Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

December 29, 2018

The Chenogne Massacre

Filed under: WWII — louisproyect @ 3:21 pm

Ben Ferencz, the 99-year old chief prosecutor of Nazi war crimes at Dachau who calls “the greatest generation” those men and women who resist war, not those who fight.

By far, the best show on NPR is Reveal, a hour-long show co-produced by the Center for Investigative Journalism and PRX, a distribution network for public radio. When I wake up early on Saturday morning, as I did today, I tune in to WNYC to listen to the show that begins at 6am.

Today was an exceptionally powerful episode that dealt with the January 1, 1945 massacre in Chenogne, Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge when American soldiers murdered 71 German soldiers who had just surrendered. Just days earlier, the Germans had killed about the same number of GI’s who had surrendered in the town of Malmedy. I paid close attention to the story since my father had been close to the fighting in Bastogne, about 5 miles away. My father was a mess sergeant assigned to the 10th Armored division while the men fighting in Chenogne were in the 11th Armored division.

Part of the show consisted of an interview with a GI, who had fought in Chenogne. He describes the mass killing but did not take part in it. That being said, he admits to killing two Germans in a foxhole who had their hands up earlier in the day. Now in his 90s, the act still haunts him. Another interviewee is a Belgian who was born in 1946 and became obsessed with the events that day, so much so that he built a house in Chenogne where he began an career as an amateur historian trying to get to the bottom of what happened. Finally, there’s an interview with Ben Ferencz, a Jewish soldier and the last surviving prosecutor of German war crimes at a trial in Dachau after the Germans surrendered. Just before he got the job as a prosecutor, he had been a janitor in company headquarters. They selected him because he had a Harvard law degree with a specialty in international law. He is still alive at 99 and quite lucid, as would be indicated by the interview.

Basically, he regarded the Chenogne massacre as a war crime but one that would never be prosecuted by a state that had just won the war. When asked if Stephen Spielberg and Tom Brokaw to call GIs “the greatest generation”, he scoffed at the notion and stated emphatically that the greatest generation are those who resist war, like during Vietnam.

Like the soldier who killed two Germans in Chenogne, Ferencz has direct experience on the dehumanization war breeds. In a 2005 Washington Post article titled “Giving Hitler Hell” that dealt with Jewish soldiers during WWII, he recalled what that hell meant:

Ferencz, who today is 85 and lives in New York, cautions against making sweeping armchair moral judgments. “Someone who was not there could never really grasp how unreal the situation was,” he says. “I once saw DPs beat an SS man and then strap him to the steel gurney of a crematorium. They slid him in the oven, turned on the heat and took him back out. Beat him again, and put him back in until he was burnt alive. I did nothing to stop it. I suppose I could have brandished my weapon or shot in the air, but I was not inclined to do so. Does that make me an accomplice to murder?”

Ferencz — who went on to a distinguished legal career, became a founder of the International Criminal Court and is today probably the leading authority on military jurisprudence of the era — cannot specifically address Weiss’s actions. But he says it’s important to recall that military legal norms at the time permitted a host of flexibilities that wouldn’t fly today. “You know how I got witness statements?” he says. “I’d go into a village where, say, an American pilot had parachuted and been beaten to death and line everyone one up against the wall. Then I’d say, ‘Anyone who lies will be shot on the spot.’ It never occurred to me that statements taken under duress would be invalid.”

To hear the Reveal episode titled “Take No Prisoners”, go to https://www.wnyc.org/story/take-no-prisoners-rebroadcast.

Also, there is a Wikipedia entry on the Chenogne massacre at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chenogne_massacre

It refers to the Reveal episode:

According to a declassified file Harland-Dunaway got access to, a soldier named Max Cohen described seeing roughly 70 German prisoners machinegunned by the 11th Armored Division in Chenogne. General Dwight D. Eisenhower demanded a full investigation, but the 11th Armored were uncooperative, saying “it’s too late; the war is over, the units are disbanded.” Ben Ferencz, an American lawyer who served as a prosecutor at the Nuremberg Tribunal, upon acquainting himself with the declassified report said: “it smells to me like a cover-up of course.”

 

 

December 28, 2018

Russia Without Putin

Filed under: Counterpunch,Russia — louisproyect @ 5:05 pm

For the longest time Vladimir Putin has assumed the role of an Ian Fleming super-villain in the imaginations of both liberal and neoconservative pundits. Like one of those well-worn set pieces in a James Bond novel, he sits opposite our British super-spy in a chess game with the world hegemony awarded to the winning side. Or in the case of a draw, multipolarity.

Any book on Putin and Russia that departs from these stereotypes would be most welcome. When it turns out to be a first-rate Marxist analysis, it should be added to your must-read list for 2019. The good news is that book has arrived in the form of Tony Wood’s Russia Without Putin: Money, Power and the Myths of the New Cold War, a ground-breaking study that departs from the lurid personality-driven narratives that are the stock-in-trade of MSNBC or the Washington Post. Additionally, for those on the left whose ideas are shaped by Stephen F. Cohen’s pro-Putin apologetics, the book will serve as a wake-up call to return to a class rather than a chess analysis. If Rachel Maddow is for the chess-master playing white, there is no reason to uncritically root for who is playing black. In keeping with the palette analogy, it is worth recalling Lenin’s citation of Mephistopheles’s words from Goethe’s Faust in his 1917 Letter on Tactics: “Theory, my friend, is grey, but green is the eternal tree of life.”

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December 26, 2018

Race, class and the DSA

Filed under: african-american,DSA,racism — louisproyect @ 11:49 pm

Miguel Salazar, hired gun for the New Republic

On December 20th, Miguel Salazar wrote an article for New Republic titled “Do America’s Socialists Have a Race Problem?” that was clearly intended to scandalize the DSA. While the magazine is by no means as disgusting as it was under Martin Peretz’s neoconservative editorial control, it certainly reflects the dominant position of the Clinton/Biden/Pelosi wing of the Democratic Party. If you want to get a handle on Salazar’s politics, you should read the Nation interview he did with Jon Lee Anderson, the author of a hostile biography of Che Guevara. Check out this question: “Recently, in the US, there has been a push for a more revisionist approach in looking back at historical figures such as Robert E. Lee or Andrew Jackson. In an interview with BBC Mundo, you say that we can’t compare figures from the past using the morals of today. Where do we draw the line on figures like Che?” Imagine that. Making an amalgam between the slavocracy and a physician who gave up a promising career to risk his life fighting for the liberation of Cuba’s campesinos.

It appears that an African-American politician named Cat Brooks was urged to come to a Bay Area DSA by some of her supporters who were at a meeting in progress. They summoned her because there was sentiment against endorsing her candidacy for mayor of Oakland. A DSAer named Jeremy Gong was likely leading the opposition to her based on an article he wrote in September titled “East Bay DSA Should Not Endorse Cat Brooks”. To start with, Gong argues that her support for charter schools should preclude an endorsement. But additionally Gong hearkens back to a hoary debate on the left going on for a century at least. He writes: “in her statements to and about DSA, Brooks has revealed that she holds a political perspective which understands race to be the fundamental dividing line in society instead of class — and this undermines our project of building a multiracial working-class movement.”

For Salazar, the emphasis on class betrays the DSA’s supposedly old-school Marxism:

But unlike other progressive groups, DSA has to contend with internal factions that are very seriously wedded to a certain strain of socialist ideology—one that emphasizes, as Karl Marx did, a churning class war that governs the history of humankind. For these socialists, an anti-capitalist movement must be anti-racist, since capitalism has been instrumental in the subjugation of minorities. But they are also weary of liberal politicians who, they say, exploit race to pander to minority groups, all while skirting the deeper class conflict at work. In the past year, these hard-liners have clashed on numerous occasions with other socialists, often minorities themselves, who contend that righting America’s unique wrongs requires an approach distinct from the universal precepts of historical materialism—one that emphasizes racism’s special impact on inequality, supra-class.

It would be useful if Salazar identified who “these hard-liners” were but I wouldn’t expect an article designed to scandalize the DSA to name names. My first inclination would have been to check what such a “hard-liner” had written to judge for myself, if only Salazar had bothered to provide a source. But then again I am used to reading Marxist polemics where clarity is all-important. When you write for the New Republic and The Nation, clarity gets short shrift.

Further evidence of racism might have been uncovered in Philadelphia as well. There was a proposal in DSA to set up a reading group based on Asad Haider’s new book “Mistaken Identity: Race and Class in the Age of Trump”. After the political education committee declared that it was not starting any new reading groups, the DSA members went ahead with it anyway. When the Philly DSA leaders found out, they told them to either cease and desist or resign. Considering the loose-knit nature of the DSA, this struck me as an organizational solution to a political problem, namely how to resolve the class/race contradiction or decide whether one even exists. The two camps went back and forth for a couple of weeks with temperatures rising, I supposed.

Finally, the fight boiled over into the pages of Jacobin when Melissa Naschek, a co-chair of the Philly chapter, wrote an attack on Haider’s book because it viewed the Black Power movement of the 1960s positively. For her, Black civil rights figures such as A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin are much more in line with DSA perspectives because they “insisted that the way forward was through an interracial working-class coalition.” By creating separate Black organizations such as SNCC, the Panthers, and dozens of other less well-known groups in the sixties, the Black Power movement was “was still based on a liberal belief that economic inequality could be dealt with by segregating the working class into racially distinguished units”, even if the rhetoric of an H. Rap Brown or Stokely Carmichael was “militant”.

Since Naschek and Haider only know the sixties by reading secondary material, I am not surprised that they find inspiration in either A. Philip Randolph or H. Rap Brown. Unfortunately, the Black struggle in the 1960s was held back by reformism on one side and ultraleftism on the other. As should be understood, they function as two sides of the same coin. As Peter Camejo once put it, the failure to win reforms, especially through electoral politics, can make impatient youth take part in adventurist actions that are designed to persuade politicians to change—an act tantamount to a tot having a tantrum.

Sometimes a liberal becomes frustrated not getting the ear of the ruling class, and he concludes that he has been using the wrong tactics. So he adopts a lot of radical rhetoric. He says this ruling class is apparently so thickheaded that what we’ve got to do is really let loose a temper tantrum to get its attention. The politicians won’t listen to peaceful things, but if we go out and break windows then Kennedy will say, “Oh, I guess there is a problem in this society. I didn’t realize it when they were just demonstrating peacefully. I thought everything was OK because they were in the system, but now they’re going outside the system, they’re breaking windows, so we’ve got to hold back.”

These liberal-ultraleftists think that’s what moves the ruling class. Actually they come close to a correct theory when they say that if people start leaving the system the ruling class will respond. But they don’t believe that the masses can be won. They think it is enough for them to leave the system themselves, small groups of people carrying out direct confrontations.

Does Melissa Naschek have any idea that A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin refused to speak out against the Vietnam War for fear that it would undermine Democratic Party programs to help Black people? You’d think that to help her make her case against Black Power she would have at least held up Martin Luther King Jr. who did tie race and class together in the course of pointing out why Blacks should oppose the war. Maybe she decided to sweep him under the rug because too many people, especially old farts like me, knew that he was beginning to adopt some of the themes that the Black Power movement had articulated. This includes his 1967 statement that “The majority of [Black] political leaders do not ascend to prominence on the shoulders of mass support … most are still selected by white leadership, elevated to position, supplied with resources and inevitably subjected to white control. The mass of [Blacks] nurtures a healthy suspicion toward this manufactured leader.” H. Rap Brown might have used coarser language but it amounted to the same thing.

Haider wrote a lengthy reply to Naschek on the Verso website that I cannot begin to summarize because of its length but suffice it to say that he finds Randolph and Rustin lacking. Somewhat surprisingly, he does not mention their silence on the Vietnam War.

My biggest problem with his response is his tendency to express himself through abstractions. For example, he writes: “To argue for improvements in the living conditions of Americans alone is not universal. But any struggle can become universal if it challenges the whole structure of domination and brings about a collective subject with the possibility of self-governance.” I guess this is the occupational hazard of being a dissertation student. You read stuff like this all the time and it seeps into your own writing. That being said, I am probably much more in sympathy with his ideas since I was passionate about Black nationalism from the time I heard Malcolm X speak at a Militant Labor Forum in 1965.

Turning back to Salazar, he blames the Momentum caucus in DSA for the old-school Marxism that led to the rejection of Cat Brooks:

These ideological clashes, usually pitting DSA leadership against rank-and-file membership, have been largely limited to East Bay and Philadelphia, the only two major chapters in the country run by the Momentum caucus, a subgroup described in a 2017 Nation profile as the “most explicitly Marxist” within the organization, with a heavy focus on the campaign for Medicare-for-All.

You’d think that “the most explicitly Marxist” faction in DSA would be all about raising transitional demands and breaking with the Democratic Party. But in this strange skewed perspective of the New Republic and The Nation, a heavy focus on Medicare-for-All is virtually equivalent to Che and Fidel going into the Sierra Maestra mountains to start a guerrilla war. If you go to the Momentum website, you’ll discover that despite their dim view of the Democratic Party, they also view attempts to build a new left party as futile. Momentum leader Jeremy Gong co-wrote an article with Eric Blanc on Jacobin making the case that the Ocasio-Cortez campaign and Medicare-for-All illustrate “How Class Should Be Central”, as the title puts it. If that’s what “most explicitly Marxist” represents in such circles, I guess I am no Marxist.

Finally, a few words about Adolph Reed who intervened in this debate in a Common Dreams article titled “Which Side Are You On?”. Reed, who was a Trotskyist in the sixties just like me, has evolved into a class fundamentalist of the sort that the Debs SP and the CPUSA of the 1930s typified. Apparently, it is also the orientation that Miguel Salazar and Melissa Naschek favor.

Debs, bless his soul, just didn’t understand what his contemporary W.E.B. DuBois was trying to say:

I have said and say again that, properly speaking, there is no Negro question outside of the labor question—the working class struggle. Our position as Socialists and as a party is perfectly plain. We have simply to say: “The class struggle is colorless.” The capitalists, white, black and other shades, are on one side and the workers, white, black and all other colors, on the other side.

Reed sounds like he has plagiarized Mark Lilla, the Columbia professor who blamed Trump’s victory in 2016 on Hillary Clinton’s identity politics:

This politics is open to the worst forms of opportunism, and it promises to be a major front on which neoliberal Democrats will attack the left, directly and indirectly, and these lines of attack stand out in combining red-baiting and race-baiting into a new, ostensibly progressive form of invective. Hillary Clinton’s infamous 2016 campaign swipe at Sanders that his call for breaking up big banks wouldn’t end racism was only one harbinger of things to come. Indeed, we should recall that it was followed hard upon by even more blunt attacks from prominent members of the black political class.

It has been and will be all too easy for the occasion to elect “the first” black/Native American/woman/lesbian to substitute for the need to advance an agenda that can appeal broadly to working people of all races, genders and sexual orientations. Our side’s failure to struggle for that sort of agenda is one reason Trump is in the White House. We can’t afford to repeat the mistakes that helped bring about that result.

It’s worth mentioning that Reed’s hostility to Black people organizing on behalf of their own demands has led to some truly reactionary positions. In an article on Nonsite.org, he takes up the question of Black Lives Matter focusing on killer cops. He writes:

This line of argument and complaint, as well as the demand for ritual declarations that “black lives matter,” rest on insistence that “racism”—structural, systemic, institutional, post-racial or however modified—must be understood as the cause and name of the injustice manifest in that disparity, which is thus by implication the singular or paramount injustice of the pattern of police killings.

But, when we step away from focus on racial disproportions, the glaring fact is that whites are roughly half or nearly half of all those killed annually by police. [emphasis added]

As for this “glaring fact”, it skirts the real issue, namely whether a white cop would have shot a 12-year old boy like Tamir Rice running around with a toy pistol in a playground if he had been white. When someone in a position to speak for the Black left ends up spouting the kind of garbage you can hear on Tucker Carlson, you really have to wonder what went wrong.

December 25, 2018

How KPMG and McKinsey ripped off South Africa

Filed under: Africa,capitalist pig — louisproyect @ 7:59 pm

Within the den of corruption known as the African National Congress, there have been two enablers that are marquee names in the world of management consulting and auditing. The first is McKinsey & Company that was founded in 1926 and considered by Vault.com and Consulting.com as the most prestigious in the world. The founder James McKinsey was an accountant by trade who went on to teach at Columbia University. His major work was “Budgetary Control” that conceivably could have been used by the McKinsey consultants in South Africa as toilet paper as they were juggling the books to help Jacob Zuma rip off the nation’s largely Black working class.

McKinsey’s partner-in-crime was KPMG, which stands for Klynveld, Peat, Marwick and Goerdeler. It is one of the big four accounting firms that used to number five until Arthur Anderson was put out of business for juggling Enron’s books. Years ago I was offered a job in their software development group but I received a better offer from another crook: Goldman-Sachs. Like McKinsey, KPMG is the recipient of many awards, including being named best firm in 2017 by the Asia Tax jury in Singapore. In a September 17, 2015 “report on the KPMG website titled “Anti-Bribery and Corruption: Rising to the challenge in the age of globalization”, Roy Muller, the director of KPMG operations in South Africa, stated:

Companies need to take a risk-based approach to the ABC due diligence of vendors. Even where companies indicate that ABC risk is considered, there is often no audit trail or a very poor one to identify high-risk third parties and no clear ranking of them according to the level of risk. Knowing your supplier is often a big challenge in Africa. In certain African countries electronic records are not maintained or are not easily accessible necessitating physical verification of company records.

If KPMG was hired to help South Africa crack down on tax evaders, there should have been another firm to investigate them since most of the work revolved around helping Zuma and his ANC cronies avoid paying taxes. After receiving a lucrative contract, their watchdogs went to sleep. Once considered the nation’s pride, the tax collection agency was left a smoldering wreck.

Not satisfied with the fees it earned for helping Zuma carve out the tax agency’s innards, KPMG also provided audits to the various companies owned by the Gupta brothers who fled South Africa recently to avoid arrest. To give you a sense of how filthy this marquee accounting firm had become, it diverted millions of dollars from a dairy farm project under the auspices of the Department of Agriculture to the pockets of the Gupta family who spent it instead on wedding written off as a “business expense” vetted by KPMG’s auditor.

The wedding that KPMG kickbacks made possible

The South African Times reported on some of the costs in the 30 million Rand wedding (a 1000 Rands is equal to $68, the total spent on the wedding was $2 million):

Beverages seem to have racked up the most costs for South Africans‚ coming in at a staggering R473‚370.41 followed by other general groceries‚ some bought at Makro‚ which cost roughly R190‚000.

It seems that the main dishes the Guptas presented to their guests were vegetables‚ which cost R169‚652.

When it came to fun in the pool‚ four hours of pool noodle and water ball hiring costs totalled R6‚555.09.

The ultimate spoil for the bride and groom and their wedding guests‚ however‚ appears to have been the fireworks display coming in at a cool R310‚801.52.

Two million dollars on a wedding when the average yearly wage in South Africa is $10,800. Meanwhile, KPMG helped keep taxes low for the nouveaux riche who had little interest apparently on what it takes to live on that kind of wage.

Meanwhile, the pot keeps boiling over with KPMG criminality. Just two months ago it revealed that it was instrumental in the collapse of the VBS Bank in South Africa that got a clean bill of health from their auditors in 2017. An official from the nation’s central bank described what happened as “The Great Bank Heist”, with $137 million being siphoned out and into the pockets of various con artists including Sipho Malaba, KPMG’s auditor.

Let’s turn back to the McKinsey group and survey the damage they made in a country I and many on the left viewed as in the vanguard of revolutionary change in the 21st Century.

They were hired to provide management consulting services to Eskom, the state-owned power utility in 2015 worth a cool $700 million. Eskom, which was on the edge of insolvency, had a failing infrastructure including a boiler that blew up and threatened the national power grid.

As was the case with KPMG, the deal involved the Gupta brothers who had cultivated ties with Jacob Zuma, who was the country’s version of Robert Mugabe. This turned out to be an illegal no-bid contract that provided a hefty pay-out to one of the Gupta family’s henchmen. In keeping with corporate norms of “diversity”, McKinsey made sure to staff its Johannesburg office of 250 workers with 60 percent Black South Africans.

McKinsey understood that big bucks could be made in South Africa by selling its services to government agencies that were filled with opportunist ANC members looking for a fast buck. In fact, Eskom was not the first crooked deal that the firm made there.

In 2011, Transnet, the state-owned rail and port agency, was like Eskom looking to modernize. In lining up funding for such an effort, naturally much of the loot could be diverted into the pockets of crooked ANC officials.

One of them was the new head of Transnet, a guy named Brian Molefe, who had been running the country’s public pension fund beforehand. And guess what? Molefe was connected to the Guptas. McKinsey and Molefe decided to buy 1,064 new locomotives, which would be the biggest government purchase in South African history. The NY Times reported that the winning bid came from a Chinese SOE that paid more than $100 million to shell companies tied to a Gupta associate, Salim Essa. So considering the transaction as one made between two of the BRICS anti-imperialist stalwarts, who can complain?

Fresh from this very lucrative deal, Molefe took a new job running Transnet in 2015. McKinsey’s top man assigned to the Eskom account was “a popular partner, Vikas Sagar, a stylish, Porsche-driving fitness buff in his 40s, known for hugging colleagues when the spirit moved him and fiercely charting his own course.”

Meanwhile, McKinsey had a junior partner in the deal, an outfit called Trillian Management Consulting that was a subsidiary of Trillian Capital, rumored to be connected—once again—to the Guptas. Trillian, which was a split-off from Regiments, the aforementioned Gupta firm involved with buying locomotives for Eskom, refused to divulge its ownership to McKinsey. Showing a certain degree of uncertainty about their junior partner, the firm assigned someone to sit down at a computer and do some searching for who was in charge. They learned it was none other than Salim Essa, the Gupta operative. Instead of a clean break that might have jeopardized their deal, they no longer used Trillian as a subcontractor but as an independent partner. As if this was supposed to sanctify a deal that would have functioned as an episode on “The Sopranos”.

The deal fell through after only 8 months but with $100 million being paid out to the two consulting firms—Trillian landed 40 percent of the fees. In a country where the average wage is $10,000 the sight of a McKinsey partner driving to work each day in a Porsche did not sit very well.

Back in 1990, I went to Zambia with a group of Tecnica activists to meet with Thabo Mbeki who would become President succeeding Nelson Mandela in 1999. In the ANC’s exile camp in Lusaka, we had discussions with junior leaders, most of whom appeared to be Communist Party members. In a million years, I never would have dreamed that the ANC would end up as typical African strongmen robbing the country blind in alliances with Western corporations in the habit of describing themselves as dedicated to progress and social justice, just like the bastards at Goldman-Sachs.

In KPMG’s “Global Code of Conduct” handbook, they make it sound like they are Greenpeace or something:

  • We act as responsible corporate citizens, playing an active role in global initiatives relating to climate change, sustainability and international development.
  • We aspire to the ten principles of the UN Global Compact.
  • We encourage good corporate citizenship.
  • We enhance the role of the accounting profession and build trust in the global capital markets. We contribute to a better functioning market economy.
  • We manage our environmental impacts so as to limit them.
  • We work with other businesses, governments and charitable organizations to create stronger communities.

As for McKinsey, they publish a quarterly magazine that promotes the corporate party line. In the most recent issue, they have a focus on their penetration of Africa including an article titled “How to Win in Africa”, appropriate enough considering how South Africa’s poor ended up with the shitty end of the stick.

Structured as a panel discussion, Georges Desvaux, the McKinsey partner who was in charge of business in Africa and who continued to do business with Eskom even after the Gupta ties were revealed, mused on the possibilities. Unlike KPMG, McKinsey partners don’t waste time talking about serving the poor and protecting the environment. Desvaux simply looks at Africa as the next China, where capitalism can create wealth and happiness. He puts it this way:

You also have to look at it and say, this is a long-term play. This is a 20-, 30-years play. It’s the same as China was 30 years ago, India was 15 years ago. Africa is going to be the next pillar of growth because of demographics, because of the natural resources, because of urbanization. And so what you need to do is you need to build the resilience that enables you to manage the risks that are inherent to those three different types of countries that Acha was talking about in order to make sure you are able to go through and weather the storms at some point.

This is straight out of Thomas Friedman’s playbook and about as credible. Considering what McKinsey did in South Africa, the only storm worth talking about was the shit-storm that McKinsey and KPMG created that left millions worse off and the comprador bourgeoisie in control. This is how Africa has been ruled for over a century, so much so that Walter Rodney wrote a book about it titled “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa” that might be retitled at this point “How Europe and America Underdeveloped Africa”. (Read Rodney’s book here: http://abahlali.org/files/3295358-walter-rodney.pdf)

 

 

December 21, 2018

Can the Working Class Change the World?

Filed under: Counterpunch,revolutionary organizing,trade unions,workers — louisproyect @ 3:17 pm

The cover for Michael Yates’s “Can the Working Class Change the World?” was a stroke of genius. Ralph Fasanella’s “The Great Strike (IWW Textile Strike, 1912)” sets the tone for a book that has deep roots in working-class struggles in the USA and that shares the artist’s solidarity with the people who take part in them. Fasanella’s father delivered ice to people in his Bronx neighborhood and his mother worked in a neighborhood dress shop drilling holes into buttons. In her spare time, she was an anti-fascist activist. The family’s experience informed his art just as Michael Yates’s working class roots and long career as a labor activist and educator shapes his latest book.

Many years ago when I was a Trotskyist activist, the party was consumed with how to reach working people. To be frank, we would have learned more from Michael’s books than reading Leon Trotsky especially given the life experience outlined in the opening paragraph of the preface:

BY ANY IMAGINABLE DEFINITION of the working class, I was born into it. Almost every member of my extended family—parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins—were wage laborers. They mined coal, hauled steel, made plate glass, labored on construction sites and as office secretaries, served the wealthy as domestic workers, clerked in company stores, cleaned offices and homes, took in laundry, cooked on tugboats, even unloaded trucks laden with dynamite. I joined the labor force at twelve and have been in it ever since, delivering newspapers, serving as a night watchman at a state park, doing clerical work in a factory, grading papers for a professor, selling life insurance, teaching in colleges and universities, arbitrating labor disputes, consulting for attorneys, desk clerking at a hotel, editing a magazine and books.

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December 18, 2018

Goldman-Sachs and 1MDB: the discreet stench of the bourgeoisie

Filed under: capitalist pig,Goldman Sachs — louisproyect @ 5:26 pm

LLoyd Blankfein: laughing over ill-gotten gains

As a former employee of Goldman-Sachs, I have the dubious distinction of getting their alumni newsletter. Yesterday, it contained a farewell interview with Lloyd Blankfein filled with self-congratulations befitting questions like “What did you come to learn and appreciate about what it takes to be a great leader?”. Part of what made Goldman so “successful” for the past 150 years in the eyes of the departing helmsman was hiring people who embraced its core “values”. Such hires could be counted on to “go into philanthropy or government, which is attractive to people who want to work at an organization that can prepare them for such work later in life.”

As for government, we got a taste of that from Gary Cohn, who was president of Goldman from 2006-2017. During his time there, he helped the Greek government buy complex bond products that led to the terrible financial crisis. He was also identified in the Panama Papers as one of the plutocrats who concealed income in offshore banks to avoid paying taxes. It was this sort of CV that must have persuaded Trump to choose him as chief economic adviser.

Another Goldman alumni called upon to uphold the firm’s values in government was Steve Mnuchin who was their Chief Information Officer among other posts. Fortunately for me, I bailed out of information services before he became my boss. After leaving Goldman, he eventually took over a California bank that specialized in foreclosing on homes, including the one that belonged to a 103-year-old woman who accidentally allowed her insurance to lapse. Like Cohn, Mnuchin’s chief goal as Secretary of the Treasury was to cut taxes for the rich and regulations that might get in the way of corporate profits even if they turned the air and water filthy. Mnuchin is married to a b-movie actress named Louise Linton who is as grubby as him and every other Trump administration figure. Here they are holding up dollar bills fresh off the Mint presses.

Continuing with Blankfein’s interview, we learn that he is a big-time student of history who has interviewed two of his faves in Goldman HQ: Doris Kearns Goodwin and Ron Chernow. Kearns and Chernow are notorious for writing history that flatters American politicians for their centrist appetites. Goodwin, like her fellow Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz, has plagiarism on her record while Chernow wrote the biography of Alexander Hamilton that inspired the Broadway hip-hop musical that celebrated him as an “immigrant” when he was nothing but a colonizing settler.

Ironically, this obsequious interview appeared the same day as a N.Y. Times article headlined “1MDB Case in Malaysia Deepens Goldman’s Crisis”. It turns out that the firm was instrumental in stealing millions of dollars from the country’s treasury in order to spend on various luxury items. Najib Razak, the former Prime Minister, made Imelda Marcos look like an ascetic. The Malaysian cops seized 1,400 necklaces, 567 handbags, 423 watches, 2,200 rings, 1,600 brooches and 14 tiaras from his properties worth $273 million.

Timothy Leissner, who was Goldman’s top henchman in the grand larceny, was arrested on November 9th. Leissner said that his decision to conceal his actions from Goldman’s compliance department was “very much in line” with a wider culture at the firm. Working closely with Leissner, Malaysian financier Jho Low served as an intermediary on behalf of Goldman in its dealings with Malaysian officials and 1MDB. Like Razak, Low never saw a luxury item he could resist. According to the FBI, he spent more than a billion dollars on watches, jewelry and the like. Between October 2009 and June 2010 alone, he spent more than $85 million in Las Vegas casinos as well as “luxury yacht rental companies, business jet rental vendors (and on) a London interior decorator” according to CNN.

In a New Yorker article on “Billion Dollar Whale”, a new book about Jho Low, we discover how Goldman Sachs and other banks helped raise ten billion dollars for 1MDB, following which five billion dollars of the money disappeared into the pockets of Razak, Low and their cronies. This paragraph suggests that we are living in a period approximating Nero’s rule over the Roman Empire:

Five billion is a large sum, perhaps too much to easily dispense with in a short amount of time, but the book’s opening scene offers an idea of where it went. In November, 2012, the sweaty, awkward Low threw himself a thirty-first birthday party, in Las Vegas. The guests included the hip-hop producer Swizz Beatz, the actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Benicio del Toro, and many unnamed beautiful women, and all were chauffeured by limousine to a night club that had been transformed into a circus-party space, where Cristal flowed like water. There, more celebrities appeared, including Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, along with investment bankers who had worked with Low. Low was gifted three Ducati motorcycles and a two-and-a-half-million-dollar sports car. The high point came when Britney Spears jumped out of a giant birthday cake wearing a skimpy gold outfit. The whole thing is so tacky and over the top it almost seems made up.

You wonder where Leonardo DiCaprio, the staunch crusader against climate change, fits in? It turns out that Jho Low financed films with some of this loot, including “The Wolf of Wall Street”, the 2013 Martin Scorsese film that some critics viewed as a dark satire on Wall Street excess. It tells the story of Jordan Belfort, a stockbroker who started out selling penny stocks before he moved on to become a major deal-maker on Wall Street and a crook. In my CounterPunch review (https://www.counterpunch.org/2014/01/03/the-confidence-men/), I made the essential connection in light of the Blankfein/Leissner/Razak/Low criminal conspiracy:

Belfort started a “bucket shop” called Stratton Oakmont in the late 1980s that eventually turned into a billion-dollar operation that challenged blue chip firms like Goldman Sachs for market share. A bucket shop specializes in selling dubious penny stocks to working class people over the phone using high-pressure tactics with a high commission to the salesman. There is only a difference in quantity as opposed to quality between a Stratton Oakmont and a Goldman Sachs. The government tends to go after people like Jordan Belfort and Bernie Madoff rather than Lloyd Blankfein and Jamie Dimon because their crimes are illegal as opposed to legal. When Blankfein and Dimon were marketing collateralized mortgages, they were inflicting far more damage than a Jordan Belfort could dream of in his wildest imagination.

The only change I would make to this is in describing Blankfein as now involved in “illegal” activities. The stench arising from 1MDB is not likely to disappear very soon. It is a function of an Empire in decline, much like Nero’s Rome. Instead of gladiators, we have NFL games on Sunday. With Rome relying more and more on commodities extracted from colonies East and West by captive peoples, the inner fiber of Roman society began to rot like a house whose foundations had been weakened by years and years of termite infestation. Those who hope to reconstruct American democracy on a new social democratic footing without replacing that capitalist foundation are just conning themselves. We need to speak the truth about the situation we face, not sweep it under the rug.

December 15, 2018

A reply to Ben Norton and Ajit Singh’s hatchet job on the Uyghurs

Filed under: journalism,Uyghur — louisproyect @ 8:27 pm

Ben Norton

Ajit Singh

An August, 2018 article by Ben Norton and Ajit Singh on the Grayzone Project defended the Chinese government against charges that it had put a million Uyghurs into detention camps. If this suggests that these people had plummeted to new depths, it can at least be stated that they didn’t fall too far. In Dantean terms, they were about 3 inches above the Ninth Circle.

Norton, of course, is familiar to one and all as the journalist who scrubbed his website of all anti-Assad articles once he made a Road to Damascus conversion lubricated by jobs with Salon and then Alternet that were peddling the standard pro-Assad propaganda found on the liberal left.

Ajit Singh was a new name to me. A brief look at an article he wrote for Telesur should give you an idea of his perspective on China:

While capitalists exist in China today, unlike in capitalist societies, they are isolated and not organized in pursuit of their collective interests. Instead, they exist under the rule of the socialist state to aid national economic development. Capitalists transgressing their boundaries are swiftly dealt with by the Communist Party and the Chinese people. An annual list of China’s richest citizens is commonly called the “death list” or “kill pigs list” because those named often are later imprisoned. Capitalists also regularly get taken hostage by workers to win labor victories with police actively assisting workers.

When I read this, I laughed so hard that the ginger ale I was drinking squirted out of my nose. The only people who write such nonsense tend to occupy the netherworld of old-school Stalinism, like the theologian Roland Boer in Australia. Most people on the left tend to identify with the young Maoist students who are facing repression for standing up for the working class in China while Singh and Norton would have you believe that the country’s government is wisely and benignly committed to the construction of socialism even though Jack Ma, the CEO of Alibaba, is a member of the CP and worth a cool $40 billion.

The net worth of China’s Parliament’s members is $650 billion. Although the Parliament has very little political power, it is good place for the rich to join. In combination with their party membership, rich businessmen are offered protection against arbitrary measures on their property—not that Xi Jingping is interested in clipping the wings of the bourgeoisie.

In an effort to debunk the notion that Uyghurs are being interned, the Grayzone authors “correct” the impression that the U.N. has taken such a position when it was only that of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination whose members are independent researchers rather than UN officials, a distinction without a difference in my view. An August report by the committee provided the basis for numerous media articles, including one from Reuters that Norton and Singh singled out:

Gay McDougall, a member of the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, cited estimates that 2 million Uyghurs and Muslim minorities were forced into “political camps for indoctrination” in the western Xinjiang autonomous region.

Ah-ha, Norton and Singh exclaim like detectives finding a smoking gun, Gay McDougall is not even a member of the U.N., as is the case with all other members of the committee who are only identified as independent experts. In addition, she is the only American serving on the committee, which in their eyes should make her a liar on a prima facie basis. Finally, a look at the official news release about the report showed that the only mention of alleged re-education “camps” was from Gay McDougall. So if an American raises a stink about internment, it must be false, right?

In a sleight-of-hand maneuver, the Grayzone boys do not provide a link to the committee’s reaction to the Chinese government’s report that cleared itself, only to a press release that reflects a range of views. So let’s go to what the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination had to say about that self-serving report rather than the press release. This comprehensive 12-page rebuttal was not written by Gay McDougall. Instead, it represented a consensus by the membership that hardly conforms to the cheesy pro-Beijing propaganda served up by Grayzone:

The Committee notes the delegation’s statements concerning the non-discriminatory enjoyment of freedoms and rights in XUAR. However, the Committee is alarmed by:

(a) Numerous reports of detention of large numbers of ethnic Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities held incommunicado and often for long periods, without being charged or tried, under the pretext of countering terrorism and religious extremism. The Committee regrets that there is no official data on how many people are in long-term detention or who have been forced to spend varying periods in political “re-education camps” for even nonthreatening expressions of Muslim ethno-religious culture like daily greetings. Estimates about them range from tens of thousands to upwards of a million. The Committee also notes that the delegation stated that vocational training centres exist for people who committed minor offences without qualifying what this means;

(b) Reports of mass surveillance disproportionately targeting ethnic Uyghurs, including through frequent baseless police stops and the scanning of mobile phones at police checkpoint stations. Additional reports of mandatory collection of extensive biometric data in XUAR, including DNA samples and iris scans, of large groups of Uyghur residents

(c) Reports that all XUAR residents are required to hand in their travel documents to police and apply for permission to leave the country, and that permission may not come for years. This restriction impacts most heavily on those who wish to travel for religious purposes;

(d) Reports that many Uyghurs abroad who left China have allegedly been returned to the country against their will. There are fears about the current safety of those involuntarily returned to China.

(e) While acknowledging the State party’s denials, the Committee takes note of reports that Uyghur language education has been banned in schools in XUAR’s Hotan (Hetian) prefecture(arts. 2 and 5).

One assumes that if the Committee describes itself as being “upset” about such reports, that’s enough to discount the claims in Norton and Singh’s eyes. After all, with all those reports being “fake news” as Donald Trump would put it, who would believe them except those in cahoots with the CIA, the State Department and the NY Times op-ed page?

To drive this point home, they discredit pro-Uyghur NGO’s because they are funded by the West. This, needless to say, is the same stance they take with the White Helmets and obviously a function of Grayzone’s toxic mixture of Stalinism and Islamophobia. The first group they “expose” is the Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD), which by virtue being located in Washington is all the proof you need to dismiss its findings. Would it have made any difference if the group was based in London, Paris or Bonn? Probably not. The only legitimate locales would be Tehran, Damascus, Moscow and Beijing. Obviously.

If that wasn’t proof enough, the circumstantial evidence of being funded by the National Endowment for Democracy should have cinched it. Everybody knows that the NED is a big-time supporter of regime change.

Things get a bit messy, however, when you visit the NED website and discover that it is funding “civil society” groups in Myanmar and the Philippines. Among its beneficiaries is the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), which has been in the frontlines opposing the authoritarian ruler’s extrajudicial war on drugs that has left hundreds, perhaps thousands, of innocent civilians murdered by the cops. Is opposing Duterte serving the imperialist agenda of Washington? Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Norton and Singh making the case for Duterte since he has cozied up to the wise and benign socialist leadership in China. Rappler.com, a Philippine website that has been threatened by Duterte and defended by the PCIJ, posted an article about the growing ties:

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping decided to “elevate” their countries’ ties into a “comprehensive strategic cooperation” even as they “continue to manage contentious issues” in the West Philippine Sea.

In a joint press conference, Xi said, “The President and I both agreed to elevate our relationship into one of comprehensive strategic cooperation. This vision charts a clear course for China-Philippines relations and sends a strong message to the world that our two countries are partners in seeking common development.”

Xi also agreed with Duterte that “every country has the right to choose its path.”

So, surely this must mean that Duterte is on the side of the angels and certainly eligible for an investigative report by Grayzone clearing his name. In fact, Norton has been in a discussion with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad about doing a Grayzone interview with the creep who invited David Duke to Tehran for a holocaust revisionism conference, as well as jailing and torturing bus drivers for the offense of trying to start a union.

This reprehensible CHRD is in cahoots not only with the NED but with Radio Free Asia. However, these warmongering ne’er-do-wells are in turn heavily reliant on the World Uyghur Congress, which also receives NED funding.

At an NED conference in Washington, intrepid Grayzone leader Max Blumenthal cornered Omer Kanat, the Uyghur Congress chairman, to challenge him on the claim of Uyghurs being held in detention camps. Kanat told him that “The Chinese authorities have put more than one million Uyghurs in re-education camps, it is very similar to concentration camps.” Using the standard operating procedure of Grayzone, Blumenthal dismissed this claim because it emanates exclusively from pro-Western media.

So, who to believe? I would tend to believe David Brophy, a University of Sydney lecturer in Chinese history who is fluent in Chinese, Russian and Uyghur, a Turkic language that I can decipher very haltingly . I strongly recommend his “Uyghur Nation: Reform and Revolution on the Russia-China Frontier” for its findings that establish the Uyghurs as enthusiastic supporters of the Russian Revolution in 1917, who got short shrift by both the Russian and Chinese Stalinists who replicated the colonialism of the pre-revolutionary regimes.

In an article for Jacobin, Brophy referred to a NY Times Op-Ed piece that sought to establish the existence of detention camps on hard evidence. From the op-ed:

A new study by Adrian Zenz, a researcher at the European School of Culture and Theology, in Korntal, Germany, analyzed government ads inviting tenders for various contracts concerning re-education facilities in more than 40 localities across Xinjiang, offering a glimpse of the vast bureaucratic, human and financial resources the state dedicates to this detention network. The report reveals the state’s push to build camps in every corner of the region since 2016, at a cost so far of more than 680 million yuan (over $107 million).

A bid invitation appears to have been posted on April 27 — a sign that more camps are being built. These calls for tenders refer to compounds of up to 880,000 square feet, some with quarters for People’s Armed Police, a paramilitary security force. Local governments are also placing ads to recruit camp staff with expertise in criminal psychology or a background in the military or the police force.

Brophy adds his own observations drawn from visits to Xinjiang:

The camps are only the culmination of a series of repressive policy innovationsintroduced by party secretary Chen Quanguo since his arrival in Xinjiang in 2016. Many of these were already evident on a trip I made to Xinjiang last year: police stations at every major intersection, ubiquitous checkpoints where Chinese sail through as Uyghurs line up for humiliating inspections, elderly men and women trudging through the streets on anti-terror drills, television and radio broadcasts haranguing the Uyghurs to love the party and blame themselves for their second-class status.

I saw machine gun-toting police stop young Uyghur men on the street to check their phones for mandatory government spyware. Some have simply ditched their smartphones, lest an “extremist” video clip or text message land them in prison. On a weekday in the Uyghur center of Kashgar, I stood and watched as the city went into lockdown, making way for divisions of PLA soldiers to march by, chanting out their determination to maintain “stability.”

One might wait in vain for Norton, Singh or Blumenthal to visit China and do an investigate report clearing the “socialist” government. However, I doubt this would be of much interest to them since most of their reporting consists of researching ties between the Uyghurs and Washington that they assemble from various websites. In the old days, radical reporting is what John Reed did or what Anand Gopal does today. These jerks have more in common with Vanessa Beeley. If they ever made it over to China, their time would be spent in 3-star hotels and being led around by the nose as embedded reporters.

 

 

December 14, 2018

Yellow Vests shift to the left

Filed under: Yellow Vests — louisproyect @ 9:27 pm

That Way Madness Lies

Filed under: Counterpunch,Film,psychology — louisproyect @ 6:12 pm

The first word that came to mind after watching “That Way Madness Lies”, Sandra Luckow’s documentary about her older brother’s Duanne’s wildly destructive tendencies brought on by paranoid schizophrenia, was courageous. As a film professor at Yale, Columbia and Barnard with a long career in filmmaking, Luckow could have made any number of films that would have been less painful and confessional. However, she surely must have understood that this was not just a bit of family history that would draw an audience in the same way a roadside accident draws the stares from bypassing cars. Its broader interest is in showing the terrible lack of institutional support for families that have to cope with a walking time-bomb like Duanne Luckow. While it is beyond the scope of this article, I can say that I have seen such problems up-close and can empathize deeply with what Sandra Luckow had to endure.

As American as apple pie, the Luckows hailed from Portland, Oregon where her father operated an antique car repair shop. Mechanically gifted, he built a tiny helicopter that he flew for pleasure. Showing the same aptitude as his father, Duanne soon became his partner. In addition to his talent for repairing cars, Duanne also became an avid home movie buff, varying between the typical vacation fare and ambitious works depicting himself as a James Bond type super-spy. He also was an accomplished still photographer who managed to entice young women into cheesecake type shoots that oddly enough substituted for any real intimacy. Looking back at this and other eccentricities, Sandra wonders whether the family might have sought professional help early on. Obviously, those eccentricities were normal enough in a country that is a breeding ground for maladjustment.

Continue reading

December 12, 2018

The Quake

Filed under: disaster,Film — louisproyect @ 4:40 pm

Among the most popular genres marketed to the youth-oriented Cineplex world is the disaster film. The natural disasters range from tornadoes, volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, meteor strikes to luxury liners capsizing from either a rogue wave or an iceberg. The plot is dictated by the necessity of survival and generally involves a strong male lead trying to unite with a daughter or wife who he has become separated from after the disaster strikes. Such films naturally require a major investment in special effects or computer graphics since that’s the only way to depict New York City being destroyed by a flood of biblical proportions or a fireball produced by a humongous rock from outer space striking the planet.

Hollywood generally dumbs down such films since they are intended to scare you like a roller coaster ride rather than make you think. When Rupert Murdoch’s 20th Century Fox produced “The Day After Tomorrow”, they wanted you to sit at the edge of your chair hoping that the paleoclimatologist dad (Dennis Quaid) would somehow make it across thousands of miles of ice produced by climate change to reach and rescue his son (Jake Gyllenhaal) holed up in the public library on 42nd street. Do you think that the film had much to say about how the new ice age happened? Don’t be silly.

Three years ago, I saw “The Wave”, a Norwegian film about how rockslides created devastating tsunamis twice in the twentieth century in the village of Tajford. The first tsunami occurred in 1905, killing 60 people. Thirty-one years later, another 74 lost their lives from the same natural disaster. Considering the fact that Norway’s population was only 2.5 million in 1905, the first tsunami would have killed the equivalent of about 7,000 people in the USA today.

Roar Uthaug, the director of “The Wave” (Bølgen), who admits to being a fan of Hollywood films like “Twister” and “Armageddon”, decided to make his own such film but on a micro-budget probably proportionate to the percentage difference in population between Norway and the USA. Unlike “Twister” or “Armageddon”, “The Wave” played in an arthouse in New York. Even if a teen audience would have loved a dubbed version of “The Wave”, subtitles are a show-stopper for most Americans, including those with Ph.D.’s. Speaking for myself, dubbing is more painful than a toothache.

Although I loved “The Wave”, I didn’t bother reviewing it—mostly because it was a bit far afield from my usual beat. If I had written a review, it might have read something like what Anthony Lane wrote for the New Yorker but in plainer language:

You would hope that a Norwegian disaster film would take place on a fjord, and so it does. The director’s name is Roar Uthaug, and that, too, fulfills all expectations. Kristian (Kristoffer Joner) is a geologist, on his final shift at the fjord; he and his wife (Ane Dahl Torp) and their children are packing up and preparing to move to the city. A nearby mountain chooses this day—of all days!—to crack and slide into the water. This causes a tsunami, which surges toward the town where the family lives; other souls are in equal danger, but they matter less. In short, far from wriggling free of the standard tropes of Hollywood catastrophe, Uthaug embraces them eagerly, right down to the hero’s kids—a teen-age boy, stirred to moody heroics, and a Teddy-bear-clutching young girl. As for fleeing the flood, they naturally have ten minutes to reach high ground. (Kristian, ever thorough, sets his watch.) Yet the movie works; the setting feels grandly unfamiliar, and the aftermath of the wave, with its elemental mix of water and fire, seems like a plausible vision of Hell. In Norwegian.

This time around, I will not neglect reviewing the sequel to “The Wave”, this time directed by John Andreas Andersen but featuring the geologist Kristian (Kristoffer Joner) and his family once again. As should be obvious from the title, “The Quake” (Skjelvet), is about an earthquake pulverizing Oslo. There was an earthquake in 1904 that damaged some buildings but resulted in no fatalities (as far as I can determine.) Some geologists warn that conditions exist for producing a “severe” earthquake but it is safe to say that the one depicted through CGI in “The Quake” is far more devastating than any than that the worst earthquake has ever produced. It is a movie after all.

In the sequel, the family has disintegrated. Kristian has remained in Geiranger, the town that suffered the tsunami, while his wife and two children have relocated to Oslo. He appears to be a victim of post-traumatic stress disorder, holed up in his house pasting articles about the disaster in an upstairs room. When his young daughter Julia comes for a visit, she asks him what he is up to in this room and he lacks the presence of mind to give her a proper answer. The next day, he cuts her visit short and puts her back on the boat to Oslo.

A few days later, he receives a packet of articles from a fellow geologist indicating that a major earthquake is in the works. Just after putting the package in the mail, the colleague dies in a cave-in in a tunnel underneath a fjord leading into Oslo. Kristian then contacts the man’s daughter who gives him free rein to examine the geologist’s office where he finds convincing evidence that a “big one” is about to hit Oslo.

A desperate Kristian meets with the chief geologist for the government who warns Kristian about going overboard. Meeting indifference everywhere he goes, including from his own family, he begins to resemble Jack Lemmon’s character in “China Syndrome”.

When the earthquake hits, he finds himself in the same 34-story office building as his wife and daughter Julia, where he embarks on a rescue mission that is as hair-raising as I have seen in a movie since that scene in “Wages of Fear” when Yves Montand attempts to maneuver a truck filled with nitroglycerine off a rickety wooden platform on a mountain ledge.

“The Quake” opens on Friday at selected theaters but, fortunately, on VOD as well. Information on its availability is at the film’s website. As for “The Wave”, it is available on Amazon Prime and other VOD platforms as well.

 

 

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