Category Archives: Hegemony

In the Crevices Between Submission and Revolution: Disguised and Public Resistance in Caste, Slave, and Feudal Societies Part I

PART I

Orientation

Simplistic notions of Domination and Resistance: Polarized Dualities

When we examine the relations between those in power and those who are subordinate, a typical way of framing these relationships is as a duality. On one hand, those in power are ruling using various power bases such as force, coercion, and/or charisma. The impact of these power bases keeps people passive. In fact, some claim that that powerless people come to agree they deserve to be in the position they are in. At the other extreme are open insurrections where the powerless temporarily rebel or even enact a revolution to overthrow those in power. The problem is that there are no in-between stages or a spectrum between pure submission on the one hand and revolution on the other.

From force to coercion

The ultimate basis of domination in complex state societies is force. However, the use of constant force only works in times of conquest or open rebellions. When domination acquires a kind of social continuity, other forms of dominance are set in motion. James C. Scott, in his book Domination and the Arts of Resistance uses his experience as a sheep herder to compare the situation of sheep penned in by an electric fence with the dominant relations in human society.

If sheep are pastured in a field surrounded by a powerful electric fence, they will at first blunder into it and experience the painful shock. Once conditioned to the fence, the sheep will graze at a respectful distance. Occasionally, after working on the fence, I have forgotten to switch on the power again for days at a time, during which the sheep continue to avoid it. The fence continues to have the same associations for them despite the fact that the invisible power has been cut. (48)

In human affairs, this captures the movement from the use of force to coercion or the threat of force. However, the analogy breaks down when we compare the difference between the motivations and actions of sheep and humans.

With sheep we may only assume a constant desire to get to the pasture beyond the fence – it is generally greener on the other side of the fence since they will have grazed everything on their side. With tenants or sharecroppers, we may assume both a constant testing through poaching, pilfering…and a cultural capacity for collective anger and revenge. The point is that the symbols of power, provided that their potency was once experienced may continue to exert influence after they may have lost most or all of their effective power. (48)

The problem with social scientific understandings of power dynamics is that there is not much explanation of what is in between submission and revolution. But James C. Scott argues that rarely can we see a case where an individual slave, untouchable, or serf is being either entirely submissive or entirely insubordinate. In between submission/acceptance and open revolution there are other states of power.

Barrington Moore widens the spectrum between complete submission and revolution by arguing there are two other grades of resistance before the third stage of revolution:

  • lower classes criticize some of the dominant stratum for having violated the norms by which they claim to rule;
  • the lower classes accuse the entire stratum of failing to observe the principles of its rule;
  • the lower classes repudiate the very principles by which the dominant stratum justifies its dominance. This would be to identify with alternatives to the dominant system.

Scott argues that the historical evidence clearly shows that subordinate groups have been capable of revolutionary thought that repudiates existing forms of domination. However, subordinate groups are not born with revolutionary consciousness. They prefer squatting to a defiant land invasion. They prefer evasion of taxes to a tax riot. They would prefer poaching or pilfering to direct appropriation. It is only when these behind-the-scenes measures fail that they might be open to more drastic measures. Scott argues that there is a whole spectrum of resistance that occurs before even the first of Moore’s three gradients, as we shall see shortly.

My presentation of Scott’s work has five parts. In this introductory section, I will discuss three theories of submission, “thick”, “thin” and “paper thin” states of submission. Then I will probe into Scott’s three dimensions of submission including material, status and ideological dimensions. In the second section I will cover what Scott calls the “public transcript“ which is dominated by elites. These forms include things like parades and coronations and control of language. There are also forms of resistance such as the gathering of crowds and how terrifying they were to elites because they were public gatherings of subordinates without authorization. Interpersonal forms of resistance include mocking body language and verbal language including voice intonation and sarcasm. This will conclude Part I of this article.

In Part II I describe Scott’s notion of the hidden transcript. Hidden transcripts require secret social sites in which to discuss, rehearse and resist elites. Elites attempt to minimize this hidden transcript by taking away social sites and attempting to atomize individuals. In the second section of Part II, I discuss two forms of resistance that come out of the hidden transcript. One is social-psychological strategies and the other is the cultural strategies of resistance. In the last section of Part II, I describe Scott’s analysis of how the process of resistance turns into open insubordination. This is the electrifying time when the hidden transcript goes public. The general movement of both articles goes from the public transcript controlled by elites, to hidden transcripts controlled by subordinates to a return to the public transcript, this time controlled by subordinates who are now becoming insubordinate.

Theories of submission

When the upper class has power in everyday life, force is not used directly to keep the lower classes continuing to produce a surplus but by enacting a public display of their submission though speech, gesture and manners. How do we make sense of how this can happen? For liberal pluralists, the absence of significant protest or radical opposition is taken as a sign of lower-class satisfaction with the existing order. John C. Scott disagrees.

Thick and thin forms of submission

At the other extreme of the political spectrum, “fundamentalist” Marxists contend that on a deep level, perhaps on an unconscious level, the lower classes are aware that their position is unjust and in revolutionary situations  will discover what has been buried inside them. According to them, in revolutionary situations the lower classes will become a “class-for-itself”. How do these Marxists explain the consciousness of the lower classes in non-revolutionary situations? They contend that in these times the working class has been convinced that the upper-class justifications for their power are legitimate – and they actively believe in those values. They consent to their position. This is what Marx called “false consciousness” or class-in-itself mind-set. Scott labels these Marxist depictions of the lower classes as a “thick forms of consciousness.” This means that as people become socialized, the mask that they wear to do their job and reproduce hierarchical relations grows slowly onto their face and over the long-haul the face becomes the mask.

I find this term “fundamentalist” useful to describe a scholastic approach of some Marxists to socio-historical issues which rely too heavily on original texts to explain new events in the world and resist dialectical incorporation of new research which has emerged since the text was  written. In addition, there is a denial of the fact that some of Marx’s predictions were simply wrong.

Both liberals and fundamental Marxists agree that the lower classes in their normal conditions are satisfied or have “bought” the existence of class society. More skeptical of this are those left-wing critics who think the lower classes are unhappy with their situation but they think it is natural and inevitable. Instead of being satisfied or yielding consent, they are resigned to their situation. Scott calls this theory “thin” forms of lower-class submission. This is close to what Gaventa calls intimidation or the rule of anticipated reactions. This means the lower classes elect not to challenge elites because they anticipate the sanctions that will be brought against them. It is an estimate of the hopeless odds which discourage a challenge. Zygmunt Bauman sees power relations as being kept intact because alternatives to the current structure are excluded. He says “The dominant culture consists of transforming everything which is not inevitable into the improbable.” Here there is still a mask but it is thinner. The lower classes are less “snowed”.                                                           

Scott’s super-thin forms of submission

From Scott’s research, he thinks there is little evidence for the ideological incorporation of the lower classes and much evidence that the dominant ideology gives support and cohesion to the upper class rather than the lower classes, similar to pep rallies.  For Scott, what both thin and thick forms of consciousness don’t explain is how social change could ever originate from below. Instead, he argues that all these theories miss the disguised and public forms of resistance which are the subject of this essay. Scott says that these “in-between” forms of resistance are predominant in caste, feudal, and, slave societies.

Besides historical study, Scott draws from social reactance theory. Social reactance theory works on the assumption that there is a human desire for freedom and autonomy. When subordinates feel that their subordination is freely chosen, they are most likely to comply. When subordination is perceived as not freely chosen, there is resistance. In persuasive communication studies, when threats are added to a persuasive communication, they reduce the degree of attitude change. In fact, threatened choice alternatively tends to become more attractive. For Scott, there is little chance that acting with a mask will appreciably affect the face of the actor. If it does, there is a better chance the face behind the mask will, in reaction, grow to look less like the mask, rather than more like it. Nevertheless, Scott specifies 3 conditions under which a “paper thin” mask metaphor may be apt:

  • when there is a good chance a good many subordinates will eventually come to occupy positions of power. This encourages patience, emulation and explains why age graded systems of domination have such durability; and
  • when subordinates are completely atomized, kept under close observation and have no opportunity to talk things over or engage in either public or disguised resistance. This might occur when subordinate groups are divided by geography, culture and language.
  • When there is a promise of being set free in return for a record of service and compliance. 

Scott’s work is the study of forms of resistance which exist in everyday life and are not revolutionary but exist as a kind of guerrilla warfare. His studies are drawn from pre-capitalist hierarchical societies including the reports of slaves, serfs, and untouchables. He ignores the specific differences between slave systems in North America or South America as well as differences between agricultural civilizations in China and India and European feudalism. He claims that his analysis has less relevance to forms of domination in industrial capitalist countries such as scientific techniques, bureaucratic rules or capitalist forces of supply and demand. Scott’s work is an attempt to track how struggles of lords and serfs, slave owners and slaves, Brahmins and untouchables are played out under coercive, rather than force conditions in everyday life.

Scott’s three-dimensional theory of subordination and resistance: material (technological and economic) status and ideological

James Scott divides the political economy of domination and submission into three dimensions: material domination and material resistance; status domination and status resistance; and ideological domination and ideological resistance. Please see Table 2 for an overview of how these dimensions play themselves out in dominance and resistance situations. Material domination includes the appropriation of grain, taxes, and labor by agricultural elites. Status domination consists of forcing subordinates to enact their subordination through ritual humiliations, etiquette, demeanor, gestures, verbal language such as “my lord,” or “your highness”. Soft speech levels include who speaks first to whom, codes of eating, dressing, bathing, cultural taste, and who gives way to whom in public.

Status indignities form a social-psychological bridge between the subordinates’ material condition and cultural ideological justifications for why they are in the state they are in. Status indignities are the subjective and inter-subjective experience of being poor and landless. For example, they are in psychological despair because they cannot afford to feed guests on the feast of Ramadan; they are upset by wealthy people who pass him on the village path without uttering a greeting; he cannot bury his parents properly or their daughter will marry late, if at all because she lacks a dowry. The worst indignities are suffered by audiences of those who form the social source for one’s sense of self-esteem – that is closest friends, families, and neighbors. Ideological domination includes whatever religious justifications exist for why the upper classes deserve to be in the position they are in. Scott calls all three dimensions the “public transcript”.

Material resistance is divided into two types, public resistance and disguised resistance (cells 2 and 3 of table 2.) Public material resistance is what you might suspect. The usual tactics used by subordinate groups in reformist or revolutionary situations include petitions, demonstrations, boycotts, strikes, and land invasions. Public status resistance includes insubordinate gestures, postures, and open desecration of status symbols. This might include the victim’s pleasure at seeing superiors dressed down by their superiors. Once this occurs, things are never the same. Public ideological resistance includes counter ideologies which propagate equality, such as liberalism or socialism. They might also include religious heresies of spiritual equality.

The three dimensions of public dominance correspond to what most sociologists and theories of power address. Scott might call this “high politics”. Formal political organization is the realm of elites where resolutions, declarations, and laws are enacted by politicians used in written records, news stories, and law suits.  In countries with a liberal industrial capitalist orientation, an exclusive concern with open political action will capture and normalize some forms of resistance such as petitions, demonstrations, boycotts and group organizing to make them ineffective. Political liberties of speech and association have lowered the risks and difficulty of open political expression.

But in conservative, dictatorship, industrial capitalist societies or in the slave, caste, and feudal societies most people are subjects, not citizens. If high politics is considered to be all of what politics is, then it appears that subordinate groups in these societies lack a political life, unless they engage in strikes, rebellions, or revolutions  – that is, “resistant” politics (second cell).

“Infrapolitics” is the circumspect struggle waged daily by subordinate groups and is like infrared rays, beyond the visible end of the spectrum. If formal political organization is the realm of elites, infrapolitics is the realm of informal leadership of nonelites, of conversation and oral discourse. “Infrapolitics” provides much of the cultural and structural underpinning for the more visible political resistance that may come later. Infrapolitics is a kind of guerrilla warfare where one side advances to see if it its tactics survive or are attacked and if so, with what strength? This is the subject of Scott’s work. He argues that to focus on the visible coastline of high politics misses the continent of infrapolitics.

Forms of disguised infrapolitics fall into three dimensions, material disguised resistance, status disguised resistance and ideological disguised resistance. Together all three are called “the hidden transcript.” Scott’s interest is in the status and ideological dimensions rather than the material dimension of infrapolitics because the material dimension has already been covered by Marxist fundamentalism.

Direct resistance by disguised resisters includes masked appropriations of food or land and anonymous threats. Practices of material disguised resistance include poaching, squatting, desertion, evasions, or fraudulent declarations of the amount of land farmed. In addition, direct resistance can include simple failures to declare land, underpayment, delivery of paddy spoiled by moisture or contaminated with rocks and mud, and foot-dragging. The lower classes can use gullibility and ignorance that are elite stereotypes of them such. These may incluede “laziness” to do less work and resist taxes, land dues, conscription and grain appropriation. In playing dumb, subordinate make creative use of the stereotypes intended to stigmatize them. Refusal to understand is also a form of class struggle.

Status disguised resistance includes what subordinates say and do with each other behind closed doors to counter status insults. This includes rituals of aggression, tales of revenge, gossip, rumor, and the creation of autonomous social sites. Gossip and rumor are designed to have a double meaning. This applies also to folk tales, jokes, songs, rituals, codes, and euphemisms.

Ideological, disguised resistance includes the development of dissident subcultures, millennial religions, myths of social banditry, and the return of the good king, carnival and world-upside down arts and crafts, which was also very powerful. Ideological disguised resistance also has a double meaning such as jokes, euphemisms, and the Br’er Rabbit stories of slaves. Altogether, there are six forms of resistance, three forms of public resistance, and three forms of disguised resistance. The table below helps to differentiate them.

The Public Transcript of Domination and Resistance

The public transcript is the open interaction between subordinates and those who dominate them. The public transcript is the self-portrait of the dominant elites as they would have themselves seen. This can take the form of collective performances such as public displays with little interpersonal interaction and interpersonal performances where there is actual dialogue.

Dominance performances: parades and coronations

Formal ceremonies such as parades, inaugurations, processions, and coronations celebrate and dramatize the rule of dominators. They are choreographed in such a way as to prevent surprises. All parades imply a hierarchical order, a precise gradation of status, with the king at the head and the lowliest at the rear. They are authoritarian gatherings. In formal ceremonies, subordinates only gather when they are authorized.

Rather like iron filings aligned by a powerful magnet, subordinates are gathered in an arrangement and for purposes determined by their superiors…

In a parade, there are no horizontal links among subordinates. Without the hierarchy and authority that knits them into a unit they appear as  mere atoms with no social existence….subordinates are nothing but potatoes in a sack (61-62)

Who are these performances for? At first guess, you might think that coronations serve the purpose of displaying to their subordinates the might and coordination of the dominant. But according to Scott, they are not very successful in doing this. He claims that this domination performances is a kind of self-hypnosis within ruling groups to buck up their courage. The authorities want to create appearance of unanimity among ruling groups. This is why it is very important that ruling classes suppress members of their own class from disagreeing publicly.

Public Transcripts of Domination: Interpersonal

Deferential behavior by subordinates in public interactions includes encouraging smiles, appreciative laughter and conformity in facial expression and gesture. Gender differences in language are interesting here. For example, women use tag questions and a rising tone at the end of a declarative sentence, including the use of hyper-polite tones, linguistic hedges, stammering, and no public joking. (Scott says it is interesting to consider that there are few women comedians.) Subordination and domination are built into the different usages in terms of bodily functions. Scott sites the following examples: “Whereas commoners bathe, the Sultan sprinkles himself; while commoners walk, the Sultan progresses (assuming a smooth, gliding motion); while commoners sleep, the Sultan reclines.” In slave societies, slaves are referred to as boys, whereas whites are referenced as “mister”.

The upper classes also use euphemisms, that is verbal language, gestures, architecture, ritual actions, and public ceremonies to obscure the ultimate force-basis use of rule. For example in terms of language,  “pacification” is used instead of “armed attack and occupation”; “calming” for “confinement by straightjacket”; “capital punishment” for “state execution”; “re-education camps” for “prison for political opponents”; and “trade in ebony wood” for “traffic in slaves”. Scott says when bosses fire workers they say “we had to let them go”, as if workers in question were mercifully released like dogs straining on their leashes.

On the other hand, the practices of their opponents are vilified and presented in categories which delegitimize their opposition. Authorities deny rebels the status of public discourse and try to assimilate their acts into a category that minimizes the political challenge by calling them bandits and criminals, hooligans, or mentally deranged. Religious practices that challenge the corrupt practices of the authorities are labeled heresy, Satanism, or witchcraft.

Public transcripts of resistance: crowds

An unauthorized gathering was potentially threatening. It is so threatening to the upper classes that they call such gatherings “mobs” or “rabble”. In other words, they think people run amok because they have no authorities ruling over them. A gathering is an unauthorized coordination of subordinates by subordinates.

In an agricultural bureaucratic state in the East or a feudal society in the West, the presentation of a petition to the ruler to redress peasant grievances was itself a capital crime.  Gatherings of five or more slaves without the presence of a white observer were forbidden. The authorities were uneasy about the holidays because they lacked the structure of work and brought together large numbers of slaves. This is why there was a law in France in 1838 forbidding public discussion between work peers.

Pubic transcripts of resistance: interpersonal

Those in subordinate positions may refuse to enact submissive facial gestures, make way for elites on the street, or addressing them with mock intonations or exaggerated submissiveness, refusal to laugh at jokes of the upper classes.

Public transcripts of resistance: ideological

Holding the elites’ feet to the fire

Elites cannot do just as they please. Because much of their power is legitimized, they must at least make a passable attempt to perform some valuable social functions. This requires that it must:

  • specify the claims to legitimacy it makes;
  • develop discursive affirmations it stages for the public transcript;
  • identify aspects of power relations it will seek to hide (its dirty linen);
  • specify the acts and gestures that will undermine its claim to legitimacy;
  • tolerate critiques that are possible within its frame of reference; and
  • identify the ideas and actions that will represent a repudiation of profanation of the form of domination in its entirety.

Elites are vulnerable to attack if these conditions are compromised.

For example, in feudalism, honor, noblesseoblige, bravery, and expansive generosity are expected from the aristocrats. The feudal contract would be negated by any conduct that violated these affirmations such as cowardice, petty bargaining, stinginess, the presence of runaway serfs, and failure to physically protect serfs. In the case of the Brahmins, elites would need to possess superior karma, vital ritual services, refinement in manner, presiding at key rites of birth, and observance of taboos are expected.

Return of the Just King

Very often the lower classes play off the king against the aristocracy. It is the king who represents the true interests of the serfs, untouchables, or slaves against the abuses of the nobles. Scott argues that, Lenin notwithstanding, there is simply no evidence that the myth of the Czar promoted political passivity among the peasantry. Furthermore, there is a fair amount of evidence that the myth facilitated peasant resistance. When petitions to the Czar failed, instead of turning on the Czar, serfs then suspected that an imposter, a false czar was on the throne. Under the reign of Catherine II, there were at least 26 pretenders. Pugachev, the leader of one of the greatest peasant rebellions, owed his success in part to his claim to be Czar Peter III. The myth of the czar could transmute the peasantry’s violent resistance to oppression to any act of loyalty to the Crown.

Fundamentalist Marxists, using thick forms of subordinate consciousness, claim that the myth of the kind czar is an ideological creation of the monarchy, then appropriated and reinterpreted by the peasantry. Scott argues that these myths were the joint product of a historic struggle rather like a ferocious argument in which the basic terms – simple peasant, benevolent czar – are shared but in which interpretations follow wildly divergent paths in accordance with vital interests.

Throughout Europe and southeast Asia there are long traditions of the return of a just king. Indian untouchables have imagined that Orthodox Hinduism has hidden sacred texts proving their equality. Slaves have imagined a day when they would be free and slave owners punished for their tyranny. Contrary to Gramsci, radicalism may be less likely to arise among disadvantaged groups who fail to take the dominant ideology seriously because they haven’t yet constructed an alternative.

Summary

Subordination requires a credible performance of humility and deference, while domination requires a performance of haughtiness and mastery. Transgresses of script have more serious consequences for subordinates, and subordinates are closer observers of the dominant because there is more to lose. The same is true for women in relation to men and children and in relation to their parents. People in dominant positions think characteristics of subordinates are inborn, rather than staged for them.

Coming Attractions

Up to now all the resistance offered by subordinates does not include any systematic interpersonal discussion by them. There must be a specific social gathering site, usually in secret where subordinates can speak freely. Secondly, those subordinates must be trustworthy, often members of the same slave master family, kin or neighbors, and have very specific working conditions as we shall see in Part II. We will explore two forms of disguise. Disguising the message and disguising the messenger. What is the place of myth and folktales? Are these stories diversions from revolution or rehearsals for it? Is smashing statues or reversing roles in carnival cathartic releases which then make people more docile or do they provide people with a structure for systematic revolt? Finally, what are the conditions when the hidden transcript of resistance finally turns into a public transcript of insubordination or revolution?

All of this will be covered in Part II.

 

 

The post In the Crevices Between Submission and Revolution: Disguised and Public Resistance in Caste, Slave, and Feudal Societies Part I first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Who Needs a Hegemon?

Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991, the US has been able to exert tremendous influence on other nations through its military and economic power. The world no longer was bipolar with the US and the Soviet Union competing for leadership. Instead, it has been a unipolar world under US hegemonic leadership.

In 1997, US neoconservatives created a think tank, Project for the New American Century, to promote and extend American global leadership. In 2000, PNAC issued a report, ‘Rebuilding America’s Defenses’ that called for extending the US global leadership through maintaining the preeminence of US military forces. It was also considered important to deter the rise of a new great-power competitor.

War crimes

During the period since 1991, the US has misrepresented itself as a benign hegemon. The US mainstream media has worked hard to convince the US public and the world that US actions are for good causes. The US corporate media tout this era as a continuation of Pax Americana. However, many nations around the world view things very differently. They see, for example, the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 that was based on lies as a major war crime that devastated Iraq and led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. There were no sanctions imposed on the US or its allies for this shocking crime and no call for reparations to help rebuild Iraq. Moreover, this attack, along with the US involvement in the attack on Libya and its military support for terrorists in Syria, created instability and devastation throughout much of the Middle East.

Illegal use of sanctions

Many countries also question the US use of unilateral sanctions. Currently the US has imposed sanctions on 39 nations including about 1/3 of the globe’s population. Many of the sanctioned countries haven’t complied with US political positions and their people have paid a horrible price for these nations attempting to maintain their sovereignty. Although the US corporate media seldom, if ever, reports it, sanctions not approved by the UN Security Council are a violation of the UN Charter. So much for the US touted idea of a rules-based order. Moreover, perhaps even worse, the US uses secondary sanctions to prevent other nations from trading with the targeted nations.

In general, sanctions most severely affect the vulnerable and represent a most cruel form of economic warfare, similar to the idea of the siege warfare in the past. Moreover, history shows that the great majority of these illegal sanctions don’t work in bringing about the changes the US wants. For example, the US has had sanctions on Cuba for about six decades without bringing down the Cuban government. Among the sanctioned nations, the people of Venezuela have suffered particularly incredible hardships.

Coups overthrowing democracies

These nations also see the US support for coups and attempted coups in many nations; e.g., in Haiti in 2004, in Honduras in 2009, in Ukraine in 2014, and in Bolivia in 2019. In addition, during the past two years, there have been coups and coup attempts in Burkina Faso, Mali, Guinea, Gambia and Mauritania led by US trained military officers.

Protecting war criminals

Nations around the world also see how the US prevents actions to be taken against its allies for their appalling violations of international law. Israel is a prime example, escaping any sanctions for its many war crimes, for its continuing occupation and theft of Palestinian land, and for its violations of human rights in the West Bank and Gaza. In addition, Israel has escaped sanctions for its criminal attacks on Gaza, Lebanon and Syria and for its illegal occupation of the Golan Heights.

These US actions are hardly those of a benign force. For many of the poorer nations, the last three decades of this unipolar world, the so-called Pax Americana, have brought violence, insecurity, poverty and hunger. China is the exceptional nation that has experienced impressive improvement in the quality of life for hundreds of millions of its people during this period.

US hypocrisy

Moreover, given the US attacks on Iraq and other countries, people around the world are angry about US hypocrisy over imposing sanctions on Russia for its criminal invasion of Ukraine. For example, most nations strongly condemned the Russian attack, but countries, including much of Asia, Africa and South America with the majority of the world’s population, do not support the US sanctions on Russia.

Deterring a competitor

The Russian attack on Ukraine follows eight years of ongoing fighting between Ukrainian nationalist forces and Ukrainians who rejected the 2014 US-supported coup. This coup overthrew a democratically-elected government and, unsurprisingly, the new coup government looked westward, away from Russia.

Insanely, the US knowingly provoked this 2022 Russian attack. Making matters worse, the US has not encouraged Ukraine to find a diplomatic solution to end the destruction and killing in Ukraine. Instead, the US seems willing to sacrifice Ukraine in order to weaken Russia.

A weakened Russia also harms the Russian and Chinese effort to move from a unipolar to a bipolar world. However, a bipolar world is not necessarily an answer to illegal actions by powerful nations. For example, both the US and the Soviet Union violated the sovereignty of other nations during the period that these two powers coexisted. As long as the UN Security Council allows a single permanent member to veto resolutions with no override possible, the Security Council can’t function when the interest of a powerful nation is challenged.

Regardless, the last three decades show that the US doesn’t follow or respect international law and strongly suggest there must be a force to counter the US hegemon that has done so much damage to the world. In particular, nations of the world needs to work together if there is to be any chance of lessening the disastrous impact of climate chaos. The world can’t allow this malign hegemon to continue to push corporate greed over the interests of life on the planet.

The post Who Needs a Hegemon? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

And Then There Was No More Empire All of a Sudden

Bisa Butler (USA), I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, 2019.

Empire denies its own existence. It does not exist as an empire but only as benevolence, with its mission to spread human rights and sustainable development across the world. However, that perspective means nothing in Havana nor in Caracas, where ‘human rights’ has come to mean regime change, and where ‘sustainable development’ has come to mean the throttling of their people through sanctions and blockades. It is from the standpoint of the victims of empire that clarity comes.

US President Joe Biden is to host the Summit of the Americas in June, where he hopes to deepen Washington’s hegemony over the Americas. The United States government understands that its project of hegemony faces an existential crisis caused by the weaknesses of the US political system and the US economy, with limited funds available for investment within its own country, let alone for the rest of the world. At the same time, US hegemony faces a serious challenge from China, whose Belt and Road Initiative has been seen in large parts of Latin America and the Caribbean as an alternative to the International Monetary Fund’s austerity agenda. Rather than work alongside Chinese investments, the US is eager to use any means to prevent China from engaging with countries in the Americas. Along this axis, the US has revitalised the Monroe Doctrine. This policy, which will be two centuries old next year, claims that the Americas are the dominion of the United States, its ‘sphere of influence’, and its ‘backyard’ (although Biden has tried to be cute by calling the region the US’s ‘front yard’).

Along with the International Peoples’ Assembly, we have developed a red alert on two instruments of US power – the Organisation of American States and the Summit of the Americas – as well as the challenge that the US faces as it tries to impose its hegemony in the region. The red alert is featured below and is available here as a PDF. Please read it, discuss it, and share it.

What is the Organisation of American States?

The Organisation of American States (OAS) was formed in Bogotá, Colombia in 1948 by the United States and its allies. Though the OAS Charter invokes the rhetoric of multilateralism and cooperation, the organisation has been used as a tool to fight against communism in the hemisphere and to impose a US agenda on the countries of the Americas. Roughly half of the funds for the OAS and 80 percent of the funds for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), an autonomous organ of the OAS, come from the US. It is worth noting that – despite providing the majority of its budget – the US has not ratified any of the IACHR’s treaties.

The OAS showed its true colours after the Cuban Revolution (1959). In 1962, at a meeting in Punta del Este (Uruguay), Cuba – a founding member of the OAS – was expelled from the organisation. The declaration from the meeting stated that ‘the principles of communism are incompatible with the principles of the inter-American system’. In response, Fidel Castro called the OAS the ‘US Ministry of Colonies’.

The OAS set up the Special Consultative Committee on Security Against the Subversive Action of International Communism in 1962, with the purpose of allowing the elites in the Americas – led by the US – to use every means possible against popular movements of the working class and peasantry. The OAS has afforded diplomatic and political cover to the US’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as it has participated in the overthrow of governments that attempt to exercise their legitimate sovereignty – sovereignty that the OAS Charter purports to guarantee. This exercise has gone all the way from the OAS’s expulsion of Cuba in 1962 to the orchestration of coups in Honduras (2009) and Bolivia (2019) to the repeated attempts to overthrow the governments of Nicaragua and Venezuela and ongoing interference in Haiti.

Since 1962, the OAS has openly acted alongside the US government to sanction countries without a United Nations Security Council resolution, which makes these sanctions illegal. It has, therefore, regularly violated the ‘principle of non-interference’ in its own charter, which prohibits ‘armed force but also any other form of interference or attempted threat against the personality of the State or against its political, economic, and cultural elements’ (chapter 1, article 2, section b and chapter IV, article 19).

Diego Rivera (Mexico), Liberación del Peón (‘Liberation of the peon’), 1931.

What is the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC)?

Venezuela, led by President Hugo Chávez, initiated a process in the early 2000s to build new regional institutions outside of US control. Three major platforms were built in this period: 1) the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) in 2004; 2) the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) in 2004; and 3) the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in 2010. These platforms established inter-governmental connections across the Americas, including summits on matters of regional importance and technical institutions to enhance trade and cultural interactions across borders. Each of these platforms have faced threats from the United States. As governments in the region oscillate politically, their commitment to these platforms has either increased (the more left they have been) or decreased (the more subordinate they have been to the United States).

At the 6th Summit of CELAC in Mexico City in 2021, Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador suggested that the OAS be disbanded and that CELAC help to build a multilateral organisation at the scale of the European Union to resolve regional conflicts, build trade partnerships, and promote the unity of the Americas.

Tessa Mars (Haiti), Untitled, Praying for the visa series, 2019.

What is the Summit of the Americas?

With the fall of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), the United States attempted to dominate the world by using its military power to discipline any state that did not accept its hegemony (as in Panama, 1989 and Iraq, 1991) and by institutionalising its economic power through the World Trade Organisation, set up in 1994. The US called the OAS member states to Miami for the first Summit of the Americas in 1994, which was subsequently handed over to the OAS to manage. The summit has convened every few years since to ‘discuss common policy issues, affirm shared values and commit to concerted actions at the national and regional level’.

Despite its stronghold over the OAS, the US has never been able fully to impose its agenda at these summits. At the third summit in Quebec City (2001) and the fourth summit in Mar del Plata (2005), popular movements held large counter-protests; at Mar del Plata, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez led a massive demonstration, which resulted in the collapse of the US-imposed Free Trade Area of the Americas agreement. The fifth and sixth summits at Port of Spain (2009) and Cartagena (2012) became a battlefield for the debate over the US blockade on Cuba and its expulsion from the OAS. Due to immense pressure from the member states of the OAS, Cuba was invited to the seventh and eighth summits in Panama City (2015) and Lima (2018), against the wishes of the United States.

However, the United States has not invited Cuba, Nicaragua, or Venezuela to the upcoming ninth summit to be held in Los Angeles in June 2022. Several countries – including Bolivia and Mexico – have said that they will not attend the meeting unless all thirty-five countries in the Americas are in attendance. From 8–10 June, a range of progressive organisations will hold a People’s Summit to counter the OAS summit and to amplify the voices of all the peoples of the Americas.

Rufino Tamayo (Mexico), Animals, 1941.

In 2010, the poet Derek Walcott (1930–2017) published ‘The Lost Empire’, a celebration of the Caribbean and of his own island, Saint Lucia, in particular as British imperialism retreated. Walcott grew up with the economic and cultural suffocation imposed by colonialism, the ugliness of being made to feel inferior, and the wretchedness of the poverty that came alongside it. Years later, reflecting on the jubilation of the retreat of British rule, Walcott wrote:

And then there was no more Empire all of a sudden.
Its victories were air, its dominions dirt:
Burma, Canada, Egypt, Africa, India, the Sudan.
The map that had seeped its stain on a schoolboy’s shirt
like red ink on a blotter, battles, long sieges.
Dhows and feluccas, hill stations, outposts, flags
fluttering down in the dusk, their golden aegis
went out with the sun, the last gleam on a great crag,
With tiger-eyed turbaned Sikhs, pennons of the Raj
to a sobbing bugle.

The sun is setting on imperialism as we emerge slowly and delicately into a world that seeks meaningful equality rather than subordination. ‘This small place’, Walcott writes of Saint Lucia, ‘produces nothing but beauty’. That would be true of the entire world if we could get beyond our long, modern history of battles and sieges, warships, and nuclear weapons.

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‘Towards a Multipolar World Order’: Is This the End of US Hegemony?

The meeting between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, in the Chinese eastern city of Huangshan on March 30, is likely to go down in history as a decisive meeting in the relations between the two Asian giants.

The meeting was not only important due to its timing or the fact that it reaffirmed the growing ties between Moscow and Beijing, but because of the resolute political discourse articulated by the two top diplomats.

In Huangshan, there was no place for ambiguity. Lavrov spoke of a new ‘world order’, arguing that the world is now “living through a very serious stage in the history of international relations” in reference to the escalating Russia-Ukraine/NATO conflict.

“We, together with you (China) and with our sympathizers,” Lavrov added with assuredness, “will move towards a multipolar, just, democratic world order.”

For his part, Wang Yi restated his country’s position regarding its relations with Russia and the West with precise words, some of which were used before in the February 4 meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping. “China-Russia cooperation has no limits … Our striving for peace has no limits, our upholding of security has no limits, our opposition towards hegemony has no limits,” Wang said.

Those following the evolution of the Russia-China political discourse, even before the start of the Russia-Ukraine war on February 24, will notice that the language employed supersedes that of a regional conflict, into the desire to bring about the reordering of world affairs altogether.

Though the readiness to push against US-led western hegemony is inherent in both countries’ political objectives, rarely did Moscow and Beijing move forward in challenging western dominance, as is the case today. The fact that China has refused to support western economic sanctions, condemn or isolate Russia is indicative of a clear Chinese forward thinking policy.

Moreover, Beijing and Moscow are clearly not basing their future relation on the outcome of the Ukraine war alone. What they are working to achieve is a long term political strategy that they hope would ultimately lead to a multipolar world.

Russia’s motives behind the coveted paradigm shift are obvious: resisting NATO’s eastern expansion, reasserting itself as a global power and freeing itself from the humiliating legacy of the post-Soviet Union. China, too, has a regional and global agenda. Though China’s ambitions are partly linked to different geopolitical spheres – South and East China Seas and the Indo-Pacific region – much of Beijing’s grievances, and priorities, overlap with those of Moscow.

Aside from the direct economic interests between Russia and China, who share massive and growing markets, they are faced with similar challenges: both are hoping to gain greater access to waterways and to push back against US-western military advancements in some of the world’s most important trade routes.

It was no surprise that one of Russia’s top strategic priorities from its war with Ukraine is to widen its access to the Black Sea, a major trade hub with a sizable percentage of world trade, especially in wheat and other essential food supplies.

Like Russia, China too has been laboring to escape US military hegemony, particularly in the Indo-Pacific. The exponential rise in the Chinese military budget – estimated to grow by 7.1% in 2022, speaks of the way that China sees its role in world affairs, now and in the future.

The US trade war against China, which was accelerated by former US President Donald Trump, was a clear reminder to Beijing that global economic power can only be guaranteed through an equal military might. This realization explains China’s decision to open its first overseas military base in Djibouti, in the very strategic Horn of Africa, in 2017, in addition to Beijing’s military moves in the three artificial islands in the South China Sea, and its latest military deal with Solomon Islands in the South Pacific.

While the Russian and Chinese motives, as enunciated by top officials on both sides are clear – to “move towards a multipolar world order” – the US and its allies are not motivated by a specific, forward thinking political doctrine, as was often the case in the past. Washington simply aims to contain the two rising powers as stated in the yet-to-be officially released 2022 National Defense Strategy (NDS). According to the NDS, “the growing multi-domain threat posed by the (People’s Republic of China) PRC” is the primary challenge to US interests, followed by the “acute threats” posed by Russia.

Considering the complex interests of both Russia and China, and the fact that the two countries are facing the same mutual enemy, chances are the war in Ukraine is merely a prelude to a protracted conflict that will manifest itself through economic, political and diplomatic pressures and even outright wars.

Though it is premature to speak about the future of this global conflict with certainty, there is little doubt that we are now living in a new era of global affairs, one which is fundamentally different from the decades that followed the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Equally true, we also know that both China and Russia will be important players in shaping that future, which could indeed push us away from US-western hegemony and “towards a multipolar world order”.

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Can Israel Exist without America: Numbers Speaks of a Changing Reality 

When Russian and Ukrainian delegations meeting in Turkey on March 29 reached an initial understanding regarding a list of countries that could serve as security guarantors for Kyiv should an agreement be struck, Israel appeared on the list. The other countries included the US, the UK, China, Russia, France, Turkey, Germany, Canada, Italy and Poland.

One may explain Israel’s political significance to the Russian-Ukrainian talks based on Tel Aviv’s strong ties with Kyiv, as opposed to Russia’s trust in Israel. This is insufficient to rationalize how Israel has managed to acquire relevance in an international conflict, arguably the most serious since World War II.

Immediately following the start of the war, Israeli officials began to circumnavigate the globe, shuttling between many countries that are directly or even nominally involved in the conflict. Israeli President Isaac Herzog flew to Istanbul to meet with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The outcome of this meeting could usher in “a turning point in relations between Turkey and Israel,” Erdogan said.

Though “Israel is proceeding cautiously with Turkey,” Lavan Karkov wrote in the Jerusalem Post, Herzog hopes that “his meeting with .. Erdogan is starting a positive process toward improved relations.” The ‘improved relations’ are not concerned with the fate of the Palestinians under Israeli occupation and siege, but with a gas pipeline connecting Israel’s Leviathan offshore gas field in the eastern Mediterranean, to southern Europe via Turkey.

This project will improve Israel’s geopolitical status in the Middle East and Europe. The political leverage of being a primary gas supplier to Europe would allow Israel even stronger influence over the continent and will certainly tone down any future criticism of Tel Aviv by Ankara.

That was only one of many such Israeli overtures. Tel Aviv’s diplomatic flurry included a top-level meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennet and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, and a succession of visits by top European, American, Arab and other officials to Israel.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken landed in Israel on March 26 and was expected to put some pressure on Israel to join the US-led western sanctions on Russia. Little of that has transpired. The greatest rebuke came from Under-Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland, when, on March 11, she called on Israel not to become “the last haven for dirty money that’s fueling Putin’s wars”.

For years, Israel had hoped to free itself from its disproportionate reliance on Washington. This dependency took on many forms: financial and military assistance, political backing, diplomatic cover and more. According to Chuck Freilich, writing in Newsweek, “by the end of the ten-year military-aid package  agreed (between Washington and Tel Aviv) for 2019-28, the total figure (of US aid to Israel) will be nearly $170bn.”

Many Palestinians and others believe that, if the US ceases to support Israel, the latter would simply collapse. However, this might not be the case, at least not in theory. Writing in March 2021 in the New York Times, Max Fisher estimated that US aid to Israel in 1981 “was equivalent to almost 10 percent of Israel’s economy,” while in 2020, the nearly $4 billion of US aid was “closer to 1 percent.”

Still, this 1 percent is vital for Israel, as much of the funds are funneled to the Israeli military which, in turn, converts them to weapons that are routinely used against Palestinians and other Arab countries. Israeli military technology of today is far more developed than it was 40 years ago. Figures by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) place Israel as the world’s eighth-largest military exporter between 2016-2020, with an estimated export value of $8.3 billion in 2020 alone. These numbers continue to grow as Israeli military hardware is increasingly incorporated into many security apparatuses across the world, including the US, the EU and also in the Global South.

Much of this discussion is rooted in a document from 1996, entitled: “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm”. The document was authored by Richard Perle, former US Assistant Secretary of Defense, jointly with top leaders in the neoconservative movement in Washington. The target audience of that research was none other than Benjamin Netanyahu, who was then the newly-elected Israeli Prime Minister.

Aside from the document’s detailed instructions on how Israel can use some of its Arab neighbors, in addition to Turkey, to weaken and ‘roll back’ hostile governments, it also made significant references to future relations Tel Aviv should aspire to develop with Washington.

Perle urged Israel to “make a clean break from the past and establish a new vision for the U.S.-Israeli partnership based on self-reliance, maturity and mutuality – not one focused narrowly on territorial disputes.” This new, ‘self-reliant Israel’ “does not need U.S. troops in any capacity to defend it.” Ultimately, such self-reliance “will grant Israel greater freedom of action and remove a significant lever of pressure used against it in the past.”

An example is Israel’s relations with China. In 2013, Washington was outraged when Israel sold secret missile and electro-optic US technology to China. Quickly, Tel Aviv was forced to retreat. The controversy subsided when the head of defense experts at the Israeli Defense Ministry was removed. Eight years on, despite US protests and demands that Israel must not allow China to operate the Israeli Haifa port due to Washington’s security concerns, the port was officially initiated in September 2021.

Israel’s regional and international strategy seems to be advancing in multiple directions, some of them directly opposing those of Washington. Yet, thanks to continued Israeli influence in the US Congress, Washington does little to hold Israel accountable. Meanwhile, now that Israel is fully aware that the US has changed its political attitude in the Middle East and is moving in the direction of the Pacific region and Eastern Europe, Tel Aviv’s ‘clean break’ strategy is moving faster than ever before. However, this comes with risks. Though Israel is stronger now, its neighbors are also getting stronger.

Hence, it is critical that Palestinians understand that Israel’s survival is no longer linked to the US, at least not as intrinsically as in the past. Therefore, the fight against Israeli occupation and apartheid can no longer be disproportionately focused on breaking up the ‘special relationship’ that united Tel Aviv and Washington for over 50 years. Israel’s ‘independence’ from the US entails risks and opportunities that must be considered in the Palestinian struggle for freedom and justice.

The post Can Israel Exist without America: Numbers Speaks of a Changing Reality  first appeared on Dissident Voice.

US to Use Ukraine as Stepping Stone toward Taiwan Provocation

The US is planning to provoke conflict with China through Taiwan just as it has done to Russia through Ukraine. A similar process of replacing both governments in 2014 and then preparing both territories for war has been underway since.

US policy papers have called for the encirclement and containment of both Russia and China for decades and ultimately, stopping China requires first isolating it from its largest, most powerful ally, Russia.

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We Are in a Period of Great Tectonic Shifts

Chiharu Shiota (Japan), Navigating the Unknown, 2020.

Chiharu Shiota (Japan), Navigating the Unknown, 2020.

The war in Ukraine has focused attention on the shifts taking place in the world order. Russia’s military intervention has been met with sanctions from the West as well as with the transport of arms and mercenaries to Ukraine. These sanctions will have a major impact on the Russian economy as well as the Central Asian states, but they will also negatively impact the European population who will see energy and food prices rise further. Until now, the West has decided not to intervene with direct military force or to try and establish a ‘no-fly zone’. It is recognised, sanely, that such an intervention could escalate into a full-scale war between the United States and Russia, the consequences of which are unthinkable given the nuclear weapons capacities of both countries. Short of any other kind of response, the West – as with the Russian intervention in Syria in 2015 – has had to accept Moscow’s actions.

To understand the current global situation, here are six theses about the establishment of the US-shaped world order from 1990 to the current fragility of that order in the face of growing Russian and Chinese power. These theses are drawn from our analysis in dossier no. 36 (January 2021), Twilight: The Erosion of US Control and the Multipolar Future; they are intended for discussion and so feedback on them is very welcome.

Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun (Canada), The One Percent, 2015.

Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun (Canada), The One Percent, 2015.

Thesis One: Unipolarity. Following the fall of the Soviet Union, between 1990 and 2013–15, the United States developed a world system that benefitted multinational corporations based in the United States and in the other G7 countries (Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, and Canada). The events that defined overwhelming US power were the invasions of Iraq (1991) and Yugoslavia (1999) as well as the creation of the World Trade Organisation (1994). Russia, weakened by the collapse of the USSR, sought entry into this system by joining the G7 and collaborating with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) as a ‘Partner for Peace’. Meanwhile, China, under presidents Jiang Zemin (1993–2003) and Hu Jintao (2003–2013), played a careful game by inserting its labour into the US-dominated global system and not challenging the US in its operations.

Thesis Two: Signal Crisis. The US overreached its power through two dynamics: first, by overleveraging its own domestic economy (overleveraged banks, higher non-productive assets than productive assets); and second, by trying to fight several wars at the same time (Afghanistan, Iraq, Sahel) during the first two decades of the 21st century. The signal crises for the weakness of US power were illustrated by the invasion of Iraq (2003) and the debacle of that war for US power projection, and the credit crisis (2007–08). Internal political polarisation in the US and a crisis of legitimacy in Europe followed these developments.

Olga Bulgakova (Russia), Blind Men, 1992.

Thesis Three: Sino-Russian Emergence. By the second decade of the 2000s, for different reasons, both China and Russia emerged from their relative dormancy.

China’s emergence has two legs:

  1. China’s domestic economy. China built up massive trade surpluses and, alongside these, it built up scientific and technological knowledge through its trade agreements and its investment in higher education. Chinese firms in robotics, high-tech, high-speed rail, and green energy leapfrogged over Western firms.
  2. China’s external relations. In 2013, China announced the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which proposed an alternative to the US-driven International Monetary Fund’s development and trade agenda. The BRI extended out of Asia into Europe as well as into Africa and Latin America.

Russia emerged on two legs as well:

  1. Russia’s domestic economy. President Vladimir Putin fought some sections of the large capitalists to assert state control of key commodity export sectors and used these to build up state assets (notably oil and gas). Rather than merely leech Russian assets for their overseas bank accounts, these Russian capitalists agreed to subordinate part of their ambitions to rebuilding the power and influence of the Russian state.
  2. Russia’s external relations. Since 2007, Russia began to edge away from the Western global agenda and drive its own project, first through the BRICS (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa) agenda and then later through increasingly close relations with China. Russia leveraged its export of energy to assert control of its borders, which it had not done when NATO expanded in 2004 to absorb seven countries that are near its western boundary. Russian intervention into Crimea (2014) and Syria (2015) used its military force to create a shield around its warm water ports in Sebastopol (Crimea) and Tartus (Syria). This was the first military challenge to the US since 1990.

In this period, China and Russia deepened their cooperation in all fields.

Ibrahim el-Salahi (Sudan), Reborn Sounds of Childhood Dreams I, (1961-65).

Ibrahim el-Salahi (Sudan), Reborn Sounds of Childhood Dreams I, (1961-65).

Thesis Four: Global Monroe Doctrine. The United States took its 1823 Monroe Doctrine (that asserted its control over the Americas) global and proposed in this post-Soviet era that the entire world was its dominion. It began to push back against the assertion of China (Obama’s Pivot to Asia) and Russia (Russiagate and Ukraine). This New Cold War driven by the US, which includes hybrid warfare through sanctions against thirty countries such as Iran and Venezuela, has destabilised the world.

Thesis Five: Confrontations. The confrontations hastened by the New Cold War have inflamed the situation in Asia – where the Taiwan Strait remains a hot zone – and in Latin America – where the United States attempted to create a hot war in Venezuela (and attempted but failed to project its power in places such as Bolivia). The current conflict in Ukraine – which has its origins in many factors, including the demise of the Ukrainian pluri-national compact – is also over the question of European independence. The US has used ‘Global NATO’ as a Trojan horse to exercise its power over Europe and keep it subordinated to US interests even if it harms Europeans as they lose energy supply and natural gas for the food economy. Russia violated the territorial sovereignty of Ukraine, but NATO created some of the conditions which accelerated this confrontation – not for Ukraine but for its project in Europe.

Olga Blinder (Paraguay), A mi maestra (‘To My Teacher’), 1970.

Olga Blinder (Paraguay), A mi maestra (‘To My Teacher’), 1970.

Thesis Six: Terminal Crisis. Fragility is the key to understanding US power today. It has not declined dramatically, nor does it remain unscathed. There are three sources of US power that are relatively untouched:

(1) Overwhelming Military Power. The United States remains the only country in the world that is able to bomb any of the other UN member states into the stone age.
(2) The Dollar-Wall Street-IMF regime. Due to the global reliance on the dollar and to the dollar-denominated global financial system, the US can wield its sanctions as a weapon of war to weaken countries at its whim.
(3) Informational Power. No country has as decisive control over the internet, both its physical infrastructure and its near monopoly companies (such as Facebook and YouTube, which remove any content and any provider at will); no country has as much control over the shaping of world news due to the power of its wire services (Reuters and the Associated Press) as well as the major news networks (such as CNN).

There are other sources of US power that are deeply weakened, such as its political landscape, which is deeply polarised, and its inability to marshal its resources to send China and Russia back inside their borders.

People’s movements need to grow our own power, by organising the people into powerful organisations and around a programme that has the capacity to both answer the immediate problems of our time and the long-term question of how to transition to a system that can transcend the apartheids of our time: food apartheid, medical apartheid, education apartheid, and money apartheid. To transcend these apartheids leads us out of this capitalist system to socialism.

In the past week, we have lost many comrades, old and young. Amongst them, our Senior Fellow Aijaz Ahmad (1941–2022), one of the great Marxists of our time, left us at the age of 81. When Marxism was under attack after the fall of the USSR, Aijaz held the line, teaching generations of us about the necessity of Marxist theory; that theory remains necessary because it continues to be the most powerful critique of capitalism and, as long as capitalism continues to structure our lives, that critique remains boundless. For us at Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research, Aijaz’s mentorship was invaluable. In fact, the dossier Twilight, which helped us orient ourselves in the current conjuncture, was written after substantial discussion with Aijaz.

We also lost Ayanda Ngila (1992–2022), who was the deputy chairperson of eKhenana land occupation, part of South Africa’s militant shack dwellers movement, Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM). Ayanda was a courageous leader of AbM who had recently been released from a second spell of being held in prison on trumped up charges. He was a kind comrade to his peers and a student and teacher at the Frantz Fanon School. When he was gunned down by his adversaries in the African National Congress, Ayanda was wearing a t-shirt with a quote from Steve Biko: ‘It’s better to die for an idea that is going to live than to live for an idea that is going to die’. On the walls of the Frantz Fanon School, the comrades at AbM painted their ideals clearly: Land, Decent Housing, Dignity, Freedom, and Socialism.

We concur. So would Aijaz.

The post We Are in a Period of Great Tectonic Shifts first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Nicaragua’s Elections: The Reality

The Nicaraguan elections are on November 7, 2021. The US government, the media that does its bidding, and even some self-described “leftists,” present a Nicaragua in “turmoil” and “crisis” – and the elections as a farce. These attacks against the Sandinista government also emanate from academics, intellectuals, and journalists with ties to the members of the now-defunct MRS, an organization with no political relevance or popular support whose members pretend to be leftist to an international audience but support the Nicaraguan right-wing and do the bidding of the US – betraying both Sandinismo and Nicaragua. The people and organizations vomiting these anti-Sandinista reports have taken it upon themselves to speak on behalf of Nicaraguans, whom they claim live in some sort of authoritarian nightmare that only U.S. intervention and the “international community” can fix.

Inside Nicaragua something else is afoot. The country is peaceful, getting ready for year-end activities that begin in November. People are going about their everyday business with interest but not obsession with the elections, as usually occurs in the U.S., where every inane and self-serving photo-op and publicist-generated skirmish is reported ad nauseum. No doubt there are plenty of news reported about the elections. For example, poll after poll, in various regions of the country, show majority support (about 2/3) for the FSLN’s ticket, with Daniel Ortega at the helm; in the North of the country, the support is even higher. About 180 international electoral “companions” will observe the elections. Some 245,000 Nicaraguans will be involved in working the elections as poll watchers, polling station board members, electoral police, and voting center coordinators. All parties registered their poll representatives by October 14. In conjunction with the Ministry of Health, the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) issued a range of health measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which include the avoidance of massive in-person events while prioritizing virtual platforms. In-person events must be carried out in open areas with no more than 200 people. No caravans are allowed. With regards to voting, in late July, Nicaraguan citizens had the opportunity to update and check their address to verify their polling station; citizens can also check online. The CSE also notes that one cannot vote with witnesses or with a photocopy of one’s ID – although expired IDs can be used to vote, a measure taken to increase participation of the electorate. On Nov. 1 electoral material was sent to the 153 municipalities of the country. In sum, CSE, the Nicaraguan government, and the citizenry are very well organized and ready for the elections.

The issues that will determine election outcomes are straightforward. Nicaraguans are concerned, among other things, about their economic well-being. The Nicaraguan economy’s strong and enviable financial performance came to a screeching halt due to the US-backed coup d’état in 2018. As a consequence, thousands of people have left the country in search of work and economic stability – something that continues to be cynically reported in Western media as massive emigration due to government crackdowns, which is demonstrably false. Since the failed US-backed coup, the Sandinista government has gone into hyperdrive to recover the economic trajectory it was on prior to the US-funded attack. All economic indicators, particularly this year, suggest that Nicaragua is, in fact, recovering at neck-breaking speed, including an expected 6-8% GDP growth in 2021, to the chagrin of their aggressors. Nevertheless, some families have had more difficulty than others, leading some to consider – and some of them to depart for – the United States.

US Aggression and Subsequent Migration

During the electoral campaign, the Biden team promised a more humane, just, and rule-bound immigration regime in contrast to Trump’s. They communicated to Central Americans that they would be treated more fairly and even welcomed at the US border. The advertisement campaign worked. People in the US and all over the world – including in Nicaragua – believed what they said. Thousands embarked on their journey to the United States, believing they would be allowed in. In addition, in the US, immigrant workers seem necessary due to increasing layoffs following vaccine mandates among blue-collar workers and US citizen worker resistance to ever devolving labor conditions, including low pay, non-existent benefits, COVID fears, and increasing demand. Despite the Biden team backtracking once in office, with Kamala Harris telling Central American immigrants “do not come,” border agents whipping migrants on horseback increased roadblocks to asylum claims, and a continuation of many of Trump’s policies to varying degrees, people decided to depart for the US…in droves. Due to US imposition of unfettered imperial neoliberal policies in Northern Triangle countries, Central American migrants who appear at the US-border (if not caught and diverted by Mexico) largely come from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.

Nevertheless, US intervention has also reached the shores of Nicaragua, not just with the US-backed coup d’état in 2018, but with subsequent meddling and sanctioning that has made it more difficult for the Sandinista government to look after its people. Hurricanes Eta and Iota made things worse. Consequently, some Nicaraguans have left for the US, in search of what they are prevented from achieving in Nicaragua due to US intervention and attacks. Moreover, due to US political aggression against Nicaragua, Venezuela and Cuba, migrants from these countries seem to be treated more favorably than others at the US border. Consequently, and predictably, since 2018, Nicaraguan migration to the United States has increased after historic lows in the years prior due to economic growth and enviable social governance of the socialist-oriented Sandinista government. Even in this context, the number of migrants from Nicaragua to the United States is small compared to overall immigration and from Northern Triangle migrants, in particular. Western media outlets admit that the apprehensions this year – that are part of longer emigration patterns since the 2018 US-backed coup d’état – are at a historic high “since at least a decade.” In fact, since the Sandinistas returned to power in 2007, border patrol “encounters” at the US border “hovered” around only 1,000. Nicaraguans, in short, were not emigrating to the US prior to the 2018 US-backed coup and their numbers at the US-Mexico border now are very low compared to those of their Northern neighbors. Paradoxically, the good governance of the Sandinista government meant low migration to the United States, precisely what the US government claims it wants.

Should I Stay or Should I Go? US Aggression Uproots a Few (Young) People

I’ve had informal conversations with some young adults in my town, on the outskirts of the city of Estelí, about emigration. Leading up to and including the summer 2021 (winter in Nicaragua), in the town where I live, some young people questioned: Should I stay or should I go? In the surrounding communities, including my own, some young people did leave – about 20 in total, I am told. They constitute a very, very small percentage of the young people in my and surrounding towns. Whatever the exact (small) number, enough people have left for individuals here to know someone who left or heard about someone who left for the US. The increase in apprehensions into the summer 2021 by U.S. Customs and Border Protection is consistent with these anecdotal accounts. When I asked about the reasons emigrants decided to leave, these young adults tell me that emigrants left due to economic aspirations and difficulties. NO ONE mentioned government repression, authoritarianism, fear due to their political leanings, or any other political reason, regardless of their political inclination. All of them tell me that the people who left did so because of economic pursuits and the belief that the US president was letting everyone in. It is important to point out that the people leaving tend to have enough money to pay for the trip, including the fees for a coyote. Some of the people who crossed successfully and are working in the US usually have someone helping them settle.

Some of the people whom I spoke with also mentioned that they were considering or had considered leaving for the US. Again, they told me that they could probably make more money in the United States and it was unclear that they were going to make the money they desired in Nicaragua. The reasons for deciding not to take the trip include: (1) not having money to take the trip; (2) family members do not want them to take the trip; (3) they thought about leaving because their friends had left and were doing well, but that, upon consideration, it was better not to do it – too risky or because they were doing just fine in Nicaragua. Even among those who considered but did not actually leave for the US, “political repression” did not figure in their decision. The reports of difficulties on the way to the US, including deaths, also had a sobering effect on wanting to go North.

COVID-19 in Nicaragua Amidst Western Aggression

COVID-19 has exacerbated economic difficulties that stem from the 2018 US-backed coup. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Sandinista government of Nicaragua has engaged in a herculean effort to secure vaccines for its people. Western aggression – coupled with Western greed – has limited vaccines for Nicaragua. This summer was a tough one for families whose members came down with COVID-19, making people more worried. Economic desires/needs and COVID worries converged to pushed some to consider – and some to head for – the United States. In my town, after a wave of vaccinations reached Estelí, the talk of heading to the US, however, waned. This is supported by data that shows a decrease in migration apprehensions at the US-Mexico border later in the summer 2021. The latest wave of vaccinations in Estelí on Oct. 7th, as with the rest of the country, showed high demand for vaccinations. The Ministry of Health organized four points for vaccinations. In all of them, people started making lines the day before to assure a poke. Experienced with the massive demand for vaccinations against COVID-19, the Ministry of Health started working and organizing the lines the day before vaccinations were to occur, handing out numbers so that people knew early whether they would be able to get vaccinated. They started vaccinating people at midnight the day of the announced vaccination, so as to not keep people waiting any longer. In a nearby municipality, San Nicolas, the wait times were much shorter.

Just a couple of weeks later, the arrival of the Cuban (Abdala and Soberana 02) and Russian vaccines (Sputnik Light) designated to vaccinate children between 2 -17 and those over 18 – 29, respectively, further allayed people’s concerns. Later, more Sputnik V and Pfizer vaccines also arrived. Unlike the United States, the Sandinista government of Nicaragua is not pursuing vaccine mandates. Vaccination is 100% voluntary. Even without mandates, the demand for vaccines is high, which reflects the amount of trust that the population has for the government. Given the way the oligarchs and empire have used the pandemic to score economic and political points, including a marketing and media campaign against non-Western vaccines, among some more well-to-do people, there is a desire for “American” vaccines. No doubt some in the Nicaraguan population have been manipulated with the ruse that “American” vaccines are “better.” Consequently, recently, some Nicaraguans went over to Honduras to get the Pfizer vaccine, having bought the propaganda. Western media outlets cynically and falsely reported that Nicaraguans deciding to get vaccinated in Honduras were doing so because of vaccine shortages in Nicaragua. Nothing could be further from the truth. The arrival of the 1,200,00 Cuban vaccines in Nicaragua has increased access. One no longer sees the lines for vaccines we were accustomed to. Recently, the government announced the arrival of an additional 3,200,000 Sputnik Light vaccines. Importantly, the percentage of Nicaraguans who have gone abroad to get vaccinated, whether in Honduras, the US, or anywhere else, is negligible. On Nov. 4, the Sandinista government announced that about 49% of the entire population (over 3 million people) have been vaccinated. Among the Nicaraguan working-class (most of the country), trust in the Cuban and Russian vaccines is equal to that of “American” vaccines. In fact, a few people whom I know that received Sputnik Light are even happier because it requires only one jab. Some of these working-class people speak about the “ignorance” of those who only want the “American” vaccines.

I personally know one case of an individual who decided to go to Honduras to vaccinate his 14-year-old child within days of having the option of vaccinating him with the Cuban vaccine. This individual’s mother – the child’s grandmother – died the day he went. He was unable to see her alive again. There was another terrible case in which a couple of people were injured in a car accident on the way back to Nicaragua from Honduras after getting the vaccine. Recently, the Nicaraguan government returned about 100,000 Pfizer doses to Honduras, which had lent these to the Nicaraguan government in early October so that it could vaccinate pregnant women and lactating mothers. Vaccination initiatives are part of the very successful policies that the Sandinista government has implemented due to COVID-19. Despite criticism and the lies on which it was based, the Nicaraguan government never implemented lockdowns, knowing that most of the population must work daily to provide for their necessities. In Latin American, people whose countries have enforced lockdowns have suffered dire consequences.

Economic elites have the option of taking a plane and going to the United States to get vaccinated, which is a widespread phenomenon throughout Latin America. The working classes do not have that luxury, so media campaigns against Russian and Cuban vaccines only hurt the most disadvantaged when they are swayed by the highly destructive Western rhetoric against non-Western vaccines, because they will be left without an option should they want to get vaccinated. The United States knows that if it subjects Nicaraguans to material suffering through economic attacks such as the NICA Act and the RENACER Act (approved by the House of Representatives on Nov. 3), some people will undoubtedly blame the Sandinista government for their individual economic suffering. Already, some Nicaraguans do blame the government for their stagnated economic well-being, either unaware of the attacks the US is launching or propagandized to minimize their importance.

Elections, Western Aggression, and Migration: An Old Story with a New Virus

Despite economic suffering generated by the US-backed coup d’état in 2018, which was subsequently exacerbated with COVID-19 and Eta and Iota hurricanes, emigration to the United States is not as widespread as reported, certainly much lower compared to emigration from the Northern Triangle. Nicaragua accounts for only 3% of the total apprehensions at the US-Mexico border this year thus far. The emigration of the Nicaraguans that do leave stem from mostly economic causes, which can be directly traced to the 2018 US-backed coup – difficulties that the worldwide pandemic and natural disasters has exacerbated. Uncertainty associated with US threats of economic unilateral coercive measures if the FSLN wins the presidential elections is no doubt another “push” factor for those who remember the economic blockade the US imposed on Nicaragua in the 1980s and its disastrous consequences. Therefore, migration to the US, in the Nicaraguan case such as it is now, can be largely traced to imperial intervention and subsequent imperial neglect and abuse. It’s not, as Western media repeatedly regurgitate, a consequence of political repression, a claim that is not supported but nevertheless used to manufacture consent against the Sandinista government so as to justify – and demobilize opposition to – imperial aggression. Importantly, all of these challenges in Nicaragua have not considerably dampened support for the Sandinista government. The latest poll, released on Nov. 3, 2021, just days before the elections, articulates, once again, massive support for the FSLN with Daniel Ortega’s leadership and predicts an easy win for the FSLN coalition.

The only “crisis” in Nicaragua is the one the US and its imperial lackeys want to inflict upon the country. Without a single vote cast, the US, the European Union and Western media – and some US- and Western-controlled international organizations – have already dismissed the upcoming election as a “fraud,” despite there being five opposition candidates on the ballot running against Daniel Ortega. By the looks of it and their announced plans, the United States and their allies will work hard to delegitimize the Nicaraguan elections and subsequent FSLN win at the ballot box. They have spared no regime change effort against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. For example, just days before the election, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter suspended the accounts of pro-Sandinista journalists and activists with the lie that the accounts were generated by “a troll farm run by the government of Nicaragua and the [FSLN].” The people who were censored have spoken out against this attack, which they suffered simply for being Sandinistas or supporting Sandinistas. US agents have misrepresented and exploited land disputes in Nicaragua’s autonomous Indigenous territories to the UN Human Rights Council and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. In a bizarre turn of events, judging by apocalyptic Western media reports and US (and some European) politician rhetoric, the Nicaraguan election seems to be much more of an alarming and consequential event for Western elites than for Nicaraguans who, for the most part, want to continue leaving in peace, building their lives on the rights and privileges they have grown accustomed to since Sandinista returned to power.

A US citizen would be astounded at the amount of support that the Sandinista government provides to its people, especially because in the United States, policies enacted by the government represent, to an exceeding degree, the interest of its elites. Among its initiatives, the Nicaraguan Sandinista government has launched Vivienda Digna, Hambre Cero, Usura Cero as well as others that reduced poverty. For the next few years, the FLSN has articulated a bold plan to further reduce poverty and increase the well-being of all Nicaraguans, which extends what they have been working on since returning to power. Their efforts have, thus far, garnered international recognition. The achievements of the Sandinista government over the past 14 years have yet to be fully catalogued and recognized. The achievements with regards to public health have been truly astonishing, and great strides have been made in other domains, including public education, electricity and clean water access, housing for the poor, support for small and medium businesses, treatment of its indigenous communities, food sovereignty, and many, many more.

Of course, these achievements are never reported in Western media because they contradict the “dictator” narrative against Daniel Ortega that the United States and its allies use as part of their multi-pronged effort to destroy the socialist-oriented, highly successful FSLN government. The US and their lackeys are trying to tapar el sol con un dedo – block the sun with one finger! But the achievements of the socialist-oriented Sandinista government, while fuzzy for a Western audience, are crystal clear for Nicaraguans, especially its working class (most of the population).

The expected, resounding victory of Daniel Ortega from the FSLN coalition is not a function of authoritarianism, but a consequence of the work the Sandinista government has done for the Nicaraguan population and the trust they’ve garnered as a result. One project at a time.

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Understanding the Bourgeois State

In a lecture delivered at the Sverdlov University on July 11, 1919, Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov remarked, “The state is a machine for maintaining the rule of one class over another.” In other words, the bourgeois state is a political product and institutional precipitate of the social dominance of capitalists. What does this dominance consists of? It comprises the successful management of the irreconcilable class antagonisms of a given social formation. Now, insofar that the state is a site historically occupied by the ruling class, it is an instrument deployed exclusively by it to maintain power, one which is constantly re-configured so as to be effective against the efforts of the subalterns to impose controls on its operations.

The fact that the state is a transformed form of social power – alienated from class society and so beyond its control – derives from the class domination of the bourgeoisie, which encompasses the whole set of economic, political and ideological forms of domination. Since the state arose in conjunction with the division of human societies into classes, it draws its sustenance from the hegemonic requirements of the dominant class, serving as the regulatory node where its economic rule is translated into political power; it is where it becomes centralized and condensed, reinforced with the power and authority of various state apparatuses.

As the state is the primary agency through which the ruling class gives appropriate socio-political forms to its economic clout, the basis for state apparatuses is defined by the constitutive violence of the wage labour-capital relation; i.e., the bourgeoisie’s claim to the juridical right to appropriate the surplus-value produced by the proletariat. The class character of the state, therefore, is linked to its status as a machine which recognizes only the force and violence of the bourgeoisie, which transforms the basic fact of economic exploitation into elaborate and dense networks of consent and coercion. G. M. Goshgarian’s introduction to Louis Althusser’s “Philosophy of the Encounter Later Writings, 1978-87” notes:

Because the state results from the transformation of an excess of class force, the differential between the class struggle of the dominant class and all the others (friend or foe), it is by definition the preserve of the victors in the struggle. And it is such whatever the ‘political form’ through which the dominant exercise state domination: the dominion of the landed nobility persists under absolutism, that of the capitalist class is not necessarily diminished – the contrary generally holds – with the advent of parliamentary democracy.

In short, the conflictual differential between the force of the dominant classes and that of the dominated classes – the dynamics of class struggle – gives structure to the state. However, as the state is based on this differential, class struggle is inscribed in a new framework within which only one force – the force of the bourgeoisie – is recognized, which is then transformed into hegemonic power. That is why Lenin said:

Every state in which private ownership of the land and means of production exists, in which capital dominates, however democratic it may be, is a capitalist state, a machine used by the capitalists to keep the working class and the poor peasants in subjection.

While the capitalist state is an instrument of the ruling class – functioning as an articulated whole and existing by virtue of specific hegemonic objectives – it is not structurally static. If we try to understand the state historically – as an instance of the combination of the singular elements that give rise to it, as ensemble of social relations in which real people move and act, as an ensemble of objective conditions – it becomes clear that the state is always-already embedded in a hegemonic matrix. Even though state apparatuses are in the service of the dominant class, the complex, uneven and contradictory logic of class struggle results in the continuous accrual of internal contradictions between different branches, the accentuation of the ideological role of a given apparatus, or the consolidation of violence.

However, the regular rhythms of class struggle never impact the fundamental structures of the state. While the proletariat can expand its influence in civil society and even gain parliamentary power, an elementary fact remains: since the derivative base of the state is class society and the violence upon which it rests, and its purpose is to transform the surplus of violence into legitimate force, what an electoral victory damages – through the creation of an alternative architecture of consent – is the transmission system of the state-machine. To comprehensively destroy the bourgeois state – and gain full-fledged hegemony – the proletariat has to not only open ruptures but confront the very materiality of the repressive apparatuses of the state. This process involves the construction of hegemonic apparatuses – the series of institutions, practices, and initiatives by means of which subalterns create popular organizations opposed to the logic of the bourgeois state.

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The Logic of Hegemony

On September 8, 2021, at least five media houses and six offices of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI (M)) were vandalized in three of Tripura’s eight districts by the ruling Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP). These instances of violence come after a growth in the intensity of the Left’s political activity.   While the center-right Congress Party is in a freefall and the Trinamool Congress (TMC) is busy in the reconstruction of its state unit, CPI (M) has been consistently engaged in building a strong social base. Through sustained protest campaigns against neoliberal policies, it has been highlighting the basic grievances of Tripura’s population.

The attacks against CPI (M) – in a crucial conjuncture of political struggle – reveal the inherent contradictions of liberal democracy. In §48 of Notebook 1, the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci proposed an important distinction between two modalities of modern-day governance. On the one hand, “the ‘normal’ exercise of hegemony on the now classic terrain of the parliamentary regime is characterized by a combination of force and consent which balance each other so that force does not overwhelm consent but rather appears to be backed by the consent of the majority, expressed by the so-called organs of public opinion”.

On the other hand, there are situations in which “the hegemonic apparatus cracks and the exercise of hegemony becomes ever more difficult. The phenomenon is presented and discussed in various terms and from different points of view. The most common are ‘crisis of the principle of authority’, ‘dissolution of the parliamentary regime’. Naturally, only the central manifestations of the phenomenon on the parliamentary or governmental level are described, and they are explained by the failure of the parliamentary ‘principle,’ of the democratic ‘principle,’ etc., but not the authority ‘principle’…Practically, this crisis manifests itself in…the ever greater instability of the governments”.

The interpenetrative interaction between force and consent corresponds to the texture of the distinction between political society and civil society respectively. In §38 of Notebook 4, Gramsci wrote that “[this] distinction is purely methodological and not organic” because it does not find actual confirmation “in concrete historical life”. As an example of this intertwined relationship, he speaks of “what is called ‘public opinion’” in § 83 of Notebook 7, noting that it “is tightly connected to political hegemony, in other words, it is the point of contact between ‘civil society’ and ‘political society’, between consent and force”.

Since hegemony is the specific linkage between civil society and political society, the moment of consent and the moment of force, civil society – far from being a sphere of freedom beyond the state, as is endlessly maintained by bourgeois commonsense – is an integral element of the hegemonic relations that structure the contemporary state. To establish and preserve the oppressed masses’ subalternity – their lack of historical personhood and political autonomy – the bourgeois state restricts mass activity in civil society to particular levels of passivity.

In §90 of Notebook 3, Gramsci argued: “The historical unification of the ruling classes is in the state and their history is essentially the history of states and of groups of states. This unity has to be concrete, and thus the result of relations between the state and civil society. For the subaltern classes unification does not occur: their history is intertwined with that of ‘civil society’, it is a disaggregated fraction of it”. In other words, the active production and reproduction of subalternity for some social groups is the structural foundation for any bourgeois ruling order, be it a liberal administration or a fascist dictatorship.

A system of political elites and passive citizenry is generated by the exigencies of legitimacy, which require that the dominant and leading class incorporate increasingly broader strata of its society in the national-popular framework – with the process of inclusion occurring in forms that definitively neutralize any threat of a graduated de-subalternization of the lower classes and their consequent transition to hegemonic politics. Thus, while subaltern social groups are present on the terrain of civil society, they occupy insignificant roles and positions, which led Gramsci to remark in §5 of Notebook 25 that “the subaltern classes, by definition, are not unified and cannot unify themselves until they become the ‘state’”.

Left parties are the social organisms that are responsible for the unification and historical subjectification of the subalterns – the process in which subaltern social groups stop being mere objects of contemplation for the discourses of the dominant classes and enact their self-representation through the formation of their own strata of organic intellectuals. This hegemonic project is the synthesis of political society and civil society, dedicated toward ending the unilateral determination of the latter by the former. When both the levels of society are unified in a political strategy, tactics are dialecticly dictated by the structural struggle for state control and the cultural-educational struggle for de-objectification.

The two aspects of the Left’s political strategy are a direct result of the objective mechanisms which determine consciousness – the material interests and articulated identities produced by social structures, arising through the practice and lived experience of subaltern agents. These agents are involved in relations, both with each other and with social structures and practices. The presence of structural determinations – primarily in the form of the restrictions imposed by civil society and political society – means that the Left’s political practices deploy a limited set of instruments upon certain kinds of raw material in a historically specific context against institutional resistance.

Hence, the Left’s hegemonic project is an articulated attempt to transform the existing structures and relations, to combine ethical-ideological goals of civil society with the strategic necessities of political society. Achieving dominance in political society crucially involves the objective elaboration of the independent position of the proletariat. In § 44 of Notebook 1, Gramsci said:

A class is dominant in two ways, namely it is ‘leading’ and ‘dominant’. It leads the allied classes, it dominates the opposing classes. Therefore, a class can (and must) ‘lead’ even before assuming power; when it is in power it becomes dominant, but it also continues to ‘lead’.

There can and there must be a ‘political hegemony’ even before assuming government power, and in order to exercise political leadership or hegemony one must not count solely on the power and material force that is given by government.

In other words, political dominance can only be grasped concretely in terms of the unity between state power (a relation of power, the domination of one social class over another), and the state apparatus (the institutional machinery in which the relation of state power is crystallized). The logic of the aggregation and disaggregation of class alliances – with the potential to determine the predominance of one form or the other in the course of the revolutionary transformation – should be directed by this ultimate objective; i.e., political leadership of the revolutionary movement of the people as a whole.

Considering the dialectic between force and consent, political society and civil society, it becomes clear that the CPI (M) in Tripura is engaged in a popular-democratic struggle aimed at the construction of the broad-based hegemony of progressive forces. The orientations of this dynamic are defined by a commitment to proletarian self-emancipation – the operation in which the antithesis of subalternity is forged and sustained not through a purely pedagogical and abstract assertion of working class independence but through political struggle embedded in determinate organizational forms. These movements are undergirded by the politically concrete formulations of relations of classes as constitutive components of a new historical bloc, as opposed to their perception as mere structural connections between sociological objects. How these developments will play out depends on the future amalgamation of forces in complex, uneven and contradictory conjunctures.

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