All posts by Kim Petersen

IQ, Equal Pay for Equal Work, Population Control, Mao, and Communism

“Prepare for Struggle, Prepare for Famine, Work for the People.”

Jordan Peterson posits IQ tests as indicators of intelligence and predictors of long-term success.1 This is not scientific. Intelligence is definitionally problematic as is designing tests to measure whatever is deemed to denote intelligence. Nowadays, intelligence is considered a multi-faceted concept that cannot be measured comprehensively and accurately by a paper-and-pencil test. Moreover, it is extremely difficult to isolate a multitude of other factors and attribute any result exclusively to intelligence; e.g., parental upbringing, socio-economic levels, health, spiritual beliefs, personal inclinations, etc. Into this mix Peterson adds conscientiousness, with the same problems of how to define and how to measure. So such studies would be subjective, and at best any experimental designs would provide correlational statistics. Even resorting to multivariate analyses would not be without problems.

Multivariate analyses are an aid to, not a substitute for critical thinking in the area of data analysis. Meaningful results can only be produced by these methods if careful consideration is given to questions of sample size, variable type, variable distribution etc., and accusations of subjectivity in interpretation can only be overcome by replication…. Perhaps a major cause of the continuing misuse of statistical methods is the insistence of many journal editors in psychology and related areas, on articles being laced with multivariate analyses, and on encouraging the pedantic use of signifance levels, i.e. the inevitable p less than minus, as if such inclusions lent an air of respectability to their journal which it might not otherwise have had…2

In addition, the argument on IQ tests and the role of conscientiousness in “success” and “happiness” is a mined territory because covertly it recalls the dark side of eugenics. If IQs and conscientiousness are the litmus tests for the rank and suitability of individuals in a given society, then how far are we from doctrines adopted by fascist states vis-à-vis their people? The argument becomes seriously explosive in the context of poverty, depending on how one construes the correlation between IQ and success. For instance, according to many sources, Americans living under the poverty line are over 40 million. A question: would Peterson be poised to say that their poverty is a direct function of their IQ and conscientiousness? Any one who dares to pose the question on IQ or conscientiousness must (1) examine their own shortcoming on both matters, and (2) examine the social, economic, and cultural factors conducive, functionally, to lower IQ and social adaptations. Caveat: examining is not a judgement but a process leading to assumptions that must be further tested for factual or theoretical validity.

Equal Pay for Equal Work

Although physicists can unravel the mathematical laws of the universe and rocket engineers can calculate how to launch several probes on missions throughout the solar system, according to Peterson, humans are incapable of determining what is equal. “The introduction of the ‘equal pay for equal work’ argument immediately complicates even salary comparison beyond practicality for one simple reason: who decides what work is equal? It’s not possible. That’s why the marketplace exists.” (loc 5403) And just how fair or effective as a distributive mechanism is the marketplace?

First, since the dawn of time, world societies and their economic systems have varied from Babylonia, Pharaonic civilization, ancient China, Rome, Islamic civilization, aggressive Mongolian expansionism, etc through to modern systems such as capitalism, socialism, communism, Italian fascism, social democracies, etc. Equal pay for all or advocating for equality of pay to all never existed. Roman soldiers took less that centurions, and engineers and artists took more than qualified labor and artisans. Early Islamic social laws, as distinct from religious laws, had legislated that qualified artisans and poets receive special pecuniary treatment, so also that the fighters that took less than their commanders did. Karl Marx, Fredrick Engels, and even Vladimir Lenin never advocated for equal pay because they acknowledged the important role of creativity and expertise in the making of a valid economic model.

Why does Peterson accept decision of payment being left to the marketplace regardless of equality for the work done? Is the marketplace an entity that popped into existence by itself? Or did it have human hands behind its creation? Of course humans brought about the formation of the marketplace. And which humans would be expected to benefit the most from such an entity? Or did he expect his readers to absorb his statement naively and leave it unchallenged? To make the point, is there a design behind Peterson’s many groundless assertions? In the end, it seems to me that Peterson’s phrase — “That’s why the marketplace exists” — is a poor ideological construct in terms of cause and consequence. Most likely, he came up with it to close a complex argument by pointing to the predictive power of personality characteristics, however, it does not develop as a compact sequential argument. And why should having a extroverted versus introverted personality, or an assertive versus relaxed demeanor demand differential pay for equal work? Peterson provides such as explanations for unequal pay for the same work; to be fair, he does not say such should be the case. But by leaving it up to the market to determine, Peterson by default chooses the status quo wealth and income allocation.

Second, Peterson is positing that the markets can better provide for fairness in remuneration. However, the grotesque inequality that exists in the world clearly adduces that Peterson is dead wrong.3 Does Peterson agree with a market that pays a CEO in a day what a company worker makes in a year? Remarkably, a system within which such unfairness and such inequality do exist is well known: it is called capitalism. Recently, a study has revealed that 26 persons own as much as 3.8 billion of the poorest people. How has this happened? What’s Peterson theory on the matter?

Yet Peterson writes, “Don’t blame capitalism, the radical left, or the iniquity of your enemies. Don’t reorganize the state until you have ordered your own experience. Have some humility. If you cannot bring peace to your household, how dare you try to rule a city?” (loc 2926)

And what if a person’s experience is unordered because of the mayhem of the state? What if the state is wreaking havoc with households? Did not the American Revolution occur because Great Britain was wreaking havoc with colonial households through unfair taxation? Does poverty not wreak havoc on households? By taking over a city, people may be able to implement a system and policies that bring about equality and peace. By equality, I mean equal opportunity to all people, with remuneration based on effort and sacrifice — although Peterson will throw up his arms and say something like we don’t know how to measure effort and sacrifice. But we will never know how to measure effort and sacrifice to Peterson’s pleasure until we start trying; because to leave things the way they are, to the caprice of the market, is just intellectual cowardice. We can be sure, however, that the marketplace itself does not know how to remunerate workers equitably for work done.

Peterson’s Rule 6 is: “Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world.”

However, there are myriad personality, societal, and worldly factors (greed, sexism, racism, nationalism, war, etc) that work against setting up “perfect” order in one’s house. And what exactly is meant by “perfect” order, and is it even achievable? Perfection is an elusive, and probably unattainable, goal. Therefore, if perfection is unachievable, what Peterson in essence is telling us is tough luck, keep plugging away at trying to reach perfection, and in the meanwhile accept the world the way it is — however imperfect that may be.

If not the marketplace, then who decides what is equal pay for equal work? Of course we decide. We pool our brain power to determine criteria as to what is fair remuneration; afterwards we refine and tweak as is necessary. This is infinitely more sensible than sitting our collective butts and allowing the marketplace of fetid capitalism to lather the masses with inequity and penury.

Peterson opines:

We are not equal in ability or outcome, and never will be. A very small number of people produce much of everything. The winners don’t take all but they take the most, and the bottom is not a good place to be. People get sick there, and remain unknown and unloved. They waste their lives there. (loc 1784)

“We” (a pronoun used often by Peterson) are all different, certainly in many, many ways. We have different predilections, different desires, and different levels of skills. I avoid stating “different abilities” because abilities can be developed to higher levels through proper training and sheer hard work. Not every person is interested or inclined to sharpen their skills in certain endeavors to exhibit a high level of ability.

Granted we are not equal; everyone is superseded by someone else in some facet. Besides, being ranked number one is often subjective and usually ephemeral.

And I disagree emphatically with Peterson; it is the workers that produce most of what the public consumes. Managers and executives supervise and issue orders but produce little by way of physical work — and perhaps much of the intellectual effort comes from workers. In fact, many of the bourgeoisie may be considered leeches on the working class.

Peterson acknowledges the greed of the “winners.” However, I would not construe a group of humans who selfishly grab an inordinate lion’s share for themselves as “winners” while relegating the rest to a sick, unloved ignominy — quite the contrary.

Why does Peterson prioritize production as deciding distribution of wealth by the marketplace? Is production the end-all and be-all of humans? Does it supersede human attributes such as love, empathy, caring, and sharing?

Peterson is advocating dog-eat-dog capitalism. Fuck the market! It all boils down to what kind of world we want. How do we want our societies to look like? Our societies are a mirror unto who we are, unto our our sense of morality. Do we want and accept a society, as Peterson describes, composed of winners and losers? Do we accept joblessness despite the unemployed being desperate for work? Do we accept homelessness, the hungry, shanty towns, hygienic conditions, etc for any among us? Do any of us feel comfortable walking past someone obviously down-and-out?

Do we desire a society free from the ills that define a sick society?

Or do we roll the dice for each person and let the dice (i.e., the market) decide our happenstance?

Because in a sane and morally centered universe, the most meaningful abilities are the ones whereby we can provide warmth, succor, dignity, compassion, and love to our fellow humans.

Dominance is abhorrent. Enlightened thinkers are well aware of that. Hierarchies, excessive self-indulgence, and profligacy are not to be admired. If a permanent hierarchy, then love and altruism must situate at the pinnacle of the human hierarchy. Even primates have evolved altruistic behaviors.

What does it mean have abilities and only use them for self-serving reasons? What purpose, besides self-love and egoism, does it serve to sit on top of some hierarchy (other than a hierarchy dominated by altruism, love, and goodwill)? When Albert Einstein reached the pinnacle of fame as a physicist, did he preen and become self-important? No, Einstein remains a beloved scientist because he loved his fellow humans. Naturally, Einstein was a socialist.

Importantly, the world would be a better place without inequality. A recent book by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, The Inner Level: How More Equal Societies Reduce Stress, Restore Sanity and Improve Everyone’s Well-being,4 is a British empirical study that hearkens back to Karl Polanyi’s The Great Transformation that told of an age where equality and cooperation were the norm in society. A review of The Inner Level relates “how more equal societies reduce stress and improve wellbeing” for all of us.

The Monster Mao? China’s “one-child policy” and Cultural Revolution

Mao Zedong in Dandong, China 🄯 Photo by Kim Petersen

Peterson also takes potshots at Chinese communism, especially targeting Mao Zedong for vitriol. He employs wording designed to evoke the ire of the reader: “horrors,” “inferno,” “genocides,” “monster,” “totalitarians.”

“… the bottomless horrors of Hitler, Stain, and Mao.” (loc 2100)

“… the inferno of Stalinist Russia and Mao’s China…” (loc 3911) The wording of this sentence, however, points at the countries that Stalin and Mao live in rather than directly at the personnage.

“… the genocides of Stalin and the even greater monster Mao.” (loc 3947)

Peterson joins chairman Mao and the Cultural Revolution with China’s one-child policy: “… the horrors of Mao’s Cultural Revolution and its one-child policy.” (loc 5059)

Peterson is speaking loosely (although Peterson is emphatic about the importance of his words5 ) and inaccurately. First, the one-child policy was implemented in China in 1979. Mao Zedong died on 9 September 1976. During his life Mao was a mixed bag on child birth; initially he encouraged large families, but later he saw family planning as more important. It was in 1979 that the one-child policy was enacted under chairman Deng Xiaoping. Second, the one-child policy is not to be understood as an absolute. It applied particularly to the majority Han and especially in urban centers. Minorities and rural Chinese were not stringently regulated under this policy. Third, China had a rapidly growing population at the time the policy was enacted. China’s population has since reached 1.4 billion people. Some estimates say the policy resulted in 400 million fewer Chinese today. What would the population of China look like today without the one-child policy? And what demands would such a huge population pose for the environment, species extinction, quality of life, employment, and several other factors? Consider to what extent the one-child policy has had on curbing population growth and the fact that China today is the world’s largest economy slated to eliminate poverty in 2020.

As for the “monster Mao” a book review of Was Mao Really a Monster? wrote:

The continued attacks by anti-Communist academics and authors on the reputation and standing of Mao Zedong continue unabated. Indeed, they will last as long as there is a bourgeois class trying to prevent socialist revolution, or having failed to prevent it, trying to undermine it in order to restore capitalism.

Peterson points specifically to “Mao’s murderous Cultural Revolution.” (loc 5434)

Dongping Han, a history and political science teacher at Warren Wilson College in North Carolina, wrote a book that presents a different take on China’s Cultural Revolution than that of the western narrative which portrays great tumult across China, targeting intellectuals for re-education, and rampaging hordes committing violence. There were horrible excesses that occurred. Chinese know well of this, and several Chinese films chronicle the mayhem of the Cultural Revolution. But there were also important improvements in Chinese society. Focusing on Jimu, a rural area in Shandong province, Han details improved living conditions, democracy, health and education, infrastructure, and agricultural practices during this time.6

Furthermore, the Cultural Revolution as some westerners allege did not impact negatively China’s economic growth.7

Nonetheless, the Cultural Revolution, as well as the Great Leap Forward, must be seen, in many respects, as colossal blunders — blunders that cost the lives of far too many people and caused much suffering. Mao as the leader is accountable for the mistakes under his leadership. He was misguided; he became a megalomaniac. But Mao’s goals for the Chinese masses were noble, and he still has a great following among Chinese people.

Population Control

Peterson seems to think the more people on the planet, the merrier.

No one in the modern world may without objection express the opinion that existence would be bettered by the absence of Jews, blacks, Muslims, or Englishmen. Why, then, is it virtuous to propose that the planet might be better off, if there were fewer people on it? (loc 5091)

It is a false analogy. Peterson conflates religious identity, skin color, and nationality. Which sane person proposes this?

First, what Peterson’s hypothetical posits is alarming and genocidal, so morally based people do not express such an opinion. What betterment can be had by genocide?

Second, who claims it is “virtuous to propose” having a planet with fewer people? Whether such a proposal is virtuous or not is irrelevant. Relevant is whether managing the number of humans living in a finite ecosystem, such as Earth, would avert future dangers wrought by rampant population growth or even to bring about a betterment of the present human condition and the condition for the other species on the planet.

Third, as Peterson has worded it, what is proposed by others is depopulation, whereas a morally centered proposal would be for a lowering of the number of humans through birth control and not culling specific groups of people. If that is to be achieved through non-coercive means, then objection should be minimal. If through forced compliance, then there must be a logical and moral rationale for such a decision being reached, and it must have been reached through informed and genuine democratic means applied fairly across peoples and not result from a unilateral decision imposed on the entirety of peoples.

Fourth, there are logical and morally based reasons for limiting population growth that can be discussed elsewhere, among them are exacerbating global warming that imperils life on the planet, the scarcity of resources for sharing, extinction of animal life by human incursions into their territories, habitat despoliation by pollution, etc.

China and Communism

Communist China is currently world’s largest economy in terms of purchasing power parity. Many critics deny that China is communist. So what is communism in China? Godfree Roberts lists some important features of the Communist Party of China (CPC).

1. The Party’s Genesis. It was founded by Mao and others because Chinese governance needed a new look after the old one had apparently failed. In fact, it wasn’t that Confucian government had failed: it was because Chinese officials and the Emperor forgot Confucius’ instructions. So Mao called his revolution ‘communist’ even though Confucius’ teaching was much more radical than any written by Marx: The Common Good: Chinese and American Perspectives.

2. Membership qualifications. They must swear to serve the people first and enjoy the fruits of their service last.

3. Membership behavior. Most of the 90,000,000 Party members do, in fact, serve the people first and enjoy the fruits of their service last. That’s a lot of unselfish people and, when they act together, they can influence the whole country.

4. Party power. They use their power democratically and have dismissed several heads of State since 1950. They do not tolerate underperforming leaders as we do.

5. Leadership behavior. You can see that the Party’s leaders and theoreticians are substituting Confucian terminology for Marxist language. China is retiring to the Confucian roots it never left–only this time the Party is interpreting Confucius’ doctrine of compassion radically.

Roberts concludes by quipping, “Marx would be delighted.”

I will quibble with the conclusion of Roberts on point 5. Confucianism still has influence. However, CPC general secretary Xi Jinping stated, “In contemporary China upholding the theory of socialism with Chinese characteristics means upholding Marxism in its truest sense.”8 Under Xi’s chairmanship a widespread crackdown on corruption has been ongoing.

In stark contradistinction with neoliberalism, Xi emphasizes public ownership dominance.9 The success of socialism with Chinese characteristics will be determined by measuring the benefits accrued to the Chinese people10 — such as rights to education, employment, health care and care for senior citizens.11 Moreover, the benefits are envisioned as for all the world’s people.12

Xi states China is anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist, and anti-war. The rising dragon has a socialist market economy that strives for peace and universal security. This started with Mao Zedong leading his comrades to overthrow the despised Guomindang and establish communist governance in China.

Conclusion

Most of Peterson’s 12 rules are quite sensible. The rules, per se, are trite, cute, and sprinkled with home-cooked wisdom. My focus was Peterson’s digressions, many of which point to a self-assured intellect whose assertions and arguments often fall short. Peterson’s book 12 Rules for Life became more than just rules. A self-help book became an anti-communist polemic. Capitalism, atrocities wrought and abetted by capitalism, as well as capitalist gulags eluded criticism. Peterson digressed into political economy, history, wealth distribution, dominance hierarchies, gender differences, religion, free speech and censorship, and more. Peterson’s 12 Rules left this reader feeling unsatisfied and underwhelmed. The author needs to explain the deep themes that guide his elaboration and scope of work. Was his intention to grace readers with 12 idyllic rules of life, or was his undisclosed intent to warn us about the “evils of communism” over and above contemplating his rules?

Throughout 12 Rules, Peterson writes about the hardship of living: “Life is suffering. That’s clear. There is no more basic, irrefutable truth.”13 A misleading statement because life must not be viewed through such a parochial prism. Life is ecstasy, rapture, sorrow, pain, anger, jealousy, hate, love, and much more. This all points to Peterson, on certain matters, being a polemicist. He chooses one end of the pole and pronounces; the other pole, or points along the continuum are often, if not outright denied, just marginalized or ignored.

It is often said that money cannot buy happiness, but unmentioned by Peterson is that money can avoid many of the hardships and suffering that life throws at you. Yet, Peterson is too intelligent not to be aware of this. He skips this because his thinking is not about finding solutions but rather to describe the world as he sees it. Nonetheless, the ability to pay rent, put nutritious food on the table, put clothes on one’s back, and afford necessary transportation go a long way to easing hardships in life.

There are examples of communist governments that have eased the hardships of life and brought great improvements to their people. Cuban communism must be singled out for the great strides it has made during and since the Cuban Revolution — despite US sanctions.14 It is only fair to point out the achievements made by the communist government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea — despite US sanctions. Another, of course, is the communist government in China.

As Xi often states, China is only in the earliest stages of socialism,15 and communism is to be attained farther down the road.16 The CPC’s goal of ending poverty in China by 2020 is a massive step in the right direction. To the extent that Chinese socialism is successful, especially compared to the status of western capitalist countries, it poses a challenge to the capitalist classes in these countries. Why would the working class accept being relegated to the lower rungs of a society when they see Chinese in the future thriving in a classless China? China may become the template for an economic and social revolution that brings about a fairer distribution of income (something still lacking in China currently) elsewhere. China is an economic colossus whose success should throw light back on Cuba, North Korea, and also the great achievements made by the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela.

Despite the bombast of Jordan Peterson and Donald Trump, socialism remains a viable force for change in the world.

  1. Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.17
  1. Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote for Chaos, (Penguin Random House UK, 2018: loc 5372.
  2. BS Everett, Abstract to Multivariate analysis: the need for data, and other problems, British Journal of Psychiatry. March 1975, 126: 237-40.
  3. See Part 5.
  4. Allen Lane, London 2018.
  5. Peterson’s Rule 10 is: “Be precise in your speech.” Ergo, the words in 12 Rules must be seen as an accurate reflection of Peterson’s thinking: “I’m very, very, very careful with my words”
  6. See Dongping Han, The Unknown Cultural Revolution: Life and Change in a Chinese Village (Routledge, 2001).
  7. See Gwydion Madawc Williams, “Was the Cultural Revolution a success?” Quora, 11 February 2018.
  8. Xi Jinping, On the Governance of China, (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 2014): loc 230.
  9. Xi, loc 1275.
  10. Xi, loc 554.
  11. Xi, loc 707.
  12. Xi, loc 947, 4010.
  13. Jordan Peterson, loc 2947. See also locations 191, 335, 1787, 2768, 2909, 2959, 3780, 4048, 4765, and 5737.
  14. See Isaac Saney, Cuba: A Revolution in Motion, (Fernwood Publishing, 2004) and Arnold August, Cuba and Its Neighbours: Democracy in Motion, (Zed Books, 2013). Review.
  15. Xi, loc 352, 1566.
  16. It is anarchism that will bring about communal individuality and reduce inequality. See Alan Ritter, Anarchism: A Theoretical Analysis, (Cambridge University Press, 1980): 76-83. pdf.
  17. Apologies for the delay in getting out part 6, but I was in East Africa without laptop.

Understanding the Soviet Union, Inequality, and Freedom of Expression

In a book which seemingly offers simple, but clever, rules to help people gain control over their lives, psychologist Jordan Peterson curiously pours a lot of vitriol on Marxism/communism and the nation states that practice(d) communism.1

Peterson writes that Marx discombobulated history and culture:

Marx attempted to reduce history and society to economics, considering culture the oppression of the poor by the rich. When Marxism was put into practice in the Soviet Union, China, Vietnam, Cambodia and elsewhere, economic resources were brutally redistributed. Private property was eliminated, and rural people forcibly collectivized. The result? Tens of millions of people died. Hundreds of millions were subject to oppression rivalling that still active in North Korea, the last classic communist holdout. (loc 5256-5257)

As a minimum, what Peterson stated is overtly brazen defamation of Marx. But before defending Marx from the groundless invectives of Peterson, it should be noted with utmost comfort that Peterson’s approach to analyzing the thought of Marx and his role in history and issuing verdicts thereof manifestly demonstrates Peterson’s poor knowledge of Marxian thought. What is remarkable here is that naïve ideological parochialism supplants informed elements of debate. To explain, Peterson is overconfident that he, as a psychologist, can read the mind of Marx. So he volunteered to tell us that when he summoned his spirit to his couch, this told him that he was attempting to “reduce history and society to economics.”

Surprisingly, Peterson comes across as incognizant that Marx’s principle pillar of historical materialism rests on the paradigm that all societies, regardless of stage of development, follow specific and historically developed economic models that inexorably shape their lives and societal structures. Marx gave the greatest example on this matter when he described the endless cycles of a typical Indian village that persisted since the dawn of history until Britain colonized India thus introducing its economic model that gradually obliterated the old system. Another example, when Britain colonized Mali, it instituted that villagers could not tender their produce for barter and had to use money (introduced by the colonial office) as a means of exchange. This forced the villagers to abandon their villages and work as salaried labor in town — and this is exactly what Britain wanted to tighten its grip on Mali.

To expand on this argument, Peterson is attempting to reduce Marxism to what he claims was put into practice in the Soviet Union and Eastern Asia. Marx did not say that culture, per se, oppressed the poor. Marx said that each historical epoch is constructed around a particular mode of production that helps to shape culture. Under capitalism it is the capitalists that control the means of production, thus the bourgeoisie (the rich) are able to manipulate culture to benefit their self-interest over that of the proletariat (working class). John Storey, a British emeritus professor of Cultural Studies explains that Marx situated culture on a ‘base’ and ‘superstructure’:

The ‘base’ consists of a combination of the ‘forces of production’ and the ‘relations of production’… The superstructure consists of institutions (political, legal, educational, cultural, etc.), and what Marx calls ‘definite forms of social consciousness’ (political, religious, ethical, philosophical, aesthetic, cultural, etc.) generated by these institutions. Marx provided a general theory of history and politics, in which it is important to locate a cultural text or practice, there will always remain questions that relate to its formal qualities and specific traditions.

Finally, has Peterson ever been to North Korea? What information does he rely on to draw his conclusions? Wikipedia? Western corporate-state media? Has his home-and-native land, Canada, ever achieved housing for all its citizens? Tuition-free university education for all? Jobs for everyone? One should be aware and cautious before parroting monopoly-media disinformation.

Plunging further into history, Peterson notes:

The decayed social order of the late nineteenth century produced the trenches and mass slaughter of the Great War. The gap between rich and war was extreme, and most people slaved away in [bad] conditions … Although the West received word of the horrors perpetrated by Lenin after the Russian Revolution, it remained difficult to evaluate his actions from afar. (loc 5270)

Peterson leaves out many crucial points. For example, why was there a gap between the rich and the poor? What political-economic ideology precipitated WWI? Why does Peterson not mention western forces fighting in Russia to overturn the revolution? Why would western powers want the revolution overturned?

In part 2 of the Real News interview with Marxist Alexander Buzgalin deals with these points and more:

PAUL JAY: Good. Once again, let me get this right- Professor Buzgalin is Professor of Political Economy and director of the Center for Modern Marxist Studies at Moscow State University. So, picking up from part one, the 1920s in the Soviet Union, after the revolution, my understanding, at least. It was a time of tremendous excitement, of transformations, beginnings of modern movie-making takes place in the Soviet Union, some of the innovations are world class. Why and how, and I know this is an enormous question, really boil this down- how does something so transformative turn into such bureaucracy?

ALEXANDER BUZGALIN: It’s a really great, very important and very difficult question. A brief and little bit primitive explanation: The Soviet Union was born in the- appeared in a period of terrible contradictions. So, world capitalism, World War I, terrible bloody war, for what? For killing of millions of people for the profit of corporations. And one result was material basis and cultural basis for a new society. So, it’s like a kid that appeared in the dusty, cold atmosphere without good parents or without parents at all. How to survive? It will be some mutations. And we had mutations and we had very small chances for growing up, for normal development of this kid.

New socialist trend, not socialist country, but trend, movement in socialist direction. And of course, we received a lot of mutations. Firstly, it was real huge energy, created by revolution, by victory in civil war. Energy of creation of new society, enthusiasm and so on. In the same time, in new economic policy in the 1920s, we had a lot of elements of market capitalism and so on. It was, by the way, not a bad model of combination of capitalism, market, and new socialist trends, with big contradictions. But then, because of terrible conditions, absence of material base inside, and the very dangerous, very aggressive-

PAUL JAY: Meaning the absence of any modern industry.

ALEXANDER BUZGALIN: Yeah. It was necessary to create, during ten years, modern industry and a huge military complex in order to prevent defeat in the war against world fascism. By the way, I want to stress, in 1930s, fascism became rule. It was Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, then all Europe capitulated.

PAUL JAY: And strong support in Britain and the United States, including the King of England.

ALEXANDER BUZGALIN: Yeah, and by the way- yeah, Britain and the United States were not very sympathetic to the Soviet Union rule at all. And one minute, one very important fact. When German fascists, Nazi, took power, it was one country around France, Belgium, Denmark, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, strong industrial states altogether- Britain, the U.S.- no problem to defeat Germany. And what was the result? Germany occupied France, Poland, Belgium, Denmark, Czechoslovakia, Austria. Nobody can resist- democratic liberal capitalism could not resist to fascism. And only this strange mutation, Stalin’s socialism, could have a victory.

PAUL JAY: And I think a lot of people in the West don’t understand how clear this was, what was coming as early as 1930, 31, 32-

ALEXANDER BUZGALIN: Yeah, but after that, we had this bureaucratic mutation because of all these reasons. And the more we had power of bureaucracy and the less we had the real control from below, real opportunity to make something in social organization from below, the more we had degradation of socialist trends. And we moved from domestic socialism, in the atmosphere of capitalism around, towards attempts to build consumer society, but without the opportunity to consume. The economy of shortage consumer society.2

Peterson read a book by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, yes, a book that details horrible injustices. But Buzgalin lived in the USSR, saw the fall of the Soviet Bloc, and lived through the transformation to modern Russia. Russia is not communist today, but Russians did try to bring back communism and were thwarted by American interference in the Russian presidential election to get their man, the inebriate Boris Yeltsin, into the Federal Assembly.

Peterson turns to another writer, George Orwell, to expose Stalin’s crimes: “He [Orwell] published Animal Farm, a fable satirizing the Soviet Union, in 1945, despite encountering serious resistance to the book’s release.” (loc 5301)

In the preface to the Ukrainian translation of Animal Farm Orwell wrote:

I have never visited Russia and my knowledge of it consists only of what can be learned by reading books and newspapers. Even if I had the power, I would not wish to interfere in Soviet domestic affairs: I would not condemn Stalin and his associates merely for their barbaric and undemocratic methods. It is quite possible that, even with the best intentions, they could not have acted otherwise under the conditions prevailing there.

But on the other hand it was of the utmost importance to me that people in western Europe should see the Soviet régime for what it really was. Since 1930 I had seen little evidence that the USSR was progressing towards anything that one could truly call Socialism. On the contrary, I was struck by clear signs of its transformation into a hierarchical society, in which the rulers have no more reason to give up their power than any other ruling class.

Unlike Peterson who sees Marxism as an ideology predestined to produce atrocities, Orwell sees that corrupted humans have corrupted Marxism. Orwell was a contemporary who refused to judge Stalin, whereas Peterson removed in time does judge Stalin. Orwell considers that there may have been circumstances that forced Stalin to act in barbaric fashion. Buzgalin cited some of those circumstances above, although he does not name such as an excuse for Stalin’s barbarity.3 Does Peterson take into account the circumstances and the times when he passes wholesale judgment?

Inequality

Turning to the present, communism has waned in many countries while at the same time the burgeoning of neoliberalism has seen inequality soar.

Peterson offers a puzzling take on inequality. He favors a hands-off approach to it: “We don’t know how to redistribute wealth without introducing a whole host of other problems…. But it certainly is the case that forced redistribution, in the name of utopian equality, is a cure to shame the disease.” (loc 5351)

Tim Di Muzio, a senior lecturer in international relations and political economy at Wollongong University in Australia, states that capitalism is a pathological addiction in which capitalists seek differential accumulation – to primarily increase the wealth gap between themselves and others; in other words, greater wealth inequality. (p 49) For this reason, the capitalist system cannot rid wealth inequality or significantly reduce the inequality, and neither is capitalism — the nebulous invisible hand aside — designed to do this.4

Peterson says we don’t know how to redistribute wealth. Certainly he admits that he doesn’t know how to do it. Indeed, he even warns against trying redistribution, by implying redistribution to be an untoward “utopian equality.” Why in the name of “utopian equality”? Why not in the name of fairness and dignity for all humans? Peterson is at odds with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which states that one of the freedoms sought is a world where humans are free from want. As stipulated by the UDHR, among those human rights affected by inequality are:

  • Article 23: Right to work, to equal pay for equal work, and to form and join trade unions
  • Article 24: Right to reasonable hours of work and paid holidays
  • Article 25: Right to adequate living standard for self and family, including food, housing, clothing, medical care and social security.

Does Peterson think that the current distribution of wealth is fair? If it is not fair, then does Peterson suggest leaving the current maldistribution as is? And what caused a maldistribution to occur? Should not the conditions that caused such a maldistribution be dealt with? The gap between the rich and the poor is widening. In 1820, the gap was 3:1, in 1950, 35:1, and in 1992, the gap was 72:1.5 The “World Inequality Report 2018” declares an increasing gap between haves and have-nots and points to capitalism as a cause. That this is a gargantuan problem, is adduced by the fact that about half of the planet’s population must get by on less than $2.50 a day (80% of humanity lives on less than $10 a day). What “host of problems” is it that Peterson would consider to supersede the dignity of half the globe’s population?

Why focus on redistribution of wealth? What about the capitalist system wherein the maldistribution occurred? Peterson says don’t redistribute. However, if communism leads to Gulags as Peterson claims, then by the same logic does capitalism not lead to maldistribution and inequality? But Peterson does not argue for a economic reform. Would it not be logically and morally preferable to have a system that allows for a fair distribution at the outset that would not require a redistribution. But that might require a revolution, something Peterson also eschews as he considers that would cause suffering.6

Peterson on Compelled Speech

Peterson came into wider public prominence when he railed against the Canadian government’s Bill C-16 which amended the Canadian Human Rights Act to include “gender identity or expression” as grounds protected from discrimination. Peterson mischaracterized the bill as compelling speech by using hate laws. Nonetheless, Peterson gained a following based on his pro-freedom of expression.

In his book, Peterson seemingly contradicts this pro-freedom of expression stance:

I do not understand why our society is providing public funding to institutions and educators whose stated, conscious and explicit aim is the demolition of the culture that supports them. Such people have a perfect right to their opinions and actions, if they remain lawful. But they have no reasonable claim to public funding. (loc 5359)7

Unlawful opinions? Really?

What does Peterson mean by “demolition of the culture”? Culture is an abstract, something that cannot be physically demolished. Sure, artifacts of the culture can be destroyed, but Peterson did not write cultural artifacts. And what does Peterson mean by “lawful”? He gives no examples of institutions and educators behaving unlawfully. What Peterson writes sounds curiously like a call for censorship. One wonders whether orating for the replacement of capitalism (and its maldistribution of wealth) with communism in western society is beyond the bounds of accepted discourse. In other words, if you don’t like the cultural set-up, and you want to exercise your freedom of speech, then the dominant culture will put you on the street. That would be, in essence, governmental violence, and it would cause suffering — something Peterson says he seeks to avoid.

Peterson appears to be treading a tightrope here. He supports freedom of speech, but seemingly sets out parameters in which free speech may not occur. First, Peterson holds that it must conform to societal dictates as far as public funding is concerned. Yet is that not censorship? It stands as an antipode to compelled speech – something Peterson adamantly opposes. Hate speech aside, but are not forced speech patterns similarly egregious as enforcement aimed at preventing utterances? Second, one might wonder exactly what Peterson means by the “conscious and explicit aim is the demolition of the culture that supports them.” Culture? That is a wide-encompassing term. Does Peterson consider “the demolition of the culture” that sends soldiers abroad to overthrow governments not to the home government’s liking, to devastate foreign lands, to decimate civilian populations, and to plunder the resources as deserving of being cut off from public funding? Third, Peterson argues that speech must “remain lawful.” Where is the freedom in that? Of course, freedoms come with responsibilities. One does not run into a public school and foolishly yell “Shooter!” while knowing full well that no shooter has been spotted on campus, thereby causing a stampede of students and a potential for injuries. But the right to dissent, even against a prevailing view in society, is a sine qua non of a country that professes to cherish democracy and freedoms. After all, how often is it that a majority, or substantial section, of a society has gone amuck? Nazi Germany, imperialist Britain, imperialist USA, colonial Canada, Wahhabists, Zionists, all spring to mind to be parked alongside the brutal excesses of some communist governments. It is incumbent upon people whose consciences are pricked by iniquity caused by or in complicity with their society and country to speak out and steer the ship-of-state back on a proper course. Most people whose consciences are seared are not about to be dissuaded from doing what they consider right by a cut off in public funding. Lastly, what does Peterson propose for the criteria and regulating of the “institutions and educators whose stated, conscious and explicit aim is the demolition of the culture,” so as to determine what and who should be deprived of public funding? Who should decide? As a basis, a standing bureaucracy would be required for this task.

In a so-called representative democracy such as the United States, universities and research and development are largely funded by government. If these institutions and scientists are antithetical to the agenda of the government, then should their funding be cut off? Case in point, the overwhelming majority of the scientific community has sounded the alarm about the increasing potential of a looming catastrophe: fossil-fuel burning causes emissions of greenhouse gases and this is cited as the cause of global warming, melting ice caps, thawing permafrost, and weather calamities. Yet, one can observe the Donald Trump government stacking agencies whose purported agenda is to protect the environment signalling a rejection of climate change, raising the profile of a sprinkling of climate skeptics, and caving in to the interests of Big Oil.

  1. Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.
  2. Part 6 will discuss IQ, equal pay for equal work, Mao Zedong, and Chinese communism
  1. Jordan B. Peterson, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote for Chaos (Penguin Random House UK, 2018).
  2. Success and Mutation in the Soviet Union – RAI with A. Buzgalin (2/12),” The Real News, 12 July 2018.
  3. The longtime communist ruler of Albania, Enver Hoxha, in his With Stalin: A Memoir, paints a far more flattering portrait of Sta1in than western historical accounts.
  4. Tim Di Muzio, The 1% and the Rest of Us: A Political Economy of Dominant Ownership (Zed Books, 2015): 48-49.
  5. Anup Shah, “Causes of Poverty,” Global Issues, 30 April 2006.
  6. See part 3.
  7. Peterson: “Neither should we teach them [our children] unsupported ideologically-predicated theories about nature of men and women—or the nature of hierarchy.” (loc 5382)

Understanding the Red Menace

For anyone who has read or listened to Jordan Peterson, it is obvious that he has an intense dislike of communism. On this subject his reasoning appears very shallow.

Thus the author asserts in his 12 Rules for Life: “Solzhenitsyn’s writing utterly and finally demolished the intellectual credibility of communism, as ideology or society.”1

First, Peterson’s claim that Solzhenitsyn’s writing demolished “the intellectual credibility of communism” is a non-sequitur for one fundamental reason: there is no dialectical validity whatsoever when support for a claim comes from places with similar or identical ideological views. In this case, for an apparently anti-communist thinker such as Peterson to quote another anti-communist thinker such as Solzhenitsyn in support for his thesis is a futile intellectual exercise in the art of persuasion. In terms of analogy consider this: what do you think of American supremacists or ultranationalists who when asked to prove the notion of so-called American exceptionalism, reply by citing what Barack Obama said on the subject?

Pertinently though, in none of his literary and political writings dealing with communist issues had Solzhenitsyn succeeded at demolishing Marxism — the ideological, economic, and philosophical matrix of communism. His ire, however, was directed at Soviet communism. But even here, Solzhenitsyn was mostly critical of the excesses of the Soviet state while never delving into the details of the positive social manifestations of Soviet social structures. In other words, his tight bias against communism was such that he just saw things through the prism of his personal views.

Second, I am not here to defend or denigrate communism; this is not the subject of this article. But from an intellectual viewpoint, if Peterson wants to demolish either Marxism or communism, he should do that by pointing to where Marx went wrong in his over 20 books and papers, or at least show us where Lenin, the founder of the first communist state, erred in his conception of such a state. It seems that he skipped this crucial step entirely, maybe because dealing with the Marxian concept of historical materialism from multiple angles requires special preparation that he was not ready to undertake. Said alternatively, what passages in Das Capital, Theories of Surplus Value, The Holy Family (Marx and Engels), Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, etc., did Peterson find to be intellectually corrupt enough to demolish communism? Based on the preceding, how is it possible then that Peterson goes straight to the climatic point by giving a verdict without trying to evaluate all philosophical, political, social, or economic debates initiated by Marx?

Furthermore, others might counter that Karl Marx demolished the credibility of capitalism as an ideology that has any place in a morally based society. However, I will not comment on the intellectuality of capitalism. I would not characterize Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations as intellectually devoid — quite the contrary. Likeliest, what passes for capitalism today would nonplus Smith. Yet Peterson would hold Marx’s Capital and Marx and Friedrich Engels’ Communist Manifesto to be intellectually deficient?

What, in essence, does such a statement reveal? To pronounce on intellectual credibility inescapably means that the person doing the pronouncing considers himself intellectually credible and sufficiently informed of the subject matter. In any case, such a person would be capable of reading Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago; tying it to communist theory, as applied in the Soviet Union and elsewhere; and determining the ineluctable, consequential impact of such an ideology on society.

A subsequent epistemological analysis would speak to the veracity of any conclusion having been reached and also to the intellectual rigor of the individual making such a claim.

The events that are documented in The Gulag Archipelago are not denied or contested. What I contest is that the prison labor camps, as is intimated by Peterson, are a predictable outcome of communism. Either the Gulag was an aberration that appeared in a society striving towards a communist state or it was an inevitable outcome of a state on the path to communism. Many more questions arise: for example, were prison labor camps the norm throughout the history the Soviet Union? Or were they bound, particularly, to the authoritarian rule of Josef Stalin? Does the Gulag system exist in other communist states? Does the Gulag system exist in capitalist states?

It is important to understand what is a Gulag. Writing in a forum — which Peterson touts — Konstantin Zhiltsov (whose profile identifies him with a LLB from Moscow State University) wrote: “GULag was a simple administration, not much different from US Federal Bureau of Prisons.”2 Specific to camps, as opposed to locked-in penitentiaries, Zhiltsov wrote that they “existed long before communists and will exist without them just as well.”

On the question of camps:

Do they exist in modern Russia? Of course, yes. The majority of prisoners serve their sentence there. Of course, the regime is much different from Soviet times, much more lenient (that depends on security level, though). For example, prisoner’s labour is a right and not a duty (in the GULag system of camps, for example, it was mandatory, nowadays prisoners decide themselves to work or not to work).

So, the form is the same, but the “soul” inside of them is much different.3

Penitentiaries, rightly or wrongly, exist in most nation states. And forced labor camps are found in the US. It is via the US that in communist Cuba, the most notorious Gulag continues. Irene Khan, Amnesty’s general secretary, described the United States’ incarceration facility at Guantánamo Bay (de facto US-occupied territory in Cuba) as “the gulag of our time.”

Did the fact that Solzhenitsyn criticized the Gulag in the Soviet Union confer his approval of capitalism in the West? Political analyst Radha Rajan wrote, “Solzhenitsyn was as critical of what America and Europe represented in the twentieth century as he was of the Soviet Union and Stalinist repression.”4

Does this point to a bias ingrained in Peterson’s thinking? Nowhere in 12 Rules did Peterson mention, for example, that “Noam Chomsky’s writing utterly and finally demolished the intellectual credibility of capitalism, as ideology or society.”5

What happened to the Soviet Union immediately after the fall of communism? Has capitalism burnished its credibility?

If communism is not defined by the Gulag system, then what is it? What is this communism that Peterson despises?

The Real News editor-in-chief Paul Jay spoke with Alexander Buzgalin, a professor of political economy and the director of the Center for Modern Marxist Studies at Moscow State University. Buzgalin has lived under communism in the Soviet Union and in post-communist Russia. Thus, he is uniquely positioned to comment on what communism is and was.

PAUL JAY: So, for an American or Western audience, that word, “communism,” has- less and less now, the further we get away from the cold war- but still, the idea of communism, socialism, particularly communism, it means “police state.” It means “tyranny.” For most American ears, they can’t understand how someone would actually hope for communism. What did that mean for your family?

ALEXANDER BUZGALIN: For us, it was absolutely another meaning because of literature, because of movies, because of some practical communal-associated activity. So, what was communism for us? First of all, labor is pleasure. I am glad, I am happy to have my work. I am going for the work because I like it, not because I must make as small as possible and receive as much money as possible. Another motivation, another logic. Second, at the workplace we have comrades, not competitors, and together we will do something interesting. This is communism. Communism is space where you have beautiful things; useful, beautiful, cheap things around you. Dress, furniture, everything. And these things are just, I don’t know, basis for your life, for interesting life, for communications, creativity. That was the image of communism. And if you read books of Strugatsky, Arkady Strugatsky or Boris Strugatsky, two very famous writers, you will find a very beautiful description of such a world, and some elements of this world, we had sometimes.

PAUL JAY: Like when?

ALEXANDER BUZGALIN: Like when we were together as schoolboys and schoolgirls, we were making something good for Vietnamese kids. We were spending our free time, not to play games with computers, it was no computer or football- we were playing football, but not all the time. But it was interesting to work and to buy bicycles for Vietnamese kids together. Just one example. To help to the elder people together. To create museum with memory about victims of World War II in school, from the fortress of our parents and grandparents, and so on.

So, one example. And an example in university, we have a union of young students and young scientists, scholars. And we made ourselves with state finance, three, four conferences every year for free in different cities of Russia. We were travelling, we were inviting students from other cities and state paid for their trips, for airplanes, for hotels, for us to go to other places. And it was self-organization. We organized these conferences by ourselves. We had a scientific supervisor, but he or she was controlling the program, nothing else.

PAUL JAY: But this vision, I mean, communism, the Marxist vision, a classless society with very little government, if any, as the ideal. But the reality of life was quite the opposite.

ALEXANDER BUZGALIN: Yes, but not one hundred percent opposite.6

*****
Peterson continues his criticism of communism: “No educated person dared defend that ideology again after [Aleksandr] Solzhenitsyn published The Gulag Archipelago. No one could ever say again, ‘What Stalin did, that was not true communism.’” (loc 3845)7

Peterson attempts to support his contention by ad hominem against those who disagree. Peterson limits the parameters of debate: one must agree that Stalin’s governance was true communism. Moreover, according to Peterson, one must not defend communism or he will be counted among the uneducated. Once again, Peterson relies strongly on Solzhenitsyn to shoot down the entirety of communism:

Solzhenitsyn documented the Soviet Union’s extensive mistreatment of political prisoners, its corrupt legal system, and its mass murders, and showed in painstaking detail how these were not aberrations but direct expressions of the underlying communist philosophy. No one could stand up for communism after The Gulag Archipelago–not even the communists themselves. (loc 5314)

This comes across as pure bluster. Peterson seems to think that by citing a book he can draw a definitive conclusion. Moreover, even given that the events as described by Solzhenitsyn are unerringly accurate, this does not inextricably bind communism to the Gulag because the Gulag happened under nominal or experimental communism. Now whether that communism was as propounded by Marx is debatable. Marx’s communism was about the liberation of workers. The communism of Marx differs from that put into practice by Lenin and Stalin.8 Moreover, communism was not envisioned as a perfect theory, free from need for revision, to be applied to all societies in all situations. Unless Marx considered himself to embody perfection, then he would not construe his thought as free from error. Indeed, self-criticism is a key component of Marxism. As Marxists are aware: “The use of criticism-self-criticism is widely recognized in the Marxist-Leninist movement as a tool that is vital to improving our work.”9 Thus, just as different countries practice a particular form of capitalism construed to meet the needs of their societies (or, more accurately, to meet the needs of the elitists in society), communism has been adapted to the exigencies of time and location.

Peterson points to the Gulag system as the distinguishing feature of communism. The gulags existed, and as horrific and wicked such places were for so many people, they were an outcome of people in power with out-sized egos and blackened souls.

If the Gulag is not the distinguishing feature of communism, then what is? Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto stated: “The distinguishing feature of Communism is … the abolition of bourgeois property.”

Peterson commits the logical fallacy of cum hoc ergo propter hoc scenario. Because of communism, there are gulags. What is wrong with such a postulation? Did prisons and torture not exist under the Czarist regimes? Do gulags not exist under capitalism? To institute an analogy, did it occur to Peterson that United States gave torture a meaning worse than that used in the former USSR? Could Peterson educate us about “the Gulag Abu Ghraib,” “the Gulag Guantanamo Bay” or “the Gulag Bagram”?

Also, Peterson should realize that a state does not become a full-fledged communist state overnight, and in the Soviet case, not without fierce resistance. Capitalist powers were not inclined to permit a challenge to their preferred economic order.

Michael Sayers and Albert Kahn wrote that by the summer of 1919, 14 western nations and their client states had invaded Bolshevik Russia.10 US Senator William Edgar Borah admitted at that time that the US was at “war with Russia, while Congress has not declared war.… It is a violation of the plain principles of free government.”11

For the next two and a half decades “the anti-democratic and anti-Soviet conspiracy.… kept the world in an incessant turmoil of secret diplomacy, counterrevolutionary intrigue, terror, fear and hatred, and which culminated inevitably in the Axis war to enslave humanity.”12

Peterson writes,

Communism, in particular, was attractive not so much to oppressed workers, its hypothetical beneficiaries, but to intellectuals—to those whose arrogant pride in intellect assured them they were always right. But the promised utopia never emerged. (loc 3909)

This passage by Peterson is not only the epitome of intellectual manipulation because of how it was phrased, but it is also a demonstration that Peterson has no clues regarding the core tenets of Marxism — specifically Marx’s concept of communism.

On the side of manipulation, Peterson clearly implies that communism is no more than an intellectual product that oppressed workers could not possibly relate to or understand. In addition, he seems to be annoyed — better yet, intimidated — by certain intellectuals whom he debits to the arrogance for feeling “always right.” In psychological terms, clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson appears to acknowledge that he is short on deploying the necessary intellectual tools to counter the arguments of well-informed intellectuals. This impression is enforced by noting that he resorted to name-calling in the attempt to downgrade the competence of intellectuals on the subject while upgrading his own, which is obviously ridden with serious shortcomings.

On the side of Marxian tenets, the scope of communism is not as he erroneously painted it. Marx never thought of communism as a platform solely directed to workers. What he envisioned was for the working class and intellectual pioneers to lead the struggle to abolish the class system thus creating egalitarian societies without classes, exploitation, and discrimination.

Now let’s turn to the debate on the issue of “credibility.” Obviously Peterson must be referring to intellectuals without credibility, but some might argue that such a premise is a contradiction. This forces one to wonder how well Peterson understands the communism of Karl Marx. Peterson does not define the “promised utopia.” Marx and Engels wrote of an end to the struggle between proletariat and bourgeoisie. At which time the “purely Utopian character” would be revealed by “such as the abolition of the distinction between town and country, of the family, of the carrying on of industries for the account of private individuals, and of the wage system, the proclamation of social harmony, the conversion of the function of the state into a more superintendence of production.”13

Peterson’s second contradiction is acknowledging that workers are oppressed while also arguing that oppressed workers are not attracted to a system to end their exploitation. In other words, one surmises from Peterson that workers would prefer to be exploited by a capitalist class. Or Peterson considers that workers are not exploited under capitalism? But no one could be that deluded.

Marx and Engels shot down the notion of worker acquiescence to the capitalist structure: “But does wage-labour create any property for the labourer? Not a bot. It creates capital, i.e., that kind of property which exploits wage-labour, and which cannot increase except upon condition of begetting a new supply of wage-labour for fresh exploitation.”14

Moreover, utopia, if ever promised, was never promised overnight. As long as communist countries were surrounded by opposing capitalist countries, the class struggle remained ongoing.

Communism, in name, was brought about through revolution. Hated regimes like Batista in Cuba, the Czars in Russia, and the Guomindang in China were capitalist or feudalistic in orientation.

Peterson seems eager to criticize and excoriate communist states, yet in his book his home country, Canada, emerges relatively unscathed. Peterson rightly denounces Nazi atrocities committed against Jews, although he does not condemn Nazi atrocities against communists, Roma, homosexuals. Now let’s consider Canada. It is a capitalist state established through genocide against the Original Peoples. Why no criticism by Peterson?15

One shouldn’t just read Chomsky, Solzhenitsyn, Marx, and Adam Smith to get a handle on capitalism versus communism and socialism. In particular, one should not solely rely on the clinical psychologist Peterson to get an understanding in political-economics and associated ideologies. However, one should be open to learning from other political-economic systems, especially adding anarchism to one’s reading list. Become well informed. Devour information with open-minded skepticism and form your own conclusions. Above all, don’t unquestioningly accept ex cathedra statements from professors, politicians, intellectuals, or non-intellectuals.

  1. Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.
  2. In Part 5: understanding the Soviet Union and the fallibility of capitalism
  1. Jordan B. Peterson, 12 Rules for Life, (Penguin Random House UK, 2018): loc 2879.
  2. Konstantin Zhiltsov, “Do Gulags still exist in Russia?” Quora, 26 December 2017.
  3. Konstantin Zhiltsov, “Do Gulags still exist in Russia?” Quora, 26 December 2017.
  4. Radha Rajan, “Russian nationalism through the eyes of an Indian nationalist – 1,” Vijayvaani.com, 28 November 2018.
  5. Chomsky’s focus is not the intellectual credibility of capitalism but the morality of an economic system that leaves behind so many in society. See, e.g., Noam Chomsky, Profit Over People: Neoliberalism and Global Order (Seven Stories Press, 1999).
  6. Growing Up in the USSR – RAI with A. Buzgalin (1/12),” The Real News, 11 July 2018.
  7. Later Peterson’s repeats “The Gulag Archipelago … utterly demolished communism’s moral credibility…” (loc 5307).
  8. See Thomas G. West, “Marx and Lenin,” in Marx and the Gulag (Claremont Paper No. 8, 1987).
  9. Workers Congress (Marxist-Leninist) and Friends from the East Coast, “Open Letter on Criticism-Self-Criticism,” in The Communist, Vol. IV, No. 12, 11 September 1978. Available online at marxists.org.
  10. Michael Sayers and Albert Kahn, The Great Conspiracy: The Secret War Against Soviet Russia Proletarian Publishers (Little, Brown and Company, 1946): 79.
  11. Michael Sayers and Albert Kahn, 85.
  12. Michael Sayers and Albert Kahn, 392.
  13. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, “Chapter III. Socialist and Communist Literature” in Karl Marx: Selected Writings.
  14. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Communist Manifesto in Karl Marx: Selected Writings (London: Essential Thinkers, 2004): 39.
  15. The professor Noam Chomsky proffered a moralistic guideline that people should focus on the actions of their own states: “My own concern is primarily the terror and violence carried out by my own state, for two reasons. For one thing, because it happens to be the larger component of international violence. But also for a much more important reason than that; namely, I can do something about it. So even if the U.S. was responsible for 2 percent of the violence in the world instead of the majority of it, it would be that 2 percent I would be primarily responsible for. And that is a simple ethical judgment. That is, the ethical value of one’s actions depends on their anticipated and predictable consequences.” See Noam Chomsky, On Power and Ideology: The Managua Lectures (South End Press, 1987).

Jordan Peterson on Religion, Science, and Revolution

When one reads Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life,1 the rules in isolation come across as eminently sensible; however, many of the digressions in Peterson’s book strike one as bombastic. It does not require special consideration to recognize the bombast.

Religion vs Science

Take, for instance, what Peterson states about religion and science: “Religion concerns itself with domain of value, ultimate value. That is not the scientific domain.” (loc 2046)

What is meant by value? There are many definitions, of which two seem particularly apropos to what Peterson writes:

10. values, Sociology. the ideals, customs, institutions, etc., of a society toward which the people of the group have an affective regard. These values may be positive, as cleanliness, freedom, or education, or negative, as cruelty, crime, or blasphemy.

11. Ethics. any object or quality desirable as a means or as an end in itself.

Sociology is a social science, and sociologists investigate using the scientific method. Ergo, science is not logically or lexicographically excluded from the values expressed in definition 10. Definition 11 is quite nebulous for a dictionary entry, but the investigation into what best explains human’s understanding of natural phenomenon would seem to be captured by science as well. Karl Popper wrote, “The fact that science cannot make any pronouncement about ethical principles has been misinterpreted as indicating that there are no such principles; while in fact the search for truth presupposes ethics.”2

So how does Peterson arrive at the determination that values are not in the scientific domain? A dictionary definition of “science” reads,

1. a branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged and showing the operation of general laws: the mathematical sciences.

2. systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation.

Therefore, insofar as values are subject to facts, truths, observation, and experimentation, then values fall, by definition, within the purview of science. Furthermore, although science depends on exact data, the fact is value is a crucial tool in the hands of scientists to ascertain validity of an event. Value, therefore, while latent in the declaration of a scientific fact, is a motor that moves the scientist to understand her objective. Consequently, value while perhaps not in the forefront is a palpable vector in a given analysis.

The philosopher of science, Karl Popper, proposed a system, a modus tolens, of what constitutes scientific theorizing. Popper considered the debate over “simplicity and its value for science.”3 Popper saw simplicity as best conceived in relation to the testability of a theory.4 For Popper, a theory must produce testable hypotheses whose results can not verify a theory; a theory can only be rejected.

Religions, on the other hand, are by and large, faith-based, so facts and truths need not be based on observations, experimentation, and evidence. All that is required is to believe that the words attributed to prophets, scribes, god(s), angels, demons, spirits, or extraterrestrial entities are of unquestionable verisimilitude. This brings up the question as to which values position doctrine beyond testable hypotheses and evidence and beyond epistemological skepticism?

Peterson writes, “Religion is instead about proper behavior.” (loc 2049)

Peterson treats religion, in some sense, as a monolithic entity; hence, he refers to it in the singular. Here Peterson seemingly refines “value” as being about “proper behavior.” However, was the destruction of the Buddha statues in Bamiyan by the Taliban “proper behavior”? Was the destruction of Babri Masjid by Hindu fanatics in Ayodhya, India “proper behavior”? Are the outrages against Rohingya by the predominantly Buddhist Myanmarese “proper behavior”? How about the Catholic Church’s sympathy to “fascism as an idea”? “Not only did the church regard communism as a lethal foe, but it also saw its old Jewish enemy in the most senior ranks of Lenin’s party.”5 The Inquisition? The church-run Indian Residential Schools on Turtle Island? The Jewish State’s sniping of unarmed Palestinians on their side of the border?

One could construct a enormous list of evils under the influence, or in the name of, religion.

Confining oneself just to literal interpretations of the Bible (a book filled with rules), behavioral stipulations from Yahweh call for death by stoning for blaspheming god, cursing one’s parents, committing adultery, or being a non-virgin bride on one’s wedding day. Slavery, genocide, misogyny, and racism are condoned, but the seven deadly sins, masturbation, and homosexuality are condemned. What is particularly remarkable is that many of these so-called sins can be confined to oneself and not impinge upon another human. Hence even though the Golden Rule would be unviolated, in the realm of the Old Testament that person would be harshly judged.

Therefor, given the foregoing discussion, one wonders what proper behavior in the scope of religion actually is. Love your neighbor, love your enemy are fine bromides — great actually. But such appealing biblical rules for self-conduct are undermined by the heinous acts also carried out in the name of a religion.

Wikipedia as Accepted Wisdom?

Peterson writes, “I cite Wikipedia because it is collectively written and edited and, therefore, the perfect place to find accepted wisdom.” (loc 2224)

ON CONTACT: Wikipedia – A Tool Of The Ruling Elite

Perfect? Accepted wisdom? Since when does something collectively written become accepted wisdom? What would happen if 10 Zionists worked on a piece on Palestine?

I demur greatly from Peterson regarding Wikipedia. While Wikipedia may be fine for general knowledge, on subjects where various narratives compete, it can be highly problematic, and it should be regarded with skepticism. Current events, history, and geo-politics require utmost skepticism and scrutiny. The editing at Wikipedia is susceptible to great bias.6 The complaints against Wikipedia and its editing are many.7

If one is interested in information, it is widely accepted that one tries to get as close to the source of information as possible. Thus primary and secondary sources are prioritized over tertiary sources. Wikipedia is not a primary source. It bills itself as an online encyclopedia, but its partiality is deeply in question.

Revolutions as Causes of Suffering

Peterson warns of “altering our ways of social being carelessly in the name of some ideological shibboleth (diversity springs to mind) is likely to produce far more trouble than good, given the suffering that even small revolutions generally produce.” (loc 2229)

First, one notes that Peterson is hedging his admonition by using the word “carelessly.” Carelessness is, after all, something best avoided in all circumstances. Second, the term “ideological shibboleth” strikes this reader as a pleonasm. Third, religion is a specific form of ideology. Fourth, diversity is not a shibboleth. How is it that the state of being different is considered a shibboleth? Fifth, Peterson is patronizing in how resolutions should be conceived. He lives in a place and time (Canada, 21st century) where revolutions in the classical sense are unlikely to happen because the conditions for them (excepting First Nations) are currently held in check by socialism: employment insurance, welfare, schooling for all, universal health insurance. But had Peterson lived in Egypt, Jordan, or Saudi Arabia, he might change his mind. Regarding his comments, Peterson seems ready to condemn the French Revolution (yes it was messy, but it ended a system that was corrupt from its roots).

Peterson seems to have a problem with diversity. Diversity is an expression of entropy, which, even in a social sense, signals a natural drift toward increasing randomness. It is hypothesized that evolution which has shaped our current cerebral wiring favoring entropy also gave rise to our consciousness as an after effect.8 Physicsworld explains, “Perez Velazquez and colleagues argue that consciousness could simply be an ’emergent property’ of a system – the brain – that seeks to maximize information exchange and therefore entropy, since doing so aids the survival of the brain’s bearer by allowing them to better model their environment.”

Peterson’s reasoning seemingly points to a static state. This militates against evolution and social thermodynamics. This is emphasized by his argument against “the suffering that even small revolutions generally produce.” Peterson hedges by using the word “generally,” and such hedging is reasonable given that absolutes are rare.

Mark Twain — who Peterson quotes once in 12 Rules (loc 649) but without adequate sourcing — stated that he was “a revolutionist in my sympathies, by birth, by breeding and by principle. I am always on the side of the revolutionists, because there never was a revolution unless there were some oppressive and intolerable conditions against which to revolute…”9 In other words, revolutions arise from a natural resistance to oppression – and the suffering caused by oppression. Peterson has it backwards, as he points to the revolutions as the source of suffering.

Revoluting against the injustices of a power structure requires courage because centers-of-power are usually loath to relinquish power and the privileges that accompany power, and those people in centers-of-power will use lethal violence to deter any challenges to their grip on power. Centers-of-power control the mechanisms for protecting and projecting their power, thus challenges to power, however justified and morally based, will be defied with violence by the power structure. Those who revolute will have suffering inflicted on them. Revolutionaries understand this. They do not expect to be gifted — what most morally centered people would consider to be a human right — an equitable input into society, its decision-making, and its wealth. Revolutionaries expect the power structure, represented by the State, to try and crush them. Witness the Canadian authorities’ recent heavy-handed police actions against the Wet’suwet’en on their unceded territory and the French state’s draconian measures against the Gilets Jaunes movements in France. The scenario, that seems to elude Peterson, is that revolutionaries make a decision to resist the current state of suffering and indignities to overthrow those who oppress them and establish a fair(er) society knowing fully well that violence against will follow.

  • Read Part 1 and Part 2.
  • Part 4 looks at Peterson’s shallow rejection of communism.
  1. Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life: The Antidote for Chaos (Penguin Random House UK, 2018).
  2. Karl Popper, “Natural Selection and the Emergence of Mind,” Delivered at Darwin College, Cambridge, November 8, 1977. Popper’s Darwin Lecture is cited by Peterson in his 12 Rules for Life.
  3. Karl Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery (New York: Routledge Classics, 2005): 131.
  4. Karl Popper, 132.
  5. Christopher Hitchens, god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (Boston: Twelve, 2007): 235.
  6. See, e.g., “Caught in the Cross Hairs: Media Lens and the Mystery of the Wikipedia Editor
  7. For example, “Wikipedia Is Shockingly Biased: 5 Lessons From An Admin,” “The Covert World of People Trying to Edit Wikipedia—for Pay,” “Wikipedia’s dark side: Censorship, revenge editing & bribes a significant issue,” “What Wikipedia’s Daily Mail ‘Ban’ Tells Us About The Future Of Online Censorship,” and “Revenge, ego and the corruption of Wikipedia.”
  8. R. Guevara Erra, D. M. Mateos, R. Wennberg, and J.L. Perez Velazquez, “Towards a statistical mechanics of consciousness: maximization of number of connections is associated with conscious awareness.”
  9. Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 3 (2015) Edited by Benjamin Griffin and Harriet Elinor Smith: 451.

Human Hierarchies, Competition, and Anarchism

New Yorker

If dominance hierarchies are an outcome of natural selection, and if early Homo sapiens were naturally selected (they were), and if humans are genetically inclined to procreate thereby ensuring their genes continue in future generations, then, to the extent that status confers reproductive advantage, humans should be genetically predisposed to challenge for the highest placement within a hierarchy. Yet, modern humans have made substantive inroads in understanding and manipulating genetics, controlling the environment, and eliminating and curing disease. While there is evidence still pointing to natural selection having influence in shaping human evolution, human advances have curbed natural selection and artificial selection has become more prominent. Moreover, if dominance hierarchies genetically prevailed over humans, then anarchists must represent some kind of evolutionary dead end. Nonetheless, anarchists have made great contributions to societal and political-economic thought.1 Probably the greatest anarchist contribution has been to work toward a classless, anti-authoritarian, co-cooperatively based society in which there are no permanent hierarchies.

In particular, Petr Kropotkin’s well-researched landmark work, Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution, posits other than biological determinism; the ideal society is anti-hierarchical, anti-dominance, and anti-authoritarian.

I obviously do not deny the struggle for existence, but I maintain that the progressive development of the animal kingdom, and especially mankind, is favored much more by mutual support than by mutual struggle…2

Karl Polanyi’s seminal book, The Great Transformation, describes how early forms of human society were based on cooperation rather than competition. That the social order was transformed to a capitalist market economy was criticized by Polanyi: “[T]o separate labor from other activities of life and subject it to the laws of the market was to annihilate all organic forms of existence and to replace them by a different type of organization, an atomistic and individualistic one.”3

Polanyi’s thought is a logical reflection of Marx’s core theory of Value and the role of capitalism in eroding the value of labor.

Based on the historical and anthropological record, Polanyi held that the economy is bound up in the social relationships of humans.

The maintenance of social ties … is crucial. First, because by disregarding the accepted code of honor, or generosity, the individual cuts himself off from the community and becomes an outcast; second, because, in the long run, all social obligations are reciprocal, and their fulfillment serves also the individual’s give-and-take interests best. Such a situation must exert a continuous pressure on the individual to eliminate economic self-interest from his consciousness to the point of making him unable … even to comprehend the implications of his own actions in terms of such an interest.4

It is arguable that in disregarding immediate, long-term, or status-enhancing selfish gratifications, the individual is safeguarding her own future economic self-interest. In a society where individuals care for the needs of all members, that individual also belongs to the protective web of such a society. Since no one can be certain of avoiding future ill health or disaster, such a society acts as a safety net for all its members. Even some capitalist societies recognize this fact but all too often fail to adequately provide coverage and care to vulnerable sectors of society. And such welfare programs can fall victim to self-serving capitalistic procedures and tendencies based on immediate cost reductions because of a short-term focus on profit accumulation. While the provision of employment and health insurance is integral to those marginalized within capitalist society, such programs can be diverted to the profit-making interests of capitalists.

For Polanyi, the very fact that production was organized around buying and selling adduced the “extreme artificiality” of the market economy.5 Polanyi saw abandoning the natural way for the market system to be dangerous:

Robbed of the protective covering of cultural institutions, human beings would perish from the effects of social exposure; they would die as victims of acute social dislocation through vice, perversion, crime, and starvation. The natural world would be reduced to its elements, neighborhoods and landscapes defiled, rivers polluted, military safety jeopardized, the power to produce food and raw materials destroyed.5

In his meta-analysis of the literature on competition versus cooperation, educator Alfie Kohn, echoing Petr Kropotkin,6 contended that “competition is an inherently undesirable arrangement.”7 Moreover, performance based on cooperation was found to be superior across fields of endeavor.8 Given the preponderance of the evidence, one would more reasonably conclude that at the societal level, cooperatively based groupings would be selected over competitive arrangements.

A Consensual Economic Model: Parecon

What kind of world is it that most people want? Dog-eat-dog capitalism or everybody looking out for each other? One economic model called participatory economics (parecon for short) was developed based on the core values of equity, solidarity, diversity,9 efficiency, and self-management. Parecon features balanced job complexes, remuneration based on effort and sacrifice, and decision-making empowered in all the workers. Grassroots planning that converges on a consensus outcome will replace the highly inefficient capitalist markets.10

Cooperatism also offers an interesting economic model wherein job complexes are run by workers for workers and not workers being dictated to by a board of directors for the profit of shareholders.11

Peterson argues that dominance hierarchies are based on competence, ability, and skill — not power. “This is obvious both anecdotally and factually,” writes Peterson.12 He gives the example of people wanting the best surgeon when stricken with brain cancer.

Yes, of course, patients want a good surgeon. However, how many patients would ask for a ranking of their surgeon? Wouldn’t most patients assume that a person by virtue of being a surgeon had successfully completed the training to become a surgeon and would, therefore, be competent in her vocation? Others might refer to this as specialization rather than a hierarchy. Most people tend to excel in certain areas and not as much in others. This is obvious both anecdotally and factually. If you are scuba diving for the first time in a challenging tidal channel with extreme current flows, do you want to dive with the experienced dive guide, a rookie dive guide, or with the brain surgeon? The brain surgeon does what she does well within her bailiwick, and the dive guide does what he does well within his field of expertise. And within the field of surgery some surgeons will have more expertise and competence in performing certain surgeries and less skill to perform different surgeries. This is normal in situations calling for specialization. The same goes for scuba diving. Some dive professionals will have greater knowledge of the dive sites and be better able to navigate and explore sites familiar to them. However, the competence and skills demanded do not necessitate the formation of a dominance hierarchy.

  • Read Part 1.
  • Part 3: analysis of Peterson’s views on religion versus science, Wikipedia as a trusted source, and his antithesis to revolution
  1. See, for example, the works of Leonid Tolstoy, Mikhail Bakunin, Noam Chomsky, Petr Kropotkin, Pierre Joseph Proudhon, Emma Goldman, Murray Bookchin, Robin Hahnel, Michael Albert, and many, many others. It should be noted in the anarchist context that the contributions arise from the masses.
  2. Petr Kropotkin, Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution, A Public Domain Book, 1902: loc 221.
  3. Karl Polyani, The Great Transformation, (Boston: Beacon Press, 1957): 163.
  4. Polanyi, 46.
  5. Polanyi, 73.
  6. Kropotkin, “Better conditions are created by the elimination of competition by means of mutual aid and mutual Support.” loc 962.
  7. Alfie Kohn, No Contest: The Case Against Competition, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1986): 9.
  8. Alfie Kohn, “Is Competition More Productive?: The Rewards of Working Together” in No Contest: 45-78.
  9. Since Jordan Peterson seems at odds with diversity, a definition is in order. Diversity is merely the state of being different, and such difference must not face discrimination. Diversity does not mean forcing others to like or agree with the differences. It means live and let live.
  10. See Michael Albert, Parecon: Life After Capitalism (Verso, 2003).
  11. See Chris Wright, Worker Cooperatives and Revolution: History and Possibilities in the United States (BookLooker.com, 2014).
  12. Jordan B. Peterson, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, (Penguin Random House UK, 2018): loc 5370.

The Utility of Rules and Hierarchy

The overzealous politically correct-speech crowd has triggered a backlash. One person who took exception is Jordan Peterson, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto who rocketed into the spotlight for his courageous dissent against compelled speech. I support that stance taken by Peterson. Peterson also has a youtube presence, and this year his book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote for Crisis (Penguin Random House UK) was published.

Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life contains plenty of wisdom, but also plenty of bias, often ill-supported by facts or reason. Yet an anarchist physics professor finds, “Peterson is having an impact because his important words are true and because oppressive false words have gone too far.” Peterson, says the anarchist, is “fighting for reason and objectivity and against ideological madness.”

Indeed, rational people will agree that discovering what best captures or approximates truth is important, as is exposing false narratives. Who cannot help but support “fighting for reason and objectivity and against ideological madness.” Yet Peterson can also be accused of ideological bias. Since 12 Rules for Life is a best seller and since Peterson’s views are garnering widespread attention, Peterson’s viewpoints on truth, falsity, anti-communism, ideology, and so on, as expressed in his book, call for a critical analysis.

The Need for Rules

Peterson claims that “without rules we quickly become slaves to our passions—and there’s nothing freeing about that.” (location 50)

This is an assertion, and it seems that Peterson is imprecise, or taking liberty, with language since what he calls slavery is more correctly termed addiction. An addiction usually starts as a choice, a choice that turns out to be bad as the addict has lost self-control.

There are several other points when considering rules and whether to adhere to them. First, it has been compellingly argued that rules lead to a dreaded, bloated bureaucracy.1 Second, there are good rules, and there are bad rules. Third, who is it that decides what the rules are or should be and which rules are good or bad? Does the common man decide or the uncommon woman? Does the colonizer decide or the dispossessed Indigenous person? Cree lawyer Sharon Venne made the legal and moral argument that “colonial laws are ‘rules and regulations,’ but not laws in the true sense of the word. Colonial laws are made to be broken.”2

When rules are devised and imposed on the masses with little or no input from the masses, and without genuine acquiescence from the masses what does this signal about the validity and legitimacy of said rules?

Regarding rules, in general, I propose: don’t become a slavish follower to a bad rule, instead seek its abolition. Likewise, in cases where rules are a necessity and are legitimately enacted by moral actors among the masses and having garnered the acceptance of the masses (without unduly impinging on the rights of a minority), then apply common sense: don’t be selfish and break laws that are scripted for the good of the wider society. Bad rules, however, can, and probably should, stir up a passionate resistance.

The other side of the argument is specificity. For instance, suppose a rule is valid. Is it universal though? For instance, if an Israeli accepts a rule, would a Palestinian accept the same rule knowing that his condition does not allow him to be generous in accepting such a rule? In the Canadian context, should First Nations accept that their culture and laws are subject to and inferior to rule imposed by a colonial-settler structure?

Decency and social cohesion points to the preeminent rule being some form of the Golden Rule: treat others as you would wish to be treated.

Regarding Peterson’s 12 rules, they are very reasonable and something all persons interested in their betterment should consider embracing. Importantly, they are rules one should set for oneself and are not meant to be imposed from outside; hence individual autonomy is sanctified. Individuals are empowered and are challenged with responsibility for their actions. In this vein, the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote,

The proud knowledge of the extraordinary privilege of responsibility, the consciousness of this rare freedom, of this power over himself and over fate, has sunk right down to his innermost depths, and has become an instinct—what name will we give to it, this dominating instinct, if he needs to have a word for it? But there is no doubt about it—the sovereign man calls it conscience.3

Dominance Hierarchies and Determinism

Petersen writes of the dominance hierarchy,

It’s permanent. It’s real. The dominance hierarchy is not capitalism. It’s not communism, either, for that matter. It’s not the military-industrial complex. It’s not the patriarchy—that disposable, malleable, arbitrary cultural artefact. It’s not even a human creation; not in the most profound sense. It is instead a near-eternal aspect of the environment, and much of what is blamed on these more ephemeral manifestations is a consequence of its unchanging existence. (loc 688)

Peterson writes that the dominance hierarchy is ancient, as is the part of brain that tracks position.

Nonetheless, many people take umbrage at the idea that one could seemingly extrapolate from lobster behavior “up” to humans and also that dominance hierarchies among humans are fuelled predominantly by biochemistry. Such a view points to biological determinism. It hearkens to sociobiological theory which, in a nutshell, is that humans are genetically driven to pass their genes into future generations. The entomologist Edward O. Wilson, author of Sociobiology, came to this theory based on observations of ant colony behavior which he compared to animal behavior along the branches of the evolutionary tree. Yet sociobiology has problems adequately explaining evidence contrary to theory, for example, couples who choose not to have children, homosexuality, or engaging in behaviors that would diminish chances at passing genes to the next generation — such as alcoholism.

Peterson’s view of an “unchanging existence” runs contrary to the several qualities/changes that distance humans from animals, for example, the human conception of morality.4 The moral principle popularized by Star Trek that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one would argue against sociobiology, and also indirectly against a dominance hierarchy.5

Peterson’s amoral view (he does not state that dominance hierarchies are good or bad, just that they are), however, appears more nuanced; he does not appear to adhere strictly to a deterministic outcome. Ideally based on intrinsic human values, people must (or should) have by inalienable right free choice. If this happens, then clinical psychologists can help distressed people through therapy to bring about changes in their life.

As for the animal kingdom, there are salient studies that call into question the pervasiveness of a dominance hierarchy. The great apes called bonobos are known for positive emotional attributes, a lack of aggression, and a relatively deemphasized hierarchy.6

Another study suggests the importance of the environment, pointing to the lack of a dominance hierarchy among chimpanzees in captivity.7

Besides, sometimes being an alpha is not all it’s cracked up to be, as the underlings will knock off their despised alphas.8 Humans, by and large, also do not appreciate bullies (a type of personality who covets a top-dog position obtained through violence or threat of violence).

Quite revelatory was a longitudinal study of a baboon troop by Robert Sapolsky and Lisa Share. They chanced upon a surprising result following the die-off of alpha males after eating tuberculosis-tainted food at a garbage dump. Subsequently, the stress levels of the remaining troop diminished, and the troop behaved much more amicably toward one another.9

The neuroscientist Sapolsky also appears in a documentary where he speaks to the recultured baboon troop and what it implies for human society:

Another one of the things that baboons teach us is if they are able to, in one generation, transform what are supposed to be textbook social systems, sort of engraved in stone, we don’t have an excuse when we say there are certain inevitabilities about human social systems.10

In conclusion, the documentary’s narrator pointedly asks: “And so, the haunting question that endures from Robert [Sapolsky]’s life work: Are we brave enough to learn from a baboon?”10

Plenty of evidence exists for the non-expression of a dominance hierarchy in the animal kingdom. This does not, however, preclude the manifestation of dominance hierarchies among humans. And, indeed, dominance hierarchies do exist in human societies. But are they wrought by evolution? Or are they shaped by features of the environment? Or perhaps a combination? Are they pervasive across the spectrum of behaviors and networks? Are they an inevitability?

The chicken-and-egg conundrum speaks to determinism. Does physiology precede topping a hierarchy or does top ranking bring about changes in physiology? What about environmental factors? What about socioeconomic factors?11 Sapolsky writes, “When humans invented material inequality, they came up with a way of subjugating the low ranking like nothing ever before seen in the primate world.”12

Sapolsky notes there are similarities in human and animal hierarchies,13 but humans are “totally different.”14

Dominance hierarchies do exist, and there are multiple hierarchical scenarios that humans can take part/compete in. Therefore, most people are likely to rank higher and lower across myriad fields of endeavor. Many humans can also choose their pond; being a big fish in a small pond or a little fish in a big pond.

Moreover, there are the drawbacks of clawing one’s way to an hierarchical apex. What is the actual utility of hierarchical supremacy if reaching the pinnacle requires one to become a despised asshole? If one has to spend inordinate hours working (being a slave to one’s job or addicted to work?) instead of spending leisure time with family and friends? And what if one cannot determine whether those who surround you are sycophants or genuinely care about you as a person?

Sapolosky wrote, with easily perceived sarcasm: “Hurrah for clawing your way to the top, for zero-sum, muscular capitalism.”13

It seems eminently preferable to be an anarchist, work and play with others at one’s leisure, and refrain from undue concern about chasing rankings because in your mind all are equally human beings.

  • Part 2 examines further the nature of hierarchies among humans and whether competition is preferable.
  1. See David Graeber, The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy (Brooklyn: Melville House, 2015): loc 2166.
  2. Sharon Venne, Our Elders Understand Our Rights: Evolving International Law Regarding Indigenous Rights (Theytus Books, 1998) cited in Tamara Starblanket, Suffer the Little Children: Genocide, Indigenous Nations and the Canadian State (Clarity Press, 2018): 24.
  3. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Genealogy of Morals: A Polemic (Edinburgh: T.N. Foulis, 1913): location 661.
  4. There is evidence for behavior guided by morality among animals. However, the reasoning behind such moral behaviors is qualitatively different from among humans. See Robert M. Sapolsky, “Morality and Doing the Right Thing, Once You’ve Figured out What That Is” in Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst (New York: Penguin Books, 2016): 478-520.
  5. Individual differences and situational cues influence how human subjects indicate they would respond in such scenarios. See Robert M. Sapolsky, “Morality and Doing the Right Thing, Once You’ve Figured out What That Is” in Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst (New York: Penguin Books, 2016): 478-520.
  6. See Paoli, T, Palagi, E, and Tarli, SB (2006), “Reevaluation of dominance hierarchy in bonobos (Pan paniscus),” American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 130: 116-122. doi:10.1002/ajpa.20345
  7. Funkhouser, JA, Mayhew, JA, and Mulcahy JB (2018) “Social network and dominance hierarchy analyses at Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest,” PLoS ONE, 13(2): e0191898.
  8. See Rowan Hooper, “Gang of chimpanzees kills their alpha male,” New Scientist, 6 March 2013.
  9. Robert M. Sapolsky and Lisa Share (2004) “A Pacific Culture among Wild Baboons: Its Emergence and Transmission,” PLoS Biol, 2(4): e106.
  10. Stress, Portrait of a Killer,” National Geographic, 24 September 2008.
  11. Sapolsky: 443.
  12. Sapolsky: 442.
  13. Sapolsky: 429.
  14. Sapolsky: 429. Sapolsky expounds on factors affecting hierarchies: choice of leaders, political orientation, intelligence, affect, conformity, and obedience: 442-470.

Canada’s Respect for the Rule of Law and Its Sacred Obligation to First Nations

It is time for a renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with First Nations peoples, one that understands that the constitutionally guaranteed rights of First Nations in Canada are not an inconvenience but rather a sacred obligation.

— Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau speaking to First Nation leaders, 8 December 2015

In Part 1, it was noted that Canadian politicians repeatedly claim that Canada is a nation bound by the rule of law.

People can claim whatever they want; that does not make the claim true. Likewise anyone can pooh-pooh a claim. But that doesn’t refute the claim. Bogus claims are revealed by providing sufficient evidence to counter the deceit.

Although there are myriad examples to adduce that Canada is not a country bound by the rule of law, this article will focus on one current example.

It is important to first acknowledge the irrefutable fact that Canada is a nation established through the denationalization of other states. This was wrought by genocide and dispossession.1

Canada’s Respect for the Rule of Law and the Wet’suwet’en

Located in the central interior of the province colonially designated British Columbia are the people of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation. Coastal GasLink considers this terrain as the most suitable to lay a pipeline. This, though, has not received the consent of the Dinï ze’ and Ts’akë ze’ (Hereditary chiefs); in fact, the proposal from Coastal Gaslink was unanimously turned down.

However, a recent Supreme Court of BC decision granted an injunction permitting pipeline corporations to the enter the unceded territory of the Wet’suwet’en. Consequently, the Wet’suwet’en erected a second checkpoint farther down the road on Gitdumt’en Territory. The injunction was then expanded to encompass the entire forest service road, including the second checkpoint.

The below Real News network report makes clear that the legal process was a sham.

The Wet’suwet’en interpret the 1997 Supreme Court of Canada Delgamuukw v. Queen decision as conferring them the right to meaningful consultation which they say has not happened in the current case.

Freda Huson, the Spokeswoman for the Unist’ot’en stated,

The plaintiffs in the landmark Delgamuukw Supreme Court of Canada case are the Hereditary Chiefs and their members. Government and Industry are breaking their own laws when they choose to only consult with Indian Act band councils. The propaganda writers for the Pacific Trails Pipeline like to say that they have 15 First Nation People’s support, when in fact they have only been talking to Indian Act communities. That has to stop. This struggle to protect our lands is not about holding out for financial gain. It is about protecting our lands from destructive practices from industry. Our actions will not only benefit our future generations but everyone’s future generations.

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Initially, Canada was among four Anglo-Saxon settler-colonial countries that refused to sign on to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in 2007 — the others being Aotearoa (New Zealand), Australia, and the United States. 144 countries did sign. Finally, Canada agreed to adopt the UNDRIP in 2016. However, the UNDRIP still awaits full implementation, and that process has its skeptics.

Mi’kmaq lawyer Pam Palmater sees the federal government ss mostly talk and little action.

“Canada is fooling people when it says it unconditionally supports UNDRIP,” said Palmater.

The UNDRIP has already had legal implications elsewhere. On 18 October 2007, the Supreme Court of Belize ruled in Cal v. Attorney General that the national government must recognize the indigenous Mayans’ customary tenure to land and refrain from any act that might prejudice their use or enjoyment of this land. This reversed the Belize government’s 2001 decision to give rights to resource industries on traditional Mayan lands thus preventing Mayans from farming.

The Chief Justice of Belize, Abdulai Conteh, stated that the Mayan people had preeminent rights to their land. Conteh held that Mayan rights to occupy their lands, farm, hunt and fish pre-date European colonization and remain currently in force.

Conteh also cited Delgamuukw v British Columbia, “Indigenous title is now correctly regarded as sui generis.” The fact of Indigenous peoples having inhabited a land over time had given them land title rights.

There are a number of articles in the UNDRIP that seem relevant to Indigenous peoples’ right to inhabit the land free from disturbance.2

Given the recent legal machinations against the Wet’suwet’en, among several outstanding issues dogging the federal government in its responsibilities and relations with First Nations, one would tend to regard the Trudeau government’s pronouncements about guaranteeing the rights of First Nations as a “sacred obligation” with deserved heavy skepticism.

It would seem that the same skepticism is deeply deserved for assertions of Canada’s dedication to the rule of law.

Meanwhile, the five Wet’suwet’en clans are reinforcing the second checkpoint while awaiting the expected police assault in supposed adherence to the rule of law — a rule of law imposed by settlers colonialists over a people who have never surrendered land they have lived on since time immemorial.

A 29 December 2018 email from the Unist’ot’en Solidarity Brigade warns, “When, not if, the RCMP move against the checkpoints it is not just First Nations land defenders in their sights – it is you, your family, the entire biosphere they will be attacking.”

  1. See Bruce Clark, Ongoing Genocide caused by Judicial Suppression of the “Existing” Aboriginal Rights (2018). Review; Bruce Clark, Justice in Paradise (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1999); Splitting the Sky with She Keeps the Door, The Autobiography of Dacajeweiah, Splitting the Sky, John Boncore Hill: From Attica to Gustafsen Lake (John Pasquale Boncore, 2001). Tamara Starblanket, Suffer the Little Children: Genocide, Indigenous Nations and the Canadian State (Clarity Press, 2018). Review; Tom Swanky, The Great Darkening: The True Story of Canada’s “War” of Extermination on the Pacific plus The Tsilhqot’in and other First Nations Resistance (Burnaby, BC: Dragon Heart Enterprises, 2012). Review; James Daschuk, Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the Loss of Aboriginal Life (University of Regina Press, 2013); Robert Davis and Mark Zannis, The Genocide Machine in Canada (Black Rose, 1973).
  2. See, e.g.,

    Article 3
    Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.

    Article 7
    2. Indigenous peoples have the collective right to live in freedom, peace and security as distinct peoples and shall not be subjected to any act of genocide or any other act of violence, including forcibly removing children of the group to another group.

    Article 3
    Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.

    Article 5
    Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinct political, legal, economic, social and cultural institutions, while retaining their right to participate fully, if they so choose, in the political, economic, social and cultural life of the State.

    Article 7
    2. Indigenous peoples have the collective right to live in freedom, peace and security as distinct peoples and shall not be subjected to any act of genocide or any other act of violence, including forcibly removing children of the group to another group.

    Article 8
    2. States shall provide effective mechanisms for prevention of, and redress for:
    b) Any action which has the aim or effect of dispossessing them of their lands, territories or resources;

    Article 18
    Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in decision-making in matters which would affect their rights, through representatives chosen by themselves in accordance with their own procedures, as well as to maintain and develop their own indigenous decision-making institutions.

    Article 25
    Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinctive spiritual relationship with their traditionally owned or otherwise occupied and used lands, territories, waters and coastal seas and other resources and to uphold their responsibilities to future generations in this regard.

    Article 26
    1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired.
    2. Indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources that they possess by reason of traditional ownership or other traditional occupation or use, as well as those which they have otherwise acquired.
    3. States shall give legal recognition and protection to these lands, territories and resources. Such recognition shall be conducted with due respect to the customs, traditions and land tenure systems of the indigenous peoples concerned.

Canada and the Rule of Law

Canada’s fealty to the rule of law is much spoken of nowadays by Liberal politicians in regards to a current pending extradition request made by the United States to Canada. Canada became embroiled in the international trade spat between the US and China when it arrested Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of telecommunications giant Huawei at the behest of the US government. Indeed, some more critical types would characterize it as nothing short of a kidnapping. Meng has been alleged to have broken US sanctions against business dealings with Iran. The charges against Meng, however, are not considered to violate any Canadian laws — nor, according to China’s embassy in Canada, any US laws.

As a justification for the high-profile arrest, a repeating media chorus is heard in the Canadian political scene:

Former foreign minister Peter McKay said, “… we are following our rule of law.”

Current foreign affairs minister Chrystia Freeland intoned, “Canadians expect me to stand up for the rules.”

Prime minister Justin Trudeau asserted, “Canada is and always will remain a country of the rule of law.”

Trudeau emphasized that “all through this and through whatever happens in the world Canada stays consistent with the rule of law and applying our judicial system and we always will.”

Mind you, these words about adherence to the rule of law are spoken by Canada’s first prime minister found to have broken federal ethics laws.

China, however, was having none of this. China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying forcefully stated,

The United States and Canada can’t continue to boast that they are abiding by the rule of law. But in my opinion this is simply a modern version of the emperor’s new clothes. No matter what excuse they use, they are displaying ignorance of the fact and contempt for the rule of law. They have become laughingstocks of the world.

What underpins the Rule of Law?

1. Accountability: all are accountable under the law.

2. Laws are Just: the laws are clear, publicized, stable, and just; are applied evenly; and protect fundamental rights, including the security of persons and property and certain core human rights.

3. Open Government: enacts and applies laws that are accessible, fair, and efficient.

4. Accessible & Impartial Dispute Resolution1

*****

It is in-one’s-face obvious that the US sanctions law against Iran is unjust. What became an international agreement under president Barack Obama, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action aka the Iran nuclear deal, was shunted aside early into the Donald Trump presidency, this despite Iran always being found in compliance with the agreement. Thus it is the US which violates the terms of the agreement by its withdrawal and sanctioning Iran and other actors who deal with Iran.

Moreover, the legality of unilateral sanctions is questionable and they are considered to violate the tenets of the United Nations Charter.2

Seldom one to hold back, Trump bumbled into the legal proceeding and commented that he might intervene in the case of Meng, thereby politicizing the process. Nevertheless, given all these circumstances, Canadian officials continue to parrot the following-the-rule-of-law line

But does Canada really have a reverence for the rule of law?

In Part 2: what does the record indicate about Canada’s adherence to the rule of law.

  1. “What is the Rule of Law?” World justice Project.
  2. Rahmat Mohamad, “Unilateral Sanctions in International Law: A Quest for Legality,” in Marossi A., Bassett M. (eds) Economic Sanctions under International Law (The Hague: TMC Asser Press, 2015.)

The Moral Fiber of Justin Trudeau

For any appeal to ethics and morality to have any legitimacy, the principles so enounced must be applied rigorously, without favor or prejudice, to all human beings whatever grouping they may be slotted into. In other words, favoritism and morality are an antithetical mixture.

The principle that holds morals apply equally to all humans seemingly eludes Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau.

On 7 November, Trudeau stood in the House of Commons and railed against anti-Semitism and rightly so. Anti-Semitism, as with any form of racism or hatred expressed against any grouping, is anathema.

Yet Trudeau’s taking up the cause of anti-Semitism by attacking the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement is transparently, logically, and morally flawed.

Trudeau correctly apologized for Canada’s turning away Jewish refugees in 1939. Trudeau followed up the apology bemusedly:

Anti-Semitism is far too present. Jewish students still feel unwelcomed and uncomfortable on some of our colleges and university campuses because of BDS-related intimidation.

And out of our entire community of nations, it is Israel whose right to exist is most widely and wrongly questioned.

Any form of racism in any iota is an iota too much. This applies to all groupings of humans. No one should be despised, looked down upon, or discriminated against merely by virtue of being attached to a group through birth or circumstances beyond one’s control.1

Yes, anti-Semitism exists. Probably every form of racism exists. It is deplorable to despise someone for the mere fact of being Jewish. However, Zionism is a different animal. Political Zionism is racist to its core and highly discriminatory. Hence, if one is opposed to racism, then one must also speak out against racism by Jews against others. Some try to conflate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism; however, this is palpably fallacious. Imagine if someone tried to argue that if a person is opposed to the KKK that that person must therefore be against all white people (which would include most Jews). It is patently ludicrous, and it speaks ill to the intellectual rigor of any individual who would make such a claim.

Trudeau made blanket assertions. He did not back up what he said. What did he mean by they “feel unwelcomed”? What is “BDS-related intimidation”? BDS is widely understood to be a non-violent means of attempting to end Israeli oppression of Palestinians.

Furthermore, even if there were intimidation, it would pale in comparison to the slow-motion genocide experienced by Palestinians, the open-air concentration camp maintained by Israel against Palestinians (in blatant contravention of the Geneva Conventions — thus being a war crime), and the myriad racist laws designed to humiliate Palestinians. BDS is a means for Palestinians to keep their heads up and resist with dignity. Trudeau attempts to take this dignity away from Palestinians.

One might even think after listening to Trudeau that Jews were being oppressed by Palestinians instead of vice versa. Renowned academic Noam Chomsky put the racism into a comparative framework:

Anti-Arab racism is, however, so widespread as to be unnoticeable; it is perhaps the only remaining form of racism to be regarded as legitimate.2

… Contempt for the Arab population is deeply rooted in Zionist thought.3

And what should one make of Trudeau’s proclamation that “it is Israel whose right to exist is most widely and wrongly questioned”? What about the state of Palestine? When has the government of Canada, and when has Trudeau, ever spoken sincerely of the right for a Palestinian state to exist?

Could Trudeau be unaware of how the Canadian state came to be? It is established on the territory of the First Nations, also through the dastardly crime of genocide.4 What about the right of First Nations to a nation state or nation states?

Trudeau might do well to learn from anti-racism activist Tim Wise who explained the antipathy that Jewish Zionism arouses.5

Of course, Israel itself is a suicide culture, though they left this part out of my Hebrew School classes. What else could one call a nation erected amidst folks who don’t want you there, whose land you had to steal, if not a land rooted in a death wish? We may not blow ourselves up, but we sure as hell have come up with a creative way to put our individual and collective lives in danger — become usurpers of other people’s stuff: always a sure way to make people hate you.6

Human rights and opposition to racism are not pick-and-choose principles. To be regarded seriously and exude moral integrity, one must resolutely support the equal and fair application of human rights for all humans, and one must resolutely oppose racism against any group of people.

  1. For example, some mitigating circumstances might exist such as having been raised in a white-supremacist household.
  2. Noam Chomsky, Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians (Haymarket Books): 550.
  3. Noam Chomsky, Fateful Triangle: 551.
  4. See, for example, Bruce Clark, Ongoing Genocide caused by Judicial Suppression of the “Existing” Aboriginal Rights (2018). Review. Tamara Starblanket, Suffer the Little Children: Genocide, Indigenous Nations and the Canadian State (Clarity Press, 2018). Review. Kerry Coast, The Colonial Present: The Rule of Ignorance and the Role of Law in British Columbia (Clarity Press and International Human Rights Association of American Minorities, 2013). Review. Tom Swanky, The Great Darkening: The True Story of Canada’s “War” of Extermination on the Pacific plus The Tsilhqot’in and other First Nations Resistance (Burnaby, BC: Dragon Heart Enterprises, 2012). Review.
  5. Yes, there are Christian Zionists as well. They are basically motivated by Scriptural interpretation rather than the racially based in-group supremacism of Jews. Also, it should be axiomatically understood that when one speaks of a group that the members of a group do not form a monolithic consciousness.
  6. In Adam Engel, A Conversation with Tim Wise, Counterpunch, 6 December 2003.

Canadian Legal System’s Complicity in Genocide

[T]he US government no less than the government of Canada is required to obtain the consent of the Indian nations’ before assuming jurisdiction to invade, occupy and govern the yet unceded Indian national territories.

– Bruce Clark, Ongoing Genocide caused by Judicial Suppression of the “Existing” Aboriginal Rights (2018), p 25-26

I have only been physically inside a courtroom once, and that was to support a falsely accused colleague. It struck me that a typical western courtroom is set up not to exude justice but to intimidate, not just the accused but all people present, with the power of the State. The judge is invariably seated centrally on a dais, able to observe all that transpires below in the courtroom. When the judge enters, all present are required to stand, and none may be seated until permission is granted by his “honor.” When the proceedings are displeasing to her honor, she may strike a gavel on the dais to summon order in the courtroom.

Witness the power of the State: the power to mete out punishment for persons found guilty of something the State has determined to be illegal. It is a power that may be, and has been, wielded in what would be construed to be a thoroughly criminal manner in a moral universe. After all, gift giving and dancing were once deemed illegal by the Canadian State, and thus the tradition of First Nation Potlatches were banned until a sense of sanity and seeming propriety prevailed.

Such legal chicanery is not surprising to those who subscribe to Emery Dahlberg’s admonition that power corrupts.1 When law is unjust or when the punishment for wrongdoing is unjust, then the State has abused its power. The State’s power to prescribe justice can, moreover, be argued to represent State violence – in that the threat of punishment is used by the State to coerce behavioral compliance with the societal norms as dictated by the State.

To any informed person, Canada is undeniably a nation state erected on pre-existing nation states. The founding of Canada was unquestionably rooted in the genocide of the Original Peoples of the territory.2 Genocide is a heinous act often rooted in racism and supremacism. One group of humans considers itself privileged and accords itself rights, god-given or not, to the land and resources regardless of whichever people inhabit such territory or how long the territory has been the domain of its inhabitants.

That the law is not a moral construct is adduced by the fact that it has served as a vehicle for carrying out great crimes. The so-called New World was gifted by the Papal Bull Inter Caetera (1493) for division among the Spanish and Portuguese. Non-Christian savages had no rights according to the papacy. Albeit this was later superseded by the Papal Bull Sublimis Deus (1537). Nonetheless, the entirety of the western hemisphere remains controlled by elitist European settler-colonialists.3 Hence, Original Peoples find themselves stripped of sovereignty, ethnically cleansed from gargantuan swaths of unceded territory (reality check: who knowingly agrees to ceding a people’s territory anyway?), marginalized from decision-making regarding their lands, with many people having been forcibly assimilated into the dominating culture.

How to achieve actual justice for the dispossessed?

Bruce Clark is a man who made his living in the courtroom as a lawyer. He is an expert in law as applied to Indigenous peoples, having achieved a doctorate in comparative jurisprudence. Clark believes in the notion of applying law to achieve justice. Justice is a concept that is higher than the self, thus Clark took on the establishment to seek justice for his Indigenous clients. In the end he was punished for his zeal for justice.

I first became aware of Bruce Clark when he was providing counsel to the Sundancers at Ts’Peten (Gustafsen Lake). To protect the claimed rights of an American rancher to property on unceded Secwepemc territory, the provincial government resorted to para-military measures to evict the Sundancers; it was astoundingly reprehensible to me. Natural law was stood on its head by the provincial authorities. It is a matter that all “British Columbians” and “Canadians” should make themselves deeply informed about and act thereupon according to their consciences.

Bruce Clark is speaking and writing words extremely discomfiting to many non-Indigenous people. He is the author of Justice in Paradise and Native Liberty, Crown Sovereignty: The Existing Aboriginal Right of Self-Government in Canada. Just published is a collection of Clark’s subsequent writings, Ongoing Genocide caused by Judicial Suppression of the “Existing” Aboriginal Rights. In Ongoing Genocide Clark presents the legal case for Indigenous sovereignty such that the layperson can readily grasp the arguments.

Clark examines the constitutional law, international law, and case studies based on the law of the invaders. When interpreted without bias, the compelling arguments of Clark strongly refute any credence to the newcomers’ doctrine of discovery, especially over lands previously inhabited for millennia. That invader courts should have any authority in the territory invaded is, on its face, risible.

While constitutional and international law should be preeminent, in Canada writes Clark, “The modus operandi of the legal establishment and its collaborating Indian accomplices is the suppression of the constitutional and international law that the establishment intentionally is breaking.” (p 15)

The corruption in the system is political, economic, and legal. Clark finds that the legal profession and the judiciary are complicit in misprision of treason, fraud, and genocide. (p 31) The legal system has politicized law through artifices such as “the rule of judicial discretion” substituted for “the rule of law.” (p 40) Clark criticizes, “The lie, recently invented by the Supreme Court of Canada in willful blindness, is that the aboriginal right is no more than ‘the right to be consulted’…” (p 142)

The legal system has shielded itself from scrutiny in its complicity with crimes committed. Writes Clark,

Immunity anywhere signifies the non-existence of the rule of law everywhere. But again that will not happen, because like Canada the legal establishment of the United States practices the same willful blindness to the unconstitutional genocide at the historical heart of its legal system. (p 50)

A number of court decisions are mistakes, per incuriam, and are not a binding precedent, writes Clark.

Clark cites legal documents and precedents, in particular, the Royal Proclamation of 1763 which sets aside the Hunting Grounds to Indian nations in which the Indians are to be unmolested.

Clark has tried to challenge the constitutionality of Canada’s usurpation of Indigenous territory. A Catch 22 has been designed to block this. Clark relates how the Supreme Court demands a lower court ruling on the matter while the lower courts insist it is a Supreme Court matter. (p 127) It is clear to Clark that an independent, third party adjudication is required, this having already been established in the 1703 case of the Mohegan Indians v. Connecticut for Indian land claims throughout British North America.

Pressing to have his legal arguments heard and a decision rendered in court ultimately cost Clark his career as a lawyer. But this was not the end of Clark or the quest for justice.

Clark remains dangerous to the system that upholds the dispossession. A Vancouver Sun diatribe against Clark revealed this. Clark is described as “too radical for B.C. courtrooms, and too rambunctious for the Ontario bar,” and “a colourful but fatally misguided militant zealot.” Yet the critic acknowledges, “… Clark’s well-articulated ideas are definitely threatening to the status quo.”

Clark touches upon many topics in Ongoing Genocide among them the effects of Indian Residential Schools, the Indian Act, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (“… an expensive fraud upon the public but a cruel imposition upon the victims, who are encouraged to air their innermost suffering in the mistaken belief that it will lead to closure.” [p 20]), the so-called 60’s scoop of Indigenous children, and more.

The book concludes by pointing out an error in the Supreme Court Case Tsilhqot’in v. British Columbia, 2014 that is at odds with precedents such as the Royal Proclamation of 1763 and section 109 of the Constitution Act, 1867. In recent years the BC provincial government and federal government have apologized for the wrongful hanging of six Tsilhqot’in chiefs.4 Despite this, the BC government and Taseko Mines have continued to undermine Indigenous sovereignty, with repeated attempts to set up and operate a platinum mine in the Tsilhqot’in nation.

Ongoing Genocide caused by Judicial Suppression of the “Existing” Aboriginal Rights puts forward the case over which Canadian law courts dare not deliberate. That should not preclude people of conscience becoming informed. Is Canada a just society? Read the book and judge for yourself. Then do something about it. Humanity requires many more brave warriors like Bruce Clark.

  1. I hold that Dahlberg’s aphorism should not be considered too simplistically – that it has many layers. E,g, there is probably something already present in the nature of many humans that leads them to covet power.
  2. See Tom Swanky, The Great Darkening: The True Story of Canada’s “War” of Extermination on the Pacific plus The Tsilhqot’in and other First Nations Resistance (Burnaby, BC: Dragon Heart Enterprises, 2012). Read review.
  3. A noteworthy exception is Warisata (Bolivia) which has been governed by an Indigenous president, Evo Morales, since 2006.
  4. Emilee Gilpin, “Minister Carolyn Bennett says exoneration of Tsilhqot’in chiefs opens door to reconciliation,” National Observer, 27 March 2018; Tom Swanky, “Exoneration of the Chilcotin Chiefs,” 10 September 2015.