Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

September 27, 2017

Ken Burns’s War Stories

Filed under: Uncategorized — louisproyect @ 11:44 pm

Source: Ken Burns’s War Stories

September 26, 2017

Separated at birth

Filed under: separated at birth? — louisproyect @ 5:55 pm

Star of horror movie

Director of horrid documentary

 

Thoughts on Ken Burns’s Vietnam documentary

Filed under: Vietnam,war — louisproyect @ 12:26 pm

Ken Burns

Stuck in a motel in upstate NY last night, I decided to watch an episode of Ken Burns’s PBS series on the Vietnam war to kill some time. It was far worse than I expected.

The hour and forty-five minutes was focused on events in 1968 and 1969, a period I am deeply familiar with. The methodology was apparent from the outset. Probably 75 percent of it was devoted to war stories from both American and Vietnamese combatants in an effort to be “balanced”. From the Americans, you get both Rambo-like regrets that we didn’t fight better as well as rueful thoughts about how futile it all was. One fairly high-ranking officer asserts that we backed the wrong side since the Communists were such better fighters—sounding as if he bet on the wrong team to win the Super Bowl. From the Vietnamese, we hear from a couple who were both part of the convoys in which arms and other material aid were sent to fighters in the South on the Ho Chi Minh trail. An American pilot spends 5 minutes reminiscing about how when they spotted a convoy, it was often a “turkey shoot” as they dropped bombs and strafed the slow-moving stream of trucks and men. It was like hearing a rapist describe how he beat up and then fucked a helpless woman.

Missing from these war stories from either side was any notion of why they fought. One supposes that the Americans were at a disadvantage since they enlisted (or were dragooned) into a war that was based on the most ludicrous of theories. Vietnam was a domino and if it fell, other dominos in East Asia would fall and the next thing you know, America goes Communist. Since Communism is a dead issue today (even if Trump is trying to revive it over the North Korea standoff), you need other Orwellian threats to keep society lined up behind the ruling class. It is al-Qaeda and ISIS that are the new dominos. The American bombing of Raqqa has killed 40,000 civilians and forced as many as one million more people from their homes. Back in 1968, the left would have organized protests against such a monstrous assault but today the left stands aside with its arms folded. Why? Because it is infected with Islamophobia.

Three passages in this unseemly documentary stuck in my craw.

Burns tells us that after the Tet Offensive, the North Vietnamese and the NLF were forced to draft new recruits to keep the war going but morale was so poor that men were getting drunk all the time over the despair they felt for being cannon fodder. This is par for the course for television-based history. Where did Burns get this information from? What are his sources? If I was reading an article that made such an assertion, I’d want to fact-check it. I should add that I probably should be inured to this kind of bad faith since I have been putting up with it for six  years in all those articles about how Syrian rebels were acting on orders from the CIA.

In order to stanch the flow of arms and fighters to the South, the USA adopted the Phoenix Program—according to Burns. However, the Phoenix Program was initiated in 1965 and could be best described as death squads designed to break the back of the resistance. Most of the victims of torture and execution were civilians who made the mistake of opposing the American occupation. Doug Valentine, a frequent contributor to CounterPunch, described the program in terms that never would have been conveyed to PBS viewers:

By 1967, killing entire families had become an integral facet of the CIA’s counter-terror program. Robert Slater was the chief of the CIA’s Province Interrogation Center Program from June 1967 through 1969. In a March 1970 thesis for the Defense Intelligence School, titled “The History, Organization and Modus Operandi of the Viet Cong Infrastructure,” Slater wrote, “the District Party Secretary usually does not sleep in the same house or even hamlet where his family lived, to preclude any injury to his family during assassination attempts.”

But, Slater added, “the Allies have frequently found out where the District Party Secretaries live and raided their homes: in an ensuing fire fight the secretary’s wife and children have been killed and injured.”

I should add that Valentine’s article was inspired by news last year that former Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey was going to be named chairman of Fulbright University, a US-backed college with ties to the State Department in Ho Chi Minh City. Kerrey’s tenure there was short-lived since there was so much furor over his role in the Phoenix Program. I only wish that my fellow alumni at the New School had produced such quick results when he was serving as president of the New School for Social Research, an institution that had gained fame for hiring scholars driven out of Europe by the Nazi equivalent of the Phoenix Program.

Finally, there is the ridiculous war story by a physician who had been a POW in one of those legendary sadistic compounds that kept them on the brink of starvation. One day a cat that lived in the camp wandered into their midst apparently. They were so hungry that they butchered the cat, removing its head and paws, and then roasted it while the guards weren’t watching. When the guards spotted the charred remains, the prisoners claimed that it was a weasel they had caught and killed. However, when the guard spotted one of the cat’s paws, their goose was cooked since the cat belonged to the commandant. To start with, killing a cat with your bare hands is almost as possible as killing a weasel. Cats are not only pretty damned fierce but capable of screeches and howls when under attack that would have woke the dead, not to speak of Vietnamese guards. The physician claims that he was beaten to within an inch of his life and forced to wear the cat’s carcass around his neck while tied to a pole. You can’t make this shit up but it ends up in a Ken Burns documentary anyhow.

September 25, 2017

Report from Germany

Filed under: Uncategorized — louisproyect @ 9:36 pm

Source: Report from Germany

September 23, 2017

The one degree of separation between Valerie Plame and white supremacy

Filed under: anti-Semitism,Fascism — louisproyect @ 10:55 pm

Ron Unz: the white supremacist Jew who publishes Patrick Cockburn

Two days ago Valerie Plame, who was outed as a CIA agent in 2003 as retaliation for her husband Joseph Wilson’s NY Times op-ed piece denying that Saddam Hussein was developing nuclear weapons, tweeted an article by another ex-CIA agent named Philip Giraldi titled “America’s Jews Are Driving America’s Wars” that created a major shit-storm.

Looking back at the obvious Jewish background of many high-placed officials in the George W. Bush administration, Giraldi hopes to forestall a war with Iran that supposedly is being fomented by the Israel lobby. While undoubtedly people like David Frum, Max Boot, Bill Kristol and Bret Stephens would love nothing better than a war with Iran, it is hard to figure out whether their removal from public life would make much difference since Donald Trump, his ex officio adviser Steve Bannon and the various Christian military brass that stud his administration would not need any goading. Stating that it is necessary for Jews to pressure the Trump administration to make war on Iran is tantamount to breaking down an open door.

Giraldi’s was not smart enough to use the words Zionist or Israel lobby, which are acceptable to his inside-the-beltway peers. This was just a bit too David Dukish: “Jewish groups and deep pocket individual donors not only control the politicians, they own and run the media and entertainment industries, meaning that no one will hear about or from the offending party ever again.” Mind you, most people probably wouldn’t have guessed from this outburst that he was a darling of the left for many years as a co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) with Ray McGovern. Not even their special pleading for Bashar al-Assad over his sarin gas attacks would have lost him fans.

And if there is a Jewish-controlled media, it doesn’t seem to be on board with a war on Iran. Does Giraldi have the NY Times and CBS in mind? Owned by the Sulzberger and Redstone families respectively, they would be by his standards champing at the bit to invade Iran. However, unless I am missing something, they are worried that Trump will terminate the deal that Obama worked out with the Islamic Republic. In fact, the three most powerful media outlets pushing Trump’s agenda are the WSJ, the NY Post and Fox News. Guess who owns them. Here’s a clue. He is not circumcised and enjoys nothing more than a roast pork sandwich washed down with a glass of milk.

Glancing over the Giraldi article, I began wonder what the Unz Review was. Described on the home page as “An Alternative Media Selection” A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media”, I had to admit that Giraldi’s article qualified as “largely excluded” from the mainstream media—thank god for small favors.

A cursory review indicated that Unz Review is largely an aggregation of articles that are published elsewhere with an occasional exception such as Giraldi’s and others in the inner circle of editor Ron Unz. In addition to Philip Giraldi, who is his National Security Editor, there are two men described as “bloggers”: Anatoly Karlin and Steve Sailer. Karlin is a Russian who studied at U. Cal Berkeley and once wrote for “Sputnik & Pogrom”, an ultra-nationalist website that was even too much for Putin based on the evidence of it being shut down on July 6th. In 2015 the website called for “crushing Ukraine” and establishing a “Russian ethnic state.”

In addition to his contributions to Unz Review, Sailer also writes for Taki’s Magazine, a publication started by Taki Theodoracopulos who once wrote: “Modern humans evolved in Africa about 200,000 years ago. Africans and non-Africans then split about 100,000 years ago. The further north they went, the harder it became to find food, raise children and find shelter. Larger brains were needed for a longer life and more family stability.”. When he isn’t busy pumping out filth for Taki, Sailer is writing stuff for VDARE, an anti-immigration outfit that can best be described as white nationalist.

Beginning to connect the dots now? Philip Giraldi: the Jews own the media. Anatoly Karlin: too nationalistic for Putin. Steve Sailer: a good old boy from Taki’s and VDARE.

So who is the mastermind behind this “alternative media” outlet? When I first saw “Unz”, I thought it might have something to do with New Zealand, not exactly an alt-right lightning rod. As it turns out, Ron Unz is a Jew himself and wealthy from banking software he wrote when he was a student at Harvard. His first foray into politics was sponsoring Proposition 227 on a California ballot in 1998, a successful attempt to get rid of bilingual education that was repealed two years ago. So you could see how he would hook up with someone writing for VDARE.

To get right to the point, Unz is an out-and-out racist. About a year ago, he wrote an article titled “American Pravda: The KKK and Mass Racial Killings” that wondered why there was so much attention paid to lynchings when Communism was responsible for the death of millions. He also took exception to a string of racist cop killings by pointing out that the victims were “bad guys”. He describes Trayvon Martin as a “violent young thug” and Michael Brown as “a gigantic, thuggish criminal”. Not even Emmett Till gets off the hook. He weighed 150 pounds, was “quite large and muscular for his age” and had a violent history. It certainly can be possible that the 14-year old weighed 150 pounds and was muscular. However, there is no evidence of a “violent history”. Could it be possible that Unz is just a lying piece of shit? You be the judge.

If this smacks of the KKK, you might be on to something. You can find another Jew (or ex-Jew since he converted to Russian Orthodoxy) writing for Unz’s magazine who is on the same wave-length. That is Israel Shamir, the notorious anti-Semite who advised Unz Review readers that “It’s Time to Re-Think David Duke” in 2005. Like the KKK that he once ran in Louisiana, Duke is supposedly getting a bad rap. Shamir’s article is mostly a transcript of a David Duke interview in 2005 when he blamed the Jews for the war in Iraq, just like Giraldi does. “The neo-cons, the people who founded this [war] were actually Trotskyite communists originally. Russia has worked to free itself from the Jewish supremacist Bolshevists.”

Oh, by the way, did I mention that Shamir has been a free-lancer for Wikileaks? One imagines that he and Assange must have gotten along famously since he has had his own soiled underwear on Twitter, just like Plame. Just over a year ago, the gray-haired cult figure Tweeted that he didn’t care much for his critics. Most of them have 3 brackets around their name (a way of indicating that you are a Jew on Twitter), are “tribalists”, and wear black-rimmed glasses.

It should be abundantly clear at this point that Unz Review is poised somewhere ideologically midway between Breitbart News and The Daily Stormer. That being said, you have to wonder why Ron Unz also aggregates the following writers: Patrick Cockburn, Tom Engelhardt, Norman Finkelstein, Michael Hudson, Peter Lee and Mike Whitney. All of them, except for Engelhardt, are well-known contributors to CounterPunch. I strongly suspect that Unz is reposting their articles without their permission even though he includes this disclaimer at the end of each one: “Republished from Counterpunch.org by permission of author or representative”. I find it hard to believe that Patrick Cockburn has ever been contacted by Unz. If he has been and still gives his approval, then someone should tug his sleeve and tell him to wake up.

I don’t think it is difficult to understand why a racist pig like Ron Unz is publishing leftists. It is part of a Red-Brown tendency that has been developing for the past 5 years. Mostly my focus has been on leftists making overtures to the right in one way or another such as Boris Kagarlitsky singing the praises of Donald Trump or Diana Johnstone defending Marine Le Pen’s “sovereignism”.

But Ron Unz is an interesting if vomit-inducing example of a white supremacist trying to reconcile his own views with people who would likely punch him in the mouth for referring to Emmett Till as he did or at least tell him he had no permission to crosspost their CounterPunch articles. So what is going on here?

The answer is that in that gray area between the Red and the Brown, you find a receding interest in class. The unit of analysis is the nation-state rather than social class. So for both a Mike Whitney and a Ron Unz there is a laundry list of bad things: NATO, Israel, Saudi Arabia, the IMF, Hillary Clinton, the Eurozone, the Council on Foreign Relations, George Soros and the CIA. On the other hand, there is the Kremlin, Iran, the Baathists, the Donetsk People’s Republic, BRICS and Brexit. If the bad things somehow disappeared overnight, the good things would win. Hoorah. Questions of class struggle, political economy and the need for socialism disappear into the background. But in that gray area, there is always the troubling “Jewish problem” with people like Unz effacing the distinction between Zionist and Jew. Of course, that is the mirror image of the Zionist state that is also intent on making them indistinguishable.

Frankly, I don’t feel threatened by Giraldi’s nonsense. As I have stated repeatedly, there is no existential threat to the Jews posed by the “unite the right” marchers chanting “The Jews will not replace us”. The real target today is Muslims and immigrants.

Given the increasing affinity for the state of Israel for the kinds of policies being put forward by the Trump administration, it may be the case that the American populist right will follow the lead of its advanced guard. Richard Spencer recently visited Israel and told an interviewer how an Israeli citizen should regard him:

… an Israeli citizen, someone who understands your identity, who has a sense of nationhood and peoplehood, and the history and experience of the Jewish people, you should respect someone like me, who has analogous feelings about whites. You could say that I am a white Zionist – in the sense that I care about my people, I want us to have a secure homeland for us and ourselves. Just like you want a secure homeland in Israel.

This wasn’t the first time Spencer warmed up to Israel. Last December, he told Haaretz that he “respects Israel” and that he would “respect” the decision to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

There might be a mutual admiration society in the works considering what Prime Minister Netanyahu’s son is up to on Facebook. He posted an image that could have been lifted from The Daily Stormer.

Where all this is going cannot be predicted. Although I hate to sound like a broken record, my advice is to build a world revolutionary movement committed to socialism—starting yesterday. Rosa Luxemburg said that the choice was between socialism and barbarism. Decades ago that sounded like inspiring rhetoric. Today it is much more like an RX for survival.

 

September 22, 2017

Let if Fall; The Force

Filed under: Counterpunch,Film — louisproyect @ 12:47 pm

 

Perhaps nothing illustrates the lawlessness of law enforcement in the USA more than the spectacle of cops in St. Louis shouting “Whose streets? Our streets!” as they arrested people protesting the not guilty verdict of white police officer Jason Stockley, who had been recorded telling his partner that “we’re killing this motherfucker, don’t you know,” just minutes before firing five bullets into the body of an African-American youth named Anthony Lamar Smith in 2011. It did not matter to the judge that Stockley had fired his pistol at Smith, whose car he had overtaken in a drug bust pursuit, just six inches from his body—a clear indication of premeditation. Nor did it matter that the pistol that had been found in Smith’s car was likely planted since it only had Stockley’s DNA on it. Since Stockley had waived the right to a jury trial, it was up to Judge Timothy J. Wilson to render a verdict: not guilty. Considering Wilson’s reputation for being fair, you can only conclude that he was simply adapting to the racism that pervades American society, especially the criminal justice system.

Two recent films help to place this by now predictable outcome into perspective. Both put a spotlight on the police forces in Los Angeles and Oakland. Despite California’s liberal reputation, its cops act as if they are reporting to Bull Connor. As Malcolm X once put it, everything south of the Mason-Dixon Line is the South.

Continue reading

September 20, 2017

Elizabeth Blue; Thy Father’s Chair

Filed under: Film — louisproyect @ 9:12 pm

The two films under review are about people living at society’s margins and not the flashy superheroes you are used to seeing in summer blockbusters about space alien invasions or super-spies but both are two of the better films I have seen in months and a testament to the integrity of their respective creative teams. In a period of commercialism running rampant, symbolized most of all by the garish and murderous clown in the White House, “Elizabeth Blue” and “Thy Father’s Chair” are reminders that humanism is still alive in a dying empire, at least in the world of cinema.

For the longest time, films about schizophrenics have tended to be horror stories like “Psycho” or Grand Guignol tales like “Shutter Island”. Given the cheap exploitation of a serious illness, we are thankful for a film like “Elizabeth Blue” that offers a fictional tale deeply engaged with the real medical challenges facing its victims. And we should be doubly thankful that first-time feature director/screenwriter has done it so well, making him the inside track for my nomination as top new director of 2017 when NYFCO has its awards meeting in December.

The hope of all schizophrenics is to live a normal and productive life, which is shared by Elizabeth who we meet as she is being discharged from a psychiatric ward. She is a young and attractive woman who had a career as an editor before the first in a series of psychotic breaks. Perhaps this time things will turn out better since she is soon to be married to a handsome young man named Grant who has accepted her illness in the spirt of the “for better or for worse” marriage vow.

To help her along, Elizabeth and Grant meet with a psychiatrist who prescribes a number of medications that will help relieve her of the symptoms that bedevil all schizophrenics. Despite Alfred Hitchcock’s lurid (if even cinematically memorable) tale, most are of no danger to other people. Instead their most frequent victims are themselves since the psychological torment often leads to suicide.

In Elizabeth’s case, you see a highly realistic portrayal of what typically happens. Auditory hallucinations take the effect of disembodied voices telling the schizophrenic that they are worthless and that they do not deserve to live. If this happens infrequently, one might assume that these attacks can be relieved through medication and the support of family or a future husband like Grant. But when it is incessant, it can reach the point where the illness can totally incapacitate the sufferer.

Elizabeth is played by Anna Shafer, who is superb. Her shifting moods and hallucinatory episodes are played most effectively without the need to exaggerate the emotional reactions to the horrors that such a patient would be enduring. In an interesting casting coup her mother, who in layperson’s terms might be seen as having driven her daughter crazy, is played by Kathleen Quinlan, who was the schizophrenic patient in the 1977 “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden”.

Success stories for this illness are infrequent. Among them are Tom Harrell, the jazz trumpeter, or the late John Nash, whose battles were dramatized in “A Beautiful Mind”. They also include director/screenwriter Vincent Sabella who as a schizophrenic himself knew first-hand how to dramatize the inner life of a schizophrenic as well as the medical regimen that is necessary to stay afloat. He has not only contributed to cinematic art but to the ongoing support campaign for a much stigmatized part of society. 3.2 million people suffer from the illness in the USA and most are regarded as either a danger to society or not worth supporting through a social safety net, even with its gaping holes. “Elizabeth Blue” is a stunning drama that will help to shed light on an illness that deserves to be understood dispassionately and without prejudice.

“Elizabeth Blue” opens on Friday at the Cinema Village in NYC. Highly recommended.

Opening on October 13nd at the Cinema Village in NYC and at the Laemmle in LA a week later, “Thy Father’s Chair” joins “Menashe” as a penetrating look at the orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn. While not Hasidim, twin brothers Shraga and Abraham are about as close as you can come. They worship in a Hasidic synagogue and wear full beards and the black suit and white shirts that are a virtual uniform in this world.

But unlike the Hasidim, they are not only bachelors but living in a completely degraded state. They are alcoholics and living in filth in an apartment that is so insect-ridden and malodorous that the upstairs neighbors in the building they own have gone on a rent strike until the mess is cleaned up.

That indeed is how the documentary starts with the Israeli owner of a specialized cleaning company and his Black and Latino workers tackling a job that would make the ordinary person gag. There is garbage strewn across the floor in every room and a kitchen and bathroom that looks like it hasn’t been cleaned in a decade.

The two sixtyish brothers are a distinct NYC type that you read about every so often, the pathological hoarder who we only find out about after they die. The smell of the decomposing body prompts the neighbors to call the police and attend to the body and the filth the dead man left behind.

On October 19, 2015 I blogged about this phenomenon after reading a story in the NY Times titled “The Lonely Death of George Bell”, a morbidly fascinating article that included this:

The two men foraged through the unedited anarchy, 800 square feet, one bedroom. A stench thickened the air. Mr. Plaza dabbed his nostrils with a Vicks vapor stick. Mr. Rodriguez toughed it out. Vicks bothered his nose.

The only bed was the lumpy foldout couch in the living room. The bedroom and bathroom looked pillaged. The kitchen was splashed with trash and balled-up, decades-old lottery tickets that had failed to deliver. A soiled shopping list read: sea salt, garlic, carrots, broccoli (two packs), “TV Guide.”

The faucet didn’t work. The chipped stove had no knobs and could not have been used to cook in a long time.

Instead of decades-old lottery tickets, the twin brothers have tons of Judaica that has accumulated alongside old newspapers and magazines, as well as junk they picked up off the street. If cleanliness is next to godliness, these brothers had no hope.

To me the most interesting aspect of the film is the clash between the Israeli and the two old-school Brooklyn Jews who probably spoke Yiddish growing up. At one point, Abraham asks him whether he believes in god. The Israeli says he doesn’t. Interestingly enough, the old observant Jew says that he is not sure he does himself. As a secular-minded take charge guy, the Israeli immigrant is an obvious contrast to the kind of shtetl life that Israel was meant to replace, including the Yiddish language. Why he has moved to the USA would probably be a good subject for another film.

This is a cinéma vérité that shows the influence of Frederic Wiseman and the Maysles brothers as the co-directors openly admit. Despite the advantage that a Jewish director, such as the one that made “Menashe”, would have in securing the agreement of the twin brothers to be filmed, it is instead a Spaniard named Alex Lora and an Australian named Antonio Tibaldi who made this extraordinary film. I can’t imagine how they ever hooked up with the Israeli cleaning contractor or the two lost souls who they have rescued from obscurity. Their readiness to make a film in the midst of such squalor shows a dedication to film art that most men and women could not muster.

Highly recommended.

September 19, 2017

This is what American fascism looks like: the Lyndon LaRouche story (part four)

Filed under: LaRouche — louisproyect @ 7:33 pm

Lyndon LaRouche’s ties to Ronald Reagan, the Donald Trump of the 1980s

(part onepart two, part three)

In 2017, large segments of the left—especially anarchists—would have you believe that the USA has something in common with the Weimar Republic in 1930 and that it is necessary to punch neo-Nazis in order to prevent Richard Spencer from becoming a new Hitler.

In reality the largest fascist movement in the USA since the 1930s would never have organized its members to march in torchlight parades chanting “blood and soil” even though it was clearly trying to emulate the Nazis. With allies such as the Grand Wizard of the KKK in Michigan, who had been convicted of bombing school buses to protest busing, you’d think that Lydon LaRouche would have created a new party to serve as a pole of attraction. Showing much more savvy than Richard Spencer and his ilk, he instead submerged his US Labor Party into the Democratic Party just as the CPUSA has done since the New Deal.

Between 1982 and 1988, his movement ran in 4,000 Democratic Party primaries and general elections in over 30 states. At the peak of his powers when he was a presidential candidate, LaRouche used to buy an hour’s worth of time on network TV to present his rather convoluted mixture of leftish sounding attacks on the IMF and bizarre conspiracy theories about how Queen Elizabeth was a drug lord. Dennis King describes the scope of his electoral machine:

Its fund raisers brought in tens of millions of dollars while its candidates attracted over 4 million votes, including voting percentages above 10 percent in hundreds of contests. In at least 70 statewide, congressional, or state legislative races, LaRouche candidates polled over 20 percent of the vote. At least 25 appeared on the general election ballot as Democratic nominees, either by defeating a regular Democratic opponent or by running in the primary unopposed. Although none was actually elected to any public office higher than a local school board, hundreds won Democratic Party posts (mostly county committee seats) across the country.

So how would antifa have dealt with this growing menace? By punching people who were passing out his campaign literature? Given the vast network of people taking part in his cult’s election bids, it would have been impossible to make a dent. For all of the talk from the liberal left about becoming the equivalent of the Tea Party in the Democratic Party, LaRouche came much closer to that goal but with one difference. He sought to incubate an ultraright movement in a traditionally liberal party even though a lot of his rhetoric began sounding similar to Ralph Nader’s “anti-globalization” politics and even to Trump administration ideologues. For example, Paul Gallagher ran for governor of New York in 1978 urging the New York bourgeoisie to take the lead in a “national export boom.”

And also like the Trump administration, his candidates were complete racists. During the struggle for busing in Boston, one ran in a district that included South Boston, where white racists were terrorizing Black schoolchildren just like in Alabama and Mississippi a decade earlier. After denouncing busing as a Ford Foundation conspiracy, he got 10.7 percent of the vote. What would antifa have done to suppress his hate speech? Storm into one of his rallies in South Boston and begin hitting people with 2 by 4s? Politics is a lot more complicated than that, especially considering the opposition of Robert Avakian’s cult to busing back then.

LaRouche calculated that his mixture of addled populism and racism would appeal to older and white DP voters in the same way that a part of this demographic decided to vote for Reagan and then for Donald Trump. It was the same voter that George Wallace appealed to in 1968 when he ran for President on an openly racist platform. Like Trump promising the sky to former coal miners, LaRouche tried to win the votes of workers in the nuclear industry who were suspicious of the anti-nuclear direction of the DP. In a speech to construction workers at the Seabrook nuclear power site, he promised to build 2,500 nuclear plants by the year 2000.

Despite continuing to run as a Democrat, LaRouche became an enthusiastic supporter of the Reagan Revolution in 1980. In exactly the same fashion as Bannon and Alex Jones hanging on to Trump’s coat-tails, LaRouche saw Reagan as a defender of nationalist values. In many ways, the fight within the Republican Party in 1979 mirrored that between Trump and Jeb Bush in the 2016 primary. In his speaking engagements, LaRouche concentrated his fire on his father George H.W. Bush who was denounced as a “globalist”. Despite a lot of the craziness in his party press, LaRouche was very much the counterpart of Steve Bannon (granted Bannon can be pretty crazy himself.)

Repeating themes popular on the left back then (and today, for that matter), LaRouche denounced Bush as a tool of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Trilateral Commission. The steady drumbeat of LaRouche’s campaign speeches likely had an effect since reporters began bombarding Bush with questions about the Trilateral Commission.

Once Reagan was elected, LaRouche felt the same sense of exultation that could be found in alt-right circles but unlike the alt-right, he was much more successful in building ties to a president who was about to carry out a vicious attack on the working class in the USA and internationally.

Showing an ability to suppress some of the wacky stuff published in the cult’s Executive Intelligence Review (EIR), top operatives went to Washington in 1981 to sell their services. They made sure to advertise themselves as boosters of Reagan’s Trump-like policies on the military, the environment, and drugs while making sure to avoid any references to Queen Elizabeth as a drug lord.

The Reagan White House and LaRouche saw eye-to-eye particularly on the need for Star Wars and pushing for nuclear power. They had even beaten Reagan to the punch. In the late 70s they were lining up rightwing atomic scientists like Edward Teller to support the goals of the Fusion Energy Foundation that promoted a Star Wars type anti-missile defense, fusion energy, and bigger and more powerful thermonuclear devices. While Teller considered them too weird to network with, a close friend of his and highly respected scientist named Robert Budwine from the Livermore Labs was drawn into their periphery. King, a consummate researcher, wrote:

Budwine became deeply intrigued by the LaRouchians and was drawn for several months into the periphery of their cult life. Among other things, he attended the NCLC annual conference in January 1984 at LaRouche’s Virginia mansion, where the baroque harpsichord background music struck him as “an attempt to re-create an eighteenth-century salon.” He formed friendships with Uwe Parpart and other NCLC members, and spent several hours in private discussions with LaRouche on Indo-European root languages, Riemannian geometry, and other LaRouche hobbies.

As King also reported, LaRouche recruited Winston Bostick, the former chairman of the Stevens Institute of Technology physics department, and Friedwardt Winterberg, a fusion specialist with the University of Nevada’s Desert Research Institute, into the FEF. Bostick became a leading figure, speaking at its conferences, writing for its journal and serving on the editorial board of another FEF publication, the International Journal of Fusion Energy. In a 1984 telephone interview he said he supported LaRouche’s attempts to promote “German military, scientific, cultural, and economic traditions.” Meanwhile, Winterberg hailed LaRouche as having the “most scientifically founded” program of any presidential candidate and allowed the FEF to publish his Physical Principles of Thermonuclear Explosive Devices in 1981, sending him on overseas speaking tours.

By providing a platform for softball interviews, the EIR cultivated ties to the Republican Party elite. Among the politicians whose views could be seen in this fascist journal were Agriculture Secretary John Block, Defense Under Secretary Richard DeLauer, Commerce Under Secretary Lionel Olmer, Treasury Under Secretary Norman Ture, Assistant Attorney General Lowell Jensen, Murray Weidenbaum, the chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, and Senators Orrin Hatch and John Tower. No matter how much Richard Spencer has praised Donald Trump, he never could have gotten through the front door to the equivalent of such pols today. That’s the big difference between LaRouche and the alt-right. He was far more interested in influencing public policy than doing half-assed imitations of a Nuremberg rally.

The most important inroads, however, were with the National Security Council and the CIA. LaRouche followers met frequently with Richard Morris, the top aide to National Security Adviser William Clark. They also got the ear of other NSC officials such as Ray Pollock and Norman Bailey.

From the CIA, the cult developed ties to CIA deputy director Ray Cline, who was deeply involved with the rightwing death squads in Nicaragua and El Salvador, as well as former CIA counterintelligence chief James Angleton, who headed up surveillance of anti-war protesters and left groups in the 60s and 70s. Once again we are indebted to King’s superlative research to see how internecine the ties were between LaRouche and the CIA:

In the early years of the Reagan administration the LaRouchians established direct channels into the intelligence community. Admiral [Bobby] Inman appreciated their “flow of materials” to help fill the gap left by [Stansfield] Turner’s cutbacks [Carter’s CIA director]. LaRouche was allowed to brief two aides to John McMahon, Inman’s successor, at CIA headquarters in 1983. According to court papers, an aide to Federal Emergency Management Agency director Louis Guiffrida frequently met with the LaRouchians and even came to NCLC headquarters for a day’s briefing. Jeffrey Steinberg visited the National Security Council eight to ten times between June 1983 and June 1984, according to his deposition in LaRouche v. NBC. Articles in EIR were peppered with quotes from unnamed “CIA Sovietologists” and “DIA analysts.”

The real question is what bearing the obsessions of the Southern Poverty Law Center and “It’s Going Down” have to do with arguably the most powerful fascist movement since the 1930s. What do you do when the fascists operate as a wing of the Democratic Party, are focused on electoral activity and generally avoid street-fighting? LaRouche had finally decided not long after he abandoned stormtrooper type activity against the left in the early 70s that his role was to bloc with the most reactionary forces in American politics. It started with his ties to the KKK and other fringe figures on the ultraright and eventually evolved into providing intelligence to the CIA and other security agencies about the left. Constituting a private investigative agency, his followers worldwide fed information to headquarters about anti-nuclear activists, peace groups, and anybody else who wanted to challenge corporate power. LaRouche also came to the conclusion that in addition to snitching on the left, it was worth his while to make a good living at it. He sold his dossiers on the left to whoever was willing to pay the hefty price. He also began running a multi-million dollar hustle that parted older and often half-senile Republican Party voters from their bank accounts. His phone bankers were very aggressive and very skilled. Eventually this caught up with him in on December 16, 1988, when he was convicted of conspiracy to commit mail fraud involving more than $30 million in defaulted loans. He spent five years in prison as part of a fifteen year sentence.

Even though the LaRouche cult is still operating today, it no longer has the influence it once had. You might even argue that it is no longer fascist but simply just one more ultraright outfit of the sort that the Koch brothers fund and toward the same end.

In my next and final post in this series, I will describe where the group stands today and the possibilities for a new American fascism that had the reach and power of this cult during its heyday.

 

September 16, 2017

Red Trees

Filed under: Film — louisproyect @ 6:03 pm

When I received an invitation from a publicist to review “Red Trees” that opened yesterday at Lincoln Plaza and Quad Cinema in NYC, I was initially undecided since the documentary was about surviving the holocaust. Having seen dozens of films, both fiction and nonfiction, about this crime against humanity starting with Alain Resnais’s 1956 documentary “Night and Fog” that I saw as a college freshman in 1961, I was not sure what more could be said. I finally decided to review the film since it was produced by Charles S. Cohen who owns the Cohen Media Group and Quad Cinema. Over the years I have developed a deep respect for Cohen Media Group films and those shown at Quad Cinema. Suffice it to say that “Red Trees” meets the lofty standards set by Mr. Cohen, who decided to produce the film after seeing a shorter version.

Although the images summoned up the word holocaust are black-and-white photos and historical footage of skeletal victims at Auschwitz, “Red Trees” is instead a lyrically evocative picture of the world of the Czechs both past and present as director Marina Willer and her father Alfred visit the places where he grew up. Even when he recalls terrifying moments, his daughter never forgets that the overarching purpose of the film is to convey the joys of civilized life in places like Kaznêjov and Prague where the Willer family prospered economically and culturally until the Nazis began their brutal occupation in 1939.

The Willer family was a paradigm of secular and educated Czechoslovakia, in no way different from the Christian elite. Indeed, the contribution that the patriarch Wilem was making helped the family become one of the twelve that survived the genocide. He was an industrial engineer who developed the process for manufacturing citric acid, a chemical key to preserving food. Even with this to his credit, he narrowly escaped being sent to a concentration camp. The film cites Hitler’s words in 1933: “If science cannot do without Jews, then we will have to do without science for a few years.”

His son Alfred was born in 1930 and demonstrated an talent for art that was as formidable as his father’s was for science and technology. Not long after he began painting landscapes, the teachers noticed that the trees were red—a dead giveaway that he was colorblind. This did not dissuade him from a life in the arts and eventually becoming an outstanding architect. The title of the film refers both to his minor disability as well as his and his daughter’s belief that skin color should not matter when it comes to human relations. After obtaining passports in 1947, the Willers headed for Brazil, a country that symbolized the kind of racial diversity these progressive Jews believed in and that is now under mounting attack across Europe and the USA. Although the main purpose of Marina Willer’s film is to tell her family’s story, you can’t help but think that it is 2017’s most important anti-fascist statement.

I kept thinking of Stefan Zweig as the film unfolded. He lived in Vienna that like Willer’s Prague was a symbol of civilized European values. And like Willer, he chose to live in Brazil, emigrating there in 1940, not long after he had narrowly escaped Hitler’s death squads. In 1941, he wrote “Brazil: Land of the Future”, a book that saw his new adopted homeland as free of Europe’s “race fanatics”, its “frenzied scenes and mad ecstasies of hero-worship”, its “foolish nationalism and imperialism” and its “suicidal fury”. As it turned out, Zweig’s despair, and his wife’s, over the horrors overtaking Europe became too much of a burden. They committed suicide a year later, becoming Hitler’s victims just as much as those who died in concentration camps.

Marina Willer made this film as a way to get closer to her father, who had never spoken much about his ordeals as a Jew in Prague during WWII. In making the film, she was able to piece together a story that is as much a commentary on the suffering of the Jews as it is of the general problem of people being driven from their homelands because of ethnic or racial hatred or–even worse–murdered. In the press notes, she says, “Red Trees is a personal project that merges the story of my family with something that’s really universal—what’s going on today with the world’s refugees. The story becomes much more relevant because of the refugee crisis. The point of telling personal stories is that they become universal, and we can learn from history to not make this mistake again.”

Now based in London, she drew upon the cinematographic talents of her Brazilian countryman César Charlone, who won an Academy Award for “City of God”. They filmed in abandoned factories where her grandfather worked and in synagogues that contained the names of all the Jews who had died in concentration camps. Suffice it to say that Marina Willer’s background as a designer and Charlone’s stunning visual acuity make watching this film something like a visit to a museum.

In addition to telling her family’s story, we also learn about Czechoslovakia’s resistance to Nazism that includes a closing credit to some of the country’s resistance fighters. When I was very young, WWII was still very much alive in the minds of my parents and their generation, including those who scheduled what we saw on television. In the mid-50s, something like “Hogan’s Heroes” would have been totally unacceptable. Instead, we saw “The Silent Village” that can now be seen on Youtube. This British documentary made in 1943 told the story of Lidice, a Czech town that was wiped off the face of the map because it was accused of supporting the resistance fighters who assassinated Reinhard Heydrich, considered the main architect of the holocaust. After he was killed, Hitler ordered the execution of every male adult in Lidice and that the women and children be sent to concentration camps. Afterwards, every building was burned to the ground and salt was spread across the soil in order to prevent anything from growing again. As Marina Willer points out, many villages and towns were renamed Lidice in solidarity with the victims as were newborn children. It may be said that if “Red Trees” had a subtitle, it would be “Lidice”.

The film ends with the words of Alfred Willer that are germane to the social crisis we face today. “I have never understood an attachment to one nation, one culture. We are a mixture, and in this there is beauty. I’m Jewish, Protestant, Catholic, Czech, German, Brazilian, English– I’m everything. What a salad.” What did Stalin call such people? Rootless cosmopolitans? People such as Stefan Zweig and Alfred Willer were naturally drawn to places like Vienna, Prague and Rio de Janeiro where their catholic and progressive sensibility could flourish. Ultimately, this is the task we face today and one that “Red Trees” undertakes, to make a world where cosmopolitanism reigns supreme.

 

September 15, 2017

Vietnam: The Commodity

Filed under: Uncategorized — louisproyect @ 11:23 pm

Source: Vietnam: The Commodity

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