Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

February 20, 2019

Guest rips Tucker Carlson a new asshole

Filed under: capitalist pig — louisproyect @ 8:53 pm

Bernie Sanders arrives at the Finland Station

Filed under: DSA,Jacobin — louisproyect @ 8:29 pm

Yesterday I was the recipient of two communications making the case for supporting Bernie Sanders’s candidacy, both filled with the sense of excitement that must have gripped Russian workers when V.I. Lenin stepped out of the German train that had arrived at Finland Station on April 16, 1917.

Bhaskar Sunkara was positively beside himself, telling Guardian readers that “Sanders started a revolution in 2016. In 2020, he can finish it”. I guess I have a different understanding of revolution than Sunkara, whose Marxism is not burdened by too rigid understandings of socialism gleaned from Lenin’s writings. He must have the same idea as Sanders who captured the imagination of white youth in 2016 by calling for a political revolution against the billionaire class. Heaven forfend the notion that a social revolution would be necessary to make scumbags like Stephen Schwarzman and David Koch squeeze some working people into their 30-room apartments as Lenin advocated in “Can the Bolsheviks Retain State Power”:

The squad arrives at the rich man’s flat, inspects it and finds that it consists of five rooms occupied by two men and two women—“You must squeeze up a bit into two rooms this winter, citizens, and prepare two rooms for two families now living in cellars. Until the time, with the aid of engineers (you are an engineer, aren’t you?), we have built good dwellings for everybody, you will have to squeeze up a little. Your telephone will serve ten families. This will save a hundred hours of work wasted on shopping, and so forth.”

In fact, it seems the only assault on the ruling class considered by the “democratic socialists” is to impose a 70 percent marginal tax rate that the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler regards as “not so radical” and that New York Magazine’s Eric Levitz embraces as a “a Moderate, Evidence-Based Policy”. Nothing that Ocasio-Cortez or Sanders have ever said addresses the question of whether a society that allows people to accumulate personal wealth of $51 billion (Koch) or a measly $13 billion (Schwarzman) can ever be truly democratic.

Sunkara writes, “Before 2016, who could forget that the Democratic party was dominated by charter-school supporting politicians and anti-public-sector-union types like Cory Booker and Rahm Emanuel?” All that supposedly changed with Bernie Sanders. Either Sunkara is blissfully aware of Sanders’s position on charter schools, or, being aware of it, decided to sweep it under the rug.

In May 2016, Sanders told an Ohio audience: “I believe in public education, and I believe in public charter schools. I do not believe in private – privately controlled charter schools.” I hope one of his aides clued him in that charter schools in LA are public schools. That is the problem, after all. They drain public resources into an essentially private enterprise. Indeed, Bernie voted for the Charter School Expansion Act of 1998. He believes, however, that they must be “held to the same standards of transparency as public schools to ensure accountability for these privately managed organizations.” As if schools that are in the back pocket of hedge fund billionaires can ever be transparent.

Prior to his 2016 remarks in Ohio, Sanders entered pro-charter testimony in the Congressional Record from a ninth-grade student who said:

While I am fortunate that my family has been able to send me to private school, it should not be only the economically elite who have access to alternative education. I think a solution to this problem is federal legislation encouraging states to institute charter schools. Options would then open up for disadvantaged students. Because charter schools are still technically public schools, any student could go to the school of their choice. Students, like adults, need options; no school fits all students, just like no company is right for all workers.

Even this 9th grader could distinguish between a private school and a public charter school.

Jacobin editor Meagan Day is even more ebullient over Sanders’s candidacy than Sunkara. Her article is titled “Bernie Is Running, Thank God”. Day believes a class war is raging and that Sanders is the only one running who wants to build working-class forces to fight back. It seems that “neoliberal politicians in both parties have shamelessly and relentlessly deregulated corporations, cut taxes on the rich, stymied unions, starved social services, privatized public goods, and bailed out economic elites while imposing austerity on everyone else.” I guess Hillary Clinton was one of those “neoliberal politicians” but that did not prevent Sanders for urging a vote for her in 2016. By the same token, so is Andrew Cuomo who got A. O-C’s nod as well.

The Jacobin/DSA Democratic Party (JDDP) socialists are worried that young white people might be seduced by Elizabeth Warren whose program sounds an awful lot like Sanders’s. There have been a steady stream of articles from the JDDP warning them away from the treacherous Harvard law professor. Published on the same day as Day’s article, Shawn Gude likened her to Louis Brandeis, who as a Progressive was opposed to trusts but not capitalism. As for Bernie Sanders, he was our age’s version of Eugene V. Debs, who believed that nothing “could close the structural gulf between workers and capitalists.” You also got Berkeley Ph.D. student Ziad Jilani drawing a red line between Sanders and Warren in a Jacobin article last month titled “Why the Differences Between Sanders and Warren Matter”. Jilani, who was a staff member of a PAC that supported Warren in the past, sees her in the same way as Shawn Gude. As a proponent of “fair-minded” capitalism, she only wants to “rein in” big business.

Finally, there’s Bhaskar Sunkara, who once again used the bully pulpit of a Guardian op-ed last August to pose the question “Think Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are the same?” Unlike Warren, Sanders “was trained in the dying remnants of the Socialist party and cut his political teeth in trade union and civil rights organizing…The rich were not morally confused but rather have a vested interest in the exploitation of others. Power would have to be taken from them by force.”

Power would have to be taken from them by force? Ooh, boy. I can’t wait for Bernie Sanders to lead a squad of workers into 740 Park Avenue to force Stephen Schwarzman to put a roof over the heads of some people living in a shelter.

I should add that Sunkara was not always this willing to exaggerate Sanders’s class struggle bona fides. In 2015, he told Vox:

Sanders is, in many ways, a good social democrat. That’s not a bad start, but we want to not only build a welfare state, but go beyond it. We want a society in which political democracy is extended into economic and social realms as well, where workers own and control their places of employment, not just get a decent wage.

Well, of course. So, why all the bullshit about taking power by force or, even worse, comparing Sanders to Eugene V. Debs? Debs was far closer to Lenin than he was to the Scandinavian welfare states that Sanders identified as his brand of socialism to Bob Schieffer in a Face the Nation interview.

In 1904, when Debs was a presidential candidate, he made a speech that could not be further from the agenda of the JDDP. He said:

The capitalist class is represented by the Republican, Democratic, Populist and Prohibition parties, all of which stand for private ownership of the means of production, and the triumph of any one of which will mean continued wage-slavery to the working class.

As the Populist and Prohibition sections of the capitalist party represent minority elements which propose to reform the capitalist system without disturbing wage-slavery, a vain and impossible task, they will be omitted from this discussion with all the credit due the rank and file for their good intentions.

The Republican and Democratic parties, or, to be more exact, the Republican-Democratic party, represent the capitalist class in the class struggle. They are the political wings of the capitalist system and such differences as arise between them relate to spoils and not to principles.

To tell you the god’s honest truth, I’d have a lot less animosity toward the JDDP if it simply dropped all the rhetoric about power being taken from the rich by force and stopped pretending it had anything to do with Eugene V. Debs. While they would never admit to it, they really are well-intended liberals just like the kids who rang doorbells for Eugene McCarthy, Robert Kennedy and George McGovern when I was the same age as Bhaskar Sunkara. None of these doorbell-pushers needed to invoke Karl Kautsky to justify their misguided efforts to end the war by electing peace candidates.

In the early 70s, young people were confronted by the enormous crisis of an unceasing war in Indochina just as they are today facing an unceasing economic crisis that forces them into the precariat. War and economic misery are a function of capitalist rule. To achieve peace and economic security, it is necessary to build a revolutionary party that regards both the Democrats and Republicans as mortal enemies—just as Eugene V. Debs put it.

When I began writing about the need for a nonsectarian revolutionary party in the early 80s, I had high hopes that something might have come together by now. Unfortunately, I was overly optimistic. Today, the JDDP has sucked all the oxygen out of the room and there is no telling when new revolutionary forces will emerged. My guess is that the failure of the JDDP to put a dent into the capitalist system over the next decade at least will begin to wake people up. Maybe I’ll be around to see that.

February 19, 2019

Los Caballeros Templarios

Filed under: crime,drugs,Mexico — louisproyect @ 9:02 pm

I’m doing some research on Mexican drug cartels for a CounterPunch article on “Narcos” and “El Chapo”, two really great crime dramas on Netflix. I had written about an earlier “Narcos” season for CounterPunch when it was focused on Pablo Escobar. My interest in writing about mafia and mafia-like crime stories is to connect them to social and political contradictions as I have also done in a couple of articles about the Sicilian mafia for CounterPunch that I will be continuing before long. It turns out that the very best study of Mexican drug gangs was co-authored by Mike Wallace (the CUNY Marxist historian) and Carmen Boullosa, a Mexican poet and journalist. Wallace is the co-author of “Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898” and the newly published and acclaimed follow-up “Greater Gotham: A History of New York City from 1898 to 1919”. Every page of Wallace and Boullosa’s A Narco History: How the United States and Mexico Jointly Created the “Mexican Drug War” is compelling but I could not resist scanning and posting this excerpt.


After the apparent death of its strategic and spiritual leader, La Familia retreated into its mountain fastness, where the leadership split in two, prompting triumphalist government assertions that Michoacan would soon be back under control. But while one of the factions began to fade away, the other mutated into an even more repellant descendant, Los Caballeros Templarios—”The Knights Templar”—named after the medieval Catholic crusaders. Claiming Moreno’s mantle, the Knights were led by two Moreno lieutenants, Servando “La Tuta” (“The Teacher”) Gómez Martinez, and Enrique “El Kike” Plancarte. [I have no idea whether this is the anti-Semitic slur or some bit of Mexican slang.] They donned white cloaks blazoned with red crosses, erected statues of the departed drug lord decked out in medieval armor, and, decorating them with gold and diamonds, venerated El Mas Loco as a saint. As had La Familia, the Knights Templar professed a devotion to social justice and even to revolutionary politics. They also affected respect for the Roman Catholic Church, and when Pope Benedict XVI visited Mexico, they hung banners on bridges in seven cities proclaiming: “The Knights Templar Cartel will not partake in any warlike acts, we are not killers, welcome Pope.” They too promised to protect Michoacan from outside evildoers. Soon after appearing on the scene they hung more than forty banners across the state proclaiming: “Our commitment is to safeguard order, avoid robberies, kidnapping, and extortion, and to shield the state from rival organizations.” By which they meant the Zetas, against whom they invited other cartels to join in a countrywide anti-Zeta alliance.

It took the Knights far less time to turn super-malevolent than it had La Familia.

In addition to dominating the drug trade, the Templarios began terrorizing the local populace, committing all the crimes they had promised to “avoid.” They extorted tribute from farmers by forcing growers of avocados and limes to pay a quota for every kilo, terrorized corn growers into selling their crops cheap, then resold them to tortilla makers at double the price. They raped women at will, kidnapped with abandon, and tortured and beheaded resisters in public. They also took control of much of Michoacan’s political order, installing local politicians in office, controlling municipal budgets, and employing local police as assistants.

The Knights menaced not only local campesinos, but also corporate and multinational enterprises. Starting in 2010, they boldly began robbing iron mining companies of their ore, or seizing the mines outright. Then they sold the product to processors, distributors, and Chinese industrial firms—voracious consumers of iron ore—having established all but total control of the port of Lazaro Cardenas, now the country’s second largest. In 2010 they moved over a million tons of illegally extracted ore, a blow to the country’s economy and international standing. The Templarios, now an eight-hundred-pound leech, had opened up a whole new field of endeavor for Mexico’s organized crime.

 

February 18, 2019

A Tuba to Cuba; Cuban Food Stories

Filed under: cuba,Film — louisproyect @ 6:41 pm

In June 2017, Donald Trump announced a get-tough policy with Cuba that would reverse Barack Obama’s easing of restrictions. In 2018, Cuba was dragged into imperialism’s growing confrontations with the governments of Venezuela and Nicaragua. As the last three states in this hemisphere that refuse to go along with the rightwing Lima Group agenda, they were naturally singled out by John Bolton as his targets in an “axis of evil” speech on November 1, 2018. As the clearest indication that Trump wants to isolate Cuba, he recently attacked an agreement reached by professional baseball and Cuba to allow Cuban players to join American teams without defecting.

Therefore, the arrival of two new documentaries about Cuba are most timely. Like “Buena Vista Social Club”, “A Tuba to Cuba” and “Cuban Food Stories” are less about ideology and much more about allowing American audiences to see the reality of Cuban life. If you’ve seen “Buena Vista Club”, you’ll realize that I am offering high praise when I tell you that they are just as good as Wim Wenders’s 1996 tribute to elderly musicians who tour the USA.

“A Tuba to Cuba” complements Wenders’s film by documenting the Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s 2017 Cuban tour. This was a project initiated by Ben Jaffe, a tuba player who is the son of Allan Jaffe, the man who founded Preservation Hall in New Orleans in 1961. Allan Jaffe always dreamed about visiting Cuba since he saw it as a source of the potpourri of music that eventually evolved into jazz in the early 1900s. In addition, Jaffe was also determined to break down Jim Crow in his own way and in the spirit of other early civil rights activists.

Just by coincidence, I heard Jason Berry, the author of a new history of New Orleans, being interviewed on WFAN on Sunday morning a day before I saw “A Tuba to Cuba”. Although this is a sports talk station, Sunday morning between 6 and 8am is devoted to fascinating interviews conducted by Bob Salter, in this instance one that revealed Allan Jaffe’s role. An excerpt from Berry’s book can be read on the Daily Beast:

In 1964, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act and Preservation Hall featured its first officially integrated band. Al Belletto, as the Playboy Club entertainment manager, was hiring Ellis Marsalis and other black musicians to perform in bands with white musicians. Mixed bands for white tourists were not like street demonstrations for civil rights. The new mayor, Victor Hugo Schiro, abhorred confrontations. The culture forced compromises on the city. A similar breakthrough happened with gays, albeit more slowly. The Krewe of Petronious invited guests in formal attire to a lavish tableau in a rented auditorium, as mainstream Carnival krewes had done for years, thwarting NOPD’s itch to bust-and-arrest. Complaints of police violence by gays and African Americans continued for decades; but as the drag queen beauty pageant became a fixture of Mardi Gras on Bourbon Street and gay Carnival krewes held by-invitation balls, the police attacks on closeted men dropped sharply by the ’80s. So, too, did the bar bribes.

None of this is covered in “A Tuba to Cuba” but suffice it to say that Allan and Ben Jaffe are men of the left and that the film is a posthumous fulfillment of his father’s long-time desire to visit a revolutionary society that destroyed its own Jim Crow system in the same year that Allan Jaffe founded Preservation Hall.

The film was co-directed by T.G Herrington and Danny Clinch. Herrington, who has a background in commercials, clearly had an affinity for Jaffe’s project since he was an executive producer for “The Free State of Jones”, the great abolitionist film. Clinch’s background is as still photographer, specializing in shots of professional musicians like Johnny Cash and Tupac Shakur.

For a scholarly account of the Cuba/New Orleans connection, I recommend Ned Sublette’s 2008 “The World That Made New Orleans: From Spanish Silver to Congo Square”. A New York Times review that year stated:

The author of the well-received “Cuba and Its Music,” Sublette here explores Cuba and St. Domingue as crucial influences on New Orleans.

A slave revolt that erupted in 1791 in St. Domingue ended in 1804 as free blacks proclaimed the Republic of Haiti. In 1809-10, approximately 10,000 Domingans (more than a third of them slaves) who had fled to Cuba immigrated to New Orleans, doubling its population. “No aspect of New Orleans culture,” Sublette writes, “remained untouched” by these whites, blacks and mulattoes. He is a passionate chronicler of the Africans’ resilience, of how they revived a cultural memory that gave life to music and enduring folkways — a memory that would, in the timeless words of an 1819 traveler, “rock the city with their Congo dances.” Sublette spotlights a gathering identity that formed in the open-air slave dances — hundreds of people, gyrating in sinuous rings, resurrecting tribal choreographies of a mother culture. “An African-American music was coming into existence,” he writes.

In essence, “A Tuba to Cuba” reunites New Orleans musicians with the men and women who were the roots of the tree upon whose branches they roosted. For those who think of New Orleans jazz in terms of Al Hirt and the Dukes of Dixieland, et al, I must stress that Jaffe’s band is much closer in spirit to Wynton Marsalis and even to the Neville Brothers than old-time jazz. Despite not understanding a word of Spanish, the musicians develop a remarkable affinity for traditional Cuban music as well as engage with (through a translator) Mother Africa spiritually by learning about Santeria and related beliefs. One Preservation Hall Jazz Band member is moved to tears as the head of the Tato Guines drumming school recounts the restrictions put on Africans during slavery that were as onerous as the ones John Bolton would impose if he had his way. For example, they were not permitted to make drums but as a way around the ban, they constructed furniture that could be used for dances by beating on their sides.

That kind of ingenuity continues to exist in Cuba, a country that despite all odds moves forward in the 21st century. As an act of solidarity, I urge my readers to see the film now playing at the Village East Cinema in New York and that will also be available as a DVD on March 15th. Check the film’s website for other screenings, including in S.F., L.A. and New Orleans.

Now available on iTunes, “Cuban Food Stories” was made by Asari Soto, a Cuban émigré who left Cuba during the “special period” but never became an anti-Communist. Indeed, it is obvious from this beautiful film that his implicit goal is to challenge the demonization of the island that will only make the common people, the heroes of his film, suffer.

If Ben Jaffe traveled all around Cuba to sample its music, so did Asari Soto go near and far to meet Cubans who were as talented with a stove and a frying pan as the musicians were with drums or guitar. Soto had vivid memories of the food he enjoyed before the “special period” and was anxious to find out if a return to relative normalcy might have allowed a great cuisine to resurface.

Ben Jaffe’s band members brought a gift of new instruments that they presented to music schools around the island. For his part, Soto has initiated a Culinary Initiative that is intended to allow Cuban chefs to visit the USA and vice versa. This kind of solidarity is essential in this period.

Like the late Anthony Bourdain’s CNN series, Soto’s film provides the same pleasure. You meet both restauranteurs as well as people in their homes making the best of what amounts to truly organic food. Unlike Bourdain, “Cuban Food Stories” puts the Cubans in the foreground. I understood that Bourdain was trying to challenge anti-Communist stereotypes in his show on Cuba but the merit of Soto’s film is to minimize ideological concerns.

The highlight of the film is a visit to a privately owned coffee plantation where the owner and his young son are followed by Soto as they gather ripe beans. Later in this segment, they prepare a roast pig over an open wood fire to herald the New Year. The farmer is a true product of Cuban socialism. Over and over he stresses the importance of quality rather than money. He obviously will not get rich as a small proprietor but being close to nature and having the freedom to grow and eat good food is all he really needs.

We also meet a fisherman who questions the value of being rich. If being rich means having a boat that you can sail across beautiful waters and enjoy first-class food like freshly prepared ceviche, he is already rich (we see him preparing ceviche on his boat.)

The last food expert we meet is a young hipster who owns a trendy restaurant in Havana decorated by his art. He tells Soto that he understands why people left during the “special period” but he decided to stay in Cuba. Now that things are turning around, he expects Cuba to be greater than ever.

Let’s do our best to help him and other Cubans realize their dreams. See both of these films and spread the word. You will wear a smile throughout both and be reminded that another world is possible, something so important in these cataclysmic times.

 

February 17, 2019

Separated at Birth

Filed under: separated at birth? — louisproyect @ 11:56 pm

Joseph Goebbels, Adolf Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda

Stephen Miller, Donald Trump’s Minister of Propaganda

February 16, 2019

The Militant newspaper quotes a neo-Nazi favorably

Filed under: racism,Red-Brown alliance — louisproyect @ 9:30 pm
Steve Sailer

Large tech companies like Amazon are notorious for hiring new college graduates at crappy wages and pushing them to get places in gaggles. Describing how this leads to what he calls “unaffordable family formation,” Steve Sailer says in an Unz Review blog, “It helps them squeeze more out of workers: The firms like being in places too expensive to raise a family — families are distractions, at least in the short-run.”

https://themilitant.com/2019/02/16/capitalist-crisis-blocks-affordable-family-formation/


UNZ Review is a neo-Nazi website as I have pointed out on my blog. As for Sailer, he is a typical contributor to UNZ Review. From Wikipedia:

Steven Ernest Sailer (born December 20, 1958) is an American journalist, movie critic, and columnist. He is a former correspondent for UPI and a columnist for Taki’s Magazine and VDARE.com. He writes about race relations, gender issues, politics, immigration, IQ, genetics, movies, and sports. As of 2014, Sailer stopped publishing his personal blog on his own website and shifted it to the Unz Review, an online publication by Ron Unz that described itself as an “alternative media selection”.[1]

VDARE.com has been associated with white supremacy,[2][3] white nationalism,[4][5][6] and the alt-right.[7][8][9] Sailer’s writing for VDARE has described black people as inherently lacking judgment,[10] and claimed that Jews control the media to demoralize and divide other groups.[11]

His writing for both VDARE and Unz Review have endorsed eugenics and scientific racism.[12] Sailer has been credited with coining the term “human biodiversity” in the 1990s, with the term later becoming popular among the alt-right as a euphemism for scientific racism.[13][14][15]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Sailer


From a Sailer article on UNZ Review:

White Flight After the Greater Migration
The growth of black gang violence in far-off Australia raises an interesting question that I can barely find discussed anywhere online: white flight in other countries. The Great Migration of 6 or 7 million African-Americans from the South to Northern cities in the 1940s-1970s contributed heavily to white flight to the suburbs. With sub-Saharan Africa forecast to quadruple in population to 4 billion over the rest of the century, first world countries need to be thinking seriously about what would be the impact of a Greater Migration of blacks out of Africa of one or two orders of magnitude greater than the Great Migration that caused so much havoc in 20th Century urban America.  So what do other countries think about this prospect? I can’t find much in English on the topic of white flight in Europe.


I suspect that lots of European elites think that It Can’t Happen Here because:

– They don’t really grasp that it ever happened in America. After all, it’s not a subject for respectable discourse in the American press.

– Unlike us, white Americans are racist, so they deserved whatever it was that happened to them.

– We’ll send the migrants to the boring suburbs instead, and keep the lovely downtowns for ourselves.

– We have gun control, so how bad can things get?

February 15, 2019

A Raymundo Gleyzer retrospective

Filed under: Argentina,Counterpunch,Film — louisproyect @ 3:14 pm

COUNTERPUNCH, FEBRUARY 15, 2019

Between Friday, February 22nd and the 28th, Anthology Film Archives will be presenting a retrospective of the films of Raymundo Gleyzer, a revolutionary born in 1941 and who died in a military prison in 1976 as one of thousands of desaparesidos. Like the myth of Sisyphus, the Latin American left seems to be perpetually condemned to being crushed by a boulder rolling back on it, just after it was pushed to the top of a mountain. For many young leftists, the sight one “pink tide” government after another being replaced by rightwing, pro-American forces is painful but this has been happening for generations.

In the early 70s, the stakes were much higher since the workers of Chile and Argentina were far more ready to seize power through a socialist revolution than has been the case more recently with temporizing governments like Lula’s. Gleyzer made films that were to the Argentine class struggle that Che Guevara’s AK-47 was to the guerrilla movements that were sweeping the continent. For putting the epochal struggle for the liberation of the South into a broader context, one that spans Simon Bolivar to today, Gleyzer’s films are essential. We should be grateful to the curators at Anthology Film Archives for scheduling this retrospective and urge my readers in the Greater New York area to make time to see his powerful body of work.

Continue reading

February 14, 2019

Lyndon LaRouche (1922-2019): a political assessment

Filed under: LaRouche,obituary — louisproyect @ 12:08 am

Lyndon LaRouche

On July 31, 2017, I posted the first of a series of five articles on Lyndon LaRouche that I recommend to my readers for an analysis of his movement’s place in American history. Unlike most people on the left, I do not regard Trump as a fascist. LaRouche, on the other hand, was a fascist and quite a dangerous one, especially in the 1970s and 80s when he networked with the KKK, had strategy meetings with the CIA, promoted Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), and used violence against the left. In this earlier period, the man, who was psychologically unbalanced to say the least, did dream of becoming an American führer. When it became clear to him that this was an unattainable goal, he changed gears and became a hustler, bilking old and often rather dotty Reagan supporters out of millions of dollars. This led to his arrest in 1986 and being sentenced to 15 years for mail fraud two years later.

When he came out of prison, his fascist beliefs were maintained but toward a different end. Instead of positioning himself as someone destined to lead the United States into a new world order as was routinely stated in his television informercials, the role of his movement became one of influencing men at the top especially in those countries seen as a counterweight to the decadent Anglo-American empire.

Specifically, LaRouche and his lieutenants became propagandists for the Chinese and Russian governments, seeing them in terms familiar to those who keep track of websites like Consortium News. Since he had obviously become too frail to serve as a spokesman for his movement, his wife Helga Zepp-LaRouche stepped into the breach. In 2017, she was one of the keynote speakers at a Nov. 29 conference in Zhuhai, Guangdong on International Communication and Chinese Companies Going Global.

Roger Stone schmoozing with Lyndon LaRouche 

Even in his dotage, LaRouche was still capable of giving an interview to Roger Stone in November 2016 that was a remarkable meeting of the minds but probably not much more so than Stone and Randy Credico. Stone, like much of the Trump gang, shares LaRouche’s passion for Vladimir Putin. If Trump was willing to break American laws to line up a real estate deal in Moscow, LaRouche’s ambitions were far more modest. Like Helga, he only sought to promote Russian interests worldwide as an alternative to the West.

Not long after his release from prison, he and his acolytes began promoting Putin as an old-school “development” oriented strongman of the kind that the USA sorely needed. If LaRouche’s shot at playing that role had misfired, he was happy to serve as John the Baptist to the Second Coming of Alexander Hamilton, his favorite founding father (as well as Lin-Manuel Miranda’s). This was destined to be a tripartite Messiah: Trump, Putin and Xi JinPing.

In June 2016, LaRouche proclaimed that the future of mankind will be determined by Putin’s creative interventions over the coming period. That’s even going further than Oliver Stone. The article that made this claim sounded like it could have been written by Pepe Escobar, Mike Whitney or Diana Johnstone. It was positively breathless over these developments:

  • Xi Jinping has just completed a brilliant strategic intervention into the Eastern and Central European region with visits to Serbia and Poland, bringing win-win development policies along the New Silk Road where Obama is attempting to provoke nuclear war;
  • The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is holding a Summit in Tashkent to expand the strategic and economic cooperation between Russia, China and the four Central Asian nations;
  • Indian President Modi will meet with President Xi on the sidelines of the SCO;
  • India and Pakistan will begin the process of joining the SCO at the Summit, while Iran is expected to join soon. Other nations of Southwest and Southeast Asia are SCO partners and may also join;
  • Putin will attend the SCO Summit, then proceed to Beijing for a state visit to China, to advance the two nations’ collaboration in development, space exploration, cultural exchange, and more. Plans for the Eastern Economic Forum, scheduled to take place in Vladivostok on Sept. 2-3, will be discussed. The Forum brings business and government representatives together to discuss the economic development of Russia’s Far East and the Asia-Pacific region.

As painful as it is for many on the left to come to terms with, the true goal of LaRouche’s movement was not that different from many on the left who began identifying with the Kremlin, the Chinese Communist Party, and other BRICS players in the early 2000s. This counter-hegemonic bloc solidified in the period circumscribed by the Arab Spring and Euromaidan. Articles that appeared in his movement’s press were not about recreating a Third Reich globally but only rescuing the world from Anglo-American imperialism.

If your politics begins and ends with anti-imperialism, there’s something seductive about recent vintage LaRouchism. That’s the only explanation for good people like Ray McGovern and Nomi Prins allowing themselves to be interviewed by his underlings. I suppose that it is this sort of thing that melts their hearts:

During the past centuries, the British Empire, through fraud and aggression, acquired vast territories throughout the world and maintained its domination over other nations and peoples in the various regions by keeping them pitted and engaged in conflict one against another. On the other hand, the United States which, by taking advantage of the disorder and confusion in Europe, had established its supremacy over the American continents spread its tentacles to the Pacific and to East Asia following its war with Spain.

Whoa, that’s right on as we used to say in the 1960s. Guess who said it. None other than Prime Minister Tojo in a speech to the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere on November 5th 1943.

For those interested in a blow-by-blow account of the rise of Lyndon LaRouche, I recommend my articles that relied heavily on Dennis King’s great reporting. The first of my articles appear here and Dennis’s “Lyndon LaRouche and the New American Fascism” can be read here.

We are in a strange political period. With people like Oliver Stone, Max Blumenthal and Stephen F. Cohen on the left doing everything they can to burnish the reputation of Vladimir Putin, perhaps Lyndon LaRouche might be regarded as someone who left his fascist beliefs behind him insofar as his ideas and those of the men and women who will take his place now  overlap so much with this wing of the left.

With people like Xi Jinping, Putin, Modi, Bolsonaro, Orban, Trump, and Marine LePen, you are not quite in the same political universe as the 1930s. Indeed, for much of the left China is a city on the hill with its “ecological civilization”. Yes, it is bad to force a million Uyghurs into de facto concentration camps, but isn’t that compensated by its Green New Deal type reforms?

The LaRouche movement has been pretty much defanged, compared to what it was in the 1970s and 80s. Helga Zepp-LaRouche will continue to attend conferences in China and Russia while politically muddled sorts such as Nomi Prins and Ray McGovern will always accept an invitation to be interviewed. That’s not much different from Norman Finkelstein allowing himself to be named as a columnist on Ron Unz’s neo-Nazi website.

The real task is to educate the left about class politics. LaRouche’s appeal to SDS’ers at Columbia in 1968 was based on his peculiar interpretation of Karl Marx as a prophet of economic growth. In that respect, he was similar to Frank Furedi whose narrow “productivist” understanding of Marxism led him down the primrose path to Reason magazine type libertarianism.

Instead of being preoccupied about uniting the “anti-imperialist” powers like China, the left has to orient to class. Wage labor is rising up in China against the ruling party and the billionaires whose interests it defends. When Maoist students solidarize themselves with the workers, isn’t it time to find ways to connect with them rather than a government that invites Helga Zepp-LaRouche to speak at one of their conferences?

Class matters.

February 11, 2019

Among Wolves

Filed under: Film,Yugoslavia — louisproyect @ 7:23 pm

In 2004, photographer Shawn Convey was traveling around Europe, including Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia. He became so consumed by the aftermath of the war in Bosnia (he said that he “felt drunk with questions”) that he sold everything he owned in Chicago and moved to Bosnia in order to begin making his first film. That finally came to fruition in 2016, when “Among Wolves” began showing up at film festivals. After a week-long run in Chicago this month, the documentary is now available as VOD/DVD and well worth your while. (Check the official website tomorrow for screening info.)

It is the story of a motorcycle club called the Wolves in Livno, a town in the predominantly Croatian area of western Bosnia, just across the border from the Republic of Croatia that seceded from Yugoslavia in 1991. Most of the men are veterans who fought against the Serbs but the press notes describe the club as multi-ethnic. Since the film is observational, it does not try to identify who is a Croat or a Serb but allows the men to simply go about their daily lives, which consists of menial jobs in a town plagued by unemployment, riding their bikes, and providing various humanitarian assistance to needy causes such as securing supplies for hospitals in Livno and Srebrenica, donating blood, doing repair work at an orphanage and—most importantly—attending to the needs of the wild horses that live in the spectacularly beautiful mountains near Livno.

The president of the Wolves is a middle-aged man named Lija who led a Croatian militia at the age of 20 back in 1991. He is a thoughtful and sympathetic character who provides the psychological and moral core of the film. It is clear that the Wolves provides the camaraderie that the men relied upon during the war, except in the context of what Jimmy Carter called “the moral equivalence of war”. The mountains of western Bosnia provide a stunning backdrop for the Wolves tending to the needs of the wild horses, including walking them across a road safe from traffic and toward a waterhole. Like the men, the horses were a casualty of the brutal war and by helping them regain the numbers lost to mortar attacks, mines and other weapons that horses had no investment in, the veterans heal themselves psychically as well.

While the press notes do not relate the war in Bosnia to the nativism that has gripped Europe and the USA in the recent past, I could not help but think of Donald Trump and his wall. Just as Yugoslavia was torn apart by nationalism, so is the USA descending into a febrile xenophobia that will condemn Hondurans and other people fleeing oppression into an early grave. What Lija’s bullets and those of his Serb enemies did back in 1991, so will those of drug gangs do to those turned away at the border. The blood will be on Trump’s hands this time.

Also condemned to an early grave will be the wildlife of the borderlands between Mexico and the USA if Trump’s wall is ever built. Like the wild horses, they salute no flag and are dead-set on roaming free. On December 10, 2018, the Washington Post reported on the environmental consequences of the wall:

Months later, by September, wildlife biologists and managers at Fish and Wildlife, which is part of the Interior Department, penned a list of “informal comments” on the possible impacts. In a draft letter prepared that month, career wildlife employees wrote that they were concerned the border wall would reduce “habitat connectivity” for rare ocelots and jaguarundi that roam the Santa Ana and Lower Rio Grande Valley national wildlife refuges.

While some fencing already exists in the two Texas counties, officials wrote that erecting more border wall in the region may limit animals’ access to drinking water and the intermingling within the cats’ populations. If the cats’ choice of mates narrowed, it could raise the risk of inbreeding.

These experts voiced concerns about the wall “leaving terrestrial wildlife trapped behind the levee wall to drown or starve” during floods. Fish and Wildlife suggested constructing berms south of the levee to give animals a path to flee from the flood-prone river valley.

February 10, 2019

How Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez should have answered Chuck Todd’s question about whether a socialist can be a capitalist

Filed under: DSA,socialism — louisproyect @ 10:06 pm

On Friday night, Chuck Todd interviewed Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the Meet the Press Daily show on MSNBC. Like most of the people with shows on MSNBC, Todd identifies with the Democratic Party leadership and would tend to be tougher with someone like Bernie Sanders or Ocasio-Cortez than with Joe Biden or Hillary Clinton. The interview has generated more than the usual buzz since Todd asked her if a democratic socialist can be a capitalist, which is an absurd question since it mixes apples and oranges. The goal was to clearly put her on the spot. A democratic socialist is a politician while a capitalist is someone who is belongs to a class defined by its relationship to the means of production. Much of the interview has the two working at cross-purposes but it is worth watching since it gets to the heart of Ocasio-Cortez’s core beliefs and implicitly those on the left who nod approvingly of her and Sanders’s self-identification as socialists.

We should start off by acknowledging that her supporters in the DSA are much further to the left and would not offer the kind of circumlocutions she puts forward if they were being interviewed. DSA websites are filled with proclamations about the need to abolish private property and produce on the basis of human need. In this sense, they are the continuation of major Social Democratic parties that always insisted on the need for a classless society even if their modus operandi was based on class-collaboration. With Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez, you get something different. Their idea of socialism is Sweden under Olof Palme while Olof Palme’s idea was something much closer to the Jacobin editorial board, especially given their affinity with the Meidner Plan that hoped to gradually increase the percentage of corporate shares owned by workers until the boss was eased out. Instead, it was the Meidner plan that was eased out in Sweden.

Replying to the question about whether a socialist (I will dispense with the word democratic because socialism is based on the idea of full democracy) can be a capitalist, Ocasio-Cortez dodges the question as skillfully as Muhammad Ali dodging a punch: “Well, I think it depends on your interpretation. So there are some democratic socialist that would say absolutely not. There are other people that are democratic socialist that would say I think it’s possible.” Todd follows up by asking her “what are you?” This elicits the reply that she is for a “democratic economy”.

A democratic economy? Who would be opposed to that? Ron Paul? The Koch brothers? Barack Obama? Elizabeth Warren?

With respect to Warren, Ocasio-Cortez offers another circumlocution: “So … in some ways whether it’s you’re coming from say Elizabeth Warren’s perspective where she says, you know she says things like I’m a capitalist but we need to have hard rules for the game.” What the hell? Why can’t Ocasio-Cortez just come out and state her economic views directly and clearly? Why drag Warren into the discussion?

About the best you can hope for is what she says in reply to Todd’s question about whether the private sector can do some things better than the public sector:

Yes, I think there’s a lot of things. There’s a lot of consumer goods where the private sector works. And by the way, I think it’s important to delineate that just because you’re in the private sector doesn’t — you can be in the private sector and be a democratically socialist business.

Worker cooperatives are a perfect example of that. It’s not about government takeover, it’s about how much do workers have a say in your business. Do you have workers on the board? Do workers enjoy a decent amount of the wealth that they are creating.

Or is the majority of these profits going to shareholders while you’re paying a worker $15 an hour to live in a New York City apartment. And to that too me is a the difference. It’s not that public — the public sector is democratically socialist and the private sector is not. It’s really about a more nuance understanding of how our economy should work.

Well, there is no doubt that the “private sector” can often produce consumer goods better than the public sector. Just look at the crappy clothes Russians had to put up with in the 1960s. Everybody knows that they backed perestroika in order to get a pair of Levi’s even if today’s Levi’s are garbage. But what does this have to do with the crisis we are living through? Capitalism is degrading the water we drink, the air we breathe and the food we eat. At the rate things are going, the only wildlife left 50 years from now will be pigeons, squirrels and rats.

Predictably, Ocasio-Cortez refers to cooperatives as an example of a “democratically socialist business”. While nobody would minimize the importance of the Brooklyn food co-op or the co-ops that flourished in my hometown of Woodridge, NY that PM described as a “utopia in the Catskills”, they are essentially marginal enterprises. Yes, you can get a good deal on a 50-pound bag of potatoes in Brooklyn and grain to feed your chickens as the Communist poultry farmers did in Woodridge but we are dealing with monstrous capitalist predators like ExxonMobil, Boeing, Dow, General Electric (until it goes bankrupt), Walmart, and American Airlines that will continue to destroy the possibility of humanity’s future into the twenty-second century at the rate things are going. Would adding ExxonMobil workers to the board of directors make any difference? Absolutely not. Most of them probably identify much more with Rex Tillerson rather than Bernie Sanders.

She is much more concerned with people working in the service industries whose plight she suffered when she was working as a waitress in a taqueria. However, we need to figure out a way to reach the vast majority of workers who have the social power to become a new ruling class. The median household income in the USA in 2017 was $61,372. Most people who hold down jobs in auto factories or oil refineries are doing much better than that.

The problem for us is convincing ordinary workers that their interests and that of the ruling class are opposed. While there is little likelihood that the millions of factory workers in the USA are ready to join the DSA, let alone a revolutionary organization, the primary goal of socialists is to draw clear class lines that will help to raise consciousness. Certainly, the speeches given by Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez about the “billionaire class” help to draw such lines but what’s sorely missing is a clear and precise diagnosis of the underlying cause of a wide variety of ills that are hard to miss nowadays, from the opioid epidemic to the flooding that ravaged Houston in 2017. American families are becoming increasingly vulnerable to socio-economic dislocations that having nothing to do with minimum wage or whether ExxonMobil refinery workers in Houston are on the board of directors or not. In fact, many of them were probably living in those houses that were devastated by the flood.

If I were a guest on Chuck Todd’s show, and he asked me if a socialist could be a capitalist, I would have answered this way:

Chuck, of course a socialist can be a capitalist. Karl Marx’s partner Friedrich Engels owned a textile mill. But the real question facing the American people is whether we need socialism. I maintain that we do based on the following considerations.

Everything you use, everything you eat or wear, your car, your housing — you didn’t make any of these things. We don’t produce these things as individuals. We produce socially. We have a division of work in the United States, and in the whole world for that matter. People in one part of the world make things which people in another part of the world use.

But, even though we produce socially, through co-operation, we don’t own the means of production socially. And this affects all the basic decisions made in this society about what we produce. These decisions are not made on the basis of what people need, but on the basis of what makes a profit.

Take the question of hunger. There are people going hungry all over the world, and the US government recently reported that there are a lot of people going hungry right here in the United States. And yet, because of the profit system, the US government is now paying some farmers not to farm. Farmers don’t make their decisions by saying: “We need a lot of corn in the US, so I’m going to plant a lot of corn.” They never say that. They say: “How much money am I going to make if I plant corn?” Did you know that if decisions were not made on this basis, then the US alone would have the potential to feed the whole world? The economic potential is there.

I’ll give you another example of how the potential for meeting human needs is destroyed because of the profit system. Say you are a capitalist, and you’re about to build a factory. Do you say: “I’ll build it where it’s nice, where there are trees and fresh air, and where the workers will have nice homes and will be able to go mountain climbing or hunting or swimming?” No, that’s not the way you think. You say: “Well, where’s my market, where are my raw materials coming in, how can I make the most profit?” And this means you might build the factory where you will pump even more poison into the air.

(The italicized paragraphs above are From Peter Camejo’s “How to Make a Revolution in the United States” from 1969).

 

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