Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

February 3, 2015

The divine right of the bourgeoisie

Filed under: capitalist pig — louisproyect @ 8:48 pm

It seems that Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the disgraced former head of the IMF who was charged but ultimately cleared of raping a maid in a Washington hotel, is in the news again. This time it looks like the charges might stick as the Washington Post reported yesterday:

On Monday, the man many thought would one day be president of France will stand trial in the city of Lille in northern France. He’s faced with charges he helped procure sex workers for sex parties from Paris to Brussels to Washington. Dubbed the Carlton affair because it involves the Hotel Carlton in Lille, the case stars luxury hotel managers, Freemasons, Viagra, purple carpet and even a brothel owner called “Dodo the Pimp” (Dodo la Saumure). In a charging document that runs 240 pages, French authorities said Strauss-Kahn may have helped organize the affairs, during which female attendants were allegedly paid to have sex with businessmen.

This juicy tidbit reminded me that I had intended to write something about Jeffrey Epstein, the superrich American financier who spent time in prison seven years ago for soliciting prostitutes. The charge hardly does justice to the actual crime, which involved lavishing large amounts of money on impressionable teenage girls, one only fourteen years old, to tempt them into what first looked like a glamorous world. Needless to say, the prospects of giving Alan Dershowitz a blow job must have disabused them of that notion rather quickly.

This year Epstein is in the news again because one of the women who have launched a civil suit seeking damages has identified Prince Andrew and Alan Dershowitz as two of the men that were serviced by Epstein’s harem. I will have something to say about Prince Andrew and Dershowitz after putting Epstein under a microscope. He, like Dominique Strauss-Kahn, symbolizes the affinity between economic power and sexual domination that rarely gets discussed in a mainstream media, which sees such scandals as the failings of an individual rather than an economic system.

The best all-round article on Epstein can be found in New York Magazine, a weekly geared to the lifestyles of the middle class and that is ubiquitous to the waiting rooms of doctors and dentists. On December 8, 2007 Philip Weiss’s “The Fantasist” appeared. It was subtitled: “Accused of paying underage girls for sex, superrich money manager Jeffrey Epstein is finding that living in a dream world is dangerous—even if you can pay for it.” Does the name Philip Weiss ring a bell? It should. He is our estimable comrade from Mondoweiss who made his living as a journalist for glossy magazines before taking on the Israeli lobby.

Epstein had a mansion on 71st street between Fifth and Madison of gargantuan proportions. At one time it was a private school but after Epstein took it over, its 9 stories and 51,000 square feet became devoted to his vulgar Playboy tastes. In addition to Weiss, I recommend Vicky Ward’s March 2003 profile on Epstein in Vanity Fair, a magazine with the same sort of gossipy fare as New York, where she revealed a nouveau riche middle-aged man whose tastes would remind you of MTV Cribs, the show in which rock stars or professional athletes walk you through their garish McMansions.

Her article was shrewdly titled “The Talented Mr. Epstein”, a nod to Patricia Highsmith’s “The Talented Mr. Ripley” that took aim at a lower middle-class youth’s homicidal ambitions to break into the world of the superrich. Like Ripley, Epstein came from a humble background in Brooklyn and became consumed with the desire to live like royalty. As we shall see, a crime far less serious than murder allowed him to break into the bourgeoisie.

Ward might not have Epstein’s wealth when she was his guest on 71st street but her tastes were far more refined. She notices that the entrance hall was decorated with rows of individually framed prosthetic eyeballs originally intended for wounded British soldiers. Next came an immense foyer where a twice-life-size sculpture of an African warrior was on display. Epstein fielded her questions in the “Leather Room”, where she saw a painting of “a huge, Oriental fantasy of a woman holding an opium pipe and caressing a snarling lionskin”. Later on, Epstein took her on a tour of the mansion that included a look at the “Computer Room”. There she was stunned to see a stuffed black poodle atop a Steinway grand piano. He told her “No decorator would ever tell you to do that. But I want people to think what it means to stuff a dog.”

I imagine that Epstein barely made a distinction between stuffing a poodle and his dick into a fourteen-year-old girl. At the time Ward was doing her research, she got word about his turning teenage girls into his sex slaves and submitted an article that exposed his crimes. But editor Graydon Carter decided to exclude the passages that dealt with that. In a January 6, 2015 article in “The Daily Beast” tilted “I tried to warn you about sleazy billionaire Jeffrey Epstein” in 2003”, she assesses the consequences of Carter’s failure of nerve:

Today, my editor at The Daily Beast emailed Graydon to ask why he had excised the women’s stories from my article. A Vanity Fair spokeswoman responded: “Epstein denied the charges at the time and since the claims were unsubstantiated and no criminal investigation had been initiated, we decided not to include them in what was a financial story.”

But this wasn’t a financial story, it was a classic Vanity Fair profile of a society figure. I don’t know—because I never asked him—if Graydon still believed Epstein when in 2007 Epstein was sentenced to jail time for soliciting underage prostitutes. But it has often struck me that if my piece had named the women, the FBI might have come after Epstein sooner and perhaps some of his victims, now, in the latest spate of allegations, allegedly either paid off or too fearful of retribution to speak up, would have been saved.

Honoré de Balzac, Karl Marx’s favorite novelist, introduced “Le Pére Goriot” with this epigraph: “Behind every great fortune there is a crime”. That was apparently the case with Epstein, who was fired from his first job at Bear Stearns in 1981 after he was discovered making “illegal operations”. Like so many others on Wall Street, he used insider information to make trades on St. Joe Mineral Corporation, a Canadian firm. Getting fired from Bear Stearns for improprieties is quite an accomplishment given this firm’s history. Along with Lehman Brothers, its heavy investment in collateralized mortgage securities brought it down. In a Vanity Fair article on Bear-Stearns, a Wall Street executive said, “If I had to pick the biggest financial crime ever perpetuated, I would say, ‘Bear Stearns.’ ”

Eventually Epstein started his own firm that was confident enough in its own abilities to stipulate that the only customers would be those worth more than a billion dollars. Only $750 million? Sorry, you need to go to Goldman Sachs.

According to Kay, lining up Leslie Wexner as his first account was critical. Wexner was the CEO of a garment conglomerate called the Limited. Among its most profitable companies was Victoria’s Secret, a woman’s underwear manufacturer that is notorious for its televised fashion shows in which models traipse down the runway with wings on their back. Apparently Epstein enjoyed sitting in the front row at these events, where he could pick out models young enough for his tastes.

Epstein and Wexner shared a passion besides making money. They were both rightwing Zionists. In another important article titled “How Alan Dershowitz bullied rape victims to protect a serial child molester”, written for Electronic Intifada on January 10, 2015, Rania Khalek makes it clear how big-time Jewish money works on behalf of Palestinian oppression:

The Wexner Foundation is deeply involved in Israel advocacy mostly through its Israel Fellowship Program, which brings ten Israeli public officials to Harvard for a fully funded Master’s degree program in public administration at the Kennedy School of Government.

With the participation of The Wexner Foundation, Republican pollster and rightwing propaganda consultant Frank Luntz produced the “Wexner Analysis: Israeli Communications Priorities 2003,” a “road map” for linking the US’ so-called war on terror in Iraq to Israel’s war on Palestinians.

The foundation also funds a number of pro-Israel organizations, including Birthright Israel, a sectarian indoctrination program that sends young American Jews on a free ten-day trip to Israel to lure them into immigrating to bolster a Jewish majority and participate in the dispossession and ethnic cleansing of indigenous Palestinians.

Wexner himself is a key supporter and sits on the board of governors of Hillel International, the national network of campus organizations devoted to policing criticism of Israel and attacking the increasingly popular boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement under the guise of “enriching the lives of Jewish students.” In 2008, Hillel awarded its annual Renaissance Award to Wexner for giving “critical support and counsel to Hillel.”

After Epstein was arrested in 2006, a number of charities and institutions returned the money he had donated but not Harvard University where his $30 million had been used to create a department for Martin Nowak, a scientist whose research in genetics and society impressed Epstein, who has cultivated the support of big-time researchers and politicians alike.

When Nowak invited evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers to speak at a symposium, Epstein intervened to get the invitation revoked as the Harvard Crimson reported:

Some have opined that, with the passing of the Summers administration in 2006, these threats to free speech about Israel have ended. However, in 2007, long after Summers’ departure, Martin A. Nowak—Professor of Mathematics and Biology and Director of Harvard’s Program for Evolutionary Dynamics (PED) —invited Rutgers biologist Robert L. Trivers to speak on the occasion of his receipt of the prestigious Crafoord Prize in biosciences from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Hours before the scheduled speech and party, according to Trivers, Nowak abruptly rescinded the invitation and said that he was doing so under the orders of someone he would not identify. Also according to Trivers, Jeffrey Epstein later admitted ordering the cancellation and said that he had done so under pressure from Dershowitz. Epstein, a legal client of Dershowitz, had donated the funds used to establish PED, which, according to other sources, depends for its future effectiveness on further funding from him.

Dershowitz, who is also a Faculty Affiliate of PED, had complained of a letter to the Wall Street Journal in which Trivers described Israel’s attacks on Lebanese civilians during the 2006 invasion as “butchery.” He also called Dershowitz a “Nazi-like apologist” for justifying it, and told Dershowitz to “look forward to a visit” from him if his public justifications continued. Trivers denied any intent to threaten or harm Dershowitz physically. In 2008, it was a professor from outside of PED who ultimately invited Trivers anew. Notwithstanding Dershowitz’ dramatic claim to have posted his karate-expert secretary at his office door to protect him, Trivers delivered a brilliant and well-attended speech, which took him nowhere near Dershowitz or his office. That Trivers was disinvited in the first place remains an unwashed disgrace to Harvard, unprecedented since the McCarthy era with regard to any issue other than Israel-Palestine.

Prince Andrew, like Alan Dershowitz, was a bosom buddy of Jeffrey Epstein and a man not inclined to question his obvious predilection for underage prostitutes. Both men vigorously deny having had sex with the women although Prince Andrew has more of a job explaining away the photo that shows him with his arm wrapped around a “Jane Doe” in the civil suit.

I had never paid much attention to the royal family but Andrew is a remarkably sleazy character, not just when it comes to preying on young women. Known as the Duke of York, he was a good pal of Muammar Gaddafi’s son Saif. British tabloid The Mirror reported:

In November 2007 Andrew had the first of several meetings with Libyan dictator Colonel Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam, later indicted on charges including torture. And in 2008 he enjoyed a four-day holiday in Tunisia paid for by Tarek Kaituni (a convicted Libyan gun smuggler) before going to Libya and visiting Colonel Gaddafi himself, known as a murderous tyrant and rapist during his 42-year reign of terror.

Of course, this might not have raised eyebrows in Great Britain since the Libyan dictatorship had endeared itself to other powerful figures, including Tony Blair who hailed Gaddafi as an ally in the “war on terror” and gave his blessings to joint exploration deals between Shell and the Libyan state-owned oil company.

As the UK’s Special Trade Representative, the Duke had a way of sniffing out lucrative trade deals with oil-rich dictatorships including Kazakhstan. As a wedding gift from Queen Elizabeth, the Duke received a 12-bedroom mansion in Sunninghill Park in 1986. After his divorce with Sarah Ferguson, the Duke moved out and put the property up for sale. Something of a white elephant that architecture critics likened to a Tesco-style supermarket, it languished on the real estate market for five years until Timur Kulibayev picked it up for £15m, £3m more than the asking price.

Timur Kulibayev is the son-in-law of Kazakhstan’s president and reputed to control 90 percent of the country’s economy. A leading Kazakh banker has alleged that the mansion was bought with money laundered from the proceeds of the sale of a Kazakh oil company to the Chinese. There is little doubt that the Duke has been acting as a middleman between British oil companies and Kazakhstan. The shady purchase of his mansion was surely meant to serve as a lubricant.

When he is not brokering oil deals, the Duke is making connections on behalf of British arms manufacturers. One of the more lucrative deals he has overseen is with the Bahrain dictatorship that has tortured men and women who protested in the streets during the nation’s participation in the Arab Spring.

As mentioned above, Prince Andrew will need a good lawyer in the upcoming civil suit based on the testimony that has already been presented under oath. The Mirror reported on January 3, 2015:

Prince Andrew holidayed with Epstein in Thailand in 2001 and was snapped surrounded by topless women on a yacht.

A handyman who spent 11 years working for the tycoon claimed Prince Andrew often had massages when he was a guest at his Palm Beach mansion.

Juan Alessi said the Prince enjoyed daily massages from young women and often emerged “smiling” after rub-downs.

He said the massages were carried out in a private part of the mansion only Epstein and selected guests could access.

Alessi also told how he witnessed parties at the ­waterfront mansion at which the Prince was present while young girls frolicked in the nude.

One can easily imagine Epstein selling the prince on the healthful benefits of massage, considering what it did for him:

Screen shot 2015-02-03 at 3.08.47 PM

Philip Weiss quotes Epstein’s friend Peggy Siegal, a publicist:

“He lives in a different environment,” says Siegal. “He’s of this world. But he creates this different environment. He lives like a pasha. The most magnificent townhouse I’ve ever been in, and I’ve been in everything. I’ve seen a model of the house in Santa Fe … a stone fortress. A model of the house in the Caribbean—it is not to be believed. I’ve seen photographs of the apartment in Paris … How did he get himself into that pickle? That’s the mystery of Jeffrey Epstein. He’s very mysterious. Not that many people get close to him. Not that many people know him.”

Indeed, he does live like a pasha although I doubt that Siegal knew enough about Ottoman history to understand how much her words revealed. According to Wikipedia, a pasha is similar to the rank of Duke in British aristocracy. It makes perfect sense that Epstein and the Duke saw the right to buy women for their sexual pleasure as a God-given right. The entire basis of feudalism, after all, is the right of the aristocrat to enjoy a privileged status protected by the Church and the hereditary feudal class system.

“The Marriage of Figaro”, one of my favorite Mozart operas, involves Count Almaviva’s intention to reinstate the feudal right of an aristocrat to sleep with the bride of a servant. This was a world in which the aristocracy still wielded great power in Europe and as such Mozart’s opera was part and parcel of the emerging bourgeois revolution that would abolish such privileges.

In my own view of this hotly contested matter in Marxist theory, I view the bourgeois revolution as one that preserves elements of feudal property relations, particularly in the countryside. The modern two-party system, in my view, is rooted in the compromise between urban manufacturer and rural gentry that was necessary for them to withstand the combined power of worker and peasant. It is the persistence of Labour and Tory in Britain and two-party systems everywhere in the world that demonstrates how bourgeois revolutions are not exactly democratic.

The behavior of a Dominique Strauss-Kahn or a Jeffrey Epstein is just a reminder that men at the top of the capitalist food chain tend to behave like Count Almaviva. The only difference between hereditary rule and bourgeois rule is that in the first case de jure allows what de facto in the second does not. In other words, you better not get caught with your pants down.

5 Comments »

  1. Since the 1967 war, whether you are of ordinary or extraordinary means, of pedestrian or refined ideas, the Jewish-American institutional culture of support for Israel will find a way to make you feel as if you are defending Western Civilization itself, in its recent Judeo-Christian iteration, as well as preventing another holocaust. Even a lowlife predator like Epstein wants to feel like he stands at the ramparts. You may never enter a synagogue, but you are the noble embodiment of Jewish History itself. All this is magnified when there enormous amounts of money and political influence involved. But even at more modest levels, one is certain to be garner a Man of the Year, Woman of the Year, or LGBTQ person of the Year at some Jewish Federation dinner for raising a few dollars in defense of the cause. Epstein and Dershowitz exist at the most repulsive end of this spectrum, which most blatantly reveals the relationships among wealth, power, dominance, racism, and a colonialist mentality, not to mention a complete disregard for truthfulness which comes to the fore when all of the above gets mixed up with academia.

    Comment by David Green — February 4, 2015 @ 2:21 am

  2. Not to make light of a serious subject, but Epstein’s Zionism, IMHO, is all but incidental to the system of class privilege his case demonstrates. You could eliminate every trace of Zionism from U.S. foreign and domestic policy and law, and you would still have this problem if capitalism remained. It would simply find more false flags to wrap itself in.

    The “1%,” cosmopolitan bastards that they are, would cheerfully send both the U.S. and Israel straight to hell if they thought they didn’t need them.

    Comment by Pete Glosser — February 4, 2015 @ 4:32 pm

  3. You’re quite right, Pete. The icing on the cake is the fraudulent convenience of their beliefs, as Norman Finkelstein has for years pointed out about people like AD and Norman Podhoretz.

    Comment by David Green — February 4, 2015 @ 4:55 pm

  4. Wow, and I always thought Prince Andrew was the ultimate royal parasite. Who knew that he “worked” for a living?

    Comment by dedelste — February 4, 2015 @ 5:41 pm

  5. Given that I live near that amorphous boundary where one crosses from urban manufacture to the land of the peasantry, the world of Jeffrey Epstein is as foreign to me as science fiction. Perhaps, it is the concealment of his life and the lives of others like him that enables it to be perpetuated.

    Comment by Richard Estes — February 4, 2015 @ 8:20 pm


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