical materialism, historical materialism, and imperialism.
Happy Birthday Tribute to Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, “Lenin” April 22, 1870. By: Carlos RoviraRead Now
V.I. Lenin was born on April 22, 1870. He was the leader of the October 1917 Russian Socialist Revolution – one of the most monumental events of the twentieth century. The militant rise of the Russian people on this occasion sent shockwaves throughout the world. Tyrants, colonizers, exploiters, and oppressors were left in disbelief.
His leadership inspired hundreds of millions oppressed and exploited people on every continent. The Russian Revolution under Lenin’s leadership impacted the Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, and Cuban revolutions, as well as many progressive movements throughout the world.
Lenin’s tactical prowess is revered by revolutionaries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. As a result of his influential and strategic direction, Leninism became a guiding principle among revolutionary leaders, such as Amilcar Cabral, Celia Sanchez, Ho Chi Minh, Claudia Jones, Madame Nguyễn Thị Định, Fidel Castro Ruz, Nguyễn Thị Bình, Ernesto Che Guevara, Mao Zedong, Steve Biko and many more international historic figures.
A beautiful painting depicting Lenin address armed workers Soviets at the moment of revolution.
Moreover, renown Puerto Rican activists like Juana Colon and Nationalist Juan Antonio Corretjer, African American leaders like Cyril Briggs, W.E.B. Dubois, Harry Haywood, Paul Robeson, and others, were all influenced by what Lenin represented politically – the necessity to bring about a socialist society.
In the 1960’s-70’, both the Black Panther Party and the Young Lords Party (Puerto Rican/Latinx allies of the BPP) read Lenin’s writings as part of their mandatory political education classes. Their study curriculum included Lenin’s “Imperialism the Highest Stage of Capitalism,” and “State and Revolution.”
After a century since the Bolshevik leader’s death, his legacy never stopped posing a threat to the capitalist system. And because Lenin’s persona is viewed with disdain by the mainstream, his name continues to be vilified by the anti-communism of bourgeois historians, educators, news media, and religious institutions.
In 1934 the billionaire John D. Rockefeller expressed precisely that contempt. Rockefeller ordered the destruction of a mural at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City, because it contained a portrait of V.I. Lenin. The mural was the creation of renown Mexican painter Diego Rivera, who Rockefeller himself had commissioned.
Lenin standing with other Bolsheviks a few days after the seizure of power.
One of Lenin’s most fundamental principles was the need for the working class to create its own political and organizational system, with the highest sophistication. Despite attempts to trivialize and distort his teachings, Lenin was firmly consistent in his belief that human suffering could only end by denying the billionaire class the “right” to political power, that is, by working people eliminating the capitalist state.
Lenin was stern about eliminating the police, courts, prisons, and military under capitalist rule, due to its inherent disregard for the well-being of working class and oppressed people.
Given the current situation in the United States, with rampant police violence, food prices and rents skyrocketing, including the devastation of the Covid-19 pandemic, the lessons drawn from Lenin’s leadership and teachings continue to prove applicable to the reality of today’s world.
My portrait of V.I. Lenin. 24″ X 30″, acrylic paint on canvas. Completed March 2022.
Part and parcel to stripping the capitalist class of their power is denying them “ownership” to the wealth they robbed from the people over many generations. According to Lenin “The expropriators would be expropriated.” His vision of a future socialist society was based on the Marxist premise – where working people produce and provide services while also taking part in managing all aspects of the economy.
Today, Lenin’s views on the state and bourgeois “property rights” are targeted by enemies of socialism – including by some who claim to be “socialists” but are insidiously hostile to his teachings.
In addition, with the premise that the world is comprised of many nations, is why Lenin was adamant and uncompromising about respecting the right of self-determination for all oppressed national entities, specifically conquered and colonized people.
Lenin often spoke out about racism in the United States, specifically, the plight of the African American masses and their fight against racist discrimination and all forms of violence, especially the heinous act of lynching.
Lenin understood that the persecution of African Americans and the downtrodden economic position they have been kept in has served to perpetuate racial divisions. He also understood how the centuries-long enslavement of Black labor became the impetus for the economic might of United States imperialism.
At a meeting of the Communist International (Comintern), a body made up of representatives from various Communist Parties, Lenin voiced support for a proposed resolution that raised the right of African Americans to succession. That is, the right of Black people to break away and create their own state in a separate territory, presumably in the Southern part of the United States. Lenin believed that if African Americans wished to succeed it would be perfectly within their right to self-determination.
Additionally, Lenin was critical of the United States for launching the 1898 Spanish-American War, in which Guam, the Philippines, Cuba and Puerto Rico were militarily invaded and colonized. It was Lenin who characterized that event as “the first Imperialist war.”
What V.I. Lenin demonstrated with his character and genius was the power freedom fighters possess when they fight for a better world. His teachings will undoubtedly continue to influence working class struggles and national liberation movements everywhere, until the emancipation of humanity is finally achieved.
LONG LIVE THE LEGACY OF V.I. LENIN!
Carlos “Carlito” Rovira
This article was republished from Carlitoboricua.
North Korea: Kim Jong-un’s Leadership and Accomplishments. By: scorinocoRead Now
Featured image: North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. Photo: Kin Cheung/AP
Ten years ago, on April 13, 2012, Kim Jong-un was elected First Chairman of North Korea’s National Defense Commission. So, he became the country’s leader and assumed all the highest state, military and party posts. TASS has summed up information about Kim Jong-un and how the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has been developing under his leadership.
Kim Jong-un: Origin, education and rise to power
Kim Jong-un was born on January 8, 1982, in Pyongyang (January 8, 1983, or 1984 according to different sources). He is the youngest of three sons of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il (1942-2011), the grandson of Kim Il-sung (1912-1994), the founder of North Korea. Kim Jong-un attended the International School of Berne, Switzerland (1996-2001) and the Kim Il-sung Military University in Pyongyang. In early 2009, Chairman of the State Defense Commission (the highest governing institution in North Korea until 2016) Kim Jong-il designated Kim Jong-un as his successor. Kim Jong-un was appointed head of the Organizational Department of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea and in early April, he joined the State Defense Commission. In June 2010, he led the Ministry of State Security and in September 2010 he was elected to the Central Committee and also became deputy chairman of the party’s Central Military Commission.
After Kim Jong-il’s death on December 17, 2011, Kim Jong-un was declared his successor. On December 30 of that year, he was appointed Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army (in July 2012 Kim Jong-un was given the title of marshal).
On April 11, 2012 he was elected to the governing posts in the Workers’ Party of Korea. On April 13, 2012 Kim Jong-un was elected first chairman of the State Defense Commission (this post was created especially for him and existed until 2016).
As the leader of North Korea
After Kim Jong-un took all governing posts in North Korea, experts predicted various scenarios of political life in the country. In particular, they suggested that there would be a collective rule of generals under a formal chairmanship of Kim Jong-un as well as “regency” of his aunt’s husband and deputy chairman of the State Defense Commission Jang Song-thaek.
However, in December 2013, Jang Song-thaek was accused of a number of crimes (corruption, setting up an anti-party group, failure to perform the orders of the Supreme Commander) and was dismissed from all posts, arrested and sentenced to death (according to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) and executed shortly after the military court’s ruling).
On April 9, 2014, Kim Jong-un was re-elected first chairman of the State Defense Commission. In May 2016, at the 7th session of the Workers’ Party of Korea, he was elected its chairman. On June 29, 2016, he was appointed chairman of the State Affairs Commission, a supreme body of state power in North Korea, which replaced the abolished State Defense Commission. According to observers, this was a sign that under Kim Jong-un, the army’s role in ruling the country was diminished and the positions of the party and the government, on the contrary, strengthened.
North Korea’s strategic line under Kim Jong-un was the policy of developing the economy along with boosting military arsenals. The country launched moderate economic reforms similar to those in China in late 1970s-early 1980s initiated by Deng Xiaoping. According to experts, industrial state enterprises gained large autonomy. The North Korean government attached great importance to special economic zones in developing external economic ties. These and other measures led to a significant revival of the economy, the resumption of economic growth, a rise in the number of private enterprises and improved living standards.
Besides, an intensive development of the missile and nuclear program continued. In 2013-2017, the DPRK carried out four nuclear tests; in 2012 and 2016, it launched artificial terrestrial satellites. The nuclear tests escalated tensions in the peninsula, triggering unprecedented sanctions by the UN, the US and South Korea against Pyongyang. North Korea almost halted economic cooperation with the rest of the world. In over 10 years of Kim Jong-un’s rule, the DPRK conducted more than 100 launches of ballistic missiles—six times more than under Kim Jong-il (16 launches in 1994-2011).
On September 28, 2021, and on January 11, 2022, North Korea launched hypersonic missiles and on March 24, 2022, it launched the Hwasong-17 intercontinental missile. According to experts, these launches show that North Korea has managed to significantly enhance its missile systems. Meanwhile, some experts believe that the statements by the North Korean authorities on successful tests of hypersonic weapons are a political move, noting that not all objects that fly at a speed beyond Mach 5 can be called hypersonic.
In 2018, Kim Jong-un tried to strengthen DPRK’s international relationships. On March 25, 2018, he visited China, where he met with President Xi Jinping. He visited China twice after that. Then there were summits with South Korean President Moon Jae-in (in April, May and September 2018), as a result of which the parties expressed their desire to achieve full denuclearization of the peninsula and their intention to sign a peace treaty (not formally signed since the 1950-1953 Korean War). In June 2018, Kim Jong-un held negotiations with President Donald Trump in Singapore, the first ever US-DPRK summit. The result was a common declaration on the establishment of bilateral relations “in a new format.” Then there were two more meetings in Vietnam’s Hanoi in February 2019 and in June of the same year in Panmunjom on the border between the DPRK and South Korea.
On April 25, 2019, Kim Jong-un had a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Vladivostok.
Despite the sanctions, in pre-pandemic 2019, according to the Bank of Korea (the South Korean central bank and the World Bank have no data on the DPRK), the DPRK’s GDP reached 32.9 trillion won ($28.7 billion), up 0.4% from the previous year. However, in 2020, due to natural disasters, the pandemic and sanctions effects, the country’s GDP fell by 4.5% to 31.4 trillion won ($27.4 billion).
At the same time, the state budget income in 2020, according to the Korea Development Institute in Seoul, was 4.3% higher than in 2019 (absolute indicators are not given).
North Korea’s fight against COVID-19
The DPRK was the first country to announce a border closing with China (January 22, 2020) after reporting in late December 2019 about an unknown pandemic outbreak.
Betting on a quarantine, North Korea practically stopped international travels from February. Foreigners and staff of many embassies were evacuated as a matter of emergency, and when a coronavirus outbreak was suspected, authorities closed whole districts, forcing citizens to stay at home. In the summer of 2020, the North Korean government decided that the cargoes were also epidemiologically dangerous, which brought foreign trade to a close. It began recovering in the spring of 2021, when the quarantine and disinfecting centers at the border were opened.
In December 2021, the UN offered the DPRK 60 million doses of coronavirus vaccines, but Pyongyang did not react to the initiative. There are no registered cases of coronavirus infection in the DPRK at the moment, according to official data.
This article was republished from Orinoco Tribune.
From CAA to Kashmir Files—Who is Afraid of Faiz? By: Suryashekhar BiswasRead Now
Kashmir, a name seldom uttered in the Indian media, and never without a real estate contractor’s lustful gaze, is the talk of the country.
Vivek Agnihotri’s magnum opus, The Kashmir Files, has been received alarmingly well by a large section of Indians. The film features the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley in the late 1980s amidst communal tension and violence. The director claims that the Pandits were wilfully ignored by a ‘Left-liberal lobby’ that controls the media because the loss of the homes and memories of a Hindu community does not fit the secular narrative. Several prominent individuals have applauded the film for its supposed truth-telling, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who recommended watching it. Of course, Agnihotri reiterated support for Modi, and the film was declared tax-free in various BJP-ruled states.
Multiple fact-checkers, analysts, historians and others whom Agnihotri and his kin comfortably bracket as “left-liberals” have debunked the claims of the director and lovers of this film. Scholars (including from the Kashmiri Pandit community) have written at length about the exodus right from the time it happened. “I grew up in a family where this rage and trauma were visceral,” wrote Nishita Trisal in 2019 after Jammu and Kashmir’s special status was revoked. She went on, “This sense of loss and erasure is precisely what Hindutva, or Hindu nationalist forces, have capitalised on since 1989. Instead of treating Kashmir as a political matter, the Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies have turned it primarily into a communal and economic one. They have stoked Kashmiri Pandits’s felt experience of injustice by pitting Pandit and Muslim suffering against each other.”
It doesn’t help those who have admired the film that the Prime Minister’s party, the BJP, had backed the VP Singh government in power during the exodus. Those who view their flight from their homes and memories with concern and compassion don’t do one thing the film does dangerously well—scapegoat the Muslim community and encourage blatant hostility towards them. As the Hindutva brigade sets about avenging the past in Kashmir and elsewhere, the film creates mythology to justify this hate. For instance, it harps on the term “genocide” in its promotions and dialogues. Agnihotri has been sharing artwork on social media that praises the film, which he calls “genocide art”.
It is indisputable The Kashmir Files is not motivated by an earnest desire to portray the Kashmiri Pandit exodus. It has a vindictive plan to help the government derive legitimacy among its supporters. Released in a climate of intense Islamophobia, with hijab-wearing students barred from writing their final exams and mobile apps came up that “auction” well-known independent Muslim women, it does nothing but propaganda. It betrays no respect for facts, engages in false equivalences and fails to draw distinctions between far-left guerrilla, garden variety liberal, and anyone in between who may be three inches to the left of the Prime Minister’s political spectrum.
In this vein, The Kashmir Files appropriates Pakistani Marxist poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz’s Hum Dekhengey (We Shall See), an iconic song popular among progressives of all persuasions. No surprise, it does so to project the song and those who sing it in poor light.
HUM DEKHENGEY—A SONG OF RESISTANCE
Faiz wrote Hum Dekhenge in 1979 to affirm the hope among Pakistanis that oppression would end and freedom arrive. Faiz describes a future where the oppressed would gain respect and dignity, where tyrannical thrones would be razed. Here are some lines of the poem, translated from the Urdu by Jennifer Dubrow:
“That day we have been promised
When mountains of tyranny and oppression
Will float away like cotton
And the earth will tremble and shake
under the feet of the oppressed
The sky will thunder and roar
on the heads of the arbitrators
False idols will be uprooted
from the Ka’ba of God’s earth
And we, the pure-hearted, those banished from
the sanctuary will be seated in places of honour.”
Faiz wrote this poem when the military dictator Zia-ul-Haq had assumed power in Pakistan. That is why its lines speak of uprooting false idols. Most people interpret it as a critique of Islamic fundamentalism taking hold over the country. The poem makes this clear in the concluding line:
“Only the name of God shall remain
Who is both present and unseen
Who is both the observer and the perceived
On that day
The cry of “I am God!” will resound
The God that is in you and me
And the earth shall be ruled by those whom God created
The people, who are you and me.”
In the original Urdu, which uses the word Allah (God), this part of the poem contrasts rebellion with subversion. It is an attempt to reclaim god from the monopoly of fundamentalists for the homes of working people. As is typical of the best literature, the poem features Quranic allusions but uses them subversively.
Iqbal Bano, whose rendition of the verse is still the most popular, can be seen and heard singing Hum Dekhengey at the Faiz Mela before a large charged crowd that embellishes her voice with their cries of ‘Long Live Revolution’.
MUCH ADO OVER A SONG
Revolutionary slogans recently echoed in the people’s struggle against the discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019, which, along with the National Register of Citizens (NRC), effectively seeks to exclude Muslims from Indian citizenship. People did not accept a law that resembled Hitler’s Nuremberg Laws, and hundreds of thousands across the country came out on the streets in protest. Famously, Shaheen Bagh in Delhi came to epitomise the energy and essence of those protests. There, across decades and an international border, people sang Hum Dekhengey in protest. Its translations started doing the rounds as, before police brutality and merciless media-led defamation, thousands of Shaheen Bhaghs sprang up around the country.
Research scholar Nehal Ahmed writes in his book ‘Nothing Will Be Forgotten’ “From Pakistan to India [Faiz’s poem] captured the oppressor’s anxieties and the confidence of the oppressed. People might forget the exact events that led to something, but the poem that emerges from that something and that pain remains eternal; it’s alive waiting to be reintegrated into the world through other images.”
The right-wing government’s supporters quickly objected to the song. At the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, some said the lines invoking Allah (‘Only the name of God shall remain’) are a nod to Islamic fundamentalism and, therefore, a threat to other religions. People knew this was a lie and sang Hum Dekhengey in revolutionary optimism.
The song that inspired so many to stand firm was debilitating for the bigoted regime. Its power is demonstrated in how Agnihotri chose it as an object around which to spin a caricature of Indian Left-progressive forces. In the scene accompanying the song, a couple of students perform Hum Dekhengey before a heated crowd of youngsters, as if spewing anti-national vitriol is their driving force. Occasionally, Azaadi (freedom) slogans are raised. The activist-singer Radhika Menon (Pallavi Joshi, who is married to Agnihotri in real life) blinks and stares malignantly, following the dictates of her character. The only role she has is to poison the educated youth against the country.
Ever since The Kashmir Files was released in theatres, cinema halls have turned into veritable battlefields, with Hindutva slogans raised like war-cries by the regime’s sympathisers. School-going children are being taken to view the film—evidently learning bigotry at an early age.
Along with its falsified data and out-of-context information, the lines about Allah from Hum Dekhengey have special significance for the film-makers. They amplify the existing petty misrepresentation of the verses by turning them into the prestige of the plot of a full-fledged hate movie.
The appropriation of the song has other facets. It ridicules the progressive cultural context in which Hum Dekhengey has an iconic status. Two, it attempts to hollow out the meaning of a song that has great significance to voicing dissent. The Kashmir Files version of Hum Dekhengey got close to 30 lakh views on YouTube. So, shorn of its historical significance and political context, the purpose of propaganda is fulfilled to a great extent.
The song is sung by Shahzad Ali, who previously lent his voice to films such as U-Turn and Sultan, and Salman Ali. This, too, is a CIA-type trick that seeks to neutralise the accusation that the film is filled with anti-Muslim vitriol. That is nothing new. Did not the US State Department often find African-American spokespersons to justify its racist policies?
Another myth the film expounds is of the ex-communist, chiefly involving a reactionary public figure playing a former leftist, now “wiser” for being on the Hindutva track.
SONG OF HOPE
Faiz was no fundamentalist. He was arrested and exiled by fundamentalists who appropriated people’s beliefs, whom he criticised in the words that translate to “Only Allah’s name shall remain”. This Allah—God—is fundamentalist only in the interpretations arising from a violent ‘othering’ of Muslims to suit the ruling regime’s political project.
This February, during protests against the hijab ban in Karnataka, a Hindutva mob harassed a young woman student, demanding she chant their war-cry, “Jai Shri Ram”. She responded with “Allah-u-Akbar”. Many welcomed her bravery, while some lamented her choice of an Islamic phrase. With due apologies to Hannah Arendt, if one is attacked as a Muslim, must one not defend oneself as a Muslim? Amidst the spreading majoritarian oppression, there is still a confident resistance. The roar of money through propaganda films is challenged by those who gather in the streets and sing the revolutionary lines, “Only Allah’s name shall remain… the one that is you and me.”
Suryashekhar Biswas is an independent journalist and researcher, based in Bangalore, India. His research areas include political economy, media studies and literature. He is a member of AISA - a communist student organisation. He runs a YouTube channel called 'Humour and Sickle' (https://www.youtube.com/c/HumourandSickle)
This article was republished from News Click.
New York Times’ ridiculous attack on me exposes its deceitful propaganda tactics. By: Benjamin NortonRead Now
The New York Times printed absurd claims about Multipolarista editor Benjamin Norton in a smear piece, using an image of his face crossed out by a red line, without giving him an opportunity to comment. This hatchet job reflects the newspaper’s long history of spreading false war propaganda for the US government.
The New York Times published a ridiculous article smearing me with misleading claims, and even used an image of my face menacingly crossed out by a red line.
The newspaper dismissed my factual statement that the United States sponsored a violent coup d’etat to overthrow Ukraine’s democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014, calling this objective truth a “conspiracy theory,” while deceptively erasing the overwhelming evidence that I presented.
Ironically the Times itself, back in 2014, reported some of these facts that it now disparages as a “conspiracy theory,” as I document below in this article.
The Times’ hatchet job violates basic journalistic practices. The newspaper did not even reach out to me with a request for comment, while it defamed me and published a photo of my face.
The smear piece is a case study in the US newspaper of record’s propaganda techniques. And it is part of a transparent drive to advance the US government’s new cold war on China and Russia.
The fact that the New York Times collaborates closely with the US national security state is well established. The newspaper has publicly admitted to sending sensitive stories to the US government for approval before publication, to ensure that “national security officials” have “no concerns.”
Prominent former New York Times reporter James Risen wrote in an exposé that the newspaper’s editors are “quite willing to cooperate with the government,” and that there has been an “informal arrangement” in which US officials “regularly engaged in quiet negotiations with the press to try to stop the publication of sensitive national security stories.”
The Times also has a long, inglorious history of attacking anti-war voices in the United States, while spreading demonstrably false claims from anonymous government officials to justify Washington’s wars, from Vietnam to Iraq, Libya to Syria.
I don’t need to remind anyone of the Times’ leading role in amplifying lies about supposed “weapons of mass destruction” (WMDs) in Iraq.
But there have also been many lesser-known fake news stories disseminated by the US newspaper of record, like when it blamed Vietnamese communists for the Gulf of Tonkin incident, or falsely claimed that Iraqi soldiers took Kuwaiti babies out of incubators to die, or amplified the lie that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi gave Viagra to his soldiers and encouraged them to sexually assault women.
Then there are the more recent examples of the Times willingly spreading US government disinformation, from the debunked Russiagate conspiracy theory to the completely manufactured “Bountygate” scandal, to the equally ludicrous fake news farce known as “Havana Syndrome” – the notion that mass hysteria suffered by US spies was secretly caused by futuristic Russian, Chinese, and/or Cuban “microwave weapons” or “radiofrequency energy” ray guns.
The newspaper’s April 11 report, titled “China’s Echoes of Russia’s Alternate Reality Intensify Around the World,” follows in this same propagandistic vein.
The article was written by Paul Mozur, Steven Lee Myers, and John Liu. The Times apparently needed three reporters to file this story, but not one of them could be bothered to reach out to me for comment.
If they were students in a college journalism 101 class, they would have failed their assignment.
The director of the CIA, William Burns, confirmed in a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing this March that Washington is engaged in an “information war” against Russia.
Former top State Department official Eliot A. Cohen likewise stated clearly that, in Ukraine, the “United States and its NATO allies are engaged in a proxy war with Russia.”
This New York Times smear piece must be understood in this context: The newspaper of record is acting as a tool of US government information warfare, a hatchet man for Washington, launching neo-McCarthyite attacks on independent journalists who dare to challenge the official NATO propaganda line.
The article accuses China of helping Russia amplify purported “disinformation” over the war in Ukraine. And it singles out this present author, independent journalist Benjamin Norton, smearing my factual statements as so-called “conspiracy theories.”
The newspaper published the following passage:
Russian and Chinese state media have also increasingly drawn on the opinions of the same group of internet celebrities, pundits and influencers, featuring them on their shows as well as in YouTube videos. One of them, Benjamin Norton, is a journalist who claimed that a coup sponsored by the United States government took place in Ukraine in 2014 and that U.S. officials had installed the leaders of the current Ukrainian government.
For starters, the specific RT interview that the Times referenced was a discussion I had with left-wing American comedian Lee Camp, and it was actually conducted on February 23, a day before Russia invaded Ukraine (although it was not published until February 25).
Camp has a long history as a grassroots activist in the US anti-war, anti-racist, and environmentalist movements. The notion that he was secretly being controlled by the Kremlin is laughably preposterous.
Camp had repeatedly emphasized for years that he had total editorial control over his show – until YouTube erased his hundreds of episodes in an authoritarian purge of undesirable “Russia-linked” journalists.
The New York Times has already faced backlash for spreading ridiculous, defamatory claims about Lee Camp as well. It was only a matter of time until it came after me, in its war on progressive independent journalists.
The most cartoonishly nonsensical claim in the Times’ smear piece is the idea that the US government organizing a coup in Ukraine is an outlandish “conspiracy theory.”
Anyone vaguely familiar with the elementary history of US foreign policy knows that Washington has sponsored coups d’etat around the world – from Iran in 1953 to Guatemala in 1954, Congo in 1960 to Brazil in 1964, Indonesia in 1965 to Chile in 1973, Haiti in 1991 to Haiti again in 2004, Venezuela in 2002 to Ukraine (the first time) in 2004, Honduras in 2009 to Bolivia in 2019, and so, so many more.
Then again, the New York Times has a long history of echoing disinformation from anonymous US government officials in order to deny and whitewash these coups, so perhaps it should come as no surprise that it remains in denial about the 2014 US-backed putsch in Ukraine.
After absurdly accusing me of promulgating a “conspiracy theory,” the Times embedded a screenshot of a March 11 tweet from China’s news program Frontline, with an image of me. The newspaper added a red line, crossing out the tweet – and my face.
The New York Times screenshot, with the red line added by the newspaper
The Times did not actually embed the tweet, so its readers were not able to watch the video clip to hear my full comments.
The newspaper also conveniently failed to mention my citation of the leaked recording of a 2014 phone call in which US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland discussed who the prime minister of Ukraine’s post-coup government would be, and who did indeed become prime minister a few weeks later.
These omissions show how disingenuous the corporate media’s propaganda is. Legacy publications like the New York Times believe their audience is so foolish and so susceptible to foreign supposed “disinformation” that they will not even let readers listen to a 30-second video of an independent American journalist and make up their own minds.
In the clip, I made the following, 100% factual comments about the Ukraine crisis:
They [Western governments] promised this [not to expand eastward after the reunification of Germany] to the Soviet Union multiple times; we have the documents showing it. And NATO lied.
According to the New York Times, these objectively true statements – that Western governments repeatedly broke their promise to Moscow not to expand eastward, and that Washington sponsored a coup in Ukraine in 2014 – constitute a dangerous “conspiracy theory.”
As of the publication of this present article, April 14, this Frontline video has only 158 views, 10 likes, and three retweets on Twitter. But the US newspaper of record wants its readers to believe that this little-seen clip of me stating undeniable facts about the recent history of Ukraine endangers the very fabric of American society.
It is an uncontroversial matter of public record that the US government sponsored the 2014 coup in Ukraine.
The 2014 phone call between Victoria Nuland and the US ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey R. Pyatt, is a smoking gun.
In the leaked recording – a transcript of which was published by the BBC – Nuland and Pyatt can be heard discussing who would be the new prime minister of Ukraine’s upcoming post-coup regime.
“Yats is the guy who’s got the economic experience, the governing experience,” Nuland said, referring to Arseniy Yatsenyuk, showing her cozy relationship with the right-wing, pro-Western Ukrainian politician by shortening his surname.
Mere days after the US-backed February 22 coup, Yatsenyuk became prime minister of Ukraine – just as Nuland had insisted he should.
Yet the smoking gun evidence of a top State Department official and US ambassador discussing who the prime minister of Ukraine would be was overshadowed by another comment Nuland made in the phone call: “Fuck the EU.”
That single line inspired condemnations by European governments, and got much more attention than the fact that US diplomats were caught hand-picking the leaders of the upcoming Ukrainian coup regime.
In its April 11, 2022 smear piece attacking me, the New York Times refused to acknowledge this Nuland phone call. But the newspaper did repeatedly report on the recording back in 2014.
In fact, US government officials confirmed the authenticity of this leaked phone call in none other than the New York Times itself.
In a February 6, 2014 report, the Times admitted that the recording of the call was posted on Twitter “just as Ms. Nuland was in Kiev meeting with Mr. Yanukovych and opposition leaders.”
Then on February 10, the newspaper published a softball article on Nuland, in which the hardline right-wing hawk shrugged off the scandal and proudly confessed, “I’m well known as the least diplomatic diplomat there is.”
But now, in 2022, the Times acts as though acknowledging these events that the newspaper itself reported back in 2014 is indulging in a dangerous “conspiracy theory.”
The New York Times claims the fact that the US government sponsored a coup in Ukraine is part of an “alternate reality.” But the historical record shows that the Times is the one living in an alternate reality, where the US government’s crimes don’t exist, and the Kremlin alone is responsible for all evildoing in the world.
The reality that the violent 2014 overthrow of Ukraine’s democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych was a coup d’etat has also been obliquely acknowledged by the New York Times.
In a February 22, 2014 report on his violent ouster, the Times quoted Yanukovych saying, “I am a legitimately elected president. What is happening today, mostly, it is vandalism, banditism, and a coup d’état.”
The newspaper presciently titled that article “With President’s Departure, Ukraine Looks Toward a Murky Future.” The country’s future was indeed quite murky.
On February 27, 2014, the Times followed up with a report on “Crimea, where a heavily ethnic Russian and Russian-speaking population mostly views the Ukrainian government installed after the ouster last weekend of Mr. Yanukovych as the illegitimate result of a fascist coup.”
A few weeks later, in a March 17 report on the rebellion by Russian-speaking Ukrainians in the east of the country, the Times admitted, “Many Ukrainians, who saw demonstrators in the capital chase President Viktor F. Yanukovych from office last month in what some in this country regard as a justified uprising and others call a coup, wondered what part of Ukraine might remain, day by day, under the interim government’s control.”
Of course I am far from the only journalist who has pointed out the US government’s role in the violent 2014 coup in Ukraine.
Back at the time, some of this was acknowledged even in mainstream outlets.
In an April 2014 article titled “It’s not Russia that’s pushed Ukraine to the brink of war,” published in top British newspaper The Guardian – the UK’s equivalent of the New York Times – columnist Seumas Milne noted that prominent US politicians like Senator John McCain were in Kiev’s Maidan Square in 2014, working alongside far-right extremists.
Milne recalled that “the Ukrainian president was replaced by a US-selected administration, in an entirely unconstitutional takeover,” and “the US ambassador haggled with the state department over who would make up the new Ukrainian government.”
The Guardian admitted these undeniable facts back in 2014. But now in 2022, according to the New York Times, this objective history is a scandalous “conspiracy theory.”
These views have also been expressed by renowned University of Chicago Professor John Mearsheimer, a mainstream political scientist who is highly respected in his field.
Mearsheimer’s 2015 University of Chicago lecture “Why is Ukraine the West’s Fault?” went viral in the wake of Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine, and has roughly 25 million views as of the publication of this present article.
In that 2015 lecture, Mearsheimer repeatedly referred to the overthrow of Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014 as a coup. He added that there were “significant fascist elements among the protesters, who were armed, [and] there is killing on the Maidan.”
“If you have a coup in Kiev, and some of the people who come to power have fascist tendencies or are fascists, however you want to define that term, it’s going to have really huge consequences,” Mearsheimer said.
The scholar argued that the three “deep causes” of the crisis in Ukraine were NATO expansion, EU expansion, and US government “democracy promotion” programs – read: regime change.
“It just shows you how discombobulated American foreign policy is these days. And of course the Ukraine crisis is just one of many messes that we’ve made,” Mearsheimer summarized, referring to the US government.
Mearsheimer reiterated these points in a 2014 article, “Why the Ukraine Crisis Is the West’s Fault,” in Foreign Affairs, the magazine of the powerful US government-linked Council on Foreign Relations – the furthest publication possible from “Russian propaganda.”
But the New York Times dismissed this as a crazy “conspiracy theory.”
Mearsheimer in fact reiterated his analysis in a presentation on March 2, 2022, emphasizing the role of the United States and NATO in causing the war in Ukraine that was escalated by Russia’s February 24 invasion.
Mearsheimer explained that the crisis “was precipitated in large part by a coup that was supported by the United States that took place in Ukraine and resulted in a pro-Russian leader, President Yanukovych, being overthrown and being replaced by a pro-American prime minister.”
Mearsheimer was joined in this March 2 event by longtime former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, a specialist in Russian affairs. McGovern agreed that the US government sponsored the 2014 coup in Ukraine, pointing to the infamous phone recording of Nuland and Pyatt.
The US government stenographers at the New York Times would like their readers to believe that these undeniable facts are a loony “conspiracy theory,” and that anyone who mentions them is guilty of regurgitating “Chinese and Russian state propaganda.”
But many countries across the Global South recognize the role of the United States and NATO in starting the war in Ukraine.
The president of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, blamed NATO for the violence in Ukraine, in comments to his country’s parliament on March 17: “The war could have been avoided if NATO had heeded the warnings from amongst its own leaders and officials over the years that its eastward expansion would lead to greater, not less, instability in the region.”
Bolivia’s former president Evo Morales, who was himself overthrown in a US-backed far-right coup in 2019, declared publicly that “the US uses Ukraine to militarily, politically, and economically attack the people of Russia.” He condemned “the interventionist expansionism of NATO and the US,” warning that its “hegemony of weapons and imperialism puts world peace at risk.”
Brazil’s left-wing Workers’ Party made similar comments. And The Guardian reluctantly acknowledged that many leaders across Africa are “calling for peace but blaming Nato’s eastward expansion for the war [in Ukraine], complaining of western ‘double standards’ and resisting all calls to criticise Russia.”
According to the New York Times, all of these Global South nations are engaged in an elaborate “conspiracy theory.”
Perhaps even current CIA Director William Burns himself could be accused of being complicit in this “conspiracy theory.”
Back in 2008, when he served as US ambassador to Russia, Burns published a confidential embassy cable in which he warned that NATO expansion to Ukraine would cross Moscow’s security “redlines” and “could potentially split the country in two, leading to violence or even, some claim, civil war, which would force Russia to decide whether to intervene.”
Was the former US ambassador to Russia and current CIA director guilty of spreading “Putinist disinformation” by acknowledging that Moscow might have to respond to Western military encirclement?
(It is worth emphasizing that we only have this document thanks to whistleblowing journalistic publication WikiLeaks, whose founder and longtime editor Julian Assange is a political prisoner, persecuted by the US government for daring to expose its crimes. The New York Times has been complicit in the information warfare campaign waged by Washington in order to vilify Assange and justify this gruesome campaign of political persecution.)
Outside of the bubble of Western chauvinism that the New York Times exists to reinforce, the vast majority of the world’s population clearly sees that the United States and NATO are responsible for the war in Ukraine.
But it is quite clear to me what the Times’ goal was in its deceitful April 11, 2022 smear piece: By including me in this article on so-called “disinformation” supposedly spread by Chinese and Russian media, the US newspaper of record is trying to get me banned on social media.
Over years of work I have managed to build a relatively substantial platform for my independent journalism. Large corporate outlets like the New York Times, which willingly collaborate with the US government, see me and other independent journalists as a threat to their chokehold on media.
So these legacy publications want to create some kind of justification for Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to purge me and other independent journalists who expose the role of Washington in causing the war in Ukraine.
Their goal is authoritarian: they want control over all media, an iron grip on people’s access to information. They don’t believe in the freedom of the press or expression; they believe journalists or media outlets that expose inconvenient facts about the US government should be silenced and destroyed.
They are guilty of the very same authoritarian crimes that they project onto Washington’s geopolitical adversaries.
The Washington Post’s editorial board made this goal explicit in an article it published on the same day, April 11, calling on social media platforms to ban Chinese news outlets, supposedly for amplifying Russian “disinformation.”
Like the New York Times, the Washington Post enjoys a close relationship with the US government. The latter also happens to be owned by hundred-billionaire oligarch Jeff Bezos, whose company Amazon has massive contracts with the CIA, Pentagon, and other agencies that make up the US national security state.
The extreme neo-McCarthyite campaigns being driven by the Times, the Post, and many more corporate media outlets demonstrate how the mainstream press is a key instrument of Washington’s information warfare.
As the United States escalates its new cold war on China and Russia, leading newspapers are dropping any pretense of fidelity to basic journalistic principles and enlisting as loyal foot soldiers in the information war. Those of us who are independent journalists who refuse to dutifully toe the US regime’s line are in their crosshairs.
Benjamin Norton is a journalist, writer, and filmmaker. He is the founder and editor of Multipolarista, and is based in Latin America. // Benjamín Norton es un periodista, escritor, y cineasta. Es fundador y editor de Multipolarista, y vive en Latinoamérica.
This article was republished from Multipolarista.
The following is the text of a presentation by John Bellamy Foster given on March 31, 2022 to the advisory board of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. —Eds
Thanks for inviting me to make this presentation. In talking about the Ukraine war, the essential thing to recognize at the outset is that this is a proxy war. In this regard, none other than Leon Panetta, who was CIA director and then secretary of defense under the Barack Obama administration, acknowledged recently that the war in Ukraine is a U.S. “proxy war,” though seldom admitted. To be explicit, the United States (backed by the whole of NATO) is in a long proxy war with Russia, with Ukraine as the battlefield. The U.S. role in this conception, as Panetta insisted, is to provide more and more weapons faster and faster with Ukraine doing the fighting, bolstered by foreign mercenaries.
So how did this proxy war come about? In order to understand that we have to look at the U.S. imperial grand strategy. Here we have to go back to 1991 when the Soviet Union dissolved or even further to the 1980s. There are two prongs to this imperial grand strategy, one as geopolitical expansion and positioning, including the enlargement of NATO, the other as the U.S. drive for nuclear primacy. A third prong involves the economy but won’t be considered here.
The First Prong: Geopolitical Expansion
The first prong was enunciated in Paul Wolfowitz’s Defense Policy Guideline for the United States in February 1992, just months after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The grand imperial strategy adopted at the time and followed ever since had to do with the United States advancing geopolitically into the terrain of the former Soviet Union as well as what had been the Soviet sphere of influence. The idea was to prevent Russia from reemerging as a great power. This process of U.S./NATO geopolitical expansion commenced immediately, visible in all the U.S./NATO wars in Asia, Africa, and Europe that have taken place in the last three decades. NATO’s war in Yugoslavia in the 1990s was particularly important in this respect. Even while the dismemberment of Yugoslavia was going on, the United States began the process of enlarging NATO by moving it further and further East to encompass all of the former Warsaw Pact countries as well as parts of the former USSR. Bill Clinton in his 1996 election campaign made the enlargement of NATO part of his platform. Washington started to implement that in 1997, eventually adding 15 additional countries to NATO doubling its size and creating a 30-nation Atlantic Alliance targeting Russia, while also giving NATO a more global interventionist role, as in Yugoslavia, Syria, and Libya.
But the goal was the Ukraine. Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was the most important strategist of all of this and had been Jimmy Carter’s national security advisor said in his 1997 Grand Chessboard that Ukraine was the “geopolitical pivot,” particularly in the West, which if it were brought into NATO and under Western control, would weaken Russia so much that it could be tethered, if not dismembered. This has been the goal all along and U.S. strategic planners and Washington officials, along with the NATO allies, have stated over and over that they wanted to bring the Ukraine into NATO. NATO made this goal official in 2008. Only a few months ago, in November 2021 in the new strategic charter between the Biden administration in Washington and Zelensky government in Kyiv, it was agreed that the immediate aim was bring Ukraine into NATO. But this has also been NATO’s policy for a long time now. The United States in the final months of 2021 and at the beginning of 2022 was moving very fast to militarize the Ukraine and accomplish that as a fait accompli.
The idea, articulated by Brzezinski and others, was that once the Ukraine was secured for NATO, Russia was finished, the proximity to Moscow with Ukraine as the thirty-first nation in the NATO alliance, would give NATO a 1200-mile border with Russia, the same path through which Hitler’s armies had invaded the Soviet Union, but in this case with Russia facing the world’s greatest nuclear alliance. This would change the entire geopolitical map giving the West control of Eurasia west of China.
How this actually played out is important. The proxy war started in 2014 when the Maidan coup, engineered by the United States, took place in Ukraine, removing the democratically elected president, and putting ultra-nationalists largely in control. The immediate result though was that Ukraine began to break apart. Crimea had been an independent, autonomous state from 1991 to 1995. In 1995 Ukraine illegally tore up the Crimean Constitution and annexed it against its will. The Crimean people didn’t consider themselves part of Ukraine, and were largely Russian speaking, with deep cultural connections to Russia. When the coup occurred, with Ukrainian ultra-nationalists in control, the Crimean population wanted out. Russia gave them an opportunity with a referendum to stay in the Ukraine or join with Russia. They chose the latter. However, in the eastern Ukraine the primarily Russian population was subjected to repression by ultra-nationalist and neo-Nazi Kyiv forces. Russophobia and extreme repression of the Russian-speaking populations in the East set in—with the infamous case of the forty people blown up in a public building by neo-Nazis associated with the Azov Battalion. Originally there were a number of breakaway republics. Two survived in the Donbass region, with dominant Russian-speaking populations: the republics of Luhansk and Donetsk.
A civil war thus emerged in Ukraine between Kyiv in the West and Donbass in the East. But it was also a proxy war with the U.S./NATO supporting Kyiv and Russia supporting Donbass. The civil war started right after the coup, when the Russian language was basically outlawed, so that individuals could get fined for speaking Russian in a store. It was an attack on the Russian language and culture and a violent repression of the populations in the eastern parts of the Ukraine.
Initially, there were about 14,000 lives lost in the civil war. And these casualties were in the eastern part of the country, with something like 2.5 million refugees pouring into Russia. The Minsk Agreements in 2014 and 2015 led to a ceasefire, mediated by France and Germany, and supported by the United Nations Security Council. In these agreements the Luhansk and Donetsk Republics were given autonomous status within Ukraine. But Kyiv broke the Minsk agreements again and again, continuing to attack the breakaway republics in Donbass, though on a reduced scale, and the US continued to provide stepped-up military training and weapons.
Washington provided an enormous amount of military support to Kyiv between 1991 and 2021. The direct military aid to Kiev from the United States was $3.8 billion from 1991 to 2014. From 2014 to 2021, it was $2.4 billion, increasing in rate, and then finally skyrocketing once Joe Biden came into office in Washington. The United States was militarizing the Ukraine very fast. The United Kingdom and the Canada trained around 50,000 Ukrainian troops, not counting those trained by the United States. The CIA actually trained the Azov Battalion and the rightwing paramilitaries. All of this was targeting Russia.
The Russians were concerned particularly about the nuclear aspect, since NATO is a nuclear alliance, and if Ukraine was brought into NATO and missiles were placed in Ukraine, a nuclear strike could occur before the Kremlin had time to respond. Already there are anti-ballistic missile defense facilities in Poland and Romania, crucial as counterforce weapons in a NATO first strike. Yet, it is important to understand that the Aegis missile defense systems placed there are also capable of launching nuclear offensive missiles. All of this factored into Russia’s entry into the Ukrainian civil war. In February 2022 Kyiv was preparing a major offensive, with 130,000 troops on the borders of Donbass in the East and South, with U.S./NATO, firing into Donbass, with continuing U.S./NATO support. This crossed Moscow’s clearly articulated red lines. In response, Russia first declared that the Minsk Agreements had failed and that the Donbass republics had to be regarded as independent and autonomous states. It then intervened in the Ukrainian civil war on the side of Donbass, and in line with what it considered its own national defense.
The result is a proxy war between the U.S./NATO and Russia being fought in Ukraine, developing out of a civil war in Ukraine itself, which had its inception in a U.S.-engineered coup. But unlike other proxy wars between capitalist states this one is occurring on the borders of one of the great nuclear powers and is brought on by the long-articulated grand imperial strategy in Washington aimed at capturing the Ukraine for NATO in order to destroy Russia as a great power, and establish, as Brzezinski stated, U.S. supremacy over the globe. Obviously, this particular proxy war carries grave dangers on a level not seen since the Cuban missile crisis. Following the Russian offensive, France declared that NATO was a nuclear power and immediately afterwards, on February 27, the Russians put their nuclear forces on high alert.
Another thing to understand about the proxy war is that the Russians have been trying to with considerable success to avoid civilian casualties. The populations of Russia and Ukraine are interwoven, and Moscow has attempted to keep civilian casualties down. Figures in the US military and in the European militaries have been indicating that the civilian casualties are remarkably low, when compared to the standard of U.S. warfare. One indication of this is that the military casualties to the Russian troops are greater than the civilian casualties of Ukrainians, which is the reverse of the way it works in U.S. warfare. If you look at how the United States fights a war, as in Iraq, it attacks the electrical and water facilities and the entire civilian infrastructure on the grounds that this will create dissension in the population and a revolt against the government. But targeting civilian infrastructure naturally increases civilian casualties, as in Iraq where the civilian casualties from the U.S. invasion were in the hundreds of thousands. Russia, in contrast, has not sought to destroy the civilian infrastructure, which it would be easy for them to do. Even in the midst of the war they are still selling natural gas to the Kyiv, fulfilling their contracts. They have not destroyed Ukraine’s Internet.
Russia intervened mainly with the object of freeing up Donbass, much of which was occupied by Kyiv forces. A priority has been gaining control of Mariupol, the main port, which would make Donbass viable. Mariupol has been occupied by the neo-Nazi Azov battalion. The Azov battalion now controls less than 20% of the city. They are hiding out in the old Soviet bunkers in part of the city. The Donetsk People’s Militia and the Russians control the rest of it. There are about 100,000 paramilitary forces in Ukraine. Most of the paramilitaries within the Ukrainian forces that constituted the larger part of the 130,000 troops that were surrounding Donbass, have now been cut off by the Russian military. Besides gaining control of Donbass together with the people’s militias, Moscow seeks to compel the Ukraine to demilitarize and to accept a neutral status, remaining outside of NATO.
If you look at the situation from the standpoint of the peace agreements—and the Global Times had a good report on it on March 31—you can see what the war is all about. Kyiv has provisionally agreed to neutrality, to be overseen by certain guarantors from the West, such as Canada. But the sticking point in the negotiations is what Kyiv calls “sovereignty.” That is all about Donbass and the civil war. Ukraine insists that Donbass is part of its sovereign territory, irrespective of the wishes of the population in the breakaway republics of Donetsk and Luhansk. The people in the Donbass republics and the Russians can’t accept that. In fact, the peoples’ militias and the Russians are still working at liberating parts of Donbass that are occupied by these paramilitary forces. It is there that the main sticking point in the negotiations lies, and this goes back to the reality of the civil war in Ukraine. The U.S. role in this has been to operate as a spoiler in the negotiations.
The Second Prong: The Drive to Nuclear Primacy
Here it is necessary to turn to the second prong of the U.S. Imperial Strategy. So far, I have discussed the grand imperial strategy in terms of geopolitics, the expansion into the territory of the former Soviet Union and the Soviet sphere of influence, which was articulated most effectively by Brzezinski. But there’s another prong to the U.S. grand imperial strategy that needs to be discussed in this context, and that is the drive to new nuclear primacy. If you read Brzezinski’s Grand Chessboard, his book on U.S. geopolitical strategy, you won’t find a word on nuclear weapons. The word nuclear doesn’t appear at all in his book, I believe. Yet this is of course crucial to the overall U.S. strategy with respect to Russia. In 1979, under Jimmy Carter, while Brzezinski was his national security advisor, it was decided to move beyond Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) and for the United States to pursue a counterforce strategy of nuclear primacy. This involved placing nuclear missiles in Europe. In his “A Letter to America,” which appears in Protest and Survive published by Monthly Review Press in 1981, Marxist historian and anti-nuclear activist E.P. Thompson actually quotes Brzezinski admitting that the U.S. strategy had shifted to a counterforce war.
To explain this, it is necessary to go back a little bit further. By the 1960s, the Soviet Union had achieved nuclear parity with the United States. There was a big debate within the Pentagon and security establishment about this, because nuclear parity meant MAD. It meant Mutually Assured Destruction. And whichever nation, it didn’t matter which, attacked the other, both would be utterly destroyed. Robert McNamara, John F. Kennedy’s secretary of defense, started promoting the notion of counterforce to get around MAD. Essentially, there are two types of nuclear attacks. One is a countervalue which targets the cities, the population, and the economy of the adversary. That’s what MAD is based on. The other kind of attack is a counterforce war aimed at destroying the enemy’s nuclear forces before they can be launched. And, of course, a counterforce strategy is the same thing as a first strike strategy. The United States under McNamara, started to explore counterforce. McNamara then decided was such an approach was insane, and he decided to make MAD the deterrence policy of the United States. That lasted through most of the 1960s and seventies. But in 1979, in the Carter administration, when Brzezinski was the national security adviser, they decided to implement a counterforce strategy. The United States at that time decided to locate Pershing II missiles and nuclear-armed cruise missiles in Europe. That led to the rise of the European Nuclear Disarmament movement, the great European peace movement.
Washington initially put Pershing II intermediate nuclear missiles, as well as cruise missiles, in Europe. This became a huge issue for the peace movement in both Europe and the United States. The dangers of a nuclear war were enormously enhanced. The Ronald Reagan administration heavily promoted the counterforce strategy and added their sci-fi Strategic Defense Initiative (better known by its nickname of Star Wars), which envisioned a system that would shoot down all of the enemy missiles altogether. This was largely a fantasy. Eventually, the nuclear arms race in this period was stopped as a result of the massive peace movements in Europe on both sides of the Berlin Wall and the nuclear freeze movement in the United States, as well as the rise of Gorbachev in the Soviet Union. But after the dissolution of the USSR, Washington decided to go forward with the counterforce strategy, its drive towards nuclear primacy.
Over the next three decades, Washington kept on developing counterforce weapons and strategies, enhancing US abilities in that respect, to the point that in 2006 it was declared that the United States was near nuclear primacy, as explained at the time in Foreign Affairs, published by the Council on Foreign Relations, the main center for U.S. grand strategy. The Foreign Affairs article declared that China didn’t have a nuclear deterrent against a U.S. first strike, given the improvements in U.S. targeting and sensing technology, and that even the Russians couldn’t count on the survivability their nuclear deterrent anymore. Washington was pushing forward to achieve complete nuclear primacy. This went hand in hand with the enlargement of NATO in Europe because part of the counterforce strategy was to get counterforce weapons closer and closer to Russia to decrease the time with which Moscow could respond.
Russia was the primary target in the strategy. While China was clearly intended to be the later target. But Trump coming in decided to pursue detente with Russia and concentrate on China. That threw things off for a while, destabilizing the U.S./NATO grand strategy since the enlargement of NATO was an essential part of the nuclear primacy strategy. Once the Biden administration came into office, attempts were made to make up for lost time in tightening the Ukraine noose in Russia.
In all of this, the Russians, now a capitalist state and regaining great power status, were not fooled. They saw this coming. In 2007 Vladimir Putin declared that the unipolar world was impossible, that the United States wouldn’t be able to achieve nuclear primacy. Both Russia and China started to develop weapons that would get around the counterforce, strategy of the United States. The idea of a first strike is that the attacker—and only the United States has anything near this capability—strikes the land-based missiles, whether in hardened silos or mobile, and by tracking the submarines is in a position to eliminate them as well. The role of anti-ballistic missile systems is then to pick off whatever retaliatory strike remains. Naturally, the other side, namely Russia and China among the great nuclear powers, know all of this, so they do everything they can to protect their nuclear deterrent or retaliatory strike capability. In the last few years Russia and China developed hypersonic missiles. These missiles move extraordinarily fast, above Mach 5 and at the same time are maneuverable, so they cannot be stopped by anti-ballistic missile systems, weakening the U.S. counterforce capability. The United States itself has not yet developed hypersonic missile technologies of this kind. This type of weapon is what China calls an “assassin’s mace,” meaning that it can be used by a lesser power to counter an overwhelming advantage in the military power of the opponent. This then increases the basic deterrent of Russia and China by protecting their retaliatory capabilities in the event of a first strike against them. It is one of the major factors that that is countering U.S. first strike capabilities.
Another aspect in this game of nuclear chicken is the U.S./NATO dominance in satellites. It is largely because of this that Pentagon targeting is now so accurate that they can conceive of the possibility of destroying the hardened missile silos with smaller warheads because of the absolute accuracy of their targeting, while also targeting submarines. All of this has to do with the satellite systems. This gives the United States, it is widely believed, the capability of destroying hardened missile silos or at least command and control centers with weapons that aren’t nuclear, or with smaller nuclear warheads, because of the increased accuracy. The Russian and Chinese militaries have been focusing therefore a lot on anti-satellite weapons in order to take this advantage away.
Nuclear Winter and Omnicide
All of this may sound bad enough, but it is necessary to say something about nuclear winter. The U.S. military—and I imagine it’s true of the Russian military as well—have, if you read their declassified documents, completely walked away from the science on nuclear war. In the declassified document on nuclear armaments and nuclear war there is no mention of firestorms anywhere in the discussion of nuclear war. But firestorms are actually what result in the largest number of deaths in a nuclear attack. The firestorms can spread out in a thermonuclear attack on a city to as much as 150 square miles. The military establishments, which are all about fighting and prevailing in a nuclear war, leave the firestorms out of account in their analyses even in calculations of MAD. But there is another reason for this as well since the firestorms are what generate nuclear winter.
In 1983, when counterforce weapons were being placed in Europe, Soviet and American atmospheric scientists, working together, created the first models of nuclear winter. A number of the key scientists, in both the Soviet Union and the United States, were involved in climate change research, which is essentially the inverse of nuclear winter, though not nearly as abrupt. These scientists discovered that in a nuclear war with firestorms in 100 cities, the effect would be a drop in an average global temperature by what Carl Sagan said at the time was up to “several tens of degrees” Celsius. They later backed off from that with further studies and said it was that the drop would be up to twenty degrees Celsius. But you can imagine what that means. The firestorms would loft the soot and the smoke into the stratosphere. This would block to 70% of the solar energy reaching the earth, which would mean all harvests on Earth would end. This would destroy nearly all vegetative life, so that the direct nuclear effects in the northern hemisphere would be accompanied by the death of almost everyone in the southern hemisphere as well. Only a few people would survive on the planet.
The nuclear winter studies were criticized by the military and by the establishment in the United States, as exaggerated. But in the 21st century, beginning in 2007, the nuclear winter studies were expanded, replicated, and validated numerous times. They showed that even in a war between India and Pakistan using Hiroshima-level atomic bombs, the result would a nuclear winter not as severe, but with the effect of reducing the solar energy reaching the planet enough to kill billions of people. In contrast, in a global thermonuclear war, as the news studies have shown, nuclear winter would be even would be as bad or worse as what the original studies in 1980s had determined. And this is the science. It’s accepted in the top peer-reviewed scientific publications and the findings have been repeatedly validated. It is very clear in terms of the science that if we have a global thermonuclear exchange, it will kill off the entire population of the earth with maybe a few remnants of the human species surviving somewhere in the southern hemisphere. The result will be planetary omnicide
At first McNamara thought that counterforce was a good idea, because it was seen as a No Cities strategy. The United States could just destroy the nuclear weapons on the other side and leave the cities untouched. But that quickly dissolved, and nobody believes that anymore because most the command-and-control centers are in or near the cities. There’s no way that these can all be destroyed in a first strike without attacking the cities. Moreover, there’s no way that the nuclear deterrent on the other side can be completely destroyed, where the major nuclear powers are concerned, and only a relatively small part of the nuclear arsenals of the major powers can destroy all the major cities on the other side. To think otherwise is to pursue a dangerous fantasy that increases the chance of a global thermonuclear war that will destroy humanity. This means that the major nuclear analysts, who are deeply engaged in counterforce doctrines, are promoting total madness. The nuclear war planners pretend that they can prevail in a nuclear war. Yet, we now know that MAD, mutually assured destruction, as it was originally envisioned, is less extreme than what a global thermonuclear war means today. Mutually assured destruction meant both sides were destroyed in their hundreds of millions. But nuclear winter means virtually the entire population of the planet is eliminated.
Counterforce strategy, the drive towards first strike capability or nuclear primacy means that the nuclear arms race keeps on increasing in the hope of eluding MAD, while actually threatening human extinction. Even if the numbers of nuclear weapons are limited, the so-called “modernization” of the nuclear arsenal, particularly on the U.S. side, is designed to make counterforce and thus a first strike thinkable. That’s why Washington withdrew from the nuclear treaties like the ABM Treaty and the intermediate-range nuclear missile treaty. These were seen as blocking counterforce weapons, interfering with the Pentagon’s drive to nuclear primacy. Washington walked out of all of those treaties and then while it was willing to accept a limit on the total number of nuclear weapons because the game was then being played in a different way. The U.S. strategy is focused on counterforce not countervalue now.
All of this is a lot to be absorbed in a short time. But I think it’s important to understand the two prongs of the U.S./NATO imperial grand strategy in order to understand why the Kremlin considers itself threatened, and why it acted as it did, and why this proxy war is so dangerous for the world as a whole. What we should keep in mind right now is that all of this maneuvering for absolute world supremacy has brought to us to the brink of a global thermonuclear war and global omnicide. The only answer is to create a massive world movement for peace, ecology, and socialism.
John Bellamy Foster, professor of sociology at the University of Oregon, is editor of Monthly Review, an independent socialist magazine published monthly in New York City. His research is devoted to critical inquiries into theory and history, focusing primarily on the economic, political and ecological contradictions of capitalism, but also encompassing the wider realm of social theory as a whole. He has published numerous articles and books focusing on the political economy of capitalism and the economic crisis, ecology and the ecological crisis, and Marxist theory: (with Brett Clark) The Robbery of Nature: Capitalism and the Ecological Rift; The Return of Nature: Socialism and Ecology; (with Paul Burkett) Marx and the Earth: An Anti-Critique (2016); The Theory of Monopoly Capitalism: An Elaboration of Marxian Political Economy (New Edition, 2014); (with Robert W. McChesney) The Endless Crisis: How Monopoly-Finance Capital Produces Stagnation and Upheaval from the USA to China (2012); (with Fred Magdoff) What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know About Capitalism: A Citizen's Guide to Capitalism and the Environment (2011); (with Brett Clark and Richard York) The Ecological Rift: Capitalism’s War on the Earth (2009); (with Fred Magdoff) The Great Financial Crisis: Causes and Consequences (2009); The Ecological Revolution: Making Peace with the Planet (2009); (with Brett Clark and Richard York) Critique of Intelligent Design: Materialism versus Creationism from Antiquity to the Present (2008); Ecology Against Capitalism (2002); Marx's Ecology: Materialism and Nature (2000); (with Frederick H. Buttel and Fred Magdoff) Hungry for Profit: The Agribusiness Threat to Farmers, Food, and the Environment (2000); The Vulnerable Planet: A Short Economic History of the Environment (1999); (with Ellen Meiksins Wood and Robert W. McChesney) Capitalism and the Information Age: The Political Economy of the Global Communication Revolution (1998); (with Ellen Meiksins Wood) In Defense of History: Marxism and the Postmodern Agenda (1997); The Theory of Monopoly Capitalism: An Elaboration of Marxian Political Economy (1986); (with Henryk Szlajfer) The Faltering Economy: The Problem of Accumulation Under Monopoly Capitalism (1984). His work is published in at least twenty-five languages. Visit johnbellamyfoster.org for a collection of most of Foster's works currently available online.
This article was republished from MRonline.
‘They’re Playing Really Dirty’: Amazon Lashes Back in Staten Island Warehouses. By: Luis Feliz LeonRead Now
Here comes round two: Amazon's battalion of unscrupulous union-busters has descended on the Staten Island sorting facility where workers will begin voting April 25 on whether to unionize. "It's a war in there," said Amazon Labor Union Treasurer Madeline Wesley. Photo: Amazon Labor Union
The company has billed itself as the everything store. Now Amazon is the throw-everything-at-them union-buster—trying every trick in the playbook to throttle worker organizing at its Staten Island warehouses in New York City.
The union vote at a second warehouse, a neighboring sorting center known as LDJ5, is set to start April 25, so the company has turned its focus there.
“All those union-busters that were there to union-bust 8,000 workers at JFK8 have walked across the street and are in our little building of 1,600 people,” a visibly shaken Madeline Wesley, who works at LDJ5, told reporters at a press conference last week. “They’re really fighting us, and they’re playing really dirty.”
Wesley is the treasurer of the Amazon Labor Union. Amazon has reportedly blamed her for the suicide of another worker.
She said management has also been condoning bigotry to drive a wedge between workers. “They’re spreading racist lies about [ALU President] Chris [Smalls], per usual,” she said. “They’re spreading sexist lies about me, trying to undermine my authority as a young woman involved with the union.
“Anti-union workers have been throwing homophobic slurs at us,” she added. “It’s a war in there.”
Amazon paid out $4.3 million last year to union-busters whose job is psy ops: lying and distorting facts to prevent workers from forming unions.
“A campaign against a union is an assault on individuals and a war on the truth. The only way to bust a union is to lie, distort, manipulate, threaten, and always attack,” wrote Martin Jay Levitt, a former anti-union consultant, in Confessions of a Union Buster.
Tabitha Wilson was part of SEIU’s fast food workers campaign when she worked at McDonald’s. Now she works at LDJ5, and she has been with the ALU since she learned about Chris Smalls’ firing during the pandemic.
Amazon has filled the warehouse with out-of-state consultants. “They already know our names” after only briefly meeting workers, she said. But “we don’t know who they are.”
“I can’t believe the building across from us, JFK8, got a union,” said 18-year-old Ursula Tomaszuk. “I thought it wasn’t doable until now.”
“It doesn’t make sense to me that they bring people from other states and warehouses to tell us to vote no,” said Memo Merlin, 22, who is leaning towards voting yes.
The company has brought in ultra-conservative union-buster Rebecca Smith, as Lauren Kaori Gurley reported in Vice. Smith wrote an anti-union propaganda book, Union Hypocrisy. She’s a turncoat who trades on her Teamsters background—though what she did for the union was safety training, and reportedly her co-workers there petitioned to get her fired for incompetence.
One of the consultant firms “advertises that it offers ‘a team of men and women who represent bi-lingual, ethnic and cultural diversity’ that will ‘meet with the individual employees, establishing both rapport and credibility,’ and notes that its services will help address situations in which the company’s management and supervisors do ‘not reflect the racial mix of the workforce,’” reported Terri Gerstein of the Harvard Law School Labor and Worklife Program.
‘I’M NOT A FIGHTING TYPE, BUT…’
Despite Amazon’s efforts, many workers are resisting the grip of fear. Kathleen Cole got involved with the union after she was compelled to attend a captive-audience meeting.
She recalled a fellow worker asking in one of those meetings, “If I vote for the union, could that be held against me? Could I be fired?”
The union-buster wouldn’t answer the question. “He just kept going around in circles,” Cole said. “So I got angry because I’m like, ‘He’s intimidating this poor guy.’”
Then she stood up, saying, “No, you cannot be fired for signing a union card. It’s against the law.”
“I’m not a fighting type. But that’s just wrong,” she said. “To be honest with you, if they were fair and neutral in these meetings, I probably never would have even gotten involved.”
WEIGHING THE CHOICE
I spoke to more than 50 workers at various shift changes over the past weekend and found that many were still undecided, seeking more information.
Eric Alberto, 19, said he’ll make up his mind after he reads ALU’s constitution and bylaws, which are available online, to learn more about what the union stands for and its plans.
Anthony Hernandez, 24, is concerned about whether the union can deliver. “I don’t know which fact is true and which is not,” he said.
Alejandro Xochimitl Toxqui, 22, has been working at LDJ5 since it opened in 2020. He had a bad experience with unions in his native Mexico where he worked at a Volkswagen auto plant. But he said he would vote for the union if it could win extra pay for skilled jobs like learning ambassador, where you train other workers, and trailer docking and releasing (TDR), a job in the trailer yard that workers must be certified to perform.
Toxqui and Merlin argue that Amazon should bump workers’ pay once they take the exams and get certified to perform these roles.
A PART-TIME WORKFORCE
Workers want voluntary extra time (VET) and a return to 20-minute breaks, which Amazon trimmed down to 15 minutes.
Unlike at the fulfillment center JFK8, where the workers have sore and tired bodies from grueling shifts, the top grievance at the sorting center LDJ5 is not getting enough hours to make ends meet.
Outside the facility Saturday afternoon at shift change, JFK8 worker-organizer Justine Medina confirmed what I had heard about the need for more hours.
“You have a lot of part-time workers here that want to be full-time workers, and they put in applications to transfer to full-time,” she said. “But the bosses here, instead of letting them do that, they have flooded the warehouse with part-time workers to not have to give them the sort of meager benefits that exist for full-time workers.”
Another common concern revolves around ALU being too new and inexperienced to effectively negotiate a contract. “And then we explain a lot of the unions that are in our corner,” Medina said. “Now you have Teamsters President Sean O’Brien shaking Chris Smalls’ hand, saying they’ll give all the resources in the world.
“So basically, every union is in our corner now. There’s no lack for experience.”
It’s a good thing that ALU’s self-organized efforts are now backed by the institutional heft of the labor movement. The support will be needed to withstand Amazon’s fierce opposition and arsenal of attacks.
This is a company that has fought off many union drives over the years; it expects surrender from workers and brutal repression from managers. When the Communications Workers and the Food and Commercial Workers were trying to organize at Amazon two decades ago, the company put its supervisors on high alert.
“If workers became anything less than docile, managers were told, it was a sign there could be union activity,” according to The New York Times. “Tipoffs included ‘hushed conversations’ and ‘small group huddles breaking up in silence on the approach of the supervisor,’ as well as increased complaints, growing aggressiveness and dawdling in the bathroom.”
The union-busters’ efforts will be bolstered by Amazon’s censorship and surveillance regime. The company has planned an internal messaging app that would block workers from using words or phrases like “union,” “pay raises,” “living wage,” or “representation,” according to documents leaked to The Intercept.
A HIGH RATE OF INJURIES
Last year, Amazon was responsible for nearly half of all injuries in the warehouse industry, with a rate of injury of 6.8 per 100 workers at Amazon compared to 3.3 per 100 at other warehouses. Workers at the company suffered 38,300 injuries in 2021, up from 27,700 in 2020 and 21,200 in 2019.
Safety and working conditions have been prime motivators behind Amazon workers’ walkouts since the pandemic began, and behind their union drives.
Tristan “Lion” Dutchin, 27, shared a lyric from one of his songs inspired by the degradation at Amazon: “The system tries to hold us down and hold us back to a lower level. The Amazon corporation is nothing special. It treats workers like slaves. And that is the work of bad energy. And never again in your life settle for something mediocre—settle for something that’s high above your demands, above your standards.”
Amazon has filed 25 objections with the National Labor Relations Board seeking to overturn the ALU’s watershed victory, arguing that the independent union intimidated workers into voting to unionize and challenging how the NLRB conducted the election.
In one of its objections, Amazon said organizers “intentionally created hostile confrontations in front of eligible voters” when they disrupted compulsory captive-audience meetings where its highly paid consultants spouted lies and denigrated unions.
The General Counsel for the NLRB, Jennifer Abruzzo, is asking the Board to make these mandatory meetings illegal.
“Every worker who votes yes for the union—JFK8 and LDJ5—is a hero,” said Wesley. “Can you imagine standing up to one of the richest companies in the world?”
Luis Feliz Leon is a staff writer and organizer with Labor Notes.email@example.com
This article was produced by Labor Notes.
Unionization spreads across Starbucks outlets in US despite efforts to intimidate workers. By: Peoples DispatchRead Now
According to Starbucks Workers United, which is organizing workers to form unions, workers from over 200 outlets have already approached the National Labor Relations Board for a union vote
Labor organizers and trade unions hold a protest outside a Starbucks outlet in Raleigh, North Carolina, for firing a pro-union worker. (Photo: ThriveNC/Twitter)
The unionization drive forges ahead in Starbucks outlets in the United States. On Monday, April 11, workers at two outlets in the State of Massachusetts voted unanimously in favor of forming a union. Workers voted 14-0 and 16-0 in outlets in Brookline and Allstone in the Boston area.
The two new unions will be the first in outlets in the State, bringing the total of unionized outlets of the coffeehouse chain in the US to 18. Another Starbucks outlet in Kansas City voted 6-0 in favor of forming a union but is awaiting a ruling on challenged ballots to officially declare a union. All these votes have been organized by the Starbucks Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union. Dozens of other outlets across the country have either initiated a vote or are close to conducting one.
According to the group, since December 2021, when the first outlet in Buffalo voted to unionize, all stores in Ithaca in New York State, along with other outlets in different parts of New York and Kansas States, have unionized so far. This is despite large-scale union-busting attempts and hostility towards unionization from the top management of Starbucks.
On April 9, a barista working at a Raleigh outlet in North Carolina State was fired for allegedly breaking a sink on purpose. The barista in question, 20-year-old Sharon Gilman, was fired just days after workers in the outlet began sending their ballot votes to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for a union vote.
Gilman is an organizing committee member for the unionization efforts in the store. She began working at the outlet in May 2020 and also trained baristas. Gilman claimed that she was being targeted for her union activities and that the allegations of purposeful damage leveled against her by the management were false.
Responding to Gilman’s expulsion, labor organizers and trade unions in Raleigh held a demonstration on Monday outside the Starbucks outlet where she worked.
On the same day that Gilman was fired, Bloomberg reported that National Labor Relations Board prosecutors had held that the firing of seven workers in Memphis, Tennessee, in February was illegal and in retaliation to their announcement to form a union at the outlets. The terminated workers, who became known as “Memphis 7,” were an integral part of the union organizing committee at an outlet in the city.
The labor board prosecutors will be going ahead with a formal charge against Starbucks on the Memphis 7. According to reports, there are dozens of such cases filed with the NLRB where pro-union workers alleged that retaliatory measures were being taken by the corporate chain.
Workers at the two recently unionized outlets in the Boston area had also alleged retaliation from the management after they filed for a union vote. These retaliatory measures included drastic changes in work schedule, significant reduction of paid working hours, and increased reprimands for arbitrary offenses, along with other pressure tactics. Workers alleged that such moves were to intimidate them or force them to leave.
The allegations of union-busting have only grown after the return of Andrew Schultz as the interim CEO of Starbucks. Schultz has been on a tour to hold “collaborative sessions” with workers in different outlets to persuade them against unionization.
His anti-union hostility was made apparent during the tour last week in a confrontation with a pro-union organizer at the Long Beach Airport where he reportedly said, “If you hate Starbucks so much, why don’t you go somewhere else?”
The unionization drive is nevertheless going strong. According to Starbucks Workers United, workers from over 200 of the over 9,000 Starbucks outlets have already approached the NLRB expressing their interest in conducting a union vote. Over 1,000 workers across these outlets have also become part of different organizing committees.
This article was produced by Peoples Dispatch.
The President of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, stated today that he has already prepared a reform to the country’s Mining Law that would make Mexico’s lithium officially the property of the nation. This reform will be introduced if the ‘electrical reform’ is blocked by the opposition next Sunday.
President López Obrador said in his daily press conference,
“They are not going to put us against a wall. Lithium, which is coveted by both corporations and foreign governments, will belong to Mexico”, affirmed President López Obrador.
“Lithium is white gold and that’s why they are against reforming the Constitution”, he emphasized, adding; “this morning, I have just signed the initiative to reform the mining law, which doesn’t require two thirds. It’s a simple majority, so that lithium remains the property of the nation.”
The electrical reform is about taking back control of Mexico’s energy resources and distribution under the state-owned Federal Electricity Commission. The move has angered the US government as well as the EU because corporations from Spain are set to lose their dominant share in the market.
Mexican journalist, Jose Luis Granados Ceja, explained the nature of the electrical reform in an interview with Kawsachun News; “Mexico is in the process of transforming and taking back control of its natural resources and having greater control in order to meet our own needs. Of course, Mexico will still sell to the international market, but what will change is that those who control it will be the state company PEMEX and the Federal Electricity Commission. Spanish corporations were brought in to do this by the last government with contracts that benefited the corporations but hurt Mexico. AMLO’s policy of rebuilding PEMEX and the Federal Electricity Commission has affected the interests of European capital and that’s what drawn this interventionism against Mexico.”
Mexico has been coordinating with other lithium-rich countries such as Bolivia and Argentina, to develop the resource while maintaining sovereignty over it.
This article was republished from Kawsachun News.
President Maduro: West Lining Up for Big War Against Russia. By: Orinoco TribuneRead Now
Featured image: President Maduro during the Congress of History 2022 at Francisco de Miranda (del Este) Park in Caracas, on Friday, April 8. Photo: Presidential Press
“They are lining up, economically, politically, diplomatically and militarily in the West to go for a big war against Russia,” said Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro on Friday, April 8, at an event in Caracas. “Venezuela denounces this, that they want to go to a war to dismember Russia, break it into pieces, destroy it and end the hope of a multipolar world where we can all live.”
During the closing ceremony of the 16th National Congress and 3rd International Congress of History, President Maduro warned that today more than ever there is a Western media dictatorship against the world, “to justify an escalation that could lead to a disastrous war, to a third world war.”
In his speech he accused the Western media of spreading “obscene lies,” referring to the situation in Ukraine.
“If at any time there has been a media dictatorship in the world, it is at this moment—the media dictatorship of the West with its obscene lies and its campaigns against humanity,” the president stated.
Holding the book Media Dictatorship in Venezuela written by Venezuelan author, essayist and historian Luis Britto García, Maduro said to him, “Someone has to write the book Dictatorship and Media War of the West against the World 2022.”
Following the request for help from the People’s Republics of Donbass to repel the aggression of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, on February 24, the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, announced “a special military operation” to protect the population of these regions. The people of these two regions that seceded from Ukraine after the Euromaidan coup in 2014 have been victims of attacks by the Ukrainian government for the last eight years. Since the start of the Russian military deployment, the United States and the European Union have increasingly imposed sanctions on Russia and started an all-encompassing media campaign against the country.
As part of this hybrid war against the Russian Federation, the United Nations General Assembly approved the suspension of Russia from the Human Rights Council on Thursday, April 7, through a resolution that got 93 votes in favor, 24 against, and 58 abstentions. The move came after accusations against the Russian military of murdering civilians in the Ukrainian city of Bucha, close to capital Kiev. Moscow has firmly rejected the allegations, and there is plenty of evidence pointing at a false positive operation carried out by the Ukrainian army and neo-nazi groups that are part of the army.
This article was republished from Orinoco Tribune.
All US Presidents Are War Criminals: Why the Latest Chapter of the Forever War Only Fools the Usual Suspects. By: Daniel Patrick WelchRead Now
Featured image: (From left) former US presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Joe Biden (Photos by Getty Images/AP)
‘This is a US war on Russia. Period.’
We have to be very clear, even to the point of being blunt. By ‘we’ I mean those of us involved who are conscious of being part of an Information War–the propaganda war that we are recipients of—on the receiving end of this tsunami of crap. We have to say things flat without fear and without compromise. This is a US war on Russia. Period. Now why do we have to say this? Why should we say it so bluntly?
The propaganda matrix is so powerful that people, especially within the bubble–that is, within what people call NATOstan. This is the ‘civilized’ world, 15% of the human population. The West. People are so confused and so propagandized that it’s almost as if they have no sense of pattern recognition, or have never read a chapter book. This is a war, a US war against Russia. Why? Because the US is NATO. What is NATO? NATO is a Horribles Parade costume, it’s a Halloween mask. It’s just the US–the extension of the US military around the world by another name. Pure and simple.
Now when you find all of these things that they’re finding, all the material, all of the connections and the proof that NATO is much more involved than they claim. This is to say that the US is involved. This is the extension of the US. Again: why? Because the US is at war with everybody. The US is involved in its forever war against every*body* and every*thing.* Sometimes the mask slips and people see it. But they hide behind proxies, they hide behind local conflicts, they make it seems like they are doing something else. But they are involved.
‘Anglo-US Empire struggling to keep things as they are’
The United States Empire, the inheritors of the UK Empire–so the Anglo-US Empire is involved in a struggle to keep things as they are. They are in the very last throes the death throes I think–of a 500-year history of slaughter and plunder that has kept all of the wealth in the world funneling upwards to them. And the question is not it can they do it, but rather why can’t they see that it’s a completely impossible thing.
This is a war against time, against history. Think of the unimaginable arrogance it takes to think that you can freeze time. Why are they going to fail? Because no Empire has succeeded in freezing time. You’re done! It’s over–leave the stage politely, with a gracious bow and support what’s coming next. But no. The unspeakable hubris it takes not only to try to shape the development of life, but to stop it. and this is how you know that they are at work. They’re at work in Ukraine; but that’s not enough: while they’re doing that, they have to try to overthrow Imran Khan in Pakistan. They have to go and threaten Modi in India not to pay too much in Rubles with Russia. Not to have too much Rupee-Ruble shenanigans because we don’t like that, right?They try to threaten Orban in Hungary by having the EU accuse them of erosion of democracy. Orban’s great crime is to say he’s going to be closer to Russia. Same with Vuccic in Serbia. You know, these are people who are our increasingly not going to be cowed.
I don’t know exactly why–within the bubble–why people are so malleable. I mean it’s really incredible how susceptible people are in the Western so-called democracies, where the news is so censored and so filtered that it’s a wonder that they know anything at all. They have this farce–they are pumping up support for this chapter of the Forever War (which they call the Ukraine War) by advertising it in an award show. They have Zelensky prost…ing himself by appearing at the Grammy’s! The National Gallery changes the title of Degas’ work to say Ukrainian Dancers instead of Russian Dancers. Then all the stuff I’ve talked about before, the boycott on Russian vodka, what have you. Whatever. And they are so deep in this–this is inside the bubble–that you cannot talk about any of the real things that are happening.
Yes, there are Nazis! How do we know? Because the US has been working with them since the 1940s. And with their parents and their grandparents. There’s no secret about this. Even these liberal intellectuals and so-called politically conscious and aware types would have admitted this. This was not controversial even a year or two ago. There were articles everywhere about the Nazi problem in Ukraine, about using the Nazis. Again we come back the notion of pattern recognition. Why are they so surprised? Why is it such a shock?
Somoza was a Nazi. In Chile Pinochet was a Nazi. They always use these people as their proxies. Why would Ukraine be any different? Maybe it’s because de-Nazification was never really finished in Germany to begin with. They didn’t really like it too much the first time around because defeating communism became more important. Meh. Nazi, schmazi. We took Werner Von Braun, which Tom Lehrer even wrote a song about. De-Nazification, say in Bavaria: 75% of the Nazis identified were rehabilitated. Then they formed the CSU which was part of the basis for Adenauer’s first government.
It was never taken seriously and there were always greater threats. Communism was a greater threat. Why there a Red Scare in the US but the German Bund was allowed to have its Nazis twenty-five thousand strong at Madison Square Garden? We’ve always known which side they were on. They were never serious about it and they’re not serious now. So what is interesting is how the rest of the world thinks. Because they have never been stupid about any of this.
‘The American Empire is in a war against humanity'
Europeans love to talk about the Cold War. Well, it wasn’t that cold—ask the people in Vietnam whether it was cold or hot. Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar. Or Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador? Argentina–the Dirty War. Chile—the disappeared. Algeria, Uganda, Rwanda with the divisions that were sown by the Empire. Angola, Mozambique, South Africa itself. The Congo with King Leopold’s murderous reign and NATO’s role in the killing of Lumumba. Palestine? I mean seriously? Are these people serious? The US president gets to call the Russian president a thug and a war criminal? All US presidents are war criminals! This is why when people asked why are we so confident not only when we say it’s a US war against Russia, US war against the world. Why then are we all so sanguine that they will lose, these forces that are trying to stop time?
It comes back to all the same philosophers is that Dr. King quoted: William Cullen Bryant, the truth crushed to earth will rise again or Thomas Carlyle no lie can live forever. All these things are still true. Ukraine is NATO is the US. The Africans know it, the Indians know it, the Chinese know it, the South Americans and Central Americans know it. This is 85% of humanity. The American Empire is in a war against humanity.
So how are we so sure, when I hear about the particulars–you have to zoom in every once in awhile. The Maternity Hospital in Mariupol being bombed? Well I don’t know how I’ll wait and see. Then the model appears in an interview and says it was Ukrainians. The ghost of Kiev? Hmmm, I’m not sure…turns out to be a video game. The Snake Island Heroes who died so heroically yet wound up being videotaped later on having surrendered. The Zaporozhie power plant which turned out not to be true. Now this current massacre where bodies are sitting up and waving at the camera. You know, you have to wait because they’ve always use these tricks. It’s not new–pattern recognition! The next chapter–look ahead and sneak a peek at the cliff notes, if you want to stay sane and stay alive.
And then you have the people involved who want us to feel guilty: the pressure! The pressure to be anti-Russia on the people inside the West… Now, outside people are a little bit free or two it’s a push back against that that hubris, having been NATO’s victims. Having been subjects of the hot side of the Cold War and they will just tell the NATO and the US, as my father said, to take a long walk off a short pier. It is absolutely clear, and we have to present it as such. Or, to quote an Afro-Russian poet, Alexander Pushkin: Для меня/ Так это ясно, как простая гамма. this is as clear to me as a simple sum. And we have to stay strong, and keep our eyes on the fight of our lives, the lives of humanity and the life of the whole world. History is on our side.
Daniel Patrick Welch is a writer of political commentary and analysis. Also a singer and songwriter, he lives and writes in Salem, Massachusetts with his wife. Together they run The Greenhouse School. He has traveled widely, speaks five languages and studied Russian History and Literature at Harvard University. Welch has also appeared as a guest on several TV and radio channels to speak on topics of foreign affairs and political analysis–around his day job. He wrote this article for the Press TV website.
This article was produced by Orinoco Tribune.
US Officials Admit They’re Literally Just Lying To The Public About Russia. By: Caitlin JohnstoneRead Now
NBC News has a new report out citing multiple anonymous US officials, humorously titled “In a break with the past, U.S. is using intel to fight an info war with Russia, even when the intel isn’t rock solid“.
The officials say the Biden administration has been rapidly pushing out “intelligence” about Russia’s plans in Ukraine that is “low-confidence” or “based more on analysis than hard evidence”, or even just plain false, in order to fight an information war against Putin.
The report says that toward this end the US government has deliberately circulated false or poorly evidenced claims about impending chemical weapons attacks, about Russian plans to orchestrate a false flag attack in the Donbass to justify an invasion, about Putin’s advisors misinforming him, and about Russia seeking arms supplies from China.
Excerpt, emphasis mine:
"It was an attention-grabbing assertion that made headlines around the world: U.S. officials said they had indications suggesting Russia might be preparing to use chemical agents in Ukraine.
So they lied. They may hold that they lied for a noble reason, but they lied. They knowingly circulated information they had no reason to believe was true, and that lie was amplified by all the most influential media outlets in the western world.
Another example of the Biden administration releasing a false narrative as part of its “information war”:
Likewise, a charge that Russia had turned to China for potential military help lacked hard evidence, a European official and two U.S. officials said.
On the empire’s claim last week that Putin is being misled by his advisors because they are afraid of telling him the truth, NBC reports that this assessment “wasn’t conclusive — based more on analysis than hard evidence.”
I’d actually made fun of this ridiculous CIA press release when it was uncritically published disguised as a breaking news report by The New York Times:
We’d also had fun with State Department Spokesman Ned Price’s bizarre February impersonation of Alex Jones, where he wrongly claimed that Russia was about to release a “false flag” video using crisis actors to justify its invasion:
Other US government lies discussed in the NBC report were less cute:
In another disclosure, U.S. officials said one reason not to provide Ukraine with MiG fighter jets is that intelligence showed Russia would view the move as escalatory.
So the Biden administration knew it was sending weapons to Ukraine that would be perceived by a nuclear superpower as a provocative escalation, sent them anyway, and then lied about it. Cool, cool, cool.
This NBC report confirms rumors we’ve been hearing for months. Professional war slut Max Boot said via The Council on Foreign Relations think tank in February that the Biden administration had ushered in “a new era of info ops” with intelligence releases designed not to tell the truth but to influence Putin’s decisions. Former MI6 chief John Sawers told The Atlantic Council think tank in February that the Biden administration’s “intelligence” releases were based more on a general vibe than actual intelligence, and were designed to manipulate rather than to inform.
And in case you were wondering, no, NBC did not just publish a major leak by whistleblowers within the US government who are bravely exposing the lies of the powerful with the help of the free press. One of the article’s authors is Ken Dilanian, who in 2014 was revealed to have worked as a literal CIA asset while writing for The LA Times. If you see Dilanian’s name in a byline, you may be certain that you are reading exactly what the managers of the US empire want you to read.
So why are they telling us all this now? Is the US government not worried that it will lose the trust of the public by admitting that it is continuously lying about its most high-profile international conflict? And if this is an “information war” designed to “get inside Putin’s head” as NBC’s sources claim, wouldn’t openly reporting it through the mainstream press completely defeat the purpose?
Well, the answer to those questions is where it gets really creepy. I welcome everyone’s feedback and theories on the matter, but as near as I can figure the only reason the US government would release this story to the public is because they want the general public to know about it. And the only plausible reason I can think of that they would want the public to know about it is that they are confident the public will consent to being lied to.
To get a better sense of what I’m getting at, it helps to watch the televised version of this report in which Dilanian and NBC anchor Alison Morris enthuse about how brilliant and wonderful it is that the Biden administration is employing these psychological warfare tactics to mess with Putin’s mind:
The message an indoctrinated NBC viewer will get when watching this segment is, “Isn’t this awesome? Our president is pulling off all these cool 3D chess moves to beat Putin, and we’re kind of a part of it!”
It’s been obvious for a long time that the US empire has been working to shore up narrative control to strengthen its hegemonic domination of the planet via internet censorship, propaganda, Silicon Valley algorithm manipulation, and the normalization of the persecution of journalists. We may now simply be at the stage of imperial narrative control where they can begin openly manufacturing the consent of the public to be lied to for their own good.
Just as the smear campaign against Julian Assange trained mainstream liberals to defend the right of their government to keep dark secrets from them, we may now be looking at the stage of narrative control advancement where mainstream liberals are trained to defend the right of their government to lie to them.
The US is ramping up cold war aggressions against Russia and China in a desperate attempt to secure unipolar hegemony, and psychological warfare traditionally plays a major role in cold war maneuverings due to the inability to aggress in more overt ways against nuclear-armed foes. So now would definitely be the time to get the “thinkers” of America’s two mainstream political factions fanatically cheerleading their government’s psywar manipulations.
A casual glance around the internet at what mainstream liberals are saying about this NBC report shows that this is indeed what is happening. In liberal circles there does appear to be widespread acceptance of the world’s most powerful government using the world’s most powerful media institutions to lie to the public for strategic gains. If this continues to be accepted, it will make things a whole lot easier for the empire managers going forward.
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