In April 2022, the United Nations established the Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy, and Finance. This group is tracking the three major crises of food inflation, fuel inflation, and financial distress. Their second briefing, released on 8 June 2022, noted that, after two years of the COVID-19 pandemic:
the world economy has been left in a fragile state. Today, 60 per cent of workers have lower real incomes than before the pandemic; 60 per cent of the poorest countries are in debt distress or at high risk of it; developing countries miss $1.2 trillion per year to fill the social protection gap; and $4.3 trillion is needed per year – more money than ever before – to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
This is a perfectly reasonable description of the distressing global situation, and things are likely to get worse.
According to the UN Global Crisis Response Group, most capitalist states have already rolled back the relief funds they provided during the pandemic. ‘If social protection systems and safety nets are not adequately extended’, the report states, ‘poor families in developing countries facing hunger may reduce health-related spending; children who temporarily left school due to COVID-19 may now be permanently out of the education system; or smallholder or micro-entrepreneurs may close shop due to higher energy bills’.
The World Bank reports that food and fuel prices will remain at very high levels until at least the end of 2024. As wheat and oilseed prices have escalated, reports are coming in from across the globe – including in wealthy countries – that working-class families have started to skip meals. This tense food situation has led United Nations (UN) Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development, Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, to predict that many families will move to one meal a day, which, she says, ‘will be the source of even more instability’ in the world. The World Economic Forum (WEF) adds that we are in the midst of ‘a perfect storm’ if you take into account the impact of increasing interest rates on mortgage payments as well as inadequate salaries. The managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Kristalina Georgieva-Kinova, said late last month that the ‘horizon has darkened’.
These assessments come from people at the heart of powerful global institutions – the IMF, World Bank, WEF, and the UN (and even from a queen). Although they all recognise the structural nature of the crisis, they are reluctant to be honest about the underlying economic processes, or even about how to adequately name the situation. David M. Rubenstein, the head of global investment firm The Carlyle Group, said that when he was part of US President Jimmy Carter’s administration, their inflation advisor Alfred Kahn warned them not to use the ‘R’ word – recession – which ‘scares people’. Instead, Kahn advised, use the word ‘banana’. Along those lines, Rubenstein said of the current situation, ‘I don’t want to say we’re in a banana, but I would say a banana may not be that far away from where we are today’.
Marxist economist Michael Roberts does not hide behind words such as banana. Roberts has studied the global average rate of profit on capital, which he shows has been falling, with minor reverses, since 1997. This trend was exacerbated by the global financial crash of 2007–08 which led to the Great Recession in 2008. Since then, he argues, the world economy has been in the grip of a ‘long depression’, with the rate of profit at a historic low in 2019 (just before the pandemic).
‘Profit drives investment in capitalism’, writes Roberts, ‘and so falling and low profitability has led to slow growth in productive investment’. Capitalist institutions have shifted from investment in productive activity to, as Roberts puts it, ‘the fantasy world of stock and bond markets and cryptocurrencies’. The cryptocurrency market, by the way, has collapsed by over 60% this year. Dwindling profits in the Global North have led capitalists to seek profits in the Global South and beat back any country (especially China and Russia) that threatens their financial and political hegemony, with military force if necessary.
Ghastly is the way of inflation, but inflation is merely the symptom of a deeper problem and not its cause. That problem is not merely the war in Ukraine or the pandemic, but something that is confirmed by data but denied in press conferences: the capitalist system, plunged into a long-term depression, cannot heal itself. Later this year, notebook no. 4 on the theory of crisis from Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research, written by Marxist economists Sungur Savran and E. Ahmet Tonak, will establish these points very clearly.
For now, capitalist economic theory starts with the assumption that any attempt to settle an economic crisis, such as an inflationary crisis, must not, as John Maynard Keynes wrote in 1923, ‘disappoint the rentier’. Wealthy bondholders and major capitalist institutions control the policy orientation of the Global North so that the value of their money – trillions of dollars held by a minority – is secure. They cannot, as Keynes wrote nearly a hundred years ago, be disappointed.
The anti-inflation policies driven by the US and the Eurozone are not going to ease the burdens on the working class in their countries, and certainly not in the debt-ridden Global South. Chairman of the US Federal Reserve Jerome Powell admitted that his monetary policy ‘will cause some pain’, but not across the entire population. More honestly, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos tweeted that ‘Inflation is a regressive tax that most hurts the least affluent’. Rising interest rates in the North Atlantic make money far more expensive for ordinary people in that region, but they also make borrowing in dollars to pay off national debts in the Global South virtually impossible. Raising interest rates and tightening the labour market are direct attacks on the working class and developing nations.
There is nothing inevitable about the class warfare of the governments of the Global North. Other policies are possible; a few of them are listed below:
- Tax the global wealthy. There are 2,668 billionaires in the world who are worth $12.7 trillion; the money they hide in illicit tax havens adds up to about $40 trillion. This wealth could be brought into productive social use. As Oxfam notes, the richest ten men have more wealth than 3.1 billion people (40% of the world population).
- Tax large corporations, whose profits have escalated beyond imagination. US corporate profits are up by 37%, far ahead of inflation and compensation increases. Ellen Zentner, the chief US economist of the leading financial services company Morgan Stanley, argues that, during the long depression, there has been an ‘unprecedented’ plunge in the share of Gross Domestic Product earned by the working class in the United States. She has called for a return to a more just profit-wages balance.
- Use this social wealth to enhance social expenditures, such as funds to end hunger and illiteracy and build health care systems as well as non-carbon forms of public transportation.
- Institute price controls for goods that specifically drive-up inflation – such as prices for food, fertilisers, fuel, and medicines.
The great Bajan writer George Lamming (1927–2022) left us recently. In his 1966 essay, ‘The West Indian People’, Lamming said, ‘The architecture of our future is not only unfinished; the scaffolding has hardly gone up’. This was a powerful sentiment from a powerful visionary, who hoped that his home in the Caribbean, the West Indies, would be shaped into a sovereign region that could relieve its people of great problems. This was not to be. Strangely, the IMF’s Georgieva-Kinova quoted this line in a recent article while making the case for the region to collaborate with the IMF. It is likely that Georgieva-Kinova and her staff did not read all of Lamming’s speech, for this paragraph is instructive today as it was in 1966:
There is, I believe, a formidable regiment of economists in this hall. They teach the statistics of survival. They anticipate and warn about the relative price of freedom… [I] would just like you to bear in mind the story of an ordinary Barbadian working man. When he was asked by another West Indian whom he had not seen for about ten years, ‘and how are things?’, he replied: ‘The pasture green, but they got me tied on a short rope’.The post We Need to Build the Architecture of Our Future first appeared on Dissident Voice.
The shifting baseline syndrome requires today’s people disavowing things written 10 years ago, even five years ago, but those books, articles, whitepapers and radio broadcasts are actually ahead of their time . . .
And what is that expiration date for good, sound, righteous news and writing and broadcasting?
I see more and more young people, and older ones, relying on up-to-the-minute news and up-to-the-minute authors to set the stage of their own personal collapse. Who do you need to hear, watch and rarely debate to help frame collapse?
Analysis paralysis, climate change fatigue, and, alas, the insanity of echo chambers and the constrant high pitched whine of the mainstream news, the mainstream thinkers and all the handlers of us, including the gatekeepers, those are today’s diseases, much more than mental malaise.
This is the groundhog day show, when people today think they are in the know because of some piece of ProPublica, investigative new or news feature, because of another hundredth documentary consumed in a year, and all the noise coming from these script readers and yellers and scammers we call the mainstream media.
For instance, how do we feed out kids, get our roads fixed, live healthy, and pull down the system, end the system, with stories like this?
Susquehanna founder and TikTok investor Jeff Yass has avoided $1 billion in taxes while largely escaping public scrutiny. He’s now pouring his money into campaigns to cut taxes and support election deniers.
by Justin Elliott, Jesse Eisinger, Paul Kiel, Jeff Ernsthausen and Doris Burke
There is no difference between Tucker or Rachel. They are in it for the money, the accumulation of power, and the attention. Narcissim, and neglecting context and history and mutliple points of view, definitely defining characteristics of this day and age.
And so many wagons are circling, so many lobbies running the America citizen into the ground. So much is broken and wrong about the way the USA operates, that we are at the point of living in a world of thirty five adult, full-grown clowns coming out of the VW Bug or compact car.
I have these conversations daily about how much the average person has abandoned sanity or any faith or confidence in systems meant for The People, meant as entitlements for WE The People. That the pigs of commerce are gouging Americans on every leveL, that the housing crisis is more crises, that all those bombs and bullets and balistics are shipping to the Zionist Zelensky, that all of that is happening, but, oh, my, what to do about it?
We have insane people in positions of power, positions of middling influence, and then, of course, policy makers are in the pockets of the millionaires and billionaires, and then, we are at a point where, say, the community where I reside, Waldport and Newport, the dam holding our water source is crumbling and any action on it has to wait until the lottery numbers come in. Casino capitalism. Money for infrastructure gained through gaming the system, through gambling addiction.
Newport City Council approved $600,000 from federal relief funds for design tasks to replace the Big Creek dams, keeping the project moving while the city awaits state lottery bond funds and hopes for a much larger contribution from the federal government.
Last year, the Oregon Legislature approved a budget with $14 million appropriated for design and replacement of the earthen Big Creek dams, which are vulnerable to failure from relatively minor seismic event and showing signs of internal seepage. Those funds would bring the city through the design process and might contribute some to initial construction. (Source)
The incredible darkness of their lies, all of them, until here we are, stuck in a loop with Pig Trump and Pig Biden and all the Pigs of Politics.
How much money is funneled into the so-called Pentagon?
Really, how dependent is this country, USA, on the military machines? Military is everything — logistics, air, water, land, space, burgers and buttons, and trillions of dollars spent to prop up the welfare queens and kings of profiteering. War mercenaries, and profit players.
And what is this new green economy? What is this divestment from hydrocarbons? Americans and many in the Woke UK and EU, they live in a make-believe world, fully Disneyfied. Absolutely stupid greenies in terms of how things are made — think steel and aluminum and concrete and, well, embedded energy and life-cycles of products all embedded in oil!
Oh the headlines:
Tryzub: The National Revolution Fantasized by Ukranian Nationalists
‘Ukraine Fatigue’ Intensifies as Sanctions Boomerang Ravages Western Economies
Southern Ukraine is the Priority in NATO’s Planning
Most African Countries Support Russia
The Ukraine Crisis Will Be the END of NATO
I have no mercy or compassion in me for a society that will crush people, and then penalize them for not being able to stand up under the weight.
So here we are: young people have no idea how the old days were the days of now, where solutions to the many problems were in the hands of communities, with farming, arts, communitarian spirit, sharing economy, mutual aid, rebuffing all those powers, all those instruments of suppression and oppression. The good old days were never put into play to the point of mass movements to oust the purveyors of pain, from militaries, to the government, to the corporation.
The good old ways, that is, those that embodied a spirit of honor and sharing, what the the Iroquois Great Law of Peace was about: a constitution that established a democracy between five Iroquois-speaking tribes—the Seneca, Cayuga, Oneida, Onondaga, and Mohawk. This group of five nations, called the Iroquois Confederacy, was established around 1450.
Making decisions now that will affect seven generations out originated with the Iroquois – Great Law of the Iroquois – which holds appropriate to think seven generations ahead (about 525 years into the future, which is counted by multiplying the 75 years of an average human lifespan by 7) and decide whether the decisions they make today would benefit those unborn generations.
In 1744, the Onondaga leader Canassatego gave a speech urging the contentious 13 colonies to unite, as the Iroquois had at the signing of the Treaty of Lancaster. This cultural exchange inspired the English colonist Benjamin Franklin to print Canassatego’s speech.
“We heartily recommend Union and a good Agreement between you our Brethren,” Canassatego had said. “Never disagree, but preserve a strict Friendship for one another, and thereby you, as well as we, will become the stronger. Our wise Forefathers established Union and Amity between the Five Nations; this has made us formidable; this has given us great Weight and Authority with our neighboring Nations. We are a powerful Confederacy; and, by your observing the same Methods our wise Forefathers have taken, you will acquire fresh Strength and Power; therefore whatever befalls you, never fall out one with another.”
He used a metaphor that many arrows cannot be broken as easily as one. This inspired the bundle of 13 arrows held by an eagle in the Great Seal of the United States. (source)
Their constitution, recorded and kept alive on a two row wampum belt, held many concepts familiar to United States citizens today.
|Iroquois Confederacy and the Great Law of Peace||United States Constitution|
|Restricts members from holding more than one oﬃce in the Confederacy.||Article I, Section 6, Clause 2, also known as the Ineligibility Clause or the Emoluments Clause bars members of serving members of Congress from holding oﬃces established by the federal government, while also baring members of the executive branch or judicial branch from serving in the U.S. House or Senate.|
|Outlines processes to remove leaders within the Confederacy||Article II, Section 4 reads “The President, Vice President and all civil Oﬃcers of the United States shall be removed from Oﬃce on Impeachment for, and the conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors.”|
|Designates two branches of legislature with procedures for passing laws||Article I, Section 1, or the Vesting Clauses, read “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.” It goes on to outline their legislative powers.|
|Delineates who has the power to declare war||Article I, Section 8, Clause 11, also known as the War Powers Clause, gives Congress the power, “To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;”|
|Creates a balance of power between the Iroquois Confederacy and individual tribes||The diﬀering duties assigned to the three branches of the U.S. Government: Legislative (Congress), Executive (President), and Judicial (Supreme Court) act to balance and separate power in government.|
Oh, those old ways, no? Ignored: Native American democratic principles focus on the creation of strong kinship bonds that promote leadership in which honor is not earned by material gain but by service to others. Read again — honor not earned by material gain but service to others.
Imagine that tattoo on the foreheads of these evil politicians.
Check out my old stuff, long form interviews, over the radio. Here, on my Word Press site:
Yes, old stuff I uploaded, and, who the hell listens to old radio shows in this day and age? Who would care about my own education during these 56 minute episodes? People like authors, scientists, food experts, activists, etc.?
Check it out — Tipping Points: Voices from the Edge, Spokane, low power community radio! Here, my preamble. Note that I am not a greenie weenie, and I have always doubted the sustainability arena, the New Urbanism crap, all of that, really, since all of what I have learned in courses and certifications and degrees is that CAPITALISM is the bulldozer and the media manipulator of any possible bottom up way to solve myriad of problems, not just tied to resource piracy, biopiray, land grabs, resource thefts, pollution-pollution-pollution, toxicity-toxicity-toxicity.
Podcast list — Paul’s radio show from the mid-2000s. Ironically, poets, thinkers, scientists, community engagement experts, and book authors talked to me with an open mind. I engaged in exchanges of ideas. I was not a stenographer, and yes, I do jump in and have my own spin or take on things. I, of course, have changed my way toward enlightenment compared to the period of 2001 – 2011 I was in Spokane, writing, creating columns, teaching, and involved in activism. I am more grounded in my socialism and my communism. Working anywhere in the USA, Amerikkka, means covering up or masking one’s true self. Capitalism is a form of totalitarianism, and fascism in its own way. I have witnessed colonization of formerly independent thinkers, then a hive mentality take over and then just Plain Jane Stockholm Syndrome seeping into the collective, at large, especially within Democratic Party supporters. Academics. Woke folk. Et al. Enjoy these people, these historic and cutting edge long-form radio conversations!
Note: Realize that the greenie weenies, the Green New Deal (not for nature and people) proponents, the end of fossil fuel folk, all those liberals in the liberal managerial class, please, realize, that I was up against them. For this radio station, this low power community radio station, I had back-stabbers and retrogrades. If you realize the value of this body of work, in a span of two years (and I did work for a living, since this was a gratis gig), then you might understand where I am now, listening to and observing the rot, smelling the putridity, and all the monetizing of some really bad show. Good ones, too, thank goodness, supported me, but I was already deeply victimized by cancel culture. Some of the worse are the compliant ones, the herd, those that call themselves green and organic. However, many of those types hated my show, hated my work, and, well, many loved the work, but those are not the pied piper types. It’s the haters who come out from their dirty sheets at night like an army of bedbugs.Out with the Old, In with the New first appeared on Dissident Voice.
All people need food, shelter and health care. In an alleged democracy, none of them need the religion of market forces governing their ability to get them. Nor do those of us temporarily comfortable while enjoying the benefits that come to a minority which does well with capitalism (as it did with slavery) but now face a choking atmosphere that no individual status or identity as glorified house negroes of slavery days will protect us since the house itself, our planet, is under deadly attack.
Brutal abuse of logic, savage assaults on morality, perverted molestations of reason; do those describe Russian military behavior in the Ukraine or western political-media market practice? Incredibly booming profits in the death industry accompany the world tour of a Ukrainian political hustler for NATO as he is treated as an international hero for escaping his country on a world go-fund-me trip to raise more weapons to assure more murder of his people with a potential bonus of hosting a late night TV show in America while the bodies are being counted.
The incredible reporting (?) of the Russian defense of its borders has it being depicted as an ugly rape of neighbors led by a comic book madman supposedly bent on building an empire by defending his nation from an imperial monster failing desperately by the day and threatening to destroy the world in a frenzy of trying to maintain its criminal domination of the market god religion. This while its own nation shows signs of crumbling with citizens lashing out at one another and losing faith in all aspects of what passes for leadership but reduced to blaming special villains and identity groups while pursuing decency and freedom for other and often the same villains and identity groups. The one most dangerous and unjust group, the incredibly rich who own and operate what passes for a democracy under thought control, are only just beginning to get the attention they have always deserved.
Low election day turnouts are an American tradition but worse than ever as divisions forced on a public taught to identify as anything but a democratic majority – while paying lip service to something called “our” democracy, which amounts to slaves claiming “our” plantation – while foreign slaughter is accompanied by homeland mass murders that reduce citizens to more fear, sorrow and anger directed at everything but the systemic breakdown and focused by media on scapegoats.
Class society is composed of all of us but we are hardly all members of the same class in a market-dominated capitalism in which rulers separate us by everything but class. Do we have testicles or vaginas? We are all human beings. Lighter skin or darker skin? We are all human beings. But when a tiny minority among us are rich and everyone else ranges from fairly comfortable to relatively comfortable to uncomfortable to suffering severe discomfort to being ground to pulp by marketism, that defines class society, which is absolutely necessary under the market forces controlled by the rich and their servants in government, industry and media.
American dollar democracy finds 8% of us being millionaires, multi-millionaires, billionaires, and multi billionaires. The 92% majority, of course, control everything democratically. That is the definable truth if you believe deep nose-picking is a way of performing self lobotomy or that the tooth fairy is really a gay dentist. Sadly, a minority of us, including all too many voters, might as well be stuck in such a mental trap. But a growing majority sense that something is terribly wrong and that real change is necessary for humanity and not just one or another identity group’s survival is causing greater desire than ever for substantial change in the way we organize our society. Unfortunately, that desire is still under the control of the profit-making industries of division, violence, ignorance and more division.
It is possible to believe that a billionaire and a pauper are equal when shopping at the market, if one is among the nose picking tooth fairy faith. The rest of us must see the numbers which do not lie and get worse every day when it comes to what is called economic inequality. While that is the foundation of marketism which affords massive estates and riches so vast it takes several banks to hold them, hundreds of thousands of humans, whether possessing testicles, vaginas, or both, light skin, dark skin, or both, heterosexual, homosexual or both, do not have shelter, publicly beg for food and forage through garbage for clothing. This while millions of residents in a so-called democracy have no health care and more than a million die of a virus which is believed by some to have been created by one or another villainous force but hardly due to the capitalist market system which demands money for most of what is needed for survival while essentially telling those without enough money they can drop dead.
While formally educated and mentally deranged manipulators of policy are using Ukraine to affect murdering Russians and using Taiwan to encourage murder of Chinese, common sense and near universal desires for global peace are impossible to find in the mass murder market dominated and controlled by minorities at growing danger to the overwhelming majority of earth’s inhabitants. The socially diseased imperial beast calling itself a force for global peace and democracy has become a raving monster desperately in need of a truly democratic force of the American people to take control before the rest of the world, led by China, Russia and the many nations fed up with a disintegrating economic, social and political environment, have to exercise control, democratic or otherwise.
Peace is impossible while life is controlled by minority profiteers whose control of information is as menacing as its weapons making. The world outside the USA is growing restive, fed up, and beginning to tell us to bug off, as at the recent farce of an alleged meeting of Latin American countries formerly under our total domination showed. Nato countries reduced to suffering for obeying American orders to sanction Russia are being to think about banding together to sanction The USA. There has never been a greater time for real democracy in America but it won’t come about by making war on one another, which will only make the imperial situation worse. Our identity is as human beings, not sub-categories of humans with no need for food, clothing and shelter but only separate-but-allegedly-equal status slaves to a market god, and our fate is in coming together and acting as such. We need to do that in greater numbers and more quickly than ever.The post Market God + Private Profits = Public Loss first appeared on Dissident Voice.
Elderly Maasai man wounded in the military attack on protesters. © Survival
Thousands of Maasai people have fled their homes and escaped into the bush following a brutal police crackdown on protests against government attempts to evict them to make way for trophy hunters and conservation.
On June 8 dozens of police vehicles and an estimated 700 officers arrived in Loliondo, N. Tanzania, near the world-famous Serengeti National Park, to demarcate a 1,500 km2 area of Maasai land as a Game Reserve. On June 10 they fired on Maasai protesting at efforts to evict them: at least 18 men and 13 women were shot, and 13 wounded with machetes. One person is confirmed dead.
Now, police are going house-to-house in Maasai villages, beating and arresting those they believe distributed images of the violence, or took part in the protests. A man aged 90 was beaten by police because his son was accused of filming the shooting. In one village alone at least 300, including children, are reported to have fled into the bush. A dozen people have been arrested.
The violence of the last few days is the latest episode in a long-running effort by Tanzania’s authorities to evict Maasai from their land in Loliondo for safari tourism and trophy hunting. The United Arab Emirates (UAE)-based Otterlo Business Company (OBC) — which runs hunting excursions for the country’s royal family and their guests — will reportedly control commercial hunting in the area.
Still from a video showing police firing indiscimantely on Maasai protesters in Loliondo, Tanzania. © Survival
A Maasai leader who is remaining anonymous for his own safety, said: “Our government has decided to unleash the full power of the military to oust us from our land, leaving many injured by gunshots, children roaming in the bush, and we have moved to sleep in the bush. The government is refusing to treat the injured. Many people are without food. And this is our ancestral land. This is barbaric to take our land for luxury hunting of the UAE leaders.”
Another Maasai man told Survival: “I love this place because it’s my home… They want our land because we have water sources, and we have them because we protect them. We have been living with wildlife for generations.
“They don’t want the Maasai because people coming here don’t want to see the Maasai. Before, we didn’t think too much (or badly) about tourism but now we understand that tourism is people coming with money, that makes the government think ‘If we did move the Maasai, more people will come here with money’.”
Germany is a major funder of conservation projects in Tanzania, and is heavily involved in shaping conservation policies in the country that have led to thousands of Indigenous people being evicted. Frankfurt Zoological Society funds wildlife rangers and officers, some of whom the Maasai allege have been involved in the latest evictions.
Fiore Longo of Survival International said today: “What’s going on in Loliondo is rapidly turning into a humanitarian catastrophe, one that reveals the true face of conservation. The Maasai are being shot just because they want to live on their ancestral lands in peace – and all to make room for trophy hunting and “conservation.” Many Maasai facing violence today were also evicted from Serengeti in 1959, by British colonial officials, so what’s currently going on is really just a continuation of the colonial past.
“This violence that we see in Tanzania is the reality of conservation in Africa and Asia: daily violations of the human rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities so that the ‘rich’ can hunt and go on safari. These abuses are systemic and are built into the dominant model of conservation based on racism and colonialism. The theory is that humans – especially non-whites – in Protected Areas are a threat to the environment. But Indigenous Peoples have been living there for generations: these territories are now important nature conservation areas precisely because the original inhabitants took such good care of their land and wildlife. We can no longer turn a blind eye to human rights abuses committed in the name of ‘conservation.’ This model of conservation is deeply inhumane and ineffective and must be changed now.”The post Tanzania: Thousands of Maasai Flee after Dozens Shot and Detained Following Evictions for Trophy Hunting first appeared on Dissident Voice.
Millions of Britons are suffering from stress-related mental disorders. The number of people with anxiety has been steadily rising for years. According to NHS statistics, more than six million people in the UK are taking antidepressants.
There is an acceptance that wide-scale mental distress is an unavoidable part of modern life. The general response to the crisis by government bodies and the media is to call for more treatment. While increased support is necessary, the focus on treatment hides the extent to which society is often responsible for personal distress.
The cause for much of this depression is social and political. Under neoliberal governance, workers have seen their wages stagnate and their working conditions and job security become more precarious. The individualising and privatising forces that underpin capitalism have led to the breakdown of communities and social bonds, leaving millions of people lonely.
Given the increased reasons for anxiety, it’s not surprising that a large proportion of the population diagnose themselves as chronically miserable. Converting that depression into a political anger is an urgent political project. This should be the job of the left, who are the natural critics of capitalism. I believe that we should develop a kind of ‘leftist psychotherapy’ in which mental distress is explained in relation to the power structures of society.
In this endeavour the work of British clinical psychologist David Smail (1938-2014) is instructive. His writings provide a searing critique of the psychology establishment, and a social constructivist model for how to better understand mental distress. I believe that building on his work could have a tremendous impact.
The Role of the Psychology Establishment
In his seminal text Power, Interest and Psychology, Smail explains how mainstream psychology reinforces the status quo. It does this by diverting us from connecting mental distress to the material circumstances that condition our lives. ‘The psychology establishment has nothing to say about how to apparatus of power and interest that so clearly operates at the level of society comes to be reflected in the subjectivity of individuals – or even whether it does’.
Psychology has become a technical profession, like chiropody or dietetics, which focuses on the pragmatics of relief rather than on any more abstract intellectual or scientific enterprise. The dominant forms of treatment in mental illness are drugs and therapy.
Antidepressants contain people’s depression rather than actually deal with the causes of depression. The focus on brain chemistry creates a horrible loop whereby massive multinational pharmaceutical companies sell people drugs in order to cure them from the stresses brought about by working in late capitalism. In this context, the message to patients is cruel; if you’re depressed because of overwork, that’s between you and your brain chemistry!
Smail was critical of therapy. He suspected that it is only effective to the extent that the therapist becomes a true friend to the client, involved in their world. The supposed process by which people are ‘cured’ of mental illness once they gain ‘insight’ into their problems is illusory, and therapists are to a large extent involved in wishful thinking.
He argued that therapeutic psychology gives patients a false understanding of reality. The focus on the individual turns ‘the relation of person to world inside out, such that the former becomes the creator of the latter. If the story you find yourself in causes you distress, tell yourself another one’.
Counsellors and therapists have a stake in maintaining an individualist and idealist account of emotional distress, for only such an account can legitimate the role of professional practitioner. ‘Psychology tries to be objective like a science – explanations of activities or interests undermines the ‘scientific’ rationale for our practice’.
This is not to say that drugs or therapy are harmful. Being able to talk to someone for an hour in therapy or having something which will take the edge of things via anti-depressants can make people feel better, but it doesn’t get to the sources of that sort of misery in the first place.
A Sociomaterialist Explanation of Mental Distress
Smail argued that feelings of well-being fundamentally arise from a public world. And in a society in which the concept of the public has been so viciously and systematically attacked – it’s no surprise, he argues, that distress has increased.
Interest and power are what determine events in our lives more than we are allowed to acknowledge. ‘The strength and integrity of the subject is determined not (as therapeutic psychology would have us believe) by efforts of individual will, but by the adequacy or otherwise of the environment (including, crucially, the public societal structures) in which it is located.’
It follows that where public structures are stable, supportive and nurturing, the individual may blossom and flourish; where they disintegrate the subject becomes demoralised and depressed.
To solve the mental health crisis we must ask broader ethical questions about how we treat each other. ‘We are bodies in a world: of course, in a physical world, but also a socially structured, material space-time in which what we do to each other has enormous importance’.
A Way Forward
To solve the mental health crisis it is necessary to critique the social conditions that we live in. Widespread mental illness is a hidden cost of neoliberal capitalism. Market forces have created heightened instability and alienation which has resulted in mass psychological distress.
The medical establishment reinforces the status quo by privatising stress. Those who struggle to meet the expectations of society are told that the problem is their family background or in the chemical make-up of their brain. There is a case to be made that anti-depressants and therapy are now the opiates of the masses.
As a collective, there is an urgent need for us to connect mental distress to systems of power and interest. If someone struggles to meet the cost of living, or to cope with the instability of working in the gig economy, it is vital that they understand that millions of other people are suffering for the same reasons. Those incapacitated by depression and anxiety often feel tremendous guilt and self-loathing. By connecting their illness to broader social forces, they may apportion less blame to themselves.
We need to challenge the idea that wide-scale mental distress is an unavoidable part of modern life. The kind of world we want is an ethical choice. We are not bound to accept that the ‘real world’ is one in which the ‘bottom line’ defines what is right and wrong. The ruthless world may be chosen, as it is by the current rulers of the globalised neo-liberal market. It can also be rejected.
The awareness that neoliberal governance is causing wide-scale mental distress can be a catalyst for social change. The left can drive this process by developing a ‘leftist psychotherapy’ that provides a theoretical framework for how the material conditions that we live in cause mental illness.The post Towards a Leftist Psychotherapy first appeared on Dissident Voice.
Starting on May 31, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov embarked on a tour to Gulf Cooperation Council countries, where he visited Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, among others. Lavrov’s main objective of these visits is to strengthen ties between Russia and GCC nations amid a global race for geopolitical dominance.
The Middle East, especially the Gulf region, is vital for the current global economic order and is equally critical for any future reshaping of that order. If Moscow is to succeed in redefining the role of Arab economies vis-à-vis the global economy, it would most likely succeed in ensuring that a multipolar economic world takes form.
The geopolitical reordering of the world cannot simply be achieved through war or challenging the West’s political influence in its various global domains. The economic component is possibly the most significant of the ongoing tug of war between Russia and its western detractors.
Prior to the Russia-Ukraine war, any conversation on the need to challenge or redefine globalization was confined largely to academic circles. The war made that theoretical conversation a tangible, urgent one. The US, European, western support for Kyiv has little to do with Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence and everything to do with the real anxiety that a Russian success will demolish or, at least, seriously damage, the current version of economic globalization as envisaged by the US and its allies.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the world was no longer a contested space between two military superpowers — NATO vs Warsaw Pact — and two massive economic camps: US vs USSR. We often speak about the American invasion of Panama (1989) and war in Iraq (1990), to demarcate the uncontested American ascendancy in global affairs. What we often omit is that the military and geopolitical component of this war was accompanied by an economic one.
As Panama and Iraq were meant to demonstrate US military dominance, the establishment of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1994-5, was meant to illustrate Washington’s economic outlook in this new world order.
Though unprecedented in their scale and ferocity, the anti-WTO protests in Seattle in 1999 seemed like a desperate attempt at reversing the alarming trend in the world’s economic affairs. Though successful in demonstrating the power of civil society at work, the protests have failed to produce any real, lasting outcomes. In the US/Western-centered definition of globalization, smaller countries had little bargaining power.
While rich countries successfully negotiated many privileges for their own industries, much of the Global South was left with no other option but to play by the West’s rules. The Americans spoke of free trade and open markets while maintaining a protectionist agenda over what they perceived to be key industries. Globalization was branded as a success story for freedom and democracy while, in essence, it was a cheap reproduction of the 18th-century ‘laissez-faire’ France’s economic doctrine.
It is easy to criticize poor countries for failing to challenge US/Western dominance. In fact, they tried, and the result was economic sanctions, regime change and war. The only silver lining is that this predatory form of capitalism encouraged small countries in the Global South to formulate their own economic blocks, so they may negotiate with greater leverage. However, even that was not enough to influence, let alone dismantle, the skewed global paradigm.
Large economies, like China, were allowed to benefit from globalization as long as their massive growth served the interests of the global economy, namely the West. Things began changing, however, when China’s political and geopolitical outreach started to match its economic influence. Former US Republican President Donald Trump dedicated much rhetoric and eventually declared economic war on the so-called ‘China threat’. The current Democratic administration of Joe Biden is hardly different. Though busy countering Russia’s military operations in Ukraine, Washington remains dedicated to its anti-Chinese rhetoric.
The Marrakesh Agreement in 1994, the treaty upon which the WTO was established, was reached to replace the geopolitically defunct General Agreement on Tariffs and Trades of 1948. Note how each one of these global economic treaties resulted from their unique global geopolitical orders, the latter following World War II and the former following the collapse of the socialist camp. Though Russia and its allies are now mostly focused on claiming some kind of victory in Ukraine, their ultimate goal is to sow the seed for a different economic balance, with the hope that it will ultimately force a renegotiation of today’s globalization, therefore the West’s economic hegemony.
Russia is clearly invested in a new global economic system, but without isolating itself in the process. On the other hand, the West is torn. It wants to drop on Russia the Iron Curtain of the past, but without hurting its own economies in the process. This equation is simply unsolvable, at least for the next few years.
In a speech at the Eurasian Economic Forum, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that trying to isolate Russia is “impossible, utterly unrealistic in the modern world.” His words accentuate Russia’s full awareness of the West’s objectives, and Lavrov’s busy itinerary, especially in the Global South, is Moscow’s own way of animating an alternative global economic system in which Russia is not isolated. The outcome of all of these efforts will not only redefine the world from a geopolitical perspective, but will redefine the very concept of globalization for generations to come.The End of Laissez-Faire: Russia’s Attempt at Reshaping the World Economy first appeared on Dissident Voice.
It is time for an unusual but long overdue revolt by the 150 million tax-with-held taxpayers. I’m not speaking of rates of taxation that the rich and corporations largely avoid because of the gigantic tax escapes, which they grease through Congress. Today I’m hoping to get your dander up by showing how corporatist politicians make you pay for big corporations to come to their corporate welfare-friendly state and make profits.
You’ve been required to subsidize these companies for them to make a profit and you get nothing in return – silent partners pouring money indirectly into big-name corporations. They misleadingly call these subsidies “incentives,” but they are really coerced entitlements.
Before getting into these recent tax breaks, a little history is needed to show that once upon a time, giveaways to these self-styled “capitalists,” were not so easy.
In 1971, the Lockheed corporation was not doing so well. So, its corporate lawyers went to Congress to ask for a $250 million loan guarantee so that banks would lend the company money and have no risk because of Uncle Sam’s backing. The proposal created an uproar on Capitol Hill. Hearings were held and extensive debate on the House and Senate floor dissected all sides of this controversial, hitherto unheard-of special privilege. There was extensive coverage in the press.
The bill eventually passed but not without a strong fight and amendments by its opponents.
Fast forward to today where $250 million is chump change. Do you have any idea of the sum total of outstanding loan guarantees for private businesses passed or authorized by Congress? You don’t? Well, neither do any members of Congress. The data is not collected, though I’ll guess it is over a trillion dollars, including big chunks for unfinished or suspended nuclear power plants. Government guaranteed capitalism.
Congress hasn’t even compiled data on how many of these loan guarantees have been called in by failing or mismanaged corporations.
Besides loan guarantees, there are a blizzard of other forms of corporate welfare at the federal, state and local levels. (See, GoodJobsFirst.org). There are property tax abatements, direct cash subsidies as was extended to grossly mismanaged General Motors (GM) after it went bankrupt to get rid of its creditors and its wrongful injury lawsuits.
There are federal taxpayer-paid research and development (R&D) programs, such as new government medicine research given free to Big Pharma to sell without price restraints, and pioneering R&D breakthrough research for the computer, aerospace, biotech, nanotech and agribusiness industries, to name a few recipients of government giveaways.
Bear in mind that these handouts and bailouts rarely come with any payback conditions. The rare instances are when the feds take stock in companies they rescue. This partial reciprocity occurred in the form of stock from the GM and Chrysler bailout of 2008. When the Treasury Department eventually sold this stock, the revenue did not come close to paying for the bailout.
Now, handouts, bailouts, and other subsidies are given to companies as a matter of mindless routine. New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced the other day that he was going to give the newly approved marijuana retailers about $4 million to help them get started. Hey, delicatessens, fresh fruit and vegetable markets, why not get in line? If there’s tax money for getting people “high,” surely Mayor Adams should have some of your taxpayer cash to advance “nutritional highs”, especially for people in need.
However, it was up to Kathy Hochul, the unelected Governor of New York (as Lt. Governor, she succeeded the resigned Andrew Cuomo last year) to raise the corporate tax break competition to unheard-of jackpot levels. The $10 BILLION tax break for chip-makers to locate in New York state, instead of any other state, was so brazen that the Governor resorted to secrecy and legislative darkness.
As reported in the Albany Times Union, with no prior public exposure, her bill was passed without any public hearing by the state Senate on the final day of its legislative session. The state Assembly whisked it through, also without hearings, at 8:00 am on its last day following 20 continuous hours of voting before adjourning.
The newspaper took note of “sleep-deprived lawmakers who were enduring the grueling schedule.” (Republicans went along in both chambers).
John Kaehny, executive director of Reinvent Albany, told the Times Union: “This is like the ugliest of Albany. In this type of fog, the governor’s office can misinform the Legislature, and do it all at the last second.”
There is no reinventing the Governor. Marinated in avalanches of corporate campaign money for her election bid this November, Hochul is addicted to heavily obligating taxpayers for years, without their knowledge or the informed, open consent of their state representatives. This last point was raised by dissenting state senator Liz Krueger (who should be the state’s Governor).
Earlier this year, Hochul secretly negotiated an $850 million taxpayer subsidy for a new Buffalo Bills stadium. The owners of this NFL team, the Pegula family, is worth according to Forbes, $5.8 billion! She then rammed this entertainment giveaway through the legislature, again without public hearings, as part of the state’s budget.
Hochul is just getting started in her enormous giveaways to the super-rich and greedy. She is the plutocrats’ Governor. Public Defenders are leaving their crucial positions in the state because they are paid so little they can’t meet their living expenses. Kathy Hochul has no interest in raising their salaries and securing their constitutional mission of justice for indigent defendants.
There is something seriously out of control with this reckless corporate welfare-disbursing Governor. She even refuses to meet the press or return calls from civic leaders about her dictatorial giveaways to a very profitable semi-conductor industry.
It gets worse. Every day since 1982, according to corporate tax expert and reform advocate Jim Henry (Follow on Twitter: @submergingmkt), the state is refunding electronically about $40 million every day collected from the financial transaction taxes on Wall Street trades in stocks, derivatives and bonds. This is a miniscule sales tax, (a fraction of one percent) in a state where consumers pay 8 percent sales tax on their purchases of essential goods.
With New York City’s budget shaky and the state budget relying heavily on a one-time burst of federal monies, Hochul is refusing requests by numerous informed state legislators, such as Assemblyman Phil Steck, to simply keep the daily collected transaction tax. No way! She’d rather collect campaign money from her Wall Street contributors.
It’s clearly time for a taxpayers’ revolt. For starters, call Governor Hochul to protest. Her office’s phone number is 518-474-8390 and you can email her via https://www.governor.ny.
The war in Ukraine is a propaganda war, with all of the belligerents, sponsors, and their allies churning out — through an abjectly subservient media — masses of lies and disinformation. In this regard, they resemble other wars, but with an added dose of shamelessness.
For that reason, it is difficult to discern how the war is being conducted or who has the military advantage at any time. Like all modern wars, atrocity stories abound and losses are wildly exaggerated.
But what separates this war from wars in the recent and not-so-recent past is the near-absence of an organized anti-war movement. It is more than a curious oddity that there are few actions in the streets or campaigns of influence or resistance to stop the mayhem of this brutal war. Sure, there are generic appeals to cut military budgets or oppose war philosophically, but little action to stop this particular war. In spite of the so-called “fog” of war, everyone knows that soldiers and civilians alike are dying in significant numbers, that bodies are ripped apart, homes destroyed, and people dislodged from their homes. No amount of “fog” can hide this.
Of course, there are a few prominent voices — Pope Francis, even Henry Kissinger — who have called for a cessation of fighting and negotiations. And Communists and trade unionists in Italy, Greece, and Turkey have blocked NATO weapons shipments, staged demonstrations, and picketed embassies.
But in most cities, states, and countries, there are few actions directed against the war in Ukraine. And most surprisingly, the leftists in Europe and the Americas, usually leading the way against war, are largely silent. They haven’t even minimally demanded that their own countries stay out of this war.
Instead, they have tacitly or openly sided with one belligerent or another. I have written and spoken on different occasions against taking sides in the conflict. Moreover, I have sought to place the war in the context of classical imperialism and suggested that the left’s support of either belligerent or its sponsors is misplaced, akin to the collapse of left opposition at the beginning of World War I. In that case, the left succumbed to narrow nationalist appeals. In this case, the left is succumbing to a muddled concept of imperialism and anti-imperialism.
Rather than repeat the argument, it might be useful to look at how and why leftists justify their support for one side or the other and refrain from adding their voice to the cause of peace in Ukraine.
It is easy to dismiss those who uncritically support Ukraine. Apart from the rabid nationalists of the “Glory to Ukraine” crowd, who welcome the conflict and hope to draw the Western capitalist countries into a crusade against Russia, there are those who simplistically see the war as a naked aggression with no back story. From ignorance of the post-Soviet Ukrainian history of corruption, reaction, Western meddling and aggression, or from willful collaboration with US and NATO intrigue, these new Cold Warriors seek a Russian defeat and have no interest in an immediate peaceful settlement or concern about the mayhem.
Against them are the more measured comrades who, remembering the Cold War standoff between the US and its allies and the Soviet Union and its allies, conflate today’s Russia with the Soviet Union. They recognize how the Soviet Union constituted a pole of resistance that countered and sometimes reversed the Cold War imperialist alliance’s designs on the world. US imperialism, the dominant imperialist power at the time, was effectively checked by the Soviet Union from 1945 until the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991. These anti-imperialists see Russia, in its war on Ukraine, as a similar emerging pole against US imperialism and see Russia’s invasion as an expression of a break-up of the absolute military and economic US dominance of the world established after the departure of the Soviet Union. For them, a multipolar world is in birth.
There are shards of truth in this view, but Russia is not the Soviet Union. It does not share its ideology; rather, its motives replace Soviet internationalism with an aspiring great power nationalism. While it exploits cracks in US global hegemony, it does not offer an alternative vision or unconditional assistance to the victims of capitalism and imperialism. In that regard, Russia is no Cuba, either.
Russia’s foreign policy is capitalist opportunism: friends with Turkey or Israel one moment, in conflict the next moment. Russia aligns with Saudi Arabia when it’s economically profitable, while fighting Saudi proxies in Syria. There are no consistent principles guiding it. Nor can there be for a country that rejected socialism for capitalism. Those who see Russian foreign policy and alliances as progressive are very selective in their examples.
Russia’s leaders readily embrace the capitalist ethos and reject the Soviet project, though they appeal, when needed, to Soviet symbols and traditions when useful.
It may be true that the Russian invasion ultimately will achieve the goals sought by its ruling class. And it may be true that these gains will come at the expense of US imperialism and its ruling class, but how does that move us any closer to a world of peace and social justice? The rivalries remain, the goals of the respective ruling classes remain uncertain and unstable, despite their claims of peace-loving and democracy-seeking; and the danger of conflict remains high or even higher.
There are others who envision the war — insofar as Russia is challenging US power — as a blow for those on the bottom of what we might envision as the imperialist “pyramid” — the developing countries. Jenny Clegg, for example, writing in the Morning Star, sees the development of “competitors” to US dominance as establishing the first steps toward a multipolar world. She correctly notes that multipolarity “is not a policy but an emerging objective trend…”
Further, she sees unequal exchange between the highly developed countries and the developing countries as the principal contradiction — the contradiction defining imperialism and anti-imperialism.
While this center-periphery distinction was popular and influential among independent Western “Marxists” in the era when the working classes in the center — the West — were generally tamed by social democratic opportunism, it was neither particularly insightful nor of continued relevance. Marx went to great lengths to show that exchange, under capitalist relations of production, was not generally unequal — values exchange for values. But those same relations of production always produce and reproduce inequality. The locus of inequality — capitalist exploitation — is embedded in the capitalist system, not in the thievery of unequal exchange.
As Lenin elaborated, uneven development is a feature of relations between people, social institutions, firms in the same industry, between industries, and between countries, and even continents. It is not unequal exchange that accounts for the uneven development, but differences in the pace of development, cultural and social practices, political and other institutions, and most importantly, especially in the epoch of imperialism, the stunting effects of colonialism, neo-colonialism, and their legacy.
In the last half-century, technological developments have freed capitalists to move, access, and service the material productive forces — factories, transportation networks, resources — in order to gain access to formerly inaccessible labor markets, cheapening labor in general. At the same time, this development created rising living standards in some developing countries, while lowering them in some advanced capitalist countries.
Consequently, some capitalist countries — like India, Turkey, Brazil, Indonesia — have become powerful rivals to the late-twentieth-century great powers.
The concept of “unequal” exchange as an explanation for the inequality between developed and developing countries (and for the difference between imperialism and anti-imperialism) fails because it implies that should exchanges become equal, that same inequality between states would evaporate. Even more importantly, it suggests that equal exchange — and not an end of capitalism — would signal the demise of imperialism.
To understand imperialism as a conflict between advancing and lagging development based upon the unequal terms of economic activity — a kind of organized thievery — is to misunderstand the nature of exploitation under capitalism. Intense competition between players — big and small — for markets, resources, labor, and capital are the essence of capitalism and imperialism. There is no sharp line between this competition and war.
Clegg wants us to believe that in a multipolar world, with US power diminished, establishing equal exchange will bring forth a period of civil, well-behaved, respectful competition. She insists that this contrast with today’s dangerous world is captured by the distinction between competition and rivalry, a distinction that I think few will find satisfying. In an aside, she explains: “competition is not the same as rivalry — think competing in a race as opposed to deliberately tripping over your rival in that race.” To think that sporting competition doesn’t evolve commonly into no-holds-barred conflict and into violence is surely out of touch with the history of both sports and international politics in the twentieth century.
From the reliance on the now intellectually fashionable and prominent rational choice or game theory to the behavior of capitalist enterprises, from the constant haggling over borders, sea lanes and territorial waters to establishment of military and economic alliances, there is little evidence that capitalist countries are striving for a fair economic playing field with fixed, transparent, and respected rules. “Win-win” is not part of the capitalist vocabulary.
Clegg writes of “the old — US hegemonic power” as having “been in relative decline” and the “new — a more equal distribution of wealth and power” as developing, albeit slowly. While one might happily concede that aspects of US power and influence have been challenged and dampened, while one might add that the US shows many signs of economic, political, and social decline, it does not follow, nor is it likely, that any “new distribution of wealth and power” will be more equitable or just. And most importantly, even if wealth and power were more equitably distributed between countries, there is little reason to believe it would be more equitably distributed within those countries. Clegg’s multipolarity can make no such promises to the working classes.
Finally, there are those on the left who have carried on a lifelong struggle against US imperialism and can only see an enemy of our enemy as our friend. There are few people on the righteous left now alive who can remember a time when the US was not the leading great power and the anchor for the capitalist alliance against socialism, socialism as a legitimate political current, as a rival to global capitalism, and as a pole rallying the forces of anti-imperialism.
Therefore, it is hard to envision the world not benefitting from the defanging of US imperialism, from its fall as a great power. No great power in our time has caused more deadly mischief. But that surely displays a weak understanding of capitalism and its stages of development.
There were nationalist leaders in various countries under the boot of British imperialism in the interwar period who welcomed the rise of Hitler and Tojo, greeting them as possible saviors from hundreds of years of suppression by the British Empire, the leading imperialist of the time.
Subhas Chandra Bose, for example, an Indian nationalist leader who was once president of the Indian National Congress, was so deeply committed to overthrowing British rule in India that he actively and unapologetically collaborated with the Nazis and Japanese in World War II. This myopia is an extreme version of the blinders worn by many anti-imperialists who fail to understand the logic of imperialism and its unbreakable link to capitalism.
Chandra Bose demonstrates the hollowness of narrow nationalism and obsessive self-regard over viewing the world through the lens of class and class solidarity.
The struggle against US imperialism, like the struggle against its predecessor, the British Empire, will ultimately be resolved at home when the people finally refuse to continue paying the price for their rulers’ grand designs. Of course, those oppressed by imperialism play an equally important role, that of resisters; though imperialism like rust, never sleeps. It is an imperative, a demand made by capitalist accumulation — if it is defeated in one place, it will surely find another place to satisfy its lust. This dynamic only finally ends when our world finds socialism. The wishful thinking of a benign capitalism with all participants peacefully on an even playing field is just that — a wishful thought.
Multipolarity — a notion first discussed by bourgeois academics looking for tools to understand the dynamics of global relations — has been adopted by a segment of the anti-imperialist left. While it assuredly describes an actual trend emerging, as Jenny Clegg acknowledges, it has often been presented as an anti-imperialist stage shifting the world balance of forces in the direction of a better world.
I have argued that this is a retreat from classical imperialism as understood by VI Lenin and his followers. In the context of an unstable world in ideological disorder and suffering untold crises, there are no guarantees that the poles that emerge or challenge the post-Cold War super-pole are a step forward or a step back simply because they are alternative poles. Undoubtedly, any resistance that weakens the asymmetry of power that the US holds should be welcome. But we should not presume that every opponent will become a force for stability, justice, and peace. Knowing what we know about the history of capitalism from its first expansionist era accumulating involuntary human capital to exploit the riches of the new world should chasten our expectations about new rivals to US imperialism.
With the fall of the Soviet Union as a backdrop and the uncertainty left in its wake, we should be cautious about anointing any new candidates for the role of arch-rival not only to US imperialism, but to all imperialism as well as its genesis, capitalism.
While the left futilely disputes the victim and the victimizer, working people are dying unnecessarily, suffering horrific wounds, homelessness, and despair — all the products of modern war. Working class lives should not be proxies in ideological debates. Events will decide who has the correct understanding of imperialism, but history will not be kind to those who failed, in the meantime, to oppose the war and to seek a peaceful solution.
The author Steven Pinker’s blinkered perspective in Enlightenment Now is limited to critiquing what remains of an academic leftism often accused of a reflexive anti-Western bias. Pinker’s advocacy of rationality and science in itself adds little to the mainstream recognition of human intellectual advancement since the 18th century Enlightenment. Over the centuries, the main opponent of free inquiry, it should be recalled, was organized religion–the ideological dogmas of which sanctified State despotism and discouraged independent learning (and even literacy).
Yes, “wealth is created.” But how? Pinker blithely ignores the global reality of opposing class-interests. In the late 20th century, in the name of promoting “development,” the World Bank and the IMF produced a mountain of Third World indebtedness to the extent that many nations were compelled to drastically cut critical social services in order to service that debt (or default). Moreover, trans-national capital flow continues today to seek out poverty-wage locales for sweatshop manufacturing (little or no labor rights, few if any environmental regulations, etc.). Pinker likewise fails to discuss the quite favorable “profit-sharing agreements” imposed by oil companies and others (think Iraq, Nigeria, etc.)
In his paean to the establishment of the United Nations (1945), and of growing recognition of international human rights in general, he hypocritically ignores the United States’ repeated violation of the UN Charter and Security Council edicts (most egregiously in 2003, when the Bush Administration flagrantly ignored the Security Council’s veto of the imminent invasion of Iraq). And surely, such waging of aggressive war–in the case of Iraq, destroying the lives and livelihoods of millions, remains even today the foremost threat to the very “reason-and-progress” which Pinker proselytizes. And Pinker, who manifests a surprising ignorance of U.S. foreign policy (cf. Noam Chomsky’s seminal book Rogue States), also seems uninformed about the U.S.-imposed, draconian sanctions, which have deliberately caused very high rates of infant mortality and massive starvation (Iraq, North Korea, etc.). Such horrors remain unseen through rosy-colored spectacles which can only detect growing “peace-and-prosperity.”
(Computers were indeed labor-saving devices, i.e., substitutes for millions of white-collar workers, thereby making dramatic labor-cost reduction once again a major source of corporate profit.) What of the emerging “gig economy,” in which millions of young people, already saddled with about $1.25 trillion in student loan debt (U.S.), are finding themselves under-employed and without union representation? A possible “jobless future”? Ironically enough, Oxford Martin’s Our World in Data, the primary source for Pinker’s sunny diagnostics, has warned of just such a possibility.
Pinker strives to document his claims of decreasing world poverty and social problems with some dubious sources: not only Oxford Martin, but endless charts provided by the World Bank and the CIA. Without necessarily invoking–“lies, damned lies, and statistics”–one is entitled to question the objectivity and ideological agendas of such sources. Low-wages and dubious lending schemes, as well as fomenting insurgencies, have crippled economic conditions in innumerable nations. Pinker doesn’t seem aware that some 75 or so global mega-billionaires have a combined wealth greater than that of the roughly 3,500,000 living largely in the Global South (Oxfam data). Perhaps he is confidently awaiting that most elusive of phenomena: the “trickle down.”The post A Blinkered Reality first appeared on Dissident Voice.