Subject: ON THE MELTDOWN OF LIBERAL CAPITALISM AND THE COMING WORLD CLASS STRUGGLE FOR A NEW MODEL ECONOMY.
27 September 2008
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
Living at the control end of a yo-yo string, one can imagine, offers a limited sense of satisfaction. But it might be better than life at the alternative end. The dark cloud of a "command economy" is looming over the horizon and seems to be offering precious few choices beyond the hegemonic culture of domination and subordination, which is the life style of most ordinary people already.
If Albert Speer --German architect, Minister of Armaments, friend of Adolph Hitler's, and consummate practitioner of "Rational Choice Theory," (making decisions to avoid pain and to maximize pleasure)-- if he was correct, and if in fact National Socialism in Germany was nothing more than the logical extension of modern technological capitalism, where a large number of independent thinkers was no longer indispensable (nor desirable) to assure production and accumulation of surplus value; then at that point in history, when technology facilitated greater social control (and in the 1930s, the important technological innovations were essentially the radio, the camera, and the telephone) in the hands of an increasingly small number of command groups in situation rooms, at the very top of the dependent power pyramid, a new political elite appeared on the scene, whose competencies included eugenic engineering, military expansion, administrative planning, and thought control. High on their agenda was the politics of lebensraum which involved systematically "depopulating" entire regions of Europe, using mass murder as a tactic to facilitate the colonial expansion of a useful and obedient population.
The antecedent to this cultural hegemony was laissez-faire capitalism, that 19th-century activity of economic ping-pong. It was quite different from the late 20th-century process of political yo-yoing for survival. By 1890, vanquished were the days when independent entrepreneurs battled it out boldly, in a field strewn with short-term "winners" and long-term "loosers," to organize a particular kind of production process for goods and services benefiting all who could afford to buy them at competitive prices. When 19th-century Free Market Capitalism disappeared with big fish swallowing the remaining small fish in the sea of economics, Monopoly Capitalism emerged full blown, exerting corporate control over the entire seascape and over government economic policies in the U.S.A. at every level. Today, we are witnessing the self-destruction of Monopoly Capitalism by capitalists themselves, who are now recognized to be a "clear and present danger" to economies* everywhere. Capitalism has entered that proverbial "dustbin of history", and what remains to be seen is the mature form of its progeny, which will be rising from the ashes.
Note: *By economies, we mean in this context any effective organization of a mode of production and distribution of goods and services which can satisfy the universal needs of a community. [For a interesting debate on the viability of one kind of economy, the creation of a hybrid capitalist-socialist market, please see Bertell Ollman's book, Market Socialism: The Debate Among Socialists.]
We are now feeling the birth pangs of this process, at least those of us who have not been totally anesthetized by the cultural hegemony in late capitalist society. But what exactly is it that will be born from this painful labor? This we do not know. We're not quite sure who has sired this new creation in the first place, nor do we know the exact level of toxicity in the environment with which this fledgling post-capitalist system will have to cope. We wait in real suspense for the New Model Economy to be born, fearful of what it might demand of us, if the Third Reich is any indication of the extremes to which wealth-and-privilege will go to protect itself from extinction. What is certain is that the New Economic Order must face the structural inheritances of its predecessor: The Old Order based, as it was, on militarism, artificial scarcity, and above all on blind obedience to commands.
One aspect of this inheritance is the pattern of US Troops stationed worldwide = http://www.motherjones.com/military-maps/
What will March 18, 2010 look like?
In an effort to enlarge the democratic debate over what future we want to see, Alan Bellows has shared his insights into the involuntary activities of the human brain, which for better or for worse is equipped to facilitate our adjustment to new environments, a feature which also enables us to envision strategy and to concoct tactics :
Essentially, the incongruence theory of humor suggests that an event
registers as "funny" when it starts out by conforming to established
patterns, but then defies the person's model of reality by taking an
unanticipated but logically valid detour. . . . [H]umor is a learning
mechanism which detects and corrects incongruence between
expectations and reality. The brain is a powerful pattern-matching
engine, and as it drinks in the world through its sensory organs, the
mind maintains a model of reality by storing the patterns it observes
and sorting them in order of importance. From one moment to the
next, the river of incoming information is scanned for similarities to
prior patterns, and extra attention is given to anything which strongly
matches an important stored pattern. In this way, the mind filters out
the "background noise" of the world, and is able to focus more attention
on survival and reproduction. These pattern databases are also useful
for anticipating the future based on past experiences.(Allan Bellows, "Humoring the Gelotologists")
Antonio Damasio, author of Looking for Spinoza
, weighs in by offering an important corrective in discussions of human intelligence and ethics, with a commentary on the lost science of feelings:
Given the ubiquity of feelings, one would have thought that their science
would have been elucidated long ago --what feelings are, how they work,
what they mean-- but that is hardly the case. Of all the mental phenomena
we can describe, feelings and their essential ingredients --pain and pleasure—
are the least understood in biological and specifically neurological terms.
This is all the more puzzling considering that advanced societies cultivate
feelings shamelessly and dedicate so many resources and efforts to
manipulating those feelings with alcohol, drugs of abuse, medical drugs,
food, real sex, virtual sex, all manner of feel-good consumption, and all
manner of feel-good social and religious practices. We doctor our feelings
with pills, drinks, health spas, workouts, and spiritual exercises, but neither
the public nor science have yet come to grips with what feelings are,
biologically speaking.(Damasio, pp.3-4)
Without being overly optimistic, there appears to be good reason to think that the current convergence of economic, political, and social crises which we are now experiencing could very well lead to an overthrow of the cultural hegemony
that has been systematically stifling the lives of most intellectuals and workers in the United States since the defeat of the cultural revolution of the 1960s.
In the 8 items
below, we offer CEIMSA readers a glance at the contemporary struggle in America against the cultural hegemony of decadent, authoritarian capitalism. The intellectuals and activists below have sent to us information in an honest effort to inform us in the midst of the international crises we are now living locally and internationally. More than ever before, we are in need of reliable information, and sincere and creative discussions to achieve a practical understanding of the nature of this system that no longer works and with what it can most effectively be replaced.
is a report sent to us by Dr. Jim O'Brien
describing the September 19 Anti-War Teach-In at U.C.- Berkeley.
is the September 19 Democracy Now!
report on the nature of the international Economic Depression now looming across the planet.
contains two articles by Professor Richard Wolff
on the contemporary crisis of capitalism and possible fixes for the future, which were first published in the Monthly Review Zine,
26 September 2008.
is an important article by ZMagazine economist, Jack Rasmus
, on the historic significance of the current housing crisis in the USA.
is an article sent to us by Professor Edward S. Herman
on the Fox News
& Oliver North Scandle at Fox News
, involving U.S. government denial of the massacre of Afghan children by U.S. forces.
is an interview with Professor Howard Zinn
discussing with Al Jazeera News
the "Problem of Civil Obedience" in America.
is an essay by Professor Eric Hobsbawm
on the relevance of Marxist scholarship today.
is a copy of Professor John Gerassi's
unpublished letter to the New York Times
on "geopolitical imbalances."
And finally, for a practical pedagogical source of useful information during the Capitalist Meltdown in the U.S.A., we offer CEIMSA readers a link to the archives of the daily news broadcast out of New York City:
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies
Director of Research
Université Stendhal Grenoble 3
from Jim O'Brien :
Date: 24 September 2008
Subject: Report on Iraq War teach-in at UC Berkeley Sept. 19, 2008.
The following is a report on the Iraq War teach-in at UC Berkeley, co-sponsored by Historians Against the War, War Times, and several campus groups. For an additional report from the UC Berkeley News Center see http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2008/09/22_teachin.shtml.
The HAW Steering Committee hopes there will be a great number of campus events around the country aimed at keeping the war in the public eye during the election season. See http://www.historiansagainstwar.org/teachin/ or contact Margaret Power at email@example.com. Please keep us informated of any events that you are planning or have already held.
We also call to your attention the document "Ten Easy Steps to Register Students to Vote," on the HAW web site at http://www.historiansagainstwar.org/registervote.html.
REPORT TO HISTORIANS AGAINST THE WAR: Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
Pre-Election Teach-In on the Iraq War
Summation of the day:
The Teach In on the Iraq War took place on Friday, September 19, on the campus of the University of California at Berkeley, in the spacious glassed in Heller Lounge of the Student Union right at the entrance to the campus below Sather Gate, a historic location of course, recalling the Free Speech movement of 1964 and thousands of demonstrations that have followed in the free speech zone created by the 1964 militants. Heller Lounge is now a Multicultural Center, thanks to the struggles of Ethnic Studies students in 1999.
250 chairs were set up with sofas and easy chairs lining the walls and an elevated stage in front with the sound equipment and a screen. In the other 1/3 of the room where people enter, Ramsay Kanaan of PM Press set up a bookstore, and there was ample standing room for those who did not want to commit to sitting down.
We began on time (every session began on time) with a talk by Daniel Ellsberg of the Pentagon Papers fame. At that time only about 30 people were in attendance beyond the dozen organizers, so we felt anxious that it was going to be very small, but the numbers increased steadily to full capacity by early afternoon.
John Yoo was speaking at 11 AM in a building across Sproul Plaza. The UC President's office and the Law School hastily organized an all day session on torture and the constitution with a bunch of right wing lawyers, including Yoo, to take place at the same time as the Teach In. They announced it only the day before our Teach In.
The 10 AM panel on torture and the constitution was better attended and was excellent, with local civil rights attorneys Anne Weills and Dennis Cunningham, and constitutional legal expert Tom Reifer, The panel was moderated by lawyer and critical theorist John Hayakawa Torok, professor at Berkeley (all moderators for all panels were UC faculty or students). The discussion was excellent.
The 11 AM panel on US interventionism included a Palestinian activist, Mexican writer, a Serbian who was under the bombs in Belgrade, and myself. By then, there were probably 100 people with lots of people lounging on the sides and quite a number standing in the back.
At noon, we had box lunches for all the speakers and organizers, and a good crowd gathered to watch film clips from Paul Cronon's documentary in progress on the 1968 Columbia uprising. He had just come from showing the 4 hour film at the Toronto Film Festival to critical acclaim. Tom Hayden arrived about that time, and Immanuel Wallerstein was there, and they are both featured in the clips.
We had a hard time getting Iraq veterans lined up, but succeeded at the end beyond our wildest dreams. The 1:30 PM panel on "from Vietnam to Iraq" was supposed to start with a half hour talk by Tom Hayden, but instead he insisted on being one of the panelists. IVAW finally responded (thanks to Anne Weills work) and sent us a new member of theirs, Forrest Schaeffer, who was in Delta special forces in Afghanistan. A working class Irish-American guy, his father, a Vietnam vet, shot himself when Forrest was 6 years old. At 19, Forrest signed up to special forces after 9/11 to "defend America." The other vet, Cleavon Gilman, is African-American, now a student at UCBerkeley, and was a medic in Iraq. Our main UC student organizer, Roberto Hernandez, had met Cleavon in a class he TAed this summer. He has a speech impediment (stuttering), which somehow made his testimony even more powerful. Neither Forrest nor Cleavon had spoken in public before, so it was a liberating experience for each of them. The room was packed and totally silent when they spoke. The discussion that followed with Carlos Mu oz (Vietnam vet and founder of Chicano Studies), Antonia Juhasz, a young activist/writer on the war, and Tom Hayden, and the two vets was powerful. To me, this was the highlight of the day and the reason for even doing the teach in.
The 3-4:30 panel on how to stop US wars of aggression featured Immanuel Wallerstein, and students and faculty crammed the place, as he has, deservedly, many fans. But, Dunya Alwan, an Iraqi American that Max Elbaum recruited for us, stole the show with her descriptions of everyday life of Iraqis under occupation.
We then had an hour and a half of discussions led by two brilliant young Chicana doctoral candidates, more video, some music and refreshments.
We did not end up getting sponsorship by the Associated Students (ASUC). Classes had just started and they were new to their jobs and didn't even know if they had the right to sponsor without consulting the student assembly which is not scheduled to meet until the end of the month. However, we did have the student organization, Critical Response and Intervention for a Sustainable Ethnic Studies (CRISES) as primary sponsor (along with HAW and War Times, which, of course, have no standing on the campus to do anything), and that made everything possible, not in terms of funding, which was too soon in the semester, but in kind support--the space free of charge, set up, just the right to be there. We could not have had the teach in without, specifically, Roberto Hern ndez, Daphne Taylor-Garcia, and Dalida Mar a Benfield, who were burdened with most of the day to day work getting everything set up and recruiting the moderators.
From "The Great Rehearsal" we were able to get publicity, thanks to HAW's financial contribution--great posters put up by a professional thumb-tack brigade. The Great Rehearsal and University of San Francisco paid for speakers to come to the USF symposium held on Saturday after the teach in, and we were able to borrow those speakers for our panels, including Immanuel Wallerstein. The Working Group that came together, an intergenerational group of young and 60s activists, was about the best group I've worked with for a long time. We're thinking of planning more teach ins.
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, HAW Steering Committee, coordinator of the teach in.
Note: You are receiving this email because you signed a Historians Against the War statement (see http://www.historiansagainstwar.org/). If you no longer wish to receive these occasional messages about HAW's work, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org?subject=unsubscribe.
haw-info mailing list
from Democracy Now ! :
Date: 19 September 2008
Subject: The Economic Depression upon us.
While the press has extensively covered the Wall Street meltdown, little attention has been paid to what this means to the American worker. We speak to longtime labor activist and writer Bill Fletcher, co-author with Fernando Gapasin of the new book Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path toward Social Justice. Fletcher is the executive editor of BlackCommentator.com and the former president of TransAfrica Forum.
from Richard Wolff :
Date: 26 September 2008
Subject: Capitalism, not as a system but a process.
Two recent articles which may be helpful.
apitalism happens. When and where it does, capitalism casts its own special shadow: a self-critique of capitalism's basic flaws that says modern society can do better by establishing very different, post-capitalist economic systems. This critical shadow rises up to terrify capitalism when -- in crisis periods such as now -- capitalism hits the fan. Karl Marx poetically called that shadow the specter that haunts capitalism.
The so-called financial
crisis today is a symptom. The underlying disease is capitalism: an economic system that weaves implacable and destructive conflict into its production and distribution of goods and services. Employers and employees need to cooperate to make the economy work, but they are forever adversaries whose conflicts periodically burst into crises. So it is today. Capitalism also locks employers into those endless struggles with and against one another that we call competition. It too periodically erupts into conflicts and crises. And so it is today.
Employer-employee conflict contributed to today's global capitalist meltdown as follows. In the 1970s, employers found a way to stop the long-term slow rise in real wages of their employees. By outsourcing jobs overseas to take advantage of cheaper wages, by drawing US women into the labor force, by substituting computers and other machines for workers, and by bringing in low-wage immigrants, employers drove down their employees' wages even as they produced ever more commodities for sale. The results were predictable. On the one hand, company profits soared (after all, workers produced ever more while not having to be paid any more). One the other hand, after a few years, stagnant workers' wages proved insufficient to enable them to buy the growing output of their labor. Given how capitalism works, employers unable to sell all that they produce lay off their own employees. And of course, that only compounds the problem.
Thus, in the 1970s, another capitalist crisis loomed as a bad recession hit hard. But that crisis was kept short because US capitalism found a way to postpone it: massive debt. Since employers succeeded in keeping wages from rising, the only way to sell the ever-expanding output was to lend
workers the money to buy more. Corporations invested their soaring profits in buying new securities backed by workers' mortgages, auto loans, and credit-card loans. Owners of such securities were thereby entitled to portions of the monthly payments workers made on those loans. In effect, the extra profits made by keeping workers' wages down now did double duty for employers who earned hefty interest payments by loaning part of those profits back to the workers. What a system!
Postponing the solution to crisis of the 1970s only prepared the way for the bigger one now. Booming consumer lending in the 1980s, 1990s, and since 2000, especially in the deregulated financial world of Reagan and Bush America, provoked wild profit-driven excesses and corruption (the stock market "bubble" and then the real estate "bubble'). It also loaded millions of Americans with unsustainable debts. By 2006, the most stressed borrowers -- "sub-prime" -- could no longer pay what they owed. This house of debt cards then began its spiraling descent.
Competition among enterprises also contributed to this crisis. As some banks made big profits rushing to lend to workers, other lenders feared that those banks would use those profits to outcompete them. So they too rushed into "consumer lending." To raise the money to make such profitable loans to workers, lenders made expanded use of new types of financial instruments, chiefly securities backed by workers' debt obligations (securities whose owners received portions of workers' loan repayments). US lenders sold these securities globally to tap into the entire world's cash. The whole world thus got drawn into depending on a whirlpool: US capitalism propping up its workers' purchasing power with costly loans because it no longer raised their wages. The competing rating companies (Fitch, Moody's, Standard and Poor, etc.) inaccurately assessed these securities' riskiness. These companies competed for the business of lenders who needed high ratings to sell the debt-backed securities. Private and public lenders around the world competed with one another by buying the US debt-backed securities because they were rated as nearly riskless and yet paid high interest rates.
Enterprise competition and employer-employee conflicts -- both core components of capitalism -- have been major causes of today's "financial crisis." Yet the huge government bailout now proposed by Treasury Secretary Paulson and FED Chairman Bernanke does not address either the problem of stagnant wages or that of competition. Instead the proposed bailout plans to "fix" the financial crisis by throwing vast sums at the big lenders in the hope
that they will resume lending and so pull the economy out of its crisis. Because this "solution" ignores the underlying problems of our capitalist economy, its prospects for success are poor.
No questioning, let alone challenging, of capitalism's role is conceivable for US leaders. Quite the contrary, their "policies" aim chiefly to preserve capitalism -- largely by keeping its responsibility for the current crisis out of public debate and thus away from political action. Yet this crisis, like many others, raises Marx's specter, capitalism's shadow, once again. The specter's two basic messages are clear: (1) today's global financial crisis flows from core components of the capitalist system and (2) to really solve the current crisis requires changing those components to move society beyond capitalism.
For example, if workers in each enterprise became their own collective boards of directors, the old capitalist conflicts between employers and employees would be overcome. If state agencies coordinated enterprises' interdependent production decisions, the remaining enterprise competition could be limited to focus on rewards for improved performance. The US government might not just bail out huge financial institutions but also require them to change into enterprises where employers and employees were the same people and where coordination and competition became the major and minor aspects of enterprise interactions. The US government took over Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and AIG, it changed neither the organization of these enterprises nor the destructive competition among them. That was a tragically lost opportunity. If the political winds continue to change far enough and fast enough, solutions responding to the current crisis by moving beyond capitalism might yet be tried.
Rick Wolff is Professor of Economics at University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He is the author of many books and articles, including (with Stephen Resnick) Class Theory and History: Capitalism and Communism in the U.S.S.R. (Routledge, 2002) and (with Stephen Resnick) New Departures in Marxian Theory (Routledge, 2006).
In US capitalism's greatest financial crisis since the 1930s Depression, status-quo ideology swirls. The goal is to keep this crisis under control, to prevent it from challenging capitalism itself. One method is to keep public debate from raising the issue of whether and how class changes -- basic economic system changes -- might be the best "solution." Right, center, and even most left commentators exert that ideological control, some consciously and some not. Hence the debates where those demanding "more or better government regulation" of financial markets shout down those who still "have more confidence in private enterprise and free markets." Both sides limit the public discussion to more vs less state intervention to "save the economy." Then too we have quarrels over details of state intervention: politicians "want to help foreclosure victims too" or "want to limit financiers' pay packages" or want to "weed out bad apples in the finance industry" while spokespersons of various financial enterprises struggle to shape the details to their particular interests.
We need to recall that crises always generate "solutions" -- like all those above -- that preserve the basic system. We also need to advance alternatives not subordinated to the status quo, that open up the discussion by showing the risks of not changing the system and the virtues of doing so.
Let's begin with the issue of government regulation. Note first that corporations like investment banks, commercial banks, stock and mortgage brokerages, and so on are all run by boards of directors. These boards -- usually numbering 15 to 25 people -- make all basic corporate decisions. They hire the millions who do the work, and they tell these employees what to do with the tools and equipment they provide. Today's financial mess and economic crisis are first and foremost results of decisions by these boards of directors.
In previous economic crises -- especially the 1930s Depression -- financial corporations were subjected to government laws and regulations passed under pressure of mass suffering. However, the politicians who wrote those laws and regulations soon thereafter allowed financial corporations to evade them, then later to amend them, and finally to eliminate many of them. Politicians accommodated financial corporations because they were major contributors to their campaigns and major supports of their political careers or because they believed government intervention to always be "bad" for economic wellbeing. Financial corporations' directors used profits also to hire armies of lobbyists who shaped every government step in deciding whether and how to enforce laws, rewrite regulations, etc. Thus, US regulators depended increasingly on the financial corporations they supposedly regulated. Nor should we forget the profits financial corporations have always devoted to "public relations" -- costly campaigns to undermine the very idea of government regulation in school curricula, mass media, politics, and across our culture. So now we return to square one as deregulated finance -- having done its job of making billions for the industry -- produces another crisis and another set of calls for regulation.
In short, arguing over whether to leave finance to financial corporations or to have government regulate them is no real debate. In the US, financial corporations' boards of directors have dominated the operations of the financial industries either way. Since all regulations imposed on US financial enterprises have left their boards of directors as sole receivers and distributors of all profits, the boards used them to evade or gut the regulations. What the right, center, and left now debate is merely another set of regulations all of which again leave untouched the profits accruing to financial companies' boards of directors.
Finance has been grossly mismanaged by the institution of the corporation under deregulation: hence the crisis. Responding to this fact requires more than government reregulation. We need also to change the corporation in basic ways that can avoid or correct financial mismanagement. Nothing could better assure that new and tougher government regulations might work this time than making the workers inside financial corporations real partners with the government in monitoring and enforcing properly regulated financial activities.
To that end, we propose a radical restructuring of financial corporations. Their employees at all levels must become major participants in decision-making activity. That means elevating workers to significant membership on boards of directors and all board committees. Only then can employees know corporate realities and so make sure financial activities conform to the spirit and letter of regulations. Only then will inappropriate activities get reported to and investigated by regulators long before they accumulate into today's sort of crisis. Masses of employees institutionally empowered inside corporate decision-making are the nation's best hope for a better, fairer financial system than we have had to date.
In short, if the US government -- ultimately the tax-payers -- will now pay the costs and take the risks to bail out a failed financial system, then it has the right and obligation to change that system. We need such changes to avoid repeating the failures of the past. These changes would also introduce some democracy inside the corporation -- where it has been excluded for too long and with disastrous consequences.
The current debates also fail to face how the underlying economy helped produce the financial mess. Real wages stopped rising in the US in the 1970s, yet the American psyche and self-image, subject to relentless advertising, was committed to rising consumption. To enable that, workers with flat wages had to borrow to afford rising consumption. For the last 30 years loans replaced wages, but rising consumer debt introduces new risks and dangers. If, simultaneously, politicians use state borrowing to avoid taxing the rich while providing vast corporate subsidies and waging endless wars, the debt problems mushroom. Aggressive, deregulated financial companies grabbed the resulting "market opportunity" by devising ever more complex, hidden, and dangerously risky ways to profit hugely from the social debt bubble.
A sub-prime economy produced sub-prime wages, sub-prime borrowers, sub-prime lenders, and sub-prime government regulation. Bailing out and reregulating financiers -- the current plan being debated across the nation -- does far too little too late. The proposal above exemplifies the much bigger and more basic changes that now need active public discussion.
from Z Mag :
Date: 5 September 2008
Subject: Demystifying the Economic Crisis, from the start.
Z Magazine's regular contributor on economic particulars, Jack Rasmus, offers the real dirt on the current housing crisis, particularly Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Radical and brutally clear, this is the antithesis of corporate media business news bullshit.
from Edward S. Herman :
Date: 10 September 2008
Subject: Fox News & Oliver North Involved with U.S. Afghanistan Massacre Cover-up.
Is there any limit to Pentagon lying and media gullibility?
Fox News & Oliver North Involved with U.S. Afghanistan Massacre Cover-up
The UK TimesOnline has posted a video<http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/times_online_tv/?vxSiteId=d8fa78dc-d7ad-4d5a-8886-e420d4bc4200&vxChannel=Times%20Online%20News&vxClipId=1152_timesonline1224&vxBitrate=300> of the aftermath of the killings of dozens of villagers in the Afghan village of Nawabad (called Azizabad in other stories).
The U.S. has maintained that seven civilians and three dozen Taliban militants were killed in the combined U.S. Special Forces/Afghan Army/U.S. air operation last August 21. The United Nations and local villagers insist that 92 civilians were killed, over half of them children. According to the article:
In the video scores of bodies are seen laid out in a building that villagers say is used as a mosque; the people were killed apparently during a combined operation by US special forces and Afghan army commandos in western Afghanistan. The film was shot on a mobile phone by an Afghan doctor who arrived the next morning.
Local people say that US forces bombed preparations for a memorial ceremony for a tribal leader. Residential compounds were levelled by US attack helicopters, armed drones and a cannon-armed C130 Spectre gunship.
Besides the UN, the villagers' account is backed up by investigations from an Afghanistan government delegation and what the Times calls Afghanistan's "leading human rights organisation."
Now, NATO command is backing off the official story, noting that there is a "discrepancy" in death toll figures, and expressing the usual "heartfelt sorrow." But , as the Times reports, a new report by Human Rights Watch<http://hrw.org/english/docs/2008/09/08/afghan19766.htm> says that under reporting of civilian deaths in Afghanistan is out of control. (The report criticizes both U.S./NATO and Taliban forces.)
Taking what it says are the most conservative figures available, Human Rights Watch has calculated that civilian deaths as a result of Western airstrikes tripled between 2006 and 2007 to 321. In the first seven months of this year the figure was 119. In the same period, 367 civilian deaths were attributed to Taleban attacks. It accuses US officials of routinely denying reports of civilian deaths.
Perhaps the most amazing political news surrounding the Nawabad massacre is that the Pentagon says it relied for its account, in part, on corroborative evidence by the embedded journalist on the scene: Fox News "reporter" Oliver North! The Times portrays North as coming "to prominence in the 1980s Iran-Contra affair."
Actually, North was convicted for three felonies in regards to his activities during the Iran-Contra scandal. He only escaped a suspended prison sentence and $150,000 in fines because, as his <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oliver_North> Wikipedia bio describes it, an "appeals court found that witnesses in his trial might have been impermissibly affected by his immunized congressional testimony." North had been deputy director for political-military affairs for the National Security Council under Reagan, until the scandal brought his career to a halt.
North came into the public spotlight due to his participation in the Iran-Contra Affair, in which he was the chief coordinator of the sale of weapons via intermediaries to Iran, with the profits being channeled to the Contras in Nicaragua. He was responsible for the establishment of a covert network used for the purposes of aiding the Contras. U.S. funding of the Contras by appropriated funds spent by intelligence agencies had been prohibited by the Boland Amendment.
North's testimony in front of a congressional committee during the Iran-Contra hearings marked him as an unabashed apologist for covert operations and the projection of American power abroad, irregardless of the will of those in the countries subjected to U.S. intervention. Lying to Congress was justified, in his opinion, because he supported the anti-Sandinista "Contras", whom he labeled "freedom fighters." Since then, and after an unsuccessful foray into politics, he has made his living as a right-wing ideologue, writing books, and establishing himself as a right-wing television commentator.
It looks like North's service to his military masters has never ended. Looking at the video from the Times, which shows rows of dead bodies, including many children, we can only conclude that North has once again lied for the government. It's his specialty, and one shouldn't be surprised. However, North's participation in this U.S. military cover-up vividly calls into question the role of embedded "reporters" among the armed services.
The cover story on Nawabad/Azizabad included U.S. asssurances that the villagers were lying about the casualties. This from Chris Floyd's coverage<http://www.chris-floyd.com/content/view/1601/135/>:
What's more, the Pentagon then claimed that the reports of a wider slaughter were being faked by the villagers, at the behest of the Taliban. The American brass even accused the survivors of the attack of creating fake graves to fool the good-hearted U.S. military inspectors who, it was claimed, quickly visited the scene to ascertain the truth.
But Carlotta Gall is reporting at the New York Times<http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/08/world/asia/08afghan.html?ei=5070>:
Cellphone images seen by this reporter show at least 11 dead children, some apparently with blast and concussion injuries, among some 30 to 40 bodies laid out in the village mosque. Ten days after the airstrikes, villagers dug up the last victim from the rubble, a baby just a few months old. Their shock and grief is still palpable....
A visitor to the village and to three graveyards within its limits on Aug. 31 counted 42 freshly dug graves. Thirteen of the graves were so small they could hold only children; another 13 were marked with stones in the way that Afghans identify women’s graves.
If it takes this concerted of an international outcry to get the truth out of the U.S. government (and they're not admitting to anything on Nawabad yet), how many other instances of U.S. military action can even be believed? Is there anything this government even says or does that has credibility? I know that sounds severe, but that's the price power pays for mendacity and cover-up.
Hat-tip to Grand Moff Texan at Daily Kos<http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/9/8/1572/82153/661/591235> for the TimesOnline article
from Howard Zinn :
Date: 11 September 2008
The U.S. "In Need of a Rebellion"
Al Jazeera speaks to Howard Zinn, the author, American historian, social critic and activist, about how the Iraq war damaged attitudes towards the US and why the US "empire" is close to collapse.
by Howard Zinn
Q: Where is the United States heading in terms of world power and influence?
HZ: America has been heading - for some time, and is heading right now - toward less and less world power, less and less influence.
Obviously, since the war in Iraq, the rest of the world has fallen away from the United States, and if American foreign policy continues in the way it has been - that is aggressive and violent and uncaring about the feelings and thoughts of other people - then the influence of the United States is going to decline more and more.
This is an empire which is on the one hand the most powerful empire that ever existed; on the other hand an empire that is crumbling - an empire that has no future ... because the rest of the world is alienated and simply because this empire is top-heavy with military commitments, with bases around the world, with the exhaustion of its own resources at home.
[This is] leading to more and more discontent and home, so I think the American empire will go the way of other empires and I think it is on its way now.
Q: Is there any hope the US will change its approach to the rest of the world?
HZ: If there is any hope, the hope lies in the American people. [It] lies in American people becoming resentful enough and indignant enough over what has happened to their country, over the loss of dignity in the world, over the starving of human resources in the United States, the starving of education and health, the takeover of the political mechanism by corporate power and the result this has on the everyday lives of the American people.
[There is also] the higher and higher food prices, the more and more insecurity, the sending of the young people to war.
I think all of this may very well build up into a movement of rebellion.
We have seen movements of rebellion in the past: The labour movement, the civil rights movement, the movement against the war in Vietnam.
I think we may well see, if the United States keeps heading in the same direction, a new popular movement. That is the only hope for the United States.
Q: How did the US get to this point?
HZ: Well, we got to this point because ... I suppose the American people have allowed it to get it to this point because there were enough Americans who were satisfied with their lives, just enough.
Of course, many Americans were not, that is why half of the population doesn't vote, they're alienated.
But there are just enough Americans who have been satisfied, you might say getting some of the "goodies" of the empire, just some of them, just enough people satisfied to support the system, so we got this way because of the ability of the system to maintain itself by satisfying just enough of the population to keep its legitimacy.
And I think that era is coming to an end.
Q: What should the world know about the United States?
HZ: What I find many people in the rest of the world don't know is that there is an opposition in the United States. Very often, people in the rest of the world think that Bush is popular, they think 'oh, he was elected twice', they don't understand the corruption of the American political system which enabled Bush to win twice.
They don't understand the basic undemocratic nature of the American political system in which all power is concentrated within two parties which are not very far from one another and people cannot easily tell the difference.
So I think we are in a situation where we are going to need some very fundamental changes in American society if the American people are going to be finally satisfied with the kind of society we have.
Q: Do you think the US can recover from its current position?
HZ: Well, I am hoping for a recovery process. I mean, so far we haven't seen it.
You asked about what the people of the rest of the world don't know about the United States, and as I said, they don't know that there is an opposition.
There always has been an opposition, but the opposition has always been either crushed or quieted, kept in the shadows, marginalised so their voices are not heard.
People in the rest of the world hear the voices of the American leaders.
They do not hear the voices of the people all over this country who do not like the American leaders who want different policies.
I think also, people in the rest of the world should know that what they see in Iraq now is really a continuation of a long, long term of American imperial expansion in the world.
I think ... a lot of people in the world think that this war in Iraq is an aberration, that before this the United States was a benign power.
It has never been a benign power, from the very first, from the American Revolution, from the taking-over of Indian land, from the Mexican war, the Spanish-American war.
It is embarrassing to say, but we have a long history in this country of violent expansion and I think not only do most people in other countries [not] know this, most Americans don't know this.
Q: Is there a way for this to improve?
HZ: Well you know, whatever hope there is lies in that large number of Americans who are decent, who don't want to go to war, who don't want to kill other people.
It is hard to see that hope because these Americans who feel that way have been shut out of the communications system, so their voices are not heard, they are not seen on the television screen, but they exist.
I have gone through, in my life, a number of social movements and I have seen how at the very beginning of these social movements or just before these social movements develop, there didn't seem to be any hope.
I lived in the [US] south for seven years, in the years of the civil rights movements, and it didn't seem that there was any hope, but there was hope under the surface.
And when people organised, and when people began to act, when people began to work together, people began to take risks, people began to oppose the establishment, people began to commit civil disobedience.
Well, then that hope became manifest ... it actually turned into change.
Q: Do you think there is a way out of this and for the future influence of the US on the world to be a positive one?
HZ: Well, you know for the United States to begin to be a positive influence in the world we are going to have to have a new political leadership that is sensitive to the needs of the American people, and those needs do not include war and aggression.
[It must also be] sensitive to the needs of people in other parts of the world, sensitive enough to know that American resources, instead of being devoted to war, should be devoted to helping people who are suffering.
You've got earthquakes and natural disasters all over the world, but the people in the United States have been in the same position as people in other countries.
The natural disasters here [also] brought little positive reaction - look at [Hurricane] Katrina.
The people in this country, the poor people especially and the people of colour especially, have been as much victims of American power as people in other countries.
Q: Can you give us an overall scope of everything we talked about - the power and influence of the United States?
HZ: The power and influence of the United States has declined rapidly since the war in Iraq because American power, as it has been exercised in the world historically, has been exposed more to the rest of the world in this situation and in other situations.
So the US influence is declining, its power is declining.
However strong a military machine it is, power does not ultimately depend on a military machine. So power is declining.
Ultimately power rests on the moral legitimacy of a system and the United States has been losing moral legitimacy.
My hope is that the American people will rouse themselves and change this situation, for the benefit of themselves and for the benefit of the rest of the world.
[Howard Zinn is the author of, most notably, A People's History of the United States, a National-Book-Award- nominated text that investigates US history from the standpoint of the oppressed. Other books by Zinn include Declarations of Independence: Cross-Examining American Ideology and his 1995 autobiography, You Can't be Neutral on a Moving Train.]
from Eric Hobsbawm :
Date: 16 September 2008
Subject: The Relevance of Marxist Scholarship Today.
The Current Importance of Marx: 150 Years After the Grundrisse
Conversation with Eric Hobsbawm
by Marcello Musto
Eric Hobsbawm is considered one of the greatest living historians. He is President of Birkbeck College (London University) and Professor Emeritus at the New School for Social Research (New York). Among his many writings are the trilogy about the "the long 19th century": The Age of Revolution: Europe 1789-1848
(1962); The Age of Capital: 1848-1874
(1975); The Age of Empire: 1875-1914
(1987), and the book The Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century, 1914-1991
is editor of Karl Marx's Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy
, London-New York: Routledge 2008.
1) M. M.
Professor Hobsbawm, two decades after 1989, when he was too hastily consigned to oblivion, Karl Marx has returned to the limelight. Freed from the role of instrumentum regni
to which he was assigned in the Soviet Union, and from the shackles of "Marxism-Leninism", he has in the last few years not only received intellectual attention through new publication of his work, but also been the focus of more widespread interest. Indeed in 2003, the French magazine Nouvel Observateur
dedicated a special issue to Karl Marx - le penseur du troisième millénaire?
(Karl Marx - the thinker of the third millennium?). A year later, in Germany, in an opinion poll sponsored by the television company ZDF to establish who were the most important Germans of all time, more than 500,000 viewers voted for Marx; he came third in the general classification and first in the "current relevance" category. Then, in 2005, the weekly Der Spiegel
portrayed him on the cover under the title Ein Gespenst kehrt zurück
(A spectre is back), while listeners to the BBC Radio 4 programme In Our Time
voted for Marx as their Greatest Philosopher.
In a recent public conversation with Jacques Attalì, you said that paradoxically "it is the capitalists more than others who have been rediscovering Marx", and you talked of your astonishment when the businessman and liberal politician George Soros said to you "I've just been reading Marx and there is an awful lot in what he says". Although weak and rather vague, what are the reasons for this revival? Is his work likely to be of interest only to specialists and intellectuals, being presented in university courses as a great classic of modern thought that should never be forgotten? Or could a new "demand for Marx" come in the future from the political side as well?
There is an undoubted revival of public interest in Marx in the capitalist world, though probably not as yet in the new East European members of the European Union. It was probably accelerated by the fact that the 150th anniversary of the publication of the Manifesto of the Communist Party
coincided with a particularly dramatic international economic crisis in the midst of a period of ultra-rapid free market globalization.
Marx had predicted the nature of the early 21st century world economy a hundred and fifty years earlier, on the basis of his analysis of "bourgeois society". It is not surprising that intelligent capitalists, especially in the globalized financial sector, were impressed by Marx, since they were necessarily more aware than others of the nature and instabilities of the capitalist economy in which they operated. Most of the intellectual Left no longer knew what to do with Marx. It had been demoralised by the collapse of the social-democratic project in most North Atlantic states in the 1980s and the mass conversion of national governments to free market ideology, as well as by the collapse of the political and economic systems that claimed to be inspired by Marx and Lenin. The so-called "new social movements" like feminism either had no logical connection with anti-capitalism (though as individuals their members might be aligned with it) or they challenged the belief in endless progress in human control over nature, which both capitalism and traditional socialism had shared. At the same time the "proletariat", divided and diminished, ceased to be credible as Marx's historical agent of social transformation. It is also the case that since 1968 the most prominent radical movements have preferred direct action not necessarily based on much reading and theoretical analysis.
Of course this does not mean that Marx will cease to be regarded as a great and classical thinker, although for political reasons, especially in countries like France and Italy with once powerful Communist parties, there has been a passionate intellectual offensive against Marx and Marxist analyses, which was probably at its height in the 1980s and 1990s. There are signs that it has now run its course.
2) M. M
. Throughout his life Marx was a shrewd and tireless researcher, who sensed and analysed better than anyone else in his time the development of capitalism on a world scale. He understood that the birth of a globalized international economy was inherent in the capitalist mode of production and predicted that this process would generate not only the growth and prosperity flaunted by liberal theorists and politicians but also violent conflicts, economic crises and widespread social injustice. In the last decade we have seen the East Asian Financial Crisis, which started in the summer of 1997, the Argentinian economic crisis of 1999-2002 and, above all, the subprime mortgage crisis, which started in the United States in 2006 and has now become the biggest post-war financial crisis. Is it right to say, therefore, that the return of interest in Marx is also based on the crisis of capitalist society and on his enduring capacity to explain the profound contradictions of today's world?
Whether the future politics of the Left will once again be inspired by Marx's analysis, as the old socialist and communist movements were, will depend on what happens to world capitalism. But this applies not only to Marx but to the Left as a coherent political ideology and project. Since, as you say correctly, the return of interest in Marx is largely - I would say mainly - based on the current crisis of capitalist society, the outlook is more promising than it was in the 1990s. The present world financial crisis, which may well become a major economic depression in the USA, dramatises the failure of the theology of the uncontrolled global free market, and forces even the US government to consider taking public actions forgotten since the 1930s. Political pressures are already weakening the commitment of economic neo-liberal governments to uncontrolled, unlimited and unregulated globalization. In some cases (China) the vast inequalities and injustices caused by a wholesale transition to a free market economy already raise major problems for social stability and raise doubts even at the higher levels of government.
It is clear that any "return to Marx" will be essentially a return to Marx's analysis of capitalism and its place in the historical evolution of humanity - including, above all, his analysis of the central instability of capitalist development, which proceeds through self-generated periodic economic crises, with political and social dimensions. No Marxist could believe for a moment that, as neo-liberal ideologists argued in 1989, liberal capitalism had established itself forever, that history had come to an end, or indeed that any system of human relations could ever be final and definitive.
3) M. M.
Do you not think that if the political and intellectual forces of the international left, who are questioning themselves with regard to socialism in the new century, were to foreswear the ideas of Marx, they would lose a fundamental guide for the examination and transformation of today's reality?
: No socialist can foreswear the ideas of Marx, since his belief that capitalism must be succeeded by another form of society is based not on hope or will but on a serious analysis of historical development, particularly in the capitalist era. His actual prediction that capitalism would be replaced by a socially managed or planned system still seems reasonable, though he certainly underestimated the market elements which would survive in any post-capitalist system(s). Since he deliberately abstained from speculation about the future, he cannot be made responsible for the specific ways in which "socialist" economies were organised under "really existing socialism". As to the objectives of socialism, Marx was not the only thinker who wanted a society without exploitation and alienation, in which all human beings could fully realise their potentialities, but he expressed this aspiration more powerfully than anyone else, and his words retain the power to inspire.
However, Marx will not return as a political inspiration to the Left until it is understood that his writings should not be treated as political programmes, authoritative or otherwise, nor as descriptions of the actual situation of world capitalism today, but rather as guides to his way of understanding the nature of capitalist development. Nor can or should we forget that he did not achieve a coherent and fully thought out presentation of his ideas, in spite of attempts by Engels and others to construct a volume II and III of Capital
out of Marx's manuscripts. As the Grundrisse
show, even a completed Capital
would have formed only part of Marx's own, perhaps excessively ambitious, original plan.
On the other hand, Marx will not return to the Left until the current tendency among radical activists to turn anti-capitalism into anti-globalism is abandoned. Globalisation exists, and, short of a collapse of human society, is irreversible. Indeed, Marx recognised it as a fact and, as an internationalist, welcomed it, in principle. What he criticised, and what we must criticize, was the kind of globalisation produced by capitalism.
4) M. M.
One of Marx's writings which has provoked the greatest interest amongst new readers and commentators is the Grundrisse
. Written between 1857 and 1858, the Grundrisse
is the first draft of Marx's critique of political economy and, thus, also the initial preparatory work on Capital
; it contains numerous reflections on matters that Marx did not develop elsewhere in his incomplete oeuvre. Why, in your opinion, are these manuscripts one of Marx's writings which continue to provoke more debate than any other, in spite of the fact that he wrote them only to summarise the foundations of his critique of political economy? What is the reason for their persistent appeal?
In my view the Grundrisse
have made so large an international impact on the Marxian intellectual scene for two connected reasons. They were virtually unpublished before the 1950s, and, as you say, contained a mass of reflections on matters that Marx did not develop elsewhere. They were not part of the largely dogmatised corpus of orthodox Marxism in the world of Soviet socialism, yet Soviet socialism could not simply dismiss them. They could therefore be used by Marxists who wanted to criticise orthodoxy or widen the scope of Marxist analysis by an appeal to a text which could not be accused of being heretical or anti-Marxist. Hence the editions of the 1970s and 1980s (well before the fall of the Berlin Wall) continued to provoke debate largely because in these manuscripts Marx raised important problems which were not considered in Capital
for instance, the questions raised in my preface to the volume of essays you collected [Karl Marx's Grundrisse. Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy 150 Years Later
, edited by M. Musto, LondonNew York: Routledge 2008; http://www.routledgeeconomics.com/books/Karl-Marxs-Grundrisse-isbn9780415437493
5) M. M.
the preface to this book, written by various international experts to mark the 150th anniversary of its composition, you have written: "Perhaps this is the right moment to return to a study of the Grundrisse
less constricted by the temporary considerations of leftwing politics between Nikita Khrushchev's denunciation of Stalin and the fall of Mikhail Gorbachev". Moreover, to underline the enormous value of this text, you stated that the Grundrisse
"contains analyses and insights, for instance about technology, that take Marx's treatment of capitalism far beyond the nineteenth century, into the era of a society where production no longer requires mass labour, of automation, the potential of leisure, and the transformations of alienation in such circumstances. It is the only text that goes some way beyond Marx's own hints of the communist future in the German Ideology
. In a few words, it has been rightly described as Marx's thought at its richest." Therefore, what might be the result of re-reading the Grundrisse
There are probably not more than a handful of editors and translators who have full knowledge of this large and notoriously difficult mass of texts. But a re-rereading, or rather reading, of them today could help us to rethink Marx: to distinguish what is general in Marx's analysis of capitalism from what was specific to the situation of mid-nineteenth-century "bourgeois society". We cannot predict what conclusions from this analysis are possible and likely, only that they will certainly not command unanimous agreement.
6) M. M.
To finish, one final question. Why is it important today to read Marx?
To anyone interested in ideas, whether a university student or not, it is patently clear that Marx is and will remain one of the great philosophical minds and economic analysts of the nineteenth century, and, at his best, a master of passionate prose. It is also important to read Marx because the world in which we live today cannot be understood without the influence that the writings of this man had on the twentieth century. And finally, he should be read because, as he himself wrote, the world cannot be effectively changed unless it is understood - and Marx remains a superb guide to understanding the world and the problems we must confront.
from John Gerassi
Date: 21 September 2008
Subject: Unpublished letter to the New York Times.
For your info, I just sent this letter to the Times, which I doubt they will run.
To the Editor:
n his 'A Spy Confesses' (Week in Review 9/21), Sam Roberts claims that
folks 'fiercely loyal to the far left, believed that the Rosenbergs were
not guilty...' I am and have always been, since my stint as a correspondent
and editor in Latin America for Time and Newsweek, a 'far leftist,' and I
have never claimed the Rosenbergs were not guilty. Nor have any of my 'far
leftist' friends. What we always said, and what I repeat to my students
every semester, is that 'if they were guilty, they are this planet's great
heroes.' My explanation is quite simple: The US had a first-strike policy,
the USSR did not (until Gorbachev). In 1952, the US military, and various
intelligence services, calculated that a first strike on all Soviet silos
would wipe out all but 6 % of Russian atomic missiles (and, we now know,
create enough radiation to kill us all). But those six percent would
automatically be fired at US cities. The military then calculated what
would happen if one made a direct hit on Denver (why they chose Denver and
not New York or Washington was never explained). Their finding: 200,000
would die immediately, two million within a month. They concluded that it
was not worth it. In other words, I tell my students, you were born and I
am alive because the USSR had a deterrent against our 'preventive' attack,
not the other way around. And if it is true that the Rosenbergs helped the
Soviets get that deterrent, they end up among the planet's saviors.
John Gerassi, Professor of Political Science, Queens College--CUNY, author
of 'Jean-Paul Sartre: Hated Conscience of His Century,' and the forthcoming
'Conversations with Jean-Paul Sartre' (Yale University Press),