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What It Means to Be a Socialist, Socialists do not sacrifice the weak and the vulnerable, especially children, on the altars of profit.

22 Sep

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And the measure of a successful society for a socialist is not the GDP or the highs of the stock market but the right of everyone, especially children, never go to bed hungry, to live in safety and security, to be nurtured and educated, and to grow up fulfill his or her potential. Work is not only about a wage, it is about dignity and a sense of self-worth. If you will not dismantle our empire and bring our soldiers and Marines home you are not a socialist. Posted on Sep 20, 2015 Truthdig By Chris Hedges

 

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We live in a revolutionary moment. The disastrous economic and political experiment that attempted to organize human behavior around the dictates of the global marketplace has failed. The promised prosperity that was to have raised the living standards of workers through trickle-down economics has been exposed as a lie. A tiny global oligarchy has amassed obscene wealth, while the engine of unfettered corporate capitalism plunders resources, exploits cheap, unorganized labor and creates pliable, corrupt governments that abandon the common good to serve corporate profit. The relentless drive by the fossil fuel industry for profits is destroying the ecosystem, threatening the viability of the human species. And no mechanisms to institute genuine reform or halt the corporate assault are left within the structures of power, which have surrendered to corporate control. The citizen has become irrelevant. He or she can participate in heavily choreographed elections, but the demands of corporations and banks are paramount.

History has amply demonstrated that the seizure of power by a tiny cabal, whether a political party or a clique of oligarchs, leads to despotism. Governments that cater exclusively to a narrow interest group and redirect the machinery of state to furthering the interests of that group are no longer capable of responding rationally in times of crisis. Blindly serving their masters, they acquiesce to the looting of state treasuries to bail out corrupt financial houses and banks while ignoring chronic unemployment and underemployment, along with stagnant or declining wages, crippling debt peonage, a collapsing infrastructure, and the millions left destitute and often homeless by deceptive mortgages and foreclosures. A bankrupt liberal class, holding up values it does nothing to defend, discredits itself as well as the purported liberal values of a civil democracy as it is swept aside, along with those values. In this moment, a political, economic or natural disaster—in short a crisis—will ignite unrest, lead to instability and see the state carry out draconian forms of repression to maintain “order.” This is what lies ahead.

We will, as Friedrich Engels wrote, make a transition to either socialism or barbarism. If we do not dismantle global capitalism we will descend into the Hobbesian chaos of failed states, mass migrations—which we are already witnessing—and endless war. Populations, especially in the global South, will endure misery and high mortality rates caused by collapsing ecosystems and infrastructures on a scale not seen since perhaps the black plague. There can be no accommodation with global capitalism. We will overthrow this system or be crushed by it. And at this moment of crisis we need to remind ourselves what being a socialist means and what it does not mean.

First and foremost, all socialists are unequivocal anti-militarists and anti-imperialists. They understand that there is no genuine social, political, economic or cultural reform as long as the militarists and their corporatist allies in the war industry continue to loot and pillage the state budget, leaving the poor to go hungry, workingmen and -women in distress, the infrastructure to collapse and social services to be slashed in the name of austerity. The psychosis of permanent war, which infected the body politic after World War I with the internal and external war on communism, and which today has mutated into the war on terror, is used by the state to strip us of civil liberties, redirect our resources to the war machine and criminalize democratic dissent. We have squandered trillions of dollars and resources in endless and futile wars, from Vietnam to the Middle East, at a time of ecological and fiscal crisis. The folly of endless war is one of the signs of a dying civilization. One F-22 Raptor fighter plane costs $350 million. We have 187 of them. One Tomahawk cruise missile costs $1.41 million. We fired 161 of them when we attacked Libya. This missile attack on Libya alone cost us a quarter of a billion dollars. We spend an estimated $1.7 trillion a year on war, far more than the official 54 percent of discretionary spending, or roughly $600 billion. If we don’t break the back of the war machine, profound change will be impossible.

We have been at war almost continuously since the first Gulf War in 1991, followed by Somalia in 1992, Haiti in 1994, Bosnia in 1995, Serbia-Kosovo in 1999, Afghanistan in 2001, where we have now been fighting for 14 years, and Iraq in 2003. And we can toss in Yemen, Libya, Pakistan and Syria, along with Israel’s proxy war against the Palestinian people.

The human cost has been horrendous. Over 1 million dead in Iraq. Millions more are displaced or are refugees. Iraq will never be reconstituted as a unified state. And it was our war industry that created the mess. We attacked a country that did not threaten us, and had no intention of threatening its neighbors, and destroyed one of the most modern infrastructures in the Middle East. We brought not only terror and death—including the Shiite death squads we armed and trained—but power outages, food shortages and the collapse of basic services, from garbage collection to sewer and water treatment. We dismantled Iraq’s institutions, disbanded its security forces, threw its health service into crisis and engineered massive poverty and unemployment. And out of the chaos rose insurgents, gangsters, kidnapping rings, jihadists and rogue paramilitary groups—including our hired mercenaries, like [the current army of] Iraq. Gary Leupp in an article in Counterpunch titled “How George W. Bush Destroyed the Temple of Baal” got it when he wrote:

 

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Bush destroyed the law and order which had permitted girls to walk to school, heads uncovered, in modern western dress. He destroyed the freedom of physicians and other professionals to go about their work and caused masses of them to exit their country. He destroyed neighborhoods whose residents were forced to flee for their lives. He destroyed the Christian community, which dropped from 1.5 million in 2001 to perhaps 200,000 a decade later. He destroyed the prevalent ideology of secularism and ushered in an era of bitterly contested sectarian rule. He destroyed the right to broadcast rock ‘n roll music, or sell liquor and DVDs.

He destroyed the stability of Anbar province by sowing the chaos that allowed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to establish—for the first time—an al-Qaeda branch in Iraq.

He destroyed the stability of Syria when “Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia” (now ISIL) retreated into that neighboring country during the “surge” of 2007. By creating power vacuums and generating new chapters and spin-offs of al-Qaeda, he destroyed Yazidi communities and their freedom from genocide and slavery. By hatching the forerunner of ISIL, he destroyed the prospects for a peaceful “Arab Spring” in Syria three years after his presidency ended.

Through his actions he destroyed the border between Syria and Iraq. He destroyed the Tomb of Jonah in Mosul. He destroyed 3,300 year old monuments, the glorious art of the Assyrians, in Nimrud. On August 23 while sitting in his home artist’s studio in Crawford, Texas, he destroyed the 2,000-year-old Temple of Baalshamin in Palmyra, Syria.

The most complete structure in that gorgeous pearl of an ancient preserved city, a mix of Roman, Syrian and Egyptian artistic influences, is now a pile of rubble.

Foreign battlefields are laboratories for the architects of industrial slaughter. They perfect the tools of control and annihilation on the demonized and the destitute. But these tools eventually make their way back to the heart of empire. As the corporatists and the militarists disembowel the nation, rendering our manufacturing centers boarded-up wastelands and tossing our citizens into poverty and despair, the methods of subjugation familiar to those on the outer reaches migrate back to us—wholesale surveillance, indiscriminate use of lethal force in the streets of our cities against unarmed citizens, a stripping away of our civil liberties, a dysfunctional court system, drones, arbitrary arrest, detention and mass incarceration. The tyranny empire imposes on others, as Thucydides reminded us, it finally imposes on itself. Those who kill in our name abroad soon kill in our name at home. Democracy is snuffed out. As the German socialist Karl Liebknecht said during the First World War: “The main enemy is at home.” We will destroy the engines of endless war and shut down the war profiteers or we will become the next victims; indeed many in our marginal communities already are its victims.

You cannot be a socialist and an imperialist. You cannot, as Bernie Sanders has done, support the Obama administration’s wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen and be a socialist. You cannot, as Sanders has done, vote for every military appropriations bill, including every bill and resolution that empowers and sanctions Israel to carry out its slow-motion genocide of the Palestinian people, and be a socialist. And you cannot laud, as Sanders has done, military contractors because they bring jobs to your state. Sanders may have the rhetoric of inequality down, but he is a full-fledged member of the Democratic Caucus, which kneels before the war industry and their lobbyists. And no genuine grass-roots movement will ever be born within the bowels of the Democratic Party establishment, which is currently attempting to shut down Sanders to make sure its anointed candidate is the nominee. No elected official dares to challenge any weapons system, no matter how costly or redundant. And Sanders, who votes with the Democrats 98 percent of the time, steers clear of confronting the master of war.

Sanders, of course, like all elected officials, profits from this Faustian pact. The Vermont Democratic Party leadership, in return for his deference, has not supported any candidate to run against Sanders since 1990. Sanders endorses Democratic candidates, no matter how much they push neoliberalism down our throats, including Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. And Sanders, carrying water for the Democrats, is the primary obstacle to the building of a third party in Vermont.

There is a reason no establishment politician, including Sanders, dares say a word against the war industry. If you do, you end up like Ralph Nader, tossed into the political wilderness. Nader was not afraid to speak this truth. And it is in the wilderness, I am afraid, that real socialists must for the moment reside. Socialists understand that if we do not dismantle the war industry, nothing, absolutely nothing, will change; indeed, things will only get worse.

War is a business. Imperial wars seize natural resources on behalf of corporations and ensure the profits of the arms industry. This is as true in Iraq as it was in our campaigns of genocide against Native Americans. And, as A. Philip Randolph said, it is only when it is impossible to profit from war that wars will be dramatically curtailed, if not stopped. No one sitting in the boardroom of General Dynamics is hoping peace breaks out in the Middle East. No one in the Pentagon, especially the generals who build their careers by fighting and managing wars, prays for a cessation of conflict.

 

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War, wrapped in the cant of nationalism and the euphoria that comes with the giddy celebration of power and violence, is used by ruling elites to thwart and destroy the aspirations of workingmen and -women and distract us from our disempowerment.

“Wars throughout history have been waged for conquest and plunder. … And that is war, in a nutshell,” the [five-time] socialist presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs said during World War I. “The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles.”

Debs, who in 1912 received almost a million votes, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for saying this. The judge who sentenced him denounced those “who would strike the sword from the hand of this nation while she is engaged in defending herself against a foreign and brutal power.”

“I have been accused of obstructing the war,” Debs said in court. “I admit it. I abhor war. I would oppose war if I stood alone.”

Debs, who would spend 32 months in prison, until 1921, also delivered to many a socialist credo at his sentencing after being found guilty of violating the Espionage Act:

“Your honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it. While there is a criminal element, I am of it. While there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”

The capitalist class and its doppelgängers in the military establishment have carried out what John Ralston Saul calls a coup d’état in slow motion. The elites use war, as they always have, as a safety valve for class conflict. War, as W.E.B. Du Bois said, creates an artificial community of interest between the oligarchs and the poor, diverting the poor from their natural interests. The redirecting of national frustrations and emotions into the struggle against a common enemy, the cant of patriotism, the endemic racism that is the fuel of all ideologies that sustain war, the false bonding that comes with the sense of comradeship, seduces those on the margins of society. They feel in wartime that they belong. They feel they have a place. They are offered the chance to be heroes. And off they march like sheep to the slaughter. By the time they find out, it is too late.

“Modern totalitarianism can integrate the masses so completely into the political structure, through terror and propaganda, that they become the architects of their own enslavement,” wrote Dwight Macdonald. “This does not make slavery less, but on the contrary more—a paradox there is no space to unravel here. Bureaucratic collectivism, not capitalism, is the most dangerous future enemy of socialism.”

“War,” as Randolph Bourne wrote, “is the health of the state.” It allows the state to accrue to itself power and resources that in peacetime a citizenry would never permit. And that is why the war state, like the one we live in, has to make certain that we are always afraid. Constant violence by the war machine, we are assured, will alone make us safe. Any attempt to rein in spending or expanding power will profit the enemy.

It was the militarists and the capitalists that at the end of World War II conspired to roll back the gains made by workingmen and -women under the New Deal. They used the rhetoric of the Cold War to cement into place an economy geared towards total war, even in peacetime. This permitted the arms industry to continue to make weapons, with guaranteed profits from the state, and permitted the generals to continue to preside over their fiefdoms. The incestuous relations between the corporatists and the militarists see retired generals and officers offered lucrative jobs in the war industry.

The manufacturing of weapons systems and the waging of war is today the chief activity of the state. It is no longer one among other means of advancing the national interest, as Simone Weil pointed out, but has become the sole national interest. These corporatists and militarists are the enemy of socialists. They bankrolled and promoted movements in the early 20th century that called for reforms within these structures of capitalism—that spoke in the language of the “politics of productivism,” that eschewed the language of class conflict and talked only about economic growth and a partnership with the capitalist class. The NAACP, for example, was formed to lure African-Americans away from the Communist Party, the only radical organization in the early 20th century that did not discriminate. The AFL-CIO was [later] fed CIA money to help crush and supplant radical unions abroad and at home. The AFL-CIO, like the NAACP, is today a victim of its own corruption and bureaucratic senility. Its bloated leadership pulls down huge salaries as its dwindling rank and file is stripped of benefits and protections. The capitalists no longer need what they once called “responsible” unionism—which meant pliable unionism. And once the capitalists and the militarists killed off the radical movements and unions they finished off the dupes who had helped them do it. And that is why less than 12 percent of our country’s workforce is unionized and why we have such vast income disparities and chronic unemployment and underemployment. Surplus labor, desperate for work and unwilling to challenge the bosses to retain a job, is the bulwark of capitalism.

 

 

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The radicals, such as the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), or Wobblies, founded by Mother Jones and Big Bill Haywood in 1905, were destroyed by the state. Department of Justice agents in 1912 made simultaneous raids on 48 IWW meeting halls across the country and arrested 165 IWW union leaders. One hundred one went to trial, including Big Bill Haywood, who testified for three days. One of the IWW leaders told the court:

You ask me why the I.W.W. is not patriotic to the United States. If you were a bum without a blanket; if you had left your wife and kids when you went west for a job, and had never located them since; if your job had never kept you long enough in a place to qualify you to vote; if you slept in a lousy, sour bunkhouse, and ate food just as rotten as they could give you and get by with it; if deputy sheriffs shot your cooking cans full of holes and spilled your grub on the ground; if your wages were lowered on you when the bosses thought they had you down; if there was one law forFord, Suhr, and Mooney and another for Harry Thaw: if every person who represented law and order and the nation beat you up, railroaded you to jail, and the good Christian people cheered and told them to go to it, how in hell do you expect a man to be patriotic?

This war is a business man’s war and we don’t see why we should go out and get shot in order to save the lovely state of affairs that we now enjoy.

The Wobblies once led strikes involving hundreds of thousands of workers and preached an uncompromising doctrine of class warfare. It went the way of the passenger pigeon. The Socialist Party by 1912 had 126,000 members, 1,200 officeholders in 340 municipalities, and 29 English and 22 foreign-language weeklies, along with three English and six foreign-language dailies. It included in its ranks tenant farmers, garment workers, railroad workers, coal miners, hotel and restaurant workers, dock workers and lumberjacks. It too was liquidated by the state. Socialist leaders were jailed or deported. Socialist publications such as The Masses and Appeal to Reason were banned. The assault, aided later by McCarthyism, has left us without the vocabulary to make sense of our own reality, to describe the class war being waged against us by our corporate oligarchs. And it has left us without the radical movements that, as Howard Zinn made clear, opened up all the spaces in American democracy.

We will regain this militancy, this uncompromising commitment to socialism, or the system the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin calls “inverted totalitarianism” will establish the most efficient security and surveillance state in human history and a species of neofeudalism. We must stop pouring our energy into mainstream political campaigns. The game is rigged. We will rebuild our radical movements or become hostages to the capitalists and the war industry. Fear is the only language the power elite understands. This is a dark fact of human nature. It is why Richard Nixon was our last liberal president. Nixon was not a liberal [personally]. He was devoid of empathy and lacked a conscience. But he was frightened of movements. You do not make your enemy afraid by selling out. You make your enemy afraid by refusing to submit, by fighting for your vision and by organizing. It is not our job to take power. It is our job to build movements to keep power in check. Without these movements nothing is possible.

“You get freedom by letting your enemy know that you’ll do anything to get your freedom; then you’ll get it,” Malcolm X said.  “When you get that kind of attitude, they’ll label you as a ‘crazy Negro,’ or they’ll call you a “crazy nigger”—they don’t say Negro. Or they’ll call you an extremist or a subversive, or seditious, or a red, or a radical. But when you stay radical long enough, and get enough people to be like you, you’ll get your freedom. … So don’t you run around here trying to make friends with somebody who’s depriving you of your rights. They’re not your friends, no, they’re your enemies. Treat them like that and fight them, and you’ll get your freedom; and after you get your freedom, your enemy will respect you. And I say that with no hate. I don’t have hate in me. I have no hate at all. I don’t have any hate. I’ve got some sense. I’m not going to let anybody who hates me tell me to love him.”

The New Deal—which as Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a charter member of the oligarchic class, said—saved capitalism, was put in place because socialists were strong and a serious threat. The oligarchs understood that with the breakdown of capitalism—something I expect we will again witness in our lifetimes—there was a real possibility of a socialist revolution. They were terrified they would lose their wealth and power. Roosevelt, writing to a friend in 1930, said there was “no question in my mind that it is time for the country to become fairly radical for at least one generation. History shows that where this occurs occasionally, nations are saved from revolution.”

In other words, Roosevelt went to his fellow oligarchs and said hand over some of your money or you will lose all your money in a revolution. And his fellow capitalists complied. And that is how the government created 15 million jobs, Social Security, unemployment benefits and public works projects. The capitalists did not do this because the suffering of the masses moved them. They did this because they were scared. And they were sacred of radicals and socialists.

 

NO WAR BUT CLASS WAR!

                                           NO WAR BUT CLASS WAR!

 

George Bernard Shaw got it right in his play “Major Barbara.” The greatest crime is poverty. It is the crime every socialist is dedicated to eradicating. As Shaw wrote:

All the other crimes are virtues beside it; all the other dishonors are chivalry itself by comparison. Poverty blights whole cities, spreads horrible pestilences, strikes dead the very souls of all who come within sight, sound, or smell of it. What you call crime is nothing: a murder here and a theft there, a blow now and a curse then. What do they matter? They are only the accidents and illnesses of life; there are not fifty genuine professional criminals in London. But there are millions of poor people, abject people, dirty people, ill-fed, ill-clothed people. They poison us morally and physically; they kill the happiness of society; they force us to do away with our own liberties and to organize unnatural cruelties for fear they should rise against us and drag us down into their abyss. Only fools fear crime; we all fear poverty.

We must stop looking for our salvation in strong leaders. Strong people, as Ella Baker said, do not need strong leaders. Politicians, even good politicians, play the game of compromise and are too often seduced by the privileges of power. Sanders, from all I can tell, began his political life as a socialist in the 1960s when this was hardly a bold political statement, but quickly figured out he was not going to have a seat at the table if he remained one. He wants his seniority in the Senate. He wants his committee chairmanships. He wants his ability to retain his seat unchallenged. This was no doubt politically astute. But in this process he sold us out.

Jeremy Corbyn, the new head of the [British] Labour Party, offers another example. He spent three decades marginalized even within his own party because he held fast to the central tenets of socialism. And as the lie of neoliberalism, championed by the two ruling parties in Britain, became apparent, people knew whom they could trust. Corbyn never made an astute career move in his life. And that is why the establishment is so frightened of him. They know they cannot buy Corbyn off, any more than you could buy off Mother Jones or Big Bill Haywood. Integrity and courage are powerful weapons. We have to learn how to use them. We have to stand up for what we believe in. And we have to accept the risks and even the ridicule that comes with this stance. We will not prevail any other way.

As a socialist I am not concerned with what is expedient or what is popular. I am concerned with what is right. I am concerned with holding fast to the core ideals of socialism, if for no other reason than keeping this option alive for future generations. And these ideals are the only ones that make possible a better world.

If you will not call for an arms embargo along with the boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, you are not a socialist. If you will not demand we dismantle our military establishment, which is managing the government’s wholesale surveillance of every citizen and storing all our personal information in perpetuity in government computer banks, and if you will not abolish the for-profit arms industry, you are not a socialist. If you will not call for the prosecution of those leaders, including George W. Bush and Barack Obama, who engage in aggressive acts of pre-emptive war, which under post-Nuremberg laws is a criminal act, you are not a socialist. If you will not stand with the oppressed across the globe you are not a socialist. Socialists do not pick and choose whom among the oppressed it is convenient to support. Socialists understand that you stand with all the oppressed or none of the oppressed, that this is a global fight for life against global corporate tyranny. We will win only when we stand together, when we see the struggle of workingmen in Greece, Spain and Egypt as our own struggle.

 

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If you will not call for full employment and unionized workplaces you are not a socialist. If you will not call for inexpensive mass transit, especially in impoverished communities, you are not a socialist. If you will not call for universal, single-payer health care and a banning of for-profit health care corporations you are not a socialist. If you will not raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour you are not a socialist. If you are not willing to provide a weekly income of $600 to the unemployed, the disabled, stay-at-home parents, the elderly and those unable to work you are not a socialist. If you will not repeal anti-union laws, like the Taft-Hartley Act, and trade agreements from NAFTA to the TPP and CAFTA, you are not a socialist. If you will not guarantee all Americans a pension in old age you are not a socialist. If you will not support two years of paid maternity leave, as well as shorter workweeks with no loss in pay and benefits, you are not a socialist. If you will not repeal the Patriot Act and Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act as well as halt government spying on citizens, along with mass incarceration, you are not a socialist. If you will not put into place laws that prohibit all forms of male violence against women and criminalize the trafficking and pimping out of prostituted girls and women, while not criminalizing the exploited girls and women, you are not a socialist. If you do not support a woman’s right to control her own body you are not a socialist. If you do not support full equality for our GBLT community you are not a socialist. If you will not declare global warming a national and global emergency and divert our energy and resources to saving the planet through public investment in renewable energy and an end to our reliance on fossil fuels you are not a socialist. If you will not nationalize public utilities, including the railroads, energy companies and banks, you are not a socialist. If you will not support government funding for the arts and public broadcasting to create places where creativity, self-expression and voices of dissent can be heard and seen you are not a socialist. If you will not terminate our nuclear weapons programs and build a nuclear-free world you are not a socialist. If you will not demilitarize our police, meaning that police no longer carry weapons when they patrol our streets but rely on specialized armed units that have to be authorized case-by-case to use lethal force, you are not a socialist. If you will not support government training and rehabilitation programs for the poor and those in our prisons, along with the abolition of the death penalty, you are not a socialist. If you will not grant full citizenship to undocumented workers you are not a socialist. If you do not declare a moratorium on foreclosures and bank repossessions you are not a socialist. If you will not provide free education from day care to university, and forgive all student debt, you are not a socialist. And if you will not provide free, state-run mental health care, especially for those now caged in our prisons, you are not a socialist. If you will not dismantle our empire and bring our soldiers and Marines home you are not a socialist.

Socialists do not sacrifice the weak and the vulnerable, especially children, on the altars of profit. And the measure of a successful society for a socialist is not the GDP or the highs of the stock market but the right of everyone, especially children, never go to bed hungry, to live in safety and security, to be nurtured and educated, and to grow up fulfill his or her potential. Work is not only about a wage, it is about dignity and a sense of self-worth.

I am not naive about the forces arrayed against us. I understand the difficulty of our struggle. But we will never succeed if we attempt to accommodate the current structures of power. Our strength lies in our steadfastness and our integrity. It lies in our ability to hold fast to our ideals, as well as our willingness to sacrifice for those ideals. We must refuse to cooperate. We must march to the beat of a different drum. We must rebel. And we must grasp that rebellion is not carried out finally for what it achieves, but for whom it allows us to become. Rebellion sustains in an age of darkness hope and the capacity for love. Rebellion must become our vocation.

“You do not become a ‘dissident’ just because you decide one day to take up this most unusual career,” Vaclav Havel said when he battled the communist regime in Czechoslovakia. “You are thrown into it by your personal sense of responsibility, combined with a complex set of external circumstances. You are cast out of the existing structures and placed in a position of conflict with them. It begins as an attempt to do your work well, and ends with being branded an enemy of society. … The dissident does not operate in the realm of genuine power at all. He is not seeking power. He has no desire for office and does not gather votes. He does not attempt to charm the public. He offers nothing and promises nothing. He can offer, if anything, only his own skin—and he offers it solely because he has no other way of affirming the truth he stands for. His actions simply articulate his dignity as a citizen, regardless of the cost.”

 

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These neoliberal forces are rapidly destroying the earth. Polar ice caps and glaciers are melting. Temperatures and sea levels are rising. Species are gong extinct. Floods, monster hurricanes, mega-droughts and wildfires have begun to eat away at the planet. The great mass migrations predicted by climate scientists have begun. And even if we stopped all carbon emissions today we would still endure the effects of catastrophic climate change. Out of the disintegrating order comes the nihilistic violence that always characterizes societies that fall apart—mass shootings at home and religious persecution, beheadings and executions by individuals that neoliberalism and globalism have demonized, attacked and discarded as human refuse.

I cannot promise you we will win. I cannot promise you we will even survive as a species. But I can promise you that an open and sustained defiance of global capitalism and the merchants of death, along with the building of a socialist movement, is our only hope. I am a parent, as are many of you. We have betrayed our children. We have squandered their future. And if we rise up, even if we fail, future generations, and especially those who are most precious to us, will be able to say we tried, that we stood up and fought for life. The call to resistance, which will require civil disobedience and jail time, is finally a call to the moral life. Resistance is not about what we achieve, but about what it allows us to become. In the end, I do not fight fascists because I will win. I fight fascists because they are fascists.

 

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Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt By Chris Hedges

 

 

 

Revolutions come in waves and cycles. We are again riding the crest of a revolutionary epic, much like 1848 or 1917, from the Arab Spring to movements against austerity in Greece to the Occupy movement. In Wages of Rebellion, Chris Hedges—who has chronicled the malaise and sickness of a society in terminal moral decline in his books Empire of Illusion and Death of the Liberal Class—investigates what social and psychological factors cause revolution, rebellion, and resistance. Drawing on an ambitious overview of prominent philosophers, historians, and literary figures he shows not only the harbingers of a coming crisis but also the nascent seeds of rebellion. Hedges’ message is clear: popular uprisings in the United States and around the world are inevitable in the face of environmental destruction and wealth polarization.

Focusing on the stories of rebels from around the world and throughout history, Hedges investigates what it takes to be a rebel in modern times. Utilizing the work of Reinhold Niebuhr, Hedges describes the motivation that guides the actions of rebels as “sublime madness” — the state of passion that causes the rebel to engage in an unavailing fight against overwhelmingly powerful and oppressive forces. For Hedges, resistance is carried out not for its success, but as a moral imperative that affirms life. Those who rise up against the odds will be those endowed with this “sublime madness.”

From South African activists who dedicated their lives to ending apartheid, to contemporary anti-fracking protests in Alberta, Canada, to whistleblowers in pursuit of transparency,Wages of Rebellion shows the cost of a life committed to speaking the truth and demanding justice. Hedges has penned an indispensable guide to rebellion.

The Folly of Empire; “At times when the page is turning,” “Castle to Castle,” “when History brings all the nuts together, opens its Epic Dance Halls! hats and heads in the whirlwind! Panties overboard!”

16 Sep

Nietzsche on the State

 

The final days of empire give ample employment and power to the feckless, the insane and the idiotic. These politicians and court propagandists, hired to be the public faces on the sinking ship, mask the real work of the crew, which is systematically robbing the passengers as the vessel goes down. The mandarins of power stand in the wheelhouse barking ridiculous orders and seeing how fast they can gun the engines. They fight like children over the ship’s wheel as the vessel heads full speed into a giant ice field. They wander the decks giving pompous speeches. They shout that the SS America is the greatest ship ever built. They insist that it has the most advanced technology and embodies the highest virtues. And then, with abrupt and unexpected fury, down we will go into the frigid waters.

The last days of empire are carnivals of folly. We are in the midst of our own, plunging forward as our leaders court willful economic and environmental self-destruction. Sumer and Rome went down like this. So did the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires. Men and women of stunning mediocrity and depravity led the monarchies of Europe and Russia on the eve of World War I. And America has, in its own decline, offered up its share of weaklings, dolts and morons to steer it to destruction. A nation that was still rooted in reality would never glorify charlatans such as Sen. Ted Cruz, House Speaker John Boehner and former Speaker Newt Gingrich as they pollute the airwaves. If we had any idea what was really happening to us we would have turned in fury against Barack Obama, whose signature legacy will be utter capitulation to the demands of Wall Street, the fossil fuel industry, the military-industrial complex and the security and surveillance state. We would have rallied behind those few, such as Ralph Nader, who denounced a monetary system based on gambling and the endless printing of money and condemned the willful wrecking of the ecosystem. We would have mutinied. We would have turned the ship back.

 

The Robber Barons

 

The populations of dying empires are passive because they are lotus-eaters. There is a narcotic-like reverie among those barreling toward oblivion. They retreat into the sexual, the tawdry and the inane, retreats that are momentarily pleasurable but ensure self-destruction. They naively trust it will all work out. As a species, Margaret Atwood observes in her dystopian novel “Oryx and Crake,” “we’re doomed by hope.” And absurd promises of hope and glory are endlessly served up by the entertainment industry, the political and economic elite, the class of courtiers who pose as journalists, self-help gurus like Oprah and religious belief systems that assure followers that God will always protect them. It is collective self-delusion, a retreat into magical thinking.

“The American citizen thus lives in a world where fantasy is more real than reality, where the image has more dignity than the original,” Daniel J. Boorstin wrote in his book “The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America.” “We hardly dare face our bewilderment, because our ambiguous experience is so pleasantly iridescent, and the solace of belief in contrived reality is so thoroughly real. We have become eager accessories in the great hoaxes of the age. These are the hoaxes we play on ourselves.”

Culture and literacy, in the final stage of decline, are replaced with noisy diversions and empty clichés. The Roman statesman Cicero inveighed against their ancient equivalent—the arena. Cicero, for his honesty, was hunted down and murdered and his hands and head were cut off. His severed head and his right hand, which had written the Philippics, were nailed onto the speaker’s platform in the Forum. The roaring crowds, while the Roman elite spat on the head, were gleefully told he would never speak or write again. In the modern age this toxic, mindless cacophony, our own version of spectacle and gladiator fights, of bread and circus, is pumped into the airwaves in 24-hour cycles. Political life has fused into celebrity worship. Education is primarily vocational. Intellectuals are cast out and despised. Artists cannot make a living. Few people read books. Thought has been banished, especially at universities and colleges, where timid pedants and careerists churn out academic drivel. “Although tyranny, because it needs no consent, may successfully rule over foreign peoples,” Hannah Arendt wrote in “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” “it can stay in power only if it destroys first of all the national institutions of its own people.” And ours have been destroyed.

 

 

Sensual pleasure and eternal youth are our overriding obsessions. The Roman emperor Tiberius, at the end, fled to the island of Capri and turned his seaside palace into a house of unbridled lust and violence. “Bevies of girls and young men, whom he had collected from all over the Empire as adepts in unnatural practices, and known as spintriae, would copulate before him in groups of three, to excite his waning passions,” Suetonius wrote in “The Twelve Caesars.” Tiberius trained small boys, whom he called his minnows, to frolic with him in the water and perform oral sex. And after watching prolonged torture, he would have captives thrown into the sea from a cliff near his palace. Tiberius would be followed by Caligula and Nero.

“At times when the page is turning,” Louis-Ferdinand Céline wrote in “Castle to Castle,” “when History brings all the nuts together, opens its Epic Dance Halls! hats and heads in the whirlwind! Panties overboard!”

The anthropologist Joseph Tainter in his book “The Collapse of Complex Societies” looked at the collapse of civilizations from the Roman to the Mayan. He concluded that they disintegrated because they finally could not sustain the bureaucratic complexities they had created. Layers of bureaucracy demand more and more exploitation, not only of the environment but the laboring classes. They become calcified by systems that are unable to respond to the changing reality around them. They, like our elite universities and business schools, churn out systems managers, people who are taught not to think but to blindly service the system. These systems managers know only how to perpetuate themselves and the system they serve, although serving that system means disemboweling the nation and the planet. Our elites and bureaucrats exhaust the earth to hold up a system that worked in the past, failing to see that it no longer works. Elites, rather than contemplate reform, which would jeopardize their privilege and power, retreat in the twilight of empire into walled compounds like the Forbidden City or Versailles. They invent their own reality. Those on Wall Street and in corporate boardrooms have replicated this behavior. They insist that continued reliance on fossil fuel and speculations will sustain the empire. State resources, as Tainter notes, are at the end increasingly squandered on extravagant and senseless projects and imperial adventures. And then it all collapses.

Our collapse will take the whole planet with it.

It is more pleasant, I admit, to stand mesmerized in front of our electronic hallucinations. It is easier to check out intellectually. It is more gratifying to imbibe the hedonism and the sickness of the worship of the self and money. It is more comforting to chatter about celebrity gossip and ignore or dismiss what is reality.

 

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It is more pleasant, I admit, to stand mesmerized in front of our electronic hallucinations. It is easier to check out intellectually. It is more gratifying to imbibe the hedonism and the sickness of the worship of the self and money. It is more comforting to chatter about celebrity gossip and ignore or dismiss what is reality.

Thomas Mann in “The Magic Mountain” and Joseph Roth in “Hotel Savoy” brilliantly chronicled this peculiar state of mind. In Roth’s hotel the first three floors house in luxury the bloated rich, the amoral politicians, the bankers and the business owners. The upper floors are crammed with people who struggle to pay their bills and who are steadily divested of their possessions until they are destitute and cast out. There is no political ideology among decayed ruling elites, despite choreographed debates and elaborate political theater. It is, as it always is at the end, one vast kleptocracy.

Just before World War II, a friend asked Roth, a Jewish intellectual who had fled Nazi Germany for Paris, “Why are you drinking so much?” Roth answered: “Do you think you are going to escape? You too are going to be wiped out.”
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Is Revolution coming to Mexico? Fear and justice in the battle for Mexico’s future; Protesters demand justice for the Ayotzinapa students

22 Nov

 

I woke up in fear, and for the rest of the day it controlled my life the way fear tends to control people’s lives. It dominated my thoughts the way it dominates people’s thoughts and actions, paralyzes them until they are deprived from all hope and the very basic human capacity to change the world around them.

My fear was provoked by a nightmare, not one I saw in my dreams, but rather a nightmare I have been unfortunate enough to observe with my own eyes and come to know intimately. It was the fear of waking up and realizing my friends have disappeared at night; lifted from their beds by men in uniforms, leaving friends and family behind who from that day on can only guess after the fate of their loved ones.

This fear is not imaginary. This is the fear I struggled to understand when talking to my friends and fellow students when I lived and studied in Mexico. It is a fear that is incomprehensible for someone who has not lived in a country where more than 100.000 have been killed and disappeared in less than ten years.

Although I participated in social and political movements in the country and was actively involved in student activist groups, I was still incapable of comprehending the terror that my friends felt when they saw the police or the army on the streets. I used to think it was exaggerated and they should not let themselves be influenced by this strategy of control. One can only understand this feeling when it becomes personal, when you wake up and feel the need to call your friends in order to be sure they are alive and well.

 

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Students under Attack

On Saturday, the night before I woke up in horror, an undercover policeman shot and injured two students on the campus of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), the biggest public university in Latin America. It is worth mentioning that the UNAM is an autonomous institution and as such it is a police-free territory. Exemptions to this rule can be made only if the police are asked to step in by the high administration of the institution.

This breach of autonomy is not without precedent: in 1968 the President at the time, Diaz Ordaz, ordered a military takeover of the university. The army moved in as journalists were ordered to move out. This happened in the context of the large-scale, countrywide student protests which actively opposed the Olympic Games. To show their opposition against the Games being held in a country characterized by increasing inequality the students took to the streets, shouting slogans like: “We don’t want games, we want revolution.”

After the shooting last week, students organized and attacked the aggressors. They burned their car and confiscated their documents, proving they were undercover police. The government then sent five hundred riot police to deal with the issue who subsequently clashed with autonomously organized groups of students at the doors of the institution.

These events do not happen in a social vacuum. The repression of the UNAM students comes at a moment when hundreds of protests, direct actions, marches, sit-ins and strikes organized by people from all walks of life and many different backgrounds are organized to demand social and political justice. This new wave of popular dissent was provoked by the disappearance of 43 students in the state of Guerrero on September 26 earlier this year.

The students of the rural school in Ayotzinapa protested to condemn the extremely poor conditions of their school and education in Mexico and to protest the neoliberal reforms in education. The police opened fire on them, killing six and arresting 43 of the student-activists. It is now months later and nobody is sure where they are, but the terrifying suspicion, confirmed by various sources, is that they have been brutally killed and some of them probably burned alive.

The political crisis that is shaking the country threatens to evolve into full-scale revolt with students, armed guerrillas, anarchists and indigenous groups raising legitimate demands for the President of the Republic to resign and for policies ensuring the basic social, human, political and ethnic rights of the population.

 

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Bloody Past, Bloody Present

The Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto already has blood on his hands from previous atrocities, such as the one in Atenco in 2006, when he was Governor of the State of Mexico. In this event he ordered the police to take over the city during popular protests, resulting in 207 people subjected to brutal and degrading treatment, 145 arbitrary arrests, the sexual assault of 26 women, and the deportation of five foreigners.

Upon returning to Mexico after a tour of China and Australia, Peña Nieto openly threatened the popular movement that he is going to use of force, if necessary. Translated, this means sending in the army and the newly created national gendarme against the protesters. This, of course, is hardly the only example of extreme violence carried out by the security forces of Mexico during Peña Nieto’s presidency, but it illustrates how decisive he is on cracking down on popular protest with brute force and at any price.

Back in 1968, President Diaz Ordaz stood up in front of Congress and warned that he had been tolerant for too long and that he would have to resort to force to pacify the students. He, as the majority of Mexican Presidents, was a member of the PRI, the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which ruled the country without interruption between 1920 and 2000. Peña Nieto is also a member of the same party which returned to power in 2012 after Nieto’s electoral victory that year.

 

Some of the party representatives shocked the country in the previous days with their public declarations. Luis Adrián Ramírez Ortiz, a militant of the PRI’s youth league, compared the protesters to “wild beasts who do not deserve to live” and invoked the spirit of Diaz Ordaz, stating that Mexico needs to be headed by someone like him in order to preserve its image to the world. The ex-Federal Deputy Marili Olguín Cuevas, also a member of the PRI, published a status on Facebook saying “kill them so they don’t reproduce.” Another member and syndicate leader loyal to the PRI stated after the clashes in Mexico City days ago: “And then they wonder why they are burning them. Rednecks.”

Apparently, a significant number of contemporary PRI officials would welcome a return to the days when Diaz Ordaz still ruled the country. Back in 1968 the President answered the popular call for “revolution instead of Games” by mobilizing the country’s security forces against the protesters. On October 2 that year, snipers attacked the mass demonstration at Tlatelolco square, causing an upheaval that legitimized sending army troops and tanks into the square. This day is remembered as the Tletelolco massacre, in which hundreds of students were either shot dead or simply disappeared.

The aftermath of the massacre saw a proliferation of policies that allowed for a total crackdown on social protests, eventually culminating in a dirty war in the state of Guerrero, not unlike the ones that characterized the military regimes in Argentina and Chile. Back then, the resistance in Guerrero was headed by two teachers from the very same school attended by the 43 disappeared students.

They were forced into clandestine resistance and the government could crush the popular support in the state only by leveling entire villages and attacking the civilian population with napalm. During this rebellion, hundreds of local peasants were murdered or disappeared. This is the scenario some PRI party members and officials evoke as desirable if the current protests continue.

 

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Fearless Resistance

Commemorating the horrors of ’68 will not stop them from happening again, on the contrary: they are already happening. It would be an understatement to note that the repression is getting worse. Mass graves are being found all over the country, and evidence of more and more police and army brutality is being made public by victims and relatives who were until now too scared to step forward.

Indigenous groups rise up against five hundred years of genocide, challenging the neoliberal agenda that destroys their land and eradicates their culture. Parents of the disappeared are organizing to demand justice. Migrants march on the capital in order to stop the murders that have taken away the lives of more than 20.000 since 2006. Students and activists raise voices over the brutality and repression that were meant to silence their revolt against market-driven reforms in the education.

Anarchists and activist groups shout in solidarity with comrades who are condemned to life in prison. Women shout “not a single one more!” in reference to the devastating level of femicides in the country. Guerrillas in Guerrero declare their preparation for war against a state that condemns half of the Mexican people to live in poverty. The Zapatistas in Chiapas march in thousands to demand justice for Ayotzinapa and the indigenous groups around the country.

Meanwhile, the only answer all these different groups get from the corrupt and unscrupulous political elite is: “we do not care about you — and if you dare to resist, we will send in the army. We have done it before and got away with it, we will not hesitate to do it again.” These threats arise from a climate of fear which has taken shape in the years of the so-called “War on Drugs,” which was used as a pretext to militarize the society and crack down on any movement for change.

This fear is a weapon of control, stronger than any gun, tank or helicopter, stronger than bullets and executions. This fear is the one I woke up with. And I woke up with it, because my friends in Mexico stopped waking up in fear and flooded the streets, rejecting the fear that negates their humanity.

Fear and justice are and will be part of the battle of those fighting for their lives in the streets of Mexico. What is at stake is the question whether the government will be allowed to keep repeating the horrors of 1968. My fear is to wake up and discover that my friends have had the dignity not to accept the threat and sacrificed themselves in the face of a machine of death and destruction — or, as the Zapatistas say, that they have decided to “die in order to live.” Their fear, meanwhile, is that their children will have to repeat the tragedy they are witnessing now, if fear conquers the movement once again.

Petar Stanchev is finishing a degree in Latin American Studies and Human Rights at the University of Essex. He has previously lived and studied in Mexico and has been involved in the Zapatista solidarity movement for four years.

 

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