N. Korea Conundrum: ‘Washington Confuses Concept of Negotiation With Surrender’

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The US is essentially irrelevant to the solution of the Korean problem and, if a deal is made between the North and South, the US will be asked to leave, says Daniel McAdams, executive director of the Ron Paul Peace Institute.

Donald Trump said during a meeting with the South Korean President Moon Jae-in in the US capital on Tuesday that his much-anticipated summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on June 12 might not happen.

Both Washington and Pyongyang have previously suggested they may not be willing to hold talks unless certain conditions are met.

RT discussed the situation with McAdams, from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity.

Daniel McAdams: It is interesting to see how Trump and his top advisers seem to be at odds with each other. I don’t know if his management style is to create chaos and see if some order comes from it or what in fact may be his style, but a few days ago you saw John Bolton bringing up the issue of the Libya scenario. I don’t believe this was an accident. This is the same Bolton who just before he was confirmed as the president’s national security adviser wrote an article encouraging the US to have a first strike against North Korea. I don’t believe that he has changed his tune in just a couple of months. Here you have him basically talking about Libya as a model for North Korea. We know what happened to Libya: Libya voluntarily gave up its weapons and was overthrown nonetheless. If that is not the red flag to the North Koreans, I don’t know what is. And they did take it as a red flag: they said: “John Bolton is not welcome here. We don’t even want to talk to the South as long as this kind of nonsense is going on.”  

RT: Where does the confusion come from?

DA: The problem is that Washington confuses the idea of negotiation with the idea of surrender. The meeting for Trump and Kim in Singapore should have been the beginning of a dialogue, of a process. Instead John Bolton and others have laid down the law: Here what you got to do. I think Bolton said: “Tell us where we should send our planes, pick up your stuff and take it away.” So, the whole idea is that you immediately surrender and we give you vague promises in the future making you very rich. If I were North Korea, particularly watching how the US tore up the Iran agreement, if you have any mind at all, you would be very skeptical…

RT: Do you think North Korea is taking the talk as seriously as they should knowing how the Trump administration behaves?

DA: I don’t think that is the case because I think the US is essentially irrelevant to the solution of the Korean problem. And that may be one of the silver linings – the fact that the Trump administration seems to have no clue what it is doing. The North and South are clearly moving ahead. We saw the historic meeting on the border. We saw the talks progress. Moon was elected to do exactly what he is trying to do. And I think it’s actually the US interventionist neoconservatives who are isolating the US and making us irrelevant which, from the libertarian perspective, is actually very good thing. I think this will go ahead.

RT: Is the US ever going to pull out of South Korea? It’s not on the cards, is it?

DA: Things happened very quickly. Who would have thought just before December 1989 that the Wall would come down. These things do happen. Historic events do happen.…I think that the ball is in play with North and South Korea and the US is irrelevant. At some point if the deal is made between the North and South, eventually, the US will have to be asked to leave.

Reprinted with permission from RT.

US Names 18th Afghan War Commander – Are We Turning The Corner Yet?

As the US names its 18th military commander in the 17 year long war on Afghanistan, is there any reason to believe that victory is in sight? The latest reports by the Pentagon to Congress show that no progress has been made and another recent report by the Special Inspector General found that the Afghan army is losing soldiers at an alarming rate. Washington's proxies in Afghanistan don't want to fight. So why not just end the war? Tune in to today's Liberty Report:

Mike Pompeo Hurls ‘Assassination’ Charges at Iran, but Nobody Knows What the Hell he’s Talking About

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America’s chief foreign negotiator has a message for Iran: stop assassinating people.

The problem is, nobody from security experts to Iranian dissidents has any idea what the hell he means.

The Guardian picks up the story:
Mike Pompeo’s claim that the Iran’s Revolutionary Guard is carrying out 'assassination operations in the heart of Europe' has bewildered security experts and Iranian exiles, who say they are not aware of any evidence for the allegation.

The new US secretary of state referred to the alleged assassinations in his first major speech on Monday, but devoted just a single line to it amid a litany of criticisms of Iranian behaviour, giving no further details. 

'Today, the Iranian Quds Force conducts covert assassination operations in the heart of Europe,' Pompeo said, referring to the external operations arm of the Islamic revolutionary guards corps (IRGC).
Experts told The Guardian there haven’t been any assassinations in which Iran is even considered a suspect, since the early 1990s.

Even the State Department’s spokeswoman was dumbfounded (which admittedly, is not a rare occurrence):
Asked about Pompeo’s statement, the state department spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, said: 'He has information and access to information that I do not. I am not able to comment on that in particular but I can tell the secretary has assured me that there is a basis for that point in his speech and he stands firmly behind that.'

US diplomats specialising in Iran were taken by surprise by Pompeo’s allegations.
The startling charge comes at the same time as Pompeo’s announcement of a list of 12 impudent demands on Iran, most of which have almost no connection to geo-political reality.

Maybe Pompeo has spent too much time on the phone with Bibi Netanyahu lately, and accidentally confused the ongoing killing and abduction activities of Israel’s secret service, Mossad, with those of Iran.

Just last month, on April 21, 2018, a Palestinian engineer named Fadi al-Batashwas shot 14 times and left for dead in Kuala Lumpur. Two suspects of “light skinned, European appearance” sped away on a motorcycle. Mossad is widely suspected.

On December 17, 2016, Palestinian aviation engineer Mohamed Zaouari was murdered in Tunisia, a killing the Palestinian militant group Hamas blamed on Mossad.

On December 21, 2015, Israel killed 12 people in Damascus, including two Iranian intelligence officers, and several members of the Lebanese group Hizbollah.

Israel has even eliminated targets inside Iran itself. On January 11, 2012, Mossad was blamed for killing an Iranian nuclear engineer, Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan, using a bomb in Tehran.

Mossad also is believed to have assassinated an Iranian general, Hassan Tehrani Moghaddam, who worked on Iran’s ballistic missile program, on November 12, 2011.

Nor is Europe excluded from the field of Israeli operations. Also in 2011, Mossad abducted Palestinian Dirar Abu Sisi from a train in Kharkov, Ukraine, and took him to Israel. Ironically, he was accused of having knowledge of the kidnapping of an Israeli.

So while nobody can name a single assassination conducted by Iran in the last 25 years – not least of which in Europe – multiple Iranians have been killed by Israel in the last decade, including inside Iran itself.

Yes, it seems Mike has definitely been hanging out with Bibi too long.

Of course, Donald Trump’s (or is it Netanyahu’s?) new Secretary of State has been waging a war of words against Tehran since long before he took over the top spot at Foggy Bottom.

Formerly one of the most jingoistic members of congress, Pompeo, “first in his class at West Point”, has argued for more forceful and aggressive US foreign policy towards Iran, Syria, and Russia – to name a few.

Obviously a great choice to lead America’s diplomats.

As we’ve seen in conduct dating back to the Iraq War in 2003, Washington’s spokesmen are not only entitled to their own opinions, they also seem entitled to their own facts.

Reprinted with permission from The Duran.

The Libya Model is a Distraction

On Fox News Sunday, United States national security advisor John Bolton brought up the Libya model as a template for the denuclearization of North Korea.

Following up, president Donald Trump noted, “In Libya, we decimated that country. That country was decimated.” However, Trump did assure North Korean chairman Kim Jong-un that he’d remain in power after denuclearization.

Then came US vice-president Michael Pence on Fox News:

There was some talk about the Libyan model last week, and you know, as the President made clear, this will only end like the Libyan model ended if Kim Jong Un doesn’t make a deal.

When told that such a comparison could be viewed as a threat, Pence instead considered: “Well, I think it’s more of a fact.”

History tells a tale. After Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi gave up Libya’s nuclear weapons program, he was eventually deposed by NATO bombing in support of rebels who brutally murdered Gaddafi in cold blood. Hillary Clinton gleefully cackled about it on CBS News afterwards.

What kind of dunderhead would Kim have to be not to realize the behind-the-curtain machinations Washington has planned for him and his government. The US simply should not be believed or trusted.

But there seems to be an apparent wrench in the works of Washington’s scheming. Kim, after all, has a nuclear bomb. It makes one wonder: what do Donald Trump and the US military establishment not understand about nuclear deterrence? There are no winners in a nuclear war.

All the blather about a Libya model merely reinforces the correctness of the North Korean decision and the necessity to develop a nuclear deterrence. It must be emphasized that — despite wild proclamations from Washington1 — what North Korea possesses is a nuclear deterrence and not a nuclear threat. Obviously, to initiate a nuclear attack would be sheer folly and a suicidal act for Kim Jong-un and his government. However, North Korea is on record as asserting a no-first-use policy for nukes.2 This is a rational stance.

Contrariwise, the US does not reject its first use of nukes. Thus, the US nukes exist as other than a deterrence factor.

Is the US an irrational actor?

The bigwigs in the Trump administration are not dunderheads either. There is a method to their madness — a desired outcome. The US, despite administration declamations to the contrary, is quite aware that North Korea would not start a nuclear war. The North Koreans are known to be rational.

Yet the strategizing of the military-industrial complex is also based in rationality when its capitalistic motivations are considered. When it comes to warmongering, the greater the number of enemies the US is faced with, the more opportunities for weapons deals to replenish homeland armories and supplying fearful allied countries. Moreover, there are the opportunities created for morally challenged investors to seek profit from war.

The military-industrial complex’s lust for war profiteering motivates it to maintain a hostile posture to designated enemies like North Korea. This is rational in the pecuniary sense. It is rational for the military-industrial complex to assume a hostile posture to Iran. It is logical to support war crimes by the Jewish State against the civilian population of Gaza and also to support the siege of Gaza in hopes of fomenting a violent uprising. It’s rational to keep Syria in conflagration.

It is even rational to poke the Russian bear and prod the Chinese dragon. The more formidable the designated enemy, the greater the potential for evoking fear among home populations and crank over the wheels of the military-industrial ever more.

In this manner arms sales are stimulated, share prices for armaments are sent rising, and thus it happens that the undiplomatic bombast and war crimes committed by military industrialists is rewarded with ensanguined lucre.

Nonetheless, all the money in the world means nothing come a nuclear winter.

  1. Michael Pence in his recent interview stated that the US “is not going to tolerate the regime in North Korea possessing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles that threaten the United States and our allies…”
  2. A translation of the North Korean news agency KCNA quotes Kim saying, “As a responsible nuclear weapons state, our republic will not use a nuclear weapon unless its sovereignty is encroached upon by any aggressive hostile forces with nukes.”

The Significance of Karl Marx

I often have occasion to think that, as an “intellectual,” I’m very lucky to be alive at this time in history, at the end of the long evolution from Herodotus and the pre-Socratic philosophers to Chomsky and modern science. One reason for my gratitude is simply that, as I wrote long ago in a moment of youthful idealism, “the past is a kaleidoscope of cultural achievements, or rather a cornucopian buffet whose fruits I can sample—a kiwi here, a mango there—a few papayas—and then choose which are my favorite delicacies—which are healthiest, which savory and sweet—and invent my own diet tailored to my needs. History can be appropriated by each person as he chooses,” I gushed, “selectively employed in the service of his self-creation. The individual can be more complete than ever in the past!” But while this Goethean ideal of enlightened self-cultivation is important, perhaps an even greater advantage of living so late in history is that, if one has an open and critical mind, it is possible to have a far more sophisticated and correct understanding of the world than before. Intellectual history is littered with egregious errors, myths and lies that have beguiled billions of minds. Two centuries after the Enlightenment, however, the spirit of rationalism and science has achieved so many victories that countless millions have been freed from the ignorance and superstition of the past.

Few thinkers deserve more credit for the liberation of the human mind than Karl Marx. Aside from the heroes of the Scientific Revolution—Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Boyle, a few others—and their philosophical ‘translators’—Francis Bacon, Spinoza, Voltaire, Diderot, David Hume—hardly any come close. But not only did Marx contribute to our intellectual liberation; he also, of course, made immense contributions to the struggle for liberation from oppressive power-structures (a struggle that, indeed, is a key component of the effort to free our minds). These two major achievements amply justify the outpouring of articles on the bicentennial of his birth, and in fact, I think, call for yet another one, to consider in more depth both his significance and his shortcomings.

My focus in this article is going to be on his ideas, not on his life or his activism. He was certainly an inspiration in the latter respect, but it is his writings that are timeless. The fanatical and violent hatred they’ve always elicited from the enemies of human progress, the spokesmen of a power-loving, money-worshipping misanthropy, is the most eloquent proof of their value.

*****

The central reason for Marx’s importance and fame is, of course, that he gave us the most sophisticated elaboration of the most fundamental concept in social analysis: class.

He was far from the only thinker to emphasize class. One might even say that the primary of class verges on common sense (despite what postmodernists think—on whom, see below). In his Politics, Aristotle already interpreted society according to the divergent interests of the poor and the rich. The semi-conservative James Madison, like other Enlightenment figures, agreed, as is clear from his famous Federalist No. 10:

[T]he most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society. Those who are creditors, and those who are debtors, fall under a like discrimination. A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests, grow up of necessity in civilized nations, and divide them into different classes actuated by different sentiments and views.

Could anything be more obvious than this proto-historical materialism?

But Marx was unique in systematically expounding this materialism and grounding it in rigorous analysis of production relations—the concept of which he practically invented, or at least self-consciously elevated to a determining status and analyzed with exhaustive thoroughness. As everyone passingly familiar with Marxism knows, such notions as exploitation, surplus, surplus-value, and class struggle acquired a quasi-scientific—which is to say exact and precisely explanatory—character in the context of Marx’s investigation of production relations, in particular those of capitalism.

Given that historical materialism is often ridiculed and rejected, it isn’t out of place here to give a simplified account of its basic premises, an account that shows how uncontroversial these premises ought to be. This is especially desirable in a time when even self-styled Marxists feel compelled, due to the cultural sway held by feminism and identity politics, to deny that class has priority over other variables such as gender, sexuality, and race.

The explanatory (and therefore strategic, for revolutionaries) primacy of class can be established on simple a priori grounds, quite apart from empirical sociological or historical analysis. One has only to reflect that access to resources—money, capital, technology—is of unique importance to life, being key to survival, to a high quality of life, to political power, to social and cultural influence; and access to (or control over) resources is determined ultimately by class position, one’s position in the social relations of production. The owner of the means of production, i.e., the capitalist, has control over more resources than the person who owns only his labor-power, which means he is better able to influence the political process (for example by bribing politicians) and to propagate ideas and values that legitimate his dominant position and justify the subordination of others. These two broad categories of owners and workers have opposing interests, most obviously in the inverse relation between wages and profits. This antagonism of interests is the “class struggle,” a struggle that need not always be explicit or conscious but is constantly present on an implicit level, indeed is constitutive of the relationship between capitalist and worker. The class struggle—that is, the structure and functioning of economic institutions—can be called the foundation of society, the dynamic around which society tends to revolve, because, again, it is through class that institutions and actors acquire the means to influence social life.

These simple, commonsense reflections suffice to establish the meaning and validity of Marx’s infamous, “simplistic,” “reductionist” contrast between the economic “base” and the political, cultural, and ideological “superstructure.” Maybe his language here was misleading and metaphorical. He was only sketching his historical materialism in a short preface, the Preface to his Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, and could hardly have foreseen that generations of academic sophists would later pore over his words, pick at them, cavil at them, fling casuistries at each other until a vast scholarly literature had been produced debating Marxian “economic determinism.” As if the relative primacy of economic institutions—which is to say relations of production, class structures—that are, by definition, directly involved in the accumulation and distribution of material resources and thus power, isn’t anything but a truism, and can be seen as such on the basis of such elementary reasoning as in the preceding paragraph.

The Communist Manifesto’s epoch-making claim, therefore, that the history of all complex societies has been the history of class struggle is not ridiculous or oversimplifying, contrary to what has been claimed a thousand times in scholarship and the popular press; it is, broadly speaking, accurate, if “class struggle” is understood to mean not only explicit conflict between classes (and class-subgroups; see the above quotation from Madison) but also the implicit antagonism of interests between classes, which constitutes the structure of economic institutions. Particular class structures/dynamics, together with the level of development of productive forces they determine and are expressed through, provide the basic institutional context around which a given politics and culture are fleshed out.1

Thus, to argue, as feminists, queer theorists, and confused Marxists like Peter Frase are wont to, that class is of no special significance compared to group identities like gender and race is quite mistaken. Neither feminism nor anti-racist activism targets such institutional structures as the relation between capitalist and worker; or, to the extent that these movements do, they become class-oriented and lose their character as strictly feminist or anti-racist. If you want a society of economic democracy, in which economic exploitation, “income inequality,” mass poverty, imperialism, militarism, ecological destruction, and privatization of resources are done away with, the goal of your activism has to be to abolish capitalist institutions—the omnipotence of the profit motive, the dictatorial control of capitalist over worker—and not simply misogyny or vicious treatment of minorities. These issues are important, but only anti-capitalism is properly revolutionary, involving a total transformation of society (because a transformation of the very structures of institutions, not merely who is allowed into the privileged positions).

Moreover, as plenty of feminists and Black Lives Matter activists well know, you can’t possibly achieve the maximal goals that identity politics pursues while remaining in a capitalist society. Most or all of the oppression that minorities experience is precisely a result of capitalism’s perverse incentives, and of the concentration of power in a tiny greedy elite. This ties into the fact that, since the time of Marx and Engels, a colossal amount of empirical scholarship has shown the power of the Marxian analytical framework. (I summarize some of the scholarship here.) Even ideologies of race, nation, and gender are largely a product of class—of slavery and its aftermath in the U.S., of European imperialism, of attempts by the Victorian upper class to control working-class women’s lives and sexuality.

In the case of religious fundamentalism in the U.S., for example, historians have shown that since early in the twentieth century, and especially since the 1970s, conservative sectors of the business community have subsidized right-wing evangelical Christianity in order to beat back unionism and liberalism, which have been tarred and feathered as communist, socialist, godless, etc. More generally, for centuries the ruling class has propagated divisive ideas of race, religion, nationality, and gender in order, partly, to fragment the working class and so control it more easily and effectively. By now, leftists see such arguments, rightly, as truisms.

On the other hand, most intellectuals, including many academically trained leftists, also see Marxian “economistic” arguments as overly simplifying and reductivist. Mainstream intellectuals in particular consider it a sign of unsophistication that Marxism tends to abstract from complicating factors and isolate the class variable. “Reality is complicated!” they shout in unison. “You also have to take into account the play of cultural discourses, the diversity of subjective identities, etc. Class isn’t everything!” Somehow it is considered an intellectual vice, and not a virtue, to simplify for the sake of understanding. It’s true, after all, that the world is complex; and so in order to understand it one has to simplify it a bit, explain it in terms of general principles. As in the natural sciences, a single principle can never explain everything; but, if it is the right one, it can explain a great deal.

Noam Chomsky, with characteristic eloquence, defended this point in an interview in 1990. I might as well quote him at length. Since he is in essence just an idiosyncratic and anarchistic Marxist—in fact one of the most consistent Marxists of all, despite his rejection of the label—his arguments are exactly those to which every thoughtful materialist is committed.

Question: But you’re often accused of being too black-and-white in your analysis, of dividing the world into evil élites and subjugated or mystified masses. Does your approach ever get in the way of basic accuracy?

Answer: I do approach these questions a bit differently than historical scholarship generally does. But that’s because humanistic scholarship tends to be irrational. I approach these questions pretty much as I would approach my scientific work. In that work—in any kind of rational inquiry—what you try to do is identify major factors, understand them, and see what you can explain in terms of them. Then you always find a periphery of unexplained phenomena, and you introduce minor factors and try to account for those phenomena. What you’re always searching for is the guiding principles: the major effects, the dominant structures. In order to do that, you set aside a lot of tenth-order effects. Now, that’s not the method of humanistic scholarship, which tends in a different direction. Humanistic scholarship—I’m caricaturing a bit for simplicity—says every fact is precious; you put it alongside every other fact. That’s a sure way to guarantee you’ll never understand anything. If you tried to do that in the sciences, you wouldn’t even reach the level of Babylonian astronomy.

I don’t think the [social] field of inquiry is fundamentally different in this respect. Take what we were talking about before: institutional facts. Those are major factors. There are also minor factors, like individual differences, microbureaucratic interactions, or what the President’s wife told him at breakfast. These are all tenth-order effects. I don’t pay much attention to them, because I think they all operate within a fairly narrow range which is predictable by the major factors. I think you can isolate those major factors. You can document them quite well; you can illustrate them in historical practice; you can verify them. If you read the documentary record critically, you can find them very prominently displayed, and you can find that other things follow from them. There’s also a range of nuances and minor effects, and I think these two categories should be very sharply separated.

When you proceed in this fashion, it might give someone who’s not used to such an approach the sense of black-and-white, of drawing lines too clearly. It purposely does that. That’s what is involved when you try to identify major, dominant effects and put them in their proper place.

But instead of trying to systematically explain society by starting from a general principle and evaluating its utility, then proceeding to secondary factors like race or sex and using them to elucidate phenomena not explained by the dominant principle, the approach that tends to prevail in the humanities and social sciences is a sort of methodological relativism. In historical scholarship, for example, especially social history, you’re generally expected just to describe things from different perspectives. You should discuss gender, and race, and class, and various relevant “discourses,” and how people identified themselves, how they reacted to given developments, and perhaps issues of sexuality and the body, etc. Some knowledge may be gained, but often this work amounts to unanchored description seemingly for its own sake—description from an idealist perspective, not a materialist one. The anti-Marxian idealism is an essential quality of this mainstream writing, and is quite dominant in the humanities and social sciences.

*****

On the bicentennial of Marx’s birth, it’s intellectually shameful (though predictable) that idealism is still the primary tendency in scholarship and journalism. I’ve criticized bourgeois idealism elsewhere, for example here, here, and here, but it is worth discussing again because of how dominant it is, and how damaging.

What idealism means, of course, is an emphasis on ideas or consciousness over material factors, whether “social being”—economic conditions, institutional imperatives (the need to follow the rules of given social structures), interests as opposed to ideals or ideologies, and the necessities of biological survival—or, in the context of philosophical idealism such as that of Berkeley, Schopenhauer, and the logical positivists, the existence of mind-independent matter. Philosophical idealism, while no longer as respectable as it once was, persists in forms less honest and direct than that of Berkeley, especially in postmodernist circles and schools of thought influenced by the Continental tradition (e.g., phenomenology) and even American pragmatism. More important, though, is the type of idealism that disparages class and social being.

This idealism comes in different varieties. Its most common manifestation is the uncritical tendency to take seriously the rhetoric and self-interpretations of the powerful. As Marx understood and Chomsky likes to point out, humans are expert at deceiving themselves, at attributing noble motives to themselves when baser desires of power, money, recognition, institutional pressures, etc. are what really motivate them. The powerful in particular love to clothe themselves in the garb of moral grandeur. They insist that they’re invading a country in order to protect human rights or spread democracy and freedom; that they’re expanding prisons to keep communities safer, and deporting immigrants to keep the country safe; that by cutting social welfare programs they’re trying honestly to reduce the budget deficit, and by cutting taxes on the rich they only want to stimulate the economy. When journalists and intellectuals take seriously such threadbare, predictable rhetoric, they’re disregarding the lesson of Marxism that individuals aren’t even the main actors here in the first place; institutions are. The individuals can tell themselves whatever stories they want about their own behavior, but the primary causes of the design and implementation of political policies are institutional dynamics, power dynamics. Political and economic actors represent certain interests, and they act in accordance with those interests. That’s all.

The example I like to give of academics’ idealism is Odd Arne Westad’s celebrated book The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Times, which won the Bancroft Prize in 2006. Its thesis is that “the United States and the Soviet Union were driven to intervene in the Third World by the ideologies inherent in their politics. Locked in conflict over the very concept of European modernity…Washington and Moscow needed to change the world in order to prove the universal applicability of their ideologies…” It’s a remarkably unsophisticated argument, which is backed up by remarkably unsophisticated invocations of policymakers’ rhetoric. It rises to the level of farce. At one point, after quoting a State Department spokesman on George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq—“I believe in freedom as a right, a responsibility, a destiny… The United States stands for freedom, defends freedom, advances freedom, and enlarges the community of freedom because we think it is the right thing to do”—Westad states ingenuously that the Iraq invasion was a perfect example of how “freedom and security have been, and remain today, the driving forces of U.S. foreign policy.” As if gigantic government bureaucracies are moved to act out of pure altruism!

Related to this idealism is the self-justifying faith of liberal intellectuals that ideals truly matter in the rough-and-tumble of political and economic life. John Maynard Keynes gave a classic exposition of this faith in the last paragraph of his General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money, which has stroked academic egos for generations:

…[T]he ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. [?!] Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back. I am sure that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas… [S]oon or late, it is ideas, not vested interests, which are dangerous for good or evil.

These are backward fantasies, which grow out of a poor sociological imagination. The point is that the ideas that come to be accepted as gospel are those useful to vested interests, which are the entities that have the resources to propagate them. (In the typically bourgeois language of impersonal ‘automaticity,’ Keynes refers to “the gradual encroachment of ideas.” But ideas don’t spread of themselves; they are propagated and subsidized by people and institutions whose interests they express. This is why “the ruling ideas of a society are the ideas of its ruling class,” which has the resources to spread them.)

Keynes’ famous book itself contributed not at all to the so-called Keynesian policies of FDR and Hitler and others; in fact, such policies were already being pursued by Baron Haussmann in France in the 1850s, because they were useful in giving employment to thousands of workers and raising aggregate demand and thereby economic growth. Is it likely that had Keynes not published his book in 1936, the U.S. government during and after World War II would have pursued radically different, un-Keynesian economic policies? Hardly. Because they were useful to vested interests, those policies were bound to be adopted—and economists, tools of the ruling class, were bound to systematize their theoretical rationalizations sooner or later.

But liberals continue to believe that if only they can convince politicians of their intellectual or moral errors, they can persuade them to change their policies. Paul Krugman’s columns in the New York Times provide amusing examples of this sort of pleading. It’s telling that he always ends his analysis right before getting to a realistic proposal: he scrupulously avoids saying that for his ideas to be enacted it’s necessary to revive unions on a systemic scale, or to organize radical and disruptive social movements to alter the skewed class structure. Such an analytic move would require that he step into the realm of Marxism, abandoning his liberal idealism, and would thus bar him from being published in the New York Times.

If I may be permitted to give another example of liberal idealism: I recall reading a few years ago Richard Goodwin’s popular book Remembering America: A Voice from the Sixties (1988), a memoir of his time as speechwriter and adviser to John F. Kennedy. It’s a flabby centrist whitewashing of history, a nostalgic apotheosis of Kennedy and America and democracy, etc., not worth reading on its merits. However—to quote myself

The book is enlightening as a window into the mind of the Harvard liberal, revelatory of the sort of thoughts this person has, his worldview. Liberalism from the inside. A prettified ideology, bland but appealing, with the reference to spiritual truths, reason, ideals of harmony and peace, a rising tide lifting all boats, the fundamental compatibility of all interests in society (except for those we don’t like, of course), the nonexistence of class struggle, government’s ability to solve all social ills, history as a progressive battle between knowledge and ignorance, light and darkness, reason and unreason, open-mindedness and bigotry, and any other set of binary abstractions you can think of. The whole ideology hovers above reality in the heavenly mists of Hope and Progress. It’s all very pretty, hence its momentary resurgence—which quickly succumbed to disillusionment—with Barack Obama. And hence its ability to get through the filters of the class structure, to become an element in the hegemonic American discourse, floating above institutional realities like some imaginary golden idol one worships in lieu of common sense. It serves a very useful purpose for business, averting people’s eyes from the essential incompatibility of class interests toward the idea of Gradual Progress by means of tinkering at the margins, making nice policies.

Such is the function of liberal idealism for the ruling class.

One other type of idealism that must be mentioned is the postmodernist variety (or rather varieties). It’s ironic that postmodernist intellectuals, with their rejection of “meta-narratives” and the idea of objective truth, consider themselves hyper-sophisticated, because in fact they’re less sophisticated than even unreflective doctrinaire Marxists. They’re not so much post-Marxist as pre-Marxist, in that they haven’t assimilated the important intellectual lessons of the Marxist tradition.

In both its subjectivism and its focus on “discourses,” “texts,” “meanings,” “vocabularies,” “cultures,” and the like, postmodernism is idealistic—and relativistic. Foucault’s Discipline and Punish, for example, tends to ignore class and particular economic and political contexts, instead concentrating on the opinions of reformers, philosophers, politicians, and scientists. (Far better—more illuminating—is Georg Rusche and Otto Kirchheimer’s Marxist classic Punishment and Social Structure, published in 1939.) Later on things got even worse, as with Frederick Cooper and Ann Laura Stoler’s much-heralded collection Tensions of Empire: Colonial Cultures in a Bourgeois World (1997). I can’t go into depth here, so suffice it to say that this book, like so much of postmodernism, consists essentially of playing around with ideas of cultural “contestations” and the tensions involved in people’s “negotiations” of disparate identities. The analyses are so particularistic and so purely descriptive, focusing, say, on (the cultural dimensions of) some little village in Senegal or some protest movement in Ecuador, that no interesting conclusions can be drawn. Instead there is a fluctuation between hyper-particularity and hyper-abstractness, as in the typical—and utterly truistic—“arguments” that the colonized had agency, that colonized cultures weren’t totally passive, that “colonial regimes were neither monolithic nor omnipotent” (who has ever said they were?), that “meanings” of institutions “were continually being reshaped,” and so on. After all the “analysis,” one is left asking, “Okay, so what?” It’s all just masturbatory play undertaken for the sake of itself. No wonder this sort of writing has been allowed to become culturally dominant.

The postmodern focus on the body, too, is, ironically, idealistic. Subjectivistic. Which is to say it’s more politically safe than Marxism, since it doesn’t challenge objective structures of class (except insofar as such subjectivism, or identity politics, allies itself with a class focus). Any intellectual who finds himself being accepted by mainstream institutions, as hordes of Foucault-loving postmodernists and feminists have—contrary to the treatment of materialists like Gabriel Kolko, Thomas Ferguson, Jesse Lemisch, David Noble, Staughton Lynd, Rajani Kanth, Norman Finkelstein, Noam Chomsky, Glenn Greenwald, and many others—should immediately start to question whether his ideas get to the heart of the matter or do not, instead, distract from the workings of power.

Said differently, the problem with identity politics is that it doesn’t completely reject Margaret Thatcher’s infamous saying, “There is no such thing as society.” It takes a semi-individualistic approach to analysis and activism. A revolutionary answers Thatcher with the statement, “There is no such thing as the individual”—in the sense that the focus must be on institutional structures, which mold us and dominate us. To the degree that the focus turns toward the individual, or his identity, his body, his subjectivity, the radicalism becomes more anodyne (while not necessarily ceasing to be oppositional or important).

There is a great deal more to be said about postmodernism. For instance, I could make the obvious point that its particularism and relativism, its elevation of fragmentary “narratives” and its Kuhnian emphasis on the supposed incommensurability of different “paradigms,” is just as useful to the ruling class as its idealism, since it denies general truths about class struggle and capitalist dynamics. (See Georg Lukács’ masterpiece The Destruction of Reason for a history of how such relativism and idealism contributed to the cultural climate that made Hitler possible.) Or I could argue that the rationalism and universalism of the Radical Enlightenment, which found its fulfillment in Marxism, is, far from being dangerous or containing the seeds of its own destruction—as postmodernists and confused eclectic Marxists like Theodor Adorno have argued—the only hope for humanity.

Instead I’ll only observe, in summary, that idealism is not new: it is as old as the hills, and Marx made an immortal contribution in repudiating it. Idealism has always afflicted mainstream intellectual culture, all the way back to antiquity, when Plato viewed the world as consisting of shadows of ideal Forms, Hindus and Buddhists interpreted it in spiritual terms and as being somehow illusory, and Stoics were telling “the slave in the mines that if he would only think aright he would be happy” (to quote the classicist W. W. Tarn). Idealism persisted through the Christian Middle Ages, Confucian China, and Hindu India. It dominated the Enlightenment, when philosophes were arguing that ignorance and superstition were responsible for mass suffering and a primordial conspiracy of priests had plunged society into darkness. Hegel, of course, was an arch-idealist. Finally a thinker came along who renounced this whole tradition and systematized the common sense of the hitherto despised “rabble,” the workers, the peasants, the women struggling to provide for their children—namely that ideas are of little significance compared to class and material conditions. The real heroes, the real actors in history are not the parasitic intellectuals or the marauding rulers but the people working day in and day out to maintain society, to preserve and improve the conditions of civilization for their descendants.

Had there been no Marx or Engels, revolutionaries and activists would still have targeted class structures, as they were doing before Marxism had achieved widespread influence. Unions would have organized workers, radicals would have established far-left organizations, insurrections would have occurred in countries around the world. Marx’s role has been to provide clarity and guidance, to serve as a symbol of certain tendencies of thought and action. His uniquely forceful and acute analyses of history and capitalism have been a font of inspiration for both thinkers and activists, a spur, a stimulus to keep their eyes on the prize, so to speak. His prediction of the collapse of capitalism from its internal contradictions has given hope and confidence to millions—perhaps too much confidence, in light of the traditional over-optimism of Marxists. But having such a brilliant authority on their side, such a teacher, has surely been of inestimable benefit to the oppressed.

As for the narrow task of “interpreting the world,” the enormous body of work by Marxists from the founder to the present totally eclipses the contributions of every other school of thought. From economics to literary criticism, nothing else comes remotely close.

*****

Marx did, however, make mistakes. No one is infallible. It’s worth considering some of those mistakes, in case we can learn from them.

The ones I’ll discuss here, which are by far the most significant, have to do with his conception of socialist revolution. Both the timeline he predicted and his sketchy remarks on how the revolution would come to pass were wrong. I’ve addressed these matters here, and at greater length in my book Worker Cooperatives and Revolution: History and Possibilities in the United States, but they deserve a more condensed treatment too.

Regarding the timeline: it has long been a commonplace that Marx failed to foresee Keynesianism and the welfare state. His biggest blind-spot was nationalism, or in general the power of the capitalist nation-state as an organizing principle of social life. Ironically, only a Marxian approach can explain why national structures have achieved the power they have, i.e., why the modern centralized nation-state rose to dominance in the first place. (It has to do with the interconnected rise of capitalism and the state over the last 700 years, in which each “principle”—the economic and the political, the market and the state—was indispensable to the other. See, e.g., Giovanni Arrighi’s The Long Twentieth Century: Money, Power, and the Origins of Our Times.)

In essence, while Marx was right to locate a capitalist tendency toward relative or even absolute immiseration of the working class, he was wrong that this tendency could not be effectively counteracted, at least for a long time, by opposing pressures. That is, he underestimated the power of tendencies toward integration of the working class into the dominant order, toward “pure and simple trade-unionism,” toward the state’s stabilizing management of the economy, and toward workers’ identification not only with the abstract notion of a social class that spans continents but also with the more concrete facts of ethnicity, race, trade, immediate community, and nation. These forces have historically militated against the revolutionary tendencies of class polarization and international working-class solidarity. They have both fragmented the working class and made possible the successes of reformism—the welfare state, social democracy, and the legitimization of mass collective bargaining in the wake of the Great Depression and World War II. Like other Enlightenment thinkers, Marx was too optimistic.

On the other hand, he was right that capitalism isn’t sustainable—because of its “contradictions,” its dysfunctional social consequences, and also its effects on the natural environment. No compromises between capital and wage-labor, such as the postwar Keynesian compromise, can last. The market is just too anarchic, and capital too voracious. Stability is not possible. Sooner or later, with the continued development of the productive forces, capital mobility will increase, markets—including the labor market—will become more integrated worldwide, elite institutional networks will thicken worldwide, and organized labor will lose whatever power it had in the days of limited capital mobility. In retrospect, and with a bit of analysis, one can see that these tendencies were irresistible. Genuine socialism (workers’ democratic control) on an international or global scale never could have happened in the twentieth century, which was still the age of oligopolistic, imperialistic capitalism, even state capitalism. In fact, it wasn’t until the twenty-first century that the capitalist mode of production was consolidated across the entire globe, a development Marx assumed was necessary as a prerequisite for socialism (or communism).

The irony, therefore—and history is chock-full of dialectical irony—is that authentic revolutionary possibilities of post-capitalism couldn’t open up until the victories of the left in the twentieth century had been eroded and defeated by hyper-mobile capital. The corporatist formations of social democracy and industrial unionism, fully integrated into the capitalist nation-state, had to decline in order for class polarization in the core capitalist states to peak again, deep economic crisis to return, and radical anti-capitalist movements to reappear on a massive level (as we may expect they’ll do in the coming decades). Many Marxists don’t like this type of thinking, according to which things have to get worse before they get better, but Marx himself looked forward to economic crisis because he understood it was only such conditions that could impel workers to join together en masse and fight for something as radical as a new social order.

The best evidence for the “things have to get worse before they get better” thesis is that the relatively non-barbarous society of the postwar years in the West was made possible only by the upheavals of the Great Depression and World War II, which mobilized the left on such an epic scale and so discredited fascism that the ruling class finally consented to a dramatic improvement of conditions for workers. Similarly, it’s quite possible that decades from now people will think of neoliberalism, with its civilization-endangering horrors, as having been a tool of (in Hegel’s words) the “cunning” of historical reason by precipitating the demise of the very society whose consummation it was and making possible the rise of something new.

But how will such a revolution occur? This is another point on which Marx tripped up. Despite his eulogy of the non-statist Paris Commune, Marx was no anarchist: he expected that the proletariat would have to seize control of the national state and then carry out the social revolution from the commanding heights of government. This is clear from the ten-point program laid out in the Communist Manifesto—the specifics of which he repudiated in later years, but apparently not the general conception of statist reconstruction of the economy. It’s doubtful, for example, that he would have rejected his earlier statement that “The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degree, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralize all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e., of the proletariat organized as the ruling class.” Moreover, he seems to have endorsed Engels’ statement in Anti-Dühring that “The proletariat seizes state power, and then transforms the means of production into state property.” It appears, then, that both he and Engels were extreme statists, even though, like anarchists, they hoped and expected that the state would (somehow, inexplicably) disappear eventually.

In these beliefs they were mistaken. The social revolution can’t occur after a total seizure of state power by “the proletariat” (which isn’t a unitary entity but contains divisions)—for several reasons. First, this conception of revolution contradicts the Marxian understanding of social dynamics, a point that few or no Marxists appear ever to have appreciated. It exalts a centralized conscious will as being able to plan social evolution in advance, a notion that is utterly undialectical. According to “dialectics,” history happens behind the backs of historical actors, whose intentions never work out exactly as they’re supposed to. Marx was wise in his admonition that we should never trust the self-interpretations of political actors. And yet he suspends this injunction when it comes to the dictatorship of the proletariat: these people’s designs are supposed to work out perfectly and straightforwardly, despite the massive complexity and dialectical contradictions of society.

The statist idea of revolution is also wrong to privilege the political over the economic. In supposing that through sheer political will one can transform an authoritarian, exploitative economy into a liberatory, democratic one, Marx is, in effect, reversing the order of “dominant causality” such that politics determines the economy (whereas in fact the economy “determines”—loosely and broadly speaking—politics).2 Marxism itself suggests that the state can’t be socially creative in this radical way. And when it tries to be, what results, ironically, is overwhelming bureaucracy and even greater authoritarianism than before. (While the twentieth century’s experiences with so-called “Communism” or “state socialism” happened in relatively non-industrialized societies, not advanced capitalist ones as Marx anticipated, the dismal record is at least suggestive.)

Fundamental to these facts is that if the conquest of political power occurs in a still-capitalist economy, revolutionaries have to contend with the institutional legacies of capitalism: relations of coercion and domination condition everything the government does, and there is no way to break free of them. They can’t be magically transcended through political will; to think they can, or that the state can “wither away” even as it becomes more expansive and dominating, is to adopt a naïve idealism.

Corresponding to all these errors are the flaws in Marx’s abstract conceptualization of revolution, according to which revolution happens when the production relations turn into fetters on the use and development of productive forces. One problem with this formulation is that it’s meaningless: at what point exactly do production relations begin to fetter productive forces? How long does this fettering have to go on before the revolution begins in earnest? How does one determine the degree of fettering? It would seem that capitalism has fettered productive forces for a very long time, for example in its proneness to recessions and stagnation, in artificial obstacles to the diffusion of knowledge such as intellectual copyright laws, in underinvestment in public goods such as education and transportation, and so forth. On the other hand, science and technology continue to develop, as shown by recent momentous advances in information technology. So what is the utility of this idea of “fettering”?

In fact, it can be made useful if we slightly reconceptualize the theory of revolution. Rather than a conflict simply between production relations and the development of productive forces, there is a conflict between two types of production relationstwo modes of productionone of which uses productive forces in a more socially rational and “un-fettering” way than the other. The more progressive mode slowly develops in the womb of the old society as it decays, i.e., as the old dominant mode of production succumbs to crisis and stagnation. In being relatively dynamic and ‘socially effective,’ the emergent mode of production attracts adherents and resources, until it becomes ever more visible and powerful. The old regime can’t eradicate it; it spreads internationally and gradually transforms the economy, to such a point that the forms and content of politics change with it. Political entities become its partisans, and finally decisive seizures of power by representatives of the emergent mode of production become possible, because reactionary defenders of the old regime have lost their dominant command over resources. And so, over generations, a social revolution transpires.

This conceptual revision saves Marx’s intuition by giving it more meaning: the “fettering” is not absolute but is in relation to a more effective mode of production that is, so to speak, competing with the old stagnant one. The most obvious concrete instance of this conception of revolution is the long transition from feudalism to capitalism, during which the feudal mode became so hopelessly outgunned by the capitalist that, in retrospect, the long-term outcome of the “bourgeois revolutions” from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries was never in doubt. Capitalism was bound to triumph after it had reached a certain level of development.

But the important point is that capitalist interests could never have decisively “seized the state” until the capitalist economy had already made tremendous inroads against feudalism. Likewise, socialist or post-capitalist interests can surely not take over national states until they have vast material resources on their side, such as can only be acquired through large-scale participation in productive activities. As the capitalist economy descends into global crisis/stagnation over the next twenty, fifty, and a hundred years, one can predict that an “alternative economy,” a “solidarity economy” of cooperative and socialized relations of production will emerge both in society’s interstices and, sooner or later, in the mainstream. In many cases it will be sponsored and promoted by the state (on local, regional, and national levels), in an attempt to assuage social discontent; but its growth will only have the effect of hollowing out the hegemony of capitalism and ultimately facilitating its downfall. And thereby the downfall, or radical transformation, of the capitalist state.

I can’t go into the detail necessary to flesh out this gradualist notion of revolution, but in my abovementioned book I’ve argued that it not only radically revises the Marxian conception (on the basis of a single conceptual alteration), in effect updating it for the twenty-first century, but that it is thoroughly grounded in Marxian concepts—in fact, is truer to the fundamentals of historical materialism than Marx’s own vision of proletarian revolution was. The new society has to be erected on the foundation of emerging production relations, which cannot but take a very long time to broadly colonize society. And class struggle, that key Marxian concept, will of course be essential to the transformation: decades of continuous conflict between the masters and the oppressed, including every variety of disruptive political activity, will attend the construction—from the grassroots up to the national government—of anti-capitalist modes of production.

Glimmers of non-capitalist economic relations are already appearing even in the reactionary United States. In the last decade more and more scholars, journalists, and activists have investigated and promoted these new relations; one has but to read Gar Alperovitz, Ellen Brown, and all the contributors to Yes! Magazine, Shareable.net, Community-Wealth.org, etc. A transnational movement is growing beneath the radar of the mass media. It is still in an embryonic state, but as activists publicize its successes, ever more people will be drawn to it in their search for a solution to the dysfunctional economy of the ancien régime. Local and national governments, unaware of its long-term anti-capitalist implications, are already supporting the alternative economy, as I describe in my book.

I’ll also refer the reader to the book for responses to the conventional Marxian objections that cooperatives, for instance, are forced to compromise their principles by operating in the market economy, and that interstitial developments are not revolutionary. At this point in history, it should be obvious to everyone that a socialist revolution cannot occur in one fell swoop, one great moment of historical rupture, as “the working class” or its Leninist leaders storm the State, shoot all their opponents, and impose sweeping diktats to totally restructure society. (What an incredibly idealistic and utopian conception that is!) The conquest of political power will occur piecemeal, gradually; it will suffer setbacks and then proceed to new victories, then suffer more defeats, etc., in a century-long (or longer) process that happens at different rates in different countries. It will be a time of world-agony, especially as climate change will be devastating civilization; but the sheer numbers of people whose interests will lie in a transcendence of corporate capitalism will constitute a formidable weapon on the side of progress.

One reasonable, though rather optimistic, blueprint for the early stages of this process is the British Labour Party’s Manifesto, which lays out principles that can be adapted to other countries. Such a plan will necessarily encounter so much resistance that, early on, even if the Labour Party comes to power, only certain parts of it will be able to be implemented. But plans such as this will provide ideals that can be approximated ever more closely as the international left grows in strength; and eventually more radical goals may become feasible.

But we must follow Marx, again, in shunning speculation on the specifics of this long evolution. He is sometimes criticized for saying too little about what socialism or communism would look like, but this was in fact very democratic and sensible of him. It is for the people engaged in struggles to hammer out their own institutions, “to learn in the dialectic of history,” as Rosa Luxemburg said. Nor is it possible, in any case, to foresee the future in detail. All we can do is try to advance the struggle and leave the rest to our descendants.

*****

Marx is practically inexhaustible, and one cannot begin to do him justice in a single article. His work has something for both anarchists and Leninists, for existentialists and their critics, cultural theorists and economists, philosophers and even scientists. Few thinkers have ever been subjected to such critical scrutiny and yet held up so well over centuries. To attack him, as usefully idiotic lackeys of the capitalist class do, for being responsible for twentieth-century totalitarianism is naïve idealism of the crudest sort. Ideas do not make history, though they can be useful tools in the hands of reactionaries or revolutionaries. They can be misunderstood, too, and used inappropriately or in ways directly contrary to their spirit—as the Christianity of Jesus has, for example.

But in our time of despair and desperation, with the future of the species itself in doubt, there is one more valid criticism to be made of Marx: he was too sectarian. Too eager to attack people on the left with whom he disagreed. In this case, Chomsky’s attitude is more sensible: the left must unite and not exhaust its energy in internecine battles. Let’s be done with all the recriminations between Marxists and anarchists and left-liberals, all the squabbling that has gone on since the mid-nineteenth century. It’s time to unite against the threat of fascism and—not to speak over-grandiosely—save life on Earth.

Let’s honor the memory of all the heroes and martyrs who have come before us by rising to the occasion, at this climactic moment of history.

  1. In my summary of G. E. M. de Ste. Croix’s 1981 masterpiece The Class Struggle in the Ancient Greek World, from the Archaic Age to the Arab Conquests, I added the following thoughts to the foregoing account: “Class struggle is central to history in still more ways; for instance, virtually by analytical necessity it has been, directly or indirectly, the main cause of popular resistance and rebellions. Likewise, the ideologies and cultures of the lower classes have been in large measure sublimations of class interest and conflict. Most wars, too, have been undertaken so that rulers (effectively the ruling class) could gain control over resources, which is sort of the class struggle by other means. Wars grow out of class dynamics, and are intended to benefit the rich and powerful. In any case, the very tasks of survival in complex societies are structured by class antagonisms, which determine who gets what resources when and in what ways.”
  2. In reality, of course, political and economic relations are fused together. But analytically one can distinguish economic activities from narrowly political, governmental activities.

Six Economies

By the time we come to the end of this series we will have been swimming in the primordial soup of the seeds for alternative forms of traditional capitalism! As I have long said, there is bad capitalism, the kind we have, and good capitalism, the kind we need

Part 5 is an adaptation of my review of a book about six economies written by Riane Eisler.1 She titled the book “The Real Wealth of Nations,” which to me was a repartee to Adam Smith’s magnum opus. Because she is absolutely one of my favorite authors I must begin by telling you about her.

Escaping with her parents from the Nazis in Germany led her eventually to ponder how there could be a world so cruel, insensitive, and destructive when humans, she believed, have a great capacity for caring, consciousness, and creativity (we should highlight “capacity” for she could not say “habit”). She ultimately concluded that “we have to change present economic systems” for the sake of ourselves, our children, and future generations. Being trained not in economics but in sociology, anthropology, and law was, I’m convinced, an asset for her, not a liability, in doing the research and writing for this book. And I certainly agree with her when she quotes Einstein as having said that solving problems can’t be done with the same thinking that created them, even though I hardly think it takes a genius to know that. In any case, Eisler has done some very creative and constructive thinking.

She was selected as the only woman among twenty great thinkers including Hegel, Adam Smith, Marx, and Toynbee in recognition of the lasting importance of her work.2 Her book, The Chalice and the Blade recounting the transition from earliest egalitarian to later patriarchal societies, was an international best seller and acclaimed by Princeton anthropologist Ashley Montagu as “the most important book since Darwin’s Origin of the Species.”3,4

Karl Marx once said about capitalists, “give them enough rope and they’ll hang themselves” If only that would happen! Eisler isn’t sympathetic to either Marx or Adam Smith. She contends that their theories and their application call for the control of natural resources and the means of production by a male dominated culture and as a consequence neither communism nor capitalism as we know it is capable of solving the chronic problems confronting society. Well, if you remember what I wrote about Marx in the previous part of this series, I would give him some slack here.5

Her focus in her book is on explaining dysfunctional economic structures, rules, and practices, offering an alternative perspective for a new economics along with providing convincing evidence of its superiority, and proposing necessary reforms to change the present system. Whereas Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations focused on the market, she goes beyond it to reexamine economics from a larger perspective that includes the life-supporting activities of households, communities, and nature. “Ultimately,” she says, “the real wealth of a nation lies in the quality of its human and natural capital” and the basic purpose of an economic system should thus be to “promote human welfare and human happiness,” characteristics that are missing from our present economic system. She is obviously more in tune with Aristotle’s thinking about economics than with Smith or Marx.6

A central theme of her book is that since any economic system emerges out of a larger social, cultural, and technological context, a viable system can’t be constructed without taking that broader context into account, and especially not without giving visibility and value to the socially and economically essential work of caring for people and nature. She defines care giving as “actions based on empathy, responsibility, and concern for human welfare and optimal human development.”

Our economic system is dysfunctional she contends because it, like its larger context, depends on what she calls the domination model. It has four core components; a rigid top-down social structure, much abuse and violence, a male superiority premise, and beliefs that perpetuate domination and violence. This system, where people are either dominating or being dominated rests on several erroneous assumptions such as people being inherently untrustworthy, that fear of pain (as a psychologist, I disagree with this as a source of motivation) and scarcity are the main motivators for work, and that caring and care giving are impediments to productivity or at best irrelevant to economics. For example, with regard to the last misassumption, she points out that care giving isn’t, but should be, included as a positive value in economic indicators such as the GNP, which, manifesting a domination system as it does, misleadingly includes war-related expenditures as positive values. She cites a Swiss survey and a UN report, the first, showing that the value of unpaid, care giving work accounts for 70 percent of the reported Swiss GDP, and the second, estimating in 1985 that the value of women’s unpaid work amount worldwide and annually to 11 trillion dollars. Those are amazing findings!

A functional economic system along with its larger context would be one she posits that depends on what she calls the partnership model of mutually respectful and caring relations. She leaves no stone unturned, no relevant field of inquiry unexplored in showing in various ways how this model is far superior to the other one. For example, she documents studies demonstrating that in business “it pays to care-in dollars and cents.” Organizational psychologists like me would be familiar with the evidence presented that caring and empowering corporations do indeed give a positive return on investment in their human capital. She shows how the Nordic countries, the only ones coming close to her partnership model, are faring well economically and socially.

Having a national capacity and resources for providing optimal human development is clearly necessary for having a healthy economy, and she persuasively links the domination form of child rearing (and thus suboptimal human development) to adverse consequences later in life that show up in the kinds of leaders and followers our society has, in our belligerent relationships with other countries, and in our diminished capacity for a functional and healthy economy. She presents neuroscientific evidence of how care giving rather than selfishness produces the most powerful reactions in the brain circuitry associated with pleasurable sensations. Finally, she shows how disastrous it could be if the domination model is played out with new and risky technological developments on the horizon.

Her perspective and understanding are so broad that she conceptualizes not one but six economic sectors. The first sector, the core one, is the household economy from which the rest of the sectors spring because productivity depends so much on human activity, which starts at birth and is markedly shaped by what kinds of experiences there are throughout human upbringing. Her core economy is clearly reminiscent of Aristotle’s thinking.7 The second is the unpaid economy made up mostly of volunteers. The third is the conventional market economy. The fourth is the illegal economy like illegal arms trade (and I suppose she would include Karger’s fringe economy summarized earlier in this series).8 The fifth is the government economy that includes not just the large population of government workers but also the laws, rules, and policies that (should) govern the market economy. The sixth, the natural economy, is as basic as the first in that our environment produces natural resources used and misused by the market economy.

The sectors are inextricably intertwined, and all must be taken into account in order to transform our economic system, our institutions, and our culture from the domination into the partnership model. The greatest challenge, she contends, is to develop economic models, measures, and rules where the first, second, and sixth sectors are recognized and highly valued. Our beliefs about what we value are largely unconscious, she continues, having been inherited from earlier times when anything associated with the female half of humanity, such as caring and care giving was devalued. If you scoff at this, you should read her book because I can’t do it real justice here other than to say I know of no other living scholar that has evolved a new theory of economics after having spent 30 years of research combing the data from over 20 thousand or more years of history collected by herself and others from myriad fields of inquiry.

Her book is much more than just theoretically significant, as would be expected from a social activist. She proceeds smoothly and logically from her theorizing to advocacy and conclusion. She makes a number of practical suggestions about what needs to be done on Wall Street (e.g. stiff tax on short-term speculations), in government (e.g., massive investment in child care and human development), by business leaders (e.g., changing from top-down to empowering corporations), and among social activist citizens (e.g., mounting a global movement to change laws and customs-she describes how she wrote an amicus brief that helped women legally gain equal rights). She summarizes the progress being made that she believes represents a “caring revolution.”

The only quibble I have with her summary is her assessment that “hundreds of thousands of nongovernmental organizations” are all working she says toward the “common goal of shifting to a more caring economic and social system.” I seriously doubt that claim. I’ve studied about 150 prominent NGOs in the U.S. My conclusion is that they are first and foremost compromised by the corpocracy, and secondly, represent a very fragmented activity, where even NGOs with similar missions and initiatives don’t communicate with each other let alone coordinate or collaborate in their work. Moreover, I once contacted the leadership of 176 NGOs proposing a super coalition of NGOs under the auspices of, let’s say, a U.S. Chamber of Democracy that is a counterpoint to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the advocate and lobbyist for big business that typifies the domination model. That proposal fell flat. Only five endorsed it; 32 said no; and 139 didn’t even respond.9

Conclusion

Eisler’s conclusion is my conclusion, “we have to change present economic systems” for the sake of ourselves, our children, and future generations.

I had originally intended to pair this Part 5 with Part 6 to shorten an otherwise lengthy chain of articles. But her book is so seminal, so profound, so unique that it absolutely deserves to stand alone! Furthermore, I am revising my “pantheon of brilliant, radical and humane thinkers.”10 I am telling Aristotle he must share the top spot with Eisler!

• Read Part 1 here; Part 2 here; Part 3 here; Part 4 here;

  1. Brumback, GB. Review in the Book Review Section of Personnel Psychology (2009, Vol 62, #1, 179-183) of The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics, 2007, by Riane Eisler.
  2. Galtung, J.& Inayatullah S. Macrohistory and Macrohistorians: Perspectives on Individual, Social, and Civilizational Change, 1997.
  3. Eisler, R. The Chalice & the Blade: Our history, our Future, 1987.
  4. Eisler, R. Wikipedia. wikipedia.org/wiki/Riane Eisler.
  5. Brumback, GB. “Notes on Some Classical Thinking” (Part 3 of 10 Part Series) “Economic Sanity and Alternative Economic Systems”, Dissident Voice, May 20; OpEdNews, May 21, 2018.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid. Part 3
  8. Ibid. Part 4.
  9. Brumback, GB. Tyranny’s Hush Money, OpEdNews 9/28/2013, The Greanville Post, September 29, 2013.
  10. Op. Cit. Footnote 5.

Canada’s Indifference to Brazilian Democracy

New revelations about Brazilian military violence offer an opportunity to reflect on Canadian support for that country’s 1964 coup and how Ottawa’s policy towards our South American neighbour is similar today.

A spate of international and Brazilian media have reported on a recently uncovered memo from CIA director William Colby to then US secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, detailing a meeting between president Ernesto Geisel and three Brazilian generals. At the 1974 meeting the new Brazilian president is reported to have supported extending “summary executions” of enemies of the military dictatorship. An army officer, Geisel ordered National Information Service head João Baptista Figueiredo — who would replace him as president — to authorize the executions.

While it has long been accepted that the military dictatorship was responsible for hundreds of murders — a 2014 national truth commission blamed it for 191 killings and 210 disappearances — military backers have sought to put the blame on lower level officers. But the uncovered memo clearly reveals Geisel, who was considered more moderate than other top military leaders, was directly responsible for some deaths.

Ottawa passively supported the military coup against elected President João Goulart that instituted the 1964–85 military dictatorship. “The Canadian reaction to the military coup of 1964 was careful, polite and allied with American rhetoric,” notes Brazil and Canada in the Americas. Prime Minister Lester Pearson failed to publicly condemn the ouster of Goulart.

Washington played a pivotal role in the overthrow of Brazilian democracy. At one point President Lyndon Johnson urged ambassador Lincoln Gordon to take “every step that we can” to support Goulart’s removal. In a declassified cable between Gordon and Washington, the ambassador acknowledged US involvement in “covert support for pro-democracy street rallies … and encouragement [of] democratic and anti-communist sentiment in Congress, armed forces, friendly labor and student groups, church, and business.”

Washington, Ottawa and leading segments of Brazil’s business community opposed Goulart’s Reformas de Base (basic reforms). Goulart wanted to expand suffrage by giving illiterates and low ranking military officers the vote. He also wanted to put 15% of the national income into education and to implement land reform. To pay for this the government planned to introduce a proportional income tax and greater controls on the profit transfers of multinational corporations.

As important as following Washington’s lead, Pearson’s tacit support for the coup was driven by Canadian corporate interests. Among the biggest firms in Latin America at the time, Brascan was commonly known as the “the Canadian octopus” since its tentacles reached into so many areas of Brazil’s economy. A study of the Toronto-based company that began operating in Brazil in 1899 noted, “[Brazilian Traction’s vice-president Antonio] Gallotti doesn’t hide his participation in the moves and operations that led to the coup d’état against Goulart in 1964.” After the elected government was overthrown, Brazilian Traction president Grant Glassco stated, “the new government of Brazil is … made up of men of proven competence and integrity. The President, Humberto Castello Branco, commands the respect of the entire nation.”

Overthrowing the Goulart government, which had made it more difficult for companies to export profits, was good business. After the 1964 coup the Financial Post noted “the price of Brazilian Traction common shares almost doubled overnight with the change of government from an April 1 low of $1.95 to an April 3 high of $3.60.” Between 1965 and 1974, Brascan drained Brazil of $342 million ($2 billion today). When Brascan’s Canadian president, Robert Winters, was asked why the company’s profits grew so rapidly in the late 1960s his response was simple: “The Revolution.”

As opposition to the Brazilian military regime’s rights violations grew in Canada, Ottawa downplayed the gravity of the human rights situation. In a June 1972 memo to the Canadian embassy, the Director of the Latin American Division at Foreign Affairs stated: “We have, however, done our best to avoid drawing attention to this problem [human rights violations] because we are anxious to build a vigorous and healthy relationship with Brazil. We hope that in the future these unfortunate events and publicity, which damages the Brazilian image in Canada, can be avoided.”

The military dictatorship’s assassination program has contemporary relevance. In 2016 Workers Party President Dilma Rousseff was impeached in a “soft coup” and the social democratic party’s candidate for the upcoming presidential election, Lula da Silva, was recently jailed. The night before the Supreme Court was set to determine Lula’s fate the general in charge of the army hinted at military intervention if the judges ruled in favour of the former president and election frontrunner.

While they’ve made dozens of statements criticizing Venezuela over the past two years, the Justin Trudeau government seems to have remained silent on Rousseff’s ouster, Lula’s imprisonment and persecution of the left. The only comment I found was a Global Affairs official telling Sputnik that Canada would maintain relations with Brazil after Rousseff was impeached. Since that time Canada has begun negotiating to join the Brazilian led MERCOSUR trade block (just after Venezuela was expelled).

As many Brazilians worry about their country returning to military rule, Canadians should demand their government doesn’t contribute to weakening the country’s fragile democracy.

Israel’s Premature Celebration: Gazans Have Crossed the Fear Barrier

60 Palestinians were killed in Gaza on May 15, simply for protesting and demanding their Right of Return as guaranteed by international law.

50 more were killed since March 30, the start of the ‘Great March of Return’, which marks Land Day.

Nearly 10,000 have been wounded and maimed in between these two dates.

‘Israel has the right to defend itself’, White House officials announced, paying no heed to the ludicrousness of the statement when understood within the current context of an unequal struggle.

Peaceful protesters were not threatening the existence of Israel; rock throwing kids were not about to overwhelm hundreds of Israeli snipers, who shot, killed and wounded Gaza youngsters with no legal or moral boundary whatsoever.

8-months old, Laila al-Ghandour was one of the 60 who were killed on May 15. She suffocated to death from Israeli teargas. Many, like her, were wounded or killed some distance away from the border. Some were killed for simply being nearby, or for being Palestinian.

Meanwhile, Ivanka Trump, daughter of US President, Donald Trump, ushered in a new era of international relations, when she and her companions unveiled the new US Embassy in Jerusalem.

She was ‘all smiles’ while, at the exact same moment, hundreds of Gazans were being felled at the border. The already dilapidated hospitals have no room for most of the wounded. They bled in hallways awaiting medical attention.

Ivanka has never been to Gaza – and will unlikely ever visit or be welcomed there. Gazans do not register in her moral conscience, if she has any beyond her immediate interests, as people deserving of rights, freedom and dignity.

At the border, many Gaza kids have been coloring their bodies in blue paint, dressing up in homemade costumes to imitate characters from the Hollywood movie, ‘Avatar’. They hoped that, by hiding their brown skin, their plight and suffering could be more relatable to the world.

But when they were shot, their blood gave them away. They were still human, still from Gaza.

The international community has already condemned Trump’s decision to relocate his country’s embassy to Jerusalem, and declared his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital ‘null and void’, but will it go further than mere words?

Will the international community remain trapped between hollow statements and no action? Will they ever truly recognize the humanity of Laila al-Ghandour and all the other children, men and women who died and continue to perish under Gaza’s besieged skies? Will they ever care enough to do something?

The plight of the Palestinians is compounded with the burden of having a useless ‘leadership’.  The President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, has been busy of late, demanding allegiance from the occupied Palestinians in the West Bank. Large signs and larger banners have been erected everywhere, where families, professional associations, unions and companies have announced, in large font: the “Renewal of Loyalty and Support to President Mahmoud Abbas.”

‘Renewal’? Abbas’ mandate expired in 2009. Besides, is this what Abbas and his Fatah party perceive to be the most urgent matter that needs to be addressed, while his people are being massacred?

Abbas fears that Hamas is using the blood of the Gaza victims to bolster its popularity. Ironically, it is a shared concern with Israeli leaders, the likes of Israeli army spokesman, Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus. The latter said that Hamas has won the PR war at the Gaza border by a ‘knockout.’

This propaganda is as false as it is utterly racist; yet, it has persisted for far too long. It proposes that Palestinians and Arabs lack human agency. They are incapable of mobilizing and organizing their collective efforts to demand their long-denied rights. They are only pawns, puppets in the hands of factions, to be sacrificed at the altar of public relations.

It did not dawn on Conricus to note that, perhaps, his army lost the ‘PR war’ because its brutes shot thousands of unarmed civilians who did nothing, aside from gathering at the border demanding an end to their perpetual siege; or that, just maybe, the PR war was lost because Israel’s top leaders announced proudly that Gazans are fair game, since, according to Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, “there are no innocents in Gaza.’

Ivanka will go down in Israel’s history as a hero. But Palestinian Resistance is not fueled or subdued by Ivanka, but by the sacrifices of the Palestinians themselves, and by the blood of Laila al-Ghandour, who was denied even a celebration of her first birthday on God’s besieged earth.

The US government has decisively and blatantly moved to the wrong side of history. As their officials attended parties, galas and celebrations of the Embassy move, whether in Israel or in Washington and elsewhere, Palestinians dug 60 more graves and held 60 more funerals.

The world watched in horror, and even western media failed to hide the full ugly truth from its readers. The two acts – of lavish parties and heartbreaking burials – were beamed all over the world, and the already struggling American reputation sank deeper and deeper.

Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, may have thought he had won. Comforted by his right wing government and society on the one hand, Trump and his angry UN bully, Nikki Haley, on the other, he feels invulnerable.

But he should rethink his power-driven logic. When Gazan youth stood bare-chested at the border fence, falling one drove after the other, they crossed a fear barrier that no generation of Palestinians has ever crossed. And when people are unafraid, they can never be subdued or defeated.

Tom Wolfe: the Parajournalist

As is the nature of his creepy totality, President Donald Trump has a habit of suffusing the obituaries of the famous and pampered.  Tom Wolfe, it is said by such figures as Maggie Haberman in The New York Times, conceived of Trump as a formidable figure before Trump himself came to prominence.

The point is somewhat inaccurate: when The Bonfire of the Vanities made its debut on shelves in 1987, it had to share space with the banal exhortations of The Art of the Deal.  “We catch glimpses,” suggests historian and squad leader of empire Niall Ferguson, “of Trump-like figures not in Bonfire but also in the equally engrossing, although less lauded, A Man in Full.”

As New Journalism’s primary advocate, Tom Wolfe headed the field with such experimental forces as Norman Mailer, Truman Capote and Hunter S. Thompson, all dedicated to enriching supposedly factual accounts with excessive flourishes that hurried out the beige in favour of the kaleidoscopic.  One source of inspiration for Wolfe was Emil Ludvig’s biography of Napoleon.  “It begins,” he recalled to fellow NJ aficionado George Plimpton in The Paris Review, “as the mother sits suckling her babe in a tent.”  But formatively speaking, the Soviet grouping known as the Brothers Serapion (Eugene Zamiatin, Boris Pilnyak et al), fusing symbolism with raw historical events, encouraged a change of direction.

In a 1973 anthology of such writings gathered with fellow traveller E. W. Johnson, Wolfe identifies the novel going off in freedom land even as purple-prosed nonfiction was stealing its march.  “I must confess that the retrograde state of contemporary fiction has made it far easier to make the main point of this book: that the most important literature being written in America today is in nonfiction, in the form that has been tagged, however ungracefully, the New Journalism.”

The American novelist, by the 1960s, had abandoned that “richest terrain of the novel: namely, society, the social tableau, manners and morals, the whole business of ‘the way we live now’, in Trollope’s phrase.”  Such a tendency was in strident defiance of previous writers who wrote novels as social chronicles: Balzac in the context of France; Thackeray on London in the 1840s.

Wolfe’s artillery was also marshalled against old journalism itself, a concerted effort to remove objectivity’s throne and bring colour to description.  While the traditional novelist had noted manners and society, the old journalist was still trapped in a refusal to accept the subtleties of the lived life.  The newspaper in traditional guise, he claimed, was “very bad for one’s prose style.”  Thus spawned the parajournalist, though its ancestry, with its seductive pitfalls, was traced by Dwight Macdonald as far back as Daniel Defoe with his masterful hoax in Journal of the Plague Year.

As Michael Wood would note in a review for The New York Times, the New Journalism extracts the piece of gossip, dreariness or schmaltz, moving it “to the centre of the stage while at the corners, at the edges, vast, scaring implications about American life quietly gesture to us, not really wishing to intrude.”  Fact and fiction are no longer dogmatically partitioned, blurring instead into resemblance, which is far from saying that truth is undermined. “What it is suggesting is that fiction is the only shape we can give to facts, that all shapes are fictions.”

His journalism readied weapons as words, tipped with spears of wit and derision.  He took aim at dogma in architecture in From Bauhaus to Our House (1981), critical of the “colonial complex” governing the American building that had its origins in Europe as a “compound” of ideologues.  He launched missiles at Modern Art in The Painted Word (1975), noting it as a racket that was distinctly non-radical.  “The game is completed and the trophies distributed long before the public knows what happened.” Collectors would only ever gravitate to “highly abstract art unless it’s the only game in town” preferring more conservative “realistic art”.

Such writing was bound to miss the mark in some ways or, if it did, embed itself with mixed results.  His fabrications could be sloppy, and, unshackled by the rigours of evidence imposed by the investigative journalist, distorting in their speculation.  For the sharp Dwight MacDonald, specifically referencing the The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby (1965) Wolfe was a good observer who made “no pretence at factuality but sketching with humour and poignancy urban dilemmas one recognizes as real.” In his writing lay a certain “kultur-neuroses common among adult, educated Americans today: a masochistic deference to the Young, who are by definition, new and so in”.  This was also accompanied by that “guilt-feeling about class – maybe they don’t deserve their status, maybe they aren’t so cultivated”.

Hip and new, then a studied reactionary, Wolfe’s career was a paradox of idealising pop culture trends and figures while turning on mouldering art and literary movements that had run their course and deserved euthanizing.  Doing so gave him a certain eye for barometric readings of contempt straddling those three most American obsessions: money, race and sex.  In that, we have Trump, a monster fusion of such interests, having a “real childish side” and adorable megalomania.  “The childishness” claimed Wolfe in 2016, “makes him seem honest.”  To the last, a chronicler of gossip, schmaltz and those scaring implications.

Anti-semitism: Israel’s get-out-of-jail-free card

The silencing of critics of Israel using anti-semitism as the pretext is far from restricted to the current wave of attacks on Jeremy Corbyn and his Labour party. It is now used to intimidate anyone who steps out of line on Israel. Once we raged against the conflation of anti-semitism and anti-Zionism. We have so lost that battle that it is now standard operating procedure for Israel’s apologists to conflate anti-semitism with simple criticisms of the current ultra-nationalist Israeli government.

Here is an illustration of our defeat, reported in the Israeli daily Haaretz. It concerns what would in other circumstances be a fairly standard satirical cartoon: this one published by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung about Israel winning the Eurovision song contest last week. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is shown on stage dressed as Israel’s winning singer, Netta, and proclaiming “Next year in Jerusalem!”.

After the usual outcry, the cartoonist, Dieter Hanitzsch, was sacked. No Charlie Hebdo-style concerns about free speech on this occasion, it seems.

As has become familiar in these cases, Wolfgang Krach, editor-in-chief of the Süddeutsche Zeitung, seemed unsure himself whether the cartoon was actually anti-semitic. But presumably he thought it better to fire the cartoonist just to be on the safe side. Let’s hope Hanitzsch can take Krach and his newspaper to the cleaners at a labour tribunal.

One critic, Jonas Mueller-Töwe, who sounds like Germany’s version of Jonathan Freedland, has claimed that “a Jewish star” – that would be Israel’s emblem of the Star of David – on a rocket held by Netanyahu suggests that “behind every war, Jewish interests are hiding”. Instead we could simply trust our eyes, which provide a different meaning: that Israel, a highly militarised state, won the Eurovision song contest at the same time as it was devastating Gaza – again – and will now be able to use its hosting of a popular cultural event in Jerusalem next year to whitewash its war crimes.

Before we get too exercised about the significance of every detail, we should remember that political cartoons, by their very nature, need to use symbols as shorthand for more complex ideas. We demand the impossible from a cartoonist if we expect them to offer us political satire while denying them the possibility of using symbols.

So what is anti-semitic about the cartoon? It’s not about Jews, it’s about the Israeli prime minister and his war agenda. And Netanyahu’s purportedly “oversized nose, ears and lips” are surely well within the normal bounds of a caricature. Do we really want to impose a unique demand on cartoonists when dealing with Israel’s leaders of drawing anatomically precise images?

The problem here, as with the anti-semitism “crisis” debate about the Labour party, is that it is totally divorced from any sense of proportion or reality. The question we ought to be asking in a case like this is: what kind of satirical cartoon lambasting Israel could ever satisfy the criteria being demanded by the current anti-semitism watchdogs?

And in consequence, what cartoonist is going to dare to deploy their satirical skills against Israel when the response is invariably going to lead to their being accused of anti-semitism and possibly losing their career and their reputation?

That is precisely what weaponising anti-semitism means. It hands Israel a get-out-of-jail-free card. It intimidates opinion formers – journalists, cartoonists, comedians, politicians, civil society leaders, human rights activists – by making the issue of Israel so toxic that none dare touch it. One need only look to the BBC to see the result: a mix of anaemic fence-sitting and outright censorship when covering Israel.

As Archbishop Desmond Tutu famously reminded us: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” A submission to those who abuse anti-semitism to make Israel unassailable entails terrifying consequences for the Palestinians. It requires that, after decades of betraying them, we in the west once again turn a blind to their suffering. And, as was highlighted last week in Israel’s slaughter of Gaza’s unarmed protesters, it clears the path to a future in which Israel can and will commit ever graver outrages against the Palestinians.