Category Archives: the left

Charter Schools Are Promoted Heavily by the Left, Not Just the Right

One of the main criticisms of charter schools is that they are terrible because right wingers are behind them.

Many right wingers are indeed behind charter schools. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is a textbook example of right-wing support for charter schools. The billionaire Koch brothers are another example of right-wing support for charter schools. Many others could be cited.

But this does not tell the full story of charter schools and who else strongly supports and promotes them.

In reality, charter schools started out nearly 30 years ago with heavy support from democrats, and were, in fact, initiated and organized specifically by democrats (and so-called “centrists”).

Democrats have also consistently supported charter schools through the widely-rejected No Child Left Behind Act that plagued the nation for many years, and is still injuring the nation through its reincarnation as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (2015).

It is worth recalling as well that Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, both so-called democrats, enthusiastically supported charter schools when they were in power. And to this day, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have never firmly opposed the existence and expansion of charter schools.

In addition, democrats in many state legislatures have repeatedly turned out in large numbers to energetically support the existence and expansion of charter schools. There is no shortage of such democrats.

The notion that charter schools are supported mainly by right wingers is inaccurate and misleading. It defines the foes of the public interest in a narrow way, instead of depicting their true scope, breadth, and nature. Charter schools have always been much more than a right wing, republican, or conservative phenomenon.

While some on the left and right do not support charter schools, many on both sides do. This is why so many top-down, antisocial, neoliberal education policies have “bipartisan support.”

The public should reject charter schools no matter who is behind them. There is no justification for their existence, let alone their expansion. Their track record is very unimpressive and rife with fraud, corruption, and racketeering. Arrests and scandals surround so many charter schools. Watching charter schools operate and implode is like watching a blood sport. A toxic, anarchic, and surreal ethos prevails in the charter school sector.

The nonsense that deunionized and deregulated charter schools run by private organizations are needed because public schools are “failing” ignores how and why public schools are actively set-up to fail, and the real political and economic relations behind the rise and expansion of pay-the-rich schemes such as charter schools.

The public should also reject the false left-right divide because the  neoliberal agenda remains strong across this diversionary political divide.

The public interest cannot be served by bypassing grass-roots forces and relying on the rich and their political representatives, whether they are on the so-called “right” or “left.” The issues confronting the broad polity go beyond these false and unprincipled divisions. Capital-centered ideas, policies, and arrangements harm the public interest regardless of who supports or promotes them.

West is losing and so it is bashing China and Russia “Left and Right” Literally

The insanity and vileness of Western anti-Chinese propaganda used to make some of my Chinese friends cry late at night. But things are changing. The lunacy of what is said and written about China (and Russia, of course), in the US and Europe, is now clearly reflecting frustration and the bad manners of sore losers. One could almost be inclined to pity the Western empire, if only it wasn’t so violently murderous.

The Empire’s propagandists are pitying nobody – they are now shooting like maniacs, but without any coherent plan.

Various Western ‘experts’ and journalists cannot really agree on the basics: ‘what is really wrong with China’. But they are paid extremely well to find new and newer skeletons in the huge Chinese closets, and so they are constantly competing with each other, looking for the juiciest and the most scandalous stories. Often it appears that it pays to assume that absolutely everything is flawed with the most populous, and on top of it, Communist (with the ‘Chinese characteristics, of course) country on earth!

China will end extreme poverty by 2020, but do not look for cheers and applause from Berlin, Paris, London and Washington. China is far ahead of all the large countries on earth in building a so-called ‘ecological civilization’, but who is willing to notice? China is constructing public parks, boardwalks and playgrounds, the biggest on earth, but who cares? The Chinese government is introducing sweeping educational reforms, while flooding the entire nation with concert halls, museums and theatres. But that’s not worth mentioning, obviously!

Western propaganda tries to discredit China literally from both ‘left and right’, sometimes accusing it for being too Communist, but when it is suitable, even for ‘not being Communist enough’.

The New York Times ran a cover-page story on October 5, 2018, “Unlikely foe for China’s leaders: Marxists”. For this highly sarcastic piece, a reporter visited the Chinese city of Huizhou, from where he wrote about a group of over-zealous young Marxists who are demanding things to be as they were in Mao’s days:

But the Huizhou activists represent a threat the authorities did not expect.

Seriously? A threat? China is moving towards Communism, again, under the current leadership. We are talking about democratic, socially-oriented Communism. But let us not argue with the official U.S. newspaper. It is definitely not a pro-Communist publication, but they had to show some sympathy (by running a cover story!) to a small bunch of over-zealous ‘opposition’ Marxists, just to spread doubts among the readers, suggesting that the Chinese government is not that Red, anymore.

The next day (Saturday-Sunday edition, October 6-7, 2018), the same New York Times published two cover stories on China. One was along its usual anti-Chinese and anti-Russian conspiracy lines “Will China hack U.S. mid-terms?”, but the other basically contradicted the story from the previous day, accusing Beijing this time of cutting the wings of private companies: “Beijing is pushing back into business”, with a sub-title:

Government flexes muscle as private companies that built economy lose ground.

‘Wherever it can hurt China, just write it’, could be the credo of thousands of European and North American journos: ‘as long as the news about or from China is bad, really dark and negative, anything goes!’

Too much Communism, or too little… As far as the West is concerned – China can never get it right! Because… simply because it is China, because it is Asia, and because it waves the red flags.

And so, The New York Times ran two totally contradictory stories. An editorial blunder, or a pre-meditated attempt to inflict maximum damage, by kicking ‘left and right’?

*****

It is, of course, fun, to follow this propaganda trend, ‘from a safe distance’ (meaning: ‘not believing a word of what it says’). But what is happening is not a joke; what is being done can actually be deadly. It can trigger, unexpectedly, a chain of events that could truly hurt China.

‘An explosion’ could originate in Taiwan, in Southeast Asia, or from the PRC territory itself.

Look at Brazil, look at Venezuela! Look at all those Color Revolutions, Umbrella Revolutions, ‘Springs’ from Europe to Arab countries. And look at China itself: who triggered; who sponsored the so-called Tiananmen Square events? There is clearly enough evidence, by now, that it was not some spontaneous student rebellion.

The West has convinced several countries such as the Philippines, that they should confront China, through various territorial claims in which, honestly, almost no serious Filipino historian or political scientist is ready to believe (unless he or she is paid royally from abroad). I talked directly to several top historians and political scientists in Manila, and I got a clear picture of whom and what is behind those territorial claims. I wrote about it in the past, and soon will again.

China is too big to tolerate dangerous subversions from abroad. Its leadership knows well: when the country is in disarray, hundreds of millions of human beings suffer. To preserve the nation’s territorial integrity is essential.

*****

So, what is China really; in a summary?

It is a Communist (or you may call it a socialist) country with thousands of years of a great and comparatively egalitarian history. It has a mixed economy but with central planning (government tells the companies what to do, not vice-versa). It is clearly the most successful nation on earth when it comes to working on behalf of, and for the benefit of, its citizens. It is also the most peaceful large nation on earth. And here are two more essential points: China is at the forefront of saving the world from the looming ecological disaster. And it has no colonies, or ‘neo’-colonies, being essentially an ‘internationalist’ state.

Its political system, economy, culture: all are diametrically different from those in the West.

China has millions of things to say about how this planet should be governed, how it should be marching forward, and what is true democracy (rule of the people).

Now honestly: does Western mainstream, which manufactures ‘public opinion’ all over the world, allows many Chinese (PRC) patriots, Communists, thinkers, to appear on television screens, or to write op-eds?

We know the answer. Almost exclusively, it is the Westerners who are, (by the Western rulers), entrusted with the tremendous task of ‘defining what China is or isn’t’. And what the entire world is or isn’t.

If China says that it is ‘socialist with Chinese characteristics’, they say ‘No!’ with their perfect Oxford accents. And their arrogance from telling the greatest civilization on earth what it actually is or isn’t, gets accepted because of the fact that most of them are white, and they speak perfect English (paradoxically, still a seal of trustworthiness, at least in certain circles).

The West never hears what the Chinese or Russians think about the world. While the Chinese and Russians are literally bombarded by what the West thinks about them.

Even Chinese people used to listen to such ‘false prophets’ from the ‘civilized West’. Now they know better. Same as the Russians know better. Same as many in Latin America know better.

The spread of Western propaganda and dogmas used to appear as a battle, an ideological combat, for Chinese and Russian brains (if not for hearts). Or at least it appeared as such, to many naïve, trusting people.

Now it is all much simpler and ‘in the open’: the battle continues, but the frontlines and goals have shifted. How?

What is taking place these days, is simply an enormous clash between Western imperialism plus its propaganda, versus the determination of the Chinese and Russian people to live their own lives the way they choose. Or to put it into even simpler terms: the battle is raging between Western imperialism on one side, and democracy with ‘Chinese and Russian characteristics’ on the other.

West is bashing China and Russia ‘left and right’, literally. But it is definitely not winning!

*****

• First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook

The Contradictions of Being Pro-Capitalist and Anti-War

In his lesser known novel, A Small Town in Germany, John Le Carré skewers the diplomatic class in the old West German capital of Bonn. An investigator sent to the drizzly town on the banks of the Rhine discovers a fog of misdirection as he tries to track down a fled spy. At one point, comfortably resigned to his frustration, a glib diplomat tells the investigator, himself at wit’s end, unable to capitalize on an array of clues, “There’s always something; there’s never enough.” This is largely the story of the socialist “opportunists” that the Russian Bolsheviks themselves skewered in the revolutionary and blood-scented atmosphere of World War One Europe. As Vladimir Lenin argues in Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism, the socialist opportunists argue for something: a few tepid reforms that may provide a transitory respite in the plight of the poor. But they never go far enough: challenging a system of predatory appropriation for which minor reforms are nothing but an extended sentence. They offered a map to nowhere on a path whose starting and end points are the same.

It is likewise the story of today’s bourgeois liberal class, a hollow parody of progressivism allied with the ruling class establishment. Not only are today’s Democrats purveyors of media misdirection with Russiagate, but their policies are likewise the stuff of fake news and forgotten promises. The liberal class, including its current champion, Bernie Sanders, has yet to face the incompatibility of corporate capitalism, particularly in its monopoly stage, and military imperialism. They are flip sides of the same fascist coin. The early Soviets knew this all too well.

In his memorable screed on onetime socialist Karl Kautsky’s slide into opportunism, Lenin lays out the contradiction between being anti-imperialism and pro-capitalism. After all, if imperialism, as Lenin argues, is the highest stage of capitalism itself, how could one deplore the former and approve the latter? You can’t, not without falling into a set of contradictions that render one’s entire position farcical. Lenin shows, with meticulous documentation, how capital tends to concentrate, creating monopolies and generating demand for new markets and new revenue streams.

An Iron Law of Capitalism

Through a meticulous review of European and North American data, Lenin writes that the “transformation of competition into monopoly is one of the most important–if not most important –phenomena of modern capitalist economy.” He notes how entire supply chains, or verticals, tend to combine for more fluid and efficient production. He notes, “…for example, the smelting of iron ore into pig-iron, the conversion of pig-iron into steel, and then, perhaps, the manufacture of steel…” and quotes one of the leading economists in the Weimar Republic, Rudolf Hilferding, writing, “Combination levels out the fluctuations of trade and therefore assures to the combine enterprises a more stable rate of profit.” It isn’t hard to recognize the empirical proofs of this claim, living as we do in an era of mergers and acquisitions, in which a mind-numbing $2.5 trillion in M&A were launched in just the first half of 2018.

Just consider the mediascape, in which a handful of elephantine conglomerates control some 90 percent of American media. They continue to gobble up smaller local media venues, guaranteeing the phenomenon cleverly spelled out in an 2011 infographic, which notes that 223 executives controlled the “information diet” of some 227 million Americans. While the mergers may indeed happen for reasons of capital, an epiphenomenon is the consolidation of opinion in a few ideologically sanguine hands. Example after example, cover the 1860s through the early 1900s, bring Lenin to the conclusion that “…the rise of monopolies, as the result of the concentration of production, is a general fundamental law of the present stage of the development of capitalism.” It is all done, of course, to stimulate super-profits. Not surprisingly, “the social means of production remain the private property of a few.”

When monopolies don’t get what they want, they take aggressive action against intransigent market entities. Lenin notes several tactics, including shutting down supplies of raw materials, foreclosing avenues of labor supply, quitting deliveries, blocking trade outlets, forming exclusive trade agreements, price cutting, and other vicious economic attacks.  Likewise, the control of capital itself, in the forms of credits and interest rates, is another signal feature of monopolist aggression. (Think of the Volcker Shock.) The monopolists are “…throttling those who do not submit to them…” It is interesting that these tactics are particularly evident in American foreign policy. Washington itself acts like a cartel enforcer for elite capital. These tactics, often in the form of sanctions, have been variously applied to China, Russia, Venezuela, Iran, Syria, North Korea, and other nations that refuse to adopt the yoke of American economic imperialism.

But where does all this economic infighting lead? First to monopoly, then to imperialism. Not only must access to cheap raw materials be fitted into the verticalized supply chain, owned and operated by the monopolist subsidiaries, but new markets must forever be annexed in order to stem a falling rate of profit. Lenin’s argument suggests that World War One was a bloody dividing of the world into separate camps, for the redistribution of colonial possessions, and so on. Another consistent feature of capitalist imperialism we’ve seen in recent years in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Libya, all of which had underlying economic conflicts that drove military conflict.

The Buried Narrative

Lenin adds that monopolists leverage propaganda through media in the form of “false rumours” and “anonymous warnings” in the papers. Sound familiar? The media propaganda foisted on the public is a critical chapter of this story. The story that Lenin lays out, on the growth of competitive capitalism into monopoly and monopoly into imperialism, is a seminal link in the chain that yokes capitalism to war. And yet it has been largely scrubbed from the western record. And the absence of that knowledge is what permits imperialists like the Democratic Party to masquerade as paladins of peace and prosperity through capitalism, all cloaked beneath a feel-your-pain rhetoric aimed squarely at the working class.

Lenin opens a pivotal chapter in Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, “Critique of Imperialism” with a comment that defines the corporate media and the professional class from which it comes, “’General’ enthusiasm over the prospects of imperialism, furious defence of it and painting it in the brightest colours—such are the signs of the times.” As he says, “’Social-Democratic’ Party of Germany are justly called “social-imperialists”, that is, socialists in words and imperialists in deeds.” Bourgeois scholars and publicists usually come out in defence of imperialism in a somewhat veiled form…do their very best to distract attention from essentials by means of absolutely ridiculous schemes for “reform”, such as police supervision of the trusts or banks, etc.”

He notes that most bourgeois arguments from nations seeking to shrug off the colonial shackles fail to recognize that imperialism is “inseparably bound up with capitalism,” and that requests to remove imperialism without removing capitalism are stillborn petitions, “strangled in the crib”, as Churchill might say, by their internal contradictions. Lenin points to the “anti-imperialists” in America that opposed the American trampling of the Philippines fell into the same trap of foreclosed imagination. While they railed against the “jingo treachery” of American false promises, Lenin said their criticisms would amount to little if they failed to recognize “the inseverable bond between imperialism and the trusts, and, therefore between imperialism and the foundations of capitalism…” His perspective on the Philippines protest almost, step for step, mirrors the reality of today’s “#resistance”, a farcical amalgam of costume parades and tweet storms that seeks to unseat anyone that uses politically incorrect language or wants displays their sexist or racist chevrons in public.

Discrediting sexism and racism is obviously good, if it is legitimately done. But Lenin lamented the “socialists in words and imperialists in deeds” that hounded the socialist landscape of his day. Today’s Democratic Party is progressive in words and neoliberal in deeds. The corporate liberal class has finally reached the stage where it can run a minority to do its dirty deeds. The population numbers foreseen in the Sixties have finally arrived. Barack Obama preached inclusivity from the political pulpit, but promoted exclusivity from the policy bench. It is no surprise: he is a member of a very exclusive club—an adoptee of the one percent.

Lenin attacks Kautsky and other bourgeois pundits, who argue for leveraging the engines of capitalism to increase “’the consuming capacity’” of the populace. Lenin points out that “it is in their interest to pretend to be so naïve and to talk “seriously” about peace under imperialism.” Another familiar tactic. Anyone familiar with the modern Democrats would recognize it. Like Obama, who won a Nobel Peace Prize from a demented clan of flour-haired Scandinavians. In one of the books he penned before he was elected, Obama confirmed that he was “a free market guy”. No one in the mainstream liberal press was willing to recognize or capable of recognizing that in confirming his capitalist bona fides, he was simultaneously signaling his allegiance to empire.

Lenin’s contemporaries like Kautsky believed that the imperial monopolies of capitalism could be disbanded and returned to a state of free competition in which the oracular market would appease the warring instincts of states, and a market-led peace would ensue. Kautsky called it “ultra-imperialism”. Lenin called it a “reformist swindle”. He notes that monopolies arose out of competition, and that to uncouple the monopolies would only return the relevant entities to a state of fierce competition, in which inequities would arise, leading to new monopolies. It was akin to dialing back determinism and expecting a new outcome. Lenin notes how any pacific alliances between competing imperialists would be at best temporary as the balance of power would inevitably shift in one direction or the other, instigating new confrontations, conflagrations, and war.

Lenin also noted the great value of imperial conquest to capital. Ever in search of new avenues of investment, ever threatened by the scourge of overproduction, new colonies could be forced open to accept “commodity dumping” from developed nations that would undercut local industry. Usurious loans to these colonial dependents would provide the funds with which to buy the first-world commodities. He even points to a German loan to Romania that facilitated the purchase of German railway materials. How could anyone fail to recognize in this dynamic the European Union’s behavior toward its fragile periphery of Portugal, Ireland, and Greece, particularly the latter? Were not German loans made to Greece to purchase German goods, inflating the latter’s monopoly profits while inflating the former’s debt peonage? Lenin calls this “skinning the ox twice”. After all, the bank makes compound interest off the loan; then the loan is used to buy products from the bank’s clients. Then, once the debtor nation flounders under debt deflation, having less and less to fund its economy since so much of its income was redirected to interest payments on exorbitant loans, it will be forced, like Greece, to begin selling off its national assets at bargain prices to the lender nation, as the vultures gather round the carrion.

History’s Rerun

Lenin concludes that peace in capitalist geographies is merely a respite between conflicts. Little more than “the banal philistine fantasies of English parsons”. In effect, Kautsky and the “opportunist” elements of the middle class were doing little more than attempting to unhitch capitalism from imperialism in order to save the system of their own enrichment. A failed project, to be sure, as passage after passage of Lenin’s polemic reads like a lucid profile of the Democratic Party. The Bolshevik leader concludes that, “imperialism is the epoch of finance capital and of monopolies, which introduce everywhere the striving for domination, not for freedom.” Later he adds that, “…capital can maintain its domination only by continually increasing its military force.” Could there be a better description of our modern dilemma of financial exploitation and military conquest? The 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is tens of billions larger than last year’s and supports nearly 900 military installations around the world.

Finally, Lenin remarks that there’s no hope for unity with “the opportunists in the epoch of imperialism.” He points to the bourgeois denunciations of imperial annexations by various powers. Immediately the theatrical denunciations of Russia in Crimea and Syria in its own territory come to mind. Lenin sensibly argues that the author of such condemnations can be, “sincere and politically honest only if he fights against the annexation[s]” his own country makes. Naturally, the beltway liberals are silent on our de facto annexation of parts of Syria, our clandestine coup d’état in Ukraine, our savage use of Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay, not to mention a dozen other base camps we’ve established like a necklace of crimes across the planet. As a nation, what we condemn in others, often falsely, we do ourselves. And on a slightly smaller scale, what the Democrats condemn across the aisle, they often do themselves behind a patina of progressive rhetoric. Sophistry and sops from the banquet table of the rich; this is today’s Democratic Party writ large.

Syria and the S-300s: Re-Centering the People in the Global Struggles for Power

The corporate grip on opinion in the United States is one of the wonders of the Western world [….] No First World country has ever managed to eliminate so entirely from its media all objectivity, much less dissent.
— Gore Vidal, A View from the Diner’s Club, 1991

One of the most amusing elements of the current anti-Russian hysteria produced by U.S. state/corporate propagandists is the notion that Russia is this bold, aggressive challenger to “U.S. and Western interests” when the reality has always been the opposite. In the tumultuous period after the Soviet Union disintegrated, the Russian Federation emerged as the dominate power under the leadership of the clownish Boris Yeltsin.

The Russian capitalist oligarchy that developed during that period and expanded under the leadership of Vladimir Putin has always just wanted to be part of the global capitalist game. They had demonstrated on more than one occasion their willingness to cooperate with the agenda of Western powers.  However, they wanted to be respected with their regional interests recognized.

But as result of greed, hubris and just plain incompetence, U.S. policy-makers, especially the amateurs running foreign policy during the Obama years, pushed the Russians out of their preferred zone of caution in international affairs, with Syria being exhibit A. Forcing the Russians hand in Syria was followed by the Ukraine when the U.S. sparked a coup in that nation as the second front against Russian “intervention” in Syria.

So it was quite comical to see how the announcement that Russia will deliver the S-300 air defense system to the Syrian government was met with feigned horror by U.S. and NATO forces. This decision was taken after the U.S. allowed or didn’t stop the Israeli Air Force from playing games that resulted in a Russia cargo plane being shot out of the air by Syrian ground defenses who mistook the Russia plane for an Israeli aircraft.

Without an adequate air defense system capable of covering the entire nation and strategic territories within Syria, the Israeli Air Force has had almost unimpeded access to Syria air space during the Syrian war to attack military forces associated with the Syrian government, Hezbollah and the Iranian state.

Yet in their zeal to push out anti-Russian propaganda, the state/corporate propagandists in the U.S.  exposed once again Russia’s conservatism and acquiensce to the global colonial U.S./EU/NATO agenda. While the headlines screamed traitor at Turkish President Erdogan for concluding a deal for the Russian S-400, the most advanced system the Russians are selling on the open market, very few seemed to have noticed that those wily, evil Russians that were propping up their partner in Syria hadn’t even delivered on the S-300 sale to the Syrian state that had been concluded five years ago!

The Russians said that they failed to deliver the system that the Syrians purchased due to a request from the Israeli government in 2013. This decision took place a year after the debacle of Geneva I, the United Nations sponsored conference to resolve the Syrian War, where the Russians appeared ready to abandon Assad as long as the Syrian state was maintained, and their interests protected.  Getting rid of Assad but maintaining the Syrian state was also U.S. policy at the time.

However, instead of a negotiated settlement in which the Russians would play a role, the Obama administration rejected Geneva I believing that it could topple the government in Syria through its jihadist proxies. The U.S. knew that those elements were never going to be allowed to govern the entire nation but that was the point. The Syrian state was slated to be balkanized with its territory divided and a permanent presence by the U.S. directly on the ground. Those forces in Syria would be bolstered by the thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq that had been reintroduced as a result of the U.S. reinvasion supposedly to fight ISIS – that it helped to create.

Although the Russian position on Assad came out just a year after the Chinese and Russians gave the green light to the U.S. and NATO to launch a vicious war on Libya is old news, it points out how in the global game of power relations the peoples of the former colonial world continue to lose. The Russians, like the Chinese, have demonstrated repeatedly their willingness to collaborate with the U.S. and the “Western colonialist alliance,” even as successive U.S. administrations have singled them out, along with Iran and Venezuela, as geostrategic threats to U.S. global hegemony.

This observation is not meant to be another Russia and China bashing that plays into the hands of the reactionaries driving U.S. policies who see military conflict with those two nations as inevitable. Instead what is being argued here is the absolute necessity for African/Black people and oppressed peoples and nations to be clear about the international correlation and balance of forces and competing interests at play so that “we” the people are not confused regarding our objective interests.

Russian intervention in Syria was not as cynical as the U.S. and Western European powers, which knew from the beginning that “progressive” forces in Syria could not win a military conflict. Nevertheless, they encouraged those forces to engage in military opposition while the U.S. and its allies decided to back various Islamist forces – not for democratic change – but to destroy the Syrian state.

Maintaining an independent, critical perspective on the national and global dispensation of social forces means not having any illusions about the world and the national, class and racial politics in play. We need to be clear that supporting Syria’s attempt to assert full sovereignty over its territory was only a secondary concern for the Russians. The back seat given to the Syrian government in the negotiations between Russia, Iran, and Turkey regarding Idlib confirms that. Protecting Russian interests in Syria and the Mid-East was and is the driving force for Russian military and diplomatic activity, nothing else!

The delivery of the S-300 anti-aircraft system to Syria resembles the Russia cooperation with the U.S., Israel and Turkey on the Turkish Afrin operation, which was basically an invasion of Syria by Turkey in order to establish a “buffer zone”.  These are all decisions based on the objective interests of Russia and secondarily the interests of the Syrian government.

It remains to be seen how the deployment of the S-300’s will alter the situation on the ground in Syria. It would not be surprising if the deployment was limited and only covered the territory around Latakia, the site of the Russian air base and close to its warm-water port. It may not be in Russia’s interests to allow the Syria government the means to block Israeli intrusions into Syrian air space. If the Syrian government had the ability to really ensure the security of its national territory from Israeli intrusions, it could mean that Russia would have less leverage over the Syrian government to force a withdrawal of Iranian forces from Syria. Additionally, the land corridor and security of the “Islamic pipeline” between Iran, Iraq and Syria could be secured that may not be necessarily conducive for maintaining Russia’s share of the energy market in Europe.

The U.S. and Israel overplayed their cards and made a strategic blunder by precipitating the shooting down of the Russian cargo plane. Although National Security Adviser John Bolton claims that the decision to supply Syrian forces with the S-300 is a “significant escalation,” the escalation really took place in 2012 when the Obama administration decided to allow U.S. vassal states to significantly increase military support for radical Islamic forces. Michael Flynn revealed this as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency – something the Obama forces never forgot.

Syria has been a difficult object lesson for the left that has had a devastating consequence for the people of that embattled nation. Hundreds of thousands have died, and millions have been displaced primarily because left and progressive forces lacked the organizational, but more importantly, the ideological, political, and moral clarity to mount an opposition to the machinations of their national bourgeoisie in Europe and the U.S.  The very idea that the bourgeois leadership of their respective states might have some benevolent justifications for military intervention in Syria revealed a dangerous nationalist sentimentality that is driving the left version of white supremacist national chauvinism.

Before the dramatic rightist turn of the left in the U.S. and Europe over the last two decades, the left – at least much of the Marxist-Leninist left – opposed Western imperialist intervention out of a theoretical and principled commitment to the national-colonial question in the global South. As citizens in “oppressor nations,” opposing their own bourgeoisie’s interventions into oppressed nations was seen as a responsibility for the left and indeed was a measurement of what was actually an authentic left position.

That stance has virtually disappeared.

The first response by the Western left to plans or actual interventions by their nation’s ruling class is a strange conversation regarding rather or not the intervention is justified or not based on the nature of the government being toppled by the intervention.

For those of us who are members of oppressed peoples and nations, it is quite obvious that without independent organizations and global solidarity structures buttressed by the few progressive states that exist on the planet, we cannot depend on any bourgeois state to really care about our humanity or on the radical or left forces in Northern nations to put a brake on repression and intervention against non-Europe states and peoples.

The bloodletting will continue in Syria. Candidate Trump raised some serious questions about the wisdom of U.S. policies in Syria and indicated that he might be willing to reverse U.S. involvement. But President Trump surrendered to the pressure from the foreign policy establishment and the warmongering corporate press. Instead of extricating the U.S., the administration announced a few weeks ago that the U.S. will essentially engage in an illegal and indefinite occupation in Syria.

There is reasonable doubt that Israel and the U.S. will allow the deployment of the S-300s even if the Russians followed through with the delivery. Which means the possibility of another dangerous escalation in the conflict at any moment. It also means why despite one’s opinion about the nature of any government’s internal situation, it is important to reaffirm and defend the principles of national sovereignty and international law in opposition to the arbitrary and illegal interventions to effect a change in government by any outside forces.

The people’s movements for social justice and human rights around the world must not allow the people to be drawn into the machinations and contradictory struggles and conflicts between essentially capitalist blocs, which include the Russians and the state-capitalism of China. This is not to suggest a moral or political equalization between the emergence of capitalist Russia and China and the systematic degradation unleashed on the world by the Pan-European colonial/capitalist project that emerged in 1492 with the invasion of the “Americas.” That would be a perversion of history and divert us from the primary global contradiction and target: The Western capitalist alliance and the corporate and finance oligarchy at its center.

In the competition between blocs and the real possibility of global conflict, we must be vigilant not to repeat the tragic mistake made before the first world war when workers enthusiastically signed up as cannon fodder in the clash of capitalist empires. Imperialist war really is a class issue!

Totalitarian capitalist domination is not a figment of our imaginations, it is real. Penetrating the ideological mystifications that divert us away from the matrix of power that distorts consciousness and renders the people as collaborators in their own subjection is the task of the moment.

The global order is changing, the only question is what will emerge. Will the new order be a multipolar one dominated by emerging capitalist states or will a new transitional order develop that is oriented toward an association of states and people’s movements moving toward authentic de-colonization, ecological rationality, and socialist construction?

There is still time for the people to choose.

The Left and Wiggle Room

Jeux!

Patrick Cockburn’s recent article is one example of why I read CounterPunch less often than I used to.  Or, at the least, why I have become more critical of their editorial stance.  With this article, I have the impression I’m reading a Bernie Sanders speech, of being Judas-goated into the camp of what I consider a kind of useless caviar Left.  While maybe not as bad as The Guardian (I prefer OffGuardian), there are too many weasel words, phrases, and statements that reek of Establishment consensus.  That if you’re going to refer to the head-chopping proxies, armed and funded by the US and its good buddies, Saudi Arabia, the UK, and other assorted vassals, as “rebels” rather than the paid lieutenants of the criminal gang in DC, London, Riyadh or Paris, you’re basically saying it’s okay to murder at arm’s length, to somehow plausibly deny any real, true, strong connection to the crime or the perpetrators.  Plausible Deniability being spook-speak for basically lying, when timidly asked, about any crime they’ve just committed.

Here’s one example:

Pundits are predictably sceptical about the agreement reached by Russian president Vladimir Putin and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi on Monday to head off an imminent offensive by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces directed against rebels in Idlib province.

See what I mean?  No qualifications or explanations of who these “rebels” are or why they are there.  If they’re “rebels”, they must be the good guys, right?  We all love a “rebel” when he’s creating mayhem in another country or in some movie theatre.  That statement is also a subliminal reminder that if they’re “rebels”, they must be “rebelling” against something, and that  “something” must be bad, hinting that Assad must be bad, even though words like “brutal dictator” or “thug” weren’t used.  This time.

*****

And speaking of “brutal dictators” or “thugs”, it’s pretty obvious that the US is now, as has been for quite a while, a dictatorship, and a brutal one, at that.  As are most of its allies/vassals in the West and elsewhere to differing degrees.  We’ve even got our own murderous “proxy army” right here in the “Homeland”.  It’s called the Police, who go around murdering with impunity, armed with surplus military gear.  How many homeless, uninsured, hungry, and dubiously incarcerated (modern day slaves, working in private prisons) do we have?  Do you think that minuscule percentage of the people (or their paid hitmen/women in Congress – Oligarch money put them there in the first place) who actually run things give a rat’s ass about any of this?  That’s what they do.  All of them.  They look around the entire planet to find (or create the necessary conditions for creating) the weakest possible “enemies”:  People who just want to be left alone to figure out their own futures, on their own terms, who don’t have imperial aspirations or the military means of carrying them forward even if they wanted to, but, for most part, don’t.  They’d rather spend what means they have on their own populations.  Call that behaviour what you will, but it certainly doesn’t include a blind obedience to the diktats of the Money Men and their military enforcers.

*****

But our “Left” editors at CP have a difficult time of saying that up front.  The term “rebel” also supports the claim/point of view that the conflict in Syria is a “civil” war.  It’s total nonsense, but here it is:

The Syrian civil war long ago ceased to be a struggle fought out by local participants. Syria has become an arena where foreign states confront each other, fight proxy wars and put their strength and influence to the test. 

“Long ago”, Patrick?  It was never a “civil” war.  In fact, no wars are “civil”, but that’s kind of beside the point here.  The conflict in Syria was aided and abetted, if not instigated, by the US and its local (and not so local, but closer to the scene, allies; i.e., France and the UK, the FUK of FUKUS) allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia, two theocratic states who hate the idea of having a secular, tolerant, independent state in their neighbourhood, especially one friendly to/allied with other independent states like Russia and Iran.

Why can’t you say that?  Why can’t anyone, except for belittled independent journalists (Vanessa Beeley, Eva Bartlett come to mind) let us know what’s really going on?  What really happened?

It’s a sad day when we we are pretty much denied by the MSM the reports of a couple of female journalists who apparently were really “there”, on the ground, as they say, and all the while tout the female #metoo movement.  There’s no coherency in all this.  But, yes, I’m giving too much credit to the #metoo movement, and all the cat fights that ensue.  Still, it takes up too much space in whatever media space you choose.

On to other stuff.

Then we have the term “arena” used as a descriptor for an invasion.  As if we’re sitting in the stands in the Colosseum watching an entertainment or in one of the corporate-sponsored arenas of the NBA.  War has suddenly morphed into spectacle and sport.  This kind of linguistic sleight of hand is clever and maybe downright deliberate.  But maybe he couldn’t come up with a better way of stating it.  Just goes to show how the whole idea of “otherness” and spectacle have come to invade the consciousness of much of the so-called Left.

There is a striking note of imperial self-confidence about the document in which all sides in the Syrian civil war are instructed to come to heel.

“Imperial self-confidence”?   Do you see what I mean?  It’s a ”document”.  Not an invasion.  There’s absolutely nothing “imperial” about it.  It’s an open declaration of what they see as a solution to a problem.  In other words, “Here’s what we’d like to do, given the circumstances.”  It’s an invitation to dialog, not a pre-emptive invasion.

And then, here we go again:

Moscow helped Assad secure his rule after the popular uprising in 2011 and later ensured his ultimate victory by direct military intervention in 2015.

“Popular uprising”?  Right, just like the vicious coup in Ukraine was a “popular uprising”?  The US supposed, I guess, that the Syrians were just as venal as the Ukrainians.  Or, if they had figured out that Syria would be a harder nut to crack, why not just simply create a reason to send money, arms, and the cooperation of its ideological opponents to do the dirty work?  Not the same situation at all.  But Cockburn would have us accept these fairy tales that anyone who hints that they might want to make an independent decision must be categorised as a dictator, a thug, someone who needs to be punished, not by his own people, but by the US.  By proxy, of course.  Can’t forget that.

And then there’s this “direct military intervention”.  As if Russia simply decided, unilaterally, that enough was enough.  Assad asked, invited, if not begged for Russia to help him out.  They are allies, after all.  Again, not quite the same thing.  Cockburn may believe all his nonsense, or he’s being very careful not to upset too many “humanitarian intervention” Lefties who still believe that Assad is a “thug” or whatever, as probably a good many of his readers, and those of CounterPunch do.

  … but politicians and commentators continue to blithely recommend isolating Russia and pretend that it can be safely ignored.

Again, “safely ignored”?  Then what about all the Russophobia constantly hyped by the MSM?  That’s not what I’d call ignoring something.  The architects for total world dominance by the US and its vassals (or should I say Israeli-US dominance?) are probably shaking in their collective boots at the new geo-political reality staring them in the face.  It’s not what I’d call “blithely recommending”, but it might pass for UK diplomatic-speak saying, “How did we get ourselves into this mess?” Or, on the other hand, it could mean, “We have to do something, quickly, anything (does the Skripal case come to mind?), to turn this thing around.  Doesn’t matter if it doesn’t make sense, if it’s a total fabrication.  We’ll use our tried and true method of simply repeating our version, ‘creating our own reality’ as the Yanks are so fond of doing.”

Plus, Russia doesn’t need to show the world it’s a power player.  It has been since Mr Putin began turning Russia away from, in Matt Taibbi’s words, “the vampire squid”.  Granted, he hasn’t quite succeeded completely, has had his setbacks, but without spending trillions, he has stymied the overthrow of yet another middle eastern nation.  At least for the moment.  Things could get nasty.

If you read the entire article carefully, you’ll find all kinds of these little hidden exits where the author can argue pretty much anything, if you were to put the question to him.  It’s the intent, deliberate or not, that I have a hard time swallowing.  Too much wiggle room.

I’d like to add that Jonathan Cook has just written, in my view, two excellent analyses of the interplay of media and socio-political consciousness.  Must read.  The articles to which I am referring are here and here.

My problem is, when reading an article like this, I have the impression of submitting to a lecture by someone conveniently “left”, and of a certain stature, who can be trotted out when necessary.  Not a pleasant feeling (and yes, I admit that “feelings” are counter-productive, or not necessarily the best lens through which you can examine any particular phenomenon, in some sense, because marketing depends mostly on emotions) in that I sense a lack of empathy, a certain comfortable distance from what is actually happening.  Some may call it “objective reporting”.  But it affects me as a subtle sort of propaganda.  It reinforces the “us against them” paradigm but in this “imperialistic” manner, if I may say.  I refer to my “spectator” reference above.  We’re invited to see this from afar, as if we were pushing around armies on a map.  Cook’s argument, that we need to step back from the screen in order to see the big picture, does, in no way, contradict what I’m trying to say.

In other words, to use Cook’s analogy of being scrunched up against the IMAX screen so we can’t interpret the entire picture, we have to take the word of whoever is sitting at a comfortable distance as to what’s going on.  What may seem contradictory is the fact that some journalists may actually be present at the scene about which they are reporting.  Compare the reporting of Venessa Beeley or Eva Bartlett to Cockburn’s piece.  That is to say, they are, in a sense, close to the screen.  So do they have necessary perspective to provide us with an accurate view of what is going on?  While we, the readers of the reporting, aren’t even in the theatre.

Cockburn works for a mainstream publication, part of the present power structure.  What are we to make of that?

I’ve no personal beef with Mr Cockburn, nor is this really about him.  He does what he does for his own personal reasons.  I can choose to read his stuff or not, agree with him or not.  That’s not my point.  The only reason I’m writing this is that, given the present circumstances, I tend to carefully parse what I do read.  Call me a nitpicker if you like.  This particular article happened to make me grimace, contained an element of dissonance that made me stop and consider its possible effects.  That, plus the fact that I saw this article on a self-proclaimed, left-leaning, “muckraking” web site.  The writer is of less importance than the message conveyed.  Language is important and, outside of personal intimacy, it’s the only means we have of communicating.

I think we do ourselves an intellectual favour by entering into that contradictory world of being up close and distant at the same time.

• Author’s Note:  All bolds are mine.

Racism, Sexism, and Homophobia: The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit of American Liberalism

The Russians have an expression: words are deeds. Indeed, words contain a mesmeric power, and while this power can be used for good, it can also be used to harness dark and pernicious forces. For as Orwell understood all too well, words can be hijacked by a corrupt ruling class and used to indoctrinate, manipulate, and deceive.

In order to understand how the liberal class has come to be so beguiled by the forces of reaction, one must take note of the unprecedented liberal hysteria over racism, sexism, and homophobia. Indeed, the more liberals remain transfixed with this unholy trinity, the more indifferent they become to the terrible suffering inflicted by capitalism, as they are drawn further and further to the right, and pulled ever more deeply into a vortex of amorality.

This is not to suggest that racism, sexism, and homophobia do not exist, but rather, that these words have been co-opted by a ruling establishment which has succeeded in duping the faux-left into embracing policies that are deeply antithetical to the interests of American workers, patients, and students.

In politics either one believes in unions, single-payer, and public education or one doesn’t. Either one opposes imperialism, or one does not. The problem with anchoring a political discourse around who opposes racism, sexism, and homophobia and who (allegedly) doesn’t, is that these words are inherently ambiguous to the point where they can be manipulated to mean almost anything. All too often, the racists, sexists, and homophobes can simply comprise anybody who has the temerity to challenge liberal orthodoxy.

In an article in U.S. News and World Report titled “The Problem with Hillary-Hate,” Joanne Cronrath Bamberger bemoans the criticism of her hero, arguing that, “Pundits and journalists alike continually refer to her as corrupt and untrustworthy, even though the things people point to for support either are false or they can’t say why they use those words because, well, it’s just a feeling they have”. “We came, we saw, he died,” Hillary famously blurted out when asked about the brutal murder of Gaddafi. While this may never be mentioned on CNN, Libya was a country that had a high standard of living, and had attained a sound nationalization of its health care and education systems. Gaddafi infuriated the Western elites by attempting to establish a gold-backed dinar, leading NATO to unleash a barrage of merciless savagery and violence on a country that is now in a state of complete and utter lawlessness, yet this fails to elicit even so much as a shrug from the sanctimonious imaginary left. For these acts of barbarity pale in the decaying liberal mind with an accusation of sexism.

Bamberger continues:

Disagree with her policies all you want. Propose different plans that are better. But continuing hate-based commentary about Clinton implicitly says to us all that it will also be acceptable to throw the next woman presidential candidate – viable or not – under the bus with detestable accusations and made-up charges. To let that kind of hateful disrespect for any woman continue allows it to become our cultural norm.

This lamentable mentality is illustrative of how the sexism card can be used to stifle criticism – not only of an extremely corrupt politician – but of foreign policies that are nothing short of genocidal.

In an equally inane article in the HuffPost by Maya Dusenbery, titled “Medicine has a Sexism Problem, and it’s Making Women Sicker,” the author (who has rheumatoid arthritis and a female rheumatologist), writes:

While I’ve been a feminist writer for years, before I got sick, I hadn’t given much thought to how sex and gender bias has skewed what we know and don’t know about health and disease and how it affects the quality of medical care that patients receive. But after my brush with the autoimmune epidemic – an epidemic that seemed strangely off the radar of both the public and the medical system – I started to explore it. What I’ve discovered is that a lack of knowledge about women’s health, and a lack of trust in their reports of their symptoms – entwined problems that have become remarkably entrenched in the American medical system – conspire to leave many women misdiagnosed, dismissed and sick.

Hospital errors are the third leading cause of death in this country, and thousands of Americans continue to file for bankruptcy due to medical bills they cannot pay, while little Cuba has had constitutionally mandated single-payer since 1959, yet these are mere trivialities. The real problem with our health care system is that it is sexist.

If sexism is the son, racism is the father, and no one loves talking about racism more than liberals. Regrettably, they know nothing whatsoever about it. Last April, Milo Yiannopoulos was driven out of a New York bar by a pack of vituperative liberals who repeatedly yelled “Nazi scum get out.” That Milo is a flamboyant homosexual, married to a black man, and has a Jewish maternal grandmother surely makes him the strangest Nazi that ever lived. Whether one agrees with what he says or not, is neither here nor there. The point is that it is simply far too common for anyone who disagrees with fundamentalist liberal dogma to be beaten with the truncheons of racism and sexism. That the real Nazis are in Kiev, and that they violently seized power in a coup which was wholeheartedly backed by the Obama administration is, to quote John Pilger, beyond irony.

In an article in The Washington Post titled “The Racist Backlash Obama Has Faced During His Presidency,” by Terence Samuel, the author writes, “From the very beginning, Obama’s ascendance produced a huge backlash that was undeniably racist in nature….” This was an administration that destroyed Libya, Yemen, Ukraine, supported death squads in Syria that led to the destruction of over half the country, slaughtered thousands in Iraq and Afghanistan, passed the National Defense Authorization Act, set aside a trillion dollars to modernize our nuclear weapons arsenal and brought relations with Moscow to their nadir. Moreover, these genocidal polices were paid for with trillions of dollars, while a vast swath of American society is either uneducated, unemployed, or without decent health insurance. Yet these acts of brazen criminality and barbarity are incidental. So let’s ignore the content of Obama’s character, and just talk about the color of his skin.

At a lecture at Trinity College Dublin in June, Hillary said, “Vladimir Putin has positioned himself as the leader of an authoritarian, white-supremacist and xenophobic movement….” What is striking about these remarks is that much of Hillary’s presidential campaign was anchored in Russophobia – undeniably one of the most dangerous forms of racism – and which contributed to an ideology that led to the murder of twenty-seven million Russians during the Second World War.

Liberals wield an extraordinary amount of power in the public schools, and regard themselves as valiant crusaders against racism. Yet while they repeatedly and vociferously maintain that the ethnic studies programs and the multicultural curriculum are the antithesis of racism, they are actually the quintessence of it. For these policies have fomented an unprecedented degree of segregation in our schools and in our society. Indeed, virtually any attempt at elevating the level of education for poor students of color – especially in the humanities – will invariably land a public school teacher in the doghouse with a liberal administrator. In this schizophrenic order that would make Orwell blush, the real racists are now holier-than-thou anti-racists.

Accusations of homophobia have also become quite useful when it comes to duping insouciant liberals into embracing reactionary policies. In an article in The Guardian titled “Iranian Human Rights Official Describes Homosexuality as an Illness,” the author bemoans the fact that, “An Iranian official whose job is to protect human rights has described homosexuality as an illness, after a UN special rapporteur expressed concerns about the systematic persecution of Iran’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.”

What a pity that the editors of a once respectable newspaper are happy to print anti-Iranian propaganda, so as to foment liberal bloodlust for yet another regime change. The author also fails to question why one of Washington’s best friends in the Middle East, the Saudi monarchy, a regime that delights in decapitating people as punishment for “sorcery and witchcraft,” is permitted to impose a theocracy infinitely more reactionary and medieval than the one in Iran, and can do so without even the faintest trace of rebuke from the Western media. And what of the Washington-backed jihadi death squads in Syria and Libya? What is their record on gay rights? Indeed, the same question could be raised regarding the rights of women living under the yoke of these barbarians. But they are “the good terrorists,” and so all is forgiven.

In an article in The Guardian by Peter Tatchell, titled “World Cup Fever, Gay Rights Abuses and War Crimes – It’s an Ugly Mix,” the author writes, “I’m here for the World Cup – but unlike thousands of fans, I won’t be cheering on this festival of football. LGBT+ people and many other Russians suffer state-sanctioned persecution and far-right violence. These abuses need to be challenged.” The decision of Washington to unleash Neo-Nazi and other far-right paramilitaries on the Donbass that have murdered thousands of ethnic Russians, Moscow’s military intervention in Syria that saved the country from the fate of Libya, and the fact that Russians enjoy free health care and superior education, are of no interest to Western propagandists. Russians are simply terrible people, and what better way to get liberals to embrace Russophobia (not to mention the annihilation of the planet), than to talk about the country’s lack of gay rights?

This is not to say that identity politics and multiculturalism have been a failure. On the contrary, they have been a resounding success. However, contrary to fundamentalist liberal dogma this success lies not unto the heart of the left, but under the iron heel of the right. Increasingly, those who have been indoctrinated to view the world through the warped prism of identity politics are incapable of seeing political reality for what it is, but for what the ruling establishment desires it to be. For they have been enshrouded in a veil of blindness.

That liberals have severed all ties with The Civil Rights Movement, unions, intellectual inquiry, and anti-imperialist sentiment is incontrovertible. The ongoing fervor and cultlike zealotry over racism, sexism, and homophobia has ushered in a new era of witch-hunts, and is indicative of a liberal class that is increasingly unmoored and unhinged. The psychosis of contemporary liberalism has defiled and contaminated our very language, and caused the national discourse to be paralyzed by a deranged political philosophy that has fomented a war of all against all, while allowing the elite to use liberals as attack dogs to vilify, intimidate, and silence all who oppose the machinations of capitalist power both at home and abroad

Main Charter School Myth Promoted By “Progressives”

People who call themselves “democrats,” “lefties,” “progressives,” or “social justice advocates” are becoming increasingly critical of and rejecting charter schools. This is a positive development.

But quite a few “democrats,” “lefties,” “progressives, and “social justice advocates” remain victims of several harmful myths about charter schools.

Perhaps the main charter school myth perpetuated by “democrats,” “lefties,” “progressives,” and “social justice advocates” goes something like this: “charter schools are terrible for 50 reasons, but they had progressive, noble, democratic origins and were never meant to become the terrible arrangements that they have become.” In other words, charter schools started out as a positive grass-roots effort for school improvement but were hijacked somewhere along the way and turned into horrible things with endless problems that benefit mainly major owners of capital. Different owners of capital have, according to this view, usurped the charter school movement to serve their narrow profit-maximizing aims, thereby perverting and sabotaging the “true” intent and promise of charter schools. If only the self-serving wealthy saboteurs of the charter school movement were not part of the equation, if only they had not polluted an otherwise promising educational “experiment” and “innovation,” then charter schools could have delivered on their original progressive vision, promise, and hope—and so much controversy and criticism could have been avoided.

This fairy tale may, in fact, be one of the most nagging, dogmatic, and entrenched narratives repeated by “democrats,” “lefties,” “progressives,” and “social justice advocates.” It refuses to die. It is impervious to logic, facts, and analysis, which speaks volumes.

In September 2018, The Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools produced an informative and useful report titled Confronting the Education Debt. The report underscores the many ways that the system is rigged to further enrich the wealthy few while also depriving schools and students of tens of billions of dollars in public funds and resources. It specifically highlights how privatization of public schools has harmed public schools and students. It recognizes that, “The movement to privatize public schools is a deliberate strategy to throw open the ‘education marketplace’ to private interests.” It also states that, “the privatization of schools has contributed to austerity conditions in traditional public schools.” No doubt, charter schools are making things worse for many poor, low-income, and minority students, inside and outside charter schools. To be sure, the phony austerity agenda of the financial oligarchy has been wreaking havoc in all sectors and institutions for forty years.

Unfortunately, The Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools openly and explicitly repeats the tired fiction that, “Charter schooling did not begin as a privatization strategy.” This is not a drive-by statement. It is not a casual or flippant assertion. As noted above, it is something many, if not most, “democrats,” “lefties,” “progressives,” “social justice advocates” faithfully repeat.

Research and investigation have shown, however, that charter schooling started out precisely as a deliberate calculated top-down policy for school privatization. Charter schooling was never a grass-roots pro-public phenomenon. Its origins were never humble and never served the public interest. Charter schools were conceived and created by many individuals and organizations with large amounts of economic, political, cultural, and educational capital. Average, ordinary, everyday people were nowhere around at the inception of charter schools. This has been documented by myself and others,1 including by the architects of charter schools themselves.2

At the end of the day, however, none of this may really matter. This point may be moot. As endless nauseating news and scholarly reports show year after year, charter schools, which continue to multiply, are incapable of escaping scandals, crimes, and other unethical practices. They are imploding in many states.

As more students, parents, teachers, principals, school boards, teacher educators, and legislators become more aware and intolerant of the endless problems with charter schools, and as they begin to develop a broad, independent, and coherent outlook on the dangers of privatization, charter school supporters will become more irrational, defiant, and truculent. They have powerful financial incentives to oppose the public interest and expand charter schools with impunity. However, this does not mean they will prevail in the long-run. Wealthy private interests can be defeated.

  1. See Charter School Report Card (2016) by Shawgi Tell and The Untold History of Charter Schools (2017) by Rachel Cohen in Democracy Journal
  2. Junge, E. R. (2012). Zero Chance of Passage: The Pioneering Charter School Story. Minnesota: Beaver’s ond Press.

Main Charter School Myth Promoted By “Progressives”

People who call themselves “democrats,” “lefties,” “progressives,” or “social justice advocates” are becoming increasingly critical of and rejecting charter schools. This is a positive development.

But quite a few “democrats,” “lefties,” “progressives, and “social justice advocates” remain victims of several harmful myths about charter schools.

Perhaps the main charter school myth perpetuated by “democrats,” “lefties,” “progressives,” and “social justice advocates” goes something like this: “charter schools are terrible for 50 reasons, but they had progressive, noble, democratic origins and were never meant to become the terrible arrangements that they have become.” In other words, charter schools started out as a positive grass-roots effort for school improvement but were hijacked somewhere along the way and turned into horrible things with endless problems that benefit mainly major owners of capital. Different owners of capital have, according to this view, usurped the charter school movement to serve their narrow profit-maximizing aims, thereby perverting and sabotaging the “true” intent and promise of charter schools. If only the self-serving wealthy saboteurs of the charter school movement were not part of the equation, if only they had not polluted an otherwise promising educational “experiment” and “innovation,” then charter schools could have delivered on their original progressive vision, promise, and hope—and so much controversy and criticism could have been avoided.

This fairy tale may, in fact, be one of the most nagging, dogmatic, and entrenched narratives repeated by “democrats,” “lefties,” “progressives,” and “social justice advocates.” It refuses to die. It is impervious to logic, facts, and analysis, which speaks volumes.

In September 2018, The Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools produced an informative and useful report titled Confronting the Education Debt. The report underscores the many ways that the system is rigged to further enrich the wealthy few while also depriving schools and students of tens of billions of dollars in public funds and resources. It specifically highlights how privatization of public schools has harmed public schools and students. It recognizes that, “The movement to privatize public schools is a deliberate strategy to throw open the ‘education marketplace’ to private interests.” It also states that, “the privatization of schools has contributed to austerity conditions in traditional public schools.” No doubt, charter schools are making things worse for many poor, low-income, and minority students, inside and outside charter schools. To be sure, the phony austerity agenda of the financial oligarchy has been wreaking havoc in all sectors and institutions for forty years.

Unfortunately, The Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools openly and explicitly repeats the tired fiction that, “Charter schooling did not begin as a privatization strategy.” This is not a drive-by statement. It is not a casual or flippant assertion. As noted above, it is something many, if not most, “democrats,” “lefties,” “progressives,” “social justice advocates” faithfully repeat.

Research and investigation have shown, however, that charter schooling started out precisely as a deliberate calculated top-down policy for school privatization. Charter schooling was never a grass-roots pro-public phenomenon. Its origins were never humble and never served the public interest. Charter schools were conceived and created by many individuals and organizations with large amounts of economic, political, cultural, and educational capital. Average, ordinary, everyday people were nowhere around at the inception of charter schools. This has been documented by myself and others,1 including by the architects of charter schools themselves.2

At the end of the day, however, none of this may really matter. This point may be moot. As endless nauseating news and scholarly reports show year after year, charter schools, which continue to multiply, are incapable of escaping scandals, crimes, and other unethical practices. They are imploding in many states.

As more students, parents, teachers, principals, school boards, teacher educators, and legislators become more aware and intolerant of the endless problems with charter schools, and as they begin to develop a broad, independent, and coherent outlook on the dangers of privatization, charter school supporters will become more irrational, defiant, and truculent. They have powerful financial incentives to oppose the public interest and expand charter schools with impunity. However, this does not mean they will prevail in the long-run. Wealthy private interests can be defeated.

  1. See Charter School Report Card (2016) by Shawgi Tell and The Untold History of Charter Schools (2017) by Rachel Cohen in Democracy Journal
  2. Junge, E. R. (2012). Zero Chance of Passage: The Pioneering Charter School Story. Minnesota: Beaver’s ond Press.

Putin-Nazi Paranoia

They’re out there. Trump-loving, Assad-apologist, Putin-Nazi sleeper agents, posing as regular normal Americans. They could be anyone. They could be your neighbors, the guys in the copy room, your Uber drivers, even some of your Twitter followers. They’re sitting there, right now, glued to their televisions, waiting for Jewish Nazi law clerks to perform a series of secret hand signs, blinks, hiccups, sneezes, coughs, and almost undetectable, low-frequency flatulence that will signal the launch of the “Attack on America.” It could come at any moment now.

Zina Bash is definitely one of them. Don’t let her Mexican-Jewish ancestry, or the fact that her grandparents were Holocaust survivors, fool you into thinking otherwise. She made that “OK” sign at the Kavanaugh hearings, which, all right, apparently wasn’t the cue for the millions of American Putin-Nazis to rip off their rubbery masks of normality and storm into the streets in their polo shirts singing Tomorrow Belongs to Me … but it was some kind of secret Nazi code.

Certainly, Alex Jones is one of them. Why else would patriotic global corporations like Apple, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube suddenly ban him from all their platforms after allowing him to spew his bile there for years? It’s probably only a matter of time until Google’s “algorithms” unperson him entirely (at which point I’ll receive instructions to delete any reference to him in this essay, or risk being further deranked myself. I will, of course, comply immediately, as no one despises Alex Jones more than I, even though, oddly, I’ve never watched him. Thank God for that, as who knows how my mind could have been permanently warped by whatever Nazi content he’s been forcing less fortunate Americans to consume!)

And then, God help us, there’s Jeremy Corbyn and his genocidal communist Nazi Death Cult! If he isn’t one of them, no one is. If you haven’t been following the British media, the story is, basically, that Jeremy Corbyn is a terrorist-loving, anti-Semitic, conspiracy theorizing, racist traitor to everything the British ruling classes stand for, and has transformed the UK Labour Party into a homicidal mob of Jew-hating brownshirts. Gangs of slavering Corbyn-Nazis are roving the lanes of Kensington and Knightsbridge accusing Jews of lacking irony and saying mean things about the State of Israel. British Jews have been advised to flee the country or to shelter in place until the tabloids, The Guardian, the ruling classes, and Tony Blair can hound this Hitlerian devil out of office, which, the way things are going, should be any day now.

Meanwhile, the British soldier on under the imminent threat of Putin-Nazi Novichok perfume assassin hit squads, which Putin could send at any moment directly from Moscow to Gatwick Airport to incompetently attempt to murder their targets by spraying the deadliest nerve agent in existence onto the doorknobs of their suburban homes and then stroll around getting filmed by every CCTV camera in Britain. As far as I know, the British tabloids haven’t yet published surveillance photos of Corbyn welcoming the Skripal assassins at Gatwick with a wreath, or a bottle of Stolichnaya (and wearing his Russian-stooge hat, of course), but I won’t be terribly shocked when they do.

And the Putin-Nazis are not just on the march in the United States and Great Britain. They’re coming out of the woodwork in Europe! As I’m sure you’re aware, here in Germany, in a city called Chemnitz in the Free State of Saxony, which has never had any kind of Nazi problems (except for the fact that the entire region has been infested with neo-Nazis for decades and is generally known here as Neo-Nazi Central), thousands of just regular foreigner-hating “Volk” joined a few hundred neo-Nazis in marching around with German flags, barking xenophobic slogans, heiling Hitler, harassing assorted “non-German-looking” human beings, and various other forms of “protest.” Such unprecedented eruptions of Nazism occur on a regular basis in Saxony, albeit on a smaller scale, so it was rather awkward for the corporate media to link the events in Chemnitz to Trump, but nevertheless they managed to sneak a few references to his “emboldenment” in. The best they could do to tie in to Putin was to publish a lot of photos of skinheads hanging around that humongous statue of Marx in the center of Chemnitz’s central square, because, you know, Putin, Trump, Marx, Stalin, Assad, Saddam, Gaddafi … whoever, they’re all just different brands of Hitler!

Seriously, though, all comedy aside … I have to hand it to David Brock, or Jennifer Palmieri, or whoever it was that came up with the Putin-Nazi narrative. OK, granted, the Putin part hasn’t quite worked, except on die-hard Obama disciples, Hillary-worshippers, and other bull-goose loonies, but the Nazi stuff is going gangbusters … and not just with the liberal public (because that has always been an easy sell), but also with the more leftist left. It has taken a while, but we’ve arrived at the stage where even “hardcore anti-capitalist leftists” are dedicating most of their time and energy to calling Donald Trump a fascist, and likening him to Hitler, and so on, over and over, and over again, in increasingly exasperated tones. Why, in Marx’s name, these leftists want to know, won’t other leftists join the chorus of voices screaming, “TRUMP IS A FASCIST!” in all caps on a daily basis? How could these other leftists not see that this is not the time to attack the corporate media, the “intelligence community,” global corporations, or anyone other than DONALD TRUMP, who is LITERALLY ADOLF FUCKING HITLER?

Anthony DiMaggio’s recent essay in CounterPunch is a prime example of the effect the Putin-Nazi paranoia is having on leftists. According to DiMaggio, Donald Trump, by tweeting mean things about Attorney General Sessions and bombastically threatening The New York Times, is no longer just a normal fascist. He is now officially a “full-on fascist,” or a “real world fascist,” or a super duper fascist! DiMaggio doesn’t have any qualms about the deep state, or rather, the steady state, sabotaging an elected president (or at least pretending to be doing do so in print), because, well, you know, “the stakes are far higher” than mere democracy, what with Hitler in the White House. William Kristol would agree wholeheartedly.

But calling Trump a fascist again is just an overture for DiMaggio’s main theme, which is that it’s time to unite the left against the growing Putin-Nazi threat. See, the problem is not just the Putin-Nazis. It is also the fellow Putin-Nazi travellers, and the Assadists, and the Red-Brown infiltrators! Yes, you know who we are, do you not? Glenn Greenwald is our leader, naturally, but Caitlin Johnstone is second-in-command. We refer to her in our secret meetings as “Caity, Queen of the Putin-Nazis.” DiMaggio links to a helpful list of other traitorous Strasserist spies compiled by the crackpot Louis Proyect, folks like Norman Finkelstein, Mike Whitney, Diana Johnstone, Patrick Cockburn, Tom Engelhardt, and Michael Hudson, whose essays have been published in The Unz Review, which also publishes a lot of “alt-right,” racist, and anti-Semitic essays. (Full disclosure: Proyect contacted me, demanding to know how I can allow my work to appear on a Nazi website like Unz, but I ignored him, as I assumed he was just trolling me, again, but it appears he was fishing for incriminating comments for his groundbreaking piece of investigative journalism. In any event, I seem to have escaped inclusion on his Red-Brown blacklist. For the record, I’m with Norman Finkelstein. I don’t stop anyone from reposting my essays, no matter what I think of their other contributors. I wouldn’t even stop The New York Times from publishing my stuff, though, of course, they never would, and they publish actual mass murdering war criminals.)

Anyway, according to Anthony DiMaggio, “leftists who focus on the propagandistic nature of the corporate media, while shilling for the far right and failing to condemn right-wing fascism, provide comfort to the reactionary right’s efforts to suppress journalistic freedom.” Well, Jesus, I wouldn’t want to do anything like that. I hope DiMaggio will follow up with a breakdown of exactly how many times I need to call Donald Trump a fascist before I am allowed to criticize the propagandistic nature of the corporate media, or the global capitalist ruling classes, or any type of “full-on fascism” that doesn’t neatly fit into his simplistic category … like the type that seeks to impose a regime of anus-puckering ideological conformity on those it determines are members of its camp, and that gets off punishing deviations from its norms.

Look, the truth is, I don’t like Donald Trump. I haven’t liked him for about thirty years. I have no problem whatsoever with leftists like DiMaggio calling him names until they’re blue in the face if that makes them happy. What I do find troubling is the growing atmosphere of neo-McCarthyite paranoia which has been gradually spreading into leftist quarters, and the witch-hunting, and the Putin-Nazi-baiting, and the compiling and distributing of pseudo-blacklists, and the cheering on of global corporations as they ideologically sterilize the Internet. We get enough of that from the corporate media. So how about we lighten up on the paranoia, let the global capitalist ruling classes finish destroying Donald Trump, and maybe think about what the left has to offer as an alternative to the global-corporate, post-“fascist,” neo-feudal future. While it might not feel like it at the moment, it’s coming … we’ll be there before you know it.

Three Cheers for the Decline of the Middle Class

I realize how callous the title of this article sounds. The decline of the middle class, which in recent years has been the subject of innumerable articles, books, and movies, entails a terrible increase in human suffering. The descent of millions of families into relative poverty is beyond appalling, not something to be celebrated. However, the perverse Marxist in me feels obliged to complicate the narrative of unmitigated catastrophe that dominates all journalism and scholarship on the subject. The fact is that “progress,” like God, works in mysterious ways, paradoxical, inhuman, “dialectically contradictory” ways. And the contemporary decline of the West’s middle class may end up advancing, indirectly, the banner of humanity that the Left has carried forward since the seventeenth century.

The point isn’t a very deep one. Consider the gravest threat that life on Earth faces today: global warming. This threat cannot be adequately confronted in the framework of capitalism, which indeed is responsible for it; it demands a systemic socio-politico-economic revolution, a social transformation that systematically elevates human needs above capital’s needs. The most realistic way to address the crisis is for governments to nationalize the fossil fuel industry and shift resources toward renewable energy, which should be produced and distributed through publicly owned utilities. And this is only the beginning. There have to be international reforestation and afforestation programs, for instance, and massive deployment of carbon sequestration methods and technologies. The very dynamics of the political economy have to be altered.

How can society ever get to this point? Evidently only through upheavals so painful that it becomes clear there is no other option. Revolutionary change on such a scale happens only by means of unprecedented crisis, which is to say social discontent so extreme that half-measures are cast aside as pitifully inadequate. As long as a large middle class exists to serve as a bulwark of social stability and relatively conservative politics, the requisite crisis will not happen. Society has to polarize between a tiny minority of ultra-rich and a huge majority of unprotected, insecure, ecologically vulnerable, politically desperate people whose violent discontent propels the “revolution” forward. Systems have to be radically disrupted, on a scale greater than during even the Great Depression, which led to the welfare state. If history has taught us anything, it’s that the middle class is an effective barricade against revolution.

We might also reflect that, climatically speaking, the best thing that can happen in the short term is a global economic depression. Carbon emissions in the U.S. dropped by 11% between 2007 and 2013, mostly because of the Great Recession. A deeper economic collapse would have an even more positive effect, quite apart from the contributions it would make to the sort of systemic breakdown that would facilitate radical change.

Karl Marx recognized that class polarization and economic crisis present unique opportunities for systemic disruption, opportunities that activists must seize. That’s the imperative, after all: to disrupt the smooth functioning of powerful institutions, and to create new institutions in their place. The more polarization, the more opportunities there are for revolutionaries. There are also more dangers, as we’re seeing by the rise of the far-right across Europe and the U.S. But these dangers aren’t necessarily insurmountable, if only the Left can get its act together and organize the drifting masses.

Millions of people are out there waiting to be organized. We can only hope that by the time of the next economic crash, the Left will be ready to seize the initiative.