Category Archives: Capitalism

The Metaphysics of Revolution

Socrates was the first revolutionary. He opened up with a legendary oracular search of the inner space from which the individual, as we understand him today, would eventually emerge. His “daemon” was that which spoke the necessary freedom and autonomy to become what we are. His was the first lesson.

His student, Plato, brought on the second movement. He postulated the availability of an ideal world accessible and open to a properly trained, disciplined mind. Truth was intelligible and its sighting in a flash of insight or through life-long questioning could and should change both the individual and his society. There were no limits to human malleability according to what was both universally natural and thus comprehensively reasonable. Both the revolutionary chance for a radical human transformation and its totalitarian inversion as ideology in the hands of power was born.

The third movement, as first noted by Hegel, was the advent of Christianity. Here the ideal world of the Greek was equipped with stern Hebraic commandments. The ideal world not only is; it is hierarchical, patriarchal, jealous and unforgiving. All are equal under its apocalyptic sky. Burn with sincere belief and entry into the kingdom of heaven is guaranteed. The seed of the revolutionary equality of all people was here first lain to forever explode the exclusivity of the polis and all other artificial divisions between men; ethnic, national, sexual or otherwise. Thus, the first drops of blood of the French Revolution were shed on the Cross.

The fourth movement, after more than a thousand years of veneration of pagan-christian icons known as saints, was the inner revolution within Christianity itself; the privatization of the relationship between man and God. The destruction of spiritual hierarchy. The loud inner silence of the conscience sacralized and weaponized within the sincere prayers of the heart. Protest-antism against the de facto reigning powers of the earth in the name of the freedom of pure individual thought and feeling. The representatives of the ideal/God were impostors robbing the natural patrimony of the weak and of the powerless for an exemplary, righteous exodus to a New Jerusalem. The modern revolutionary springs forth from burning cathedrals, shattered stain glass, and the gauged out eyes of the saints. God is for all and He is everywhere where I think and breath.

All this was the preliminary metaphysical scaffolding for the revolutionary mind over two thousand years. The fuse burned slowly, but it burned. Philosophy and religion were its handmaidens.

Enter science.

Science brings the revolutionary development of the mind/spirit into material practice. It affords the tools for both material and spiritual transformation. It is the glowing hammer which actively molds our world and if in the 500 years since Bacon and Galileo we have only achieved power after power, the hammer itself cannot be called wise, the hand that moves it cannot be called self-directed, for it is still up to the whole man to enter the blinding parlors and dim antechambers of physics to declare their discoveries for a Nietzschean transvaluation of all values. The scientist cannot do this, only the revolutionary can.

Through the twin legacies of both spirit and machine, the Western World breathed into the rest of humanity the spirit of restless change and desire for maximum freedom.  History declared itself, formally, for global humanity in the revolutions of 1776 and 1789. Here, History if it did not all together stop, declared a significant pause in the long history of revolutionary consciousness.

Representative democracy aged, putrefied, mutated, and exotically luxuriated into new forms of unfreedom, deception and control.

Was this the fault of a historically necessary capitalist class eventually doomed to sow the seeds of its own destruction?

The proletariat, that great Hegelian-Marxist capitalist antithesis, historically dissolved itself into a great sea of the middle class. Success! And the necessary historical end to all revolutionary experiment! The deranged and the disgruntled are to be put to eternal sleep! The great Neo-Aristotelian compromise of the dialectic was born; the middle will hold and stop the resolution of the Marxian dialectic from ever being born.

But it was always and ever to be a still birth.

For the history of society is not a class struggle.

Rather, it is the struggle of the individual to be most utterly himself in a world of hierarchy, in a world where control is in the hands of others. It is not capital and capitalists who structure this world although they surely do have influence. The black stain of unfreedom is much older than that. Indeed, it goes back millions of years as the readers of Frans de Waal may already be familiar. The animal in man, the desire for domination and power in all its forms over other men is the true as yet unbreakable conundrum of history. The Machiavellian Prince and his natural political appetites and not an objectively historical ruling class is the true nefarious and unchanging figure in the affairs of men. Hunter-gatherer, ancient city-state, feudal lord, factory owner, Global CEO, it is not a self-conscious class that determines the action of domination, but the eternal will to power itself that precedes classes, nations, parties, and organizations of all kinds. It is Robert Michels’ iron law of oligarchy and not Marxian economics that keeps us still firmly in our chains.

In this Thirtieth year since the publication of Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History, there are those, like Aaron Bastani, Bhaskar Sunkara, and Peter Frase (young men all) who dare to question the situation of today and dream of another world. If not exactly professional revolutionaries like Lenin, they struggle to keep the revolutionary idea alive. And this is all to the good. Yet the question for today is, I think, are the by now classical concerns and concepts of both socialism and Marxism adequate to the particular historical moment that confronts us today? Does protest, opposition, and, even, yes, political violence have to necessarily emerge from the acute revolutionary observations of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in order to activate a critical mass of activists and revolutionaries today?

Is capitalism still the enemy, truly? Or is hierarchy, in all spheres of life, the true oppressor? The division between ruled and ruling, not as a class phenomenon but as an existential way of being of man in the world since time immemorial.

There are bosses everywhere. In schools, in jobs, in political parties, in cities, in nations, in your home even. How can hierarchy be eroded, tamed, reformulated? How can individuals be empowered to live in an eventual Kingdom of Ends, where no one is treated as a means? What can be done to uncover and stop surreptitious power in all its forms? Does the revolutionary spirit of today cry out for a Kantian turn towards a practical unity of knowledge, freedom, respect, love, and individuality? Must we reach back before Marx and Hegel to go forward? We are the heirs of millennia of revolutionary metaphysical and material development. We can make the tomorrow of our own choosing.

Hong Kong in the Crosshairs of Global Power and Ideological Struggles

Hong Kong is one of the most extreme examples of big finance, neoliberal capitalism in the world. As a result, many people in Hong Kong are suffering from great economic insecurity in a city with 93 billionaires, second-most of any city.

Hong Kong is suffering the effects of being colonized by Britain for more than 150 years following the Opium Wars. The British put in place a capitalist economic system and Hong Kong has had no history of self-rule. When Britain left, it negotiated an agreement that prevents China from changing Hong Kong’s political and economic systems for 50 years by making Hong Kong a Special Administrative Region (SAR).

China cannot solve the suffering of the people of Hong Kong. This One Country, Two Systems approach means the extreme capitalism of Hong Kong exists alongside, but separate from, China’s socialized system. Hong Kong has an unusual political system. For example, half the seats in the legislature are required to represent business interests meaning corporate interests vote on legislation.

Hong Kong is a center for big finance and also a center of financial crimes. Between 2013 and 2017, the number of suspicious transactions reported to law enforcement agencies rocketed from 32,907 to 92,115. There has been a small number of prosecutions, which dropped from a high of 167 in 2014 to 103 in 2017. Convictions dropped to only one person sentenced to more than six years behind bars in 2017.

The problem is neither the extradition bill that was used to ignite protests nor China, the problems are Hong Kong’s economy and governance.

April, 2019. Demonstrators marched over the weekend to demand authorities to scrap the extradition bill [Tyrone Siu/Reuters]

The Extradition Bill

The stated cause of the recent protests is an extradition bill proposed because there is no legal way to prevent criminals from escaping charges when they flee to Hong Kong. The bill was proposed by the Hong Kong government in February 2019 to establish a mechanism to transfer fugitives in Hong Kong to Taiwan, Macau or Mainland China.

Extradition laws are a legal norm between countries and within countries (e.g. between states), and since Hong Kong is part of China, it is pretty basic. In fact, in 1998, a pro-democracy legislator, Martin Lee, proposed a law similar to the one he now opposes to ensure a person is prosecuted and tried at the place of the offense.

The push for the bill came in 2018 when a Hong Kong resident Chan Tong-kai allegedly killed his pregnant girlfriend, Poon Hiu-wing, in Taiwan, then returned to Hong Kong. Chan admitted he killed Poon to Hong Kong police, but the police were unable to charge him for murder or extradite him to Taiwan because no agreement was in place.

The proposed law covered  46 types of crimes that are recognized as serious offenses across the globe. These include murder, rape, and sexual offenses, assaults, kidnapping, immigration violations, and drug offenses as well as property offenses like robbery, burglary and arson and other traditional criminal offenses. It also included business and financial crimes.

Months before the street protests, the business community expressed opposition to the law. Hong Kong’s two pro-business parties urged the government to exempt white-collar crimes from the list of offenses covered by any future extradition agreement. There was escalating pressure from the city’s business heavyweights.  The American Chamber of Commerce, AmCham, a fifty-year-old organization that represents over 1,200 US companies doing business in Hong Kong, opposed the proposal.

AmCham said it would damage the city’s reputation: “Any change in extradition arrangements that substantially expands the possibility of arrest and rendition … of international business executives residing in or transiting through Hong Kong as a result of allegations of economic crime made by the mainland government … would undermine perceptions of Hong Kong as a safe and secure haven for international business operations.”

Kurt Tong, the top US diplomat in Hong Kong, said in March that the proposal could complicate relations between Washington and Hong Kong. Indeed, the Center for International Private Enterprise, an arm of NED said the proposed law would undermine economic freedom, cause capital flight and threaten Hong Kong’s status as a hub for global commerce. They pointed to a bipartisan letter signed by eight members of Congress, including Senators Marco Rubio, Tom Cotton, and Steve Daines and Members of the House of Representatives, Jim McGovern, Ben McAdams, Chris Smith, Tom Suozzi, and Brian Mast opposing the bill.

Proponents of the bill responded by exempting nine of the economic crimes and made extradition only for crimes punishable by at least seven years in prison. These changes did not satisfy big business advocates.

Protesters hold a placard featuring U.S. President Donald Trump and U.S. flags as they take part in a march at Victoria Park in Hong Kong, July 21, 2019. | Vincent Yu / AP

The Mass Protests and US Role 

From this attention to the law, opposition grew with the formation of a coalition to organize protests. As Alexander Rubinstein reports, “the coalition cited by Hong Kong media, including the South China Morning Post and the Hong Kong Free Press, as organizers of the anti-extradition law demonstrations is called the Civil Human Rights Front. That organization’s website lists the NED-funded HKHRM [Human Rights Monitor], Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, the Hong Kong Journalists Association, the Civic Party, the Labour Party, and the Democratic Party as members of the coalition.” HKHRM alone received more than $1.9 million in funds from the NED between 1995 and 2013. Major protests began in June.

Building the anti-China movement in Hong Kong has been a long-term, NED project since 1996. In 2012, NED invested $460,000 through its National Democratic Institute, to build the anti-China movement (aka pro-democracy movement), particularly among university students. Two years later, the mass protests of Occupy Central occurred. In a 2016 Open Letter to Kurt Tong, these NED grants and others were pointed out and Tong was asked if the US was funding a Hong Kong independence movement.

During the current protests, organizers were photographed meeting with Julie Eadeh, the political unit chief of US Consulate General, in a Hong Kong hotel. They also met with China Hawks in Washington, DC including Vice President Pence, Secretary of State Pompeo, National Security Adviser John Bolton, Senator Marco Rubio and Rep. Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Larry Diamond, a co-editor of the NED’s publication and a co-chair of research, has been openly encouraging the protesters. He delivered a video message of support during their rally this weekend.

Protests have included many elements of US color revolutions with tactics such as violence — attacks on bystanders, media, police and emergency personnel. Similar tactics were used in Ukraine, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, e.g. violent street barricades. US officials and media criticized the government’s response to the violent protests, even though they have been silent on the extreme police violence against the Yellow Vests in France. Demonstrators also use swarming techniques and sophisticated social media messaging targeting people in the US.

Mass protests have continued. On July 9, Chief Executive Carrie Lam pronounced the bill dead and suspended it. Protesters are now calling for the bill to be withdrawn, Lam to resign and police to be investigated. For more on the protests and US involvement, listen to our interview with K. J. Noh on Clearing the FOG (available on Monday).

Makeshift shelters at Tung Chau Street Temporary Market in Sham Shui Po. Photo: Nora Tam

What Is Driving Discontent in Hong Kong?

The source of unrest in Hong Kong is the economic insecurity stemming from capitalism. In 1997, Britain and China agreed to leave “the previous capitalist system” in place for 50 years.

Hong Kong has been ranked as the world’s freest economy in the Heritage’s Index of Economic Freedom since 1995 when the index began. In 1990, Milton Friedman described Hong Kong as the best example of a free-market economy. Its ranking is based on low taxes, light regulations, strong property rights, business freedom, and openness to global commerce.

Graeme Maxton writes in the South China Morning Post: “The only way to restore order is through a radical change in Hong Kong’s economic policies. After decades of doing almost nothing, and letting the free market rule, it is time for the Hong Kong government to do what it is there for; to govern in the interests of the majority.”

The issue is not the extradition proposal, Carrie Lam or China. What we are witnessing is an unrestricted neo-liberal economy, described as a free market on steroids. Hong Kong’s economy relative to China’s gross domestic product (GDP) has fallen from a peak of 27 percent in 1993 to less than 3 percent in 2017. During this time, China has had tremendous growth, including in nearby market-friendly Shenzen, while Hong Kong has not.

As Sara Flounders writes, “For the last 10 years wages have been stagnant in Hong Kong while rents have increased 300 percent; it is the most expensive city in the world. In Shenzhen, wages have increased 8 percent every year, and more than 1 million new, public, green housing units at low rates are nearing completion.”

Hong Kong has the world’s highest rents, a widening wealth gap and a poverty rate of 20 percent. In China, the poverty rate fell from 88 percent in 1981 to 0.7 percent in 2015, according to the World Bank.

China’s middle class. Alamy.

Hong Kong In The Chinese Context

Ellen Brown writes in “Neoliberalism Has Met Its Match in China,” that the Chinese government owns 80 percent of banks, which make favorable loans to businesses, and subsidizes worker costs. The US views China subsidizing its economy as an unfair trade advantage, while China sees long-term, planned growth as smarter than short-term profits for shareholders.

The Chinese model of state-controlled capitalism (some call it a form of socialism) has lifted 800 million people out of poverty and built a middle class of over 420 million people, growing from four percent in 2002, to 31 percent. The top twelve Chinese companies on the Fortune 500 are all state-owned and state-subsidized including oil, solar energy, telecommunications, engineering, construction companies, banks, and the auto industry. China has the second-largest GDP, and the largest economy based on Purchasing Power Parity GDP, according to the CIA, IMF and World Bank.

China does have significant problems. There are thousands of documented demonstrations, strikes and labor actions in China annually, serious environmental challenges, inequality and social control through the use of surveillance technology. How China responds to these challenges is a test for their governance.

China describes itself as having an intraparty democracy. The eight other legal “democratic parties” that are allowed to participate in the political system cooperate with but do not compete with the Communist Party. There are also local elections for candidates focused on grassroots issues. China views western democracy and economics as flawed and does not try to emulate them but is creating its own system.

China is led by engineers and scientists, not by lawyers and business people. It approaches policy decisions through research and experimentation. Every city and every district is involved in some sort of experimentation including free trade zones, poverty reduction, and education reform. “There are pilot schools, pilot cities, pilot hospitals, pilot markets, pilot everything under the sun, the whole China is basically a giant portfolio of experiments, with mayors and provincial governors as Primary Investigators.” In this system, Hong Kong could be viewed as an experiment in neoliberal capitalism.

The Communist Party knows that to keep its hold on power, it must combat inequalities and shift the economy towards a more efficient and more ecological model. Beijing has set a date of 2050 to become a “socialist society” and to achieve that, it seeks improvements in sociallabor and environmental fields.

Where does Hong Kong fit into these long-term plans? With 2047 as the year for the end of the agreement with the UK, US and western powers are working toward preserving their capitalist dystopia of Hong Kong and manufacturing consensus for long-term conflict with China.

How this conflict of economic and political systems turns out depends on whether China can confront its contradictions, whether Hong Kongers can address the source of their problems and whether US empire can continue its dollar, political and military dominance. Today’s conflicts in Hong Kong are rooted in all of these realities.

  • Read related: “Hong Kong: Can Two Million Marchers Be Wrong?
  • Persistent Fraudulent Enrollment in Charter Schools

    While privately-operated nonprofit and for-profit charter schools have long engaged in a broad range of fraudulent student enrollment practices, yet another avalanche of news reports on such dishonest practices has recently appeared.

    There seems to be no end to astonishing news in the unregulated and segregated charter school sector. Controversy, scandal, and charter schools have been fellow-travelers for more than 25 years.

    Virtual charter schools, perhaps the most unsuccessful and unethical of all types of charter schools, have a long-standing tradition of enrolling “ghost students” (students that do not exist) in order to embezzle millions of public dollars. This, of course, is always accompanied by Enron-style accounting in an attempt to conceal such damaging financial malfeasance.

    The latest debacle in the troubled charter school sector is the massive virtual Epic Charter School Network which operates mainly in Oklahoma. It has made headlines everywhere for enrolling “ghost students” and for engaging in other crimes and unethical behavior for a long time.

    In related news, two scandal-ridden online charter schools in Indiana were also recently exposed and criticized for engaging in some of the same crimes as Epic and other cyber charter schools. Together, these virtual schools inflated their enrollments by thousands of students to pilfer enormous sums of public funds.

    Sadly, many other examples of inflated enrollments and other scandalous practices in nonprofit and for-profit charter schools could be cited. Corruption plagues the entire charter school sector.

    Keeping in mind that the final and highest stage of capitalism ensures greater parasitism, crime, corruption, and violence across society and many sectors, the public should expect a further intensification of fraud, corruption, and controversy from all types of charter schools in the coming months and years.

    Whether they are nonprofit or for-profit, virtual or brick-and-mortar, as privatized and marketized arrangements charter schools engender more corruption in education and society. Privatization, as a general rule, is synonymous with corruption and inferior service.

    “More regulation” and “better oversight” will not solve the problems plaguing the charter school sector. Charter schools are deregulated schools by definition; they are a main expression of neoliberal education arrangements. Further, the charter school sector is full of wealthy, arrogant, and defensive advocates who will not tolerate any individual or organization that attempts to stop their assault on public education, society, the economy, and the national interest. Charter school owners-operators are determined to seize as much public funds and public property as possible.

    But this does not mean resistance is pointless or that the rich and their cheerleaders cannot be defeated. It means the public must develop new and creative ways to deprive the rich of their power to deprive the public of its claims and interests.

    It can be done.

    No public funds or public property must go to privately-operated charter schools. All public funds and public property must remain in the hands of the public. This is especially true given the fact that charter schools are not public schools, as many court cases in different jurisdictions have ruled over the years.

    Bulletin For The Comfortable Class: Mass Murder Was Americana Before Trump Was Born!

    The U.S. air war in Japan was one of the most ruthless and barbaric killings of non-combatants in all history.

    — General Bonner Fellers, MacArthur’s Intelligence Chief, from Cultures Of War: Pearl Harbour/Hiroshima/9-11/Iraq by John W. Dower, 2011, pp. 195-96.

    The recent anniversary of the mass murder that took place in Hiroshima, followed three days later by another mass murder in Nagasaki, would have dominated the consciousness of a nation in remorse for past horrors committed under the degenerate belief of justifiable homicide as long as its warfare. As the comment above helps make clear, these particular acts of dreadful violence were only unique in that one bomb was used for each city, instead of the thousands used to set fire to entire cities in Japan and Germany and immediately burn tens of thousands of their inhabitants to death. American ingenuity made it possible for an early and perverse form of one-stop-shopping as entire populations were slaughtered and cremated in one action, without need of camps, chambers, ovens or any other real or legendary forms of brutality.

    But hardly a moment was wasted on those past horrors given that America suffered tragedies occupying national consciousness due to what we’re told are Trump inspired outbursts of racist-sexist- madness, as usual having nothing to do with the political economics of blood profit capital but all about evil individuals and special categories of “identity groups” different from all other members of the human race. Somehow, this fanatic fundamentalism still works to keep us shopping, killing and destroying the environment in pursuit of ever greater personal fortunes for some, appalling poverty for far more, and majorities sinking into unpayable debt and facing planetary doom if radical transformation of the prevailing political economics are not performed for humanity’s sake and not just the pleasure of a minority identity group we worship: the rich.

    With most of the nation under the control of mass media even more powerful than it was in the days of World War II, corporate mind management has us in a state of mourning over tragedies which cost the lives of 30 innocent Americans over a period of three days. Said to be murders committed by the mentally ill or fascists inspired by the evil Trump, or both, the villains have some foaming at the mouth under around the clock bombardments of stories of the innocents, mourning by thousands and worst of all cries for vengeance against alleged fascism and/or white supremacy in a national racist mental ward counting deaths by identity group other than the human race and not noticing that most of the recent American victims were of the racist designated “white” group.

    To put tragic deaths in perspective, while these poor souls were being murdered in Gilroy, El Paso and Dayton, some 200 other Americans, equally innocent of anything other than possible driving errors, died in the raging road wars of our overwhelmingly private profit transit system. It kills an average of 100 of us every single day and little if anything beyond a small notice appears in local newspapers with hardly anything said about the national insanity of such suffering inflicted on innocent people no more guilty of wrong than any of the poor souls murdered by affordable gun owning citizens in a nation with more than half a million humans who cannot afford the market force to enable them to find a place to live. That damned Trump! Oh wait…maybe it’s Putin? Or perhaps Oprah, Dracula or Joe Biden?

    Those who think this nation was a Garden of Eden until the dreadful Trump became president need to learn their country’s history and not just that of one or another identity group somehow experiencing history in a vacuum of suffering or wealth while tens of millions of other people simply amount to works of fiction at best and matters of intense disrespect and outright bigotry, at worst. What is going on now isn’t even slightly new and blamed on one or another set of villains it displays a pattern in operation for generations and getting worse by the minute.

    Trump is as much an aspect of our system as diversity, war, sex, jazz, TV, shopping, deceit, slander, pets, propaganda and love. All that is good and bad is hidden by some calling every American social disease since our founding as something of his creation. The continued divisions of Americans into racial categories in defiance of all science let alone common sense continues the work of individualism and racism that make us such a unique historic nation able to call itself a democracy while controlled by billionaires while millions of our children live in poverty, hundreds of thousands of our families live on the street and we spend trillions on war and billions on our pet animals. Is this a great country or what? Or at least it was until the vile Trump arrived, according to some who’ve been mentally murdered by the assault on consciousness conducted for generations but never quite as vile and all encompassing as at present, with the empire sinking faster and the danger to humanity growing at an even greater speed.

    The American mass murders of the second world war in Japan and Europe were closely followed by mass butchery that killed millions in southeast Asia and our savage behavior towards humanity, under command and ownership of our royal 1%, has slaughtered more in the Middle East over the last twenty years than we have sacrificed to profit making transit on our highways. This, while an upper class has expanded slightly, including what racism identifies as “people of color”, and some other groups previously trashed and treated as less worthy of life than what passed for “normal” have become acceptable members of the market hordes consuming more trash with less money. Meanwhile, our poverty and prison populations explode in this material land of over consumption for a minority that would make the originator of the term “conspicuous consumption”, Veblen, apologize for mincing his words in critique of capital.

    We are told by legend and there is some material foundation for belief that in biblical times every few years there was a forgiveness of debt and it may have been easier for civilization, or what it was called then at a time long before the savage circus we call a democracy, to clearly see and react to a reality that could not go on without radical change. Of course, those poor souls didn’t have what we now are taught to call “social” media, which makes us so much smarter than those poor fools of the past that we can carry the burden of trillions in debt, the continued slaughter of human beings all over the planet including our own domicile, and rage against the latest white house pinhead in the fashion of the clients and crew of the Titanic screeching about the lousy captain as they were about to drown on a sinking ship that, like everything else then and since, would never have existed without the motive of private profit, and the public good be damned.

    We may be able to elect a new CEO of Capital Inc in 2020, if we don’t destroy even more than our electoral façade and sink in our own sea of political, social and environmental excrement before being able to vote. But if we simply choose another chairperson for the system of private capital and do not demand and execute a social revolution that puts all humanity before any single un-chosen figurehead, we will face far more than personal need for therapy visits or social prayers for divine intervention. All of us or none of us was the call much earlier in our history and it has never had more meaning than at present. In closing, the words of a truly great American sadly unknown to many of us:

    Democracy can become truly a rule of the people only when it is extended to the economic life of the people.

    — Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, The Trial of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, the American Civil Liberties Union, January 1, 1968

    Bodies on The Ground And The Rise And Rise Of The Economic Elite

    The US is less of a nation than a collective, psychotic episode.

    Within day to day life in the nation, a cultural aura exists that shifts, mingles, and merges between a sense of nervous agitation and displaced rage, in combination with a sense of weightlessness. The fragmented quality of daily life imparts an insubstantial, unreal quality wherein the citizenry of the capitalist/consumer empire of hungry ghosts drift through a nadascape comprised of ad hoc, fast-buck-driven, suburban/exburban architecture and the ersatz eros of constant, consumer come-ons.

    Yet beneath the nebulous dread and nettling angst of it all, there exists the primal human imperative for connection and social communion; i.e., authentic eros. The most lost among the lost in the ghostsphere of the collective mind attempt to animate the realm of shades with libations of blood. The gods of the capitalist death cult demand no less.

    Where does an impulse to possess an unlimited number of firearms fit into the scheme of things? A firearm’s heft, for one. The weapon feel substantial when held and hoisted thus serves, provisionally, to mitigate a psychical sense of weightlessness. The act of engagement eases nervous agitation. Guns reality is antithetically to the weightless content of media reality. Focus is achieved when one aligns the weapon’s site to a target. Nebulous dread transforms into adamantine purpose. The presence of an Angel Of Death will focus the mind. The ground, for the moment, feels solid beneath one’s feet. Hence, there arrives a craving, in the sense of addiction, to hoard the object that provides relief; in addition, massive quantities of ammunition must be stored as emotional ballast. The mystifying, rankling, uncontrollable criteria of this weightless Age and the white noise of uncertainty seem to yield to the clear and decisive crack of a rifle shot. Relief is imagined in the concomitant carnage. Rebecca West captures the phenomenon in prose:

    Only part of us is sane: only part of us loves pleasure and the longer day of happiness, wants to live to our nineties and die in peace, in a house that we built, that shall shelter those who come after us. The other half of us is nearly mad. It prefers the disagreeable to the agreeable, loves pain and its darker night despair, and wants to die in a catastrophe that will set back life to its beginnings and leave nothing of our house save its blackened foundations.

    ― Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, 1941

    Because we, on a personal level, in most cases, choose the primary option, our hidden, shadow half will live out the latter on a collective basis. During the blood lust on display at Trump rallies, the mob finds a collective comfort zone in catastrophic longings. The domestic landscape of paranoia works in behalf of the profiteers of perpetual war, perpetrators of the U.S.-created deathscapes overseas, and vice versa, in a self-resonating feedback loop of carnage.

    In our era, in which the US empire is in decline, as a consequence the White supremacist order no longer seems inevitable, Trump’s frightened legions have personalised the decline. In their gut, they feel as if their identity is under siege. Seal off the nation’s borders. Construct an unscalable wall. Create a cordon sanitaire to protect and preserve racial purity. A strong authority figure is craved in order to set the world back in order. The phenomenon could be termed, Authoritarian Simpatico Syndrome (ASS) — a pathology manifested in personality types who have been traumatized by the authoritarianism of the US socio-political milieu but who seek to assuage their hurt and humiliation by identification with the very forces responsible for their torment.. The stuff of a cultural nervous breakdown.

    To that end, according to its own laws, the nation’s citizenry, sufferers of mental distress, should be restricted from purchasing a gun. Yet without a doubt, the most disturbed of all are the nation’s political class, those responsible for gun legislation. There is compelling evidence that they present a clear and present danger to themselves and others. The political class is a menace to society; they make decisions, more often than not, based on delusional thinking, that are responsible for harm on a massive scale. Thus they should be subject to institutional-style restraint, within the confines of the most heavily secure, lockdown ward in an asylum for the criminally insane.

    Although the so-called mentally ill, as a rule, are not any more inclined to commit violent crimes than are the general population of capitalist dystopias. The US nation was founded in genocidal violence and the fortunes of its ruling class are protected by the state sanctioned violence of the police and are bloated by the violence inherent to imperialist shakedown operations.

    It comes down to this: In our emotionally brutal era, those deemed mentally ill are suffering from capitalism. The pummelling stress and boot-in-the-face, hierarchy-inflicted humiliations inherent to the system inflict trauma on large swathes of the citizenry.

    Epidemic levels of middle age, US citizens are dying with needles in their arms. The inherent and internalised White supremacy of the societal order has been exacerbated by Trump’s self-serving, reckless agitprop and acts in a drug-like manner causing dopamine levels to rise in those experiencing emotional torment due to humiliation-caused despair. Demagogues such as Trump are aware and exploit the manner despair can be palliatively mitigated by the emotional displacement of rage.

    Fascist insignias rise when the hopes and aspirations of the working class lay shattered across a capitalist economic wasteland. Hoisted torches provide the illusion that dark despair has been banished. The fascist mob becomes possessed by a belief that they, en masse, can ascend into the precincts of heaven by scaling a mountain of corpses comprised of outsider groups.

    Fascism not only acts as anaesthetic to the wounds delivered by capitalism, it is a psychoactive drug because incantatory rhetoric and imagist psychical material get those susceptible to its crude allure high.

    Capitalism is borne on manic wings. The economic elite move from corporate skyscrapers and high rise rooftops in order to travel by helicopter, where upon landing, they board private, luxury jets, then, whereupon landing again, they are transported by helicopter to corporate skyscrapers and high rise rooftops. Touching the earth is a fleeting experience. The ruling class have lost touch with ground level verities. In a classical sense, such displays of hubris were understood as the progenitor of madness. The gods first elevate those they drive mad.

    And, yes, race-based fears and animus are in play. Racism engendered mass murder has been coming to pass since armed Europeans trudged ashore in the Americas, with their blood-sodden religion and their murderous craving for gold and land. Of course, the racist demagoguery of the Bloated Orange Tub Of Nazi Goo oozing into and agitating the limbic systems of violent cretins during homegrown Nuremberg Rallies and his compulsion to blitzkrieg the pixel-sphere with Der Stürmer tweets is fomenting racist mayhem that includes bacchanals of blood. US mythos is rancid with the reek of the corpses of the innocent slaughtered by White men brandishing firearms. Mass murderers have been and continue to be enshrined as heroes, from Wounded Knee to Afghanistan.

    The nation was established by gun-enabled genocide and the intimidation of African slaves held at gunpoint on capitalist plantations. The truth has never been faced; e.g., the suppression of the Nixon tape in which Ronald Reagan displayed his racist mindset.

    The US citizenry thanks the soldiers of its racist wars of aggression for their “service.” Perpetual shooting sprees origins can be traced to the heart of darkness of the nation and its concomitant White supremacist creed. The killings happened long before the rise and election of the Tangerine Tweet Führer. Of course, the racist shit-heel Trump has exacerbated the situation. He deserves all scorn cast his way. It is obvious his capacity for malice does not possess a governor’s switch.

    Trump is a two-legged emblem of the hypertrophy at play in late US imperium. Gun-inflicted violence is steeped into the blood-stained fabric of the US (sham) republic. Withal, Trump is not an anomaly; he is an emblem. Gun-strokers are no more going to shed their mythos than liberals and progressives are going to shed theirs that the US is a democratic republic, governed by the rule of law, and progressive reforms will be implemented by its High Dollar owned and controlled political class that will serve to turn around the trajectory of the blood-built and maintained US empire.

    A Gory Gift to Trump: A Cruel, Militarized, Expensive, and Decades Old, Bipartisan Border Policy

    John Carlos Frey’s Sand and Blood relates the roughly 140-year history of U.S. anti-immigrant racism and policy on the southwest border, and highlights its mostly pre-Trump, bipartisan intensification over the last thirty-odd years. Frey, an American citizen born in Tijuana, Mexico, and raised in San Diego county, did not give the Border Patrol or border policy much thought until one day in 1977, when he was 12. His mother, a green card-holding, legally-residing Mexican American, was arrested walking near her home because a Border Patrol agent did not believe she was legal, nor that she lived nearby. She was deported to Tijuana before her family could do anything. Luckily, they were able to bring her back the next day. The experience encouraged Frey’s outlook to shift from innocent indifference to sober scrutiny, a shift that pushed him to become a leading journalist examining border and immigration policies and attitudes.

    Anti-immigrant hate and hysteria in the United States is hardly an unknown matter. However, Frey managed to surprise this reader when he dug up a rather antique, if grotesque case. In 1753, Ben Franklin, sounding Trump-like, but with more august language, worried about what he considered the low-quality Germans entering the country, threatening to destroy our language and even, he must have gasped, our very nation. The expression of such anti-German opinion, however, like other early anti-immigrant expressions, never rose to the fever-pitch fixated on Chinese immigrants. And that is where Frey begins his 140-year history.

    In the 1880s, the terrifying immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border were desperate Chinese laborers, not Mexicans. Mexicans were crossing, returning, and re-crossing then, but their presence was mostly ignored given that they met the exploitative needs of agricultural interests and, I would guess, American insecurities lay elsewhere. Mexican migrants remained invisible near-slaves—the status of hated-celebrity near-slaves, that would be a future privilege. The 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act barred Chinese laborers from entering the country—belying the sentiments about “huddled masses” and all that, written just a year later and eventually stamped on the base of the Statue of Liberty. The focus of early military patrols along the Mexican border, as early as 1904, remained on Chinese immigrants. However, a shift characterized by increased anti-Mexican attitudes and policies soon began; policies which included such humiliations as daily stripping and delousing of migrant workers, including the spraying of clothes with toxic chemicals during a Typhoid scare.

    In 1924, border and immigration policy worsened notably, though it would take decades before it reached the current systematic militarized cruelty aimed overwhelmingly at desperate and poor Central American migrants. That year, the Immigration Act prohibited entry by most Asians entirely (on whom racist hysteria, as noted, was then still fixated) and created a quota system for other immigrants, all on the basis of worries about “American homogeneity” (14)—meaning whiteness, mostly. Additionally, the Labor Appropriations Act established the Border Patrol, the pre-existing body of which was expanded from 75 agents to 450 by the previously-mentioned Act—putting it on its path to its current gargantuan, nearly-20,000-agent size. Still, the Border Patrol was, in the 1920s certainly, mostly absorbed with stemming alcohol smuggling from Canada. And for fifty years, border and immigrant policy remained relatively low key.

    Frey says that in the 1970s, border security still appeared mostly a “show for the public” (5) and the border, particularly near San Diego, a tranquil “free zone” (29) where cross-border movement and family contact continued to some extent undisturbed. Politically-powerful business interests focused on maintaining cheap labor sources managed to mute racist and militaristic policies. In the 1980s, however, though the capitalist desire for cheap labor remained, as it does to this day, officials began, largely for “political reasons” (5), to shift the balance toward the racism and militarization. Reagan, though hardly anti-racist, to say the least, sincerely backed the “amnesty” angle of a mid-80s immigration bill, eventually adopted. However, the bill also made life harder and more dangerous for Central American immigrants, including those fulfilling cheap labor needs. In California, Governor Pete Wilson, despite a two-thirds disapproval rating, rode anti-immigrant Proposition 187 to a second term. President Bill Clinton noticed this, apparently, and turned increasingly anti-immigrant. Clinton built on Bush Sr. policies remarkably reminiscent of the suggestions of a hate-group, the moderately-named Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). Clinton even ignored INS and Border Patrol calls for administrative reforms to accelerate legalization and opted instead for an unprecedentedly brutal militarized approach at the border that intentionally funneled migrants into desert death-zones. Presidents Bush Jr. and Obama inherited and continued the policies. 9/11 served the hysteria well, and provided an excuse for the expense and horror, though it did not originate them.

    Trump did not bring border policy horror to America, either. He also inherited it. He remains unable to gain any further legal leeway to impose his vision of border policy, reports Frey. Instead, he has taken full advantage of existing laws, while trying often to stretch their applicability (which has meant increased cruelty to migrants). Though he has been “bold and brash” (178) about the policies, and his rhetoric devoid of nuance, his expressions have often merely echoed those of previous politicians, like Bill Clinton. His wall is an impossibility, in part, for the same reason migration is so deadly—the harsh terrain. The default option will remain the militarized crossing places in concert with the death zones. Yet, the impossibility of the wall did not prevent the longest government shutdown in US history, all over funding for the impossible wall—highlighting the political nature of border policy, as the death and cruelty grinds on.


    The unfortunate father and daughter depicted in the image above, and how they relate to Frey’s narrative, merit notice. The AP story1 from which it was taken included a graph illustrating death rates at the border over the last twenty years, based on U.S. Customs and Border Patrol stats. These peaked, we are to believe, at nearly 500 in 2005, and again in 2013, before declining to last year’s number, 283. The father and daughter’s deaths occurred on the Mexican side of the border, so the thoroughness of the accounting for their loss of life may be hard to determine. However, a key matter to understand, as Frey tells us, is that the Border Patrol consistently and knowingly undercounts the dead, ignoring the significant numbers of border deaths discovered by others (while also sometimes exaggerating apprehensions). Such policies misinform the public, certainly, obscuring the conscious lethal-desert-method of deterrence, while playing up the apprehension-method. In Vietnam, official body-counts of enemies killed were controversial, but reportedly exaggerated to demonstrate achievement of official goals; body-counters, for bureaucratic reasons, simply double- or triple-counted those dead they found. At the modern U.S.-Mexico border, bodies are undercounted because the understood policy of deterrence by death cannot be broadcast—and so the Border Patrol ignores those dead found by others, dead who thereby do not exist in official counts converted into published graphs like the one accompanying the AP News story.


    Frey and I share a birth year (1965), and we both grew up in the American Southwest, giving us a chronological as well as a cultural overlap I appreciate. However, since my entire family is U.S.-born, and because, frankly, we customarily check the ‘white’ box on the decennial census form, Frey’s experiences and mine diverge. Mercifully, the Border Patrol never arrested my mother walking down the street in her neighborhood due simply to her ethnicity and proximity to the border. Frey’s extensive work as a journalist offers another line of departure between us, toil that led him eventually to this volume.

    The book is an important and very informative addition to the current conversation about immigration and border policy. It serves to support serious critique of relevant Trump policies, which have upped the ante in the worst ways, while at the same time gutting the simplified histories that leave the impression horrible border policies began in 2017. Frey demonstrates how the militarized, inhumane border policies are not Trumpian, but American, common to both liberal and conservative administrations, taking on their current hyper-militaristic and hyper-cruel qualities at the eager command of Bill Clinton, Democratic star.

    Frey could have strengthened his argument that U.S. policies and behaviors have contributed to the push and pull factors encouraging immigration; details, for example, regarding such policies and behaviors in regard to places like El Salvador and Honduras. Relating the experiences of two brothers from the former country, one of whom dies while the other becomes incarcerated, Frey mentions the now-international El Salvadoran street gang MS-13, the menaces of which compelled the two brothers to leave. Frey might have given some attention to the history of the gang in the context of the illegal U.S.-proxy war against El Salvador, carried on in the country for over a decade, and its aftermath. Said history would reinforce Frey’s contention that U.S. immigration policy has been both cruel and irrational, and has long been complicated by the needs of other power centers in the United States, whether agricultural and construction interests, or the foreign policy establishment. Those of the first examples have effectively pulled migrants to U.S., while those of the other, such as our illegal intervention in the El Salvadoran civil war, or the birth of MS-13 as an outcome of the violence we magnified, pushed migrants here. Additionally, the 2009 US-supported military coup in Honduras against the country’s elected government has decidedly worsened conditions there, pushing Hondurans to go somewhere, and the US remains, ironically, the most promising destination of desperate people in Central America.

    Likewise, Frey’s plea would have benefited from fuller consideration of the neoliberal capitalist context of the harshening border and immigration policies over the last thirty years. It seems hardly a coincidence these policies occurred just in the wake of the turn to neoliberal policies in the US, policies which have exported jobs like hot commodities, exalted the market at the expense of the public, increasing poverty and inequality, and cast down the government as any kind of help to the public and brake on private ambition. Clinton’s neoliberal NAFTA sent the Mexican economy into the gutter. Increased migration resulted, which he answered with death zones at the border.

    Regarding nationalism and its relation to this matter, though arguably outside the scope of Frey’s reportorial approach, more discussion of the attitudes and psychology involved would have explained some of the insanity. For instance, the theme of supposed Mexican dirtiness (discussed in chapter one), arising intermittently for decades, mimics a common refrain heard from nationalist racists in many modern contexts—an attitude enlisting germ theory to serve of the cause of white supremacy, a sort of ideological cousin of social Darwinism. Also, as social psychologist Richard Koenigsberg has said:

    Nations are conceived as bodies. We project our own body into a national body. One’s fragile, vulnerable self is blown up—to become a gigantic, omnipotent self. Because territory is imagined in corporeal terms (Neocleous), the state seeks to secure it borders—its “orifices and entry points.” Orifices and entry points must be closed—to prevent penetration. Porous boundaries need to be firmed up, sealed off—walls built to protect the vulnerable self. One’s actual, fragile body fuses with the fantasy of a of a gigantic, invulnerable body. National bodies require borders to prevent penetration. Anxiety is played out on a monumental scale. Walls must be built—nothing can be allowed to penetrate. Each and every orifice must be sealed.

    How this “anxiety is played out on a monumental scale” is the story of a state that has arrived at both indifference and desperation. This desperation arises from a political degeneration that refuses to answer, is indifferent to, the decline of the public in any way that threatens the globalization interests of the U.S. ruling class—which, as Sean Starrs’ has written, has not declined, as commonly believed, but globalized instead. Decline is just the fate of the rest of us. And if harsh border policies, thrown as thin scraps to a deluded public, seem to ease their despair, so much the better. If society’s increasingly desperate need for some form of civic freedom, which fosters both community and popular power, and not just tolerance, is forbidden for the threat it poses to ruling class power and wealth, then closing up the nation’s orifices becomes the toxic political gruel of the day. And, in turn, opening them without thought about the issue of civic freedom and popular power, looks like the only conceivable reply.

    The words of Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, in Dialectic of Enlightenment, seem suitable here. They spoke, in part, of the Nazis and their high-tech horrors when they wrote the following line, but they also had their eyes on the West more generally, including, of course, those who triumphed over the Nazis. The “wholly enlightened earth”, they wrote, “is radiant with triumphant calamity”. Certainly, our wholly enlightened border policy radiates with a sort of triumphant calamity. The policies and infrastructure, as documented by Frey, the expensive, tax-payer-funded high-technology, a boon to private interests, the largely-privatized internment camps (what’s more enlightened than privatization?), the rationality of pushing migrants into desert and mountain death zones, and the political, corporate, and bureaucratic deceits that cover it all up, including the uncounted dead, epitomize the serene, systematic malice of a modernity sucked nearly dry of humanity.

    Frey relates the shock and horror he felt while accompanying the nonprofit Angels of the Desert on a search for two missing migrants. Their faceless corpses were eventually found. “Animals and insects eat the soft flesh of the face first” (199). These were two of the officially-undercounted hundreds who die every year in our Border Patrol’s intentionally-created death zones, zones which, they say, offer them a “tactical advantage”, certainly a shrewd building block in our “triumphant calamity”. Martin Luther King Jr.’s cautionary words about “sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity”, cited by Frey, accord in a way with Horkheimer and Adorno’s verdict on modernity. Frey’s critique comes up short of the latter’s, but his judgment is nevertheless worth taking to heart. He reminds us that we have rejected the enslavement of African Americans, the slaughter of Natives Americans, the internment of Japanese Americans, the denial of the vote to women, of interracial and same-sex marriage, and the delay of civil rights. Frey says rejecting our cruel and (objectively) irrational border policies would continue that tradition. He looks forward to all of this horror becoming a mere part of “our dark, stained history” (200).

    The extremely negative impacts of Trump’s border policies on actual human beings, and the relatively-popular racist fever dreams both partially underpinning and feeding off them, illuminate our present with a hellish light. However, the neoliberal capitalist policies and transformations, and all the deceits about drugs, terrorism, and immigration, of the last forty years or more, all of which preceded Trump, and which in the wrong hands feed the racist fever dreams even more, were effectively embraced across party lines. Trump, chin up, to more cruel and deadly effect for migrants, simply took the bipartisan decorated-but-desiccated zombie of border policy and wore it like a gaudy costume.

    • First published at Hard Crackers

    1. Peter Orsi and Amy Guthrie, “A grim border drowning underlines peril facing many migrants”, AP News, June 26, 2019.

    India’s Tryst with Destiny

    Today, we are in the grip of a globalised system of capitalism which drives narcissism, domination, ego, anthropocentrism, speciesism and plunder. A system that is using up oil, water and other resources much faster than they can ever be regenerated. We have poisoned the rivers and oceans, destroyed natural habitats, driven wildlife species to (the edge of) extinction and have altered the chemical composition of the atmosphere with seemingly devastating effects.

    With its never-ending quest for profit, capitalism thrives on the exploitation of peoples and the environment. It strides the world hand in glove with militarism, with the outcome being endless destabilisations, conflicts and wars over finite resources and the capture of new markets.

    This is sold to the masses as part of an ongoing quest to achieve human well-being, measured in terms of endless GDP growth, itself based on an ideology that associates such growth with corporate profit, boosted by stock buy-backs, financial speculation, massive arms deals,  colonialism masquerading as philanthropymanipulated and rigged markets, corrupt and secretive trade deals, outsourced jobs and a resource-grabbing militarism.

    That such a parasitical system could ever bring about a ‘happy’ human condition for the majority is unfathomable.

    Over the last 70 years, material living standards in the West have improved, but how that wealth was obtained and how it is then distributed is what really matters. Take the case of the UK.

    While much of manufacturing has been outsourced to cheap labour economies, welfare, unions and livelihoods have been attacked. Massive levels of tax evasion/avoidance persist and neoliberal policies have resulted in privatisation, deregulation and the spiralling of national and personal debt. Moreover, the cost of living has increased as public assets have been sold off to profiteering cartels and taxpayers’ money has been turned into corporate welfare for a corrupt banking cartel.

    Meanwhile, the richest 1,000 families in the UK saw their net worth more than double shortly after the 2008 financial crisis, the worst recession since the Great Depression, while the rest of the population is confronted with ‘austerity’, poverty, cutbacks, reliance on food banks and job insecurity.

    But let’s not forget where much of the UK’s wealth came from in the first place: some $45 trillion was sucked from India alone according to renowned economist Utsa Patnaik.  Britain developed by under-developing India. And now the West and its (modern-day East India) corporations are in the process of ‘developing’ India by again helping themselves to the country’s public wealth and natural assets (outlined further on).

    Under this system, it is clear whose happiness and well-being matters most and whose does not matter at all. According to researcher and analyst Andrew Gavin Marshall, it is the major international banking houses which control the global central banking system:

    From there, these dynastic banking families created an international network of think tanks, which socialised the ruling elites of each nation and the international community as a whole, into a cohesive transnational elite class. The foundations they established helped shape civil society both nationally and internationally, playing a major part in the funding – and thus coordinating and co-opting – of major social-political movements.

    Additional insight is set out by David Rothkopf in his 2008 book Superclass: The Global Power Elite and the World They Are Making:

    The superclass constitutes approximately 0.0001 percent of the world’s population. They are the Davos-attending, Gulfstream/private jet-flying, money-incrusted, megacorporation-interlocked, policy-building elites of the world, people at the absolute peak of the global power pyramid … They are from the highest levels of finance capital, transnational corporations, the government, the military… and other shadow elites.

    These are the people setting the agendas at the Trilateral Commission, Bilderberg Group, G-7, G-20, NATO, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization. They decide which wars are to be fought and why and formulate global economic policy.

    Tryst with destiny

    In 1947, on the steps of the Red Fort in Delhi, Jawaharlal Nehru spoke optimistically about India’s tryst with destiny. Free from the shackles of British colonialism, for many the future seemed bright.

    But some 72 years on, we now see a headlong rush to urbanise (under World Bank directives – India is the biggest debtor nation in the history of that institution) and India’s cities are increasingly defined by their traffic-jammed flyovers cutting through fume choked neighbourhoods that are denied access to drinking water and a decent infrastructure. Privatisation and crony capitalism are the order of the day.

    Away from the cities, the influence of transnational agricapital and state-corporate grabs for land are leading to violent upheaval, conflict and ecological destruction. The links between the Monsanto-Syngenta-Walmart-backed Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture and the associated US sanctioning and backing of the opening up of India’s nuclear sector to foreign interests show who really benefits from this.

    Under the guise of ‘globalisation’, Western powers are on an unrelenting drive to plunder what they regard as ‘untapped markets’ in other areas of the globe. Foreign agricapital has been moving in on Indian food and agriculture for some time. But it first needs to eradicate the peasantry and displace the current model of production before bringing India’s food and agriculture sector under its control.

    Other sectors have not been immune to this bogus notion of development. Millions of people have been displaced to facilitate the needs of resource extraction industries, Special Economic Zones, nuclear plants and other large-scale projects. And the full military backing of the state has been on hand to forcibly evict people.

    To help open the nation to foreign capital, proponents of economic neoliberalism are fond of stating that ‘regulatory blockages’ must be removed. If particular ‘blockages’ stemming from legitimate protest, rights to land and dissent cannot be dealt with by peaceful means, other methods are used. And when increasing mass surveillance or widespread ideological attempts to discredit and smear does not secure compliance or dilute the power of protest, brute force is on hand.

    The country’s spurt of high GDP growth was partly fuelled on the back of cheap food and the subsequent impoverishment of farmers. The gap between their income and the rest of the population has widened enormously to the point where rural India consumes less calories per head of population than it did 40 years ago. Meanwhile, unlike farmers, corporations receive massive handouts and interest-free loans but have failed to spur job creation.

    Millions of small-scale and marginal farmers are suffering economic distress as the sector is deliberately made financially non-viable for them. Veteran rural reporter P Sainath says what this has resulted in is not so much an agrarian crisis but a crisis of civilisation proportions, given that the bulk of the population still lives in the countryside and relies on agriculture or related activities for an income.

    Independent cultivators are being bankrupted, land is to be amalgamated to facilitate large-scale industrial cultivation and remaining farmers will be absorbed into corporate supply chains and squeezed as they work on contracts, the terms of which will be dictated by large agribusiness and chain retailers.

    US agribusiness corporations are spearheading this process, the very companies that fuel and thrive on a five-year US taxpayer-funded farm bill subsidy of around $500 billion. Their industrial model in the US is based on the overproduction of certain commodities often sold at prices below the cost of production and dumped on the rest of the world, thereby undermining farmers’ livelihoods and agriculture in other countries, not least India.

    It is a model that can only survive thanks to taxpayer handouts and only function by externalising its massive health, environmental and social costs. And it’s a model that only leads to the destruction of rural communities and jobs, degraded soil, less diverse and nutrient-deficient diets, polluted water, water shortages and spiralling rates of ill health.

    We hear certain politicians celebrate the fact India has jumped so many places in the ‘ease of doing business’ table. This term along with ‘foreign direct investment’, making India ‘business friendly’ and ‘enabling the business of agriculture’ embody little more than the tenets of US neoliberal fundamentalism wrapped in benign-sounding words.

    Of course, as Gavin Andrew Marshall notes, US foundations have played a major part in shaping policies and co-opting civil society and major social-political movements across the world, including in India. As Chester Bowles, former US ambassador to India, says:

    Someday someone must give the American people a full report of the Ford Foundation in India. The several million dollars in total Ford expenditures in the country do not tell 1/10 of the story.

    Taking inflation into account, that figure would now be much greater. Maybe people residing in India should be given a full report of Ford’s activities too as well as the overall extent of US ‘intervention’ in the country.

    A couple of years ago, economist Norbert Haring (in his piece “A well-kept open secret: Washington is behind India’s brutal experiment of abolishing most cash) outlined the influence of USAID and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in furthering the incorporation of India into the US’s financial (and intelligence architecture). But this is the type of thing just the tip of a very large iceberg that’s been going on for many decades.

    After the recent general election, India seems destined to continue to capitulate to a programme that suits the needs of foreign capital for another five years. However, the focus is often on what India should or should not do. It’s not as if alternatives to current policies do not exist, but as Jason Hickel wrote in The Guardian back in 2017, it really is time that the richer countries led the way by ‘de-developing’ and reorienting their societies to become less consumption based. A laudable aim given the overexploitation of the planet’s resources, the foreign policy implications (conflict and war) and the path to environmental suicide we are on. However, we must first push back against those forces and which resist this.

    On 15 August, India commemorates independence from British rule. Many individuals and groups are involved in an ongoing struggle in India to achieve genuine independence from exploitation and human and environmental degradation. It’s a struggle for freedom and a tryst with destiny that’s being fought throughout the world by many, from farmers and indigenous peoples to city dwellers, against the same system and the same forces of brutality and deceit.

    Trump and Black Misleadership Class

    In a case that finally started to receive national attention over the last few weeks, Baltimore prosecutors finally achieved their desired goal after three attempts, a conviction of Keith Davis Jr., a young Black working class resident of Baltimore, who his supporters say, was set up by Baltimore police, for the murder of Kevin Jones.  Two trials ended in hung juries and another resulted in the judge overturning the conviction of Davis.

    Community supporters of Davis said that the aggressive prosecution was just another example of the heavy-handed use of state power by local Black authorities that the residents of the city have come to expect in Baltimore.

    When social pimp Rev Al Sharpton showed up in Baltimore standing with members of the Black petit-bourgeoisie to defend their “great city” from the unfair attacks by Donald Trump, no one raised any doubt about the fairness of Keith Davis Jr’s conviction. They didn’t talk about the over 40,000 abandoned properties in the city, the massive displacement of Black residents aided and abetted by the Black overseers of Baltimore. And no one dared to mention Freddie Gray.

    Yet, in another bazaar example of “Trump derangement syndrome” the national Black community is supposed to defend these opportunists and servants of white capital just because they were called out by Trump.

    After the Keith Davis verdict, Baltimore state prosecutor Marilyn Mosby issued a statement in which she said that “this case has been — and was always — about the pursuit of justice for Kevin Jones,” she wrote. “I truly hope Kevin’s loved ones can finally close this gruesome chapter of grief and find their path to healing.”

    But what about the family of Freddie Gray? Doesn’t his life matter, don’t they deserve some justice also?

    After one trial that led to an acquittal, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby said that it would not be worth it to pursue cases against the other officers accused of killing Gray. So, all charges were dropped. And since the Obama Department of Justice also didn’t think Gray’s life was worth a Federal investigation, the killers walked, no convictions, no justice for the Gray family.

    When Elijah Cummings, the new darling of liberals who one would think was some champion of social justice and principled Black leadership, was asked if there should be a Federal investigation of the officers after charges were dropped against the officers, Cummings said he didn’t have an opinion!

    The controversy that has emerged from Trump’s comments on Baltimore reflects three interrelated theoretical and practical issues among Black/African peoples in the United States: The continued hegemonic standing of liberalism within mainstream Black political thought, the subordination of what is defined as Black politics to the dictates and agenda of the democrat party and the class consciousness of the Black petit-bourgeoisie and the lack of class consciousness among the Black working class.

    It is understandable that a negative comment from Donald Trump regarding a major city in the country under the political leadership of Black people might spark an initial defensive reaction by many in the country because of his pattern of disparaging non-European peoples, regardless of their legal status in the U.S.

    However, to try to advance an argument in opposition to Trump that frames life for African Americans in Baltimore as anything more than desperate, deprived and destitute requires a flight from reality that only members of the elite have the luxury to engage in. For Cummings, who has gone from having difficulty paying child support at the time he was first elected to Congress to today being a multi-millionaire, and his friends in the Black professional/managerial/administrative petit-bourgeois things are just fine in Baltimore.

    But for the Black working class and poor who have been subjected to the systematic ravages of neoliberalism that devastated Baltimore’s industrial base, including the Baltimore port that was a hub for good paying jobs for the working class, facilitated massive displacement with urban recolonization (gentrification) and created a low-wage, de-skilled Black labor poor that is largely economically redundant, Baltimore in reality resembles the city that Trump referred to, and all the crying in the world will not change that reality.

    The reality of Baltimore is the reality of decaying and dying cities and rural areas across this nation. These conditions are the conditions of late state, neoliberal capitalism that has de-centered capitalist industrial production and supply chains from the metropoles to the peripheral nations of the system. Many of the nation’s largest urban areas that have been devastated by these policies over the last few decades are also the areas with the greatest concentrations of African Americans with political leadership, but not economic power, in the hands of a Black overseer class.

    When a Donald Trump with his own racist agenda distorts these systemic issues it does not follow that we should reinforce that by offering an analysis of Baltimore or any of these other cities where neoliberal Black democrats serve white power, that reduces an explanation of systemic issues to just one of the pigmentation of political class in charge in the cities or in the White House.

    The Black petit-bourgeoisie as a “class for itself” is highly offended by Trump’s comments but because its class interests are in alignment with a sector of big-bourgeoisie, it is silent when Obama refers to the resisters in Baltimore as “thugs and criminals” and unleashes U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein on the people of Baltimore. Yes, the same Rosenstein at the center of Russigate.

    While the DOJ only intervened into one case of killer-cops under Obama, Rosenstein made a special request to prosecute the poor, Black working-class individuals charged with various crimes during the Baltimore uprising. The result was draconian sentences that received no mention and no support because even the NGOs supposedly working on criminal justice reform went silent. Rosenstein’s position was clear and a warning to anyone who might resist state power “Anyone in the future who participates in a ‘riot’ should know that police, prosecutors and citizens will track them down and send them to prison.”

    The Black misleadership class, liberal and centrist democrats, the forces grouped around Trump and even some radicals, have one essential thing in common, they all believe in the legitimacy of the U.S. state, the capitalist/imperialist system and are ready to fight to the last drop of your blood and mine to preserve this system.

    The objective political and class ties of these elements is reflected in the unanimity of positions of “Full spectrum dominance, support for Israel, animosity toward the government in Venezuela, support for Department of Defense 1033 program responsible for militarizing police forces across the country, and the expansion of AFRICOM on the African continent.

    This is the madness and reality of U.S. political culture. Scratch a liberal and not only do you find an imperialist supporter but a Donald Trump.

    CapitalGate’s the Problem, Not Russiagate

    [U]nder existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.
    Albert Einstein

    While the professional class minority employed in sustaining the multi-million dollar Russiagate fiasco has financially cleaned up, one has to sympathize with the slightly larger minority of innocent citizens who missed their therapy appointments in order to watch or listen to the incredibly boring, pointless and nearly unending game-of-drones latest chapter, called “Mueller’s Testimony.” The overwhelming majority of Americans only took note of this programming for the puerile when tuned into other social and anti-social media belching up enormous amounts of this brain dissolving gas. But both the minority under forceful brain assault and the majority not paying any attention are kept from far more serious events and issues that warrant all our consideration.

    While one of the ruling class parties is under forced obsession with the fiction of Russiagate, both parties are moving ahead either in blissful ignorance or saber rattling madness, towards war in the middle east for Israel, while increasing finances for Israel, suppressing American freedom of speech for Israel, and throwing in some mental assault on China to take a little attention off Russia and put it on the other alleged major menace. The imperial system of global capitalism is under greater threat than ever, with competition originating in new forms, nations and cultures everyday. What’s a ruling minority to do but further coerce its minions under thought control while slaughtering foreigners whenever and wherever possible, even as that becomes more problematic? The twenty first century has created even bigger problems for minority rule than the last one did.

    As if the repercussions of the Russian revolution in 1917 weren’t bad enough for the empire, the Chinese revolt thirty-two years later caused greater nightmares in the west. While seemingly controlling these two major revolutions in part by boycotting, sabotaging and engaging them in proxy wars, Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution was immediately seen as a threat by the US and its new imperial partner Israel, with forebodings of doom at this Middle Eastern national force taking control from its colonial rulers. Iran offered a newer adversary driven by religion as well as political economics, and could become a local power threatening to Israel such as had never existed before. Naturally, the global twins of terror were alarmed and that alarm has grown as has Iran’s stature and power in the area and the world. And even the end of the Soviet Union, seen as a victory for the short sighted west, has resulted in a rebuilt Russian force and renewed assumption of a role as world power, bringing revival of all the dumbest forms of past anti-communism this time directed at a seemingly worse enemy: capitalism!

    Meanwhile, China underwent a massive reform and became a capitalist economic system under the control of a Communist Party, thereby experiencing an incredible measure of growth quite shocking to the west and causing more need to fear the end of euro-ruled environmental destruction in a more equitable – if that’s possible – exercise of market forces under the domain of an authority putting the public good before private profit. What are the ruling powers to do?

    Elect a totally un-related to the political establishment egotistical rich person as president, whose ego speaks so honestly he is all but totally destroying the usual hypocritical political protocol, and having failed miserably by allowing that to happen, blame it all on Russia. And call the greatest friend Israel has ever had in the white house a tool of… guess which country? While past presidents toed the Israeli line in deference to the power of the Israeli lobby, this one doesn’t need their money and actually believes the mythology. Ruling power is really in a quandary and so must reduce the population to even greater confusion than usual, making Einstein’s opening quote almost an understatement.

    Thus we have a nation in debt for 23 trillion dollars, mostly spent making a tiny minority wealthy beyond belief while buying a massive military with hundreds of foreign bases and enough munitions to destroy the entire planet, including Trump’s ego. This while numbers of America’s homeless increase by the minute, personal consumer and student debt are in the trillions, and the economy is said to be booming, once again assuring that it makes great sense to rely on a market under control of private profiteers and claim democracy, equality and peace on earth good will to all as the outcome of such deranged lunacy.

    Meanwhile, we hear that the person in charge is a sexist – he leaves the seat up in the toilet – a racist – he probably has more lower income supporters “of color” than upper income types of color or no color can imagine – and anything but the danger of policy in the Middle East getting beyond usual wretched American anti-Semitism towards Palestinians, and threatening to further alienate more of the world from the monstrous entity our propaganda claims as humanity’s hope while most of the world sees us as the greatest threat to peace and global security imaginable.

    So, look for ever more details of Trump’s guilt in working for Russia – not Israel – hiding his tax forms so we won’t learn he is rich – who knew? And how he is strengthening America’s greatest menace, alienated guys with shaved heads and swastika tattoos who are making it difficult for guys who ride in limos and deal billions of dollars in stocks and bonds every day in service to their masters who use some of the profits to pay media stenographers to fill our heads with important info about Russia taking over our electoral process from the billionaires who previously owned it and are now reduced to watching some measly little Russian online operation of market hustlers spending something like a hundred thousand dollars – wow! – to affect the outcome of the multi billion-dollar market mall we’re told is our democracy.

    The American dollar’s power is going the way of all forms of previous domination and many nations are banding together to confront what the American people should be dealing with: bringing our nation under the control of its people, not just its minority ruling class, before the rest of the world has to do it for us. It’s going to have to happen to save humanity and we’d be much better off affecting that transformation ourselves, rather than be distracted further by more nonsense from consciousness control about Russia. Our problems are the climate calamity threatening all of humanity, Wall Street, the Pentagon, congress, the white house, and especially the market under minority control which is responsible for all of them. The famous socialist thinker quoted at the beginning was talking about something more recently called fake news, but whatever the label, he had it right and it’s still true.

    U.S. 2020 Presidential Election: A Watershed Moment for Humankind and the Planet

    The 2020 presidential election in the United States may be the most critical political event in human history. At no time in the history of global civilization have human beings faced existential crises on a global scale. Regional crises of the past 10,000 years reveal that economic regimes have often outstripped local and regional resources, but these crises remained regional in scope. Today, however, the excesses of global capitalism have driven all of humanity to the brink of ecological and civilizational collapse.

    Our addiction to fossil fuels has significantly warmed the global atmosphere and accelerated the loss of polar ice caps faster than predicted. Capitalism has fueled industrial activities that have ravaged large portions of the planet, destroying habitats and endangering innumerable animal, plant and insect species worldwide, according to a recent UN report on global biodiversity. Our oceans are contaminated with heavy metals and plastics. Global population pressure, inefficient and wasteful industrial practices combined with climate change have placed enormous pressure on fresh water sources.  Destructive superstorms, wildfires and persistent drought will likely bring profound economic instability and declining food production in coming decades.

    Global capitalism has also generated vast disparities in wealth distribution, destabilizing social systems as well as ecosystems. As global and national wealth concentration grows rapidly, the poverty of billions and declining living standards for millions more strain social relations throughout the world. These injustices give rise to disillusionment, desperation, terrorism and mass migration, to epidemics and resistant bacteria and fungi. Armed conflict is endemic in many of the world’s poor regions and wars have brought invasions of poor countries by wealthy countries to stem perceived terrorists’ threats and protect geopolitical interests.

    In less than a year and one-half the 2020 U.S. presidential election will occur and the candidate and policies the majority of Americans embrace will help lead the world in one direction or another.  American voters will decide whether the most powerful leader in the world will aggressively tackle the world’s unprecedented and unfolding environmental and social crises or will exacerbate these crises by facilitating unrestrained capitalist exploitation and accumulation. Working Americans are primed for an alternative to global economic system, having recently lost millions of jobs and much of their modest wealth during the Great Recession. Universal healthcare and child care, a higher minimum wage and equal pay, student debt relief, tuition-free higher education, climate change and a green economy as well as a truly progressive tax policy to fund social and environmental initiatives are on the minds of ordinary Americans, if not the majority of them. This is an opportunity for progressive voices across the nation to demonstrate that unregulated capitalism threatens American families and the lives of their children and grandchildren.

    Certainly, ingrained capitalist ideology and vested institutions present formidable political obstacles leading to the 2020 presidential elections. Donald Trump and the Republican Party actively resist reform of capitalism, rejecting the Paris Accords and enacting severe cuts in domestic regulations restricting corporate activity and protecting the environment. Conservative strategists are clearly framing the 2020 election to protect the advantages in wealth and political power conservatives have gained in the global economy. Trump’s abject disregard for global warming and the failure of Republicans to address it is a clear threat to the future of the planet. His nuclear war-mongering, with the tacit endorsement of the Republican Party, has flirted with planetary annihilation. For these reasons renowned linguist and ferocious political critic Noam Chomsky has stunningly and aptly dubbed the Republican Party “the most dangerous organization in human history”.

    While it will likely take decades and even generations to rein in and reform our global economy enough to achieve some practical level of global sustainability, the magnitude and urgency of the challenges we and the world face make the 2020 U.S. presidential elections an extraordinary watershed moment. This is no time for a program of tepid, incrementalist reforms.  If the Democratic Party fails to embrace an agenda of far-reaching regulation of global capitalism that focuses on climate change and wealth disparity, it risks losing the presidency. Should a moderate Democratic candidate lacking the necessary vision and resolve be elected president in 2020, it may prove to be a kind of hollow victory.

    The fundamental questions before American citizens could not be more crucial to the future of our nation and the world: Can we afford to ignore the ravages of climate change and the deleterious impact of our unsustainable production and consumption on the planet’s health? Can we fail to confront the concentration of wealth in fewer hands while poverty, lack of opportunity, ill health and violence driven by these realities rob generations of their potential as human beings? Should we discount, or even underplay, the fact that environmental degradation and wealth disparities on a global scale are exacerbated by inadequately regulated global economic regime?