Category Archives: the left

Stephen Lewis and the NDP’s liberal Imperialism

If the New Democratic Party wants to be part of the solution and not a barrier to creating a better foreign policy it needs to start telling the truth.

Stephen Lewis is a liberal imperialist who largely ignores Canada’s contribution to African subjugation.

Just before the election Svend Robinson for Burnaby North-Seymour published an endorsement from Lewis. The Facebook page for the left-wing NDP candidate noted, “Thanks to the legendary Stephen Lewis for this stellar endorsement!”

The mainstream left’s deification of Lewis reflects its alignment with Canadian imperialism. Ontario NDP leader from 1970 to 1978, Lewis was stridently anti-Palestinian. He demanded the federal government cancel a major UN conference scheduled for Toronto in 1975 because the Palestine Liberation Organization was granted observer status at the UN the previous year and their representatives might attend. In a 1977 speech to pro-Israel fundraiser United Jewish Appeal, which the Canadian Jewish News titled “Lewis praises [Conservative premier Bill] Davis for Stand on Israel”, Lewis denounced the UN’s “wantonly anti-social attitude to Israel.”

At the NDP’s 2018 convention Lewis’ sister, Janet Solberg, was maybe the loudest anti-Palestinian. Former president of the Ontario NDP and federal council member, Solberg was a long time backroom organizer for her brother and works at the Stephen Lewis Foundation.

Lewis’ wife Michele Landsberg was a staunch anti-Palestinian herself. In one of her latter Toronto Star columns the prominent feminist wrote, “to keep their people primed for endless war, Palestinians have inculcated racist hatred of Jews and of Israel in school texts, official newspaper articles and leaders’ pronouncements, in language so hideous it would have made Goebbels grin.”

I can’t find any evidence of Lewis distancing himself from his or family’s previous anti-Palestinian positions.

Lewis backed the 2011 NATO bombing of Libya. “To forestall debate on Libya, Gaza and NATO in 2011,” wrote Barry Weisleder about the NDP convention that year, “Lewis gave a rhapsodic introduction to the foreign policy selections, during which he bestowed his blessing on the murderous NATO bombing of Libya, purportedly as an antidote to alleged mass rapes attributed to forces of the Ghadaffi regime.” Amnesty and Human Rights Watch couldn’t find evidence of the alleged mass rape. Amnesty senior crisis response adviser Donatella Rovera, who was in Libya for three months after the start of the uprising, said: “We have not found any evidence or a single victim of rape or a doctor who knew about somebody being raped.” Vehemently opposed by the African Union, the war on Libya destabilizing that country and surrounding states. Tens of thousands were killed and Libya remains at war.

Lewis promoted the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine used to justify the 2011 NATO war in Libya and the 2004 overthrow of Haiti’s elected government. R2P is a Canadian promoted high-minded cover for Western imperialism.

During the 2015 tour for my Canada in Africa: 300 Years of Aid and Exploitation I came across an iPolitics interview with Lewis on Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s policies in Africa. In it the former UN Special Envoy for HIV-AIDS in Africa said Stephen Harper’s government was not doing enough to fight the disease in Africa and decried Canada’s withdrawal from the continent. “It’s heartbreaking. You know what Canada could do. You know the difference we could make,” said Canada’s former Permanent Representative to the UN. But criticizing Harper’s failure to ‘do more’ in Africa was an affront to the victims of Canadian policy on the continent, because asking the Conservative leader for more was like the hen house rooster calling for more foxes. The Conservatives waged war on Libya and worked aggressively to increase the $30 billion Canadian mining sector’s profits at the expense of local African communities. Most troubling of all, Harper’s promotion of heavy carbon emitting tar sands and sabotage of international climate change negotiations was tantamount to a death sentence to ever-growing numbers of Africans.

Yet, on Africa no Canadian is more revered than Lewis. Though he’s widely viewed as a champion of the continent, the standing of the former Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reflects the dearth of critical discussion about Canada’s role in Africa. In fact, rather than advancing African liberation, the long-time member of Canadian and UN policy-making circles represents the critical end of an establishment debate oscillating between neo-conservatives who advocate aggressive, nakedly self-interested policies and those who promote the “Responsibility to Protect”, “do more” worldview.

As I describe in Left, Right: Marching to the Beat of Imperial Canada I failed to find any serious criticism Lewis directed at Canadian foreign policies except to deplore Ottawa’s insufficient aid. Lewis has long bemoaned the lack of “support” for Africa all the while ignoring Ottawa and corporate Canada’s contribution to the continent’s impoverishment.

But the staunch advocate of “aid” appears remarkably uninterested in the often self-interested and harmful character of “aid”. He ignores how Ottawa initially began dispersing aid to African countries as a way to dissuade newly independent countries from following wholly independent paths or falling under the influence of the Communist bloc. A big part of Canada’s early assistance went to train militaries, including the Ghanaian military that overthrew (with Ottawa’s backing) pan-Africanist independence leader Kwame Nkrumah in 1966. Since the 1980s hundreds of millions of dollars in Canadian aid money has gone to support pro-corporate structural adjustment policies and other initiatives benefiting Canada’s rapacious mining industry in Africa.

Lewis all but overlooks his own country’s role in subjugating the continent. I failed to find any comment on the many thousands of Canadian soldiers and missionaries who helped conquer the continent or undermine African cultural ways at the turn of the 19th century. Nor does Lewis seem to have mentioned official Ottawa’s multifaceted support for European colonial rule or Canada’s role in overthrowing progressive post-independence leaders Patrice Lumumba, Milton Obote and Kwame Nkrumah.

On the other hand, Lewis has repeatedly celebrated Canadian foreign policy. When Nelson Mandela died in 2013 Lewis engaged in aggressive mythmaking, boasting about “the intensity of our opposition to apartheid” and “the extraordinary role that Canada had played in fighting apartheid.” But, as I detail here, this is total hogwash.

Lewis’ 2005 book Race Against Time is peppered with praise for Canadian diplomats, lauding Canada’s role in fighting for gender equality at the UN, dubbing businessman-turned diplomat Maurice Strong “the ultimate ubiquitous internationalist” and exalting in “our own Lester Pearson … who negotiated with other Western governments the benchmark of 0.7% of GNP as the legitimate level of foreign aid for all industrial countries.” Despite Lewis citing Pearson’s name glowingly, the longtime diplomat, external minister and prime minister’s foreign-policy record dripped with blood, as I detail in Lester Pearson’s Peacekeeping: the Truth May Hurt.

Contrasting the ‘left’ reputation of Lewis in international affairs with his contentious history inside the domestic left reveals a great deal about the state of foreign policy discussion.

As head of the Ontario NDP, Lewis purged the Waffle (or Movement for an Independent Socialist Canada) from the provincial party in 1972. At the time many leftists criticized his role in expelling the Waffle from the party and some activists remain critical of Lewis for doing so to this day. In an article titled “On the 40th anniversary of the expulsion of the Waffle” Michael Laxer eviscerates Lewis for driving activists from the NDP. While his move to expel the Waffle continues to be debated, criticism of Lewis largely dried up as he shifted towards the international scene (as Brian Mulroney’s ambassador to the UN, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director and UN Special Envoy for HIV-AIDS in Africa). Yet, I believe most progressives, if they understood the implication of his positions on Africa, would find more common ground with Lewis’ domestic positions. On domestic policy Lewis has at times forthrightly criticized Canada’s power structures, broadly supports labour against capital and would largely reject charity as a model of social service delivery/poverty alleviation.

But, there’s at least some culture of holding politicians/public commentators accountable for their concessions to the dominant order on domestic issues so Lewis has faced some criticism. On Africa the situation is quite different. When it comes to the “dark continent” any prominent person’s charitable endeavor, call for increased “aid” or criticism of a geopolitical competitor is sufficient to win accolades. In an article titled “Africa in the Canadian media: The Globe and Mail’s coverage of Africa from 2003 to 2012” Tokunbo Ojo provides an informative assessment of the paper’s coverage of Lewis. Ojo writes, “built into this moralizing media gaze is the ‘white man’s burden’ imagery, and the voice of Canadian Stephen Lewis, a campaigner against HIV/AIDS, effectively symbolised this imagery in the coverage. Metaphorically, Lewis was framed as the iconic [19th century liberal missionary] ‘David Livingstone’ in campaigns against HIV/AIDS in Africa.”

It is long past time the NDP confront its pro-imperialist, missionaries-as-good-guys past and present.

Stephen Lewis and the NDP’s liberal Imperialism

If the New Democratic Party wants to be part of the solution and not a barrier to creating a better foreign policy it needs to start telling the truth.

Stephen Lewis is a liberal imperialist who largely ignores Canada’s contribution to African subjugation.

Just before the election Svend Robinson for Burnaby North-Seymour published an endorsement from Lewis. The Facebook page for the left-wing NDP candidate noted, “Thanks to the legendary Stephen Lewis for this stellar endorsement!”

The mainstream left’s deification of Lewis reflects its alignment with Canadian imperialism. Ontario NDP leader from 1970 to 1978, Lewis was stridently anti-Palestinian. He demanded the federal government cancel a major UN conference scheduled for Toronto in 1975 because the Palestine Liberation Organization was granted observer status at the UN the previous year and their representatives might attend. In a 1977 speech to pro-Israel fundraiser United Jewish Appeal, which the Canadian Jewish News titled “Lewis praises [Conservative premier Bill] Davis for Stand on Israel”, Lewis denounced the UN’s “wantonly anti-social attitude to Israel.”

At the NDP’s 2018 convention Lewis’ sister, Janet Solberg, was maybe the loudest anti-Palestinian. Former president of the Ontario NDP and federal council member, Solberg was a long time backroom organizer for her brother and works at the Stephen Lewis Foundation.

Lewis’ wife Michele Landsberg was a staunch anti-Palestinian herself. In one of her latter Toronto Star columns the prominent feminist wrote, “to keep their people primed for endless war, Palestinians have inculcated racist hatred of Jews and of Israel in school texts, official newspaper articles and leaders’ pronouncements, in language so hideous it would have made Goebbels grin.”

I can’t find any evidence of Lewis distancing himself from his or family’s previous anti-Palestinian positions.

Lewis backed the 2011 NATO bombing of Libya. “To forestall debate on Libya, Gaza and NATO in 2011,” wrote Barry Weisleder about the NDP convention that year, “Lewis gave a rhapsodic introduction to the foreign policy selections, during which he bestowed his blessing on the murderous NATO bombing of Libya, purportedly as an antidote to alleged mass rapes attributed to forces of the Ghadaffi regime.” Amnesty and Human Rights Watch couldn’t find evidence of the alleged mass rape. Amnesty senior crisis response adviser Donatella Rovera, who was in Libya for three months after the start of the uprising, said: “We have not found any evidence or a single victim of rape or a doctor who knew about somebody being raped.” Vehemently opposed by the African Union, the war on Libya destabilizing that country and surrounding states. Tens of thousands were killed and Libya remains at war.

Lewis promoted the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine used to justify the 2011 NATO war in Libya and the 2004 overthrow of Haiti’s elected government. R2P is a Canadian promoted high-minded cover for Western imperialism.

During the 2015 tour for my Canada in Africa: 300 Years of Aid and Exploitation I came across an iPolitics interview with Lewis on Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s policies in Africa. In it the former UN Special Envoy for HIV-AIDS in Africa said Stephen Harper’s government was not doing enough to fight the disease in Africa and decried Canada’s withdrawal from the continent. “It’s heartbreaking. You know what Canada could do. You know the difference we could make,” said Canada’s former Permanent Representative to the UN. But criticizing Harper’s failure to ‘do more’ in Africa was an affront to the victims of Canadian policy on the continent, because asking the Conservative leader for more was like the hen house rooster calling for more foxes. The Conservatives waged war on Libya and worked aggressively to increase the $30 billion Canadian mining sector’s profits at the expense of local African communities. Most troubling of all, Harper’s promotion of heavy carbon emitting tar sands and sabotage of international climate change negotiations was tantamount to a death sentence to ever-growing numbers of Africans.

Yet, on Africa no Canadian is more revered than Lewis. Though he’s widely viewed as a champion of the continent, the standing of the former Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reflects the dearth of critical discussion about Canada’s role in Africa. In fact, rather than advancing African liberation, the long-time member of Canadian and UN policy-making circles represents the critical end of an establishment debate oscillating between neo-conservatives who advocate aggressive, nakedly self-interested policies and those who promote the “Responsibility to Protect”, “do more” worldview.

As I describe in Left, Right: Marching to the Beat of Imperial Canada I failed to find any serious criticism Lewis directed at Canadian foreign policies except to deplore Ottawa’s insufficient aid. Lewis has long bemoaned the lack of “support” for Africa all the while ignoring Ottawa and corporate Canada’s contribution to the continent’s impoverishment.

But the staunch advocate of “aid” appears remarkably uninterested in the often self-interested and harmful character of “aid”. He ignores how Ottawa initially began dispersing aid to African countries as a way to dissuade newly independent countries from following wholly independent paths or falling under the influence of the Communist bloc. A big part of Canada’s early assistance went to train militaries, including the Ghanaian military that overthrew (with Ottawa’s backing) pan-Africanist independence leader Kwame Nkrumah in 1966. Since the 1980s hundreds of millions of dollars in Canadian aid money has gone to support pro-corporate structural adjustment policies and other initiatives benefiting Canada’s rapacious mining industry in Africa.

Lewis all but overlooks his own country’s role in subjugating the continent. I failed to find any comment on the many thousands of Canadian soldiers and missionaries who helped conquer the continent or undermine African cultural ways at the turn of the 19th century. Nor does Lewis seem to have mentioned official Ottawa’s multifaceted support for European colonial rule or Canada’s role in overthrowing progressive post-independence leaders Patrice Lumumba, Milton Obote and Kwame Nkrumah.

On the other hand, Lewis has repeatedly celebrated Canadian foreign policy. When Nelson Mandela died in 2013 Lewis engaged in aggressive mythmaking, boasting about “the intensity of our opposition to apartheid” and “the extraordinary role that Canada had played in fighting apartheid.” But, as I detail here, this is total hogwash.

Lewis’ 2005 book Race Against Time is peppered with praise for Canadian diplomats, lauding Canada’s role in fighting for gender equality at the UN, dubbing businessman-turned diplomat Maurice Strong “the ultimate ubiquitous internationalist” and exalting in “our own Lester Pearson … who negotiated with other Western governments the benchmark of 0.7% of GNP as the legitimate level of foreign aid for all industrial countries.” Despite Lewis citing Pearson’s name glowingly, the longtime diplomat, external minister and prime minister’s foreign-policy record dripped with blood, as I detail in Lester Pearson’s Peacekeeping: the Truth May Hurt.

Contrasting the ‘left’ reputation of Lewis in international affairs with his contentious history inside the domestic left reveals a great deal about the state of foreign policy discussion.

As head of the Ontario NDP, Lewis purged the Waffle (or Movement for an Independent Socialist Canada) from the provincial party in 1972. At the time many leftists criticized his role in expelling the Waffle from the party and some activists remain critical of Lewis for doing so to this day. In an article titled “On the 40th anniversary of the expulsion of the Waffle” Michael Laxer eviscerates Lewis for driving activists from the NDP. While his move to expel the Waffle continues to be debated, criticism of Lewis largely dried up as he shifted towards the international scene (as Brian Mulroney’s ambassador to the UN, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director and UN Special Envoy for HIV-AIDS in Africa). Yet, I believe most progressives, if they understood the implication of his positions on Africa, would find more common ground with Lewis’ domestic positions. On domestic policy Lewis has at times forthrightly criticized Canada’s power structures, broadly supports labour against capital and would largely reject charity as a model of social service delivery/poverty alleviation.

But, there’s at least some culture of holding politicians/public commentators accountable for their concessions to the dominant order on domestic issues so Lewis has faced some criticism. On Africa the situation is quite different. When it comes to the “dark continent” any prominent person’s charitable endeavor, call for increased “aid” or criticism of a geopolitical competitor is sufficient to win accolades. In an article titled “Africa in the Canadian media: The Globe and Mail’s coverage of Africa from 2003 to 2012” Tokunbo Ojo provides an informative assessment of the paper’s coverage of Lewis. Ojo writes, “built into this moralizing media gaze is the ‘white man’s burden’ imagery, and the voice of Canadian Stephen Lewis, a campaigner against HIV/AIDS, effectively symbolised this imagery in the coverage. Metaphorically, Lewis was framed as the iconic [19th century liberal missionary] ‘David Livingstone’ in campaigns against HIV/AIDS in Africa.”

It is long past time the NDP confront its pro-imperialist, missionaries-as-good-guys past and present.

No Class

In class society, everyone lives as a member of a particular class, and every kind of thinking, without exception, is stamped with the brand of a class.
— Mao, On Practice, 1937

That belief in Christ is to some a matter of life and death has been a stumbling block for readers who would prefer to think it a matter of no great consequence.
— Flannery O’Connor, Wise Blood, March 6, 2007

I think that most of the confusion in this respect has been the product of a failure to develop a class analysis of these changes. From a class perspective, it is clear that what we are seeing is the growth of various movements in the fascist genre (whether prefascism, protofascism, classical fascism, postfascism, neofascism, neoliberal fascism, ur-fascism, peripheral fascism, white supremacism, or national populism—you can take your pick). Fascist-type movements share certain definite class-based characteristics or tendencies. Although it is common in liberal discourse to approach such movements at the level of appearance, in terms of their ideological characteristics, such an idealist methodology only throws a veil over the underlying reality.
— John Bellamy Foster, Interview, Monthly Review, September 2019

The purveyors of free-market global capitalism believe that they have a right to plunder the remaining natural resources of this planet as they choose. Anyone who challenges their agenda is to be subjected to whatever misrepresentation and calumny that serves the free market corporate agenda.
— Michael Parenti, Interview with Jason Miller, 2016

When environmentalism unfolds within a system of heightened inequality and inadequate democratization, it does so unequally and autocratically. The result is not a “saved” climate, but rather enhanced revenue streams for corporations.
— Maximillian Forte, Climate Propaganda for Corporate Profit: Bell Canada

John Bellamy Foster noted that it was a lack of class analysis that has stifled left discourse over the last twenty years. And I have noted that when one does engage in class analysis the first response, very often, is to be called a conspiracy theorist. Now, this is largely because any class dissection will tend to unearth connections that have been hidden, consciously, by Capital — that those hidden forces and histories are experienced by the liberal left and faux left as somehow impossible. Class analysis means that the non-marxist liberal left is going to be faced with the malevolence of the ruling class, and in the U.S. certainly, the ruling class tends to be adored, secretly or otherwise, by the bourgeoisie.

When the U.S.S.R. dissolved the West intensified its propaganda onslaught immediately. And a good part of this propaganda was focused on the denial of class. On the right, the FOX News right, “class warfare” became a term of derision and also humour. And among liberal and educated bourgeoisie the avoidance of class was the result of a focus on, and validations of, rights for marginalized groups — even if that meant inventing new groups on occasion. Class was conspicuously missing in most identity rights discourse.

And the climate discourse, which was suddenly visible in mainstream media early 2000s, there was almost never a mention of class. Hence the new appropriation of that discourse by open racist eugenicists like “Sir” David Attenborough, and billionaire investors and publishers. Even by royalty. By 2015 or so there was what Denis Rancourt called the institutionalisation of a climate ethos. I have even seen of late self-identified leftists suggesting the “Greta” phenomenon was the working class finding its voice. (No, I’m not making that up). I have also seen many leftists — many of whom I have known for years — simply hysterical around the subject of this teenager. Her greatest appeal is to middle aged white men. I have no real explanation for that. But then these same men quote, often, everyone from Guy McPherson (who I think needs a padded cell, frankly) to Bill McKibben — an apologist for militarism and wealth… here ….

Gosh kids, let’s rely on big Wall Street money.  That’s a gall darn good idea. What an unctuous fuck he is.

The Attenborough and Greta (and Jane Goodall) video was absent content, really. Terms like *tipping points* were used several times but not identified. And they were not identified because they don’t have to be. This is the near religious end of the climate spectrum. I hear people angrily denounce someone as a “denier”. This is the tone reserved for all apostates. For heretics.

Now before continuing I find it very interesting that those predicting the most dire effects of climate change, those who say we’re dead in twenty years or thirty — they are still publishing books, still marketing those books. It’s still a business. I guess I might expect climate Sadhus to appear — naked mendicants, covered in dirt and dried mud, hair matted, living off alms. Or like preachers standing on the street corner, a sort of eco Asa Hawks, Bible in hand (or climate bible in hand) offering spiritual solace to the multitude. But instead we get TED talks and more rather expensive books.

I want to make clear, the planet is getting warmer. It’s already happening. To say otherwise is irrational. That does not mean there are not many questions left answered, and increasingly undiscussed. Nor that alarmism isn’t in full swing (fear and sex pretty much form the basis of all advertising). There is very little serious adult debate about what must be accounted the most serious subject, or one of two most serious subjects, in contemporary life. The other would be the global rise of fascism. And neither of these topics is given a serious public discussion. The entertainment apparatus is, at this point, ill-equipped to handle anything serious.

I do not consider the side show carnival of Greta and the Prince of Monaco, Arnold and Barack, and eugenicist scum like David Attenborough (as an Brit friend of mine referred to him, “that old racist tosspot”) as serious. The Green New Deal is western Capital laying claim to a new market. And Attenborough and Goodall both are members of the anti immigration (Malthusian) group Population Matters. This has been exhaustively catalogued by Cory Morningstar, but then she is now being smeared as a “conspiracy theorist”. And this is, again, because class figures rather prominently in her writings.

This reminds me of my Wall Street days, I mean all the new markets, the high yield markets, different convertible markets — this is how they all start.
— Mark Tercek, CEO, The Nature Conservancy, 2015.

Now, the bourgeoisie is perfectly happy to let the ruling class lead and be the decision makers. It is startling, really, how indigenous activists from the global south are so conspicuously missing in all this. So invisible in media. And to complain of this means one is met with just a myriad of apologetics about Greta and this carnival. And the paternalism that demands nobody ‘beat up’ on the teenager. There was never such outrage at criticism of Rachel Corrie. And amid all the young girl propaganda props (Nayirah al-Ṣabaḥ, Bana Alabed, Park Yeon-mi, et al) the only constant is that PR firms are doing a lot of business. But the new investment in Green technology (sic) will really only result in — as it always does — a further growth in unemployed labor and an uptick in low end minimum wage service work. This is straight out of Capital, the general law of capitalist accumulation.

But if a surplus labouring popUlation is a necessary product of accumulation or of the development of wealth on a capitalist basis, this surplus-population becomes, conversely, the lever of capitalistic accumulation, nay, a condition of existence of the capitalist mode of production. It forms a disposable industrial reserve army, that belongs to capital quite as absolutely as if the latter had bred it at its own cost.
— Karl Marx, Capital. Volume I: The Process of Production of Capital, September 14, 1867

And it is not even that, really. The ruling class set in motion an environmental program sometime around the year 2000. But the Rockefeller group, remember, founded the Club of Rome in 1968. The aim was to plan for resource depletion and limits to growth. It had a decided eugenicist bent. They issued a report in 1991, and formed a think tank in 2001. Among the members are Al Gore, Maurice Strong, The Dalai Lama, and Robert Muller of all people. And dozens more including Henry Kissinger, Bill Gates, George Soros, and Bill Clinton. You get the idea.

The point is that the current explosion of climate awareness is brought to you, at least partly, by the captains of western capital. And it is very white and very worried about birth rates in dark skinned countries. So the question becomes, in the midst of a real crises of pollution, and a warming planet, what and who is one to believe and where is one to turn? My first response is NOT to the people who helped create the problem in the first place.

In fact, class itself is something of a verboten word. In the mainstream media, in political life, and in academia, the use of the term “class” has long been frowned upon. You make your listeners uneasy (“Is the speaker a Marxist?”). If you talk about class exploitation and class inequity, you will likely not get far in your journalism career or in political life or in academia (especially in fields like political science and economics).

So instead of working class, we hear of “working families” or “blue collar” and “white collar employees”. Instead of lower class we hear of “inner city poor” and “low-income elderly.” Instead of the capitalist owning class, we hear of the “more affluent” or the “upper quintile’.
— Michael Parenti, “Class Warfare Indeed”, Common Dreams, 2011

There is a new religious tenor to climate discussions. And it reflects (among other things) a reductive world view. Global issues and forces and global relations on both a macro and micro level are being simplified. The template resembles a cartoon more than anything else. ‘Our demise is immanent’ is something I have read or heard at least a dozen times. People are enjoying the coming apocalypse. If they really believed that the end is nigh, they would be behaving very differently. But for many on the left the decades of marginalization has left them emotionally raw and psychologically battered. It’s so seductive to just give in to the coming apocalypse. And additionally there is a clear pleasure to be found in taking on the role of excommunicating climate Angel — come to smite the deniers with the sword of eco-piety.

Still, there are genuine and committed ecologists and activists working on preserving nature and protecting the wild. Many are from indigenous peoples in South America, Central America, Asia and Africa. They are all but invisible in mainstream media. And increasingly they are being murdered. (See Berta Caceres). One hundred and sixty four activists were murdered last year, with thirty in the Philippines alone. Twenty-six in Colombia. None of this is front page news. Why? Why is a blond teenager now nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize (usually reserved for war criminals) meeting with Obama and the Pope while the defenders of Nature in poor countries remain nameless and anonymous? The answer is because white people care about white people. And because Western capital sees those poor countries as places to exploit, burden with debt, and de-populate. The ruling elite, including those backing the Extinction Rebellion and Green New Deal, are on the side of those who murdered Caceres. Look at big mining in the global south, enormously polluting, destructive of land and community and people. A just very cursory glance at who runs this mega mining concerns is illuminating. Who sits on the board of Newmont Goldcorp, for example. While based in Colorado, its primary mining operations are in Ghana, Suriname, and Peru. Well, one is Gregory H. Boyce, who also sits on the board of directors for Monsanto and Marathon Oil. Or Rene Meldori, former executive director for DeBeers. Or take the infamous Barrick Gold, on whose advisory board sits Newt Gingrich, former secretary of defense William Cohen, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg former German defense minister, and Brian Mulroney, former Prime Minister of Canada. But it’s better than that…here is a bit of background from Jeff St. Clair… and here is more.

Or what about Rio Tinto, where Jean-Sébastien Jacques holds an advisory position, after leaving Tata Steel (TISCO) in India. Just surf the web and read the bios. There is a deep connection with big oil, with coal, and with nearly every other massively polluting industrial enterprise around the world. Teck is another huge mining company. It is based in Canada. I suggest reading the first article on this page….

The concern over water scarcity does not breed environmental strategies for reduction, only new ways to extract and plunder during the coming scarcity. For that is the logic of all capitalism.  There is an enormous land grab going on in Africa, for example.

When the fog that fascism creates in all countries clears away, behind it one sees an all-too-familiar figure. This character is, of course, neither marvellous nor mysterious, he brings no new religion and certainly no golden age. He comes neither from the ranks of the youth nor from the mass of the petty bourgeoisie, even if he is an expert at deceiving both these groups. He is the counter-revolutionary capitalist, the born enemy of all class-conscious workers. Fascism is nothing but a modern form of the bourgeois capitalist counter-revolution wearing a popular mask.
— Arthur Rosenberg, Fascism as Mass Movement, 1934

And here

Those billionaire donors are not subsidizing Amazonian tribes fighting for their own survival and the survival of the rain forest. They are not subsidizing activists in the Philippines or in Africa. And they are never once mentioning the U.S. military and its role in despoiling the planet. (just look at AFRICOM, which saw an exponential growth in bases and troops under Obama). But here — two links for general perusal — and here.

(Hat tip to Jacob Levich for some of this).

The land grab is going to be enforced is the message here. These donors are investing. And alongside their investment runs the spectre of global fascism. Read these links and then consider if a state of emergency is not in the works. Of course, the bourgeoisie, the white bourgeoisie, are begging for such an emergency. The climate fear and its cultish response amid the liberal and leftish is resulting in a willingness, even a desire for, their own servitude. This is where someone is going to say, oh, conspiracy theory. But is it? Read those links. Consider the unthinking reflexive adoration of Greta and the kids. And then consider the history of capitalism, of neo-liberalism. Consider just the history over the last thirty years. Greta is not anti-capitalist. She has carefully never said capitalism is a system destroying the planet.

There is a critical pollution of land and water globally. Not just plastics, but Depleted Uranium and all the waste of military and digital technology. And from pesticides and various other industrial and agricultural chemicals. How many participants in any of the climate meetings were without brand new smart phones? I don’t believe in our extinction. I do believe life is going to change, and to mitigate the suffering that comes from that change one must reject the advice of billionaires and celebrities. Change must stop being spearheaded by WHITE privilege and the western white ruling class.

Pollution is the most urgent crises I believe. Pollution from mining of ores, and rare earth minerals (leaving pollutants such as chromium, asbestos, arsenic, and cadmium) is on a scale hard to even imagine. Or the recycling of lead-based batteries, an under the radar but massive industry that pollutes with lead oxide and sulphuric acid. Tanneries have always been an infernal and accursed industry, and pollute with chromium and soda ash, as well as large amounts of solid waste, all of which is usually contaminated with chromium. Lead smelting, which is centered in the poorest countries and which releases iron, limestone, pyrite and zinc. This is not even to touch on pesticides, or the dye industry. And then we come to the military. In particular the U.S. military. The levels of pollution are nearly Biblical in dimension and scale.

Producing more hazardous waste than the five largest U.S. chemical companies combined, the U.S. Department of Defense has left its toxic legacy throughout the world in the form of depleted uranium, oil, jet fuel, pesticides, defoliants like Agent Orange and lead, among others. In 2014, the former head of the Pentagon’s environmental program told Newsweek that her office has to contend with 39,000 contaminated areas spread across 19 million acres just in the U.S. alone. U.S. military bases, both domestic and foreign, consistently rank among some of the most polluted places in the world, as perchlorate and other components of jet and rocket fuel contaminate sources of drinking water, aquifers and soil. Hundreds of military bases can be found on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) list of Superfund sites, which qualify for clean-up grants from the government. Almost 900 of the nearly 1,200 Superfund sites in the U.S. are abandoned military facilities or sites that otherwise support military needs, not counting the military bases themselves.
— Whitney Webb, Eco Watch, May 2017

Contemporary capitalism is coercive at every level. The privilege of white westerners is stunningly absent from all critiques I see relating to climate change. David Attenborough has a far larger carbon footprint (to the power of ten) than a Somali sheep herder. And yet that herder is being subtly cast as a threat to global survival. The new focus on global warming (and the de-emphasizing of pollution) is the real threat to survival. For the new green capitalists the intention is to further plunder. The new corporate Green raiders want to privatize nature.

Across the world, ‘green grabbing’ – the appropriation of land and resources for environmental ends – is an emerging process of deep and growing significance. The vigorous debate on ‘land grabbing’ already highlights instances where ‘green’ credentials are called upon to justify appropriations of land for food or fuel – as where large tracts of land are acquired not just for ‘more efficient farming’ or ‘food security’, but also to ‘alleviate pressure on forests’. In other cases, however, environmental green agendas are the core drivers and goals of grabs – whether linked to biodiversity conservation, biocarbon sequestration, biofuels, ecosystem services, ecotourism or ‘offsets’ related to any and all of these. In some cases these involve the wholesale alienation of land, and in others the restructuring of rules and authority in the access, use and management of resources that may have profoundly alienating effects. Green grabbing builds on well-known histories of colonial and neo-colonial resource alienation in the name of the environment – whether for parks, forest reserves or to halt assumed destructive local practices.
— James Fairhead, Melissa Leach & Ian Scoones, “Green Grabbing: a new appropriation of nature?”, The Journal of Peasant Studies, 2012

When is a contract ‘voluntary’? The answer is, probably never.
— Jairus Banaji, Theory as History, March 22, 2010

There will never be environmentally friendly Capitalism. That is like creating de-hydrated water. The ruling class exists, it’s not a conspiracy theory. They operate as a class, too. They share the same values, the same sensibility and in Europe and North America they are white. They act in accordance with their interests, which are very largely identical. The failure to understand this is the single greatest problem and defect in left discourse today.

In terms of relevance to the indigenous nations often referred to as the Fourth World, the rollouts from the COP21 gathering of UN member states, Wall Street-funded NGOs, and the global financial elite resemble colonial initiatives undertaken as a result of similar 19th Century gatherings to carve up the world for capitalism. Then, as now, indigenous territories and resources were targeted for expropriation through coercion, with Africa being a prime target.
— Jay Taber, Heart of Darkness, SI2, 2017

The Global Witness report said much of the persecution of land and environmental defenders is being driven by demand for the land and raw materials needed for products that consumers utilise every day, from food to mobile phones and jewelry. Also recording a high number of environment and land-related fatalities were Colombia with 24 deaths, India with 23, and Brazil at 20. Meanwhile, in Guatemala, a boom in private and foreign investment has seen large swaths of land handed out to plantation, mining and hydropower companies, ushering in a wave of forced and violent evictions, particularly in indigenous areas, the report said. This has stirred fears of a return to the large-scale violence the country suffered 30 years ago. The report said Guatemala saw the sharpest increase in the percentage of murders with a five-fold rise. At least 16 people defending their land and the environment were killed there in 2018.
— Al Jazeera, 2019

In the Philippines nine farmers were murdered, likely ordered by the landowners of the sugar cane plantations. Not much has changed since colonialism. Global Witness notes that mining is the industry which has caused or ordered the most killings of indigenous activists. In Africa, in particular, mining corporations hire expensive private security firms (American, Israeli, or British) to keep the local population outside of not just the mine, but the area *around* the outside of the mine. Acacia Mining (a subsidiary of Barrick Gold) is notorious for beatings and rape, and for contamination from the massive mine at North Mara, Tanzania.

Here is a report from The Guardian‘s Jonathan Watts from this year…

The nearest general hospital in Tarime was treating five to eight cases of gunshot wounds from the mine every week from around 2010 to 2014, according to Dr Mark Nega, a former district medical officer. “I saw so many people shot and killed. Some had gunshot wounds in the back. I think they were trying to run away but they were shot from behind.” Such killings were initially played down or denied. Journalists who tried to investigate found themselves harassed by police, or believed their stories had been spiked following pressure from state authorities.

After pressure from activists and lawyers, Acacia acknowledged 32 “trespasser-related” fatalities between 2014 and 2017. Of these, six died in confrontations with police at the mine.

International watchdog groups say at least 22 were killings by guards and police during the same period. Tanzanian opposition politicians have claimed 300 people have been killed since 1999.

For such a high number of violations to have occurred outside a conflict zone in a business context is shocking and exceptional,” said Anneke van Woudenberg, the executive director of Raid, a UK corporate watchdog.

Class analysis is not conspiracy theory. Full stop. Class exists and is part of the hierarchical system of global capitalism. The so labeled *Climate Change* crisis — as it exists on the level of Green New Deal or Extinction Rebellion — has very little to do with protecting Nature. Global warming is a fact that humanity will have to adjust to and learn to live with. So much of the rhetoric and identifications that exist in the Greta narrative are driven by a subterranean belief in technology to fix any problem. Global warming can’t be fixed. Nature and planetary life move slowly. It is western narcissism that demands things happen NOW. The planet is warming and the consequences will require change. Critical changes that must take place, especially regards pesticides and contaminated land. Of that I am sure. And changes in packaging, which means in many respect, changes in how we eat. The incursion of technology into nearly every waking moment of the daily life of the Westerner has conditioned a populace, one that doesn’t read, to see the acceleration of everything as natural. But it’s not. Nature is slow. It is patient. Nature doesn’t care about us. But humanity will have to care about Nature. And capitalism is not compatible with the direction those changes and care must take. War is always partly a war on Nature. But as I have said before, equality is the real green. The United States has erased the voice of the working class and the poor. But it is exactly those voices that have to be heard. The techno/scientific clergy are of a class, too. The bourgeois academic and researcher are stamped by their class just as much as everyone else. I think that should be remembered.

Class analysis!

Lies of the Victors

Julian Barnes’ Man Booker Prize winning novel, The Sense of an Ending, reads as a meditation on the reliability of memory. Or even as a bill of indictments against the self-serving selectivity of memory. The book beautifully, if kaleidoscopically, reveals how an older man misremembers events of his youth, how his memories cast him in the warmth of the sun rather than cool shadow, as it were, until the actual character of his early behavior, and its consequences, is revealed by a figure from his past. The revelations force the narrator to reevaluate the narrative of his life, not always with kind effect.

So often what we experience at the individual level is reflected on a collective plane. What Barnes imagined at a micro-level in his searching novel, the political left has mined at a macro-level, calling attention to an increasingly obvious, “plutocratic propaganda system” disseminated round the clock through mainstream media. Noam Chomsky calls it our, “doctrinal system.” Louis Althusser wrote about it as an, “ideological state apparatus.” Evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers argues these elite-crafted forms of consensus are often, “false historical narratives.” Robert Creel headed a commission for Woodrow Wilson that successfully used systemic mass messaging to shape the opinions of ordinary Americans — from pacifist to warlike. The McCarthy Era, once an unimaginable epoch of almost farcical credulity, generated media-driven fright that had millions cowering before the threat of communism. Russiagate has renewed the emotional traumas of McCarthyism for a new generation.

After researching evolutionary selection pressures for lying, the biologist Trivers discovered that one of the advantages of self-deceit is that it makes one’s lies more convincing. It’s hard to be a persuasive liar if you are intensely conscious of your own fakery; but if you believe what you’re saying, watch out. The tics of the amateur con vanish into the ether. True conviction emerges. In politics, the field where undetectable falsification is a desired skill set, this may indicate that the purveyors of false historical narratives genuinely believe their own forgeries and fabrications. Donald Trump believes, in his race-obsessed mind, that immigrants are an existential threat to the nation (of privileged whites). He doesn’t see it as race baiting. Barack Obama believed that a compromising incrementalism was the best path forward and that the military-industrial-intelligence community should largely be left to its own devices. He didn’t regard it as devastating capitulation. Nor did he appear particularly unsettled by the human cost of unrestrained militarism. Ronald Reagan doubtless feared the communist hordes as he sent a river of arms into Central America. Yet he didn’t recognize his own fearsome paranoia.

In The Sense of an Ending, the narrator has reshaped his personal history in self-flattering fashion, stripping away the pernicious elements of his actions, leaving a clean tale intact. His complicity in a suicide and birth of an unwanted child elude his memory. In the same way, a president’s internal narrative may allow him to sleep comfortably at night, despite the crimson stains on his record. In Sense, this allows the central character to effectively evade any reckoning he’d have had to make with his self-image as a decent human being. This rings true to life. How many people do you know that believe they are genuinely good people? Who conveniently erase facts that complicate the narrative? Likewise, how many nations do you know that believe they are on the right side of history?

A few examples snatched from the headlines should suffice to indicate the general level of popular deceit at work in the national narrative:

According to FAIR, the state propaganda radio network NPR has smeared Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and the government no less than 26 times since December with such choice epithets “authoritarian” and “regime,” while elections are cleverly discredited when baseless terms like “fraud” are regularly peppered into the script. All this despite Maduro’s greater claim to electoral legitimacy than Donald Trump. Naturally, NPR has spent little time depicting the impact of U.S. sanctions on the Venezuelan economy. A massive food shipment was recently detained in the Panama Canal. Tens of thousands are said to have died thanks to Washington’s bitter, fear-driven siege against the socialist Bolivarians. And still millions of American liberals take their morning tea with this soothing NPR drivel, swallowing its deceits with the ease of their daily medications, both ensuring a robotic response to the day’s news.

Independent reports on YouTube reveal that the Google-owned video platform is suppressing millions of viewers from seeing independent news and analysis. No surprise, since Google itself has already been outed as a thoroughly biased search engine throwing its algorithmic magic behind Democrats and all manner of corporate media propaganda. A recent search for Jeffery Epstein news returned dozens of mainstream videos but not a single alternative newscast. How comical that this search monopoly once premised its existence on the credo, “Don’t Be Evil.” In any case, all the views that used to find their way to independent content have apparently now been redirected to CNN, MSNBC, and FOX channels. You have to hand it to the ruling class; they understand class solidarity.

In Brazil, the entire professional class appears to loathe the worker’s party, Partido de Trabalhadores, or PT, as somehow worse than the disastrously corrupt neoliberal governments that preceded it. This largely thanks to media that framed the PT in such a manner. But Glen Greenwald’s reportage at The Intercept has now demonstrated what many on the left thought all along, that the entire Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva crime scandal was a judicial farce, much like the Dilma Rousseff impeachment. The latter was a constitutional coup that removed a sitting president while the former was an illegal frame-up designed to bar Lula from running for president again. Now a fascist thug rules with a volatile confection of racist tropes, laissez faire concessions, and military jingoism. Perfect.

Yet we wonder why Americans are so out of step with world opinion, so comprehensively ignorant of world affairs, not least the notorious actions of their own government abroad. Reuters buried a story on deaths caused by U.S. sanctions in Venezuela. A pittance of reportage was done on the fairly huge story of some 120 countries backing the Venezuelan government. That meeting of the nonaligned movement certainly garnered less coverage than the Obama administration alone dismissing Venezuelan elections in 2013 and Trump preemptively rejecting them last year. Did anyone see news on the large recent anti-imperialist protests in Venezuela as well? Where is the ongoing coverage of the Gilets Jaunes in France, who continue to protest for the 40th consecutive week? No, only when the state forces of a target nation swing into action, and the spectre of repression materializes, are cameras hoisted on shoulders and microphones lifted to babbling lips. That means a story is at hand. If there’s state violence afoot, the automaton journalists can unpack their favorite tropes about Latin caudillos and shaky democratic institutions.

Unlike the hush that has fallen over French discontent, the hyperventilating coverage of the Hong Kong protests have blanketed the mainstream press. By design. The target is China, the aim to discredit the Communist government and reduce the mainland’s control over Hong Kong. The tactics employed by the protestors derive from Gene Sharp’s blueprint to provoke harsh reprisals from sitting governments. The protestors are lavishly funded by the West, namely the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the Orwellian soft power apparatus created by the Reagan administration to effect internal rebellions in target nations. Of course, as is always the case, roiled protestors have some real grievances. Housing costs are some 70 percent of the median income.

Not only that, but we are balefully purblind about our own form of government. Thanks to Russiagate, millions of Americans believe “our democracy” (a nonexistent phantom in its own right) has been attacked by some devilish collection of rogue Slavs headed by Vladimir Putin. This rejuvenated cliché of the externalized other is misdirection. Rather than focus on the systemic flaws of our government, we direct our fears and scorn at Moscow and at the vicious oaf in the White House. Both are easy targets.

We often digest these false story lines because they coincide with an underlying strata of deeper historical untruth that forms the bedrock of the national narrative. Given the human proclivity to dodge cognitive dissonance, our acceptance of this afternoon’s fake news is predicated on the fake news of fifty years ago. The triumphalism of the post-World War Two era has continued through today. The stories line up. We fought for freedom from totalitarian regimes during the Cold War. We war for our democratic freedoms today.

This is partly why it can be so difficult for us to even consider with any degree of sincerity the arguments of someone like Gerald Horne, prolific Moores Professor of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston, who concludes that the American Revolution was largely ignited by a desire among slave owners and slave traders to protect their burgeoning super profits from an UK government that had incentives to abolish the practice of slavery. In fact, a London judge outlawed slavery just five years before the American revolt. British elites also knew that abolition would have devastated the colonial economy, which was becoming a dangerous competitor to the crown. Horne’s monograph is powerful, his contentions incendiary. Yet they undermine the soaring rhetorical odes that flicker through our minds when we hear the national anthem or glimpse the rippling flag. And so we scarcely hear his name.

Perhaps the larger point one can make in this regard is that to understand the deceits that inform our national narrative is to accept the possibility, or rather the likelihood, that the United State is on the wrong side of history. This thesis is nothing precious to African-Americans or other marginalized citizenries. But among libertarian-minded blue-collar patriots or liberal professionals it is seldom voiced, a recidivate notion dismissed as daft or conspiracy laden. But it is precisely this questioning consciousness that will need to spread more powerfully among all elements of the population before radical change can occur. A revolution in consciousness always precedes apostasy. Heresy begins between the ears.

At one point early in the Barnes novel, a character muses that history is a combination of “the lies of the victors” and the “self-delusions of the defeated.” If we want any chance at progressive triumph, we ought first to dispense with the delusions of our self-flattering mythos.

Questioning the Extremely Online

This essay is in regard to a crime that too often goes unmentioned when the conversations turn towards political analysis, the contemporary journalistic scene, and broader social critique: the crime of being extremely online.

What does it mean to be extremely online? It mostly is as straightforward as it sounds. Generally, activities such as spending too much time on the web, scrolling through social media feeds out of habit, checking email or notifications dozens of times a day, all are symptoms of the extremely online person. Particularly, too much smartphone use is a devastating problem.

There is also a more specific version, which both mainstream journalists and alternative media commentators employ on both the right and left: constantly posting every news update; sharing a gazillion times every day each and every version and opinion on a current event/post/tweet about the lead news stories of the day, whether it is something interesting about global warming or something as ignorant and banal as the president’s tweets; prognosticating about the presidential election a year and a half before it happens;  using dubious polls or statistics to bolster weak arguments; and basically reacting to every media spectacle with behavior including, but not limited to, juvenile tantrums, posturing, faux outrage, jaded cynicism, pompous virtue-signalling, ironic detachment, and narcissistic self-aggrandizement.

Quite a few alternative media commentators tend to replicate and mimic the 24/7 spectacle that is mainstream news. That is to say, many have internalized the messaging style; the hyper-fast response time to current events…generally speaking, the norms of mainstream commentary and thus bourgeois values are being internalized. The more time spent posting for an online following on social media, the stronger the pull of an affinity to a certain type of power. Digital hierarchies become hardened, and the bourgeoisification of the web intensifies. As we shall see below, even those who identify as anti-capitalist or socialist are not immune.

The types of online behaviors regarding political debate exhibited above may be the exception, but with the expansion of social media along with its hyper-stratified tendencies, it may soon become the norm.

What research has shown is that digital literacy creates a path towards more open attitudes towards digital technology, which can be called Technophilia.1 This research points towards entertainment as one of the key drivers in promoting positive emotions and behavior when using digital technology, which results in a positive feedback loop leading to more intense and rewarding use.

If you extrapolate from this a bit, I’d suggest that the top online influencers in various political schools of thought will be more predisposed towards promoting digital technology, simply because they are benefitting from it financially. We have a situation where the most popular commentators are economically tied to social media, but there are plenty of reasons to believe that their naïve optimism regarding the power of digital media will not stop there, but rather, the naivety extends to industrial society as a whole.

The social media environment creates a logic of its own, just as most modern technology does. One obvious materialist analogy is to the medical industry. As long as for-profit companies are allowed to dominate pharmaceutical and research endeavors, the logic of the system will mean that more people are made sick, anxious, depressed, etc., to make more money for corporations. With social media, the logic of its internal dynamics precludes nuanced, informed, lengthy public deliberation in favor of sound-bite quotes, sloganeering, and focusing on personalities, along with the most shallow forms of identity politicking. Its logic depends on divisive, sensational, hateful, and ultimately fascistic rhetoric dominating political discourse.

Since the scope of Technophilia broadens and intensifies with continued use of labor-saving devices made under exploitative conditions, it ultimately results in many self-proclaimed anti-capitalists falling under the sway of propaganda emanating from mainstream technological society, as we shall see below.

Class is never taken seriously in our society. In many rural areas around the USA broadband internet access is still out of reach, and is expensive for many poor urban Americans as well, creating a digital divide. Thus it is no wonder that the rich and middle-classes are more “open” towards the web and smart-phone use. They derive more pleasure from them in terms of entertainment, increased digital literacy, and monetary success. The flip side of being more open is being more immature and blind to dangers, however. In contrast the poor and working classes respond to the digital life-world with more skepticism, as the above study indicates.

My contention here is that this digital literacy creates a new form of “digital spectacle” for technophilic Westerners on both the political right and left, especially for the middle classes. The elite implicitly understand that in a society based on artificial scarcity, only a certain amount of online influencers can vie for position in digital media. The professional and managerial classes, and their children ensconced in privilege, all too easily fall under the sway of the competitive forces in online media as well.

The poor and working class understand that in regarding to digital media, they are getting crushed under the weight of start-up costs, social capital which is either unobtainable or sleazy to get, and various online fees and hurdles to make it in a new rigged game of digital society. The digital divide is becoming a chasm, because it too it based on market forces.

As alluded to above, election cycle mania, the fascination with polling data, as well as fixation of GDP, job growth, and many other factors which the mainstream media focuses on are now internalized across the political spectrum, included much of Western Left analysis. This isn’t to say that socialists overly reliant on statistics and polling are wrong; simply that it’s mostly ineffective, as the tone is technocratic, academic, and is filled with the jargon that turns off the average citizen, even some of what is written here. I am not immune, this is a self-criticism as well, as the lack of engagement and overly analytical framework extends throughout journalism and academia across the entire social body.

Most of this behavior has been internalized and learned from mainstream media, which creates a market and manufactured interest in nonsensical statistics and banal news trivia, as Neil Postman points out:

Statistics create an enormous amount of completely useless information, which compounds the always difficult task of location that which is useful to a culture. This is more than a case of ‘information-overload.’ It is a matter of information-trivia, which has the effect of placing all information on an equal level.2

Once data becomes transmuted into a sort of holy substance, it is wielded by both the political Right and Left as a weapon: statistics back their cause and any deviation from the issue is irrational and illogical. This sets the table for false binaries and political polarization across the spectrum of political thought.

What being extremely online has done is given the very few big “influencers” in mainstream media as well as alternative spaces huge egos and warped their ability to think critically. This is most clearly seen in our “troll in chief”, Donald Trump. Time, space, and perception are distorted and it has led to a predictable and unimaginative online discourse.

When a post appears on social media, often if you know the contributor and some of the followers/friends, you can glean and predict what the reaction is going to be and who is going to say what. Depending on the news of the day, I can guestimate what the “takes” will be of my various friends and those I follow. I admit this can be sometimes comforting given the horrendous news we deal with daily. However, it also kind of implies that real people are reacting, thinking, and forming commentary algorithmically, as if our thoughts now mimic apps like Spotify and Pandora which play tracks from one’s favorite musicians; or at least similar artists which won’t offend the listener’s taste. How banal and horrifying all at once.

With podcasts or Youtube videos, as well as message boards, one can see political commentary forming a script, where individuals rattle off reels of their “greatest hits” of points, observations, and reflections, rather than engaging with the subject matter. No matter how hard we try, social media can never replicate oral traditions and real-life conversations. Dysfunction is baked into modern capitalist-based digital communication.

How being extremely online works to the advantage of the few at the expense of the many is easy to ascertain. We are told we are living in an “attention economy” and the extremely online predicate their behavior on this premise, even those who ostensibly identify as anti-capitalist. The extremely online mimic the 24/7 blather of mainstream media discourse, because nothing is too insignificant not to post, nothing too small not to get out in the lead as being “on top of” any given issue or current event. This is the sort of competitive striving absolutely essential to capitalism.

Outrage, shock, compassion, repulsion, empathy, and even “rational, objective” sober media analysis vie for our attention spans, and the extremely online prey upon those among their followers who due to loneliness, emotional issues, or escapism already spend too much time online, and are thus more vulnerable to screen addiction, sensationalist appeals, fear-mongering, gossip, consumer trends, etc.

Of course, the mainstream outlets have been deeply complicit, as it suits their financial interests. As seen by the CNN executive during the 2016 election gloating that the insane coverage of Trump was horrible for the country, but good for their bottom line, or something to that effect.

As for the reaction time of news sources, and thus political commentary, it may strain one’s memory to recall, but only twenty years ago any major news stories that broke after the evening news broadcast did not appear until the next morning, nearly an eight to twelve hour delay

Now, every media outlet is constantly bombarding us with every update and crisis in real time. The main reaction to this (notwithstanding the many sincere alternative media, community-level, and individual critiques) in the collective consciousness is shock and numbness, and it only compounds daily.

Now, many leftists tend to unconsciously mimic the same tendencies of mainstream media. This is done by copying the tactics of mainstream online influencers who use marketing, PR, and advertising firms to get ahead. This is done by pandering to the crowd and reacting to every Trump and establishment faux pas, whether Democrat or Republican. This is done by opportunistic virtue signaling and online activism viewed as a substitute for in person organizing. The virtual becomes more real than the real. Egos become more tied to the digital social environs, a derivative of a derivative.

Apparently the twisted logic is that if the extremely online use social media as a way for exposure and fame, it’s worth it. Social media becomes a tool, a means to an end to uproot the system. The downside tends to be that we become instruments of social media itself, not a new phenomenon in Western Civilization.

Posting dozens of times a day on social media simply is not in anyone’s best interest. It is in the best interest of capital, however. Why else would one post 30, 50, a hundred times a day if not to create an attention economy around oneself, to gain digital “followers” whose gaze will be diverted from possibly more important issues closer and dearer to their hearts…as well as to one’s family and friends, one’s material reality and ability to help the vulnerable and those in need close to them.

What should be obvious is every moment spent online is time away from the natural world and thus a huge time-suck where we exist as zombified, trance-induced crazy people for more information, useless updates, more drivel-data and bits of trivialities that do not change a thing.

Being online means being on the grid and the computing power needed to keep our information superhighway running is increasing like a runaway train. Despite the relatively low cost of powering one’s individual smartphone and computer/laptop/tablet etc., the internet via server farms, cell towers, etc. uses approximately 10% of the world’s total electricity consumption and the total energy use for the web increases by about 20% each year. The rollout of harmful 5G technology and internet of things only will accelerate the technological dystopia we’re enmeshed in.

Regardless of what technophiles and delusional people want to think, modern industrial civilization is a fad. We are going to have to go through an extended period of degrowth and lowering our power consumption and that will have to include less internet use. Most especially, too much smartphone use must be addressed head-on. Smartphones need to go away, for good, and it’s not too hard to imagine a workable society without them. It existed twenty years ago.

This should be simple enough to understand, but again, chronic habitual internet use and social media creates a form of addiction which leads to denialism. For those that do partake in nuanced forms of online discussion, in message boards or even in comment sections, yet limit, self-reflect, and moderate your use, congratulations. This is not directed at you. This is written is response to the serial social media addicts. For those in this group, I’ll posit that one of the root reasons for this malady is that our addict-Left comrades unconsciously identify with the system.

This isn’t meant to sound callous, these people are suffering to different degrees, and I do empathize. Boredom, loneliness, and lack of in-person human connection are endemic to our culture and these factors shouldn’t be minimized when understanding addictive behavior.

Part of the problem is the speed of society now. It’s understandable, people want to keep up with events and chime in with their two cents. It’s a human reaction. Part of the problem is also that the people who have convinced themselves they are part of the solution remain part of the problem. Mainly, because they are unable or unwilling to critically examine the technophilic ideology at the heart of the capitalist-based internet.

The “Left-opinion makers”, as the Situationists were wont to call them, thus fall hopelessly further into the spectacle.

Caveat

Social media use is not a horrible thing in and of itself. Although much of its use tends to replicate competitive and hierarchical relations, there are alternative visions of what the web could be like. Internet and social media companies could have been, and should be now, directed through public funding and non-profit models decades ago to engage and educate working class people, to provide jobs and new opportunities, and to raise the consciousness of the public sphere. This could easily be done even within the confines of a social-democratic system.

What we have now is a web and social media landscape that is largely, but not completely, irredeemable. Again, this does not mean one should completely ignore it, only that social media should be seen as a vessel to get people out of their homes and into the streets: like we saw in Tunisia, in Egypt and many other nations during the Arab Spring.

I don’t know if this metaphor is useful at all, but social media could be used as a sort of liberatory portals or gateways, networks to awaken the masses from their slumber, to take them out of the virtual and into the “natural” world. Web and social media technology can be used to “tune in” people to serious movement-building, to Marx, to environmental protests, to issues like climate change and nuclear war, through digital communication; but eventually there has to be a period when citizens step through to the other side and “drop out” to take the struggle onto the public squares. The thing is, many of those involved in just such struggles seem hopelessly “addicted” or too enamored with the power of internet technology itself, much like what has happened with the fetishization of the internal combustion engine, the printing press, the personal computer, and many other examples.

The Professional Bloviators

Sadly, quite a few self-professed anti-capitalist public intellectuals seem to be ensnared by bourgeois ideology today. Many rightly view our political and economic systems as hopelessly corrupt, yet still cling to the privilege, perks, and soapboxes offered by their academic positions (tied to student and faculty exploitation, which is either conveniently unmentioned or under-emphasized), viewing their own credentials as somehow a basis for a true and fair meritocracy, as if academia is somehow above the vagaries of blind chance, sheer luck, white privilege, and jockeying for power.

Any academic worth their salt should be either heavily insinuating, or outright stating to their students, that college is a huge waste of time and money, depending on how much “free speech” they can actually afford to say without getting canned. Universities function today as huge indoctrination camps to train the next generation of good “liberals” (or good Germans, it might be more appropriate to say) who will never question or threaten to overturn the system: the professional-managerial upper-middle class technocrats, financiers, doctors, lawyers, etc.

Thus, even some dissident academics manage to paint themselves into a corner with ineffectual arguments backing the college system, turf wars, theatrical posturing, lack of engagement with the working class, etc. This has all been said before, but again, it may be worth repeating. For instance, in 2011 in the US there were some “socialists” and “anarchists” supporting the US/UK/French bombing of Libya, and a few who equivocated and vacillated, citing the responsibility to protect civilians, parroting State Department propaganda. Oy vey.

The internet and social media has accelerated this trend, making things worse among the wider population, as even those with core anti-capitalist ideas fall into internecine bickering. This is peak aspersionary politics, or passive-aggressiveness if you prefer, which apes wider bourgeois culture. To recast Allen Ginsberg’s opening line of Howl for today, and I only mean this half-jokingly, we can think of something like: “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by social media.” Some Left twitterati self-identify as being “extremely online”: brazenly, unashamedly, and unreflectively revealing the depths of their own screen addictions.

Aldous Huxley described the brain as a “reducing valve”, yet I’ve not heard a fully-encompassing phrase for the situation created by a digital milieu where web algorithms which reinforce harmful beliefs and behavior, prey on our addictions, amplify hatred, sow discord, polarize media and community; by devices that seize and sustain our attention long after we realize it no longer serves our interests; by neurotransmitter hijacking, empathy-deadening, critical-thinking atrophying smartphones and media built explicitly to mine us for money, use our thoughts/photos/creativity/etc. as free content while social media companies and those who advertise on the platforms make billions, and generally to simultaneously distract, outrage, and numb us. “Limbic capitalism3 is the closest term I’ve come across, but perhaps the more brutal, if less artful, phrase is more apt: mind control.

There is less and less nuance and space for radical dissent as many left-leaning alternative media and social media influencers close ranks and offer only very mild criticism of social democratic policies. Again, the striving is self-evident, is it not?

These are symptoms of unhealthy minds, formatted/manipulated/brainwashed to choose between false binaries no matter what contradictions follow from the starting premises of whatever topic is at hand. For instance, take the so-called socialist opportunists who offer very mild public criticism of the Green New Deal, or those who don’t mention the huge cuts in military spending needed to give the deal teeth, so as not to seem confrontational or radical, or perhaps to save what’s left of their perceived (yet, worthless) reputations. In other words, their take is: we don’t have time to build real socialism. Let’s form a coalition with the new social democrats, as if that didn’t end in complete disaster over 100 years ago.

Paths Forward

Now, of course it’s true that reform can indeed broaden and deepen the prospects for revolution, and it is not an either/or proposition, as Rosa Luxembourg explained so well. Yet, we cannot let the crass opportunism and striving for attention on digital media to enact important reforms derail us from steeping workers, students, minorities, and women in the rich intellectual tradition woven by the anti-capitalist Left.

Right in the introduction to the Social Reform or Revolution, Luxemburg states: “The entire strength of the modern labor movement rests on theoretic knowledge.” Despite big advances in the last three years, clearly there is a need for the deep type of work involving the framework for constructing and advancing a truly emancipatory Green New Deal, as well as fighting for open borders, the abolition of prisons and police, and the military-industrial complex.

Anything less than a systematic and intersectional approach will do a huge disservice to the movement and will replicate the cloistered, privileged milieu which unduly benefits the extremely online and their techno-utopian backers.

Reform is welcome because it can lead to tolerance, and its eventual byproduct, solidarity. Solidarity is a radiating emotional, behavioral, and intellectual stance from which flow social bonding and necessary healing mechanisms for our culture. The main ideals of environmental, social, and economic justice revolve around solidarity. Which gives us space to breathe, and here I’m reminded of Eric Garner’s last words. The minorities and the poor in this country have been suffocating for centuries. With no mass base, even the good intentions of those in Congress, such as the “Squad” who advocate for redistributive measures, will be for naught.

If some of today’s US socialist “thought leaders” are so spineless to feign from even mentioning how the prospect of renewable energy corporations left in the hands of private control will end in utter disaster, or to simply pretend it won’t, there’s not much left to say to these people. Then there are US socialists who advocate insanely for nuclear power. Forget theoretical knowledge.  This is basic common sense.  Nuclear energy is dangerous and should be avoided at all costs. If there is intimidation by peers, or simply self-censorship, or to maintain a lifestyle by promoting such anti-life policies on the Left, well, it’s entirely understandable, predictable, and wretched. It’s also an abdication of responsibility: clearly these are bourgeois stances.

To sum up, pointing fingers at the ruling classes’ blatantly obvious sociopathic tendencies provides the convenient scapegoats and diversionary tactics from confronting the holes in many of our own thinking

Back to theoretic knowledge for a minute. First, we have to take into account the anti-intellectual climate here in the US. One encounters quite a few semi-influential figures, especially on the right but increasingly in anti-capitalist outlets, which are quick to criticize French postmodernists, or the Frankfurt School, or various strains of thought which are deemed too obscure or weighty.

There’s no time for theory is one of their complaints, because it is too time-consuming or turns off too many people. So whatever is too complicated for the gate-keeping digital left-liberal editors is thrown by the wayside, but it ain’t clear where this process is headed other than an even more dumbed-down society. What is clear is we are dealing with lightweights.  It’s pretty paternalistic too, because the subtext seems to be that regular people are just too dumb to be introduced to “Theory” and serious academic work.

The other side to this is that many of the same people who are wonderful at explaining theory or offering political critique, many of the “the Left opinion makers”, have absolutely no environmental or ecological knowledge base. You wouldn’t trust them with a shovel; never mind on a factory floor, a communal farm, starting an activist movement or union, or organizing a cooperative. The materialism part of the equation never kicked in. It’s a function of middle-class squeamishness that needs to be squashed.

Another point I want to mention is the US and UK analytic preference for social critique and philosophical investigation, in contrast to the continental style. And I cannot emphasize enough that the dominant Anglophone trend is to turn socialism into an equation, a formula. Put another way, to offer models of governance and even to organize in the technocratic style. Not only that, but to uncritically accept a model for the future based on unrestrained use of technology, with very little understanding of environmental impacts,  conservation, or basic ecology in general.

We see this techno-fetishism in some of the ideas floating around such as “Fully Automated Luxury Communism”, notably Aaron Bastani’s recent work of the same title. Bastani is close to Jeremy Corbyn and Labour. And look who gives a plug for the book, Bhaskar Sunkara. And if you follow these connections down the rabbit hole you’ll see Sunkara’s most recent work gets a plug from Ezra Klein of Vox. So there are all these ties from UK socialists to US democratic socialists to elitist technocratic liberals. And what is in common is a shared naivety regarding technology.

Again, ideas around degrowth are never discussed by the automation admirers. It’s clearly a total dismissal of the idea to preserve their own affluence. Total energy use in the West will have to decrease immensely. The economy, which is inexorably tied to energy use, will have to contract. Nearly all large buildings will have to be retrofitted to remain cooler in the summer and warmer in winter using natural insulation methods. Many large office buildings, skyscrapers, malls, etc. will simply have to be abandoned because there is no way to heat/cool them even remotely efficiently. Modern agriculture will have to be dismantled and converted to decentralized permaculture community-worked gardens.

None of this is even mentioned by the automators. This is because their thinking, their ways of being online, have already started to slip into the manner of the automaton. Which many people acknowledged, where Brzezinski dispassionately saw it as an inevitability of modern life, and famously Marcuse saw it as a downright horror in his One Dimensional Man.

The majority of the world can see through all of this talk of AI, robot, quantum computer, 5G drivel. Most people understand, even if they cannot quite communicate their ideas as coldly or eloquently as the technophiles, that the mind cannot be reduced to a mechanical device or a computer processor. As below, so above, society cannot be viewed or treated as a factory floor for renewable energy powered robots to bring us to some Jetsons or Star Trek lifestyle.

The opportunities for control and manipulation of minds have already grown at a frightening pace in the past fifty years. Even further automation would simply open up more avenues for alienation and exploitation. Here’s how. A pro-automation society would be more open to new hierarchies created by divides among the digitally literate, could empower the pharmaceutical companies to create dangerous new drugs to control moods and perception, could open up more geo-engineering of the planet, to more spying and tracking of individuals, and generally more of the full-spectrum digitization of our lives.

This isn’t to suggest that those among the extremely online don’t have any good ideas, or that the FALCers don’t either. It’s simply a reminder that some of these people are being very naïve in regard to the future of technology, some are materially benefitting from the current toxic social media environment and are therefore biased, and others do not realize the internal logic of the system which engenders some of the very barriers they wish to destroy. In most cases high technology acts as a drug, with an intelligence of its own, and once you’re on the ride you don’t control where you’re going to get off.

  1. Ronit, Purian, “Technophilia: A New Model For Technology Adoption” (2011), UK Academy for Information Systems Conference Proceedings 2011, Paper 41.
  2. Postman, Neil. Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology. Vintage Books, New York, 1992.
  3. Courtwright, David. “How ‘Limbic Capitalism’ Preys on our Addicted Brains”, Quillette, May 31, 2019.

Political Correctness Is Getting Out of Hand

On June 28, the New York Times published an article by Bari Weiss that wasn’t moronic.

Titled “San Francisco Will Spend $600,000 to Erase History,” it was about the school board’s unanimous decision to destroy a New Deal-era mural by the famous Communist painter Victor Arnautoff that’s painted on the walls of a local high school. Called “Life of Washington,” the mural depicts Washington’s slaves picking cotton at Mount Vernon as a group of colonizers walks past a dead Native American. The painting is clearly meant to oppose the sanitized versions of American history that are taught in most schools.

So you’d think “progressives” would support it. Instead, some of them, at least, find it so offensive they want it gone. “A grave mistake was made 80 years ago to paint a mural at a school without Native American or African-American input,” the school board’s vice president told Weiss. “For impressionable young people who attend school to have any representation that diminishes people, specifically students from communities that have already been diminished, it’s an aggressive thing. It’s hurtful and I don’t think our students need to bear that burden.”

It seems that most students object to the mural’s removal, though a number of community members support the board’s decision. “We know our history already,” a recent high school graduate and member of the Tohono O’odham tribe said. “Our students don’t need to see it every single time they walk into a public school.”

Predictably, Weiss’s article confines itself to admonishing liberals and leftists for being “un-American” snowflakes, failing to point out that conservatives are typically far more eager to censor than the left is. Bashing hyper-sensitive leftists seems to be Weiss’s favorite activity, aside from hyper-sensitively complaining about supposed instances of anti-Semitism that are usually nothing more than criticisms of Israel’s horrifying militarism and near-genocidal policies towards Palestinians. (I didn’t see her write a column bewailing what a “snowflake” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti was for advocating the destruction of an “anti-Semitic” mural in L.A. that depicts Israel as the Grim Reaper.)

But leaving aside Weiss, who’s nothing but a vulgar propagandist, her column does raise an important issue. Censorship, the destruction of art, and the sanitizing of history are appropriate agendas for reactionaries and establishment-types like Weiss; progressives and radicals should certainly oppose them. And yet, in the age of “political correctness,” there’s a disturbing tendency for those on the left to adopt the repressive tactics of their enemies.

Whether on social media, on university campuses, or in cultural spaces of whatever sort, people are shunned, shamed, and silenced for not adhering wholeheartedly to a party line. A whiff of dissent brings down the wrath of the mob; a statement or an image that someone, somewhere, might find hurtful is enough to end your career or ruin your life. Magazine editors are fired for defending “cultural appropriation,” as in 2017 when an editor in Canada lost his job for the crime of defending the right of white authors to create characters from other backgrounds. Safe spaces, trigger warnings, microaggression reporting systems, call-out culture, and other such devices become ever more ubiquitous, threatening to neuter culture and intimidate even fellow leftists into silence.

In the end, all this excess reaches truly farcical extremes: political correctness eats itself, as a wonderful old mural that tells a people’s history of the United States is destroyed for being “degrading.” A paradigm of identity politics that celebrates and weaponizes victimhood brings forth practitioners who claim they’re being victimized by having to be reminded of their history as victims. In the name of “empowerment,” they want to whitewash a mural whose existence is a blow against whitewashed history, which is the very thing to which identity politics indignantly objects. Political correctness chokes on itself and coughs up self-refuting paradoxes.

In this grotesque autosarcophagy we see the reductio ad absurdum of this whole mode of aggressive liberalism: it becomes a kind of void, a black hole of infinitely dense inhumanity, the postmodern left’s version of cultural totalitarianism. It becomes kitsch, virtually without content except to prevent members of “vulnerable” groups from ever feeling the slightest pang of discomfort. That’s the universal standard, the standard of acceptable art, acceptable speech, acceptable politics, and acceptable thought. And if you stray outside the bounds of acceptable thought, we’ll “cancel” you, hopefully most aspects of your identity: career, social life, public life, especially internet life, since the beautiful anonymity and atomization of the internet are what allow us to besiege you and call out your transgressions against orthodoxy. Ultimately it isn’t permitted—or at least it’s testing our good will—even to state manifest truths, such as that men on average are taller and physically stronger than women, or that, e.g., women tend to be attracted to male dominance (e.g., men taller than they) and the dominant male. No such truths we consider insulting to “marginalized” people can be acknowledged.

Now, as I said, these totalitarian trends are only the reductio ad absurdum of political correctness, and do not invalidate the entire phenomenon known as PC culture. Historically, this multicultural politics that emerged from the radical movements of the 1960s and ’70s has had very constructive effects on society. It has been integrally tied to the collective recognition of real history, the history of Native Americans, African-Americans, immigrants, women, and European colonialism. In educational curricula, it has effectively challenged the supremacy of the Western canon of white male writers, such that students now encounter voices from many different cultures and traditions.

Feminism has raised consciousness to a far more civilized level than in the 1960s, when Betty Friedan could write about “the feminine mystique” that dehumanized women. The MeToo moment is just the latest front in a long war to advance women’s rights. Similarly, we have identity politics to thank for the historic victories of the gay rights movement, which have at long last made homophobia disreputable.

Even the much-derided concept of “microaggressions” denotes a real situation that minorities and women face. Nathan Robinson of Current Affairs gives examples. When a female physician wearing a stethoscope is repeatedly mistaken for a nurse, that surely gets irritating and can be seen as offensive. When a white woman clutches her purse as a black or Hispanic man approaches, that’s a racist microaggression. A particularly egregious example is the time when a black student asked her academic advisor for information about majoring in biology and, “without being asked about her academic record (which was excellent), was casually directed to ‘look up less-challenging courses in African American Studies instead.’” Whatever the Supreme Court thinks, the U.S. is still saturated with racism, and unconscious racism is constantly revealing itself in trivial interactions in every social context.

Identity politics and political correctness are far from being the unmitigated evils Donald Trump and Bill Maher apparently think they are. And it’s true that in popular movements, excess is inevitable. From the French Revolution to the New Left—and now to the new New Left—popular enthusiasm has been apt to get out of control and become absurd and even violent (as with Antifa). But that doesn’t mean the excess shouldn’t be fought when it becomes truly damaging. When a mode of politics starts to ruin the lives of innocent people, discourage independent and honest thinking, and advocate the destruction of valuable works of art, it’s time to rein it in.

One of the most striking features of the extreme fringe of political correctness—a fringe that seems to dominate culture more and more—is one of the least talked about: often, it is just a sublimation of the very conditions of neoliberal capitalism that leftists hate. Interpersonal atomization and alienation, gleeful cruelty, schadenfreude run amok, censorship and suppression of dissent, a universal leveling that valorizes groupthink as the highest virtue, and surveillance of daily life and every interaction: these tendencies of late capitalism are somehow refracted into left-wing forms and concerns. The mechanism, actually, of this ironic ‘refraction’ is probably quite simple: society has become so inhuman and depersonalized, so bureaucratized and anonymized, that people all across the political spectrum—not only leftists—are made pettier, more insecure, sensitive to perceived slights, and mean-spirited (especially online).

We see the “Other” as oppressing us—however each of us defines the Other—and we lash out to punish it or those who we think manifest it at any given moment. This punitive mentality at least gives us little malicious pleasures that partly compensate for the indignities we’re constantly suffering.

But while it might be understandable, it’s hardly appropriate for people on the left to be so corrupted by the anti-humanism of a fragmented and paranoid capitalist society. From Karl Marx to Eugene Debs, from A. J. Muste to Noam Chomsky, the left has devoted itself to far more elevated causes than vindictively shaming people for, e.g., using the word fútbol despite not being Hispanic, or quietly telling a “sexist” joke to a friend within earshot of a woman who doesn’t like such jokes, or in general policing the world so that every space is “safe” and people are never uncomfortable. Some such policing, within reason, can be productive and important: people should be educated, to the extent possible, out of their unconscious biases and prejudices. But those who identify with the left should also identify with the tradition’s compassion and self-critical inclinations. Perhaps a little less puritanism is called for, and a little more understanding that even good people are imperfect and have lapses. And that no one, including the most eager shamer, is perfect.

Indeed, I’m tempted to say that the hyper-moralistic mindset doesn’t belong to the left at all. Its demand for purity is uncomfortably close to the puritan obsessions of the religious right, so vigilantly attuned to the merest indication of atheism, sex, homosexuality, coarse language, and humanism. At best, leftist puritanism represents an attenuated, enervated, decadent left, a strain of the left that has lost its love of people and become thin and narrow as a reed. Brittle, misanthropic, crabbed, ungenerous, ultra-judgmental, whiny, sickly—these are the words that come to mind to describe such a “left.”

How different from the humanism, compassion, and spiritual capaciousness of a Debs or a Chomsky!

The destruction of a left-wing mural for being “hurtful” may seem like a pretty minor affair, and compared to the catastrophes occurring every day all over the world, it is. But if the cultural tendencies that have eventuated in this crime against art are not checked, we’ll continue to see more such crimes, and not only against art. Against people, too, people who don’t deserve to be publicly shamed or ruined. The left should take care lest it lose its humanity and adopt the censorship-fetish of the fascist right.

High Fives to Jimmy Dore for Laughing Russiagaters out of the Room

Jimmy Dore is a comic who has taken on Russiagate, a deadly serious matter.  He is one of those brave souls who count themselves as progressives but dared to call into question Russiagate.

There are those who will tell you that Trump is a despicable human; and so if Russiagate tarnished Trump, the argument goes, what did it matter whether it was true.  (The proposition that Trump is more monstrous than his predecessors, Obama, W or the Clintons is highly dubious to say the least – but that is a different topic.). There is, however, a very good reason why it does matter whether the charges making up Russiagate are true; for opposing Trump over his tax policies or stance on health care is quite a different matter from labeling him a Manchurian Candidate who colluded with Vlad Putin in 2016.  Russiagate put a US President in a position where he was unable to negotiate crucial issues with the other nuclear superpower.  To do so invited charges of being a Putin puppet, as evidenced by the howls that went up from the Establishment and most progressives over the Helsinki Summit.

What if the tensions between the US and Russia were to spin out of control in hot spots like Syria, where troops from the two nuclear superpowers pass within a whisker of one another, or Ukraine or even Venezuela?  To extract us from such a predicament, Putin and Trump would need to make concessions to one another, as Kennedy and Krushchev did successfully in the Cuban Missile Crisis.  But with the cloud of Russiagate hanging over his head Trump could make no such concession without being labelled a treasonous Putin puppet.  So Russiagate took away from Trump the ability to negotiate his way out of an existential threat should one emerge.  As such it should have been based on the highest levels of evidence.  In fact, it was not based on any hard evidence at all – there was none for the central charge of collusion.  And the Mueller investigation finally admitted this.  Given this, those who knowingly concocted Russiagate owe us all a great apology, for they committed the most serious of crimes by creating a situation that potentially threatened the existence of the American and Russian peoples – and perhaps all of humanity.

The absurdity of Russiagate and the absence of evidence for it was evident from the start.  But very few on the progressive side broke with the mainstream media and the Democratic Party political herd to say so.  That carried the risk of being shunned in progressive circles.  Or as one brave Russiagate dissident said under his breath, “I don’t have much social life any longer.”  That fact, in itself, is a sad commentary on what is called “progressivism” in the U.S.

Nevertheless, a handful of Russiagate debunkers emerged on the left, including Robert Parry and others at Consortium News, Aaron Maté now at The Nation, Pulitzer Prize winner Glenn Greenwald at the Intercept, Michael Tracey, Stephen F. Cohen of EastWestAccord.com, Ray McGovern of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, Matt Taibi of Rolling Stone, Craig Murray and others. They deserve enormous credit for poring over the detritus that the media dumped on us 24/7 for over two years and refuting it, one noxious bit at a time.

A standout among these dissidents is Jimmy Dore, a nightclub comic with a YouTube show run out of his garage in Pasadena. Dore took on Russiagate just as he took on the Dem Establishment and backed Bernie in 2016, and as he now offers high praise for Tulsi Gabbard, the peace candidate for 2020.  Jimmy Dore made the exposure of Russiagate fun.

Dore enjoys raising a simple question in the wake of the Mueller report:  How did a “jagoff comedian,” as he calls himself, who claims on occasion to smoke marijuana when he gets out of bed in the morning, get Russiagate right when grads of the Columbia School of Journalism and pundits like Rhodes Scholar Rachel Maddow and David Corn got it so wrong?

Dore has the answer, taking Maddow as an example who earns $30,000 for every single show.  For that and the celebrity career that goes with it, she lies – simple as that.   Dore even allows that he might be willing to lie at $30,000 an hour. But, he laments, the invitation has not been forthcoming.  And what is true of Maddow and the other Cable “News” talking heads is just as true of the upscale propagandists who dump their extrusions into gilded receptacles like the NYT, WaPo, New Yorker, NPR.  In contrast to be a Jimmy Dore or any of the other truth tellers requires a considerable dose of courage, because swimming against the mainstream can be a career terminator as Chris Hedges once of the NYT and a number of others can testify.

One of Dore’s approaches is especially powerful.  He provides a quote from the mainstream media, an establishment journalist or a faux progressive, reads it and then tears it apart.  Dore likes to play down his intellect – a good comic shtick – but the precision of his takedowns tells another story.  The takedown is followed by invective that is as accurate as it is impassioned.  Dore’s invective for which he has considerable talent would turn Jeremiah green with envy. In this task he is usually aided by his fellow comic, the insightful Ron Placone and Dore’s wife Stefane Zamorano, who styles herself The Miserable Liberal.

It is very satisfying to watch Dore in action – and funny.  In fact, at the gym I watch Jimmy on my iPad to save me from looking up at the omnipresent fake news on CNN.  My cardiac health, as well as my mental health, over the past two years has depended on his show.  If Dore were a physician, he could bill me.

You can best appreciate the Jimmy Dore show by going to YouTube and watching an episode.  I recommend this one, “Mueller Report Drops! Aaron Maté Explains.”  Here Maté also names the names of the fake progressives who caved to the Establishment narrative and some of the heroes who did not.  Dore expresses his usual sympathy for Mate’ for having to live among journalists most of whom compromise themselves whereas Dore gets to dwell among comics.

For a dose of truth, sanity and fun – catch the Jimmy Dore Show.  Russiagate is behind us but Dore already has the bogus basis for war on Venezuela and Iran clearly in his sites – along with the 2020 election and its rich veins of hypocrisy to mine.

Anti-Racist Canada promotes Video by Anti-Palestinian, FOX News Filmmaker

Why would Anti-Racist Canada (ARC) promote a video by a FOX News filmmaker who compares the Left to the KKK and claimed Swedish police refuse to go into immigrant neighbourhoods? Is it because the ARC collective is an example of people who fight racism except if it is anti-Palestinian?

Recently, ARC retweeted long-time anti-Palestinian activist Bernie Farber noting: “If anyone wants to read how anti-Israel invective morphs into antisemitism, then read this frightening piece. This happened this week at Duke.” Farber linked to a Jewish Journal article about a University of North Carolina/Duke University conference on the “Conflict over Gaza: people, politics and opportunities”.

The primary claim leveled against the conference is what rapper Tamer Nafar said at a concert the night before two days of talks by prominent professors, including a number who are Jewish. “This is my anti-Semitic song”, Nafar told the crowd. “Don’t think of Rihanna when you sing this, don’t think of Beyonce — think of Mel Gibson. … Let’s try it together because I need your help. I cannot be anti-Semitic alone.”

Responding to the slander campaign, conference attendee Lara Friedman wrote:His satirical song ‘Mom, I fell in love with a Jew,’ jokingly introduced Tamer Nafar, a well-known rapper and actor (and a Palestinian citizen of Israel), as an ‘anti-Semitic’ song. His statements indeed sounded to many people, including me, politically deaf or even painful. But to put it bluntly: The song is not anti-Semitic and has not even been controversial so far. The video became popular in Israel two years ago when it was released. The Israelis correctly understood the song as a cheeky broadcast of the thorny realities underlying Jewish-Arab relations within Israel.”

In claiming “frightening” antisemitism at the conference about Gaza, Farber/ARC ignored other attendees’ perspectives and the individual at the heart of the controversy. Last month Nafar was featured in a New York Times story titled “Boycott Israel’s Election? A Palestinian Rapper Says No”, which was picked up by the Times of Israel, i24NEWS, Haaretz, etc.

More surprisingly, ARC/Farber ignored that the individual responsible for misrepresenting Nafar’s performance to attack the conference is a prominent anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian activist who regularly appears on FOXNews. Ami Horowitz recently produced a video titled “The Left and the KKK may be separate, but they are equal!” and another that disparaged the Central American migrant caravan. In a 2017 video Horowitz claimed Swedish police refused to enter heavily immigrant areas. “These are areas that cops won’t even enter, because it’s too dangerous for them. This is the policy of the national police authority in Sweden”, Horowitz told an interviewer. Donald Trump repeated this obvious lie, as discussed in a Times of Israel story titled “Meet the gonzo Jewish filmmaker behind Trump’s fake news on Sweden.”

Promoting Horowitz’ distortion is not the first time ARC has regurgitated Farber’s anti-Palestinian, anti-Muslim and anti-Left positions. Earlier in April the collective retweeted the former Liberal party candidate’s link to a New York Times story titled “Anti-Semitism Is Back, From the Left, Right and Islamist Extremes. Why?” The story disparaged Somali Muslim Congresswoman Ilhan Omar and long-time antiracist British politician (Palestinians included!) Jeremy Corbyn.

Two months ago, I asked ARC (and some other self-declared antiracist organizations) why they had never criticized the Jewish National Fund, which is the only explicitly racist institution sanctioned by the Canadian state to give tax write-offs. (My commentary on anti-racist organizations’ silence on Independent Jewish Voices’ StopJNFCanada campaign will appear in the upcoming edition of Canadian Dimension.) A politically and financially powerful organization, JNF does not hide its racism. In a 2007 Canadian Jewish News article titled “Human rights complaint accuses JNF of racism” its Executive Vice President Joe Rabinovitch admitted the organization discriminates in the provision of housing in Israel.

In my email exchange with ARC on the JNF I pointed out that they should tread carefully with Farber: “I presume you’re familiar with some of his [Farber] background, which is steeped in vicious anti-Palestinian rhetoric and a great deal of Islamophobia. He has righted some of the wrong he has done on demonizing Muslims, not so much on Palestinians. Here is an overview I did on him.”

ARC’s promotion of Farber’s anti-Palestinian politics is shameful. An anti-racist collective promulgating the anti-Palestinian views of a prominent anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim FOX News filmmaker is an embarrassment.

Leftish Apocalyptic Environmentalism and the Ideology of Overpopulation

Gregory Barrett’s rant against childbearing in Dissident Voice repeats a similar admonition by the author a year before in the same publication. Barrett, who now regrets having his two daughters, finds 2019 to be just as bad as 2018 to have offspring.

Unsustainable production models and wasteful lifestyles

While Barrett’s article includes repeated references to his own thought, there is only one hyperlink to evidence purporting to support his view about “near-term human extinction” caused by the fertility of women. The cited report does not, in fact, support Barrett’s argument, but rather supports this response to his essay. The report concludes: “We can no longer ignore the impact of current unsustainable production models and wasteful lifestyles.” That is, population numbers are not the fundamental problem, but capitalist relations of production and consumption are.

Barrett’s complaint is encapsulated in the title of his article: “Doctrinaire left lines up with Trumpists, calls overpopulation ‘myth’: humans über alles…to the bitter end.” Barrett does not identify the “doctrinaire left,” though presumably those who read and publish in Dissident Voice are included. Nor does he provide evidence of the left lining up with so-called Trumpists.

Trump did suspend US contributions to the UN Population Fund. But it was because Trump opposed women’s reproductive freedom including access to abortion. In contrast, women’s reproductive choice is an issue long supported by the left.

Overpopulation is a theory justifying capitalist social relations

While there are overpopulation theory proponents on the left, the theory has its origins and greatest publicists in bourgeois political thought.

After World War II, overpopulation theory was resurrected to support the ideological initiatives of the ascendant US superpower and its cohorts. The World Bank, the Rockefeller Foundation, and later the Ford Foundation have been leaders in promoting the threat of overpopulation. More recently Ted Turner’s philanthropies and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, bolstered by Warren Buffett’s fortune to become the world largest private charity, now spread the overpopulation gospel.

This ideological initiative in the service of international capital took place in the context of a wave of third world national liberation struggles in the post-war period. Peasant tillers of the soil were demanding land reform; workers were demanding just compensation. Overpopulation theory conveniently seeks to delegitimize these struggles by suggesting that poverty, which gives rise to the struggles, results from too much reproduction rather than exploitation and repression.

Let the people have their rightful means to land and livelihood, and they will take care of their own contraceptive needs. Where the standard of living and educational level of a population rises, especially for women, birthrates plummet.

Distribution of resources – not limitation – is the problem

Overpopulation theory claims, as Monthly Review editor John Bellamy Foster observes, “that all of the crucial problems of bourgeois society and indeed of the world could be traced to over-procreation on the part of the poor.” Accordingly, Barrett warns that the “vast numbers of humans on our planet may be killing it,” without distinguishing between the perpetrators and the victims.

Eight people now have the same wealth as the poorest half of the world’s population. At the other end of the spectrum, the poorest 40% of the world’s population use less than 5% of the world’s resources. Friends of the Earth reports, “People in rich countries consume up to 10 times more natural resources than those in the poorest countries.”  If we do have an over-population problem, it is too many too rich people depleting too many resources.

The earth and its resources are undeniably finite, but currently there is more than enough food to meet the caloric needs of the world’s population. Hunger exists in the world and even in the US, but that is a problem of economics and distribution, not a problem of too little to go around.

Over the last century, world population increased four times. However, world resource consumption increased over 20-fold, suggesting that even at zero population growth consumption of resources would still have grown over 500%.

It is not population growth itself, nor even total human consumption, but the kind of social relations leading to harmful patterns and types of consumption that are environmentally destructive. These are determined not by the absolute numbers of humans but by the political economy imposed on them.

The ideology of overpopulation is based on fake science

It is instructive to compare climate change theory to overpopulation theory. Climate change predictions are based on science in contrast to the quackery of overpopulation theory. Scientific climate models provide clear quantitative benchmarks for when anthropogenic climate warming became a dominant factor, what level of CO2 in the atmosphere should be targeted, and when this needs to be achieved.

In contrast, the overpopulation theorists do not posit a time when there weren’t too many humans. Instead, they base their simplistic plea that there are too many people in the world based on prejudice against the fertility of women of color (see also Sasser), which has its antecedents in racist and classist eugenics.

When did the earth become overpopulated according to overpopulation theory? In 1798, Thomas Malthus, a seminal overpopulation theorist, wrote his Essay on the Principle of Population in opposition to the English Poor Laws. Malthus posited a “natural law” for population to increase beyond the means of subsistence.

Malthus, as do modern-day proponents of overpopulation theory, do not contend that the earth will become over-populated in the future. Rather, they believe that it is a “law of nature” that human needs for resources always have and always will outstrip the planet’s supply. As Friedrich Engels wrote in 1844, according to the logic of Malthus’ theory “the earth was already over-populated when only one man existed.”

While climate scientists have empirically predicted the deleterious effects of global warming, the overpopulation ideologues have a consistent record of crying wolf. Take perhaps the leading and most respected overpopulation proponent in the US, Paul R. Ehrlich, author of The Population Bomb, who predicted in print:

  • In the 1970s, hundreds of millions of people (including in the US) would starve to death.
  • By the mid-70s, “smog disasters” would kill 200,000 people per year in the US.
  • In the 1980s, “food riots” would lead to the dissolution of the US Congress.
  • Between 1980-1989, 65 million would die of starvation in the US.
  • By 1999, the US population would decline by 22.6 million due to scarcities.

Overpopulation theory has discredited itself as fake science by its own false predictions. Unrepentant, Ehrlich claims that his critics are “idiots,” he “never made predictions,” and he only made the “mistake” of presenting “scenarios.”

High fertility rates are a symptom not the cause of social and environmental problems

This is not to imply that population growth is not an important issue. Only from an environmental point-of-view, it needs to be coupled with an understanding of the social relations that generate patterns of consumption and distribution.

Barrett, who calls himself a “refugee,” could learn from the example of his adopted home in Germany, which is experiencing negative population growth. Germany is an example of a society where, to a significant degree, women have freedom of reproductive choice, improved equality, and a relatively secure standard of living. The lesson being that a society that provides for people’s material and social needs, especially those of women, results in lower birth rates.

In contrast, Syria, which is benighted by a US-backed regime-change war, has the world’s highest birthrate of 7.37%. High fertility rates in such conflict zones may be understood as products of dysfunctional social relations. That is, high fertility rates are a symptom not the cause of social and environmental problems.

The ideology of overpopulation serves to divert criticisms of capitalist social relations of unequal distribution. Wasteful and environmentally destructive economic mis-planning invariably results from those social relations. Barrett exemplifies the phenomenon of the uncritical acceptance of such bourgeois ideas by otherwise consistent leftists.

Anne Hendrixson of the Population and Development Program at Hampshire College observes:

Babies and yet-to-be-born babies in areas like Sub-Saharan Africa are not responsible for existing environmental problems. The reverse is true: wealthy countries like the United States are responsible for burdening those babies with a legacy of global environmental degradation and climate change caused (problems).

The biggest danger of blaming overpopulation for environmental problems is that it ignores the real culprits.

Debunking Myths of ‘Red-Brown’ Alliances

Recently, a certain political concept has been resurrected that warrants interrogation. The notion of a ‘red-brown’ alliance has been thrown around so ubiquitously as a form of political slander that any substantive meaning to the term has been evacuated. Rather than accurately designating any associations that may exist between the left and far right, the idea of a ‘red-brown’ coalition, or ‘querfront’ (cross-front in German), is a generic abstraction cited to mischaracterize a perceived convergence of political opposites. In many respects, it is a stand-in for a similar hypothesis used by liberals — that of ‘horseshoe theory’, or the impression that the far left and far right intersect at both ends of the ideological spectrum — so as to be permitted diction for self-identified leftists. The application of the ‘red-brown’ smear produces the same result in that it situates politics from a centrist vantage point and likens the actual left to fascism. It disappears the anti-fascism of the left and anti-communism of the right while leaving the moderate center at a comfortable distance from the right-wing of which it is the more frequent collaborator.

The ‘red-brown’ character assassinations make analogies about the present day based on a counterfeit history of World War II. No analysis of the mythos would be complete without the inclusion of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, one of the most misunderstood and historically falsified events of the war. During the 1930s, the USSR tried to maintain its autonomy during a period of rapid industrialization that accomplished in a decade what the British needed a century to achieve. In self defense, Moscow was forced to exploit the contradictions between the ‘democratic’ imperial nations and the authoritarian Axis powers when it came under dual threat. If war could not be avoided, the USSR certainly did not wish to take on the Wehrmacht alone. Stalin made diplomatic attempts in the lead up to the war at aligning with Britain and France, who were as keen on the idea of putting an end to the Soviet Union as Germany, which were rebuffed. In reply, the British and the French did everything within their power to try to push the Hitlerites into a war with the Soviets by signing the Munich Agreement with Germany and Italy in 1938.

More than an appeasement, the Munich Betrayal essentially handed over Czechoslovakia to Hitler as a deposit to try to persuade Germany to begin his ‘Master Plan for the East’ where the West would be in a position to play peacemaker. Meanwhile, Poland, Turkey and the Baltic states all signed treaties with Hitler as well, but for obvious reasons history only chooses to remember the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression agreement which followed a year later. Stalin knew Germany would eventually ‘drive to the East’ but needed time if the USSR was to withstand a Wehrmacht invasion and the agreement thwarted the West’s plans of using Hitler to weaken Moscow. After the treaty was signed in 1939, The New York Times declared that “Hitler is brown communism, Stalinism is red fascism” and to this day the cult followers of Trotsky are repeating this lie.

If it isn’t the distortion of the Hitler-Stalin pact, the infamous 1934 Night of the Long Knives in Germany is adduced to illustrate the historical instance of a supposed red-brown coalescence and its inevitable results, when the so-called ‘left wing’ of the Nazi Party led by Gregor Strasser and his supporters were murdered in Hitler’s Röhm purge. While the Strasserites may have self-identified as ‘socialists’, they were just as steeped in anti-semitism and were anything but left — much less ‘red.’ Strasser made his brand of pseudo-socialism discernibly anti-Marxist when he distinguished it as free of a “soulless Jewish-materialist outlook” while addressing the Reichstag in 1925. Once Hitler was finished using the Strasserites in his cynical and cunning scheme, they were liquidated in order to appease his real backers in big business and the German ruling class. Hitler did the bidding of monopoly capital while directing the machinery of government to repress any of his supporters who had been credulous enough to anticipate anti-capitalist policies from the Third Reich. No, the Nazis were not socialist despite their unabbreviated name, nor does chocolate milk come from brown cows.

History has been tampered with to blame the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) for the rise of the Nazis and those weaponizing the red-brown mythology are perpetuating this falsehood. Germany’s economic depression destabilized the country while various political tendencies vied for power against the Weimar government and while the Nazis ultimately emerged on top, there was no ‘collaboration’ between what were mortal enemies. Furthermore, it is assumed that if not for the KPD’s policy towards the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) as ‘social fascists’, things would have turned out different. To the contrary, in 1932 it was the Social Democrats who rebuffed Ernst Thälmann and the KPD’s repeated pleas to form a coalition once the German Reich’s other conservative parties joined forces with Hitler and his seizure of power appeared imminent. To be sure, the Nazis benefited from the left’s infighting due to this repudiation. After the SPD refused to form a popular front or organize a general strike, President Paul von Hindenburg appointed Hitler as Chancellor of Germany and the rest was history. It was the rejections of the appeals for a united front by the anti-revolutionary Social Democrats, not the KPD, which ensured the power grab. There is a reason it was the communists who became the most heavily persecuted political group following the consolidation of power after the Nazi-engineered Reichstag fire ‘false flag’ operation was blamed on them.

The Third Reich was a reaction of the ruling class to the rising militancy of German workers and their increasing revolutionary readiness amidst the Weimar Republic’s collapse, not any strategic failure on the part of the heroes who were murdered by the Hitlerite regime. To propagate this fable is to spit on the graves of those who perished. Nazi authoritarianism became the weapon of choice once the duplicitous arm of Social Democracy became ineffective in deflecting workers away from revolution, as it had done following the end of WWI to put down the Spartacist uprising. The KPD had no choice but to regard the Social Democrats as ‘fascism’s twin brother’ considering the SPD leadership had sided with Kaiser Wilhelm, who killed as many Namibians as Hitler killed Jews in the Herero genocide, against the revolutionaries. Ten years later during the 1929 May Day demonstrations, Social Democratic Interior Minister Carl Severing oversaw the Blutmai massacre where many workers and communists were gunned down by Berlin police. Nothing had changed between the failed 1919 German Revolution put down by the Freikorps which took the life of Rosa Luxemburg and the Bloody May Day in 1929.

Underlying the ‘red-brown’ concept is essentially a false equivalency between the Soviet Union and fascism. One of the other primary sources of this big lie pertains to the doctored history of the Spanish Civil War, a conflict that ended exactly 80 years ago last month. Like Hitler in Germany, General Francisco Franco became the Caudillo of Spain while there was a schism on its political left and since history is written by the winners, decades of anti-Soviet propaganda have placed the blame on those who tried to save the Spanish Republic in 1939 for his rise to power. In reality, the loyalists were defeated not just because of extrinsic reinforcement by Germany and Italy but the debilitation of the Republican forces by the Trotskyite POUM who have since been championed as heroes by those suffering from ultra-left misapprehensions.

During the 1930s while fascism was ascendant, Spain was in a deep political crisis with a monarchist right-wing government. In reaction, the Spanish left mobilized and formed a Popular Front coalition of communists, anarchists and socialists in 1936 to win the Spanish elections. When Franco and his alliance began their insurrection and military coup, the Republican government was refused assistance by the Western imperial nations and the Soviet Union stepped in to provide the anti-fascist resistance political and military aid. They also received reinforcements from Mexico as well as militias from the International Brigades which included the Abraham Lincoln Battalion consisting of American volunteers, the inspiration for Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls. Meanwhile, Franco became the recipient of external support from the strongest military power in the world at the time in Nazi Germany.

The Luftwaffe began its intervention with the aerial bombardment of the Republican-held Basque town of Guernica, inspiring one of Pablo Picasso’s most famous paintings. Seeing as this was no time for games with the very real danger of ultra-nationalism taking power, the Spanish communists mustered together a resistance army that was repeatedly sabotaged by the POUM’s lack of discipline and intrigue. As a result, their unworldly tactics and opposition to any practical alliance with a broader left ultimately led to their expulsion from the Republican government and the Popular Front. Following their banishment, the POUM quislings continued their factionalist disruption and along with the CNT anarchists attempted to overthrow the Republican government, on the basis that a ‘Stalinist regime’ was as undesirable an outcome as fascism. Although the putsch failed, ultimately Franco benefited from this strife which weakened the Comintern-backed forces and the military strongman would advance to become dictator of Spain for the next four decades following the Republican defeat.

Much of the disinformation pulled from this period stems from George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia, which is unfortunately the sole account most people will ever read of the Spanish Civil War. Its reliability is even doubted by Western historians in its demonization of the loyalist cause and Orwell himself admitted its many inaccuracies while regretting the passages that appeared to actually welcome a Franco victory over the Republicans. The avowed “democratic socialist” based the work on his own experiences as a volunteer for the Republican cause fighting alongside the POUM before fleeing the country in 1937. Like his other writings, Homage to Catalonia became weaponized during the Cold War by the political establishment in order to push the anti-communist Western left toward liberal democracy and away from Soviet sympathies. The great Michael Parenti wrote of Orwell and his descendants in Blackshirts and Reds:

A prototypic Red-basher who pretended to be on the Left was George Orwell. In the middle of World War II, as the Soviet Union was fighting for its life against the Nazi invaders at Stalingrad, Orwell announced that a “willingness to criticize Russia and Stalin is the test of intellectual honesty. It is the only thing that from a literary intellectual’s point of view is really dangerous.” Safely ensconced within a virulently anticommunist society, Orwell (with Orwellian doublethink) characterized the condemnation of communism as a lonely courageous act of defiance. Today, his ideological progeny are still at it, offering themselves as intrepid left critics of the Left, waging a valiant struggle against imaginary Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist hordes.

Parenti isn’t exaggerating in his representation. Although little known by his casual admirers, one year before his death in 1950 at the dawn of the Cold War, Orwell secretly provided the British Foreign Office’s anti-Soviet propaganda branch known as the Information Research Department a list of people he believed to be “crypto-communists, fellow-travellers or inclined that way and should not be trusted as propagandists” for MI6’s information warfare. Orwell’s role as an informant for the British secret services and the existence of the list, which included everyone from Charlie Chaplin to foreign correspondents for major newspapers, was not revealed until 1996 and only became public in 2002. He based the list on a longer, unofficial version contained in a personal notebook which even slandered legendary black actor, singer and activist Paul Robeson as a “very anti-white Henry Wallace supporter.” Unlike Hollywood filmmaker Elia Kazan’s shameful testimony before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) in 1952, Orwell’s blacklist was provided voluntarily to the assistant of anti-Soviet historian Robert Conquest, then working for the UK Foreign Office, after she asked him to lend a hand picking out communist sympathizers.

Orwell’s disillusion with the Spanish communists backed by the Comintern and allegiance to the POUM and CNT anarchists was solidified during the 1937 Barcelona May Days where the opposing factions clashed and the Republican government ultimately regained control. In Homage to Catalonia, Orwell heavily criticized a journalist working under the pen name Frank Pitcairn of The Daily Worker, official newspaper of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) and now known as The Morning Star, and challenged his coverage of the events. It turns out that ‘Frank Pitcairn’ was the pseudonym of none other than Claud Cockburn, father of legendary journalist Alexander Cockburn who co-founded Counterpunch newsletter in the mid-90s. The younger Cockburn ruthlessly denounced Orwell when “St. George’s List” became public knowledge, no doubt feeling vindication for the defamation of his father’s work by the English essayist.

For many years, the formerly prestigious Counterpunch edited by Alexander Cockburn until his death in 2012 was a sanctuary of high quality left-wing journalism and commentary. Under his successors, however, the website has gradually declined in its caliber, especially after it became mired in controversy following the 2016 U.S. presidential election when it was included in an investigation in The Washington Post for having publishing articles of a pseudonymous writer working under the false name ‘Alice Donovan’ supposedly on behalf of the Russian government that was tracked by the FBI. The website was then listed among a host of other anti-war pages as promoting a ‘pro-Russian and anti-Clinton’ agenda to influence the outcome of the election on the neo-McCarthyist PropOrNot blacklist. Evidently, Cockburn’s substitutes were too embarrassed to speculate as to whether or not Donovan’s stories could have been submitted by the FBI itself as a pretext for the subsequent widespread censorship of alternative media by big tech giants under the phony banner of stopping the spread of “fake news.” It was only after an in-house investigation by the editors themselves that Donovan was also discovered to be a serial plagiarist, a significant detail that went unnoticed in The Washington Post story. What if the mystery literary thief was a g-man?

Rather than digging in their heels and standing by what they published, Counterpunch has since embarked on an embarrassing quest for bourgeois respectability with the purging of popular contributors while smearing them as part of an imaginary “Sputnik left.” Shortly after the Alice Donovan affair, several of the remaining core authors for Counterpunch published hit pieces condemning progressive journalist Caitlin Johnstone for advocating a ‘cross ideological collaboration’ in the name of an essential policy based anti-war movement transcending the left-right paradigm. While Johnstone’s suggestion gave an admittedly poor and naive example in far right social media personality Mike Cernovich for cooperation — hardly the type of conservative to be taken seriously compared to committed anti-militarist libertarians — her recommendation was well-intentioned and harmless. Nevertheless, they seized the opportunity and pounced on her, but not for the stated reason of stopping an attempt to forge a ‘red-brown fascist alliance.’ Johnstone’s real crime was possessing the rare ability to disseminate subversive ideas to a wide range of people, a serious threat to the livelihood of the professional gatekeepers at Counterpunch.

Yet Johnstone’s opinions were hardly inconsistent with the newsletter’s own history as a longtime host of far-reaching anti-establishment views, nor with Alexander Cockburn himself. In a 2000 article entitled “25 Years After Vietnam: Beyond Left and Right“, Cockburn wrote of exactly such a scenario after receiving criticism for speaking at an anti-war conference that included conservatives Ron Paul and Pat Buchanan:

I got an invitation to speak a couple of months ago from an outfit called antiwar.com, which is run by a young fellow called Justin Raimundo. “Antiwar.com is having its second annual national conference March 24 & 25, and we’d like you to be the luncheon speaker,” Raimundo wrote. “The conference will be held at the Villa Hotel, in San Mateo (near the airport). The theme of the conference is ‘Beyond Left & Right: The New Face of the Antiwar Movement.’ We have invited a number of speakers spanning the political spectrum. Confirmed so far: Patrick J. Buchanan, Tom Fleming (of Chronicles magazine), Justin Raimondo (Antiwar.com), Kathy Kelly (Iraq Aid), Alan Bock (Orange County Register), Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), representatives of the Serbian Unity Congress, and a host of others.”

Raimundo seasoned his invite with a burnt offering, in the form of flattery, always pleasing to the nostrils: “All of us here at Antiwar.com are big fans of your writing: we met, once, at a meeting during the Kosovo war where you bravely took up the fight for the united front left-right alliance against imperialist war. We can promise you a small honorarium, a lunch, free admission to all conference events — and a good time.” As a seasoned analyst of such communications, my eye of course fell sadly upon the words “small honorarium” ? a phrase that in my case usually means somewhere between $l50 and $350. I’d already noted that even though our task was to transcend the tired categories of left and right, I was the only leftist mentioned, with the possible exception of Kathy Kelly, from that splendid organization, Voices in the Wilderness, which campaigns to lift the UN sanctions on Iraq.

Being a libertarian Justin had boldly added the prospect of a “good time”. Leftist invitations rarely admit this possibility in formal political communications, even in the distant days when the left supposedly had a lock on drugs and sex. I said I’d be happy to join in such an enterprise, and in due course got some angry e-mails from lefties who seem to feel that any contiguity with Buchanan is a crime, even if the subject was gardening and Dutch tulipomania in the seventeenth century.

Cockburn received similar flack in the mid-90s for commending a right-wing Patriot rally opposing gun control in Michigan in a column for The Nation similarly titled “Who’s Left? Who’s Right?” So it’s one thing for the inner circle at CP to attack others with the red-brown libel, but entirely another to rewrite history and speak on behalf of the deceased Cockburn to claim their sectarian attacks on leftist colleagues who are in spirit with his vision. Worst of all, the Counterpunch contingent has maligned the recently kidnapped Wikileaks founder Julian Assange as a ‘crypto-fascist’ while continuing to use his endorsement of the magazine in advertising to raise money for its annual fund drive as he languishes in prison.

Most of those targeted like Johnstone are anti-war leftists willing to defend Russia and Syria beyond merely protesting U.S. military aggression but challenging the propaganda narratives villainizing such countries used to justify it. The war in Syria has even been compared to the Spanish Civil War where the chasm between those defending the Syrian government against Western-backed jihadists is seen as a repeat of the discord in the 1930s, with presumably the ‘libertarian socialist’ Kurds playing the role of the POUM. It is actually not such a bad analogy, considering the YPG are as objectively a U.S. proxy army as the POUM were Franco’s fifth columnists.

Russophobes on the left use a different line of reasoning to push the same agenda as the Washington war duopoly while Moscow is in the gun-sights of U.S. imperialism. The ‘brown’ component is said to be the reactionary philosopher Alexander Dugin whose alleged Svengali-like influence on the Kremlin is inflated, as is the prevalent misconception that he is the founder of Putin’s ‘Eurasianism.’ As a matter of fact, the initial author of a Eurasian union was the anti-Soviet liberal human rights dissident Andrei Sakharov back in the 1980s during perestroika who was beloved in the Western sphere. Meanwhile, the actual threat of right-wing extremism in Russia emanating from the U.S.-backed opposition figure Alexei Navalny, who seeks the secession of the Caucasus while comparing its Muslim inhabitants to cockroaches and insects, is of little concern to those making Putin out to be the enemy. In fact, it is the instigator against Moscow in NATO that has for decades incubated fascism, from Operation Gladio’s stay-behind networks of right-wing paramilitaries carrying out ‘false flag’ operations in NATO member states to Ukraine’s 2014 Banderite junta. Furthermore, the anti-Russia hysteria is a successful diversion from the actual source of foreign influence nurturing the current tide of nationalism that is traceable to Jerusalem, not the Kremlin.

The red-brown aspersion isn’t relegated to the periphery of leftist newsletters or historical debates about WWII but has even manifested in more mainstream discourse, from the smear campaign against journalist Angela Nagle for her brilliant “The Left Case Against Open Borders” article exploring the complexities of the immigration issue to Bernie Sanders’ willingness to do a town hall hosted by Fox News. Journalists such as Glenn Greenwald, Max Blumenthal, Michael Tracey, and Nagle herself have all been denigrated as ‘red-brown collaborators’ for their willingness to make appearances on Tucker Carlson’s weeknight talk show. There is even an incomprehensible multi-axis political compass making the rounds on social media said to visually represent the red-brown or neo-“Strasserite” phenomena.

Carlson, like Ann Coulter, is a right-wing media figure who made his name as a neo-con during the Bush years who has successfully rebranded himself in the Trump era as an ‘anti-establishment’ conservative, even espousing anti-interventionism on occasion. Of course, the entire point of engaging the millions of viewers who watch such a cartoon propaganda outlet is missed by those who insist that to do so is to legitimate the channel or Carlson’s views. Would not solely attending the likes of so-called ‘respectable’ media like CNN or MSNBC, which sell U.S. wars every bit as much as Rupert Murdoch’s network, be an endorsement of their self-proclamations to be arbiters of truth?

Last month, the International Socialist Organization (ISO) in the U.S. voted to dissolve itself after a period of a factionalism and infighting. The ISO was the American branch of the UK-based Socialist Workers Party (SWP) founded by Tony Cliff, which once included Orwell admirer and Trot-turned-neocon author Christopher Hitchens in its ranks during his youth. This was welcome news to anyone rightly disgusted by such an objectively pro-interventionist group that was one of the biggest mudslingers against those who have defended Russia and Syria from imperialism as ‘red-brown fascists’ during the past decade. Unsurprisingly, it was revealed that the ISO received a significant amount of its subsidies from the Soros-funded Tides Foundation and other Democratic Party-affiliated philanthropies. Hopefully its dissolution is a sign that the tide is turning against such groups that smuggle pro-imperial positions to be planted into a left that should unconditionally oppose them.