Category Archives: Imperialism

Why Withdrawing US Troops from Northern Syria is GOOD

The foreign policy elite is in an uproar. They claim “we have abandoned our allies”. They question “how can America be trusted?” They say the decision to withdraw from northern Syria was a “gift” to Russia, Iran, and Assad, even ISIS. It is true that the policy of US/NATO interventionism is failing. But that has been true since the invasion of Iraq or earlier. After the disastrous invasions and attacks on Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, and the 8 year undeclared war on Syria, isn’t it time to  question the foreign policy elite?

If one believes in restoring international law and the UN Charter, it is GOOD that US military forces have been withdrawn from  northern Syria. Here are some facts and history which explain why.

Basic fact: It’s not our country and US troops were never authorized by the sovereign government. Whether or not Washington likes Damascus is irrelevant. Under international law those troops have no right to be there. Even the overflights of Syria by the US air coalition violate international agreements. It’s up to  Syrians to defend their country against invading Turkey. If they choose to get support from another country, that is their right.

Another fact: President Obama was correct when he said that “putting boots on the ground” in Syria would be a “profound mistake”. Later he said, “We have a very specific objective, one that will not lead into boots on the ground or anything like that.” But the hawks prevailed. There were not only “boots on the ground”, there was a shifting rationale why they had to be there.

The US and allies have done all they could, short of direct invasion, to overthrow the Syrian government. They have spent tens of BILLIONS of dollars in weapons, training, equipment, recruitment, etc. This is in violation of international law. More than one hundred thousand Syrians have died defending their country against a foreign sponsored army of mercenaries and foreign fighters.

An astonishing fact: The US encouraged the emergence of the Islamic State. Why? Because it put pressure on Damascus and because it justified the entry of the US.  While the US carpet bombed Raqqa, it looked the other way as hundreds of trucks conveyed oil from eastern Syria into Turkey to fund the Islamic State. The US air coalition attacked the Syrian Arab Army in the midst of a critical battle against ISIS near Deir Ezzor. In  a secretly recorded conversation in New York with Syrian “activists”, John Kerry admitted they were watching ISIS and hoping to use it to pressure Damascus. In other words, US foreign policy was duplicitous and used terrorism as a tool. This is well documented in the book The Management of Savagery.

After the US-backed “Free Syrian Army” failed, the US looked for another means to destabilize Syria. They started to fund  the Syrian Kurdish militias known as the Peoples Protection Unit (YPG /YPJ). They gave the militias a new name, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and encouraged the secessionist tendency. Meanwhile in Turkey, which has the largest Kurdish community,  most Kurds want to have their rights within Turkey and have formed a political party (Peoples Democratic Party – HDP) which unites progressives of all ethnicities. In the 2015 Turkish election this party emerged as the third most popular party and stopped Erdogan’s election domination. Currently the HDP is campaigning against Turkey’s invasion of Syria. As of 13 October the Syrian Kurdish militias have come to an agreement to work with Damascus to combat the Turkish invasion. The agreement specifies that the Syrian Arab Army will control and defend the entire area from Jarablus on the Euphrates River to the far eastern border with Iraq.

Advocates of US intervention claim that the Kurds were fighting and dying “for us.” That is not true. They were defending their own community. To the extent that they accepted and welcomed US air support, equipment, weaponry, etc. it was for their own benefit. There were two parties trying to use each other.

Whenever the US attacks or occupies a country it needs a rationalization. In 1991 there were false claims about incubators being stolen by Iraqi troops in Kuwait. In 2003 there were false claims about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. In 2011 there were false claims of civilians being threatened by Libyan troops in Benghazi. All these claims were subsequently found to be exaggerated or entirely false.

One of the main justifications for continuing US presence in Syria is “keeping our word” and not “abandoning” the Kurdish forces. This is a favorite rationalization for war. In Cuba, the CIA trained Cuban exiles that attacked Playa Giron “were counting on us.” Fortunately, JFK resisted the pressure and said “No”. In Vietnam, the US continued the war for a decade because we could not let down our “ally”, the government of Saigon. Millions of Vietnamese were killed plus 55,000 US troops because we could not “abandon” a government that in reality was a proxy.

In the Democratic Debates (15 October) Joe Biden said that the  withdrawal of US troops from northern Syria was “the most shameful thing any president has done in modern history in terms of foreign policy.” This is absurd. Over one million died in Iraq including 4500 and at least 100,000 severely injured US soldiers. Joe Biden was an influential supporter of the 2003 Iraq  invasion. Later, as Vice President, he supported the overthrow of the Libyan government. The country is still in chaos with tens of thousands dead.  These two countries were devastated by US actions. It is evidence of shameless unaccountability in media and politics that Joe Biden is a serious candidate for President after he destroyed so many lives at a cost of trillions. In the same Democratic debates Tulsi Gabbard was honest and accurate as she said that the plight of the Kurds in northern Syria is “yet another consequence of the regime change war we’ve been waging in Syria”.

Despite the howls of indignation and disinformation, withdrawing US troops from northern Syria is a step in the right direction.

Syria: Exposing Western Radical Collaboration with Imperialism

Despite so many self-defined radicals’ reading and claims to understand Gramsci’s corrective to Marxism-Leninism’s mechanistic understanding of the relationship between the base and the ideological superstructure, the ease by which some radicals are manipulated by the crude ideological machinations of the ruling class is truly astonishing. It is quite understandable that liberals would be manipulated by fairly innovative ideological gimmicks like the notion of “humanitarian intervention” and the “responsibility to protect,” which relied on the assumption, proving correct, that the liberal consciousness would react favorably to appeals to oppose “authoritarians” and authoritarian systems. However, I suspect that state propagandists didn’t realize the potential effectiveness of this ideological device when they first began to disseminate this framework for its ability to also mobilize radicals to the side of the bourgeois state and imperialist adventures.

The latest misadventures in Syria over the last few weeks revealed just how effective the bourgeois ideological apparatus has been in winning over not only liberals to support the “regime change” policies of the Obama administration in Syria, but also radicals and self-defined revolutionaries throughout the Western world.

The construction of the narrative in which street demonstrations against the Assad government would go from supposedly non-violent demonstrations to a “justifiable” call for armed struggle in a matter of weeks and gain support from Western radicals was an amazing feat.

Without rehashing the details and timeline of this sad spectacle — which resulted in millions internally displaced and as refugees, hundreds of thousands dead, the Syrian nation divided by sectarianism, and the state constricted with its territory occupied – it is, however, important to be reminded that the armed wing of the rebellion that received uncritical support from liberals and Westernized radicals was the “Free Syrian Army (FSA).”

When some of us warned Western radicals that they were being manipulated, that the so-called revolution in Syria had become fraudulent because it lacked an organic, independent social base, and was being driven by imperialist forces who cared little about democratic reforms, the working class or Syria as an independent sovereign state, we were condemned as “Assadists” and “Putin puppets.”

Expunged from acceptable discourse was any consideration of the relationship between oppressor and oppressed states, the real geostrategic and economic class and national interests in contention in Syria and the region, or the legality of intervention outside the framework of the United Nations Charter.

Instead, the hegemonic framing of Syria was driven by the convergence of a Left-Right, paternalistic form of white saviorism ethically legitimized by the concept of humanitarian intervention, itself constructed on the normalized belief in the superiority of  the white West, be it in its’ current capitalist form or its’ imagined socialist future. Politically, the logical stance for both versions of this Eurocentric self-delusion is that any people striving to emulate either of those Eurocentric visions should be supported.

However, in the case of Syria, that carefully constructed ideological framing is now imploding as a result of its own internal contradictions. The white supremacist “responsibility to protect,” the 21st century version of the “white man’s burden,” requires an adolescent bad guy-good guy framing. The dictator/authoritarian figure and the suffering people longing for freedom – Western style freedom that is- provided a familiar cultural framing for this epic struggle between “good” and “evil.”

In Syria, Assad was the villain and the Kurds the virtuous other who took on the savage forces of ISIS — that appeared out of nowhere according to this version of the story. While the Kurds were saving Western civilization from ISIS — and that is how it was framed because it is the only way real support is generated for non-European life (you have to be saving white folks) — the good guy revolutionaries and moderate opposition in the form of the FSA were fighting Assad to liberate the millions of people who didn’t seem to understand that they were being oppressed by Assad.

But all of that has now been turned on its head with the Trump administration’s decision to abandon the Kurds and give a green light to the illegal invasion of Syria by Turkey, with none other than the FSA acting as the point of the spear operating with the Turkish army to crush the Kurds.

In the anger toward Trump, the corporate press forgot the memo that the FSA were the good guys who had been supported by U.S. authorities from the very beginning of the manufactured war. The new framing became the “Turkish supported FSA,” especially after gruesome videos began to circulate that demonstrated in graphic images what many of us knew, along with the CIA and most of the honest foreign policy community, that the FSA was always al-Qaeda’s Syria operation in the form of Jabhat al-Nusra and other jihadist militias.

Independent journalist Aaron Mate, who was one of the many journalist smeared as an Assadist simply because he attempted to raise objective questions about what was unfolding in Syria and the impact of U.S. policies in the region, suggests that now that it is no longer viable to pretend that the FSA and the so-called moderate rebels ever existed, all those who smeared independent analysts on this question should apologize.

I am confident that an apology of that sort will never happen; nor do I think Aaron believes that either because arrogance and self-righteousness is so deeply ingrained into the cultural DNA of most Westerners. Similarly to how U.S. radicals desperately tried to find a revolutionary entity to support in Syria to justify their objective alignment with U.S. imperialism, they will find a way to explain away what everyone can clearly see today, that the war on the people of Syria was a monstrous crime against humanity.

Instead of apologies, real justice demands that there should be international prosecutions beginning with Obama, Clinton and all the Western leaders who perpetrated this crime.

The ideological struggle is real. It shapes consciousness and informs actions. There is no middle ground. Western radicals must take a consistent anti-imperialist position despite the internal contradictions or problems that exist within a state in the Global South. This is their task and responsibility, especially of those individuals and organizations that reside at the center of the empire.

What distinguishes the Western radical from its counterparts in the global South is the fact that Southern-based radicals understand that any nation that finds itself in the crosshairs of U.S. and Western imperialism is a nation that, in one way or another, is considered a threat to imperialist domination. Its time Western radicals understood this as well and stopped aligning themselves with the enemies of collective humanity.

Stop Press: The Queen’s Screech: Britain, Spain and other illnesses

Anti monarchist Soviet poster: “Once and for all”

There are some people — whereby I do not know how many — who recall the key elements of British colonial rule. I was fortunate enough not to live under it. My grandfather had no great admiration for the country where he was born, despite the almost rabid Anglophilia to be found in the most surprising places.

I still find it bizarre that in a country whose monarchy was ended in 1918, many people still say “the Queen” as if they were still subjects of Hanover under Britain’s George III. That at least was the last point at which some of my compatriots could legitimately claim that the reigning monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is their Queen.

Perhaps as an hypothetical exercise or a thought game, it would be amusing to imagine that Elizabeth II by the grace of God, Queen (by virtue of an ancient papal dispensation) Defender of the Faith, of Great Britain, Northern Ireland and her Commonwealth Realms, were also “our Queen”. That would leave the question why “our queen” is not Margarethe of Denmark or was not the Queen of the Netherlands?  Strangely enough my compatriots do not call the occupant of the slave-built mansion at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington DC, USA “our president” — although that person has more direct control over our country than Her Britannic Majesty.

If we assume that the Federal Republic of Germany is nothing of the sort but a covert member of the Commonwealth, a secret vassal of the House of Battenberg (aka Windsor), then perhaps we should ask what the statements delivered to the Lords and members of the House of Commons in London actually mean for those passionate, deluded, or perhaps just mistaken subjects of British imperial rule?

Let us imagine something else, just for fun. Some Catalonians have just been sentenced to gaol for six or more years on account of their actions in support of independence of Catalonia from Spain. Never mind the problems that such an independence would present (EU membership, financial obligations, currency and other aspects of national rule), the verdicts and sentences have provoked considerable discontent in Barcelona, the virtual nation’s capital. One official has pointed out that this is a political problem and judges are appointed to resolve issues in the criminal code not political questions. This implies that the only recourse to those condemned for their political actions is to appeal beyond the scope of Spanish criminal law. But to whom? The Spanish monarchy was ended in 1931 with the establishment of the Second Spanish Republic. That republic was overthrown by the fascist Francisco Franco with the active assistance of Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy as well as the passive and partially active support of His Britannic Majesty, the Roman Catholic Church, the clerico-fascist president of the Irish Free State, the president of the Portuguese Council of Ministers, and internationally active corporate interests.

The dictator (El Caudillo, also by the grace of God if the coins minted during his rule are to be believed) Francisco Franco declared the defunct Spanish monarchy restored and imposed it upon Spain and its non-Castillian provinces. Regardless of the objective merits — seen in practical international power context — of Catalonian independence, it was certainly no less credible than the various “independence” movements supported by NATO to destroy Yugoslavia. So to whom should Catalonians submit for justice in their struggle — executive clemency from the pretenders who occupy a defunct throne “Franco gratia”?

Returning for a moment to the Battenbergs and the New Yorker Etonian who serves as their First Lord of the Treasury. The Queen’s Speech — the formal proclamation of HM Government at the State Opening of Parliament — focusses on two elements, for obvious reasons. The first is the effort by a segment of the British imperial elite to remove itself from the perceived strictures of the European Commission — the so-called “Brexit”. The second is the extension of British police powers under the pretext that the great prudish kingdom is threatened by foreign (non-white) criminal invaders and sexual offenders (are people like the deceased Jeffrey Epstein and his meanwhile invisible partner, the daughter of Robert Maxwell, suicide and notorious defrauder of a major British media group, also included?)

In the briefing document, issued by No. 10 as commentary to the Queen’s Speech, the First Lord of HM Treasury, stresses the end of “free movement” and a return to the Stormont regime in Belfast.

This interesting choice of words betrays the real attitude of the Churchill fanatic from New York. Those who recall Stormont could be forgiven for thinking more of Bloody Sunday than Good Friday.

With Mr Johnson’s adoration of one of Britain’s most repugnant 20th century imperialists, it requires little imagination to ask if Mr Johnson does not dream of Ireland as it was under his idol — of Para- occupied Catholic neighbourhoods, of Orangeman death squads and maybe even the Black and Tans.

Whether in Madrid or London (don’t look too close at Brussels or The Hague) monarchy holds its ugly, condescending head with a paper-thin democratic mask made by its corporate marketing legions. The contempt in which true democrats and socialists are held by these imperialists has never been very well concealed. It has taken the willing and constant servility of those who adopt foreign dynasties and stuff themselves on pomp and pageantry to maintain the illusions that nonetheless break in the slightest breeze of spontaneous self-respect.

Canadian Imperialism in Haiti in the Spotlight

Sustained committed activism is unraveling the dominant media’s shameful blackout of Canadian imperialism in Haiti. But, the bias against putting Canadian policy in a negative light is such that small breakthroughs require tremendous effort.

On Monday 15 Haitian community members and allies occupied Justin Trudeau’s election office for a little over three hours. The Solidarité Québec-Haiti #Petrochallenge 2019 activists called on the PM to withdraw Canada’s backing of a repressive, corrupt and illegitimate president of Haiti. Trudeau’s government has provided financial, policing and diplomatic support to Jovenel Moïse whose presidency is dependent on Washington, Ottawa and other members of the Core Group.

The office occupation took place in solidarity with mobilizations in Haiti and elsewhere against Moïse and an apartheid-like class/race system enforced by Washington, Paris and Ottawa. In recent days massive protests in Haiti have demanded Moïse go. Last week protesters shuttered the Port-au-Prince airport, stopping Moïse from speaking at the UN and forming a new government. Over the past year, there have been multiple general strikes and massive protests demanding the corrupt president leave.

To convince us to end the sit in, the Liberals dispatched a backroom operator of Haitian descent. Chief of staff to Minister of Families, Children, and Social Development, Marjorie Michel offered to have the government make a declaration on the subject within 24 hours if we left the office (the Montréal police and RCMP came to Trudeau’s office just after Michel to highlight what would happen if we didn’t leave). Midday Tuesday Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland tweeted a vague statement about the situation in Haiti, which at least didn’t endorse Moïse (unlike some previous statements).

Michel was clearly disturbed that Trudeau was asked “are you aware that your campaign office in Montreal is now occupied by Haiti solidarity activists and what would you say to those who ask why you back the undemocratic regime of Jovenel Moïse” at a concurrent press conference in Toronto. Global TV broadcast a somewhat perplexed PM responding to activist/journalist Barry Weisleder’s question about the hypocritical nature of Canadian policy in the Americas. Trudeau ignored the Haiti part of the question and criticized the Venezuelan government.

As a follow-up to the occupation of his office, we organized a last-minute 10-person rally on Wednesday outside a community boxing ring where Trudeau put on his gloves for a photo-op. We chanted loudly “Jovenel repressif, Trudeau complice”. The PM’s large RCMP detail called the Montréal police, which dispatched a dozen officers who arrested organizer Marie Dimanche. In one of the weirder rally/media situations I’ve seen, the police organized a protected pathway for the media inside the gym following Trudeau to get back on the election campaign bus. It was as if we were a threat to members of the media and it effectively blocked them from interviewing us.

Unlike previous Solidarité Québec-Haiti actions, the dominant media didn’t (almost completely) ignore our office occupation and follow-up rally. The Montréal Gazette published a good article on the sit in, which was picked up by a half dozen outlets. Part of it was translated into French and published by La Presse. Journal Métro, Ricochet and Telesur all ran their own articles on the office occupation. A few days later Le Devoir published a good article promoting our demand titled “Le Canada appelé à lâcher le président haïtien Jovenel Moïse.” A slew of Haitian news sites and community radio programs covered the occupation. As with previous Solidarité Québec-Haiti actions, they both received substantial attention on social media.

On August 18 a member of Solidarité Québec-Haiti interrupted Trudeau at a press conference to ask why Canada supported a corrupt, repressive and illegitimate president in Haiti. Since July 15 members of the Haiti solidarity group have interrupted two press conferences (and a barbecue) by Minister of La Francophonie and Tourism Mélanie Joly to call on the Liberals to stop propping up Moïse. Solidarité Québec-Haiti has also directly questioned Liberal MP Emmanuel Dubourg, Minister Jean-Yves Duclos and former International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau over the government’s policy in Haiti. But, even when media outlets were at these events, they mostly ignored our interventions.

From the Liberal’s perspective media silence is vital. Unlike the 2004 Liberal backed coup, which included significant demonization of Jean Bertrand-Aristide by the Haitian and Haitian-Canadian intellectual elite, few among Montréal’s Haitian establishment seem keen on defending Moïse. So, the Liberals have to justify their support for Moïse.

Through bold activism Solidarité Québec-Haiti has forced the dominant media to cover Canadian imperialism in Haiti. But, a great deal more work will be needed to force a shift in government policy.

Mike Pompeo on the U.S. Victory in Afghanistan

The U.S. appears about to announce a peace agreement with the Taliban trading the withdrawal of U.S. forces for a Taliban commitment to exclude al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups from the country. (Presumably the Taliban themselves will be removed from the State Department’s terror list.) It has been under discussion for at least several years, attracting little journalistic attention.

It’s a deal that could in fact have been cut many years and many lives ago. The U.S. top brass concluded long ago that the war in Afghanistan was not militarily winnable (and indeed generating more “terrorism”). The Taliban whatever you think of it has an enduring, genuine mass base. The early project of building a functioning multiparty neo-liberal democracy failed; the Afghan president is merely the mayor Kabul; warlords retain their power; women are as subject to patriarchy as ever; sharia law still prevails. Islam is the state religion and conversion or apostasy is still punishable by death.

Most importantly, the Taliban has steadily expanded its base areas, controlling more territory in 2019 than at any time since 2001. It has thus forced the U.S. to negotiate in Oman, the UAE and Qatar. The U.S. has been forced to sue for peace because its total effort in Afghanistan costing the lives of 4000 U.S. soldiers and “contractors” and the lives of over 1000 allied troops has been defeated.

The fallen are all heroes who fought for our freedom, we are told.

Joe Biden recently told a campaign crowd a story about pinning a medal for bravery on a Navy captain in Afghanistan. Since he had virtually all of the facts confused, and was actually conflating three different events, he was roundly criticized by the media for Trump-like indifference to facts if not senility. His response?

Biden just doesn’t get it. “I don’t understand what they’re talking about, but [sic] the central point is it was absolutely accurate what I said….I was making the point of how courageous these people are. How incredible they are — this generation of warriors, these fallen angels we’ve lost, so I don’t know what the problem is. What is it I have said wrong?”

(Dude: what’s wrong — and absolutely inaccurate — is that you’re depicting all the soldiers who died in an unjust war, as heroes, just because it was a war waged by this country — or more precisely, by a section of its ruling class. The soldiers who died in Afghanistan are not fallen angels. They are victims of U.S. imperialism. This “generation of warriors” has been spawned by the military-industrial complex controlled by the 1% whom you represent. Most soldiers who fought in Afghanistan oppose the war and urge withdrawal. The fact that you assume your sloppy patriotism makes your sloppy memory a minor matter, that protects your memory lapses and “gaffes” from controversy, shows that are indeed out of touch.)

How to reconcile this misplaced hero-worship with crawling away with your tail between your legs?

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo puts a bright face on the agreement. In an interview with the Daily Signal he declares the mission accomplished: “If you go back and look at the days following 9/11, the objectives set out were pretty clear: to go defeat al-Qaeda, the group that had launched the attack on the United States of America from Afghanistan. And today, al-Qaeda … doesn’t even amount to a shadow of its former self in Afghanistan. We have delivered.”

It is thought that around 200 al-Qaeda were killed at the battle of Tora Bora, and that 100 to 600 escaped into Pakistan. The terrorist group disappeared from the country in 2002, except for some ethnic Uzbek affiliates who have been quiet. The U.S. “delivered” on that before the body-bags reached the hundreds. It could have withdrawn then, proclaiming success.

But then the toppled Talibs shocked the occupation forces (abetting Afghanistan’s “democratic transition”) by mounting an “insurgency” requiring a Vietnam-style “counter-insurgency” effort. As clashes increased, the Taliban regained territory, aided by the miserable record of the boy-raping national police force and regular defections from the incipient, ever under-performing Afghan National Army whose recruits have killed a shocking number of U.S. advisors. (These usually occur in resentment of the latter’s cultural insensitivity, par for the course of people who shouldn’t be there.)  The Trump administration inherited an expensive, unpopular, unwinnable war to remake Afghanistan as a U.S. satellite. And it decided reasonably to back out quietly, with minimal embarrassment.

But the Afghan embarrassment is historical reality. Thousands of U.S. and NATO troops died to defeat an insurgency provoked by a regime change imposed by U.S. leaders clueless of Afghan realities. They died meaninglessly, producing no good, no positive historical movement. Yes, in the course of the fighting brave men and women committed acts of heroism to save the lives of their comrades. They deserve medals. But so fucking what? Nazis committed heroic acts; German soldiers laid down their lives for other German soldiers in Russia and elsewhere. So did Japanese forces in China. They all deserved medals. So do the heroic Soviet soldiers who fought for the People’s Democratic Republic of Afghanistan with its noble socialist ideals, many of them by weapons given to jihadis by the CIA. The whole point of medals is to glorify war. But what were the warriors fighting to accomplish when they died?

German forces in Poland or Russia were not fighting for the German people, nor the Japanese forces in China for Japanese freedom. U.S. forces were not fighting to preserve any freedoms of yours or mine during their tours in Afghanistan, or Iraq, or Syria during this era in our history of comprehensive surveillance and assaults on the Constitution. Who is fighting to preserve our freedoms from the Deep State, the surveillance state, the Trump-state of random emergency powers and routine official lies?

The U.S. will leave Afghanistan, not guns blazing under a Mission Accomplished banner, but bitching and moaning about the ragheads’ backwardness and inability to follow instructions. They will bemoan the back-stabbing, illiteracy, hashish habits, poor hygiene, pederasty, cruelty to dogs, treatment of women, and lack of respect for the United States and all this wonderful generous country has done for them. The U.S. will accept a Saudi-like Afghanistan, governed my Islamist conservatives, content that at least al-Qaeda and ISIL won’t be welcome there.

The latter groups survive in Syria, Yemen, the Sahel, more than they ever did in 2001. The U.S. War on Terror that started with the bombing of Afghanistan Oct. 7, 2001, drove the Taliban from the cities by December, and drove al-Qaeda from Tora Bora the same month, massively encouraged al-Qaeda growth in Iraq (where it had never been), Yemen, and Somalia, while its spin-off ISIL has shocked the world by establishing, for a time, a state-like Caliphate based on unprecedented savagery and cruelty. The huge U.S. investment in recent years in quashing ISIL wherever it exists, has been necessary to mitigate the profound embarrassment of its actions in Afghanistan and Iraq that produced al-Zarqawi’s monstrous outgrowth of al-Qaeda in Anbar Province in the first place.

There remain more al-Qaeda in Idlib Province, Syria than might have comprised the whole of the network in 2001, bombed recently by uninvited U.S. forces but more contained by Russian and Syrian troops.

The evil that men do lives after them. The evil of the Afghan invasion and occupation—the evil of forgetting the Prime Directive and trying to reshape a nation at one’s will, the evil of imperialism itself—has lived on after the death of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, after the Special Forces assassination of bin Laden, after the death of Mullah Omar. It lives in the remnants of ISIL, founded by a militant fleeing Afghanistan for Iraq which, since it had been so gloriously destroyed by the U.S., was the perfect nursery for Islamist terror. And al-Qaeda remains, perhaps necessarily; if it didn’t exist, the U.S. imperialists would have to invent it.

Many of my freshmen students this semester were born in 2001. They have grown up in the shadow of 9-11, in an era of multiple wars that they realize are stupid, based on lies, waged at some level for some reason by capitalists for profit. They have grown up in a period of relentless U.S. provocation of Russia, through the ferocious expansion of the anti-Russian NATO military alliance. They reach adulthood in an America shorn of myth largely due to Afghanistan.

The Taliban never attacked the U.S. They cooperated with the U.S. on opium eradication and pipeline construction plans. They were never in cahoots with al-Qaeda in plans to attack the U.S. They offered in the month after 9-11 to turn over bin Laden to the U.S.; they did not, as reported, refuse. A clueless Bush-Cheney-neocon administration had no problem with topping the Taliban, claiming necessity. The Afghan War like the Iraq War was based on lies. The whole 21st Century has been based on those lies.

Now a chapter is ending, appropriately, with the honest recognition that the Exceptional Nation’s lies lead to bold murderous action followed, when met with local popular rejection, by the need for ignominious retreat. The Class of 2014 will witness the transition from either the era of stupid, doomed wars for regime change to one of rational quiescence or a leap into John Bolton’s world of blissful chaos.

“We have delivered” ruin and shame under Bush, Obama, Trump.  The victor is the world that has successfully resisted, in many different ways, U.S. domination since the 9-11 episode. That includes the intrepid Taliban — horrible people no doubt, but much less threatening to me or you than Donald Trump, Bolton or Pompeo.

In Defense of Cory Morningstar’s Manufacturing for Consent Series

Good investigative journalism doesn’t only reveal hidden mechanisms of our time;  it also exposes those who refuse to confront the mechanisms. Remember when the late Bruce Dixon courageously and cogently called Bernie Sanders “a sheep dog candidate”? Remember when Eva Bertlett, Vanessa Beeley and others truly stood with Syrian people in opposing the western intervention?  I do. Those who could not face the reality came up with all sorts of profanities and ill conceived theories to demonize the messengers.

Cory Morningstar has been a dedicated environmental activist with a sound track record, who has closely worked with various NGOs. She is a mother. She is an avid gardener. She is an honest person with empathy, passion, love for people, love for our fellow creatures and love for nature.  Her human character and sense of justice has culminated in her keen insights, observations and analyses.  Her writings have inspired many of us to see the depth and scope of capitalist institutions as part of the social dynamics affecting our consciousness.  Her meticulous pursuit of facts in illustrating mechanisms of our world evokes a sense of awe. She is a respected colleague in our struggle toward a better tomorrow.

While her latest series, “The Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg—for Consent:  The Political Economy of Non Profit Industrial Complex Volume I and Volume II”, has been wildly praised as a ground-breaking milestone in depicting the vast mechanism of exploitation and subjugation involving the Non-Profit Industrial Complex, it has been also maliciously misrepresented.

One of the very common, yet blatantly erroneous criticisms, centers around the series’s focus on the young activist. Why do they attack the author as a child abuser? The series does not attack the 16 year old activist at all. It points out those organizations and individuals which closely surround her in forming a momentum for their agenda. It delineates how the mobilization fits within the larger framework of corporate “environmentalism”, colonialism, global capitalism and imperialism.  The trickery of the accusation that the work attacks a child and smears the youth-led activism follows the same pattern of lies and deceptions unfolding against serious journalism for some time.  It reflects how establishment successfully dominates our minds as it dominates the hierarchy of money and violence.  The ruling class actually abuses children by making them pawns for lucrative business projects — such as carbon capture and storage, “renewable energy” schemes, carbon trading and so on (the series discusses why they do not work extensively). They trick the innocent youth into digging their own graves while making profits out of it.

Remember people called you racist, when you pointed out President Obama’s drone killings? Remember people called you misogynist when you criticized Secretary Clinton’s colonial policies? Those who did didn’t mind brown people blown into pieces, and didn’t mind the colonial oppression of women in colonized lands.  The capitalist hierarchy structurally forces us to embrace the values, norms and beliefs of the ruling class, as it trains people to climb the social ladder as expected.  The momentum to accuse Morningster’s work as a child abuse stems from the same psychological projection of accusers’ own complicity in consecrating a teenager as an invincible saint of their movement.

Then there is the most typical argument to condone obvious institutional tendencies of inhumanity: “things aren’t always black and white”.  Of course, there are good environmentalists doing good work as well.  We have gone through this in so many incarnations. When we point out police brutality, we hear “not all police officers are bad”. When we point out obvious racism among us:  “not all white people are racist”.  Those are certainly true.  But could we also say “not all slave masters were evil”, “not all Kings and queens were evil”, “not all colonizers were evil” and so on? Well, sure.  But does that mean we can bring back slavery, feudalism or colonialism?  No.

Refusal to talk about the systematic inhumanity inflicted by the system tolerates the status quo as acceptable. And please do stop with “but the movement gives us hope” nonsense.  What happened when we were sold “hope”, “change” and “forward”, and received colonial wars, big bank bailout, global surveillance and loss of legal protections during the Obama presidency?  We got Donald Trump.  When the system squeezes already oppressed people while shuttering their hope and making them embrace fear, people try their best to hold on to whatever they have.  They embrace an illusion of salvation in authoritarian lies and hatred against “others”. It is extremely important that we strive to discuss such a mechanism among us instead of jumping into the same momentum. We must discuss the true hope of building a momentum moving beyond the lies and deceptions coming out of the destructive hierarchy.

Morningstar states in “The Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg—for Consent:  The Political Economy of Non Profit Industrial Complex Volume II Act IV”:

Consider that collectively, the populace appears to believe that not only is it possible to colonize another planet, but that we will do so in the not-so-distant future. This is incredible considering the massive odds of and colossal barriers to such an endeavour succeeding. Thus, it is alarming, that this same populace appears not to believe it is not possible to create new societies where necessity is detached from want (superfluous consumer goods). This begs the question – have we been fully conditioned to believe only those that represent hegemonic interests? It is a sound question considering the billionaires of the world are currently petrified of the capitalist system collapsing – while those oppressed by the capitalist system believe it cannot be dismantled. Yet we can dismantle institutions. We can dismantle the capitalist economic system devouring what remains of the natural world – but not if we identify with our oppressors and the very system that enslaves us. It is our natural world and her living natural communities that sustain us. Not industrial civilization – not technology.

Hopelessness and cynicism do creep up to justify the status quo. But we also must recognize that such a position does away with putting our efforts toward standing with the truly oppressed ones.

Morningstar’s series meticulously documents how powerful global organizations seek ways to cultivate a consensus for their trajectory. And it carefully states, with facts, why the trajectory does not lead to achieving their promises — preventing climate change and other environmental calamities.  The illustrated mechanism has been revealed over and over through their past crimes—the coordinated actions of industries, bankers, politicians, NGOs, UN, global financial institutions and media have culminated into colonial wars, coverups of nuclear disasters, regime change, and other corporate, colonial and imperial policies. There is nothing speculative, coincidental or conspiratorial about the series. It is based on careful research, honesty, courage to face the real issue and true love for humanity. It is again curiously indicative that those who engage in a conspiracy to mobilize the people according to their agendas accuse those who see through the attempt as “conspiracy theorist”. The use of the derogatory term invented by the US intelligence agency to label dissidents as tin-hat wearing nuts jobs hardly proves their legitimacy.

Moreover, I must say that it is extremely odd and disingenuous that the series has been portrayed as a refusal to take any action, instead insisting on ideological purity. Such an attack has been coming out of those who have been pointing out the same moneyed network in forwarding corporatism, colonialism and militarism by manipulating popular opinions.  What is the difference between opposing destructive colonial wars and opposing colonization of nature/co-optation of activism?  More specifically, what prompts some of them to say “what is your solution?”, “we can’t wait for capitalism to be overthrown to solve climate change” and so on.

The obvious falsehood of such an angle is the stark absence of solutions within their own “green momentum”. Morningstar’s research does not talk about the necessity of establishing a communist statehood or overthrowing capitalism in order to solve the impending crisis.  It simply states facts in a cohesive manner. Consequently, it certainly indicates the systematic structural issues presented by the hierarchy of money and violence. The research clearly names individuals and organizations that are involved in mobilizing the population in installing government policies that are lucrative to the associated corporations and beneficial to the imperial framework. Capitalist hegemony does present itself as a source of predicaments of our time.  But is that new to us?

Needless to say, for those of us who believe in the Marxist perspective, the solution amounts to a structural transformation of our society into one that doesn’t monopolize the means of production for the ruling class. The economic activities must be subservient to harmonious existence of the people, environment and other species. And our social interactions must be under a control of such aims, instead of financial and social power of the ruling class. But make no mistake that that is simply an ultimate direction. Just as we voice our objections against any form of inhumanity regardless of our systematic problem, when we see certain environmental policies being subservient to the corporate agenda, likely to result in worsened conditions for the people, we discuss them.

There shouldn’t be anything different about pointing out the US military aggression and the fallacy of US environmental policies, especially when they are forwarded by the same western establishment.  When we find the carbon capture schemes to be disingenuous, for example, we simply point it out.  We demand an answer to why corporate “solutions” are upheld as people’s “solutions”. And people who buy into false narratives should be noted as not credible leaders in people’s movement. So the question “what is your solution?” really should be directed at those who subscribe to those erroneous “solutions.”  They need to be asked how those solutions would be a worthy cause at the first place, and why cogent criticisms against implementations of destructive schemes can not be embraced because “we can’t wait for a socialist revolution”.

What people desperately need today is good investigative reports like the one presented by Cory Morningstar, along with our educational efforts to reveal the mechanisms of our time.  We must learn how the unprecedented wealth accumulation among the very few ends up protected by layers and layers of moneyed social institutions coordinating to perpetuate the system, while progressively oppressive financial pressure and state violence against already oppressed people keep herding people into the capitalist framework. When we face the sad reality of people embracing policies that allow the powerful minorities to exploit and subjugate them over and over, what we need is not a popular mobilization guided by vague slogans easily subsumed by the imperial framework. Such a method would lead to draconian enforcement of corporate “solutions” according to their definition of “problems”. It is a recipe for bringing about a fascist order. What we need is openness and willingness to learn how we are domesticated by the authoritarian framework so that the actions are guided by the interests of the people in forming a society that allows true liberation of the people in a mutually respectful and harmonious manner.

Please do read “The Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg—for Consent: The Political Economy of Non Profit Industrial Complex” Volume I and Volume II. It gives us an excellent starting point in learning how to build a better tomorrow for all of us.

“Down with the Rebels against the Bill of Sale!”

One hundred years ago this fall, on the morning of October 7, 1919, a group of two hundred to three hundred armed Haitian rebels launched an attack on U.S. occupation forces in Port-au-Prince. Wielding “swords, machetes, and pikes,” these cacos (as they were called) entered the city with hopes of national liberation, driven to violence by a brutal, racist U.S. occupation.1 This occupation had subjected Haitians to the hated forced labor system of the corvée, seized control over Haitian finance, and rewritten the Haitian Constitution at gunpoint, enabling foreign companies to acquire land in the country. But though well-armed with grievances, the rebels were outgunned; American troops and their Haitian gendarmerie decimated them with rifles and automatic weapons. Rebel leader Charlemagne Peralte was able to escape (for the moment), but dozens of rebels were slaughtered, their base camp overrun, their one field canon seized.2

By November 1919, Peralte himself would be betrayed and assassinated, his lifeless body strung up and photographed by his killers as so-called proof that resistance was futile. The American occupiers deliberately spread the photo of Peralte’s corpse across Haiti, attempting to demoralize supporters of the uprising. But standing stripped to the waist, strapped to a door with his arms flung wide, the slain Peralte resembled nothing so much as a victim of crucifixion, martyred by the American Rome. The propaganda image boomeranged on its makers, creating an unintended consequence: Charlemagne Peralte became hailed as a national hero.3

As many as three thousand Haitian people would be killed in what has been called the Second Cacos War (1917–20). Yet despite such repression, Haitian resistance to the U.S. occupation would continue for the next decade among students, peasants, and workers alike, until the exit of U.S. troops in 1934. As Haitian-American novelist Edwidge Danticat put it in a 2015 New Yorker article:

During the nineteen years of the U.S. occupation, fifteen thousand Haitians were killed. Any resistance to the centralized, U.S.-installed puppet governments was crushed, and a gendarmerie—a combination of army and police, modelled after an occupation force—was created to replace the Marines after they left. Although U.S. troops officially pulled out of Haiti in 1934, the United States exerted some control over Haiti’s finances until 1947.4

The distorting and oppressive impacts of the U.S. occupation have been felt in Haitian society ever since. As scholars such as Michel-Rolph Trouillot have long shown, the restructuring of the Haitian state during this period—from its financial institutions to its dreaded military police—created an enduring and corrupt governmental entity that answered less to the Haitian people than to local elites and foreign interests.5

The American occupation of Haiti (1915–34) had unintended consequence in the United States itself as well, where it spurred anti-imperialist consciousness and organizing. As Steve Striffler reviews in his critical history, Solidarity: Latin America and the U.S. Left in the Era of Human Rights, resistance in the 1920s was first centered in the African-American and Haitian émigré communities, with figures such as James Weldon Johnson of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) playing a critical role. The focus on U.S. abuses in Haiti encouraged greater internationalism within the existing “Negro” rights movement, while drawing together a broad anti-imperialist tendency that included magazines like the Nation as well as elements of the radical socialist/communist left. “Such efforts,” Striffler writes, “made the occupation increasingly unpopular in the United States by the mid-1920s, and created space for expanded opposition in Haiti,” ultimately making the formal military occupation untenable.6

One lasting legacy of this oppositional movement can be found in the work left behind by politically engaged authors, who, in their creative and critical writings of this period, foreground Haiti and the burning issues its history raises. Across the 1930s, U.S. radical writers looked to Haiti not just to dramatize Black victimization or American brutality, but for insight and inspiration that could empower progressive labor, antiracist and antifascist struggles in the United States and worldwide. As Benjamin Balthaser has shown in his recent book Anti-Imperialist Modernism, left-wing writings from the period of the U.S. occupation of Haiti often emphasized the historical, revolutionary agency of this long-oppressed people.7 Against the grain of dominant North American discourses that routinely depict the Haitian people as helpless victims, unruly mobs, postapocalyptic zombies, exotic-erotic tourist attractions, or raw human material ripe for exploitation, anti-imperialist literary representations of Haiti from the 1930s treat Haitians as potential revolutionary subjects. A now-well-known work such as C. L. R. James’s Black Jacobins (1938) was not alone in its insight, but rather emerged from the crucible of a broader radical movement that sought to put Haiti front and center—both as capitalist profit center and as site of revolutionary ferment.8

Among the all-but forgotten figures in this underappreciated anti-imperialist movement was the writer Guy Endore (1900–70). Turning to study the history of Haiti just as the formal U.S. military occupation was coming to its end in 1933–34, Endore was inspired to create one of the great neglected, anti-imperialist works in twentieth century U.S. literature, his historical novel of slavery and revolution, Babouk—a book that is still in print, thanks to Monthly Review Press. Born in Brooklyn, raised partly in Europe, partly in an Ohio orphanage, fluent in French as well as German from youth, Endore lacked a sense of a stable social position. He would state later that he had “never been able to discover exactly where I fit in…everything sort of cancels out in me. I’m neither European, nor American; neither Jew nor Christian; neither of the country nor the city; neither of this century nor the last; neither rich nor poor; and even in my studies, I was always divided, always torn between the sciences and the arts.”9 By the mid–1930s, Endore was, like many young writers of his generation, turning to the left. He would spend two decades as a committed member of the Communist Party (CPUSA)—finding there a kind of home for his homelessness. However, though his political awakening was shaped by the Great Depression and the rise of fascism, “it was when I studied that Haiti business,” Endore recalled, “that I really began to take a side and began to see that there were exploiters and exploited.”10 In Babouk, “my intention,” he wrote, “was to make the reader feel and smell and taste the crime of slavery, until he abominated it; and not only historical slavery, but all those too-numerous characteristics of it that have survived into our own day.”11

Such comments make clear that while eighteenth century Saint Domingue was Endore’s immediate focus, his aims extended beyond that singular situation. He sought to intervene not only in the historiography around Haiti, but also in contemporary 1930s struggles for social justice. To pursue this split purpose—addressing not just “historical slavery” but its present surviving aspects—Baboukdeploys a self-conscious narrative voice that frequently “interrupts” the action of past events to comment directly to the modern reader, drawing parallels to more contemporary injustices and pointing out the failures of traditional history or literature when it comes to representing such issues. While working closely from primary historical documents—thanks to his fluency in French—Endore crafted a meta-historical form that could simultaneously do justice to the historical reality of Haiti, while also allowing the fires of exploitation and revolution there to illuminate a broader contemporary web of capitalism, racism, and empire. Baboukthus deserves attention today not only as a historical document of the “Hands off Haiti” movement, but also as an exhortation and provocation to revolutionary thought and practice more generally.12

To be sure, this radical book emerged from an unlikely quarter.

Originally, Endore had been commissioned in 1933 by a commercial publisher to write a “Caribbean romance” set against the horrifying “backdrop of tom-toms.” Exoticizing travel narratives of Haitian “voodoo,” after all, had been in vogue since the U.S. occupation13 and Endore was at this time best-known as a horror writer, especially for his New York Times bestseller Werewolf of Paris (1933). But Endore’s research, which included an extended trip to Haiti, led him to produce a very different kind of book, one that not only brings the horrifying “backdrop” of Haiti into the foreground, but inverts the nature of the “horror” we encounter. The horror here is not on the side of “native savagery,” but of so-called civilization. From its first page to its last, Babouk confronts us with the callous strategies and often monstrous technologies of physical and ideological repression that were building blocks of colonization and slavery. Readers turning to Babouk for a glimpse of the “monstrous Other” then are likely to be surprised, for the book compels us to recognize how the true monstrosity afflicting Haiti were the products of capitalist “reason” in the service of profit and empire.

And so, sent to Haiti to write a romantic/horrific page-turner, Endore wrote instead a masterpiece to overthrow masters with, a horror tale in which the three-headed monster is capitalism, racism, and empire, and the heroes are slaves in revolt. His commissioned employer, Century Press, seeking a different kind of horror, refused to publish the book and other major commercial publishers followed suit. Clifton Fadiman, then editor at Simon and Schuster and lead book reviewer for the New Yorker, wrote Endore privately to compliment him, “Babouk is a powerful, moving piece of work,” but he added that “it won’t sell because it’s just too horrible. The reviews would warn people away from it. We would be afraid to handle it.”14

Fadiman was not far off in his commercial estimates—though considering his position of influence, his lament was something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Brought out by the small radical press Vanguard, Endore soon found his novel denounced by the New York Times as an attempt to inspire a “race riot,” and criticized in the New Republic by reviewer Martha Gruening, who charged Endore with producing not a novel at all, but a mere “calendar of horrors.”15

Make no mistake: there is certainly plenty in Babouk that could be seen as “horrible,” beginning with the history itself—enslavement, resistance, and ruling-class repression. Moreover, the writing in the text often retains an element of the sensationalist horror style that put Endore on the map. The very first page of the book contains a detailed discussion of the “work” done by a “genius,” a so-called “nigger taster” whose trained tongue helps tell which of the enslaved are healthy enough to be purchased, and which not. (The slave traders after all, are interested in cheating one another as well, hiding the illness of their captives with perfumes and make-up and even fake teeth.) Later chapters detail grotesque diseases and conditions aboard the slave ship, the torture techniques used to punish rebel slaves, and even the brutal pike-impaling of a white infant at the height of the slave rebellion. The book at times seems to sarcastically revel in revealing the historical monstrosities that enslavers and colonizers devise to manage and rationalize their vicious regime. Endore’s wager seems to have been that his talent for the graphic and gothic could be leveraged to bring a broader popular readership to confront uncomfortable social and historical truths. He had clear political motivations for Babouk to be sure, but, as he put it, he also “wrote the book to sell.”16 In 1934, somehow, it had not seemed impossible for a book to be both an anticapitalist horror and a commercial hit. After all, hadn’t his 1933 horror novel Werewolf of Paris topped the charts, despite (or perhaps because of) its class-conscious account of the Paris Commune?17

But it would be a mistake to write off Endore’s vivid depictions of violence as mere sensationalism, or as a left-wing replication of the “exotic discourses” that predominated in U.S. depictions of Haiti at the time.18 Similarly, it would be a mistake to see Endore’s representation of the repressive effects of imperialism and slavery as a gratuitous objectification of black bodies, aimed at stirring the sentimental emotions of (predominantly white) readers. Rather, Endore’s goal in so vividly depicting historical horror is to bring to consciousness the ways that the most seemingly extreme and “monstrous” acts of the slave system—for instance, the public burning of slave rebels, the clipping of ears from runaways, elaborate regime of torture, and so on—were in fact “logical” and “rational” outgrowths of the capitalistic logic of profit-maximization and social control. At the same time, Endore draws out the ways that such extreme measures of repression testify to the pervasive resistance of the enslaved.

As an exploration of history, Babouk remains remarkable for the way it explores the dialectic of oppression and resistance, foregrounding how contradictions among the ruling classes themselves (such as the contradiction between maximizing short-term profit and sustaining long-term social control, or the contradiction between different blocs of rival property owners), open up space for resistance from below. Even such a totalitarian system as racialized chattel slavery had its cracks and weak links. At the same time, Endore zooms in on slave resistance in its own right, emphasizing the importance of cultural practices—and in particular practices of collective story-telling—as a crucial site of mass resistance and revolutionary preparation. Through the story-telling gifts of his titular character Babouk, Endore suggests the ways in which the verbal arts can be used strategically, raising the consciousness and sustaining the spirit of the oppressed, while puncturing the myths of racial or class superiority that seek to naturalize ruling power. Thus, at the same time as it confronts us with the stark limits of traditional Western historiography, Babouk—as imaginative fiction—explores the importance of creative culture for preparing the path to revolution. Babouk himself might be read as a figure for the radical artist that Endore may have aspired to become, working with complex inherited cultural materials—African trickster stories and European Bible tales alike—to forge unity among the oppressed and to clarify the need for a general revolt.

Thus, while Endore constantly exposes the “background” apparatus of exploitation, the main story of Babouk reimagines the leadup to the Haitian Revolution, through the coming-of-age story of an eponymous protagonist based loosely on the historical figure of Boukman Dutty. Remembered as a crucial catalyst of the early uprisings of 1791, known for his key role at the ceremony of Bois Caiman, Boukman’s early death left subsequent leadership to other, now better-known figures, such as Toussaint L’Ouverture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines. It also left Boukman himself something of a historical mystery, creating room for much subsequent historical debate, while providing Endore with the space for reimagining the unrecorded pre-history of the revolution.19

Endore presents Babouk as a field slave, emphasizing his talents as an unconventional, yet popular story teller. In stark contrast to those nationalist writers of the 1920s and ’30s who sought to champion Haiti in the face of imperialist degradation by celebrating its long line of strong black military men, from Toussaint and Dessalines to Henry Christophe, Endore chose instead to foreground a lowly field worker, whose only power among the Haitian masses comes through his well-chosen words. Though Toussaint and Dessalines are never mentioned by name in the book, Endore implies a sharp distinction between Babouk and those leaders who were “as astute as the whites” and would come to dominate the Haitian state after the revolution. Emphasizing the “gold bedizened uniforms” of leaders who seek to imitate their former masters, Endore reminds us that some of these figures were all too eager to compromise with colonial powers, some even proposing the reintroduction of slavery. “Babouk,” Endore writes, “had nothing to do with these.”20

Babouk thus attempts a tense balance: conjuring the emancipatory spirit of slave insurrection and emphasizing the revolutionary importance of storytelling, but without romanticizing the contradictory aftermath of a revolution that—despite its historic achievements—would leave in place new forms of egregious exploitation and inequality. Recalling Peralte’s attack on Port-au-Prince, Endore chooses to focus Babouk’s climax not on a heroic moment of victory, but on an insurgent attack that fails…but that (like this historical uprising led by Boukman in 1791) helps usher in a broader mass upsurge. As we finish Endore’s novel, we are still in 1791, the Haitian Revolution represented not as monumental accomplishment of the past, but as an insurgent necessity of the present. He leaves us looking at the burning sugar cane fields beyond the walls of the city; the horizon of emancipation remains a future to be fought for.

In this way, Endore distinguishes his narrative from accounts that portray the human aspirations of the Haitian Revolution as fulfilled with the achievement of national independence alone, as if the formal rejection of foreign rule had thereby ended economic exploitation and extreme social inequality in the formal colony.

In his critical report from Haiti in 1934, “Haiti and U.S.A. Occupation,” published concurrently with Babouk, Endore specifically targets the ruse of nationalism as a main danger to the cause of liberation. In this (nonfiction) piece, published in the antifascist magazine Fight, Endore offers a sharp class critique of Haitian nationalism (and the U.S. liberalism that embraces it), taking aim at the notion that rule by the local elite represents genuine progress as far as the working Haitian masses are concerned. This local elite is a class of exploiters, he underscores, just as much as U.S. financiers and occupiers, notwithstanding their claims to the contrary.

At the same time, Endore’s essay makes an effort to understand why well-intentioned liberal or African-American intellectual observers feel the impulse to rally to a nationalist defense of Haiti, as “the last refuge” of “Negro pride” in a world dominated by European colonialism. But to identify Haitian elite rule with a refuge from racism or class domination would be, Endore argues, not only “erroneous” but “vicious.” “A Negro bourgeoisie can and has in some places replaced a white bourgeoisie with no improvement in the lot of the majority,” as he points out. “Such are the fruits of Haitian nationalism acquired so painfully at the price of the lives of a hundred thousand Negroes.”21

Nor is Endore’s problem only with the particular nationalism of the Haitian elite. Rather, he generalizes the point, arguing that “national prejudice is only a different form of the class system by which the ruling class is assured of always having someone to remove its garbage or do its unskilled factory work, someone whom the ruling class will despise and keep in his ‘place.’” Whether in the United States or elsewhere, Endore writes, race prejudice is “fostered by capitalism to disrupt the strength of the proletariat by preventing the oppressed white worker from acting in concert with the Negroes.” (We can hypothesize that Babouk was aimed in part at helping those oppressed white workers to see why they should act in concert with their black brethren and reject the racist bait of their own ruling class.)

Endore closes his Fight article by asking readers to “strip the bright paint of patriotic idealism off the Haitian upper classes and reveal what is beneath,” while at the same time forging a Hands off Haiti movement that sides not with the “gros negre kulaks,” (that is, the wealthy Haitian landowners), but with the “cacos spirit” for the “realization of full social justice.” Clearly, Peralte’s Cacos insurgency of 1919 was not far from Endore’s mind as he attempted to articulate a class-conscious anti-imperialism.

While Endore abstains from commenting directly on the U.S. occupation in Baboukitself, there can be no doubt that what he learned from Haitians themselves had a major effect on his novel. For instance, during his trip to Haiti, Endore learned of how the U.S. military occupation facilitated massive land theft, turning literacy itself into a weapon against the Haitian masses. It was “easy” to steal local peasants’ land, Endore recalled:

You just go up to a man and you say, “Who owns this land?” He’ll say, “I do.” Then you go to the land records office and you record your name for that land, and then you go to him and you say, “I’ve got a record for this land. I own it. Where’s your record? Let’s see which one is the real one.” Of course, he hasn’t got a record.… If the man refused to leave [the land] the American would threaten him with a gun, and if he was halfway decent, he’d give him a job. So, in this way, a number of plantations were built up.22

Acutely conscious of the power of written “records” backed by guns, it is surely no coincidence that, near the climax of Babouk, as the Haitian masses set fire to the sugar fields outside the capital, Endore champions the insurgents, not merely as race rebels or as black workers, but as “rebels against the bill of sale.” Employing his ironic narrator to ventriloquize a self-righteous ruling class, he sarcastically declares:

Here is our bill of sale! Flag of the unmapped land that covers the earth!

Revolt against that if you dare and you will be broken on the wheel!…

Millionaires! you true internationalists who regiment your workers into countries, hoist aloft your flag: the bill of sale!

You wretches out in the burning plain before Le Cap, where is your bill of sale? What! Have you [slaves] taken your liberty and you have no bill of sale?

Then beat the general alarm!… Down with the rebels against the bill of sale!23

Reframing the historic slave revolt this way, Endore distills from the rebellion of 1791 a universal meaning that can resonate with readers in other places and times, beyond the immediate context of the fight to end chattel slavery or colonialism. To be sure, as is now widely known, generations of Haitians have been burdened with a massive and odious “bill of sale” forced on them by French gunboats and U.S. banks after 1804, as penance for its costly “theft” of property in flesh, (a debt the equivalent of $21 billion today).24  But Endore’s “bill of sale” frame resonates even more broadly, allowing us to see a kinship to other struggles as well, wherever the militant movement of the people come up against the sacred “property rights” of their would-be masters—whether that be in the form of an eviction blockade, a workplace occupation, or the expropriation of the expropriators of Marxist prophecy.

In such a way, Endore implies that the mass of humanity—across the illusory lines of race and nation—is still in a sense enslaved to the domination of “the bill of sale.” At the same time, he suggests that the kinds of brutal repression brought down on eighteenth century Haitian rebel slaves may lie in wait for all those who are serious about depriving the ruling class of their most precious property. Babouk thus asks readers to see in the revolt of Haitian slaves the vanguard of a more general and global revolution, while confronting us all with the sobering fact that, if the goal is revolution, grievances alone will not be enough.

The second to last chapter of the novel ends with a description of how Babouk’s body is decapitated, dismembered, and publicly displayed—not unlike Peralte’s own—as a warning to those who would challenge the masters’ power.But like the photo of the martyred Peralte, the displaying of Babouk’s corpse does more to incite rebellion than to quell it. In this way, Endore pays closing honor to the cacos martyrs whose brave attack on imperialist occupation—however ill-fated—nonetheless helped raise the consciousness of people who came after them, including North American writers such as himself. Perhaps Endore wagered that, like the death photos of Peralte, the depicted brutalities of his own book would help inspire new waves of revolt.

*****

Coming off Babouk, in 1935, Endore seemed to be full of the sense of radical possibility, publishing a vision for what he called a “new school of Marxian historical fiction,” whose principal aim would be “the revelation of the hidden but unending class struggle of the ages.” His enthusiasm for the work to be done is palpable as he lists what might have been his next series of books: “Gracchus [Babeuf], Spartacus, the Crusades, the Peasant Wars, colonial expansion—history is replete with magnificent untouched material that the old novelist bent on portraying love triumphant, picturesque adventures or some trivial plot, could not use.”25

But, sadly, Endore would not complete—indeed, would hardly even begin—the avowedly revolutionary literary project he outlined. Quickly, he fell from this vista of enthusiasm; Babouk sold only a few hundred copies, met mixed reviews, and soon went out of print. Even sympathetic comrades failed to grasp the richness of his radical work. African-American Marxist literary critic Eugene Gordon praised the book in The New Masses as the “best of its kind” and yet, notwithstanding Endore’s comments to the contrary, criticized Babouk as “too nationalistic,” suggesting that it implied a modern world driven by racial resentments, rather than the systemic forces of capitalism.26

Having his forgotten masterpiece fail to connect was a profoundly deflating experience. By 1941, while still publicly identifying as a communist, Endore wrote not to herald a new revolutionary genre, but to lament a radical conundrum:

The writer’s task is to amuse, to interpret, to exhort. It is my aim to do all three together, whenever possible.… The predicament of the writer is that the average person wishes to be amused and not instructed in his short leisure; he does not wish to be made aware of his misfortunes; he wants something to help him forget; while the upper classes threaten to tear the social structure down with them, if, by interpretation or exhortation, their privileges are attacked.27

Still later, Endore lamented: “I wrote [Babouk] to sell, but I misjudged the people, I misjudged the time, everything. So, I turned away from that kind of writing and worked on motion pictures.” (Soon after he would be blacklisted from Hollywood for his communist political affiliations.) Chastened by Babouk’s failure, Endore would later refer to himself as a “hack writer” who wrote only “for money to support myself and my family, and that’s it.” It is important to underscore that Endore would remain active for decades, as a writer of Hollywood screenplays and popular novels, and as a communist activist, authoring pamphlets against racism and teaching writing in CPUSA-run schools near Los Angeles. But the revolutionary fusion of literary and political intervention that Babouk represented was no longer on his agenda. Yet decades later Endore would still refer to Babouk as his “forgotten masterpiece.”16

But though it failed commercially in Endore’s own time, Babouk deserves renewed consideration in ours, from those interested in reimaginings of slavery and the Haitian Revolution, and more broadly. For by closely studying the particular history of Haiti, Endore presents us with broader insights about the ongoing class struggles that continue to drive world history, while offering a radical critique of the ways that inherited literature and dominant history tend to hide those struggles from view. At the same time, Endore points us towards the need for a different kind of historical imagining—and a different kind of story-telling—that might become a weapon in the revolutionary struggle. At one point, Endore apostrophizes his own main character, confronting the paradox of recovering voices of resistance that all too often have been lost to written history:

Babouk, we have gone beyond your century. Your voice is lost in the past. Your wavering voice is lost in the steaming field of Saint-Domingue. It is lost both in time and space. And yet it cannot be lost altogether, Babouk. It cannot die in a void. Oh, no. All the wavering voices of the complaining Negro, be they of the dead or of the living, of Africa or America, yet they will someday be woven into a great net and they will pull that deaf master out of his flowery garden and down into the muddy stinking field.28

If studying Haitian history helped inspire Endore to take the side of the exploited and oppressed, Babouk weaves together stories of struggle, arming readers for the battle to come. Whatever we ultimately make of the literary weapon he forged, Endore’s own story reminds us that, by confronting the horror and hope of history, it is possible for people (even from ostensibly privileged groups) to transform themselves and their work in solidarity with the oppressed.

And let us not forget, even in Endore’s own time, there were readers who were ready for Babouk. The glowing 1935 review for The Crisis, the journal of the NAACP, makes that very clear. “Here is a book that should be in the bookcase of every Negro family” as they wrote:

Devastating is the only word that describes adequately the irony running from its first page to the last. Speaking through Babouk and seeing through the slaves’ eyes, the author punctures all the cruelty, greed, pomp, and vainglory of whites with deadly rapier thrusts. There is scarcely a topic in this whole race problem which the author does not permit Babouk to address.… Babouk should be in your library.29

Thankfully today, Monthly Review Press continues to keep Babouk’s voice alive into the twenty-first century. In a world more than ever dominated by “the bill of sale,” and still shaped by the legacies of slavery, Endore’s “forgotten masterpiece” deserves a place on the radical bookshelf.

  1. Benjamin R. Beede, The War of 1898 and U.S. Interventions, 1898–1934: An Encyclopedia (New York: Routledge, 1994), 435.
  2. Ivan Musicant, The Banana Wars: A History of United States Military Intervention in Latin America from the Spanish-American War to the Invasion of Panama (New York: Macmillan, 1990), 215.
  3. The image of Peralte’s slain body can be found in “An Iconic Image of Haitian Liberty,” New Yorker, July 28, 2015.
  4. Edwidge Danticat, “The Long Legacy of Occupation in Haiti,” The New Yorker, July 28, 2015.
  5. Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Haiti,State Against Nation: The Origin and Legacies of Duvalierism (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1990).
  6. Steve Striffler, Solidarity: Latin American and the U.S. Left in the Era of Human Rights (London: Pluto, 2019), 62.
  7. Benjamin Balthaser, Anti-Imperialist Modernism: Race and Transnational Radical Culture from the Great Depression to the Cold War (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2015).
  8. See Mary A. Renda, Taking Haiti: Military Occupation and the Culture of U.S. Imperialism, 1915–1940 (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2004). Also see Paul Farmer , The Uses of Haiti (Monroe, ME: Common Courage, 1994).
  9. Reflections of Guy Endore: Oral History (Guy Endore Papers, University of California, Los Angeles, Special Collections Library, 1964).
  10. Reflections of Guy Endore, 133–34.
  11. New Republic, November 28, 1934, 283. For biographical and literary overviews of Guy Endore, see Alan Wald, “The Subaltern Speaks,” Monthly Review 43, no. 11 (April 1992); Robert Niemi, “Guy Endore,” in American Writers, vol. XVII, ed. Jay Parini. (Farmington Hills, MI: Gale, 2008); Joseph G. Ramsey, “Guy Endore and the Ironies of Political Repression,” Minnesota Review 70 (2008): 141–51.
  12. Guy Endore, Babouk (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1991).
  13. See Renda, Taking Haiti.
  14. Clifton Fadiman, letter to Guy Endore, March 31, 1934 (Guy Endore Papers, University of California, Los Angeles).
  15. New Republic, October 17, 1934, 283.
  16. Reflections of Guy Endore.
  17. For a timely discussion of Werewolf of Paris, see Carl Grey Martin, “Guy Endore’s Dialectical Werewolf,” Le Monde Diplomatique, English ed., September 15, 2014.

  18. See, for instance, Mary Renda’s brief and rather dismissive discussion of Babouk in Taking Haiti.
  19. See Carolyn E. Fick, Making Haiti: The Saint Domingue Revolution from Below(Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Press, 1990).
  20. Endore, Babouk, 168–69.
  21. Guy Endore, “Haiti and the USA Occupation,” Fight, January 1934, 13.
  22. Reflections of Guy Endore, 81.
  23. Endore, Babouk, 181.
  24. See for instance, Jérôme Duval, “Haiti: From Slavery to Debt,” Counterpunch, November 10, 2017.
  25. Guy Endore, “Review of Black Consul,” New Republic, 1935.
  26. Eugene Gordon, “Black and White Unite and Fight,” New Masses, October 1934, 24–25. Gordon’s concerns about Babouk have been echoed by later Marxist critics such as Barbara Foley, in her important study Radical Representations: Politics and Form in U.S. Proletarian Fiction, 1929–1940(Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1993).
  27. Guy Endore. About the Author to Werewolf of Paris (New York: Pocketbooks, 1941), 324–25.
  28. Endore, Babouk. 97.
  29. R. W., “BABOUK, by Guy Endore, 297 pp.…,” The Crisis 41, no. 12(December 1934).

The Reality Brokers (or the rise of the Automagicians)

In the case of both Big Tech and governmental surveillance agencies, undergirding a commitment to the inevitable and imminent time after-Earth is the appeal of science fiction aesthetics, concepts and projects, all aimed toward the new goal of having new places and opportunities to conquer, colonize and dominate post-Earth.
— Sarah T. Roberts, b-20, August 2019

We live in a society where capital is highly concentrated, with most commodity production carried out by companies whose fates are largely shaped by financial investors. The commodities they produce, whether material or immaterial, are made available to us in a global marketplace, delivered through complex value chains in whose operation our own unpaid labor as consumers is increasingly implicated. Information and communications technologies have so affected the spatial and temporal division of labor that for many of us the boundaries between “work and private life are inextricably muddled and few relationships are unmediated by them.
— Ursula Huws, Labor in the Global Digital Economy, December 5, 2014

It’s popular to refer to digital platforms as town squares, but the shopping mall is a more apt metaphor: they are built to approximate the participatory feel of an open market, while their corridors are ruthlessly designed for the purposes of encouraging consumption and maximizing profit. Depression, anxiety, hate-mongering, fear, and conspiratorial untruths are all acceptable outcomes so long as they are expressed, consciously or otherwise, in the service of growth.
— Evan Malmgren, The Baffler, 2018

Your whole life will be searchable.
— Larry Page (quoted in Douglas Edwards’ I’m Feeling Lucky), 2011

At its core, surveillance capitalism is parasitic and self-referential. It revives Karl Marx’s old image of capitalism as a vampire that feeds on labor, but with an unexpected turn. Instead of labor, surveillance capitalism feeds on every aspect of every human’s experience.
— Shoshana Zuboff, Surveillance Capitalism, January 15, 2019

The endless public appetite for apocalyptic film and TV is tied into the fantasies of reconstruction. Even the various zombie franchises are really just reconstruction stories (albeit with a huge real estate porn appeal). I want to quote Sarah T. Roberts article again, because she covers several factors that seem increasingly embedded in contemporary thinking.

In the billionaire kingmaker class, Musk is not alone in his post-Earth predilection. Indeed, he is one of several of his echelon looking cynically to science fiction and the après-apocalypse, fantasizing about outlandish ways to spend–and make–profits via projects that deepen long-standing commitments to Western supremacy and colonization, albeit with a futuristic bent. At the 2016 Republican National Convention that heralded the political ascendency of Donald Trump, PayPal billionaire and Gawker/journalism foe Peter Thiel (Thompson 2018) hailed the conquest of Mars as a worthier endeavor than wars in the Middle East. In doing so, Thiel inadvertently showed his ideological hand by invoking both as equivalent games of conquest (Daily Beast 2016). Other projects in this vein include Biosphere 2 (once the province of former Trump advisor and professional propagandist Steve Bannon), HI-SEAS, Apple’s new “Spaceship” headquarters, and the NSA’s Star Trek-inspired control room, all of which posit various offworld-oriented technological solutions to a dying future. It is a future in which capitalism has already played out the dissolution of democracy and social equalities, favoring a libertarian fend-for-yourself approach for those who remain– and those who remain, according to these projects, are overwhelmingly White, wealthy able-bodied people of the Global North.
— Sarah T. Roberts (Ibid.)

Roberts also touches on Apple’s new *campus*, which is shaped like a flying saucer and seems designed mostly to keep undesirables out as much as employees in.

Roberts again…

The spaceship aesthetic and panoptic/open floor work spaces reinstate order and hierarchy through structural and embedded surveillance while suggesting freedom of movement and action. Ample amenities are designed to keep workers on-site and productive, ideally for longer than an eight-hour workday, recalling the company towns of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. Not to be outdone, both Google and Facebook have announced employee housing near their expansive campuses (Stangel 2017), in partial response to extraordinary housing costs in Silicon Valley (created by the demand from their own workers).

There is also the new NSA control room, which merges sci-fi aesthetics with Benthamesque practicality and Biosphere 2 which borrows directly from science fiction. This is a long sort of introduction to what I see as an increasing anger and frustration in western white populations that is born of the unshakable sense that white modernity is coming to an end. There is an increasing global awareness that U.S. (and EU..but the EU is hugely divided in this respect) hegemony is unravelling. The global ruling class share the same goals but have mostly allowed or been served by U.S. leadership in terms of international financial institutions and the U.N. and just by U.S. military dominance. But today there are growing areas of the planet that are openly rejecting the white supremacist capitalism/imperialism of the U.S. (and its proxies, Saudi Arabia and Israel primarily. Yes I know there are huge contradictions in that, but I will get to those). The effects of Hollywood in all this are almost incalculable. The future is built with Hollywood image and narrative, and increasingly so is the present. Narrative thinking today is tied in with Hollywood screenwriting in a near total manner.

And the effects of the internet, social media, and in general screen addictions and indoctrination have yet to be fully calculated. And this segues into the realities of content moderation. And, again, a crash course on this is to listen to a lecture of Roberts here or watch here.

And remember, too, what Andre Damon at WSWS wrote in 2018:

Social media is monopolized by a few gigantic corporations. And that concentration of control is going to obviously be exploited for more profit.

…let’s start with a shocking fact: bad behavior happens on the internet. It occurs in real life, too, of course. But there is a special quality to the depravity exhibited on social media that is particular to that domain. On the one hand, it is unthinking, and in the case of Twitter, this goes along with the character limit. But it also demonstrates a psychopathic character contradiction: an obsession with self-perception by others in combination with a disturbing lack of empathy toward many of those same others from whom one is seeking, implicitly or explicitly, validation. For many researchers, this behavior is not merely expressed on but actively shaped by social media. In a meta-analysis of seventy-two studies, the psychologist Sara Konrath and her research team found that empathy levels among college students are 40 percent lower today than they were twenty years ago — a development they attribute to, amongst other things, the “rising prominence” of “media use in everyday life”: “With so much time spent interacting with others online rather than in reality, interpersonal dynamics such as empathy might certainly be altered.
— Benjamin Y. Fong, Jacobin, 2018

There is a correlate here, found in that same Sarah Konrath study:

One especially relevant program of research finds increasing levels of narcissism in American college students from the mid-1980s until late into the first decade of the new millennium, using similar cross-temporal methods as in the current study (Twenge et al., 2008; Twenge & Foster, 2008,2010).Dispositional narcissists have inflated self-views, especially on agentic traits such as power and intelligence (e.g., Campbell, Rudich, & Sedikides, 2002). Although narcissists are extraverted, they think of others primarily in terms of their utility rather than as interdependent relationship partners (Campbell, 1999). When narcissists’ egos are threatened by rejection or an insult, they tend to aggress against the source of the threat (e.g., Bushman & Baumeister, 1998; Konrath, Bushman, & Campbell, 2006).
— Sarah Konrath, et.al., Changes in Dispositional Empathy in American College Students Over Time: A Meta Analysis, Personality and Social Psychology Review 2011

Whether it’s Twitter or Snapchat or whatever, the overriding quality associated with each platform is limited space for expression and impermanence. Snapchat is designed to literally disappear before your eyes. Twitter is particularly pathological in that it is all but impossible to have discussions, or debates there, but excels at individual declarations of fact — the users own sense of ‘fact’, that is. It has been noted by several studies about social media that those who engage in prolonged use tend to increasingly feel real life face to face interaction as persecutory. My own experience of Twitter and Facebook is that it directly breeds paranoia. And for dissident or radical left voices that paranoia is already well established, usually. It’s hard to be a socialist in America and not feel paranoia.

The first configuration is what I came to call the Vampires’ Castle. The Vampires’ Castle specialises in propagating guilt. It is driven by a priest’s desire to excommunicate and condemn, an academic-pedant’s desire to be the first to be seen to spot a mistake, and a hipster’s desire to be one of the in-crowd.
— Mark Fisher, Vampire’s Castle, 2013

Now Fisher is a contested figure, and with good reason (for all this insight he remained a strangely reactionary voice, and that contradiction may have been impossible for him to live with). But what he describes in Vampire’s Castle is very much to the point here. And one of the tactics of social media attacks is to stigmatize in isolation (a sort of form of essentialism). And this is akin to the bullying that high school students suffer from, too, a bullying that has led to spikes in suicide and self harm. It is ridicule that borders on arbitrary. One is tried and convicted on social media for crimes of the past, often, and, of course, often for crimes that never took place, and often for non-crimes. Mischaracterizing one’s opponent is the classic technique of the fascist right, but today it is cropping up more and more often on the left. But the new essentialism is also perilously close to conspiracy theory at its very worst. I know people, very smart people, in fact, who literally believe that entire outlets or groups or institutions — having hundreds of members — are in the grip of secret cabals of fascists. A thought mechanism that mirrors classic antisemitism. And speaking of antisemitism, the rising and continuing anti-semitism on the left is meeting with less and less resistance from the left who feel encouraged to conflate zionism and Jewishness.

Now the new aesthetics of the new doomsday scenarioists of online polemics, and in real life (the doomsayers who are billionaires) are the aesthetics of 1970s science fiction, if not 1950s science fiction. It is remarkable how durable the style and codes are of stuff like The Day the Earth Stood StillRed Planet Mars, or the original War of the Worlds. And more, 70s films like Andromeda Strain or Dark Star. Even very good and rather un-Hollywood films such as Man Who Fell to Earth have shaped the current sense of what the future means, and more, what apocalypse looks like. Just look at the art/design layouts and images used in stories about global warming or the fear mongering of the overpopulationers. Tell me it’s not nearly always from science fiction and/or is not racist. That a global environmental crisis is being packaged by media as if it were an early John Carpenter film should cause concern.

So three things I sense are related here. One is the damage of screen addictions, and, perhaps more specifically, social media. And the manner of expression that is wed to the alarmist’s sense of environmental crises. To deal with the real and material crisis would require a capacity to think in ways that social media and screen habituation have discouraged if not erased. The psychological affect of decades (now) of internet coercions and indoctrination — overt and incidental — and the very damages of just over-exposure to the technology itself are huge and perhaps nearly irreversible. Internet societies are more rigidly hierarchical than society itself. It is just masked better. The second issue is the issues of synthesizing time, narration, and loss of literacy. And the third is the dying death throws of global capital and its desire to perpetuate itself even if it means mass death, and the fantasies of this capitalist ruling class, expressed in regressive tropes of kitsch science fiction and space colonialism.

There is also a strange inversion, one that is nearly dialectical, actually. On the one hand the so called advanced West, the hyper capitalist neo-liberal West and its major telecom and digital corporations, are at work 24/7 in surveillance and data gathering. And both of these activities are usually illegal. Those same mega corporations (with intimate ties to western governments) are in the business of *hiding* the production processes that build those smart phones and lap tops on which, and with which, the bourgeoisie of the west amuse themselves. The devices that these corporations spy on and steal from — these devices are not the product of immaculate technological conception. The mythology of the information age has, as one huge factor, maybe THE hugest factor, the presumption that all of this digital technology was just divinely created and fell to earth. The invisibility of the draconian assembly lines and factories of the global south that produce and assemble these mythic devices is both an intentional practice and one those firms know is deceitful. They hide it because it would be offensive to the consumers of these products. A consumer base increasingly exhibiting a green awareness (sic). Not to mention the even more draconian waste sites where disposal of these devices take place, in countries such as Philippines, Bangladesh, Ghana, and Indonesia.

This does not even touch on the mining and earth extraction of rare earth minerals such as coltan (from which niobium and tantalum are taken), yttrium, lanthanum, and terbium.

According to the Minerals Education Coalition, a baby born in the US today will use up 539 lbs of zinc, 903 lbs of lead and 985 lbs of copper during his or her lifetime, not just in phones but in other gadgets and appliances too. In terms of environmental drain from every smartphone that’s made, you can add the oil used to produce plastics, the sand used to produce glass, and so on. ( ) Of the 83 stable and non-radioactive elements in the periodic table, at least 70 can be found in smartphones. According to the best available figures, a total of 62 different types of metals go into the average mobile handset, with what are known as the rare Earth metals playing a particularly important role. Of the 17 rare Earth metals, 16 are included in phones.
— David Nield, Tech Radar, 2015

My sense is that most Americans could be convinced to give up nearly everything to ensure a livable safe future…everything except their screen gadgets.

Larry Page of Google has used (and coined) the word *automagical*. It’s the perfect word for contemporary thought. The west thinks automagically. But that sounds benign, and nothing about the trends in contemporary behavior or thinking is benign. Zuboff quotes John Searle about the nature of *declarations*. Searle wrote:“A declaration is a particular way of speaking and acting that establishes facts out of thin air, creating a new reality where there was nothing.” This is highly relevant to the social media user. This is, in fact, that on which Twitter is based. It is the speech of Kings and overlords, of pharaohs. It is also how cops talk to suspects (i.e., everyone not a cop). Most importantly it is the speech of institutions. It assumes authority.

Zuboff also notes that this sort of authoritarian speech and grammar is the province of Google, and of Google’s unprecedented power. That said, it is power of a unique and perhaps unprecedented kind. For if conquistadors issued declarations that indigenous peoples were to be vassals…WERE already so…the threats behind such declarations were made clear. Google doesn’t have to do that. No giant information and telecom giant has to do that. The threat is assumed. The threat is implanted.

Google’s stores of behavioral surplus now embrace everything in the online milieu: searches, e-mails, texts, photos, songs, messages, videos, locations, communication patterns, attitudes, preferences, interests, faces, emotions, illnesses, social networks, purchases, and so on. A new continent of behavioral surplus is spun each moment from the many virtual threads of our everyday lives as they collide with Google, Facebook, and, more generally, every aspect of the internet’s computer-mediated architecture. Indeed, under the direction of surveillance capitalism the global reach of computer mediation is repurposed as an extraction architecture.
— Shoshana Zuboff, Surveillance Capitalism

Everything one does is turned into code. And that code is returned to the user (as Zubhoff writes) through the filter of *intelligent algorithms*. And if that sounds like *smart bombs*, it’s because it is, and that is, to put it mildly, disquieting. Anytime intelligent or smart are used in titles or branding, the opposite is usually true. Much as the use of *freedom* in any NGO title signals State Department front group. But the issue that runs alongside the literal monitoring of everything one does is the now third generation effects of the information age on the young. The bullying of social media is only one symptom. Mental illness is now almost expected of teenagers. In the U.S. and U.K., in particular, the anxiety, paranoia, and feelings of hopelessness are endemic. And, of course, this cannot be treated by the institutions that have caused it. At best the establishment simply finds new warehousing drugs to give them. The burden to conform is enormous for teenagers and made worse by the pathologies of social media and internet habituation.

Deleuze and Guattari saw schizophrenia as the presentation of capitalist illness as it approached the 1980s, and later Christian Marazzi suggested bi-polar disorder as the new inner logic of financialized capitalism. Then today the post post modern new feudalism presents as autism, a condition first brought to awareness by a Nazi doctor. If teenagers today suffer debilitating anxiety, and a generalized fear of ‘doing’ anything lest it appear in Snapchat later in the afternoon, the result is an increasing cognitive paralysis. One teacher I know said several different high school students have confessed their inability to act or speak, answering questions etc, that even that inability and low grades is better than internet shaming and stigmatizing. Older twenty somethings, out of school and usually unemployed, wander their American neighborhoods in what amount to semi conscious trance states. Another teacher, in suburban LA, said his small college has decided to let student homeless sleep in their cars at one end of the school parking lot. After the school board passed this measure they were startled to learn that over 20% of the student body were, in fact, living out of their cars and sleeping in the school lot.

The western economies, and this is certainly true of the U.S., are propped up by militarism, stock market manipulation, and the ongoing theft of public funds and social services.

Cutting across this are the pathologies and social violence of social media.

Social media is designed for comparisons and coupled to the narrowed limits for written expression, the function of image becomes disproportionately important. But the interpretation of image is equally or more important. The idea of popularity is implanted in the system by the owners and operators of that system. The capture of eyeballs is also the capture of consensus. This is particularly true for the young.

The empty debate on the spectacle – that is, on the activities of the world’s owners – is thus organised by the spectacle itself: everything is said about the exten­sive means at its disposal, to ensure that nothing is said about their extensive deployment. Rather than talk of the spectacle, people often prefer to use the term ‘media’. And by this they mean to describe a mere instrument, a kind of public service which with impartial ‘professionalism’ would facilitate the new wealth of mass communication through mass media – a form of communication which has at last attained a unilateral purity, whereby decisions already taken are presented for passive admiration. For what is commu­nicated are orders; and with perfect harmony, those who give them are also those who tell us what they think of them.
— Guy Debord, Comments on the Society of the Spectacle, 1967

Orders, declarations. The desire to punish, the desire to be right. The isolation and atomization of social media users contributes to this sense of priesthood and specialness — by which I mean that when one writes, for publication or just as a diarist, the activity is hugely different than writing for social media. The isolation and contemplation of the writer at his keyboard becomes a manic anxious isolation, a cruel imposed isolation that sits in stark contrast to contemplative creation. The rapidity and constant reinforcements that are built into social media are there to keep the attention of the user, for such attention is money, is profit.

What is interesting is how so much of the opinion expressed by the left today is expressed in terms of masculine power or just a replication of militarism’s scorched earth policies. Carpet bombing — from what is now North Korea, terror bombing Belgrade, shock and awe, or bunker busters in Tora Bora, or the war crimes of Fallujah, the endless atrocities inflicted on the global south — the war zone sensibility of racist domestic police forces in the U.S., this is all mirrored and reproduced on social media. Social media has become a laboratory for aggression. But in tiny ever shrinking platforms. Carpet bombing in 280 characters. The sense of shrinkage and enclosure, of foreclosure and agitation, these are design elements. (Why do Silicon Valley CEOs not allow their children to use smart phones? Why do those children go to device free schools?)

The only way that socialist and radical political voices can engage on social media — it seems to me — is to find ways to disrupt the hegemonic orders of the Spectacle. Social media is designed to create a craving for attention. At any cost. Unconscious cravings. This is why the tribalism of likes and blocking and *friends* is so constantly reinforced.

In one sense the mega corporate owners have insured that class is replaced by individualism, identitarian relations and presentation.

When Twitter began the limit for a tweet was 140 characters. The average tweet at that point was 34 characters. Twitter increased the tweet count to 280 characters but the average tweet is now only 33 characters. I suspect this reflects the trend toward inarticulate semi-languages. The trend toward quick scans rather than patient reading.

Critical theory’s effort to restore subjectivity and resist domination rightly leads to the search for and rejection of all tendencies that cause the subject to introject and reproduce his own domination.
— Amy Buzby, Subterranean Politics and Freud’s Legacy, August 14, 2013

Social media, perhaps above all else, encourages obsessive repetitions. Obsessive compulsive disorder is expressed in pure form as Twitter or Snapchat or Facebook. The repetitive behavioral action of keystrokes mimics something industrial, something also nearly manic. And in this sense the bi-polar metaphor remains rather apt. But the emptiness of the screen, the temporal limits, the erasure of lasting meaning, all feel autistic. The social media addiction eventually neutralizes meaning altogether. Trump is oddly the perfect Twitter user. Lies, contradictions, more lies, repeating the lies, and on and on. All without meaning.

All social media rage is reproducing personal pain — at one level. It is also, on another level, reflecting the trauma and violence of the society in which the users live. The compulsive Twitter user, or Facebook troll — and in a sense perhaps everyone shares troll like characteristics simply by virtue of using these platforms — are caught in a habituation cycle of need and pseudo gratification. But addiction metaphors miss the broader point here. Internet use is often likely compulsive, and perhaps constitutes a habituation, but rarely reaches the level of addiction (addictions must produce serious real world consequences for the addict). What is the most disturbing aspect of social media and internet use overall is ideological and educational. The internet, and in particular social media, have damaged cognitive abilities, and have incrementally created two (now) generations (if not three) of people who cannot think outside very narrow cyber structures. Ideologically because the internet is in the business of constantly grabbing your attention and trying to keep it; and information is dispensed via attention grabbing mechanisms and strategies. No internet platform is free of the profit motive, remember. And cyber profit is based on an attention economy. The click bait model can be expanded to anything. And the repetitive nature of social media usage reinforces a tendency already present in western capitalist societies. And, of course, class enters in this discussion exactly here. The loss of employment opportunity and social mobility encourages a recourse to social media and the internet to replace community.

It is also important to distinguish between the attention economy and newer participatory attention economy or what Boutgang labeled Cognitive Capitalism. (see Mackenzie Wark’s analysis here

Cognitive workers are in a sense entrepreneurs, are in a sense people who invest their knowledge, who invest their singular ability and in this sense the relationship, the integration between work, cognitive work and enterprise; and enterprise has a materialistic foundation. But at the same time this kind of integration has produced an ideological effect and a kind of psycho-pathogenic effect on the social forces of cognitive labor. ( ) The Prozac economy and the Prozac crash. The integration of cognitive work and recombinant capital has produced a kind of euphoria, of hyper-excitation and has produced a demotion, an erasing, a forgetting of the physical, the erotic and the social body of the cognitive worker. We have been taken in this kind of irrational exuberance and we have forgotten that we have a body – that we are a body. So the cognitive worker in this kind of hyper-excitation completely or partially has been forgetting the relationship to the society and the relationship to the physical body.
— Frano Berardi, Market Ideology, Semiocapitalism, and the Digital Congitariat,

Berardi’s (Bifo) article is worth reading in its entirety here.

In 1995, 10 years into the history of mobile phones, penetration in the UK was just 7%,” according to Professor Nigel Linge, of the University of Salford’s Computer Networking and Telecommunications Research Centre. “In 1998 it was about 25%, but by 1999 it was 46%, that was the ‘tipping point’. In 1999 one mobile phone was sold in the UK every 4 seconds.” By 2004, there were more mobile phones in the UK than people – a penetration level of more than 100%. ( ) The way that handsets themselves were marketed was also changing and it was Finland’s Nokia, which had been fighting hard with Motorola and Ericsson for dominance of the market, who made the leap from phones as technology to phones as fashion items with the Nokia 3210 device.

“The Nokia 3210 is iconic because it is the first phone that deliberately did not display any sort of external aerial,” explains Linge. “Nokia in the late 1990s cottoned on to the fact that the mobile phone was a fashion item: so it allowed interchangeable covers, you could customise and personalise your handset.”

In 1999, the film The Matrix was released, which featured Nokia’s 8110 handset prominently. Nokia followed it up with the 7110, which was also the first device to fully exploit the new WAP mobile data service, the fore-runner of the 3G services of today.
— Richard Wray, Guardian, 2010

Hollywood again. The future again. One might argue The Matrix is the most influential film in history — not because it’s any good, it’s not, but because it consolidated several threads of style and futuristic fantasy and presented them in an appealing package, one that also appealed to the new automagical thinking. The reality today is that global capital can draw upon a reserve of global labour regardless of national borders. As Ursula Huws notes in Labour in Contemporary Capitalism, 2019:

Even when casualised labour is not carried out by their direct employees, it is carried out within the scope of the increasingly elaborated value chains which these companies control.

And this casualization and global context has generated enormous resentment against migrant workers, especially in areas of industrial decline (per Huws). Hence the rise of the far right parties across Europe today. And the theft of social benefits, stuff like unemployment payments, are increasingly hard to actually receive and when received are provincial and conditional. The point is that the internet has transformed human life in its entirety. And often, maybe nearly always, for the worse. Shoshana Zuboff (Ibid.) has the final word here, for this is what all of this discussion is trending toward:

The prospect of guaranteed outcomes alerts us to the force of the prediction imperative, which demands that surveillance capitalists make the future for the sake of predicting it. Under this regime, ubiquitous computing is not just a knowing machine; it is an actuating machine designed to produce more certainty about us and for them.

This is largely what Debord saw happening too. The profit from reliable forecasting and prediction means that creating the future is the best strategy — if you make the future you can predict it with some certainty. People need to realize, I think, that EVERYTHING online is manufactured reality — it’s not real, it’s pseudo real. And marketings job is to convince you that pseudo real is REAL REAL. And if the result of this is increased mental illness and pathological degrees of aggression, and industrial levels of anti-depressant use, well, so what? Global servitude is the dream of the new reality brokers. The ruling class believes in their own fantasies (courtesy, it seems, of science fiction movies) but they are determined to control our dreams and aspirations. And unless one starts to examine all of this in terms of class, there is little hope to stop this dream of global hegemony. The mantra must be, *question everything*.

Unifor Aligns with Liberal Foreign Policy instead of International Solidarity

Inviting Chrystia Freeland to address this week’s Unifor convention undermines the union’s claims of international solidarity. As Foreign Affairs Minister, Freeland has pursued staunchly pro-corporate and pro-US policies. She has been bad for workers and their families around the world. Let us count a few of the ways:

  1. Freeland’s department continues to offer diplomatic and other forms of support to mining companies responsible for major abuses abroad. The Liberals broke their promise to establish a genuine ombudsperson to supervise Canadian mining companies’ international operations.
  2. Freeland has campaigned aggressively to overthrow Venezuela’s government. She played a central role in establishing the “Lima Group” of governments opposed to President Nicolas Maduro and has introduced four rounds of unilateral sanctions against Venezuelan officials. The Associated Press reported on Canada’s “key role” in building international diplomatic support for claiming the right wing head of Venezuela’s national assembly was president, which included Freeland speaking to Juan Guaidó “the night before Maduro’s swearing-in ceremony to offer her government’s support should he confront the socialist leader.”
  3. One of Freeland’s allies in the Lima Group, which claims to be promoting Venezuela’s constitution, explicitly defied his own constitution in running for re-election. Global Affairs Canada immediately endorsed Honduran narco-dictator Juan Orlando Hernandez’ farcical 2017 election ‘victory’.
  4. Freeland has pressured Havana to turn on Caracas. Joining Washington’s effort to squeeze Cuba, Global Affairs Canada recently closed the visa section at its embassy in Havana, forcing Cubans wanting to visit Canada or get work/study permits to travel to a Canadian embassy in another country to submit their documents.
  5. Elsewhere in the Caribbean, Ottawa has propped up a corrupt, repressive and illegitimate Haitian president who has faced multiple general strikes and mass protests calling for his removal.
  6. The Liberals have also failed to keep their promise to re-engage diplomatically with Iran. Worse still, Freeland has echoed the warmongers in Washington and Tel Aviv.
  7. Freeland has deepened ties to an opponent of Iran pursuing violent, anti-democratic, policies in Yemen, Libya and Sudan. Last May Freeland met United Arab Emirates foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed and the Liberals have signed a series of accords with the repressive monarchy.
  8. Freeland is anti-Palestinian. Just before a November meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Freeland touted Canada’s “unwavering and ironclad” support for Israel and her ministry has justified the killing of peaceful Palestinian protesters. Isolating Canada from world opinion, Freeland sided with the US, Israel and some tiny Pacific island states in opposing a resolution supporting Palestinian statehood backed by 176 nations.
  9. Freeland’s grandfather was a Nazi propagandist. While obviously not responsible for her grandpa’s misdeeds during World War II, Freeland has praised him and deflected questions on the matter by saying Moscow may be trying to “destabilize” Canadian democracy. In so doing she has stoked Russophobia. Ottawa has ramped up its military presence on Russia’s doorstep (Ukraine, Poland and Latvia) and recently added Ukraine to Canada’s Automatic Firearms Country Control List, which allows Canadian companies to export weapons to that country with little restriction.

A March 2017 memo from the US embassy in Ottawa to the State Department in Washington entitled “Canada Adopts ‘America First’ Foreign Policy” claimed Justin Trudeau appointed Freeland foreign minister in order to promote the interests of the Donald Trump administration. The cable was authored just weeks after Freeland was appointed foreign minister and in it US officials conclude that Trudeau promoted Freeland “in large part because of her strong U.S. contacts” and that her “number one priority” was working closely with Washington.

A knowledgeable critic of Canadian foreign policy recently told me they thought Freeland was worse than Conservative foreign minister John Baird. This may be true. The question for Unifor is what more would Freeland have to do to make her unacceptable as a keynote speaker?

Inviting Freeland to their convention is part of the union’s controversial embrace of the Liberal Party (Prime Minister Trudeau also spoke). But, it also reflects indifference to the injustices Canada contributes to abroad. I couldn’t find a single Unifor statement that directly criticized Freeland or Canadian foreign policy (the union is a member of Common Frontiers, which has criticized Canadian policy in Venezuela and Honduras). But, the union has devoted significant energy and resources to promoting a boycott of GM cars made in Mexico. On Tuesday when Freeland addresses the convention Unifor is giving their Nelson Mandela award to Romeo Dallaire. As I detail here, applauding the aggressive liberal imperialist is wrong and giving Dallaire an award named after Mandela is simply embarrassing.

Giving a former general an award, boycotting Mexican cars and inviting Freeland/Trudeau – combined with failing to challenge Canadian foreign policy – reflects a union aligned with Canada’s ruling class against working people elsewhere. It’s a shame that six years after its creation Unifor has jettisoned the progressive, internationalist rhetoric that was part of its founding.

Hopefully, rank and file members can reclaim their union. A good way to start might be to demonstrate their disapproval

Health Care Imperialism: Looting The World’s Doctors

To poach and rely on highly skilled foreign workers from poor countries in the public sector is akin to the crime of theft.

—  “Migration of Health Workers: An Unmanaged Crisis,” The Lancet, May 28, 2005

What is striking about the tyranny of the medical industrial complex is not only its unconscionable oppression of the American working class, but also its assault on the health care systems of other countries. These acts of barbarity and pillage allow the Anglo-American elites to keep the countries of the global south in a state of backwardness and dependency, and one of the ways this is done is by enticing doctors from developing nations to abandon their countries and practice in the West.

One such example is India, a country with horrendous unmet health care needs. Snakebites are a serious problem and lead to the deaths of over 45,000 Indians each year, the overwhelming majority of whom are villagers in isolated rural communities. Following a snakebite, the afflicted person often has to travel vast distances to reach a medical facility, typically battling poor roads in the process. An unreliable power grid results in these remote areas having intermittent access to electricity, which exacerbates the problem as the anti-venom must be refrigerated.

So lax are India’s ethics laws that her destitute masses are frequently used as clinical guinea pigs by powerful pharmaceutical companies in the testing of new drugs, which has resulted in tens of thousands of adverse reactions and thousands of fatalities. The number of clinical trials has risen dramatically following a relaxing of drug testing laws that was implemented in 2005, and many of these patients are unable to read the consent forms which are printed in English. India also has an egregious doctor-patient ratio, with less than one doctor for every thousand patients.

Speaking on the troubled state of Indian health care, Tatyarao P. Lahane, MD, said in an interview with The Times of India:

A skewed doctor-patient ratio in our country is the major cause of trouble. In almost all leading countries of the world a doctor in a government hospital checks a maximum of 30 patients a day. In India, any doctor on an average checks at least 150 patients a day.

Inadequate environmental regulations have led to extremely poor air quality, which has likewise contributed to unsatisfactory health outcomes. Furthermore, India’s downtrodden masses continue to be oppressed by an inhuman multi-tier system. In an article titled “More Indians die of treatable diseases than lack of access to healthcare,”  Swagata Yadavar writes:

Poor care quality leads to more deaths than insufficient access to healthcare –1.6 million Indians died due to poor quality of care in 2016, nearly twice as many as due to non-utilisation of healthcare services (838,000 persons).

In addition to these problems that are a pox on Indian society, there are over 59,000 Indian physicians working in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, countries which have the resources to easily train their own doctors. Two thirds of that number work in the US. Lamenting the staggering number of Indian doctors that go abroad in “Doctors For The World: Indian Physician Emigration,” Fitzhugh Mullan writes “that their clinical and political energies will never address the improvement of health care in India.”

In an ironic twist, private hospitals that cater to affluent Indians are turning a profit through the peculiar phenomenon of “medical tourism,” whereby uninsured and underinsured Americans can receive medical care for a minuscule fraction of what they would be billed in the US.

Significant numbers of African doctors, virtually all coming from countries with poor doctor-patient ratios, are lured to practice in the US, and are also beguiled by false promises of excellent training and superior working conditions. Many hail from countries with poor health indicators, such as Ghana, where life expectancy is 63. Moreover, as Jonathan Wolff writes in “Why America Steals Doctors From Poorer Countries“:

If a doctor from Ghana is recruited to the US, not only does Ghana lose its doctor, it loses the money paid for the training. It may be that the doctor is likely to send a portion of earnings back home (known in the development business as “remittances”). But this is scant compensation. In sum, the US is receiving a massive subsidy from the developing world in training its medical staff.

Nigeria has a doctor-patient ratio of one doctor for every five thousand of her citizens, a life expectancy of 55 for men and 56 for women, and a maternal mortality rate of over 800 deaths per 100,000 live births. Over half of Nigeria’s doctors practice abroad.

International medical graduates (IMGs) that hail from developing countries are often sent to work in rural areas where American physicians are reluctant to practice, and yet many never return to their native lands. In an article titled “U.S. Recruiting Africa’s Doctors for Placements No One Wants,” by Austin Drake Bryan, the author writes:

The United States is recruiting the world’s doctors — and from the very places that need MDs the most. Dubbed the “international brain drain,” the United States leads the way in attracting international doctors, especially those from Africa.

The United States, with its high salaries, attracts more international doctors every year than Britain, Canada and Australia combined. However, for every 1000 people, Africa has only 2.3 health care workers, while the United States has almost 25.

IMGs are frequently brought into the US on guest worker visas, and can have their visa revoked if they complain. This bolsters the stranglehold of the health insurance companies, hospital executives, and pharmaceutical companies, and exacerbates the challenges of unionizing a newly proletarianized and increasingly dehumanized workforce. Indeed, foreign doctors on the J-1 visa are particularly vulnerable to abusive and exploitative working conditions. Decrying the exploitation of IMGs in Australia, Sue Douglas, MD, writes in The Australian “that international medical graduates are a vulnerable group that have been exploited by the government, abused by their own profession and ignored by the public.”

In an interview with Pamela Wible, MD, and Corina Fratila, MD, Fratila, who is from Romania, speaks of training in the US and being forced to work 126 hours a week with minimal supervision, while also struggling with the danger of fatal miscommunications that can easily occur between doctors and nurses who are coming from different countries and do not share English as their native language.

Another disturbing trend is the growing number of American medical graduates that do not match into a residency position. In an article published on April 16th, 2019, titled “The National Resident Matching Program No Longer Meets Doctor Needs,” Joe Guzzardi writes:

In the most recent match, which happened last month, 1,162 U.S. medical school seniors and 811 previous U.S. graduates did not match to a residency at a teaching hospital, so nearly 2,000 U.S. grads did not get residency. Without fulfilling residency requirements, doctors can’t practice medicine. In last month’s match as well, 4,028 non-U.S. citizen students/IMGs matched and were granted residency, bringing the total number of IMGs placed in U.S. residencies since 2011 to 31,894.

It is important to remember that residency positions are subsidized through Medicare funds, which are in turn subsidized by the American taxpayer. Passed over for a residency position and often saddled with terrible student loans, some unmatched medical school graduates have even taken their own lives, as exemplified by the tragedy of Robert Chu. The increasing reliance on foreign doctors is also curious, in light of the fact that vast numbers of American high school students are not receiving an education in basic math and science.

A ruthless war is being waged against universal health care, both at home and abroad. US military interventions in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan (under the communists), and Yugoslavia brought about the destruction of comprehensive (and in the case of Afghanistan, burgeoning), single-payer health care systems. Juan Orlando Hernández, the US puppet overseeing the Honduran junta following the putsch that ousted the progressive government of Manuel Zelaya, has taken measures to privatize that country’s health care system. Hence, “democracy has been restored.”

The progressive governments in Cuba and Venezuela both offer free health care to their citizens. Consequently, they are “rogue” states. Syria has been ravaged by the US-NATO-Israel bombing campaigns and the “international community’s” support for a generous array of barbarians and religious fanatics, yet still offers free health care to her citizens. This is also the case with the rebel government in the Donbass which even gives free health care to captured neo-Nazis.

The poaching of foreign doctors is consistent with the desire of the Western elites to keep the global south under the iron heel of subservience and destitution. This devilry has also played a role in transforming the American medical profession into a diabolical sweatshop devoid of unions and labor laws, with the deteriorating rates of infant mortality, life expectancy and maternal mortality that have inexorably followed. To borrow a phrase from Yeats: “anarchy is loosed upon the world.” Unless we find a way to disenthrall ourselves from the despotism of the medical industrial complex, the health care oligarchs will continue to enslave us all.