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Noam Chomsky on the Long History of US Meddling in Foreign Elections

26 Dec

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Thursday, January 19, 2017By C.J. PolychroniouTruthout | Interview


A wide range of politicians and media outlets have described the alleged Russian interference in the last US presidential election (by way of hacking) as representing a direct threat to American democracy and even to national security itself. Of course, the irony behind these concerns about the interference of foreign nations in the domestic political affairs of the United States is that the US has blatantly interfered in the elections of many other nations, with methods that include not only financial support to preferred parties and the circulation of propaganda but also assassinations and overthrows of even democratically elected regimes. Indeed, the US has a long criminal history of meddling into the political affairs of other nations — a history that spans at least a century and, since the end of World War II, extends into all regions of the globe, including western parliamentary polities. This interview with Noam Chomsky reminds us that the United States is no stranger to election interference; in fact, it is an expert in this arena.

C. J. Polychroniou: Noam, the US intelligence agencies have accused Russia of interference in the US presidential election in order to boost Trump’s chances, and some leading Democrats have actually gone on record saying that the Kremlin’s canny operatives changed the election outcome. What’s your reaction to all this talk in Washington and among media pundits about Russian cyber and propaganda efforts to influence the outcome of the presidential election in Donald Trump’s favor?

Noam Chomsky: Much of the world must be astonished — if they are not collapsing in laughter — while watching the performances in high places and in media concerning Russian efforts to influence an American election, a familiar US government specialty as far back as we choose to trace the practice. There is, however, merit in the claim that this case is different in character: By US standards, the Russian efforts are so meager as to barely elicit notice.

Let’s talk about the long history of US meddling in foreign political affairs, which has always been morally and politically justified as the spread of American style-democracy throughout the world.

The history of US foreign policy, especially after World War II, is pretty much defined by the subversion and overthrow of foreign regimes, including parliamentary regimes, and the resort to violence to destroy popular organizations that might offer the majority of the population an opportunity to enter the political arena.

Following the Second World War, the United States was committed to restoring the traditional conservative order. To achieve this aim, it was necessary to destroy the anti-fascist resistance, often in favor of Nazi and fascist collaborators, to weaken unions and other popular organizations, and to block the threat of radical democracy and social reform, which were live options under the conditions of the time. These policies were pursued worldwide: in Asia, including South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Indochina and crucially, Japan; in Europe, including Greece, Italy, France and crucially, Germany; in Latin America, including what the CIA took to be the most severe threats at the time, “radical nationalism” in Guatemala and Bolivia.

Sometimes the task required considerable brutality. In South Korea, about 100,000 people were killed in the late 1940s by security forces installed and directed by the United States. This was before the Korean war, which Jon Halliday and Bruce Cumings describe as “in essence” a phase — marked by massive outside intervention — in “a civil war fought between two domestic forces: a revolutionary nationalist movement, which had its roots in tough anti-colonial struggle, and a conservative movement tied to the status quo, especially to an unequal land system,” restored to power under the US occupation. In Greece in the same years, hundreds of thousands were killed, tortured, imprisoned or expelled in the course of a counterinsurgency operation, organized and directed by the United States, which restored traditional elites to power, including Nazi collaborators, and suppressed the peasant- and worker-based communist-led forces that had fought the Nazis. In the industrial societies, the same essential goals were realized, but by less violent means.



Yet it is true that there have been cases where the US was directly involved in organizing coups even in advanced industrial democracies, such as in Australia and Italy in the mid-1970s. Correct?

Yes, there is evidence of CIA involvement in a virtual coup that overturned the Whitlam Labor government in Australia in 1975, when it was feared that Whitlam might interfere with Washington’s military and intelligence bases in Australia. Large-scale CIA interference in Italian politics has been public knowledge since the congressional Pike Report was leaked in 1976, citing a figure of over $65 million to approved political parties and affiliates from 1948 through the early 1970s. In 1976, the Aldo Moro government fell in Italy after revelations that the CIA had spent $6 million to support anti-communist candidates. At the time, the European communist parties were moving towards independence of action with pluralistic and democratic tendencies (Eurocommunism), a development that in fact pleased neither Washington nor Moscow. For such reasons, both superpowers opposed the legalization of the Communist Party of Spain and the rising influence of the Communist Party in Italy, and both preferred center-right governments in France. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger described the “major problem” in the Western alliance as “the domestic evolution in many European countries,” which might make Western communist parties more attractive to the public, nurturing moves towards independence and threatening the NATO alliance.”

US interventions in the political affairs of other nations have always been morally and politically justified as part of the faith in the doctrine of spreading American-style democracy, but the actual reason was of course the spread of capitalism and the dominance of business rule. Was faith in the spread of democracy ever tenable?

No belief concerning US foreign policy is more deeply entrenched than the one regarding the spread of American-style democracy. The thesis is commonly not even expressed, merely presupposed as the basis for reasonable discourse on the US role in the world.

The faith in this doctrine may seem surprising. Nevertheless, there is a sense in which the conventional doctrine is tenable. If by “American-style democracy,” we mean a political system with regular elections but no serious challenge to business rule, then US policymakers doubtless yearn to see it established throughout the world. The doctrine is therefore not undermined by the fact that it is consistently violated under a different interpretation of the concept of democracy: as a system in which citizens may play some meaningful part in the management of public affairs.

So, what lessons can be drawn from all this about the concept of democracy as understood by US policy planners in their effort to create a new world order?

One problem that arose as areas were liberated from fascism [after World War II] was that traditional elites had been discredited, while prestige and influence had been gained by the resistance movement, based largely on groups responsive to the working class and poor, and often committed to some version of radical democracy. The basic quandary was articulated by Churchill’s trusted adviser, South African Prime Minister Jan Christiaan Smuts, in 1943, with regard to southern Europe: “With politics let loose among those peoples,” he said, “we might have a wave of disorder and wholesale Communism.” Here the term “disorder” is understood as threat to the interests of the privileged, and “Communism,” in accordance with usual convention, refers to failure to interpret “democracy” as elite dominance, whatever the other commitments of the “Communists” may be. With politics let loose, we face a “crisis of democracy,” as privileged sectors have always understood.

In brief, at that moment in history, the United States faced the classic dilemma of Third World intervention in large parts of the industrial world as well. The US position was “politically weak” though militarily and economically strong. Tactical choices are determined by an assessment of strengths and weaknesses. The preference has, quite naturally, been for the arena of force and for measures of economic warfare and strangulation, where the US has ruled supreme.



Wasn’t the Marshall Plan a tool for consolidating capitalism and spreading business rule throughout Europe after World War II?

Very much so. For example, the extension of Marshall Plan aid in countries like France and Italy was strictly contingent on exclusion of communists — including major elements of the anti-fascist resistance and labor — from the government; “democracy,” in the usual sense. US aid was critically important in early years for suffering people in Europe and was therefore a powerful lever of control, a matter of much significance for US business interests and longer term planning. The fear in Washington was that the communist left would emerge victorious in Italy and France without massive financial assistance.

On the eve of the announcement of the Marshall Plan, Ambassador to France Jefferson Caffery warned Secretary of State Marshall of grim consequences if the communists won the elections in France: “Soviet penetration of Western Europe, Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East would be greatly facilitated” (May 12, 1947). The dominoes were ready to fall. During May, the US pressured political leaders in France and Italy to form coalition governments excluding the communists. It was made clear and explicit that aid was contingent on preventing an open political competition, in which left and labor might dominate. Through 1948, Secretary of State Marshall and others publicly emphasized that if communists were voted into power, US aid would be terminated; no small threat, given the state of Europe at the time.

In France, the postwar destitution was exploited to undermine the French labor movement, along with direct violence. Desperately needed food supplies were withheld to coerce obedience, and gangsters were organized to provide goon squads and strike breakers, a matter that is described with some pride in semi-official US labor histories, which praise the AFL [American Federation of Labor] for its achievements in helping to save Europe by splitting and weakening the labor movement (thus frustrating alleged Soviet designs) and safeguarding the flow of arms to Indochina for the French war of re-conquest, another prime goal of the US labor bureaucracy. The CIA reconstituted the mafia for these purposes, in one of its early operations. The quid pro quo was restoration of the heroin trade. The US government connection to the drug boom continued for many decades.

US policies toward Italy basically picked up where they had been broken off by World War II. The United States had supported Mussolini’s Fascism from the 1922 takeover through the 1930s. Mussolini’s wartime alliance with Hitler terminated these friendly relations, but they were reconstituted as US forces liberated southern Italy in 1943, establishing the rule of Field Marshall [Pietro] Badoglio and the royal family that had collaborated with the Fascist government. As Allied forces drove towards the north, they dispersed the anti-fascist resistance along with local governing bodies it had formed in its attempt to establish a new democratic state in the zones it had liberated from Germany. Eventually, a center-right government was established with neo-fascist participation and the left soon excluded.

Here too, the plan was for the working classes and the poor to bear the burden of reconstruction, with lowered wages and extensive firing. Aid was contingent on removing communists and left socialists from office, because they defended workers’ interests and thus posed a barrier to the intended style of recovery, in the view of the State Department. The Communist Party was collaborationist; its position “fundamentally meant the subordination of all reforms to the liberation of Italy and effectively discouraged any attempt in northern areas to introduce irreversible political changes as well as changes in the ownership of the industrial companies … disavowing and discouraging those workers’ groups that wanted to expropriate some factories,” as Gianfranco Pasquino put it. But the Party did try to defend jobs, wages and living standards for the poor and thus “constituted a political and psychological barrier to a potential European recovery program,” historian John Harper comments, reviewing the insistence of Kennan and others that communists be excluded from government though agreeing that it would be “desirable” to include representatives of what Harper calls “the democratic working class.” The recovery, it was understood, was to be at the expense of the working class and the poor.

Because of its responsiveness to the needs of these social sectors, the Communist Party was labelled “extremist” and “undemocratic” by US propaganda, which also skillfully manipulated the alleged Soviet threat. Under US pressure, the Christian Democrats abandoned wartime promises about workplace democracy and the police, sometimes under the control of ex-fascists, were encouraged to suppress labor activities. The Vatican announced that anyone who voted for the communists in the 1948 election would be denied sacraments, and backed the conservative Christian Democrats under the slogan: “O con Cristo o contro Cristo” (“Either with Christ or against Christ”). A year later, Pope Pius excommunicated all Italian communists.

A combination of violence, manipulation of aid and other threats, and a huge propaganda campaign sufficed to determine the outcome of the critical 1948 election, essentially bought by US intervention and pressures.

The CIA operations to control the Italian elections, authorized by the National Security Council in December 1947, were the first major clandestine operation of the newly formed agency. CIA operations to subvert Italian democracy continued into the 1970s at a substantial scale.

In Italy, as well as elsewhere, US labor leaders, primarily from the AFL, played an active role in splitting and weakening the labor movement, and inducing workers to accept austerity measures while employers reaped rich profits. In France, the AFL had broken dock strikes by importing Italian scab labor paid by US businesses. The State Department called on the Federation’s leadership to exercise their talents in union-busting in Italy as well, and they were happy to oblige. The business sector, formerly discredited by its association with Italian fascism, undertook a vigorous class war with renewed confidence. The end result was the subordination of the working class and the poor to the traditional rulers.

Later commentators tend to see the US subversion of democracy in France and Italy as a defense of democracy. In a highly-regarded study of the CIA and American democracy, Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones describes “the CIA’s Italian venture,” along with its similar efforts in France, as “a democracy-propping operation,” though he concedes that “the selection of Italy for special attention … was by no means a matter of democratic principle alone;” our passion for democracy was reinforced by the strategic importance of the country. But it was a commitment to “democratic principle” that inspired the US government to impose the social and political regimes of its choice, using the enormous power at its command and exploiting the privation and distress of the victims of the war, who must be taught not to raise their heads if we are to have true democracy.

A more nuanced position is taken by James Miller in his monograph on US policies towards Italy. Summarizing the record, he concludes that “in retrospect, American involvement in the stabilization of Italy was a significant, if troubling, achievement. American power assured Italians the right to choose their future form of government and also was employed to ensure that they chose democracy. In defense of that democracy against real but probably overestimated foreign and domestic threats, the United States used undemocratic tactics that tended to undermine the legitimacy of the Italian state.”

The “foreign threats,” as he had already discussed, were hardly real; the Soviet Union watched from a distance as the US subverted the 1948 election and restored the traditional conservative order, keeping to its wartime agreement with Churchill that left Italy in the Western zone. The “domestic threat” was the threat of democracy.

The idea that US intervention provided Italians with freedom of choice while ensuring that they chose “democracy” (in our special sense of the term) is reminiscent of the attitude of the extreme doves towards Latin America: that its people should choose freely and independently — as long as doing so did not impact US interests adversely.

The democratic ideal, at home and abroad, is simple and straightforward: You are free to do what you want, as long as it is what we want you to do.

Note: Some of the material for this interview was adapted from excerpts from Deterring Democracy (Verso).

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.


C.J. Polychroniou is a political economist/political scientist who has taught and worked in universities and research centers in Europe and the United States. His main research interests are in European economic integration, globalization, the political economy of the United States and the deconstruction of neoliberalism’s politico-economic project. He is a regular contributor to Truthout as well as a member of Truthout’s Public Intellectual Project. He has published several books and his articles have appeared in a variety of journals, magazines, newspapers and popular news websites. Many of his publications have been translated into several foreign languages, including Croatian, French, Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Turkish. He is the author of Optimism Over Despair: Noam Chomsky On Capitalism, Empire, and Social Change, an anthology of interviews with Chomsky originally published at Truthout and collected by Haymarket Books.

Source: Noam Chomsky on the Long History of US Meddling in Foreign Elections


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Socialism can never surrender its commitment to democracy.

10 Nov

Socialism can never surrender its commitment to democracy


The Centennial of the Russian Revolution

November 7, 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution and the establishment of the world’s first socialist state. To commemorate the occasion, People’s World presents a series of articles providing wide-angled assessments of the revolution’s legacy, the Soviet Union and world communist movement which were born out of it, and the revolution’s relevance to radical politics today. Other articles in the series can be read here

November 8, 2017 2:02 PM CST  BY JOHN BACHTELL


The October Revolution took place 100 years ago, on November 7, 1917. Even though the Soviet Union no longer exists, the revolution which gave birth to it reverberates still as one of the greatest history-changing events of the 20th century.

Millions of Russian workers and peasants engaged in an act of self-emancipation. Everything that followed provides those seeking a modern 21st century socialism a wealth of lessons, from both its achievements and mistakes.

The October Revolution occurred in a stormy and desperate time of barbaric world war, poverty, hunger, and insurrection. The demands propelling it were simple: peace, land, and bread.

It marked the beginning of the world’s first great socialist experiment, the first break with the system of global capitalism. Millions of ordinary working men and women were charting the unknown. They carried no blueprints and tried building socialism in conditions not of their choosing. From its inception, the Soviet Union’s path was shaped by the harshest of circumstances: the legacy of feudalism, theocracy, and a violent and repressive autocratic state.

It inherited a Russia that was the “prison house of nations,” a brutal oppressor and exploiter of other nationalities and peoples. It was a land characterized by oppression of women, anti-Semitic pogroms, and repression of Islam. The industrial working class was tiny and the level of industrial development low. Illiteracy was the norm for millions, and there was little civil society, and only hollow supposedly democratic institutions.

Without pause, the Soviet Union was forced to rebuild from the devastation of World War I while defending itself against hostile encirclement and invasion by capitalist powers, including the United States. Many U.S. working people showed their solidarity for the Soviet Union and protested the U.S. intervention, even though they lacked the political power to prevent the attacks.



The inspirations and the setbacks of the early decades

Against incredible odds, the revolution inspired hope and unleashed creative energy. Millions of workers and peasants threw themselves into building a new society. Under the leadership of Lenin and the Bolsheviks, the Soviet Union adopted the most advanced democratic constitution the world had yet seen. It represented a government led by workers and peasants, established new democratic forms, equality for women and formerly oppressed nationalities, and basic rights to healthcare, education, and housing were enshrined. It declared the people the stewards of the nation’s vast natural resources.

Once the revolution was defended and after initial policy mistakes, the Soviet Union embarked on construction of a mixed economy guided by the New Economic Policy (NEP). The NEP was a policy that fit the actual state of development facing Russia, not an imagined or abstract one. It legalized multiple forms of property ownership, including private property, particularly of small landholdings, and foreign investment. The policy acknowledged that building socialism would be a protracted process; even after a socialist revolution, class society with all its restraints and inequities would be a feature of socialist construction for years to come.

Had Lenin lived, perhaps history would have turned out differently. But he died prematurely in 1924 and once Stalin assumed leadership, the NEP was scrapped in favor of forced expropriation of agricultural lands, collectivization, the centralization of power, and near total state ownership of industry.

With the threat of fascism rising in Germany, and its military machine aimed squarely at obliterating the world’s first socialist oriented state, the Soviet Union was forced into accelerated development. Under Stalin, this forced march was combined with fear of enemies, foreign and internal, real and increasingly invented. Political differences were viewed as political threats, and a culture of uniformity prevailed. Authoritarianism led to the enshrinement in the constitution of the Communist Party as the sole governing body and the development of a cult of personality around Stalin.

The campaign of fear reached its peak with the years of terror in 1937-38, when untold numbers of socialist patriots were executed and imprisoned, including substantial parts of the military general staff and Communist Party leadership.

Despite the terror of the ’30s, the now industrialized Soviet Union played the decisive role in the defeat of fascism in World War II. But the Soviet people bore an incalculable burden: Twenty-two million died and most of the country’s industrial and agricultural infrastructure, cities, villages, and farms lay in ruins.

Before it could rebuild itself from the rubble of World War II, the Soviet Union was forced to divert vast resources to the Cold War nuclear arms race with the United States and heightened competition with global capitalism.

The barrage of assaults of the first few decades of the new nation’s existence comprised an almost impossible set of circumstances for the world’s first socialist experiment. Every aspect of its development and its political and cultural life were impacted. The desperate and underdeveloped conditions and resulting chaos were fertile ground for the rise of Stalin and all subsequent crimes, imprisonments, and executions.



Moving on from Stalin

The Soviet Union may have survived Stalin, but it paid a price. The image of socialism and communism and the claim to democratic and moral authority suffered immeasurably. Marxism, as a creative body of thought, became stultified and dogmatic. This legacy, which seemed to contradict socialism’s democratic and humanitarian ideals, and the inability to fully overcome it, were also important factors in why socialism ultimately collapsed in the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc.

Despite all these negatives, the Soviet people could boast of vast achievements: modern industrial production that rivaled the U.S.; the ability to feed, clothe, and house its people; high-level scientific and technological development; universal literacy and access to health care and education; developed arts, sports, and culture; and formal social and economic equality for women and formerly oppressed minorities.

It provided immense aid to national liberation and anti-colonial movements, including Vietnam, Cuba, and the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. It assisted developing nations, funded modern infrastructure projects, and educated countless scientists, engineers, and other personnel around the world.

The Soviet Union and socialist-oriented states acted as a global counterweight to U.S. imperialism. It was the Soviet Union that took the first steps to end the Cold War arms race by unilaterally announcing a moratorium on nuclear testing and deep reductions in military personnel and weapons in the 1980s.

Competing with an economic system where exploitation was outlawed, and people came before corporate profits, capitalist countries around the world, including the U.S. capitalist class, were forced to make concessions to workers’ demands. Similarly, to avoid the appearance of hypocrisy, concessions were made on issues of racial equality.

Even with all the gains, there were, not surprisingly, many mistakes made in this period, too. They included wrong assessments of the level of socialist development that had been attained, premature egalitarianism, wage leveling, the declaration that national equality had been achieved, the persistence of Great Russian chauvinism, the inability to transition to economic and political decentralization, and the despoiling of the environment.

The Soviet Union never sufficiently developed genuine grassroots forms of democracy and instead relied on administrative methods. Pluralism of political parties and movements was never permitted. Religious faith was stigmatized and church properties confiscated. Suppression of dissent substituted for the messy battle of ideas and the give-and-take of democratic civil society. The importance of the latter is particularly obvious in our day, given rise of the internet and social media. The information revolution demands engagement rather than directives, something the Soviet system would have trouble dealing with.

The Soviet Union was unable to decisively break with this economic and political model, which, when combined with negative external factors facing the country, brought on a period of crisis in the 1970s and ’80s. In response, the Communist Party leadership eventually launched a program of reforms on the prompting of Mikhail Gorbachev. These reforms were, at least at first, aimed at deepening socialist democracy, including at the workplace, permitting an independent media, demilitarization, and restructuring the economy.

Against the background of these needed reforms, however, Soviet leaders were deeply divided, weakened, and paralyzed—including within the Communist Party. By this point, the bureaucracy had become too entrenched, careerism too rampant, the centralized model too embedded, resistance to change too deep, and resentment toward the CPSU too widespread.

Demilitarization of the economy stalled, and other reforms, including a looser federation of Soviet republics, spun out of control. Gorbachev’s downgrading class struggle and the haphazard way that reforms—including workers’ self-management, state enterprise autonomy, and the institution of market mechanisms—were introduced was disarming and confusing. Out of the chaos, pro-capitalist and nationalist forces and corrupt elements like Boris Yeltsin eventually gained the upper hand.

In 1991, after 74 years, the Soviet Union collapsed. Its death represented an immense tragedy and loss to humanity, gave a boost to global reaction, war, anti-socialism, and U.S. imperialist aggression.

Above all, it represented a colossal loss to the Soviet people. Out of its collapse rose a class of oligarchs who enriched themselves by stealing the vast wealth created by the Soviet people and by restoring exploitation. Today, the Russian people live in impoverishment and under repressive authoritarian rule.



Learning from the Soviet experience

What lessons can be learned?

People, including revolutionaries, make mistakes. But they can be corrected, including by carrying out needed reforms, if revolutionary movements, including their leaderships, promote the capacity for sober self-reflection and flexibility and avoid dogma.

People build socialism under conditions not of their choosing. Socialist revolutions take place under very different conditions shaped by a nation’s history, level of class and socialist consciousness and unity, material development, and store of resources. There are no eternal models for either the path to achieving working class political power or for the development of socialism.

U.S. socialism will be based on our political and historical realities, the high level of cultural and material development achieved in our country, and our long history of struggle for expanding democratic rights. It will be able to take into account the hard-won lessons of the world’s working class and people.

It will be shaped by the conscious activity of the multi-racial American people to expand economic and political democracy; overcome social, racial, and gender inequity; achieve a better, more secure, humane life and creative work; pursue a sustainable path of development; and demilitarize the economy and society.

Socialism in the United States can be achieved peacefully and democratically through the electoral arena. Its achievement will be a protracted process encompassing many stages. It will not occur through the barrel of a gun. In fact, Frederick Engels suggested as much in the late 1880s with the winning of the universal franchise. “The day of the storming of the barricades is over,” he said.

A mass movement of the overwhelming majority of the American people who are conscious of the need for socialism and working class political power can and must compel the capitalist class to accept a path chosen by the majority and restrict its ability to resist or use violence.

Central to all of this, of course, is the struggle for democracy, the extension of political and economic rights, and the growing engagement and conscious participation of a majority of working people in political activity and civil society.

One hundreds years later, the flame lit by the October Revolution burns bright. It is our task to honestly analyze it and learn the lessons of both its achievements and its shortcomings for the socialism of the future.



November 8, 2017 2:02 PM CST  BY JOHN BACHTELL ….John Bachtell is national chair of the Communist Party USA. Previously he was Illinois organizer for the party, and is active in labor, peace and justice struggles. He grew up in Ohio and currently lives in Chicago.


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Huey Newton’s Lessons for World Revolution in Our Times 

3 Nov


“Huey used the framework of dialectical materialism, which gave him the understanding that all development is a struggle between contradictions.”BAR contributor Danny Haiphong delivered the following remarks to a day-long conference on “Huey P. Newton: Our Struggle for Self-Determination and World Peace” October 28, at Temple University, in Philadelphia.

First, to discuss the significance of Huey P. Newton and the theory of revolutionary intercommunalism in the same space as Mumia Abu-Jamal, Yvonne King, and Regina Jennings is more than the word honor can describe. A big thanks to the Black and Brown Coalition for putting this conference together. The foundations for this conference reminded me of what Huey P. Newton said at the Revolutionary People’s Convention in 1970, which was also held at Temple:

“We who are gathered here by our presence do resolve to liberate our communities from the boot and whip of the oppressor so that people of good will may live their lives free from want, free from fear, and free from need.”

Huey Newton helped me take this pledge. As an alienated subject of empire, my family’s history cannot be separated from the US imperialist war on Vietnam’s just struggle for socialism. The Agent Orange sprayed over the lands of a quarter of the country and the imperial violence experienced by the people of Vietnam left an indelible mark on my personal history. Vietnam’s victory over the US, so repressed by the popular mythology of the US empire, led me to search for the truth about US wars not found in Ken Burns documentaries. Huey Newton helped me find the truth. He helped me see this period as one marked by war. Few others have raised the people’s subjective consciousness to the conditions of war and have prepared them to fight for global peace as Huey P. Newton.

“He connected the police occupation of the Black community to expand white capitalist profit to the wars waged by the US military abroad for the same purpose.”



Huey P. Newton conceptualized peace not as an abstract idea, but a material condition rooted in the interconnected development of history and political economy. The path he traveled to become a revolutionary warrior for peace was paved by the reality of endless war. Huey observed two forms of war. He founded the Black Panther Party first as a self-defense organization of the Black working class trapped in ghettos occupied and terrorized by the police. That was the first front of war. Huey then emphasized that Black people also needed to defend themselves from what the police protected: capitalism’s impoverishment of the Black community. He connected the police occupation of the Black community to expand white capitalist profit to the wars waged by the US military abroad for the same purpose. He believed that Black liberation was impossible without the support of the colonial peoples waging wars for national liberation and socialism.

Huey’s understanding of war propelled the Black Panther Party into a vanguard position in the world revolutionary movement for peace and socialism. His leadership represented the best of the Black Radical Tradition’s long history of international solidarity with the oppressed worldwide. He was instrumental in the development of the Black Panther Party’s international chapters in nations such as North Korea and Algeria and organized a delegation to socialist China just prior to Nixon’s historic trip in 1972. But Huey was neither an adventurist nor dogmatist. He was a Marxist-Leninist and believed that theory had to be grounded in the material reality of the people if it is to bring about revolutionary change.

“Newton believed that Black liberation was impossible without the support of the colonial peoples waging wars for national liberation and socialism.”



Huey Newton was a student of history who sought to advance the people to a higher level of consciousness than what had been achieved in prior generations of Black struggle. That is why Huey developed the theory of revolutionary intercommunalism. He observed that US imperialism was evolving into a high-tech, global empire. This empire degraded the condition of the working-class to the status of “unemployable.” Huey also observed that the US empire didn’t allow colonized nations to exercise independence without the threat of war. Advances in technology and the concentration of capital had placed humanity into one “global village.” Oppressed people faced the same oppressor not as nations, but as communities. Some of these communities, like socialist China, had liberated their territories and formed socialist, planned economies. Still others were completely dispossessed of the state power required to determine their own destinies.

Revolutionary intercommunalism was Huey’s contribution to Marxist theory as it applied to Black people and oppressed people worldwide. Imperialism was the central question. The peoples’ wars that were raging in Vietnam, Mozambique, and Uruguay when Huey introduced the concept in 1970 were profoundly important in the development of the theory. Huey studied their successes and their failures. He urged the Black Panther Party to reach out to national liberation movements wherever they resided. In a letter to the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam, he explained that:

“Our struggle for liberation is based upon justice and equality for all men. Thus we are interested in the people of any territory where the crack of the oppressor’s whip may be heard. We have the obligation to take the concept of internationalism to its final conclusion–the destruction of statehood itself. This will lead us to an era where the withering away of the state will occur and men will extend their hand in friendship throughout the world.”

Revolutionary intercommunalism presented a practical guide toward the goal of a classless world. That meant, as Huey explained, “it is imperative to defend people of color when they are attacked by American troops in other lands. These attacks are designed to continue the profit mongering of the ruling class. . .” The first lesson of revolutionary intercommunalism, then, is to oppose US imperialist war. The second is to unite with oppressed peoples subject to US imperialist war in a common program for human emancipation.

“Revolutionary intercommunalism was Huey’s contribution to Marxist theory as it applied to Black people and oppressed people worldwide.”

What else do we learn from revolutionary intercommunalism? We learn that the question of class is in fact not a matter of mere economics. That class is what shapes the interests of the global order and is attached to the hip of any real understanding of white supremacy or racism. That figures like Ta-Nahesi Coates talk about race as a static phenomenon detached from material reality, all in the name of personal class gain. The class from which Coates belongs ignores the world in its entirety. It makes attractive statements about the racist roots of the US but fails to acknowledge who those racist roots serve and how they serve them. It is much easier to lay the blame for oppression on white American foot soldiers of white supremacy than to look at the class in power. Especially if your goal is to be that class or make peace with that class.

Revolutionary intercommunalism, however, is about waging a people’s war for real peace in our time. We are faced with a dangerous global situation, more dangerous than the one Huey Newton inherited. The US imperialist system is playing with a world war scenario that has the potential to be more destructive than any war ever known to humanity. A bi-partisan consensus exists in the halls of Washington and the US military to wage war on Russia, China, and whatever independent political force gets in the way of their quest for unquestioned hegemony and guaranteed profit for the military, finance, and corporate capitalists, even if it means rendering the planet to nuclear dust. Millions have died in the US military’s endless war on the people of Syria, Iraq, and Libya. The DPRK, a friend of the Black Panther Party, hangs on to independence despite a constant barrage of US-backed provocations in the Korean Peninsula. Africa is almost entirely occupied by the US military in the hopes that China will cease economic activity with the resource rich continent. Political chaos and economic stagnation prevail in much of the world, especially in the so-called “developed” countries in the US and Western orbit.

“It is imperative to defend people of color when they are attacked by American troops in other lands.”



Yet war and peace is not the question on the order of the day for most who are engaged in the struggle for social justice of any kind. There is little identification with the oppressed classes of the world because few in the struggle identify as a class. Few US-based left tendencies, organizations, and groups offer solidarity to oppressed people facing the same enemy that exists here. In fact, a lot of them repeat the mantras of the empire and place themselves in the imperialist camp. Not only have the people of Syria, Libya, Korea, and elsewhere suffered from this fatal error, but so too have poor and working class people in the US suffered, especially the Black poor. Black wealth is approaching zero, joblessness and poverty is rampant, and the mass incarceration state refuses to let up in a period where it takes nearly a trillion in US tax dollars to maintain US military supremacy worldwide. It is as if we should forget that the NYPD receives training in Israel or that the same weapons deployed to local police against the Black community are used to arm US-backed fascists in Ukraine, Syria, and elsewhere. We are living in an era characterized by full spectrum counter-insurgency warfare enforced by the dominant class.

As Huey proclaimed, the root of the endless war that exists in the world is what unites the oppressed beyond national boundaries. Black Americans share a common enemy with Syrians, Libyans, Russians (yes that’s right, Russians), and Venezuelans to name just a few. That enemy, US imperialism, is more consolidated than during the era of the Panthers. Technology has advanced and confirmed Huey’s analysis that a mass of unemployed proletarians would disrupt the economic stability of the system. US imperialism is more desperate in the 21st century than maybe ever before. It can no longer invade or indebt its way out of economic slowdown. The markets have dried up and much of the planet is looking to China to provide relief amid the destruction that US domination has wrought. As the contradictions become more acute, revolutionary intercommunalism helps inform our answer to the question, where do we go from here?

“Africa is almost entirely occupied by the US military in the hopes that China will cease economic activity with the resource rich continent.”

We can begin to answer this question by recognizing that the method that Huey utilized to devise the theory of revolutionary intercommunalism is just as important as the content of the theory itself. Revolutionary intercommunalism was a specific application of Marxist theory to existing historical conditions. It required a deep study and investigation into the developments of the historical epoch from which Huey lived. The precarious position of the Black poor and the explosive wars that the US empire had imposed on the peoples of the world led Huey to the conclusion that exploited people in the US mainland had to transcend their understanding of what a nation was. The US was no longer a nation, it was an empire destroying national liberation struggles abroad in a similar manner to which it violently opposed any effort by Black America to form its own nation. And Black Americans needed to build international alliances if they were to gain the strength necessary to defeat a global enemy.

The most appropriate way to celebrate revolutionary intercommunalism is to study Huey P. Newton’s methodology. First, we must assist the masses in applying intercommunal thought to the present condition of the masses. We must investigate global developments and make firm conclusions about who can be trusted as friends of the exploited and oppressed in the US, and who are the enemies of peace and liberation. Huey used the framework of dialectical materialism, which gave him the understanding that all development is a struggle between contradictions. These contradictions inevitably produce change at specific stages of the development process. We must harness this mode of thought to understand the forces at play in our current stage of development.

“Black Americans share a common enemy with Syrians, Libyans, Russians (yes that’s right, Russians), and Venezuelans to name just a few.”



Second, we must understand that the conclusions we come to in the 21st century will differ in form but not in substance to Huey’s interpretation of Marxism. A specter of crisis haunts the US imperialist system that was unknown five decades ago. The US is in fact losing its grip on hegemony in the world, especially in the economic realm. US imperialism’s total share of the world economy is shrinking. China, a developed socialist economy, is set to surpass the US as the largest in the world in the coming years. This has sent US imperialism into a state of desperation, launching war after war in hopes that the world will submit to its continued domination.

On the domestic front, there are signs that the masses are rudely awakening to the reality that US imperialism has little to offer except misery and alienation. That was the lesson of the 2016 Presidential elections. US imperialism’s crisis is defined by a terminal decline evident in all spheres of society. More than half of the population in the US is poor and unable to pay for $500 emergencies when they arise. Healthcare remains in private hands and the costs keeps rising. Police repression in poor Black communities continues to intensify. Low-wage jobs and unemployment dominate the economic landscape as automation compels workers to work faster and longer for less pay. The war on the poor is the only means the system has left to maximize profit yet this has come at a significant cost to both the masses and the rulers. The masses feel the burden of poverty and the rulers feel the coming storm of collapse when reality sets in that what the poor produces cannot be absorbed back into the economy without producing harsher and ever more burdensome crises.

“Black Americans needed to build international alliances if they were to gain the strength necessary to defeat a global enemy.”

Huey Newton taught us that the inherent contradictions of US imperialism lead to seismic change. He taught us that the war at home is the war abroad. There is no time to allow so-called leftists who spend their time condemning oppressed people worldwide to continue to lead. These forces must be isolated, and their positions thrown into the dustbin of history. New relations among people in the US will be born out of a deep consciousness of the condition of the oppressed under the gun of empire. Revolutionary intercommunalism was Huey’s call to investigate the common experience of exploited classes and act on this investigation by developing an international political program that can strengthen our struggle in the belly of the empire.

We can start putting Huey’s theory into practice by extending a hand of friendship and solidarity to the targets of empire. The people of the world, though always empathetic to the struggles of oppressed people in the US, cannot possibly trust a movement that does not recognize their rightful struggle against US imperialism. Unlike charities or NGOs which are designed to enrich the oligarchy and subvert self-determination, intercommunal solidarity is driven by the people themselves. If we conclude that oppressed communities share a common enemy, then we must plan a course of action that will bring our common struggle closer to a victorious conclusion.



Source: Huey Newton’s Lessons for World Revolution in Our Times | Black Agenda Report



The “Rigged System” holds no future for the 99% a Political Revolution does Left Wing & Progressive books & blogs fah451bks.wordpress.com

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