Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

September 13, 2017

The Deuce

Filed under: racism,television — louisproyect @ 5:25 pm

I have just spent probably the longest 90 minutes of my life watching the first episode of “The Deuce”, an HBO series that examines prostitution and pornography in New York City in 1971. The show is co-written by George Pelecanos and David Simon, the creative team behind “The Wire”, another highly acclaimed HBO series that I could never stand for more than 5 minutes. Both shows are highly exploitative. In the name of gritty realism, they pander to the tastes of an educated urban middle-class that gets its kicks out of gaping at society’s lower-depths, especially African-American petty criminals who are stereotyped in this fare. In “The Wire”, it was drug dealers; in “The Deuce”, it is pimps and prostitutes. Despite the lofty pretensions of the men and women behind this series, it is nothing but Blaxploitation tailored to the carriage trade. All this would be forgivable if there was something dramatic going on. Sitting through the first episode was analogous to watching paint dry, to use a hoary cliché. How something as lurid as pimps and whores going about their business could turn out to be so humdrum and predictable indicates to me that Simon and Pelecanos’s reputation has been overblown to the nth degree.

“The Deuce” includes Richard Price and James Franco as executive producers, who likely had an influence on the story’s narrative arc. Price, a one-time very good novelist, began a steep decline once he began writing policiers like “Clockers”, a 1992 novel based on the cat-and-mouse games played by cops and African-American drug dealers. Expecting something approaching Dostoyevsky based on the rave reviews, I couldn’t get past page 50 or so. This novel evidently qualified Price to begin writing for its first cousin “The Wire” ten years later. Price also adapted the very fine British Criminal Justice TV series about a young man falsely accused of murdering a woman he met on a one-night stand into the mess called “The Night Of”. Like “The Wire” and “The Deuce”, it was mostly a way for Price to highlight repulsive and grotesque African-American characters.

In addition to executive producing “The Deuce”, James Franco plays twin brothers Vinnie and Frank Martino. Vinnie is a bartender from Brooklyn while his brother is a Vietnam vet with a gambling addiction. Evidently the two of them become pioneers of the porn industry but I don’t have plans to stick around to watch the characters “making it”. I find pornography in and of itself to be a crushing bore so I don’t expect a film about its rise to break the mold.

Like Franco, Maggie Gyllenhaal is both an executive producer and an actor. She plays Eileen “Candy” Merrell, a street-walker in Times Square, where most of the action takes place. Unlike the other whores, she works on her own.

Setting the tone for the sort of pimps that are featured in “The Deuce”, we meet C.C. and Reggie Love hanging out in the Port Authority Bus Terminal. They are dressed in the garish costumes featured in Blaxploitation films of this period, conked hair and all. The predictably named Reggie Love, who has returned from a tour of duty in Vietnam, is singing the praises of Richard Nixon whose ability to intimidate the Vietnamese makes him a fellow pimp in spirit. From there the conversation turns to how they want to line up some white bitches for their stable. Listening to the dialog between the two characters is a revolting experience akin to that produced by the scene in “Dumbo” where crows are stand-ins for Black people.

When C.C. spots a young woman who has just deboarded a bus from Minnesota, he strides toward her with a cane in his right hand. No, he is not disabled from a tour of duty in Vietnam, only using it as a fashion accessory. It is obvious that subtlety is not a word found in Simon and Pelenacos’s vocabulary.

Leaving aside the message of this dubious product, there are stylistic choices that strike me as boneheaded. In the ninety minute pilot for “The Deuce”, there are 46 separate scenes, most lasting no more than a minute. They all involved different characters, sometimes overlapping in the by-now overused “coincidence” fashion of films like “Crash” or “Amores perros”. You know the sort of film I am talking about, right? It is one in which 25 different characters cross each other’s path beating the kind of odds you would find in the NY State Lottery. The hub for all of these coincidences is the House of Korea, a restaurant in Times Square where Vinnie works as a bartender that is favored by pimps, prostitutes, cops and businessmen far more interested in getting drunk than eating some of the best cuisine on earth.

Additionally, to appear faithful to the period, nearly every character smokes cigarettes during the dialog. It becomes a huge distraction since it is so italicized. As I said, Simon and Pelenacos are not into subtlety.

Since the device of having such brief scenes is meant to draw you into the texture of Times Square society in 1971 rather than to develop the characters psychologically, you begin to tire of the fragmentation. Price used the same approach in “The Night Of”, which he clearly borrowed from “The Wire”. I much prefer something like “The French Connection” or “The Godfather”. If that makes me a moldy fig, so be it.

I think Ishmael Reed had the last word on this crap in an interview he gave to Wajahat Ali on Counterpunch:

ALI: Let’s talk about the media. Here are some popular examples of media content and personalities that have gone mainstream and are successful: Oprah. Will Smith. Jamie Foxx. Tyra Bank. Tyler Perry. The Wire. Barbershop. American Gangster. You’re known as a vociferous critic of mainstream media and its tendency to stereotype. So, why complain now? You guys– African Americans – have made it.

REED: The Wire– you know, David Simon [the creator of The Wire] and I have a running controversy for years. It all stems from a telephone call I made to KPFA [Pacifica radio] when he was a guest there in the 90’s on Chris Welche’s show. He was going around the country with a Black kid from the Ghetto to promote something called The Corner– it was all about Blacks as degenerates selling drugs, etc.

ALI: Was that HBO?

REED: Yes. HBO does all this kind of stuff. I called in and told Simon, “You’re using this kid.” Later I said it [was] like Buffalo Bill going around the country exhibiting Indians. He got really pissed off and went to the New York Times, where he has a supporter there named Virginia Hefferman, another Times feminist who, when it comes to Black urban Fiction, can’t tell the difference between the real and the fake; she’s his supporter. She said that George Pelecanos, David Simon, and Richard Price are the “Lords of Urban Fiction,” when the Black Holloway authors like Iceberg Slim can write circles around these guys when it comes to Urban fiction.

Simon, Price and Pelecanos’ Black characters speak like the cartoon crows in those old racist cartoons [“Heckle and Jeckle.”] Henry Louis Gates knows this about “The Wire,” yet his right wing blog, The Root, carries an ad for “The Wire” today and a glowing article about this piece of crap. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is an intellectual entrepreneur all right. He condemns my work as misogynist yet supports Simon’s Neo-Nazi portrait of Black people. “The Wire” and novels by Price and Pelecanos should be submitted to the Jim Crow museum at Ferris State University– this is the website: www.ferris.edu/jimcrow/, where they can have a honored place alongside of some of Robert Crumb’s Nazi cartoons.

When I was researching my novel Reckless Eyeballing, I attended a lecture sponsored by the San Francisco Holocaust Museum, March 26,1984. The program said that the stereotypes about Jewish men in the Nazi media was similar to that about Black men in the United States. I thought, what on earth are they talking about? And then I went out and examined some of this junk, especially the cartoons in the newspaper Der Sturmer – see Julius Streicher Nazi Editor of the Notorious Anti-Semite Newspaper Der Sturmer by Randall l. Bytwerk. I was shocked. Jewish men were depicted as sexual predators, raping Aryan women. They were exhibited as flashers. Both Bellow and Phillip Roth’s books include Black flashers. Jewish men especially those immigrants from Russia were depicted as criminals. Jewish children were seen as disruptive, a threat to German school children and so on.

If any one looks at this stuff for example, you’ll find a perfect match for the way that David Mamet, David Simon, George Pelecanos, Stephen Spielberg and Richard Price portray Blacks. They are very critical in their projects about the way Black men treat women, yet none of them has produced a project critical of the way that men of their background treat women.

September 12, 2017

Why in god’s name did the Socialist Project decide to recommend Alastair Crooke’s article hailing Assad’s victory?

Filed under: Syria — louisproyect @ 3:54 pm

Alastair Crooke

Yesterday, I wrote a message to Marxmail condemning Socialist Project’s decision to regularly tweet Assadist propaganda, the latest installment of which is an article by ex-MI6 operative Alastair Crooke that appeared on Consortium News. Crooke, whose spooky past and name seem lifted out of a John Le Carré novel, was described as a supporter of Islamic “freedom fighters” and power-hungry clerics in a Mother Jones profile ten years ago but more recently has become the typical Assadist, sounding every bit as committed to the “war on terror” as all the other people writing for Consortium News, starting with its webmaster Robert Parry, a one-time investigative reporter who like Seymour Hersh is far more dedicated to covering things up today.

In email exchanges with Sam Gindin today, I was assured that the Socialist Project editor Greg Albo was only posting a link to Crooke’s article for informational purposes, only to allow readers to get inside the skull of a figure with a background in foreign affairs. Since the Socialist Project Twitter feed is an almost daily source of Assadist propaganda, I tend to doubt that but will not dwell on it. Gindin invited me to write a critique of Crooke’s article, which I will do after saying some brief words about the provenance of Socialist Project.

This is a collective of sorts that was initiated by Socialist Register editors, including Gindin, Leo Panitch and Greg Albo, who is the nominal editor of Socialist Project. I welcomed this initiative back in 2000 as described on their website:

At a meeting in Toronto in the fall of 2000, some 750 activists responded to a call to “rebuild the left” by developing a structured movement against capitalism. This call for a new political formation that would be “more than a movement, less than a party” was similar to other initiatives in Canada and around the world that have been undertaken as the traditional organizations of the political left have waned.

I suspect that Gindin, Panitch and Albo have not given much thought to Syria, at least on the basis of a search of Socialist Register where there are zero references to the country dated after 2009. Nor will you find a single reference to the Arab Spring. I would describe this as a dereliction of socialist duty and leave it at that.

Turning now to Crooke’s article, it basically describes Syria as suffering the same kind of “regime change” attack as Iraq in 2002 that was supposedly intended to bolster Sunni fundamentalism against Russian and Iranian interests: “Fired-up Sunni radicals have now been used by Western states to counter Nasserism, Ba’athism, the USSR, Iranian influence, and latterly to try to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad in Syria.”

Would you expect Crooke to explain why Bush’s invasion helped to install a Shia regime close to Tehran? Of course not.

One of the host of experts on Syria Crooke calls upon is a libertarian named Dan Sanchez, who has written articles like “Mises Never Gave In to Evil“. This is the same Mises who once wrote that “It cannot be denied that Fascism and similar movements aiming at the establishment of dictatorships are full of the best intentions and that their intervention has, for the moment, saved European civilization. The merit that Fascism has thereby won for itself will live on eternally in history.”

No wonder Sanchez is an Assad fan.

I have no idea who at Socialist Project deemed Crooke’s article worth linking to but wonder if they share his view that the Arab Spring was a vehicle supported by the West “to break up the nationalist-secular Arab world” and replace it with Islamists.

Crooke is encouraged by BRICS calling out Pakistan for providing aid to jihadist groups. As Charles Davis pointed out in a recent al-Jazeera article, George Bush’s brand of “war on terror” has spread internationally as a favorite tool to cover up of war crimes. Does anybody think that Modi, whose BJP carried out pogroms against Muslims, or China that has been suppressing Uighur rights for decades in the name of fighting terrorism have the moral high ground to lecture Pakistan?

Right now Myanmar is working with China and Russia to make sure that the UN Security Council is prevented from censuring the Assadist-like scorched earth tactics that has forced nearly 150,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to Bangladesh. Myanmar National Security Adviser Thaung Tun said he was counting on China and Russia, both permanent members of the Security Council, to block a UN resolution on the crisis. “We are negotiating with some friendly countries not to take it to the Security Council. China is our friend and we have a similar friendly relationship with Russia so it will not be possible for that issue to go forward.” About Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi blaming “terrorists” and “a huge iceberg of misinformation”, the less said the better.

Crooke is also encouraged by a statement made by his country’s Middle East minister Alistair Burt on behalf of General al-Sisi in Egypt who has killed, imprisoned and tortured members of the Muslim Brotherhood as part of a crackdown on “jihadism”. With the “axis of resistance” to jihadist terror now encompassing the White House, the Kremlin, the British foreign ministry, Assad, Robert Fisk, Seymour Hersh, Patrick Cockburn and thousands of other journalists and politicians, one can understand why the Socialist Project has decided not to swim against the current.

Crooke, like many others on the Assadist left (using the word left charitably), is positively gloating over Assad’s victory, since it has shown Wahabbism to be “thoroughly discredited by its careless brutality.” How remarkable it is for someone to write an article hailing Assad’s victory without even the slightest whisper that the man he is hoisting on his shoulders has used poison gas repeatedly, killed 13,000 prisoners, driven half the country into either internal or external displacement and is responsible for over a half-million casualties. If Syria had the same population as the USA, this would amount to 9 million deaths.

Crooke asserts that this victory was ensured by “the mostly Sunni Syrian Arab Army.” Odd, all along I thought it was Russian bombers, Hezbollah, Iran’s Quds Brigades, Shia mercenaries from Afghanistan and Iraq that did the trick. I guess I should have been paying closer attention to sources like Dan Sanchez to understand what was happening in Syria. In reality, it is doubtful that Assad would have made it past 2014 unless these outside powers had stepped in. In a speech made in July 2015, Assad stated that “the country’s army faced a manpower shortage and had ceded some areas to insurgents in order to hold onto other regions deemed more important”, according to the NY Times. It was just such a manpower shortage that led to the use of barrel bombs and poison gas. The barrel bombs were meant for wholesale murder in rebel-controlled areas and the sarin or chlorine gas was meant to frighten the survivors into submission.

With all due respect to Sam Gindin, I don’t think that Crooke’s article was meant as an example of how such people view the current situation in Syria. I am convinced that this is the editorial outlook of some leading Socialist Project members, at least those like Justin Podur, an ideologically committed Assadist. For all I know, it is Podur who is responsible for this garbage.

Back in 2014, Greg Albo signed an open letter titled “Odessa: The Last Warning” that repeated the Kremlin’s talking points about Euromaidan being a fascist plot. At the time, it suggested to me that the milieu around Socialist Register and Socialist Project were being drawn into the emerging “anti-imperialist” front based in the Kremlin. I have no idea whether Sam Gindin or Leo Panitch paid much attention to this development but I certainly did.

I was struck by this sentence in the letter: “If we allow the Banderovites in Kiev to do what they like in Odessa, then we will allow tomorrow the same crime to be committed by the ‘Golden Dawn’ in Greece, by Jobbik in Hungary or, even, by Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France.” What a striking irony that these three fascist parties are all staunch supporters of Bashar al-Assad. That is a contradiction I will leave Sam Gindin and Greg Albo to resolve.


September 10, 2017

The six degrees of separation between WBAI and Craig Carton

Filed under: radio,sports — louisproyect @ 7:58 pm

Craig Carton under arrest by FBI agents

When I found out on Thursday that Craig Carton, a shock jock who co-hosts a morning show on WFAN with Boomer Esiason, had been arrested for running a Ponzi scheme, that was a bigger shock than I ever got from any words coming out of his mouth. Boomer and Carton had been on the air since September 4th, 2007 when they replaced Don Imus, another shock jock. Imus’s show was focused on politics rather than sports but sprinkled with the kind of racist and pro-cop palaver that Boomer and Carton specialized in. Of course, it is never naked racism but typically bad-mouthing Colin Kaepernick or complaining about Black Lives Matter.

WFAN knew what they were getting when they hired Carton.Wiki reports that when he was a DJ in New Jersey, he and his co-host Ray Rossi allegedly made numerous hostile and racist remarks directed towards then Edison mayoral candidate, Jun Choi, as well as the Korean, Chinese and Indian populations of the Edison area. And just before coming to WFAN, he was confronted by a Polish Holocaust survivor Paweł Zenon Woś, for propagating anti-Polish stereotypes.

The time-spot opened up for Boomer and Carton because Don Imus had been fired for referring to the Rutgers woman’s basketball team as “nappy-headed ho’s”. His stooge Bernard McGuirk, an ex-Marine and passionate Trump supporter, chimed in, referring to them and an opposing team as “”jigaboos versus the wannabes”.

So, you might ask why I ever bothered to listen to Imus, Boomer and Carton or Howard Stern who pandered to the same backward white male audience. As it happens, my wife and I enjoy listening to shock jocks in the morning. 90 percent of it is innocent chatter about politics, sports or bowel movements but the 10 percent that is intolerable usually motivates me to turn to CNN. My preference would be for WBAI but the station lost its entertainment value about 20 years ago.

Ironically, it was WBAI that provided one of the inspirations for Howard Stern, who was arguably the father of shock jock radio. He is reported to have listened to Bob Fass religiously as a teenager. Fass and fellow Pacifica talk show host Larry Josephson were the first to begin exploring their psyches on the radio in a free association manner as if they were on a psychiatrist’s couch.

Stern was also a big Bob Grant fan. Grant, who died in 2013, was one of the first rightwing zealots on the radio. He likened Mayor Dinkins to a washroom attendant and was finally fired from WABC, the fountainhead of rightwing talk radio, for telling listeners that he hoped that Ron Brown, the African-American Commerce Secretary in the Clinton administration, wouldn’t have been a survivor in a plane crash. (He wasn’t.)

On a good day, Boomer and Carton can be very entertaining especially when they are interviewing sports figures. Like Howard Stern, Carton is an excellent interviewer not afraid to ask what might seem to be tactless question. Here’s an example of Carton at his most likeable.

Seinfeld, who is a big-time sports fan like me, was honing in on Carton’s problem—an inability to accept the responsibilities of fatherhood. If you listen to his anecdotes on the show about going to Las Vegas or having bromance type dinners with sports celebrities, you get little sense that he is the father of four children.

Apparently, Carton loved going to Las Vegas because he had a gambling addiction. He had racked up $2 million in gambling debts and was desperate to find a solution. Like Bernie Madoff, he ran a Ponzi scheme but one based on the resale of concert tickets for A-list performers like Beyonce. He and his two partners told a hedge fund in NYC that they had access to huge blocks of tickets for such concerts direct from the promoters that could be resold online for a huge profit. Typically what happens is something like this. A ticket to a Beyonce concert might cost $100 but on the secondary market it can go up to a $1000. Carton never had such tickets and conned the hedge fund guys into fronting him millions of dollars that he used to pay off his debts.

They say that he faces up to 45 years for breaking various laws. As tempting as it would be to feel schadenfreude for Carton, I felt nothing but sadness. He has four young children who will likely be damaged by his absence both materially and psychologically. If you’ve seen the excellent biopic of Bernie Madoff on HBO that starred Robert DeNiro in one of his best performances in years, you’ll realize how much of a tragedy it was for him and his family. (One son hung himself in shame and likely fear that he too would be arrested eventually.)

A little bit of this has a personal resonance. One of my closest friends growing up had a gambling addiction just like Carton. I used to go with him to the Monticello Raceway where he would bet hundreds of dollars on harness races. He worked as a waiter in his father’s hotel and blew away all his money every summer. On occasion I’d have to loan him money just to pay his tuition in a local community college.

Last September Scientific American published an article titled “How the Brain Gets Addicted to Gambling” that identifies gambling as an addiction rather than a compulsion.

Research to date shows that pathological gamblers and drug addicts share many of the same genetic predispositions for impulsivity and reward seeking. Just as substance addicts require increasingly strong hits to get high, compulsive gamblers pursue ever riskier ventures. Likewise, both drug addicts and problem gamblers endure symptoms of withdrawal when separated from the chemical or thrill they desire. And a few studies suggest that some people are especially vulnerable to both drug addiction and compulsive gambling because their reward circuitry is inherently underactive—which may partially explain why they seek big thrills in the first place.

Even more compelling, neuroscientists have learned that drugs and gambling alter many of the same brain circuits in similar ways. These insights come from studies of blood flow and electrical activity in people’s brains as they complete various tasks on computers that either mimic casino games or test their impulse control. In some experiments, virtual cards selected from different decks earn or lose a player money; other tasks challenge someone to respond quickly to certain images that flash on a screen but not to react to others.

A 2005 German study using such a card game suggests problem gamblers—like drug addicts—have lost sensitivity to their high: when winning, subjects had lower than typical electrical activity in a key region of the brain’s reward system. In a 2003 study at Yale University and a 2012 study at the University of Amsterdam, pathological gamblers taking tests that measured their impulsivity had unusually low levels of electrical activity in prefrontal brain regions that help people assess risks and suppress instincts. Drug addicts also often have a listless prefrontal cortex.

Further evidence that gambling and drugs change the brain in similar ways surfaced in an unexpected group of people: those with the neurodegenerative disorder Parkinson’s disease. Characterized by muscle stiffness and tremors, Parkinson’s is caused by the death of dopamine-producing neurons in a section of the midbrain. Over the decades researchers noticed that a remarkably high number of Parkinson’s patients—between 2 and 7 percent—are compulsive gamblers. Treatment for one disorder most likely contributes to another. To ease symptoms of Parkinson’s, some patients take levodopa and other drugs that increase dopamine levels. Researchers think that in some cases the resulting chemical influx modifies the brain in a way that makes risks and rewards—say, those in a game of poker—more appealing and rash decisions more difficult to resist.

Speaking only for myself, gambling couldn’t be less interesting. When I was at the race track with my friend, I’d bring along a book to read. I won’t even spend a dollar on a lottery ticket. Drugs are even less tempting, except if you consider alcohol a drug. After reading Marxist literature all day, nothing relaxes me more than glass of Famous Grouse, the scotch that most Scottish people prefer.

I suppose the only bet I took in life was revolutionary socialism. In some ways, that makes me a total loser. But I had fun doing it most of the time.

September 9, 2017

“Adventurism” and Its Historical Failures

Filed under: Uncategorized — louisproyect @ 6:10 pm

Source: “Adventurism” and Its Historical Failures

September 8, 2017

Trophy; Company Town

Filed under: Film — louisproyect @ 5:39 pm

Long before the threat of large scale animal extinction became front page news, a film titled “The Roots of Heaven” appeared in theaters back in 1959. This was a John Huston film based on a Romain Gary novel about a small band of outsiders, as Godard would put it, who conduct nonviolent guerrilla warfare against elephant ivory poachers in French Equatorial Africa. It was the first film I ever saw that gave me a sense of the joy and honor of political resistance.

Three years later, a book titled “Silent Spring” began to be serialized in the New Yorker that linked the looming extinction of large-scale predators like the condor to the use of DDT in killing the pests that fed on crops in places like California. When the eagles or condors fed on the toxin-laden insects, their eggshells became too thin to bear offspring, The underlying message of Rachel Carsons’s book was that capitalist development threatened not only animal life but that of humanity itself.

Opening at the Quad Cinema in New York today, “Trophy” poses the provocative question of whether big-game hunting in Africa is the best way to save elephants, rhinos, buffalo and other endangered species. Focusing on South Africa and Zimbabwe, the film interviews white ranchers who have discovered that there is big money to be made by allowing hunting safaris to pay up to $250,000 for killing an elephant on their land. So much money can be made that these former masters of the native peoples began raising endangered species rather than cattle. Like many whites who were part of the colonial elite, they have a fondness for the Africa of yore when elephants and rhinoceros roamed freely in great numbers like bison in the northern Plains.

The directors of “Trophy” were wise enough to avoid editorializing. They pose questions that you most wrestle with. What are you to make of John Hume at his rhino ranch about a 100 miles east of Johannesburg where he keeps 1,500 rhinos protected from poachers, part of which involves armed guards patrolling his vast holdings? Hume also dehorns the beasts to make them less valuable for the sordid trade that capitalizes on the irrational beliefs of the Chinese and Saudi rich that the horns are an aphrodisiac. Hume is licensed to sell 264 horns per year to anyone in South Africa, the revenues of which helps him pay $170,000 per year on security.

We also see a Texas sheepherder named Philip Glass who is life-long hunter and devout Christian (clearly not the Jewish composer who wrote “Tefilim”) who has paid big bucks to go on his yearly hunting safari on private lands where large animals are sheltered from poaching. We see him tracking down a massive and elderly lion that he has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for the privilege of killing. He sees himself in the same way that Theodore Roosevelt or Ernest Hemingway saw themselves when the white race ruled the world, enjoying the privilege of killing massive amounts of wildlife. Standing over the lifeless lion, he begins to shed tears and talk about why creationism must be true. God’s obvious plan was to have man enjoying dominion over the animals. Just as the case with John Hume, the money that Glass paid goes to protect other lions and other endangered species lucky enough to be spared the bullets from his high-powered rifle.

The most interesting interviewee in the film is Craig Packer, a professor of ecology, evolution and behavior at the University of Minnesota and director of the university’s Lion Center. Packer places the dwindling numbers of large-scale predators in the same context as Rachel Parsons—victims of capitalist development. In a New Yorker profile on Packer that was triggered by the killing of a protected lion by an American dentist, he defends the need for trophy hunting as a necessary evil:

It is his position, as the story begins, that the lions of the Serengeti need sport hunters to survive; that Cecils must die if prides are to endure. The lions’ existential threat is not American machismo but the slow spread of traditional cattle ranchers, some of whom have been forcibly removed from their lands in order to make room for game parks, and who will poison or spear cattle-killing lions with or without government sanction. The semi-nomadic Maasai kill lions that kill their livestock, kill lions that kill their children, and kill lions to prove themselves brave. That more than a quarter of Tanzania has been given over to hunters means that it has not been given over to people trying to make a living—so there is still hope for the lions within. “Take away the incentive for hunters to grow a healthy crop of lions, and the king of beasts would be eliminated from most of its remaining range,” Packer argues, recalling the early days of his monomaniacal quest to save Tanzania’s remaining animals. “Lions needed trophy hunting as much as trophy hunting needed lions.”

Over on CounterPunch, there is another perspective. Past and present members of Survival International who oppose traditional conservationist groups, especially for the premium they put on police action against poachers, have written articles against both trophy hunters and attempts to sustain nature preserves. As long-time defenders of indigenous rights, they obviously hope to keep pastoral peoples like the Masai masters in a state of nature even if that impinges on that of nature itself. For Stephen Corry, indigenous peoples are elevated over trophy hunters because they are tied to the land in a way that no safari ever could be:

Other big game hunters really should be grappling with a monumental theological crisis around subsistence hunting. On the one hand, they’ve always opposed it because it reduces “their” game, but on the other hand, tribal hunters surely deserve recognition as the original authorities, the respected “elders,” as it were. After all, tribesmen are infinitely more expert than anyone else at tracking and stalking, they have a much deeper understanding of their prey, and are far more respectful towards the animals – aspects which are also engrained in the beliefs of the big game hunters. Tribesmen are also of course highly skilled at making their own weaponry and, most importantly, their communities are better conservationists than anyone else.

This strikes me as a romanticized version of tribal life that has little resemblance to African realities. Lions, elephants, rhinoceroses et al are dwindling in numbers in part because their habitat is being encroached upon by subsistence farmers whose cattle are being eaten by lions or whose crops are being trampled by elephants. They have no interest in an ecological balance with such beasts who are regarded as a nuisance in the same way that a cattle rancher in Montana regards wolves as the enemy. Also, by chopping down trees and clearing bush, they are destroying the habitat of large animals in the same way that replacing the prairie with wheat killed the bison just as efficiently as rifles.

For a solution to these contradictions on top of contradictions, it will have to begin with a vastly ambitious reorganization of our relationship to nature, starting with a more equal distribution of people and resources between town and countryside. Subsistence farming is on the increase in Africa because there are so few jobs in the city. If labor could be better integrated into the production of use values in cities with a much lighter footprint than today’s Johannesburg, tribal peoples would not feel the need to kill elephants or to destroy the plant life they subsist on.

“Trophy” does not and really cannot address the future world that is so necessary but it is a powerful examination of the current hell we are living in.

“Company Town” made me so enraged at the Koch brothers that I went to the Lincoln Center website to track down the names of people on the board of directors to send a mass email denouncing them for taking money from the men who were responsible for a cancer epidemic in Crossett, Arkansas. After cooling off, I decided that my time would be better spent advising my readers to see a powerful documentary that takes up one of the most outrageous cases of environmental racism that can be imagined.

In 2005 the Koch brothers bought Georgia-Pacific that produces a wide range of commodities based on timber. This includes paper goods like Brawny, Dixie, Angel Soft, Quilted Northern and Vanity Fair that you should not buy under any conditions. It also produces a wide range of chemicals. The biggest G-P plant was in Crossett, Arkansas and employed a largely African-American workforce from the town and the surrounding Ashley county that began to suffer from a cancer epidemic clearly related to the plant dumping toxic byproducts into the soil and earth around the plant—illegally.

The star of the film is a retired African-American G-P worker named David Bouie who is also a pastor in a Crossett church. When people living on the streets in his neighborhood began dying one by one, he began looking into the possibility that toxic dumping might have been responsible, especially since nearby streams that were formerly clear and pure now were filled with gunk whose odor could make you gag.

He teamed up with a local woman who was a river-keeper for local streams in the same that Pete Seeger was for the Hudson, as well as environmental scientists to prove that G-P was acting on Koch brothers behalf to boost profits at the expense of the well-being of people living in Crossett. Most importantly, a whistle-blower from G-P came forward to tell Bouie and his fellow activists that company policy was to dump chemical byproducts into the streams and fields near Crossett under the cover of night.

Eventually they teamed up with EPA officials, who happened to be African-American just like most of the people working at G-P. Let’s put it this way. If they weren’t getting paid off by the Koch’s, they were doing the best they could to make such an impression.

In one scene that makes you want to scream, the local activists and G-P management were supposed to have a phone conference but at the last minute G-P bailed. When Bouie expressed his dismay at their refusal to discuss how toxic dumping could end, the EPA chief tells them that it might be a good idea to be less aggressive. After all, he advises, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Granted that the Koch brothers are like houseflies, this was obviously a way of telling them to accept the status quo, including more cancer cases.

The Crossett case has been widely covered in the press. I strongly advise you to see the film at Cinema Village but if that is not possible because of prior engagements between today and the 14th, I urge you to read Jane Mayer’s article that appeared in the New Yorker a year ago. (). Titled “A Whistle-Blower Accuses the Kochs of “Poisoning” an Arkansas Town”, it is likely one that Lincoln Center’s board members chose to ignore. Mayer is the author of “Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right”, an investigative report on the Koch brothers and their cohorts. She writes:

In June, Koch Industries, the conglomerate owned by the billionaires Charles and David Koch, launched a new corporate public-relations campaign called “End the Divide,” to advance the notion that Koch Industries is deeply concerned by growing inequality in America. An ad for the campaign urges viewers to “look around,” as an image of an imposing white mansion is replaced by one of blighted urban streets. “America is divided,” an announcer intones, with “government and corporations picking winners and losers, rigging the system against people, creating a two-tiered society with policies that fail our most vulnerable.”

The message was surprising, coming from a company owned by two of the richest men in the world, who have spent millions of dollars pushing political candidates and programs that favor unfettered markets and oppose government intervention on behalf of the poor. But no trouble appeared to have been spared in the commercial’s creation. It features a cast of downtrodden Americans of all colors and creeds. To portray corporate greed, it includes a shot of a Wall Street sign, followed by a smug businessman looking down at the camera, dressed in a flashy suit and tie. But, according to Dickie Guice, who worked as a safety coördinator at a large Koch-owned paper plant in Arkansas, the company need not have gone to such lengths. Instead of scouting America for examples of social neglect, the Kochs could have turned the cameras on their own factory.

This summer, Guice decided to speak out about the paper mill in Crossett, a working-class town of some fifty-two hundred residents ten miles north of the Louisiana border.* The mill is run by the paper giant Georgia-Pacific, which has been owned by Koch Industries since 2005. According to E.P.A. records, it emits more than 1.5 million pounds of toxic chemicals each year, including numerous known carcinogens. Georgia-Pacific says that it has permits to operate the mill as it does, and disputes that it is harming local health and safety. But as far back as the nineteen-nineties, people living near the plant have described noxious odors and corrosive effluents that have forced them to stay indoors, as well as what seems to them unusually high rates of illness and death. Speaking by phone from his home, in Sterlington, Louisiana, Guice pointed the finger directly at the mill’s owners, and described a corporate coverup of air and water pollution that he says is “poisoning” the predominantly African-American community.

Guice made his début as a whistle-blower in a new documentary film, “Company Town,” about the pollution of Crossett, which premièred in June at the L.A. Film Festival. Natalie Kottke-Masocco, the film’s director, and Erica Sardarian, its co-director, spent some five years in Crossett, and over time they coaxed Guice to go on camera. “I was warned that I’d never get hired again,” he told me, when I asked why he was coming forward. “But I thought, What the heck, what are they going to do, kill me? It had to be done.”

As Guice tells it, he started working at the Crossett plant in February, 2011, when Larco Inc., a local heavy-equipment and construction firm, where he worked, was contracted by Georgia-Pacific to handle disposal of the paper plant’s waste. According to Guice, the contract called for his company to spread two hundred thousand cubic yards of “ash” dredged from the Georgia-Pacific paper mill’s sediment ponds across four hundred acres of property that it owned in the town. He says that Georgia-Pacific supervisors told him to spread the waste in layers in pits that were sometimes forty feet deep, and then to cover it with six inches of dirt, “so that it looked like a regular piece of land.” The land often flooded, Guice told me, and runoff would flow into trenches that fed into a local creek, which ran behind a residential area. He said that Georgia-Pacific would also dump “big plastic tanks” of untreated liquid waste. “It looks like brown liquor,” he said. “And steam comes up from it, sometimes all day.” Within a few months of starting at the paper plant, Guice said that he fell ill from exposure to the waste, developing respiratory problems. “My doctor told me to get out of there,” he said. “But I needed that job.”

Could Punching Nazis Have Prevented Hitler From Taking Power

Filed under: anti-fascism — louisproyect @ 11:49 am


Street-fighting between Nazis and Communists, 1933

On November 28, 2006 Alexander Cockburn wrote an article titled “The 9/11 Conspiracists and the Decline of the American Left” that interpreted the rise of conspiracism as the result of a dwindling number of leftists learning “their political economy from Marx via the small, mostly Trotskyist groupuscules.” This created a theoretical and strategic void that was filled with “a diffuse, peripatetic conspiracist view of the world” that understood historical change as driven by CIA skullduggery rather than the class struggle or inter-imperialist rivalry.

Although I totally agree with this assessment and would even go a bit further by adding the RT.com zeitgeist to the mix, there is another problem bedeviling the left that is the product of Marxism’s decline and that dates roughly close to 9/11. I speak of the elevation of street-fighting tactics over theory and strategy, symbolized by the black bloc and antifa. Starting with the Seattle protest in 1999, the occurrence of some spectacular altercation became a litmus test on whether a protest was successful. A peaceful protest in which people only marched down the streets making a demand on the state is seen as tame and “liberal”, even though that describes most of the movements that occurred in the last major period of radicalization in the USA prior to 1999, from the Vietnam antiwar movement to the fight to legalize abortion.

Ever since Charlottesville, I have seen repeated references to how Nazism could have been stopped by street-fighting with almost no attention paid to the concrete socio-political conditions of Germany between 1920 and 1933, when Hitler took power. For many of those who think that physical force was the key to stopping Nazism, the viral video of Richard Spencer getting punched in the face was far more important as a guide to action than understanding the tragic history of the German left. On January 22, 2017 Natasha Lennard wrote a Nation magazine article titled “Neo-Nazi Richard Spencer Got Punched—You Can Thank the Black Bloc” that saw little need for tame mass actions. All we had to do was passively applaud the self-appointed saviors: “You don’t have to fight neo-Nazis in the street, but you should support those who do that day.” Unfortunately, Lennard had little to say about the consequences of the black bloc adventurism that day. The cops arrested innocent bystanders who are now facing up to 75 years in prison, all because some people felt the need to take part in a empty ritual as if capitalism could be undermined by a broken bank window.

I would ask CounterPunch readers to forgive me for the length of this article that will try to tell the story of the German left’s failure to stop the Nazis from taking power. As a survivor of what Alexander Cockburn called a Trotskyist groupuscule, this was a topic that all new members paid close attention to, especially since Hitler’s triumph was one of the primary motivations for Trotsky founding a new International. For him, the key to understanding Hitler’s triumph was disunity on the German left. In some ways, despite the entirely different set of circumstances we face in 2017, this remains our continuing problem. My hope is that this bit of history might have some provide some insights on the kind of movement that needs to be built today since punching Nazis in Charlottesville was not the solution to an intractable problem that will take millions of Americans acting on their own class imperatives to solve.

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September 5, 2017

Misreporting Ukraine: The Scourge of Conspiracies

Filed under: Uncategorized — louisproyect @ 12:51 pm

Source: Misreporting Ukraine: The Scourge of Conspiracies

The Trump-Putin coalition for Assad lays waste to Syria: Imperial agreement and carve-up behind the noisy rhetoric

Filed under: Uncategorized — louisproyect @ 11:25 am

Source: The Trump-Putin coalition for Assad lays waste to Syria: Imperial agreement and carve-up behind the noisy rhetoric

September 4, 2017

What in the world ever happened to Richard Seymour?

Filed under: anti-fascism — louisproyect @ 8:03 pm

At one time Richard Seymour was someone who had a penetrating class analysis. However, in recent years he writes less and less on his blog based on historical materialism and much more in the Lacanian psychoanalytic vein. I don’t know how much interest there is in the Lacanian stuff given his Alexa rating of 850,507 worldwide. He has set himself up on Patreon where for $3 per month and up you can get the a-list Seymour. With articles like “Make cry-bullying kill itself”, I am not sure if $3 per month is worth it.

Over on Lenin’s Tomb, you can also find the same kind of article. For example, there is one titled “On Fetish”, which sounds like the kind of paper delivered at the yearly American Language Association conference:

This estrangement of the visual order, this conversion of attention into alienated labour, is what Beller calls the ‘cinematic mode of production’. True to the paranoid, psychotic structure of the theory, he can do no other than offer us a cinematic image by way of explanation. We are in The Matrix, the life-energy we put into the world converted into energy to run the image-world, “imprisoned in a malevolent bathosphere, intuiting our situation only through glitches in the programme.”

Good grief.

Most of this stuff has little interest for me but recently Seymour posted a link on Facebook to a May 19th article titled “Is Fascism on the Rise”  that shows how much damage this kind of psychoanalytic Social Text malarkey can do when the matter at hand requires a sober class analysis rather than the sort of prose that Alan Sokal parodied. I hadn’t noticed the article when it first showed up but thought it was worth some commentary since Seymour has become one of antifa’s PR men.

These are the opening paragraphs:

It was the Martinican poet and anticolonial fighter, Aime Cesaire, who tried to point out to Europeans that what they called Nazism, they had been practicing with a free conscience in the colonial world for decades. And that this relationship was not incidental.

In fact, the conscience of the European was never free. Octave Mannoni, the French psychoanalyst who famously psychoanalysed the colonial situation, once suggested that there was a surprising pervasiveness of the colonised, in the dreams of Europeans who had never left the continent and never seen such a person. Today, one wonders if provincial, sedentary English men and women dream of the Muslim.

Okay, spend a minute studying these paragraphs and try to figure out what is wrong.

Is the minute up? I hope that you would have noticed that the word “Europeans” is not rooted in a class analysis. Which class was practicing something like Nazism on the colonized peoples? When your unit of analysis is the nation or the continent, that goes out the window. It was the capitalist class, not the French workers, who were oppressing and exploiting Algerians.

“Today, one wonders if provincial, sedentary English men and women dream of the Muslim.” What sort of nonsense is this? Who could he possibly be writing about? Colonel Blimp? This is a reductionist attempt to characterize an entire people, something that would never appear in a serious Marxist analysis. It evokes an op-ed piece in the NY Times, where someone like Thomas Friedman would pontificate on the “Europeans” versus the “Asians”. What a sad decline from the sharp analysis he used to deploy.

After a couple more paragraphs of this kind of gaseous air-borne prose, Seymour finally lands on the ground:

There is a traditional schema according to which economic crisis equals polarisation equals extremism. Things are more complicated. There’s a particular sequence which we should pay attention to.

Yes, they are more complicated but it was economic crisis, after all, that precipitated the rise of fascism historically. Furthermore, Golden Dawn is the only powerful fascist movement in Europe that has the same kind of social weight as the 1920s version. How can you not connect that to economic crisis? Impossible. Furthermore, even with the deep crisis in Greece, there is no section of the bourgeoisie that has aligned itself with Golden Dawn, unlike Germany where the Thyssens were funding Hitler early on.

Explaining how conditions today can produce a new Adolph Hitler, Seymour is not exactly lucid. He writes:

Yes, economic crisis is important, but it has to be metabolised by the state somehow. A crisis of capitalism, has to be a crisis of its political institutions and of its ideological claims. That crisis must manifest itself in a deadlock of political leadership of the ruling class. If, typically, one of its sectors leads (say, the City of London) and imposes its imperatives as being for the good of all, that leadership will come into question.

Does anybody understand what it means for an economic crisis to be metabolized by the state? I don’t have a clue. To metabolize means to convert food into energy in a living organism. I gave up trying to understand what this might have to do with the Trump White House except maybe that his addiction to red meat and Coca-Cola might be producing baleful psychological effects that will condemn us all to concentration camps.

But is Seymour right that the fascism of today won’t look anything like the Nazis?

But the fascism of the future doesn’t have to be traditional. Nor does it have to respect the sequences observed in the interwar years, or reanimate old cultures. It could even adopt a patina of edgy cool, as with the alt-right: we should never underestimate the erotic glamour of fascism and its appeal to the death-drive.

The erotic glamour of fascism? The appeal to the death-drive? Lacan is now in the driver’s seat, not Marx. Not being versed in Freudian psychoanalysis, I have no idea what this means. I guess I am a Marxist moldy fig. I believe that people join fascist movements because they support a total war on the left and the creation of an absolutist state that will govern in their interests, at least based on the demagogy of the fascist leader. And primarily this meant solving the economic crisis. To the middle-class, Hitler promised eliminating the Jews who were ruining it. To the workers, it was job security and social benefits. To the bourgeoisie, it was a promise to put an end to working-class power.

While Seymour’s article barely mentions the USA, it does join with the leftist consensus in early 2017 that Trump was capable of imposing a fascist dictatorship: “The attempt by Bannon and Miller to force a rupture in the American state was premature and voluntaristic. A more competent germinal fascism would take its time, patiently exploiting the fascist potential within the liberal state, to incubate and nurture the fascist monster of the future.”

I generally bristle at the word “rupture” since it smacks so much of the academic leftist prose that refuses to use a simple Anglo-Saxon word like “break” or “split”. What kind of split was Bannon trying to force? You’d think that Seymour regarded him as a latter-day Kurt von Schleicher who was a close adviser to Paul von Hindenberg. In 1930 he helped to topple the Social Democratic government, the first step in a series that would lead to Hitler becoming the German Chancellor. It was Schleicher who whispered in von Hindenberg’s ear about the need to make Hitler Der Fuhrer.

Does anybody in their right mind think that this was what Bannon was about? To whisper in Trump’s ear about the need to arrest the leaders of the Democratic Party and to pare down the Republican Party to the narrow base that continues to back Trump? What then? Arrest the editors of the NY Times, Washington Post, MSNBC and CNN and put them in prison where they would be tortured or killed? What about the universities? Round up George Ciccariello-Maher, Jodi Dean and even Paul Krugman? That is what fascism would look like, after all.

None of that was on the agenda. Instead, Bannon and Miller only hoped to use the power of the executive, their legislative majority and rightwing judicial figures to ram through a program that was the same old shit that the Republican Party has been pushing for 25 years. It is the Koch Brothers, Sean Hannity, et al. Just because Trump has cozied up with crypto-fascists like Alex Jones, there is no reason to cry wolf. As someone who lived through the Reagan years and read about the meetings that his top officials were having with Lyndon LaRouche’s cult members, I tend to be a bit more cautious about the F word. The US ruling class prefers to rule though bourgeois democracy and there is little need to take the kind of drastic action that Nazism represents.

It should be understood that Salvage Magazine that includes Richard Seymour on the editorial board views Donald Trump as a fascist. In an editorial titled “Lèse-Evilism: On the US Election Season”, they obviously demonstrated a poor grasp of American presidential politics:

If Trumpism is not fascist, it is clearly not not-fascist in the same way that mainstream Republicanism is not-fascist. Given its insurgent nativism, its overt racism and performative misogyny, its spectacular glorification of violence, including racist violence – as when Trump described as ‘very passionate’ a Boston supporter who severely beat a Hispanic man with an iron bar – its refusal to condemn overt white supremacist support, its sadistic and resentful authoritarianism, its populist denunciations of ‘big finance’ and ‘the system’, its willingness to suspend constitutional-legal norms in the interests of resolving a supposed emergency, and given our hard- and painfully-won perspective that things, particularly in these bad times, can get worse, Salvage is not complacent about the trajectory of this movement.

By these standards, we would have been facing a fascist threat under Reagan. In 1980, Ronald Reagan gave a speech openly endorsing “state’s rights” at the Neshoba County Fair. The fair was held in Philadelphia, Mississippi where 3 civil rights activists were murdered by the KKK in 1964. He broke the airline controllers’ strike. He used illegal methods to support the Nicaraguan contras in collaboration with fascist groups like the World Anti-Communist League. Was any of this an indication that a “rupture” was pending? No, it was a reflection that a right-wing Republican was in power, not that much different from others that had preceded him. Fascism was not required to make life hell for workers and Black people. The American government has been doing that for the past 200 years.

Finally, I would refer you to an article by Nathan J. Robinson, the editor of Current Affairs, a magazine that has been doing yeoman work rebutting the supporters of antifa like Richard Seymour. In a piece titled “Response to Critique On Free Speech and Violence”, Robinson replies to Seymour’s FB critique of his views on antifa. Seymour, who is referred to as Psmith throughout, wrote a boiler-plate defense of the antifa adventurists:

But Robinson ends by worrying that readers, who might be thinking of punching Nazis, would be “giving up” their principled commitment to “free speech” and “nonviolence” and should think twice before doing this. This is strange: personally, I do not have any commitment to a principle of free speech that says blocking talks is “intrinsically” or “in principle” wrong. Free speech is always provisional and contingent. If you use your speech to incite against migrant or trans students, as Yiannopoulos did, I have no obligation to defend your freedom to do that.

That is par for the course.

Robinson replied:

I might add here that those who endorse a highly contingent view of free speech rarely engage with the most important questions surrounding it. They don’t even seem to understand the reasons why people support robust open forums. It’s not because we believe that Nazis who “incite” hate are a legitimate part of the dialogue, it’s because we believe that once you start determining who can speak based on a “legitimacy/illegitimacy” framework, you are beginning to impose restrictions that will ultimately hurt everybody. Yes, everything is technically “contingent.” But the more we embrace that contingency, instead of seeing it as a very narrow and reluctant set of exceptions, the less free people generally will become. That’s because words like “contingent” and even “incite” end up being squishy and slippery, and we lose the kind of clear limiting principles that will help us maintain as open of a forum as we can. This is true whether we’re speaking of private or public action. In terms of the First Amendment, the more you empower courts to make exceptions for “hate speech” or “fascist speech,” the more you have built in a dangerous exception to your own civil liberties that now depends on you convincing a judge that you aren’t hateful. “Incitement,” without a clear and limited definition of what it does and doesn’t mean, is worryingly broad. (Yes, the Supreme Court adopts an “incitement” standard, but it’s “incitement to imminent lawless action,” with the imminence question being crucial, which is why mere advocacy of lawless action is permitted, and the qualification is crucial for safeguarding the right.) People like Psmith never seem to want to tell us how the limits of what constitutes an “incitement to hate” will be determined.

I urge you to read the entire article and to look for any others written by Robinson on the antifa question. I also recommend Carl Boggs’s article in today’s CounterPunch that is superlative. Here is an excerpt:

Antifa screams about racism and fascism on the right, which of course exists, while ignoring those same tendencies – not to mention warmongering – among liberal Democrats.  The group seems blind to far more consequential fascist interests at work within the power structure itself.  Despite a well-cultivated radical image, Antifa rarely focuses on the growing ultra-nationalism, militarism, and imperialism that lies at the very core of American politics – tendencies in fact more dangerous than the rhetoric of Yiannopoulos, Coulter, and Shapiro.  Beneath its ultra-leftism is a modus operandi riddled with the worst of identity politics.  And since its violent tactics are not aligned with any popular movement, its opposition to fascism (such as it is) turns hollow, empty.



September 1, 2017

Hurricane Harvey and the dialectics of nature

Filed under: climate,Counterpunch,disaster,Ecology — louisproyect @ 1:25 pm

Between 1872 and 1882, Frederick Engels worked on a book titled “The Dialectics of Nature” that sought to apply Marxist dialectics to the natural world. Although it was never completed and is filled with dated ideas about science, it is a work that has earned the respect of some of the most important scientists on the left such as Stephen Jay Gould who praised its best known chapter that was issued separately as a pamphlet—The Part played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man. Long before people such as Barry Commoner and Rachel Carson were laying the groundwork for the eco-socialism of today, Engels anticipated the kind of contradictions that have led to three disastrous hurricanes: Katrina, Sandy and now Harvey. Engels wrote:

Let us not, however, flatter ourselves overmuch on account of our human victories over nature. For each such victory nature takes its revenge on us. Each victory, it is true, in the first place brings about the results we expected, but in the second and third places it has quite different, unforeseen effects which only too often cancel the first. The people who, in Mesopotamia, Greece, Asia Minor and elsewhere, destroyed the forests to obtain cultivable land, never dreamed that by removing along with the forests the collecting centres and reservoirs of moisture they were laying the basis for the present forlorn state of those countries.

If you understand that the prairies surrounding Houston, the wetlands to the south of New Orleans and the brush that grew across the coastline around greater New York were closely related to the forests of the earliest class societies that Engels refers to, you will realize that “each victory” will bring us closer to the ultimate defeat of civilization itself. Just consider the words that follow those above:

When the Italians of the Alps used up the pine forests on the southern slopes, so carefully cherished on the northern slopes, they had no inkling that by doing so they were cutting at the roots of the dairy industry in their region; they had still less inkling that they were thereby depriving their mountain springs of water for the greater part of the year, and making it possible for them to pour still more furious torrents on the plains during the rainy seasons.

Furious torrents. Are there any words better matched to the pictures of Houston seen on television every night?

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