Category Archives: Interview

Iran:  New Member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization

On 17 September 2021 Iran became a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). It is an extraordinary achievement and new beginning for US and western sanction-badgered Iran. On the occasion PressTV interviewed Peter Koenig on what this move might bring for Iran. See the transcript below.

PressTV: Iran is finally a member of the SCO. It is said this solidifies a block to stand up to the West and US hegemony. Will it be able to do that, and is the era of unilateralism over?

Peter Koenig: First, my deepest and heartfelt congratulations for this extraordinary event – Iran the latest member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization – SCO.  Bravo!

Yes, this will definitely open new doors, prosperous doors, with new relations in the East. SCO, with the current membership, covers close to 50% of the world population and accounts for about one-third of the world’s GDP.

Being a member of this organization will take a lot of pressure away in terms of western sanctions, western impositions, monetary manipulations via the US dollar as a remedy for payment.

No more.

Iran is now free to deal in her own currency and in Yuan as well as in any currency of the SCO members because western-type trade currency restrictions do not exist in SCO member countries.

This will drastically reduce the potential for US / western sanctions and will increase, on the other hand, Iran’s potential to deal with the East; i.e., especially China and Russia; entering partnership agreements with these and other SCO countries, benefitting from comparative advantages. It may open-up a new socio-economic era for Iran.

Also, in terms of defense strategy.  Although SCO is not a military defense organization, per se, it offers strategic defense assistance and advice, and as such is a solidifying force for member countries.

SCO also respects countries’ autonomy and sovereignty, and facilitates trade arrangements between member countries.

Having said this, Iran must not lose sight of potentially disrupting internal factors, like the so-called Fifth Columnists – those who will keep pulling towards the west, and they are particularly dangerous as infiltrates in the financial sector, Treasury, Ministry of Finance, Central Bank, and so on. They are everywhere, also in Russia and China. But internal Iranian awareness and caution will help manage the risks and eventually overwhelm it. Russia has gone a long way in doing so and so has China. And so will Iran, I’m confident.

Again, excellent momentum to celebrate.  Congratulations!

PressTV: Iran will also be part of the different regional bodies in neighborhood regions, including Eurasia, that could spontaneously break the “sanctions wall” and lead to diversified fruitful foreign relations. Does this mean the US sanctions will not be as effective?

PK: Yes, absolutely. Regional bodies and trading arrangements within Eurasia – such as The Eurasian Economic Union – EAEU – has an integrated single market of 180 million people and a GDP of some 5 trillion dollars equivalent and growing. It covers eight countries of which 3 have observer status.

Other than trading with the members of the Eurasian Economic Union, the EAEU also has trading agreements as an entity with other countries, for example, with Singapore.

Then there is maybe the most important trade deal in world history, the ten ASEAN countries, plus China, as well as Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand – but not the United States. Thus, no dealings in US dollars, no potential for US sanctions. This Trade Agreement is called The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). It was signed in November 2020 on the occasion of the annual summit of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

RCEP countries have a combined GDP of US$ 26.2 trillion or about 30% of global GDP, and they account for nearly 28% of global trade (based on 2019 figures). Total population of RCEP countries is 2.3 billion, roughly 30% of the world’s inhabitants.

Negotiation of this trade deal took 8 years. The longest ever. And it will, of course, take time to reach the full potential of integrating the sovereign countries’ economies. In contrast to the European Union, RCEP will, to the utmost possible, preserve each country’s sovereignty. This is important in the long-run, especially for conservation of national cultures, ideologies and national development strategies.

There may be a good chance for Iran to negotiate early entry into the RCEP Agreement. It will definitely be a blow to US sanctions – and on the other hand a tremendous opportunity for diversification of markets, production and consumption.

Again, congratulations. Being a member of the SCO is an extraordinary achievement. As, I always say – the future is in the East.

Best of luck to Iran with new partners and new friends.

The post Iran:  New Member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Great Contest of Our Time Is between Humanity and Imperialism

Uttam Ghosh (India), Let Cuba Live, 2021.

Uttam Ghosh (India), Let Cuba Live, 2021.

On 23 July 2021, a full-page appeal appeared in the New York Times calling on United States President Joe Biden to withdraw the vindictive US blockade against Cuba. As that appeal went to press, I spoke to Chinese journalist Lu Yuanzhi of Global Times (GT). The remainder of this newsletter carries the contents of that interview, which ranges from the US policy against Cuba to the New Cold War against China.

Ryan Honeyball (South Africa), Unite Against Imperialism, 2021.

Ryan Honeyball (South Africa), Unite Against Imperialism, 2021.

Global Times: The novel coronavirus epidemic and the long-term US blockade have severely hit Cubans’ wellbeing. By exploiting Cuba’s current hardships, the US is exacerbating problems. As the sole superpower, the US has long pursued a hostile policy toward this small socialist country to its south. Why can’t the US tolerate a small socialist country in its periphery?

Vijay Prashad: Cuba, since 1959, has offered an alternative vision for humanity, one that puts the well-being of people before the requirements of profit. That Cuba – a poor country – was able to vanquish hunger and illiteracy rather quickly, while the US – a rich country – continues to be plagued by such elementary problems illustrates the humanity at the core of the socialist project. This is unforgivable for the elites in the US. Hence, they continue to tighten the wretched blockade against Cuba. In fact, they use all kinds of means – including social media warfare, a part of the hybrid war strategy – to undermine the confidence of the Cuban people. This was attempted on 11 July, but it failed. Tens of thousands of Cubans took to the street to defend their Revolution.

GT: Although the UN has overwhelmingly condemned the US blockade against Cuba for many years in a row, Washington has continued its inhumane policy. What does this mean for the US’ international image? US President Joe Biden said, ‘The US stands firmly with the people of Cuba’, but his administration has no intention to lift the blockade. Who are the audiences of such hypocritical diplomatic rhetoric?

VP: The US does not ‘stand firmly with the people of Cuba’. In fact, the US stands on the neck of the Cuban people. This is clear to the 184 member states of the UN that voted on 23 June to send a message to the US to end the blockade. The fact is that President Joe Biden has refused to even roll back the 243 coercive measures implemented by Donald Trump. The world recognises the cruelty of the blockade on Cuba and of the illegal sanctions policy that the US exercises against at least 30 countries around the world. But, because of the power of the US, there are only a few countries that are willing to do more than vote in the UN General Assembly on behalf of Cuba.

Cuba needs material support, which is lacking from the international community; this material support would include supplies for the Cuban pharmaceutical industry, for example, and it would include food. If the US does not roll back the blockade, will key countries of the world come together to break it?

Lizzie Suarez (US), Hands Off Cuba!, 2021.

Lizzie Suarez (US), Hands Off Cuba!, 2021.

GT: The US’ handling of the COVID-19 epidemic is obviously a failure, with the highest death toll across the world. In the face of the pandemic, the US capitalist system’s value of economics over human life has been fully exposed. The pandemic has put a dent in the US’ institutional advantages and discursive power. Has the capitalist system become dysfunctional in the face of major crises?

VP: The capitalist system is very good at generating vast amounts of commodities and very high qualities of certain kinds of commodities. It is good at producing high-value medical care, for instance, but not so good at producing quality public health care. This has to do with the profit motive. Since there is great social inequality, most of the public does not have cash in their pockets for quality health care, so health care simply is not affordable or possible for the vast majority. It is this attitude towards health and education that shows us the inhumane side of capitalism. During the pandemic, 64 countries spent more to service their external debt than on health care. Such are the ways of the capitalist system: to ensure that wealthy bond holders in the developed world make their money while the poor struggle to survive.

GT: China’s response to the pandemic has clearly demonstrated the strengths of its people-oriented philosophy and its political system. What is your take on the increasing influence of China’s political system after the pandemic? How can the outside world better understand the unique advantages of China’s political system under the leadership of Communist Party of China (CPC)? How can China better counter the West’s slander of the CPC?

VP: China’s approach to the pandemic has been along the grain of the World Health Organisation’s recommendation: use science, compassion, and collaboration to tackle the pandemic. The Chinese people volunteered to help each other, doctors who are Communist Party members volunteered to go to the frontlines, and the Chinese state opened its coffers to ensure that the disease was vanquished and that the people did not suffer from a prolonged economic downturn. There is much to be learned from this approach; our studies on CoronaShock delve into this.

This stands in stark contrast to the anti-science, inhumane, and narrowly nationalistic attitude of many of the Western countries and several others in the developing world; their approach led to chaos. It is because of the failure in places such as the US that Trump, for instance, began to blame China in a racist way for the emergence of the virus. We know scientifically that viruses appear for a variety of reasons, and none of them have to do with race. Chinese intellectuals and others need to offer clear accounts of Chinese developments, including the abolition of extreme poverty and the rather quick defeat of COVID-19. Such accounts will help people in other parts of the world understand the relationship between public action and state action in China. This is widely misunderstood, largely because of the information war pursued by the US and its allies. On 23 July, Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research published a key text called Serve the People: The Eradication of Extreme Poverty in China based on field studies of the abolition of extreme poverty.

Justina Chong (People’s Republic of China), El cosechero (‘The Harvester’), 2021.

Justina Chong (People’s Republic of China), El cosechero (‘The Harvester’), 2021.

GT: The West’s narrative of the CPC in recent years has always avoided mentioning the CPC’s positive effects on China’s social progress and global economic development. Why can’t the West objectively evaluate the CPC?

VP: The West cannot be objective because the West fears the rise of Chinese science and technology. For the past 50 years, Western firms have monopolised the areas of high-tech, using intellectual property laws to lengthen their copyright advantages. Developments in China are an existential threat to the dominance of these Western firms in areas such as telecommunications, robotics, high-speed rail, and new energy technology. It is the fear of losing supremacy in these key tech sectors that drives the ‘new cold war’ against China and prevents a sober assessment of Chinese developments.

Rather than develop a sensible attitude, the West has gone in four directions. First, it has prosecuted a trade and economic war against China to maintain US economic and technological supremacy. Second, it has pressured developing countries and US allies to break with Chinese firms and isolate China. Third, it has attempted to smear China’s reputation by misleadingly using the framework of ‘human rights’ and by supporting anti-government and separatist forces within China. Lastly, it has pursued military provocation, particularly through the Quad alliance (Australia, India, Japan, and the US). These mechanisms blind the Western public to the realities of China.

GT: During China’s reform and opening up period, the country has been open to learning from Western societies. This has greatly boosted China’s development. Do you think there can be such an ideological emancipation in the West to take China’s political system seriously? 

VP: One hopes that clarity will come to the Western public, who are – as yet – guided by a political class that is doing the work for sectors of the economy that are threatened by Chinese scientific and technological developments. In the short run, no such positive evaluation is possible. It is more likely for such an evaluation to come in the countries of Africa, Latin America, and southern Asia, where people will understand the immense power of the abolition of extreme poverty and the immense power of the creation of an indigenous high-tech industry. Under Lula, Brazil abolished hunger through the Fome Zero programme, while the Left Democratic Front-led Indian state Kerala has recently embarked on a poverty eradication programme. These areas of the world can better appreciate the strides taken by the Chinese people than those who live in the West.

Yoemnis Batista Del Toro (Cuba), Untitled, 2021.

Yoemnis Batista Del Toro (Cuba), Untitled, 2021.

GT: Since Biden took office, his administration has spared no effort to rope in like-minded democracies to contain China, attempting to replicate the rivalry between the two blocs led by the US and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Do you think the democratic card is an effective way for the US to rally an anti-China camp?

VP: The idea of a community of democracies has a farcical edge to it because this new group is being put together to use all manners of force (diplomatic, economic, military, etc.) to pressure China and Russia to reverse their advances. A truly democratic group should abide by the UN Charter, which is exactly what the kind of sanctions policies enacted by the Western countries defies. That is why 18 countries have created the Group of Friends in Defence of the UN Charter. This is an important development, since it suggests that the point is to stand by the Charter and not to speak in the name of an abstract democracy that often means that a country must be subordinate to Western interests. The world does not wish to be divided into camps.

The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) will be 60 years old this September. The appetite in the developing world remains for the NAM project. Countries do not want to pick sides in a ‘new cold war’ that no-one, apart from the US, wants. The divide is not between China and the US, a division that the US is trying to impose on the world: the divide is between humanity and imperialism.

GT: Your book Washington Bullets lists the assassinations and infiltrations of the US CIA in various places. US imperialism has been resisted on a global scale. How do you see the fate of US imperialism?

VP: The US remains a very powerful country, with the largest military force that is capable of action anywhere on the planet and with forms of soft power (such as cultural and diplomatic power) that are enviable. Despite the terrible record of US interference in the developing world – which I document in Washington Bullets (2020) – the US retains a powerful hold on the world’s imagination. There remains a view – however wrong it is – that the US operates its power in a benevolent manner and that it acts in the universal, and not nationalist, interest. The cultural power of the US is considerable, which is why the US is so easily able to wield the weapons of information against any adversary.

Roughly 30 years ago, Cuba’s Fidel Castro urged countries around the world not to neglect the battle of ideas. US imperialism is not eternal. It is being confronted now by the growth of multipolarity and regionalism. These are the key developments that cannot be stopped by the US military or by cultural power. Multipolarity and regionalism are the real movement of history. They will eventually prevail.

Gabriel de Medeiros Silveira (Brazil), Break the Wall, 2021.

Gabriel de Medeiros Silveira (Brazil), Break the Wall, 2021.

The art in this newsletter comes from the Let Cuba Live exhibition by Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research, launched on the anniversary of the 26 July Movement’s founding in Cuba as peace-loving people across the world rally around the demand for an end to the US blockade.

The post The Great Contest of Our Time Is between Humanity and Imperialism first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Three Guys and a Podcast Questioning the SOP of the ‘traditional’ Left

I was asked to appear on What’s Left?, a podcast put on by three fellows, all identifying as socialist, and all concerned about the shut down of critical thinking, the shuttling of alternative narratives and censoring of plain old questioning paradigms and authorities of any ilk. Their concern covers why questioning the scientism of today’s Corona Craziness is somehow verboten, or why we can’t discuss what the Lockdowns do and do not do, or worse, how the censoring of medical treatments (like ivermectin) — life saving ones — by mass media, left media and by so-called leftists has killed thousands.

They have a more far-ranging repertoire, and in these various podcasts, they take on sacred cows and traditional paradigms coming from “the left.” What is Left; i.e. What’s Left, is something that has been tackled here at DV:

What Is Progressivism? by Kim Petersen

This Is the Left? by Steve Church

Don’t Confuse the Left with the Right But Beware of the False Left by Kim Petersen

What Is (and Is Not) Left-Wing? by Kieran Kelly

The Left: Sleepwalking among the Workless Class by Kim Petersen

A great idea — self-reflective, rhetorical, didactic — turned into a regular twice-a-month discourse with a guest (many times) and these three dudes — Eduardo, Kenny and Andy. Sometimes it’s just the three of them grappling with modernity and history, the collision of left with consumerism, how capitalism is a disease but one we live with or under. Many times, the shows are awakenings, as the three of them come at the respective topics from very defined and diverse backgrounds. Connotation versus denotation, and then all the heralded processed of analytical thinking, and discourse and debate (they do not always agree on issues or spins).

There is a refreshing openness to what the three do, and how many times the topics are picked out of a bucket one week while then the three go about researching each topic to bring some construction to the podcast. They lean into discovery, and how their own more or less generalized collective social justice ethos dovetails into the realities of Xenophobia, Colonizing minds, collective delusion, and, yes, why leftists in general have a slew of topics they just will not venture toward, or worse, topics for which leftists will not entertain multiple discourses and perspectives around, albeit, what we see now, a cancelling, or censoring of discussion and debate, de facto or overtly pronounced. Like a house of cards, lies and ameliorating toward some cherished false balance or invented purity come tumbling down.

Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. Not respecting anyone, he ceases to love, and having no love, he gives himself up to the passions and coarse pleasures, in order to occupy and amuse himself, and in his vices reaches complete bestiality, and it all comes from lying continually to others and to himself.

— Zosima makes this speech to Fyodor Pavlovich in Book II:  Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov

Here, recent shows:

  • JUL 17, 2021 — Biden’s Sleight of Hand in Afghanistan
  • JUL 10, 2021 — Abolish the Police! I Mean, Defund the Police! Never mind, Fund the Police!
  • JUL 3, 2021 — Haeder’s Reimagining Sanity – Batty Bioweapons, 5G, Star Wars
  • JUN 26, 2021 — The Lowdown on Higher Ed
  • JUN 19, 2021 — Secret Societies and the New World Order
  • JUN 13, 2021 — What is the New World Order?

Even Kenny was interviewed a while back on the show — What’s Left? interviews Kenny Zepeda on his journey from Guatemala to the United States and from liberal reformist to socialist revolutionary. Previous What’s Left? Episodes Kenny on revolts in Chile and Latin America, Kenny on Climate Change Nicaragua and Fake Socialism, What’s Left? Kenny Z.: The Revolutionary Road

Their first episodes dealt with myriad of issues — beginning August 2018

  • Sacrificing Everything for Nike
  • Prison Strike 2018!
  • Interview with a Pro-Capitalist Anarchist
  • What’s Left of Abortion Rights?
  • Is the U.S. Turning to Fascism?

As teachers, Andy and Eduardo have been dealing with lockdowns and Zoom doom rooms for educating (sic) youth. They are dealing with fellow teachers who have taken the Covid-19 pill that has turned them into Covidians.

They are concerned about the censorship of leftists who might question the bioweapon theories, or promulgate them, citing USA DARPA and other nefarious actors in higher ed, industry, etc.

The Jab, Star Wars, and the Bubble Net of Digital Gulags

In the new world, it is not the big fish which eats the small fish, it’s the fast fish which eats the slow fish. — Klaus Schwab

That was May 22, 2021. The episode was great, far-ranging and with my own brand of frenetic fervor, and, alas, it was taken down from YouTube:

Pulled from YouTube”: Mantra of Our Age by Paul Haeder,  July 13th, 2021

I am of the opinion that people have the right to decide whether to accept vaccines or not, especially since these are experimental vaccines … My concern is I know there are risks but we don’t have access to the data … We don’t really have the information we need to make a reasonable decision.

— Dr. Robert Malone, “Inventor of mRNA Interviewed About Injection Dangers“

Now, I will give readers the entire interview I did with them, via email, here, to give the reader a decent look at three very different men and their narratives, their avocations, their work now, and what makes them tick as socialists-Marxists.

Hear no Evil, See no Evil, Speak no Evil by Gavin Mayhew

They have moved into the Fourth Industrial Revolution to what is a new world order.

For me, I was asked to handle the ungainly topics of Covid-19 as a bioweaponized monster, possibly put into the world intentionally by USA, and then 5G and 6G, what that means to public and environmental health, and then tying in the militarization of space as part and parcel of the pogrom.

What's Left? (podcast) - Eduardo Abarca & Andy Libson | Listen Notes

Now, I believe Andy at first gravitated to me because I am an unapologetic communist, and that is a refined term in some sense since I’m not espousing a communism that has been bastardized by USA, by the media, even by some history.

Tolerance is another buzzword, and for all those gigs I worked where I questioned the management, the deans, the presidents, provosts, the managers, the editors, et al, well, this country is propaganda central, wink and a nod, smoke and mirrors, and triangulating those who doubt the goals of management and the leadership — triangulating us out of the discussion, the discourse, hence, the death of critical debate/thinking/questioning.

Now, I don’t see on What’s Left?, 163 episodes, a deep look at some of these shenanigans, in the world, and not just Rogue State USA. Israel.

That in a nutshell is the death knell:

Here, a far-ranging discussion on Israel and on the Covid program:

Listen to  Julianne Romanello, Gilad Atzmon, and Jason Bosch go deep into “ideological and spiritual thoughts that have turned our world into an open air prison.” This sort of show, well, scrubbed, and right along the lines of looking at this concept of “chosenness, and then at the work of Leo Strauss, Athens & Jerusalem, Noahide fundamentals, the origin of Zionism and many other crucial topics most intellectuals insist to avoid…”

Better Dead Than Red Sticker & Decal - Ballistic Ink

These are the times, but they were the times for me a long time ago, when I was 13, questioning cruise ships knocking over coral reefs, or bulldozers destroying the Sonora, or the Vietnam War narratives, and it just continued every place I ended up as a worker: the people “in power” are lunatics, for the most part. On one level, sure, let’s do some trauma informed care, but in the end, this society’s underbelly  — USA, Canada, UK, Europe and Australia — has to be questioned!

Education, since all of us are educators, that is, with the What’s Left? reference, is amazingly entrenched in indoctrination and deadening of critical thinking:

Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher's Journey Through The Dark World of Compulsory Schooling by John Taylor Gatto

And, the narrative around Israel and what’s happening globally, well, that is shut down all the time:

ESSENTIAL READING:

  • Microsoft, Google join Whatsapp lawsuit vs. Israeli spyware developer
  • Stuxnet: The Israeli-American Computer Virus That Started Cyber-Warfare

RELATED READING:

  • Snowden: Israeli technology may have helped Saudis kill journalist
  • Israeli Spying on US, Perfecting 24/7 Surveillance Tech
  • Why did Microsoft fund an Israeli firm that surveils West Bank Palestinians?
  • Israel Launches Internet “Command Center” to Monitor Social Media
  • Julian Assange exposed the crimes of powerful actors, including Israel
  • Israel advocate Ravich named to senior intelligence post, planned US-Israel cyber project against BDS

VIDEOS:

  • ADL to Build Silicon Valley Center to Monitor & Fight “Cyberhate” [Video]
  • Israel is Training U.S. Police

Check out more here — If Americans Knew and Palestine News:

Identified by Google, an Israeli spyware company has enabled government hacking of social media and email accounts of over 100 journalists, activists, and others.

Israeli Hackers

The American Federation of Teachers, all those colleges and universities, and K12 ordering everyone to get an mRNA experimental treatment (sic), they will use the tools of oppression, from Google to Israel’s hacking and tracking and ripping up tools. Andy did a live event, with social distancing (sic), even masks, outside, with parental permission, on circuits. The honchos at his school in the Mission District of San Francisco came down hard on him. We know the feeling, Andy, we being the royal “we.”

Check out an interview of Andy on Left Lockdown Skeptics —  “Fighting lockdown in California: A US teacher speaks

Q & A for Paul Haeder

Paul Haeder: What is “What’s Left?” and how did it come about?

Eduardo: Oh, golly… I think, for me, it started back in 2017 in the aftermath of the “Unite the Right rally” in Charlottesville as I was attempting to politically make sense of the times and debate a childhood friend of mine on a public social platform. I had watched many Oxford debates before and wanted to do something similar. I really thought my friendship was on the line. Fortunately, Andy had come along at that time and shared with me he was interested in taking our own café political discussions online. So, we had a long conversation about the idea of “What’s Left?” and its intention. Something we both agreed on early on was to have open, honest discussions about our personal politics and ideas. We wanted to create a space for alternative points of view that challenged the mainstream Left. We had noticed there was a growing tribalistic way of thinking on the Left that seemed to cancel all deviant political discourse. Hence, “What’s Left?” came into being.

Andy: Eduardo and I started “What’s Left?” 3 years ago.  For me, I had been politically frustrated at not having an outlet for discussing my own political ideas and thoughts that came up as events happened.  At the same time, I watched YouTube channels on groups of friends who would get together and review movies or video games.  They seemed to have fun doing that and I approached Eduardo about trying to do the same thing but with politics.  I have always enjoyed talking with Eduardo and I trusted him to be passionate and honest about his beliefs (just as I was trying to be).  It has been both rewarding and fun despite YouTube’s censorship nonsense.

Kenny: I joined the show a couple years ago. I first joined Andy and Eduardo in a conversation about the events unfolding in Nicaragua in 2018. From then on, I participated as an occasional contributor regarding Latin America related topics until I was approached to contribute on a weekly basis.

PH: “What’s Left?” is composed of three hosts. Can each of you share your background?

Kenny: I’ve been a restaurant worker and a manager at a small mom and pop restaurant in San Francisco, CA. most of my working age life. I grew up in Guatemala until the age of 12 when we emigrated to California. Much of what has informed my road to Marxism has to do with lived experiences such as migration from Guatemala to the U.S. A , my father’s dealing with immigration and eventual  deportation, attending public school in San Francisco, entering and dropping out of UC Berkeley, growing up around sex work, growing up in a U.S. backed military dictatorship in Guatemala among other things. The search for answers that actually make sense has shaped my life and led me to Marxism.

Eduardo: I was a “cross cultural kid” having lived in México with all of my tías/tíos, abuelitos and primos, then as I got older went to public school in San Francisco, CA. I would study in San Francisco then spend my rather long summers back home. It was an atypical Latino experience of back and forth. I cannot say I had the common undocumented Latino experience for most families in the USA. I mean most families are not crossing the border over skies multiple times a year. So, it shapes one in a way. But I would say my 18 years as a Jehovah’s Witness had the most impact in my life. I would read forbidden literature late into the wee hours, be curious of all things deprived of me and learned never to trust ANY person, organization or ideology claiming to be the “right way.” I will say it fulfilled my desire to be of service to others. It was just an awful sort of service of conversion. Although, I did teach many illiterate people how to read over that time. I found another way to fulfill that void when I witnessed the massive anti-war protests of 2003 and joined the school walkouts. From there it was joining many Lefty movements and campaigns, such as supporting progressive candidates. I think my skills as an organizer and activist of rallies and protests, though, were sharpened by Occupy Wall Street and protests against GMO companies. Those experiences have influenced the way I think and do things. If I had to label myself, I would say I am anarchist-leaning-syndicalist-Leftist-libertarian. If you have an issue with that mouthful, too bad.

 Andy: I am a school teacher in San Francisco (who lives in Oakland).  I have been teaching science (physics and chemistry) for over 20 years.  I have been a Marxist for that long as well.  I have been in socialist organizations and active in my union over that time.  Currently, while still active in my union, I am pretty much a solo communist trying to find a political community to work with.  “What’s Left?” has been a big part of rebuilding that community.

PH: What for you are some of the more compelling topics and issues you all have covered?

Andy: I think the one episode that stands out for me is our interviews with Eric Lerner (part 1 and part 2) challenging the notion of the Big Bang as a theory that explains our current universe.  This was such a surprising issue for me and uprooted a core premise of my beliefs in an area that caught me completely off guard.  At the same time, it explained the nagging sense I had that there was some real problems with these things like dark matter and dark energy.  So these episodes, for me, symbolize the way my world has been continually shifted and uprooted as I take this political journey with Eduardo and Kenny.  It also symbolizes my attempt to use truth as my North Star, not ideology.

Eduardo: Oh, there are so many. But I think I’ll go with what has recently changed me in many ways. The topics around the Internet of Things with Alison McDowell, and, what I call “my COVID journey”, the reopening schools debate as well as the vaccines. It’s been a rollercoaster and re-traumatising being rejected and attacked on a personal level from friends on the Left who disagree with everything we have recently discussed. I also realize we have to discuss unpopular topics or say more than “We oppose Trump!”.

Kenny: For me, the show has been instrumental in processing and dissecting a number of topics, but most especially everything related to the pandemic. I’ve been particularly captivated by the fast encroachment of tech into our lives and the implications it will have for dissenting working class voices.

PH: What topics would you like to cover in the future on “What’s Left?”

Kenny: I’d love to continue covering relevant topics to fellow workers, in ways that are accessible and not elitist, in the hopes that we can spark interest in thinking outside the parameters chosen by our ruling class. I would definitely love to continue tracking the implementation of the techno-fascist world being built in the name of social justice with rhetoric of inclusion. I’d love to continue processing the implications of current events outside the mainstream manufactured narratives.

Andy: “What’s Left?” has really been a labor of love, and we have pretty much been able to interview the people and cover the subjects we want. I would say that I hope that it can increasingly become a locus of organizing for me as I try to build a community of parents, teachers, activists and even students who are prepared to join me in fighting the implementation of the 4th industrial revolution in education.

Eduardo: We have to continue covering on-the-ground workers’ experience and any significant mobilization. However, if it’s slow and there isn’t much going on currently, I’d like to delve into more labor history and revolutions. Hopefully that will inspire more workers to organize.

PH: Your channel has experienced a lot of censorship with YouTube taking many of your videos down and threatening you with “community strikes”. How has this affected your channel? How has it affected you personally?

Eduardo: The ruthless censorship of YouTube and big social media platforms is outrageous. I don’t understand how we can criticize China and North Korea for their censorship when we have it going on here as well. The recent strikes on our channel have been eye-opening. I just don’t get why it hasn’t been for others. I wish our channel could reach more people. Unfortunately, we started at a time when the play of algorithms has been used against us. On a personal level, sometimes it feels discouraging because I imagined we would reach more people. Andy and I discussed from the beginning, though, that our intention wasn’t to gain “followers” or “subscribers” for popularity contests. I just hope our political conversations reach more folks as we see people really relieved to have found us when they write to us on our blog. They feel connected and not so alone anymore.

Kenny: I suspect that regardless if we are straight up taken down, the algorithm gods will manage our content’s diffusion. In my perspective, this is only the beginning of the even more dystopian doctored sense of ‘reality”. YouTube’s censorship hasn’t affected me personally in any significant way. At least not now. I expected it in some form or another. It does shed some light into the fast approaching dystopian future. The censorship and political isolation in my community is another story.

Andy: YouTube’s censorship is bullshit. It has definitely been a disruption to getting our message out on YouTube, but from what I understand, even without the censorship, YouTube’s ‘algorithm’ has kept our channel in check. But, I think one good thing about it (if you can call it that) is that it has forced me to really challenge my beliefs in pushing me to speak my beliefs in the face of censorship or isolation. Of course, I want our channel to be seen by more people, but not at the expense of us staying true to our vision of “What’s Left?” is a place where people can speak honestly. So, I am going to stick with honesty and let YouTube decide for themselves if we can do so there. If not, I am content with the idea that we will find other places to have our discussions.

 PH:  Given the sort of culling of discussion and debate and information flow back and forth being by the elites, what would you tell students who might ask you why all the websites and podcasts and videos are coming down?

 Andy: As a teacher, my political focus has always been on organizing and talking with other adults (co-workers and parents). The best way to help students organize is to be a model for them in my pursuit of getting us adults to wage a fight for our collective liberation. I have found this road a difficult one, but I do not think I can teach my students anything about the fight for our own liberation unless I engage in that pursuit with my fellow workers right now. I do talk with students who ask me about my beliefs but I rarely use the classroom as a vehicle for getting my politics out there, although I will facilitate discussions when they come up to see what students’ ideas are.

Eduardo: I think there are enough great episodes from Black Mirror to ease the conversation into the idea that we are increasingly approaching a dystopian future if we don’t organize to intervene. From there, I would share and facilitate discussions around the culling of our political freedom of speech. But I think it goes beyond the classroom. So many educators want to contain or effect change within the confines of the classroom. We have to organize together alongside them to create the change we want to see.

Kenny: I’m not a teacher/educator. I’ll sit this one out.

PH: If you were stuck with a stranger on an elevator and could only talk briefly, how would you describe the core of your political beliefs?

Kenny: I’m highly suspicious of power and strongly believe in the power of community. I think capitalism rewards antisocial behavior and it’s inherently coercive. Capitalism cannot be contained  with legislative reform as advocated by liberal ideology. I think we live in a world technologically capable of sustaining organized human life and only a socialist revolution can and must take over the wealth workers create for the good of the masses and away from the truly privileged few. Capitalism, through its inherent violent and competitive nature, cannot bring about a world of peace and abundance for the masses. Only a revolution that suppresses wage slavery and other coercive and destructive mechanisms of capitalism can change the course of the cataclysm ahead of us. The profit motive must be obliterated out of production. What we produce must serve life, NOT  profit.

Andy: I am a Communist. I believe the collective working class is the only force that can make a revolutionary change of our current system, Capitalism. Capitalism is the organized theft of our labor by a minority and is at the root of virtually all the problems we see in society today —  war, racism, sexism, environmental destruction and the deep isolation and alienation all workers feel. The only way out of this is a socialist revolution that eliminates the profit motive for production and establishes worker’s rule through mass working class democracy.

Eduardo: I am an anarchist-syndicalist-Leftist-libertarian-anti-capitalist. I don’t claim to have the answers. I don’t know what is the best approach. I am skeptical of many things. But what I do know is that the current system that we are living in isn’t working for us. It’s detrimental and we are going to suffer greatly if we don’t put a stop to this system. I believe we have to organize as workers and see that the Leftist identity politics isn’t getting us anywhere. We can’t be shutting down or shutting out other people because of their political positions. We have to challenge them and we have to continue sorting it out together… but by working together.

PH: Are you a pacifist, and if so, why, and if not, then what, and why?

Eduardo: I want to say yes. I dream of a world where our revolution could be achieved in such a way. Unfortunately, I am struggling seeing how that could become possible. The capitalist class and all people with power have waged violence on us. They have started this fight and are willing to massively destroy us if we don’t defend ourselves. I still have a lot of conflicting feelings over this topic.

Kenny: “For the oppressor, peace is the absence of a response to their violence.” I think history has been sanitized to make us believe fundamental change arrives through Disneyfied slogans and appealing to the morality of the oppressor. Capitalism is inherently violent, and it attempts to have a monopoly of violence in the hands of the police/military  and other coercive institutions. If we pretend to rattle the cage of power, we have to be ready to respond to the unleashing of the institutions built to protect a violent system. We have to be able to contend with their monopoly of violence. My mother taught me to exhaust all the means necessary to avoid violence, but she also taught me some abusers can only be pushed out of the way by punching them in the face when you must.

Andy: No. I believe we will ultimately need to be armed to liberate ourselves from Capitalism. A class war will be necessary and I do believe violence has a role in workers’ experience of liberation (such as anti-colonial struggles or anti-occupation resistance).  We live in a system where two great classes are in opposition to each other (Capitalist and Worker), and we live under their violent boot every second of every day that Capitalism exists.  This system will require violence to uproot it.  The better we are organized, the less violence required, but we must recognize our struggle as a war if we are to understand both the stakes and the seriousness of the struggle we are engaged in.

PH: Where do you see the world in 20 years?

Andy: I believe in the possibility of working class revolution, but currently I don’t believe we will make it happen in time.  I think Capitalism is headed to its 3rd global war which will embroil China, United States, Russia, Europe, and India as the major players in a life and death struggle to see who will control the globe (and secure maximum profits, resources and markets for itself).  Unless stopped (and I believe working class revolution is the only way to stop this inevitability), we will have a war that will go nuclear and kill billions and likely destroy the world enough to push all of us back into feudal existence at best.  I think some of the sci-fi depictions we see in “The Road” or “Mad Max” are pretty good descriptors of where things are headed.  That’s what I see for us in the next 20 years unless we do something to stop it.

Kenny: I think we need a global workers’ socialist revolution with the most decisive battle happening in the economic north. The U.S., the world’s dominant hegemon, is being challenged and will continue to be challenged as it overextends itself. All empires suffer a violent end. The U.S. threatens to bring the entirety of organized human life down with it. Cooperation in capitalism is only a tenuous illusion. The illusion of cooperation will be exposed as the major powers come into a competitive clash under the pressures of dwindling resources and markets.

Eduardo: It’s unfortunate that I don’t think the world will get any better if we don’t do something about it now. My view is quite grim. Alison McDowell has been on our show many times and has shown us how fast the fourth industrial revolution is accelerating. I fear we are losing a part of ourselves, our humanity. But I think we each have to continue this lucha one step at a time.

PH: Define what it means to be a human?

 Eduardo: To be human is to be of service, to think, to understand we are linked and interconnected. In the USA there is a strong selfish individualistic culture. Where I am from people live together communally as families and neighbors for years, if not forever. I fear we have lost that in many ways here. I think we can only come to an understanding by building those long-term relationships to understand such values as compassion, care and love beyond our immediate selves.

Andy: Being human means being free to both express yourself, be yourself and through that find out who you truly are.  But humans are social, so society must be free to have free associations so that a community can likewise be free to find and express itself through the free participation of its individual members.  At the root of being human is being free to be yourself and free to associate with whomever best fits your true self.

Kenny: Being human is the ability to understand processes beyond our individual survival. Being human is the ability to understand how our destinies are inter-connected with other life forms. Being human is the recognition that we are social beings and that our individual well being rests on the well being of our communities and our environment both locally and globally.

PH: What does community mean to you?

Kenny: Community is a pillar of humanity.

Eduardo: Bees come to mind. I mean I can think of many animal examples we could admire for their systems of communities. We can be more than that. I think we would not allow much of what is happening, such as the destruction of our environment, the occupation of lands and other profit-driven acts if we felt that pull and tie to one another. If we work together, if we think of all our comrades/companions, we would build a stronger and brighter future.

Andy: A community is a set of people I trust enough to be my true self with.  A community is a collection of people who make worthwhile the sacrifice of my time and abilities to make that community stronger and more able to bring the best out of all of its members.  A true community celebrates and strengthens its individual members and is strengthened and celebrated by the individuals who compose it.

PH: What have been some of your biggest influencers in your life to have gotten you where you are now? And, exactly where are you now?

Andy: Politically, my development as a Marxist who tries to blend my ideas (theory) with practice, I would say my friend, Brian Belknap, has been the most significant influence.  Personally, there are many people I could cite, but I think I would put my decision to engage in counseling over the last 15 years as the most significant decision to help me integrate my current self with my past self and integrate my political self with my personal self.  In terms of historical political influences, I would put the major ones as Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, and Rosa Luxemburg as the biggest influences who help me orient myself as I try to make my way in the confusing journey of trying to change the world.

Kenny: My mother has always advocated for the marginalized by putting her well being in harms ways. She influenced me by showing up for others and for justice. My mother inspired me to speak against inhumane and despicable acts and to side with the weak and abused while advocating for myself. Even though she never engages in theory, my mother has always been a communist in practice. A passionate enemy of maliciousness.

Eduardo: Oh so many… Noam Chomsky helped me make sense of world politics. How wars, greed and power trips make these empires run the world. Christopher Hitchens gave me a way to leave my former Jehovah’s Witness life. Subcomandante Marcos, from the Zapatista movement, was an inspiration early on and provided the hope that class/native action can happen. Though small, they have achieved something that you won’t find anywhere in the USA. I think these are the top three figures that have paved the way for me.

Note: We’d like to thank Paul Haeder for the opportunity to share our story and our thoughts on Dissident Voice.  If you like what we have to say and want to talk to us on “What’s Left?” feel free to contact us at:  what’s left? 

https://www.elcohetealaluna.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Cuba-resiste.jpg

At a 1969 Students for a Democratic Society conference, a 27-year old graduate of the University of Chicago’s Law School, Bernardine Dohrn, proposed:

The best thing that we can be doing for ourselves, as well as for the Panthers and the revolutionary black liberation struggle, is to build a fucking white revolutionary movement.

The post Three Guys and a Podcast Questioning the SOP of the ‘traditional’ Left first appeared on Dissident Voice.

What the Science Says about COVID-19

Very insightful words from Ottawa-based physicist and interdisciplinary scientist, Denis Rancourt, a former tenured professor of physics at U of Ottawa (20+ years) and currently a researcher with the Ontario Civil Liberties Association. He has written over 100 papers in leading scientific journals.

Denis speaks about a variety of issues pertaining to COVID-19, the faulty science around all things COVID-19, Ontario’s incompetent chief medical officers, the brutality of lockdowns—especially on the disadvantaged of society, and more.

  • See also: “Do Masks and Respirators Prevent Viral Respiratory Illnesses? Interview with Professor Denis Rancourt.”
  • The post What the Science Says about COVID-19 first appeared on Dissident Voice.

    A World of Total Illusion and Fantasy

    Facing Future.TV founder and executive producer Stuart Scott and co-host Dale Walkonen recently broadcast a wide-ranging interview with Noam Chomsky about the state of human existence in the face of universal decadence.

    They started by referencing the Doomsday Clock (Science and Security Board Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists), which has pegged humanity’s risk of annihilation at an all-time high of only 100 seconds to midnight. Chomsky feels we’re actuality closer to midnight than that. For example, his opinion is influenced by information in a leaked draft of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) upcoming report, “which is much more grim than earlier reports,” keeping in mind it is only a draft so far, and he believes the final report may temper the initial draft.

    With regard to nuclear weapons, the situation is far more dangerous than the last Doomsday Clock report.  New weapons systems under development are much more effectively dangerous. The Biden administration, expanding upon Trump’s confrontational approach, has Chomsky at a loss for words to describe the danger at hand. Only recently, Biden met with NATO leaders and instructed them to plan on two wars, China and Russia.  According to Chomsky: “This is beyond insanity.” Not only that, the group is carrying out provocative acts when diplomacy is really needed. This is an extraordinarily dangerous situation.

    According to Chomsky, the Doomsday Clock setting at 100 seconds to midnight is based upon: (1) global warming (2) nuclear war and (3) disinformation, or the collapse of any kind of rational discourse. As such, number three makes it impossible to deal with the first two major problems. Along those lines, within the Republican Party there’s virtually a disappearance of any pretense of rational discourse. Twenty-five (25%) percent of Republicans believe the government is run by an elite satanic group of pedophiles. Seventy percent (70%) of Republicans believe that the election was stolen. Only fifteen percent (15%) of Republicans believe that global warming is a serious problem. Therein lies an insurmountable problem to solving the main issues that continually tick the clock ever closer to a disaster scenario that will likely be unprecedented in the annals of warfare and environmental degradation.

    As a result, Chomsky says: “We’re living in a world of total illusion and fantasy.” Accordingly, “Unless this is dealt with soon, it’ll be impossible to deal with the two major issues within the time span that we have available, which is not very long.”

    In Chomsky’s opinion the Republican Party, especially if it regains control in 2024, will take society down the tubes, down for the final count into the depths of a nether world. In Chomsky’s words: “If they return to power, it is very likely it will be an organized death knell for human society.”

    However, on a positive note, boots on the ground political activism is still a political factor that works. A prime example is the Sunrise Movement that has effectively lobbied for a civilian climate corp. Chomsky applauds Sunrise as well as The United Mineworkers agreement to support a transition program of miners to sustainable energy via government-sponsored programs. Additionally, nineteen unions in California have agreed to a similar program.

    Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the ledger, OPEC is planning to increase investment and production of fossil fuels because the price of oil is going up. According to Chomsky: “It is totally suicidal.” It’ll be suicidal in due course, but over the short term it’ll produce more wealth for Saudi Arabia.  However, there’s little doubt that the country will be uninhabitable within a few years in a self-afflicted pogrom.

    Chomsky: “Whatever is going on in the minds of human beings, they’re capable of saying let’s destroy ourselves, let’s destroy life for our children, because I can make a few more dollars tomorrow.” Not only are countries blind to an encroaching hothouse Earth, the wealthy countries are basically monopolizing vaccine for Covid 19 in the face of variants of the virus that will come back more powerful and deadly to haunt the wealthy countries. Indeed, the world is at odds with itself!

    Chomsky claims there are opportunities and ways to reach people to resolve issues. But, “we do not have much time.”  He warns that if the Republicans come back to office in 2024, it may be too late. “The programs they are pursuing offer no hope for survival.” After all, every year that Trump was in office, the Doomsday Clock minute hand moved closer to midnight. Eventually, the Doomsday Clock analysts gave in by shifting from the minutes-hand to the seconds-hand.

    There are opportunities that must be grasped to stop the madness. To be effective, change must come from below from the general population not from above or the politicians. For example, Congress passed a resolution calling for a Green New Deal introduced by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey. He claims: “It’s a very good proposal.” Extensive activism got it to this point. The key to making things happen is “boots on the ground.”  The Sunrise Movement occupied Nancy Pelosi’s office and got support from AOC. That’s grass roots activism at work and it has succeeded, so far.

    Chomsky: “There are good people like Ocasio-Cortez and Markey but they’re not going to get anywhere unless there’s extensive popular pressure compelling the legislative authorities, the Congress, the White House to pursue these objectives.” For example, when FDR wanted to pass New Deal legislation, he told the public: “You have to make me do it, I cannot do it myself.” It takes human bodies with boots on the ground to effectively influence legislation. Whereas, clicking a mouse gets nowhere and easily ignored.

    In retrospect, it is important to emphasize that throughout history political parties that rely upon lies bring society down to its knees in piles of shameless destruction. A prime example of this is the fall of Rome, which resonates today:

    By the time of Augustine (354-430 AD), the Roman Empire had become an Empire of lies. It still pretended to uphold the rule of law, to protect the people from the Barbarian invaders, to maintain the social order. But all that had become a bad joke for the citizens of an empire by then reduced to nothing more than a giant military machine dedicated to oppressing the poor in order to maintain the privileges of the rich. The Empire itself had become a lie: that it existed because of the favor of the Gods who rewarded the Romans because of their moral virtues. Nobody could believe in that anymore: it was the breakdown of the very fabric of society; the loss of what the ancient called the auctoritas, the trust that citizens had toward their leaders and the institutions of their state. 1

    1. Cassandra’s Legacy, “The Empire of Lies”, February 8, 2016.
    The post A World of Total Illusion and Fantasy first appeared on Dissident Voice.

    Batty Bioweapons, 5G, and Star Wars

    An interview with myself, Paul Haeder, a radical Marxist from the Pacific Northwest and my ideas about what is going on to drive the 4th Industrial Revolution and the Great Reset.

    It’s not pretty, for sure, how I go all crazy and fugue like, in the interview (man, the lack of teaching 30 students face to face has turned me into a dervish, nodding, head shaking wacko). But I enjoyed these three socialist interviewers, and while I sort of take over the discussion, and I do have a set of nervous ticks and habits [and I can rationalize those by saying I don’t like looking at a screen, an external camera, and in this episode, I had to prop the smart/dumbphone onto the keyboard since Zoom Doom was cutting out on the computer], I think there are harvestable points the four of us made. Again, thanks to Andy, Kenny and Eduardo for the time capsule moment. The Jab, Star Wars, and the Bubble Net of Digital Gulags.”

    It maybe forcing the three into a lumping process, but that is what ideas and brainstorming and plain old historical looks at all the bullshit thrown upon the human race by a sliver of people we call the elite, the beautiful people, the controllers.

    It is a fundamental discussion now, we on the left-left, looking at the various nefarious activities, plans and invented narratives the controllers have unfolded in the past, currently and for the future. If it feels like Blade Runner or Minority Report , then it must be somehow in the reality slipstream of our times to actually force us to admit the fact that AI and the fascist billionaire club are looking way beyond the horizon of Miami under water. Way beyond disease and viruses and pathogens.

    Here’s a fascist:

    In the new world, it is not the big fish which eats the small fish, it’s the fast fish which eats the slow fish.
    Klaus Schwab

    And here’s the reality of the USA and other western countries citizens afraid to look in the mirror or at their own controllers:

    Hear no Evil, See no Evil, Speak no Evil by Gavin Mayhew

    I talked a lot about books, about authors, even newspapers of old, in this interview. For very good reasons —

    There must be something in books, things we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don’t stay for nothing.

    — Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, page 48

    See the source image

    The idea is to drum up and initiate and converge people into conversations, and deep analyses, but without a truckload of books under one’s belt, well, the conversation stays shallow, stays controlled, stays right smack in the center of the mainstream mush media’s lies of omission and submission, the controlling media, the media of government controllers, owned and served by the corporations, and the billionaire class who are nefarious, who are the drivers of destruction and culture. That we have to know Richard Branson of Virgin Galactic might “beat” Jeff Bezos into space as a bug-eyed sociopath billionaire, well, that news takes another breath of sanity away from people consuming it and contemplating it and talking about it as a valiant thing. We have to educate the masses on healing, farming, medicine, aging, self-sufficiency, mutual aid, how to rattle the cages and shake the trees and beat these sons of bitches!

    Richard Branson poised to beat Jeff Bezos into space | Financial Times
    Jeff Bezos Risks It All for His Space Dream | WIRED
    How Elon Musk Became Space's Top Entrepreneur With SpaceX and Starlink | Observer

    These are more of the perversions of our times, and while I touch upon them in the interview above, well, come on folks — all those billions, all those tax dollars, all those S.T.E.M. graduates, all the time and mental energy with satellite constellations and the macho “I am going into orbit first” bravado, man, if that is not enough to occupy real left-left journalists’ shows and mindsets, then I have no idea what does. Because, we are on a planet of forced starvation, forced feedback loops of no water, depleted soils, ag collapses, rising seas, inundation, no infrastructure, housing issues, war-war-war materials/equipment sales. These human scum above should be, well, tanked. They represent beyond hope, beyond humanity. Playing with space trips, and then, the mega constellation, and the telecoms and corporations tying to internet of things/nano things, all of that, it ties into self-indulgence and massive profits beyond anything Carnegie or Rockefeller of JP Morgan of old could have imagined.

    It is about total surveillance and tracking and subjugation of man, woman, flora, fauna.

    Tax payers foot the bills — triple or more taxation on everything; paying for infrastructure to supply these felons with everything, from roads to communication to air space; then, all the externalities of the fallout of their predatory and casino capitalism; all the trained/educated men and women coming from tax payer funded schools who end up working for these billionaires, in their companies; all the dead-cultural crap these people are infecting the world with; all the lies of Hollywood and others in media propping them up or even covering their lives and their schemes at the expense of the real stories.

    These space programs, trips to the moon, man-womxn in the cans/rockets/shuttles programs, take away from the hard scrabble life stories and struggles of the 90 percent of the global population. We can fix and mitigate and compensate/end a world of nukes, forever chemicals, endocrine disrupters, deforestation, ocean acidification, over-harvesting, bad education, bad farming, and the like, including bad medicine, no medicine and even antibiotic microbial resistance and viruses, and income inequality and so much more, maybe even violence.

    But we need to get rid of the billionaires and multi-millionaires!
    Get rid of despots and lords of war. Because these Bezos and Gates and Branson and Walton, et al. characters are plain ice cold murderers who have TV shots, platforms and stolen trillions from the workers, the tax payers. They are normal, their behavior valorized and we are the chumps, expendables.

    *****

    Bats in Switzerland harbour viruses with ability to jump to humans

    “Whitey on the Moon”

    A rat done bit my sister Nell.
    (with Whitey on the moon)
    Her face and arms began to swell.
    (and Whitey’s on the moon)

    I can’t pay no doctor bill.
    (but Whitey’s on the moon)
    Ten years from now I’ll be payin’ still.
    (while Whitey’s on the moon)

    The man jus’ upped my rent las’ night.
    (’cause Whitey’s on the moon)
    No hot water, no toilets, no lights.
    (but Whitey’s on the moon)

    I wonder why he’s uppi’ me?
    (’cause Whitey’s on the moon?)
    I was already payin’ ‘im fifty a week.
    (with Whitey on the moon)
    Taxes takin’ my whole damn check,
    Junkies makin’ me a nervous wreck,
    The price of food is goin’ up,
    An’ as if all that shit wasn’t enough

    A rat done bit my sister Nell.
    (with Whitey on the moon)
    Her face an’ arm began to swell.
    (but Whitey’s on the moon)

    Was all that money I made las’ year
    (for Whitey on the moon?)
    How come there ain’t no money here?
    (Hm! Whitey’s on the moon)
    Y’know I jus’ ’bout had my fill
    (of Whitey on the moon)
    I think I’ll sen’ these doctor bills,
    Airmail special
    (to Whitey on the moon)

    The post Batty Bioweapons, 5G, and Star Wars first appeared on Dissident Voice.

    Christian Anarchism for Absolute Beginners

    Political Scientist Alexandre Christoyannopoulos was asked to give via interview an introduction into what is called “Christian Anarchism“ in political thought – and so here’s “Christian Anarchism 101.“

    Alexandre Christoyannopoulos, PhD, teaches Politics and International Studies at Loughborough University in England. He is the author of, inter alia, “Christian Anarchism – A Political Commentary on the Gospel“ (Imprint Academic, 2010), and “Tolstoy’s Political Thought – Christian Anarcho-Pacifist Iconoclasm Then and Now“ (Routledge, 2020). His research and teaching interests include political violence, pacifism and nonviolence studies, anarchist studies, political thought, politics and religion, and critical terrorism / security studies.

    *****

    Lars Schall: Alex, when and how did you become aware that there is such a thing as Christian Anarchism in political thought? And how did you become eventually specialized in this school of thought as a political scientist?

    Alexandre Christoyannopoulos:  I started my PhD thinking I would look at the relationship between religious and political structures, but I quickly realised I would have to recalibrate it. I had been interested in pacifism and anarchism for a while by then. I hadn’t encountered Tolstoy yet, but just around then, I did. And I got hooked. A few months later I came across several others: Ellul, Eller, Andrews, Catholic Workers Day, Maurin and Hennacy, Elliott, Yoder, etc. But I also quickly realised that what they collectively put forward, in particular a “Christian anarchist” exegesis of Jesus’ teaching and example, had nowhere yet been brought together using their different voices to articulate as compelling as possible a case for Christian anarchism. So that became the PhD project: to bring together the different threads of Christian anarchist writings (especially exegesis) into one more systematic and overarching theory of Christian anarchism. And that then became the book. That inevitably means I became specialised in this school of thought, though my broader interests lie in anarchism and pacifism more generally.

    LS: Do you consider yourself a Christian anarchist, and if so, what does this mean?

    AC: I don’t deserve the honour! I’m obviously rather sympathetic to it, but Christian anarchism is as much a way of life as a set of beliefs. Christian anarchists have often made huge personal sacrifices by devoting their lives to exemplifying Jesus’ Christian anarchism, risking arrests and persecution, living in poverty and doing their best to desist from contributing to the global political and economic machine which perpetuates institutional violence, economic exploitation and gluttonous consumerism. I can’t claim to be doing anything as inspiring as that. I suppose my contribution has been more focused on helping create a legitimate space for religious anarchism in relevant academic landscapes (political ideology, political theology, political theory, etc) and facilitating further research on it (as with my co-editing of several volumes on religion and anarchism featuring numerous other authors).

    As for what ‘Christian anarchism’ really means, I see it as a stance according to which ‘Christianity’ (however you understand it) implies or should imply ‘anarchism’ (whatever you make the core focus of that anarchism). This therefore includes everything from the very rationalistic ‘Christianity’ of Tolstoy to Dorothy Day’s Catholicism via the Protestant Christianity of many others. And it can be an ‘anarchism’ focused on theoretical critiques of the state or other hierarchies of domination, or it can be focused on enacting communities that embody alternatives to states, or on organising against state-managed injustices. But one way or another, it is an ‘anarchism’ rooted in ‘Christianity’.

    LS: If we want to talk about Christian Anarchism, we have to talk about Jesus and his relation to power and politics. In studying Christian Anarchism literature, it became apparent to me that real crucial in this regard is the third temptation in the wilderness according to the Gospel of Matthew, which takes place shortly before Jesus begins his ministry. Could you explain this, please?

    AC: It is certainly an important passage. Ellul’s interpretation of it is possibly the sharpest and most compelling in Christian anarchist writings. He starts by paying attention to the text: the devil takes Jesus to a high mountain, shows him “all the kingdoms of the world” and says: “all this I will give you if you bow down and worship me”, to which Jesus replies: “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only’”. Ellul’s first observation then is that this suggests that all political power and authority belongs to the devil. It is also noteworthy that Jesus does not deny that political power belongs to Satan. However, he refuses the offer of political power because it comes with a demand to worship the devil. Political power requires worship of Satan. Jesus therefore seems to be declining the tempting possibility of trying to change the world through political channels. He rejects the state because he can only serve one Lord, and it is not possible to serve both God and the state. In a sense, this captures one of the two main overarching gripes Christian anarchists have about the state, which is about idolatry.

    However, for most Christian anarchists, even more important that the third temptation is the Sermon on the Mount, which introduces the other central route to Christian anarchism. There are several sections of the Sermon which Christian anarchists are quite fond of, but as I explain in a chapter of my book, the most important one for many of them is Matthew 5:38-42, where Jesus famously calls his followers not to take an eye for an eye, but to turn the other cheek instead (a passage which after all many people see as capturing the essence of Jesus’ moral teaching). For Christian anarchists, Jesus is calling his disciples to rise above lex talionis and its associated cycle of violence, and instead adopt a counter-intuitive and unexpected method to overcome it. Responding with love and forgiveness when least expected helps interrupt the cycle of violence. Because the modern state relies on violence and supposedly holds the legitimate monopoly of the use of force, and because it administers precisely the logic of retaliation which Jesus called his followers to overcome, Christian anarchists reckon that the moral teaching illustrated by this passage logically implies a rejection of the state. By this logic, therefore, it is because of their vehemently pacifist reading of the Sermon than numerous anarchists reject the state.

    These two exegeses – the third temptation and ‘resist not evil’ – probably illustrate the two main strands of arguments for why Christian anarchists claim that Christianity should translate to a form of anarchism: one concerns idolatry, the other a full rejection of violence.

    LS: Could you give us more examples of teachings by Jesus that show why Christian anarchists believe that Christianity is not compatible with the state and political power?

    AC: In terms of scripture, for one, much of the content of the Sermon on the Mount is repeated in the many passages in which Jesus, James, Peter and Paul talk of forgiveness, of being servants or of not judging one another. The state does not do that (or rather we don’t do that through it), and if we did it then the state would anyway become redundant. There is also the Temple Cleansing, where Jesus’ direct action clearly implies a denunciation of the concentration and abuses of religious, political and economic power (and most Christian anarchists insist the action was nonviolent, by the way). Then there are all the bitter criticisms of the Pharisees as hypocrites in their application of divine law, criticisms that don’t seem that inapplicable to some church authorities today. Jesus’ arrest and trial also exemplify his attitude with respect to political authorities, and his crucifixion embodies both his condemnation of state violence and his forgiving alternative to overcome it. Then there is the Book of Acts, the many Epistles, and, of course, Revelation – all of which one can find convincing Christian anarchist exegeses on. In other words, there are many scriptures, and here I can only hint at their Christian anarchist interpretation.

    LS: At this point, some people would throw Romans 13 into the mix. I quote:  “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” How does Christian Anarchism deal with that declaration by Paul?

    AC: This is indeed one of the two passages that are most frequently brought up as presumed knock-out blows against Christian anarchist interpretations – the other being “render unto Caesar”. They are also the main passages wheeled out by religious and political authorities to legitimise the state. The way Christian anarchists deal with both of them is interesting and rather compelling, and I cover that at length in my book (there is also a freely available version of that chapter here).

    What they say regarding the former is that Paul is really just offering his interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount, of Jesus’ call to forgive and love even the worst of enemies – which Jesus did even by submitting to the Cross. It’s worth noting that the passage comes just after Romans 12, but the chapter breakdown is not Paul’s. It was imposed by church theologians later. Read together, however, Romans 12 and 13 show Paul widening the pool of whom he is advising Christians to love, from family, to strangers, to enemies, and then to governing authorities – as if the latter are about the hardest constituency to love and forgive. Remember also this is addressed to the Christian community in Rome, who are being persecuted at the very centre of the empire. What Paul seems to be telling them is to resist the urge towards insurrection. He is preaching the turning of the other cheek instead. That’s not exactly some glorious crowning of the state.

    But then what about these authorities being established by God? Here, Christian anarchists point back to 1 Samuel 8. Until then, the Israelites are happy enough appointing ‘judges’ now and then to deal with pressing political matters, but at that point they decide they want to be “like other nations”, so they ask for a king. Upset, then-judge Samuel consults God, who firstly reassures Samuel that this is not a rejection of Samuel, but of Him. Being like other nations is precisely what God wanted the Israelites not to be. He tells Samuel to warn them of the consequences (conscription, taxes, slavery) but that he will accept their final decision. They don’t heed the warning, and so God does establish for them the same political authority as for other nations. But this is a result of their idolatry, their failure to keep their faith in him. When faced with a choice: God, or a king, they chose the latter. God grants them their wish but warns of the consequences.

    What all that would suggest is that Romans 13 does not legitimise authorities in the way those political authorities like to think. Rather, it calls for Christians to submit to these authorities as a way of turning the other cheek, to overcome their evil not through violent resistance but with an exemplary attitude that seeks to patiently understand and forgive.

    It’s particularly interesting to turn to “render unto Caesar” in that context. The Pharisees are out to trick Jesus and ask him whether taxes should be paid. His first reply is to ask for a coin (he doesn’t seem to carry one). They bring one up. He asks whose face is on it. They say Caesar’s. At the time, one’s face on an object denoted ownership. Then comes “render unto Caesar what is Caesars”, followed immediately by “and to God what is God’s”. The question is therefore what is Caesar’s and what is God’s. For Christian anarchists, coins, public monuments and the like are indeed Caesar’s. But not much else. Certainly life and hence the giving and taking of life are God’s prerogative. Coins, then, are indeed Caesar’s to claim back, but beyond that little else “belongs to Caesar”. The rest, to Jesus’ audience, quite clearly belongs to God. In other words, Jesus here calls his listeners to clearly distinguish what really matters a lot (and belongs to God) from the fickle things (like coins) that are technically Caesar’s. It’s about prioritising God over Caesar on all the important decisions, and giving Caesar what he asks when it concerns the less important things he likes to keep busy with.

    Therefore both Romans 13 and “render unto Caesar” do not necessarily mean what we have come to assume they must mean, and Christian anarchists actually have pretty sophisticated and worthy arguments to put forward on these passages.

    LS: How should people deal with evil according to Jesus? And what follows from that for Christian anarchists?

    AC:  I guess it partly depends what you mean by evil. For Christian anarchists like Tolstoy the way to deal with evil is to take your cue from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. That is, when treated unjustly, do not use force or retaliate, but respond with love, forgiveness and generosity. For Christian anarchists, the radical political innovation of Jesus’ message was to put forward a completely different way of responding to whatever may be seen as evil. That is, even in the face of unjust demands, behave like a generous and loving servant, do not rebel, do not get aggressive, and certainly do not even contemplate using power to enforce your view of justice. In the eyes of Christian anarchists, the political implications are self-evident: the response to disorder and insecurity in human relations is not to delegate power to a state, but to act as Jesus taught and acted. The hope is that love and forgiveness eventually win over the evildoer through the heart. Impressed by such radical love and forgiveness, one day the evildoer may well repent. Admittedly though, in the meantime, cheeks keep being smitten and coats keep being taken away.

    To be clear, this does not mean that Christian anarchists take the problem of evil lightly. They are precisely very concerned by it. But their worry is that the way we have a habit of responding to evil is feeding a vicious cycle of evil. And they see in Jesus’ response precisely an unusual but potentially promising method to respond to it: break the vicious cycle and superimpose upon it a potentially equally contagious cycle of love and forgiveness. It might not work all the time and it might seem quite utopian, but that’s what they understand the person whom Christians call the son of God to pretty clearly require from those who want to follow him.

    LS: Is it of importance that Jesus said that his kingdom is not of this earth?

    AC: Yes, though it depends how you understand it. Look closely at those passages. What he seems to be saying is more that his kingdom is not like those of this earth. His kingdom is indeed different. He rejected the temptation of political power. He rejected the political expectations some held about him. The community his teaching points to is one of love, mutual service and care. His teaching prescribes an ethical comportment with which his followers are expected to interact with each other and with others, here on earth. But he also points to God as his only ultimate authority, his ‘King’, if you will. This renders earthly kings insignificant. And they hate that. They want us to bow to them, not to be indifferent as we look past them. And that’s why they ultimately arrested, tried and executed Jesus. His kingdom is not like those of this earth, but that’s precisely why his kingdom subverts theirs.

    LS: How do you view Christian politicians? They seem to be more than fine with what Jesus refused.

    AC: Indeed. For most Christian anarchists, ever since Constantine’s “conversion” to Christianity, religious and political authorities have basically worked to reinforce one another (even if they also sometimes struggled with each other for ultimate supremacy). Constantine’s conversion did not mark the embrace by the Roman Empire of Jesus’ teaching, but the conversion of Christianity to the interests of the Empire. Ever since then, mainstream preachers and theologians have modified Jesus’ demands, downplayed the more anarchistic ones (without necessarily downplaying, say, what he said about adultery in the same way as they relativise the turning of the other cheek), and suffocated his ethics under thick layers of mysterious theology and robotic rituals. The official Christianity we get since Constantine is closer to the Pharisees than Jesus.

    This mainline Christianity is a Christianity which “Christian” politicians can work with. When George W Bush answered that his favourite political thinker was Jesus, he didn’t mean the Jesus whose radical moral guidelines we can all read in the Bible. He didn’t mean the Jesus who calls his followers to forgive, to turn the other cheek, to resist the temptation of political power. He meant the Jesus who only apparently said those things metaphorically, who meant things like loving our enemies as perhaps something to try to strive for inside us whilst we still strike them fiercely because they didn’t do what we wanted them to do. It’s a very different Jesus to the one Christian anarchists and indeed numerous dissenting Christian offshoots or anyone else who reads the Gospel free from the shackles of mainstream interpretation sees.

    LS: Is our attitude towards the state idolatrous? And what about the relation of the Christian Church to the state?

    AC: From a Christian anarchist perspective, yes on both counts. We expect the state to save us, we treat it like a god, and we turn to it instead of God. We worship the state instead of God.

    And most Christian churches, as I just explained, have also become rather like the Pharisees which Jesus denounced. Most Christian anarchists are therefore very critical of most mainstream churches. They admire more radical Christian offshoots like the Anabaptists, the Quakers, the Czech Brethren, indeed the early Christians and many others. But mainstream churches they are very critical of. Tolstoy in particular became increasingly acerbic in his critique of the mainline church, not least because of its conspiracy to work with the established political system to keep the status quo.

    LS: Does the Book of Revelation talk in certain ways about politics which are of interest to Christian anarchists?

    AC: Yes. Christian anarchists point to the opposition between the majesty of God and the dominions of Earth throughout the book. They see in the two beasts and the four horsemen different facets of contemporary politics. They see the book as another stark reminder of the choice between loyalty to God and loyalty to earthly power. They understand Revelation as warning true Christians of the difficult path of persecution and suffering which comes with following Jesus, and so on. Of course, much of the book is vividly metaphorical, but for Christian anarchists what those metaphors signify reinforces what they read as the core message of the rest of the New Testament.

    LS: What are the goals of Christian anarchists? Do they want to overcome the state?

    AC: Sort of, or rather they aim to render it redundant, to replace it, to build a new society within the shell of the old. Their aim is to inspire others to stop participating in and consenting to state violence in particular. But this question of how to relate to the state is only half the story. The other half is about building an alternative community in its stead – a loving, caring community of mutual aid and nonviolence – in other words, what Christian anarchists understand the “church” to have been supposed to be.

    LS: We’ve talked here a lot about God and Jesus, which are neither everyday subjects in political science, nor in general science. However, would you say there’s something right about it when the late John Polkinghorne wrote that “the question of the existence of God is the single most important question we face about the nature of reality”?

    AC: Perhaps. The question of the existence of God is important if only because a vast majority the global population believes in it, and listens to people who claim to have privileged access to what that means for how they should live their lives. It therefore empowers particular hierarchies. And it means that for many people there are already readymade answers to questions about the reasons for social and economic injustices, whether and how to seek justice, etc. It’s therefore certainly an important question, and perhaps the “most important” about “the nature of reality”.

    But very important too are questions of justice, peace, power, in other words of “who gets what, when, and how”. These are not necessarily about the nature of reality, but about the distribution of wealth and power. And whilst there is possibly no end to age-old and ongoing speculations about the nature of reality, the question of how we treat each other directly and indirectly, the question of the distribution of wealth and power – these are questions about which we can do something here and now.

    Most religious and secular traditions ultimately recommend a version of the Golden Rule: do to others what you would like them to do to you. That’s a practical recommendation which we can implement here and now. And it has radical implications if we really mean it, and if we apply it also to all the institutions which we empower and consent to as we interact with one another. Therefore, whilst we ponder these tough questions about the nature of reality, we may as well strive to live by this Golden Rule.

    LS: Danke schoen for this interview, Alex!

    The post Christian Anarchism for Absolute Beginners first appeared on Dissident Voice.

    Mumia Abu-Jamal’s Spiritual Advisor Confronts DA Krasner and the FOP

    This new mural featuring Pam and Ramona Africa alongside other Black community activists was unveiled on May 11, 2021 directly across the street from Philadelphia City Hall, on the very same block where the infamous statue of Frank Rizzo once stood.Photo: Jamal Journal staff photographer Joe Piette

    Mark Lewis Taylor has been a professor in religion and society at Princeton Theological Seminary since 1982. He is also the founder of Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal (EMAJ), which was first known as Academics for Mumia Abu-Jamal (AMAJ). In 2007, he co-authored “20 FAQs: The Pedro Polakoff Crime Scene Photos” with Journalists for Mumia. In recent years, he has also been working as Mumia’s spiritual advisor.

    In this new interview, Professor Taylor covers many topics including his personal observations from Judge Sabo’s 1995-97 PCRA (Pennsylvania Post Conviction Relief Act) hearings. Taylor also confronts Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner’s Feb. 3 brief filed in opposition to all of Mumia Abu-Jamal’s appeals. In support of the critiques made previously by Pam Africa and Dr. Ricardo Alvarez, Taylor now makes his own response to DA Krasner’s continued defense of Mumia’s unjust 1982 conviction.

    If you have not yet done so, please sign our Color of Change petition to DA Krasner.

    Jamal Journal: How did you first learn about Mumia’s case?

    Mark Lewis Taylor: I still remember a rainy day in 1994 when I was just back from a summer of research and connecting with Maya activist groups in Guatemala, struggling then as it long had against European colonization, now against the neocolonialism of U.S.-backed governments in Central America. At the time of that 1994 trip back to the U.S., I was also taking up again some of the prison activist work I had done even earlier in the 1970s when working in the Virginia State Penitentiary investigating prisoner complaints.

    So in the midst of all this, on the way into a New York City coffee shop to wait out the rain, I purchased a thin newspaper sold by a grassroots homeless organization – Street News, I think it was. There I read my first column by Mumia. I’m quite sure it was “War on the Poor,” which was also recorded by Prison Radio.

    “War on the Poor”

    Afterwards I began using many of Mumia’s writings in graduate-level classes. His writings ignited student thinking on the politics of imprisonment, policing and the death penalty. I resolved that if officials ever signed a death warrant to silence Mumia, “I couldn’t live my life as usual” (at least that’s what I found myself muttering to myself then).

    Why that resolve? I often ask myself that. The answer I give is that by committing forthrightly to the movement to keep alive and release Mumia, I would be involved at the same time on multiple political fronts of liberation. I had already found that to support any one prisoner in the archipelago of U.S. mass incarceration demanded one’s utmost. It is to face a kind of abyss of human need.

    While I’ve had to maintain some work for other prisoners too, the work for Mumia was such that by working for him, I felt, I was also working for so many more, and also on the larger fronts of national and international social change and liberation. (I do not accept the current squeamishness of U.S. academic culture making them reluctant to use the word “liberation,” even though I believe we should define it and use it carefully.)

    Being at work as a full-time professor, in work that itself required far more than 40 hours a week, I needed every hour of my “outside” movement work to count politically in as comprehensive a way as I could imagine. Work for Mumia enabled that. That’s what I felt.

    So, when Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge signed Mumia’s death warrant in 1995, I requested educators’ support for Mumia. I learned that many other educators had been using Mumia’s writings. And they too found his execution intolerable. My fax machine and email inbox blew up with responses from colleagues who wanted to go to work.

    Thus began years of struggle to find ways to build educators into the larger movement for Mumia headed by International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal. We undertook years of organizing press conferences, newspaper ads and seeking other ways to build educators’ contributions into the larger movement.

    We immediately took out ads in the Philadelphia Daily News, holding press conferences in Philadelphia. It was struggle, and we often faltered, got too busy with academic meetings and minutiae, with career advancement and more. But our moments of struggle went forward, and we continue. Our largest ad campaign culminated in a Sunday New York Times full page in the “Week in Review” section in May 2000. So, we were launched.

    JJ: Why did you decide to attend the 1995 PCRA hearings in front of Judge Albert Sabo?

    MLT: Well, I don’t remember any “deciding,” really. It was just a necessary stage of the movement work at the time. Besides, there was urgency in the air since Gov. Ridge had given Mumia an execution date. We joined the many who Pam Africa organized to pack the courtroom. I cannot recall who all among educators were present. I’m certain that Cornel West was (more on that below). There were other Philadelphia educators who had stepped forward for our ad campaigns and press conferences, who may also have been there: Achille Mbembe, E. Ann Matter, Ann Farnsworth-Alvear, Farah Jasmine Griffin (all four, then at UPENN), also Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak of Columbia University.

    Cornel West, Angela Y. Davis and Manning Marable had already been to the fore of the struggle for Mumia long before me. They supported EMAJ (Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal) in very helpful ways. Manning Marable once told me, for example, “Always use my name in support of your events.” I am not sure if Davis and Marable were at the PCRA hearings or not. Marable at Columbia was a formative teacher for Dr. Johanna Fernández who assumed so many leadership roles in EMAJ and now coordinates the campaign to Bring Mumia Home.

    I remember so much about those PCRA hearings: Pam Africa and MOVE organizing the seating in the courtroom and the rallies outside, Mumia coming into the courtroom in shackles and greeting us with raised fist, and Mumia’s lawyers drawing the ire of Judge Albert Sabo.

    JJ: What do you think of Kiilu Nyasha’s description of Sabo’s courtroom in her essay, “Witness to a Lynching”?

    From left, Dr. Ala Stanford, Ajeenah Amir, Sajda “Purple” Blackwell, artist Russell Craig, Pam Dr. Ala Stanford, Ajeenah Amir, Sajda “Purple” Blackwell, artist Russell Craig, Pam Africa, Krystal Strong, YahNé Ndgo and Kezia Ridgeway stand in front of the East side of the Crown mural that pays homage to their social justice work at Philadelphia’s Municipal Services Building. – Photo: Kimberly Paynter, WHYY

    MLT: I still find Nyasha’s write-up to be accurate, especially in its description of the general ethos of humiliation and intimidation that Judge Sabo stoked and allowed prosecutors to inject into the proceedings. I personally did not see Sabo nod off, but he ran the courtroom indeed as the notorious “hanging judge” who had sent so many other Philadelphians to death row and long prison sentences with the racially biased demeanor that so many of us have long denounced. Even reporters working for established news venues in Philadelphia recognized this bias to be in operation.

    Sometimes you wished Sabo would have fallen asleep more. What was so enraging was his continual denial of Mumia’s lawyers’ motions and his affirmation of the prosecutors’ objections. Sabo would also make off-hand remarks about Mumia’s plight, almost taunting him with references to the pending execution date.

    I remember in one of the earlier hearings, when the antics of Sabo were so egregious, as he made so many off-hand racist comments and ran such a one-sided prosecutors’ courtroom. I was sitting beside Dr. Cornel West, then during his first stint at Harvard. At one point after a Sabo comment, Cornel rolled forward in his seat and gasped in loud whisper, “Mississippi 1955!”

    Only toward the end of the hearings did Sabo finally relent and issue a stay of execution, precisely because of the large rallies in Philadelphia at the courthouse then and the presence in the courtroom of key dignitaries. On the day of the stay, I think the movement had helped facilitate the presence of Rev. Jesse Jackson in the courtroom among Mumia’s many other supporters. The stay came during one of the later hearings of the PCRA in 1995, really only 10 days away from the execution date in August.

    JJ: In light of your experience observing Sabo, what is your response to DA Krasner’s Feb. 3, 2021, brief where he puts his stamp of approval on literally every single decision Judge Sabo made at both the 1982 trial and the later PCRA hearings?

    MLT: Well, Krasner has to know what establishment reporters in Philadelphia know: All of Sabo’s courtrooms show at least a potential for racial bias as well as many comments that offer clear evidence of racial bias. Krasner also knows that the bar for tolerating racial bias in courtrooms is set exceedingly low. This “low bar” has been confirmed more than once, in a 1986 case (Batson v. Kentucky) and a 2008 case (Snyder v. Louisiana).

    This means that the smallest amount of racial bias is often grounds for ruling in a defendants’ favor. One U.S. circuit court judge, Thomas Ambro of the Third Circuit, thought the low bar should be extended to Mumia, in keeping with the precedent confirmed by the Snyder case just a few weeks earlier. (See Ambro’s dissent in Abu-Jamal v. Horn et al, p. 78.)

    But in the case of Mumia, who is often forced to labor under what Linn Washington has termed “The Mumia Exception,” the bar for proving racial bias was set so high that he is denied redress for what he has suffered. Krasner shows no interest in lowering the unfairly raised bar against Mumia. To perpetuate the state’s performance of that exception is to fail to be a prosecutor “for the people” of Philadelphia.

    Krasner has a tendency to cite “the many other legal cases similar to Mumia’s” and the “many other problems and issues” that he wants to address progressively. He and his supporters often speak as if Krasner cannot keep up this “progressive” agenda, that he does need police cooperation to a certain extent to enact his reforms and can’t afford to alienate them.

    The idea is that if he goes too far in challenging the FOP (Fraternal Order of Police), such as by pursuing litigation favorable to Mumia, the Philadelphia police and other political powers will block his larger agenda for change. It can appear that Krasner is sacrificing Mumia “for the greater good.” It is as if there is an unspoken deal with the FOP that Krasner gets to enact some positive reforms, so long as he doesn’t do anything that might lead to Mumia’s freedom.

    I suggest, though, that with this kind of approach, Krasner risks losing even his more modest and comprehensive gains regarding other legal cases and issues. Remember, Mumia and his death remain a comprehensive aim of the FOP. Mumia remains the FOP’s “public enemy number one.”

    If Krasner does not challenge the FOP at their own declared front-most battle line – on Mumia Abu-Jamal – then he really has not challenged the FOP fundamentally. He may achieve some short-term gains for “progressive” prosecuting, and indeed he has, but he has not really challenged the police power of the state that wants to kill Mumia and defeat the revolutionary and more humane form of the state for which Mumia fights.

    JJ: In their recent SF Bay View newspaper articles, both Pam Africa and Dr. Ricardo Alvarez criticize page 5 of the Feb. 3 brief where Krasner endorses the official police version of Mumia’s arrest by writing that Mumia “resisted arrest” and “refused to walk” into the hospital. Dr. Alvarez writes: “The presumption that Mumia violently resisted arrest and then confessed is wrong, can be easily proven wrong, and is a form of harm that denies Mumia’s humanity.” What is your response to this section of Krasner’s Feb. 3 brief?

    This is one segment of the original artwork created by longtime Mumia supporter Seth Tobocman to support our petition campaign. It is the centerpiece of Issue #1 and can be viewed on the Jamal Journal website.

    MLT: Well, I think that both Pam Africa and Ricardo Alvarez make their cases quite well for disproving these points as they occur in Krasner’s brief. Also, Pam’s and Ricardo’s claims have been underscored numerous times by several of Mumia’s attorneys.

    What is further concerning about Krasner’s arguing these points is that, to my knowledge, while his brief introduces no new characters or events into prosecutors’ view of the crime, it does rephrase the story in slight but significant ways. In the brief, the DA’s Office is not recreating a new story, but the arrest scenario is tweaked so as to emphasize many of the excuses that we now receive from police who handle protestors or who rationalize their killing of Black, Brown and Indigenous peoples in the U.S. Doesn’t this language sound familiar – “resisting arrest,” “would not walk” or was “reaching for a gun”? This language is consistent with current state power’s attempts to rationalize and describe police beatings and killings of protestors and others.

    The police have still not provided an account for the evident physical battery that Mumia suffered at the hands of the police upon his arrest. Mumia was so badly beaten, said his sister, Lydia, that she hardly recognized him. Mumia has recounted how, after being shot, he was also beaten and rammed into a street light pole. In all likelihood, he was beaten more in the back of a paddy wagon headed for the hospital before being dumped on the floor of its ER. Instead of considering any of this as possible, Krasner’s brief foregrounds notions about Mumia “reaching for a gun” that an Officer Shoemaker reports seeing “eight inches away from Mumia’s hand?”

    Krasner knows cops have been found lying and has himself spoken out about police disinformation and perjured testimony. So, why not consider them to be lying about this story? The brief says Mumia was “resisting arrest” and then is reported to have “refused to walk”? This language is especially passable and plausible for that part of the public – still all too many – who today buy into cops’ arguments designed to rationalize racialized police violence.

    JJ: Returning to the topic of lynching, what do you think of Pam Africa’s assertion that police attempted to lynch Mumia on the morning of Dec. 9, 1981?

    MLT: Well look, we know that the young journalist Abu-Jamal had received threats from the police long before they found him at the curb of Locust and 13th on that early morning of 1981. Terry Bisson’s biographical reflection on Mumia, entitled “On a Move: The Story of Mumia Abu-Jamal,” cites more than one occasion when Philadelphia police would drive slowly by Mumia making hand gestures of a pointed gun and moving trigger finger, as if they had him targeted for killing.

    The 1981 police attack on Mumia occurred well after Mumia had served not only in the Panthers, but also after he had written to expose police practices against MOVE and other residents and after he had directly challenged the Rizzo pro-police regime. So, after all this, finding Mumia vulnerable and shot on a curb on Dec. 9 was an opportunity for attack the police could not pass up.

    And yes, battering Mumia as they did that morning qualifies as an attempted lynching. If we recall the history of lynching, we know that those actions were not carried out only by mobs of general citizens. Lynching participants also included such officials as police, lawyers, even judges and local pastors, clad in Klan costumery or other disguise. And some felt emboldened to turn up and take pictures for posterity with no disguise at all!

    Sure, maybe the early morning beating did not have the same status of spectacle that the “burning and hanging lynchings” had, but surely, if you add on Mumia’s later very public trial and death sentence, the function of Mumia’s overall brutal treatment is indeed that of a lynching. Lynching in the USA, like crucifixions in Rome were intended as a kind of public service announcement to the poor and repressed: “Act up like this one hanging before you now, and this too will become your fate!”

    JJ: What do you think about the Medical Professionals for Mumia petition co-written by Dr. Alvarez?

    MLT: The petition was a great thing to see. Even more, I think, is the way the group, “Medical Professionals for Mumia” is mobilizing the conscience of medically-trained personnel to act on the myriad health issues posed for the increasing numbers of infirm and elderly who are incarcerated and on the ways white supremacy is at work in the profession and in the U.S. healthcare establishment. Elite higher education is also often rife with pervasive white supremacist postures and practices.

    Moreover, it is so important that Dr. Ricardo is taking the advocacy and work for Mumia into his own profession. Of course, he has been a participant in the larger diverse movement. But his instincts are so right, it seems to me, to attempt to integrate the broader movement for Mumia and for all political prisoners and the incarcerated into the work-world he inhabits. I think all of us need to attempt something like this in whatever be our places of work. Not everyone can take the movement work into their work-world, into their everyday spaces of employment. I know that. It is important, though, to try where we can.

    Our founding reflex of Educators for Mumia was to integrate the broader movement into the daily educational labor of teachers, as well as to enable teachers to participate in and support the larger national and international work of the movement. So, I view the petition and its vision to be an exciting development as it seeks to take the concerns of our movement into the medical profession.

    JJ: A central piece of evidence cited by our Color of Change petition to DA Krasner is the 2010 ballistics test conducted by Dave Lindorff and Linn Washington, where they concluded that “the whole prosecution story of an execution-style slaying of the officer by Abu-Jamal would appear to be a prosecution fabrication, complete with coached, perjured witnesses, undermining the integrity and fairness of the entire trial.” Pam Africa has now issued a public challenge to both Michael Smerconish and DA Krasner to try and disprove the conclusions of the 2010 test. How significant do you think are the conclusions of Lindorff’s and Washington’s test?

    “Test Shows Missing Evidence and Falsified Testimony from Key Witnesses in Abu-Jamal Trial”

    MLT: Very significant indeed. Here are two investigative journalists who know the case inside and out. Neither of them can be dismissed as a naïve advocate who might quickly throw out claims that have no evidence. On the contrary, both have a thorough knowledge of the trial transcripts. Linn Washington has written and researched the case continuously since he visited the crime scene within one hour of the incident. Dave Lindorff has written a detailed, book-length and fair analysis of the entire case. And here, in the video of their 2010 ballistics test, they raise serious questions about the veracity of prosecution claims that Mumia stood over Officer Faulkner lying on his back and executed him with a shot to the head with other shots hitting the sidewalk. So Pam’s challenge is right-on. Let DA Krasner and media talking head Smerconish respond to the video.

    The Lindorff-Washington ballistics test joins other forms of exculpatory evidence that need revisiting in the form of media attention and more adequate judicial review. Among these forms I would include the following: (a) the argument for racial bias in jury selection that emerged with training-tapes by prosecutor Jack McMahon advising young prosecutors about how and when to keep Blacks off juries, (b) Veronica Jones’ 1996 recantation of her being pressured by cops to lie against Mumia at the original 1982 trial and (c) court stenographer’s sworn affidavit that during the trial she heard the notoriously racist Judge Sabo say out of court in another room, “Yeah, and I’m gonna help them fry the n***er.” Some of these have been reviewed quickly under judicial review, some totally ignored.

    None of these forms of evidence for Mumia will see the light of day, much less receive serious judicial review without public pressure. And that’s why Pam’s challenge to Krasner and Smerconish on the ballistics test is so significant.

    JJ: Let’s shift to looking at your role as Mumia’s spiritual advisor. What can you tell us about that? How has it been communicating with Mumia in recent months, since the COVID and congestive heart failure diagnosis in late February and then heart surgery in April?

    MLT: Yes, I had been in to visit Mumia about once every month, often for visits as long as 3-4 hours, for four years prior to the arrival of the COVID pandemic. I saw him in January 2020, and then didn’t have a visit until video visits of 2021.

    Obviously, I value every minute of any visit with Mumia, whether in person or on video (limited by the DOC to 45 minutes). Moreover, I try to make the visits count for the movement, by facilitating communication between Mumia and other family members and the movement when I can.

    I visited by video once with him, between the time of his COVID diagnosis, and then his going into the hospital for surgery. It is especially enraging to experience Mumia’s “being disappeared,” as he was when taken in for heart surgery. To deny his family and friends – as well as outside medical advisor – knowledge of his whereabouts exacerbates the medical trauma for everyone. This is part of the state’s violence against the incarcerated and their families, which the state seeks to justify with its concerns for “security.”

    I put a minister’s collar on and searched out some nearby hospitals and eventually confirmed where he was hospitalized. But of course, neither I nor Dr. Ricardo Alvarez, with whom I was in touch about this, were given any kind of access (even by phone). Ricardo and I sent a communication into the hospital, urging its supervising officials to keep the shackles off Mumia and to open all necessary communication between Mumia and his family and key supporters.

    We received nothing but denials from hospital security that Mumia was even there. After much phoning of the prison, the governor’s office and the hospital, I did receive a brief call from the PA DOC’s (Pennsylvania Department of Corrections) special counsel saying that his lawyers would make sure that Mumia could call his wife 15 minutes a day. That did happen, as I understand it, because two of Mumia’s lawyers, Bret Grote and Bob Boyle, kept pressure on DOC officials.

    I don’t view the role of a “spiritual advisor” in prison to be primarily that of a sharer of words from sacred texts or the imparting of religious wisdom per se. Maybe there’s a place for that at times when it is requested by prisoners. But recall, the notion of “spirit” in most languages refers to breath, to breathing that makes for life. To work spirit, to facilitate spirit, then, is to open up passages that allow life to occur and grow. In that sense, fostering connections and opening passageways between Mumia and his family, his friends and his necessary advocates – all this is spirit work even as it is also very material, often also a kind of political practice.

    The established religions of colonizers and imperialists have regularly instilled in people the idea that spirit is somehow antithetical to body. In fact, the spirit is the life of the body, the life animating our struggle to liberate all realms of material creation that suffer from oppression and injustice.

    JJ: How does Mumia and your work with him relate to your scholarly interest in “liberating spirit?”

    MLT: Well, as your question indicates, you know I’ve explained this notion of “liberating spirit” elsewhere, as at my website. Liberating spirit creates freeing ways of being amid global and local structures and during the daily practices that grind us down, that destroy humanity and earth – that oppress. Liberating spirit names a way being “political” in the broadest sense of engaging the powers that subjugate us. It is material life struggling and fighting, acting up creatively through the many arts and mobilizing new community with a steady relentless, resilience in our social movements to revolutionize our lives against a state that represses.

    I guess that in the U.S. my participation in the work for Mumia has been a way to observe and feel “liberating spirit” to be at work in a profoundly full sense. Consider how many political issues and fronts are encountered through the movement for Mumia. The U.S. white supremacy that rationalized and then grew stronger in the wake of the slavery that built the U.S. capitalist system – well, Mumia writes in a way that remembers and foregrounds all that. He has been a vocal critic of the surveillance and police state that enforces the alienation of labor and protects the rule of capital.

    He has been a spokesperson for the earth – “mother earth” as he writes with MOVE – the earth that nurtures us all. He has written my class with special commentary on the frequent erasure of women’s leadership from Christian and other religious organizations of colonizers and empire builders. He dreams, writes and works for futures free from empires and capitalists and for “the return of nature” and of a genuine “socialism and ecology.” (These latter phases are from the work of a writer whom both Mumia and I appreciate, John Bellamy Foster.)

    This fullness of liberating struggle, across so many issues and up against so many fronts of resistance, has been evident from the time of Mumia’s earliest columns to his most recent writings. See for example the collection edited by Johanna Fernández in Writing on the Wall. Note the breadth of concerns covered in the three-volume work Mumia authored with Stephen Vittoria, Murder Incorporated. Again, one person cannot take up all that “liberating spirit” demands of thought and practice, but to work through the movement for Mumia Abu-Jamal is to find oneself at work, directly or indirectly on so many of the important challenges of our time. This is one of the reasons that even though I cannot be involved in as many actions of the movement for Mumia, I continually introduce my students to Mumia and the movement.

    Let me give just one example of the way those struggling for and with Mumia have impacted others. In my video visit that occurred between Mumia’s COVID diagnosis and his heart surgery, he mentioned to me how deeply moved he was by words from his relatively new prison doctor, Dr. Baddick. That doctor had read Federal District Judge Robert Mariani’s decision in favor of Mumia in 2017, allowing him to be treated with antiviral meds for his Hepatitis C infection. Mumia with the help of the movement and legal work was not only saved, but something more happened. As Dr. Baddick said to Mumia: “You saved thousands of other lives.” (Indeed, Missouri is just one other state where I understand that Mumia’s case for his Hepatitis cure has since become precedent-setting for many other prisoners).

    In a revised version of my 2015 work, The Executed God (397-450), a book which I dedicated to Mumia, I added a new final chapter on Mumia, explaining his importance. I borrowed literary Marxist critic Walter Benjamin’s notion of the “great criminal” to explain that the terrorizing and repressive state often makes certain figures into “great criminal” figures. They do this to demonize them to the fullest, because the state sees them as especially threatening, able to expose the founding violence of the state and also to stoke popular revolt and revolution against the state.

    This is why the struggle for Mumia has been so hard. This is also why the struggle for Mumia remains so necessary: Mumia exposes the state’s violence and equips our comprehensive resistance to it.

    The post Mumia Abu-Jamal’s Spiritual Advisor Confronts DA Krasner and the FOP first appeared on Dissident Voice.

    “Anti-Zionist Naples”: Award-Winning Italian Artist Speaks about Palestine and Why He Quit Photojournalism 

    On April 1, a mural appeared in the Southern Italian city of Naples, depicting Palestinian workers lining at an Israeli military checkpoint near the occupied city of Bethlehem, in the West Bank. It is called ‘Welcome to Bethlehem’.

    The mural, which quickly became popular in the town and on social media, was the work of a well-known Italian artist and photographer, Eduardo Castaldo.

    Castaldo, who is a cinematic and television photographer, is not your typical artist, as he dedicates part of his time and efforts to championing struggles for human rights, equality and justice, especially in Palestine and throughout the Middle East.

    It is only befitting that Castaldo is from Naples, a Southern Italian city with deep historical and cultural connections with Palestine and the Arab world. As Italian culture had itself influenced the Arab world, numerous markers of Arab culture can also be detected in Naples, from the Neapolitan dialect to music and dance, to food and much more.

    Moreover, Naples, itself, is a symbol of the Italian resistance. The September 1943 uprising, known as “Le Quattro Giornate di Napoli” – Four Days of Naples – was a watershed moment in the history of the city as it liberated itself from Nazi German occupation.

    Castaldo’s mural of the Palestinian workers is not his only work on Palestine and the Middle East. He has done other artistic displays. Moreover, he has spent years in Palestine working as a photojournalist.

    We spoke to the Italian artist to understand his connection with Palestine and the Arab world, his inspirations and his ongoing fight against injustice in all of its forms.

    Capturing the Occupation 

    This work originated from my experience as a photo reporter in the Middle East,Castaldo said in reference to ‘Welcome to Bethlehem’.

    Castaldo worked as a photojournalist in Palestine for about four years, from 2007-2011. These years allowed him to immerse himself in the Palestinian experience and to “directly witness the cruel dynamics of Israeli military occupation.”

    “I visited the Bethlehem checkpoint several times, where I took many photos. My street artwork is a collage of photos that I took at the time,” he tells us.

    “That was a particularly harrowing experience,” Castaldo reflects:

    I was standing outside the checkpoint bars, taking pictures of Palestinian workers between ages 30 and 60, even 70, piled on top of one another for hours to cross the checkpoint and reach Jerusalem to work. These people repeated this same routine every day, from as early as 4 AM to 8 AM. And every day, they were forced by circumstances to suffer that same dehumanizing experience, simply to earn meager amounts of money (to feed their families).

    Castaldo felt “uncomfortable being a Western photojournalist, outside of the bars, taking pictures” of entrapped Palestinian workers. He explains the reasons behind his uneasiness:

    These people were already deprived of their dignity and I didn’t feel I had the right to take photos of them as if they were animals in a zoo. This feeling was so unpleasant that I decided not to show or sell those pictures to newspapers.

    But that feeling didn’t depart Castaldo’s conscience; in fact, it grew “stronger and stronger” to the point that Castaldo quit photojournalism altogether. Needless to say, those experiences in Palestine were imprinted in Castaldo’s mind until this day.

    “After several years, around 2018, I decided to re-elaborate these photos and I turned them into something else entirely,” he says, explaining:

    I put together 40-50 images in one single image, which won several awards, including the Sony World Photography Awards in 2018. Feeling the need to convey Palestinians’ painful experiences to the world, I transformed that picture into a street artwork. As an artist, that was my way to narrate that experience: both my feeling of discomfort and the humiliation and abuse that Palestinians were forced to suffer.

    From Naples to Palestine

    The Bethlehem mural is not the only street artwork that Castaldo dedicated to Palestine. In Via San Giovanni a Pignatelli, also in Naples, there is another breathtaking mural of a Neapolitan woman dumping a bucket of water at two Israeli soldiers who are trying to climb the wall.

    Castaldo says that this work is, too, a “reconstruction of a photo taken during an Israeli military operation in Palestine”.

    “The act of throwing water is quite common in Naples, especially by women who want to scare away kids when they are too loud in the street,” he says. “By associating this typical reaction with Israeli soldiers I tried to epitomize Naples’ solidarity with the Palestinian people. In my mind, that gesture became a symbol of anti-Zionist Naples.”

    But Castaldo’s Palestinian inspiration exceeds that of the geographic boundaries of Palestine to Italy itself. “Subsequently, I decided to add an element to the Palestinian flag,” which is present in the mural, namely, a portrait of Ali Oraney, a Palestinian-Italian activist who has been living in Naples since the early 1980s and died from Covid-19 some months ago.

    Ali played an important role in carrying out the struggle of the Palestinian people in Naples. He has been one of the key figures for the pro-Palestine activism in Naples and, more generally, in Italy and that is a tribute from my town to the Palestinian people and Ali.

    Human Connection

    Like other artists, journalists and other visitors to Palestine, the human connection, for Castaldo, was far more powerful a rapport than books and news broadcasts. Spending time with Palestinians is usually the best answer to the dehumanization they suffer at the hand of mainstream media.

    “Living in Palestine and the Arab world allowed me to create a strong bond with ordinary people living there, with their experiences, and with their daily struggles,” he says.

    “I have made friends with many people there and I had the chance to experience some of these things firsthand, as a journalist and a human being. This is essentially what created my bond with the Palestinian people.”

    Art and Change

    We asked Castaldo whether he believes that art is capable of altering reality in any way.

    As an artist “I have no illusion that my art can change things on the ground,” he says. “However, it is a way to offer my skills to what I perceive as important. It has undoubtedly a personal value to me. And I believe the political value of my artworks is intrinsically linked to the places in which they are set.”  Castaldo’s “ultimate goal is to connect the city of Naples, where I live, to this cause.”

    On art, politics, and freedom, the accomplished Italian artist says:

    I am perfectly aware that my art will not change such a dramatic political situation or have a key role, but I also think it can contribute because art is freedom. And, to me, it is important to point out that this freedom is not neutral, it has to stand on one side, on the right side.

    Beyond Palestine

    Castaldo’s morally motivated and politically conscious artwork spans other areas and subjects beyond Palestine, although, at their core, all of these issues are connected.

    Castaldo, who also worked as a photojournalist during the Egyptian revolution, dedicated another mural to Giulio Regeni, a young Italian scholar who was murdered in Egypt, presumably by Egyptian security forces.

    The mural was not only dedicated to Giulio Regeni, but to the Egyptian situation as a whole, because Regeni was part of it. Moreover, my ultimate goal was not only to denounce the single violation against Regeni but the repressive system in Egypt in its entirety.

    Castaldo is particularly happy that his artwork is very popular in the Middle East, where he continues to receive much support and accolades from the people and fellow artists in the region.

    “Thanks to social media, my works are more popular in the Middle East than in Europe. And I have to say that their positive reactions, their support, and their solidarity make me proud,” he says.

    Castaldo is not a typical artist. Ethics and morality play a crucial role in everything he does. He takes his inspiration from the people, and whenever possible, he exhibits his work also to the people. He feeds on the love and support he acquires from ordinary people, whether in Palestine or in Naples.

    This artist of the people is on a mission to convey the kind of pain, suffering, and indignity that proud people often undergo in isolation. His art also tells the story of pride, beauty, and hope for a brighter future.

    The post “Anti-Zionist Naples”: Award-Winning Italian Artist Speaks about Palestine and Why He Quit Photojournalism  first appeared on Dissident Voice.

    Denis Halliday: A Voice of Reason in an Insane World

    Photo credit: indybay.org

    Denis Halliday is an exceptional figure in the world of diplomacy. In 1998, after a 34-year career with the United Nations—including as an Assistant Secretary-General and the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq—he resigned when the UN Security Council refused to lift sanctions against Iraq.

    Halliday saw at first hand the devastating impact of this policy that had led to the deaths of over 500,000 children under the age of five and hundreds of thousands more older children and adults, and he called the sanctions a genocide against the people of Iraq.

    Since 1998, Denis has been a powerful voice for peace and for human rights around the world. He sailed in the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza in 2010, when 10 of his companions on a Turkish ship were shot and killed in an attack by the Israeli armed forces.

    I interviewed Denis Halliday from his home in Ireland.

    Nicolas Davies:   So, Denis, twenty years after you resigned from the UN over the sanctions on Iraq, the United States is now imposing similar “maximum pressure” sanctions against Iran, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea, denying their people access to food and medicines in the midst of a pandemic. What would you like to say to Americans about the real-world impact of these policies?

    Denis Halliday:   I’d like to begin with explaining that the sanctions imposed by the Security Council against Iraq, led very much by the United States and Britain, were unique in the sense that they were comprehensive. They were open-ended, meaning that they required a Security Council decision to end them, which, of course, never actually happened – and they followed immediately upon the Gulf War.

    The Gulf War, led primarily by the United States but supported by Britain and some others, undertook the bombing of Iraq and targeted civilian infrastructure, which is a violation of the Geneva Conventions, and they took out all electric power networks in the country.

    This completely undermined the water treatment and distribution system of Iraq, which depended upon electricity to drive it, and drove people to use contaminated water from the Tigris and the Euphrates. That was the beginning of the death-knell for young children, because mothers were not breast-feeding, they were feeding their children with child formula, but mixing it with foul water from the Tigris and the Euphrates.

    That bombing of infrastructure, including communications systems and electric power, wiped out the production of food, horticulture, and all of the other basic necessities of life. They also closed down exports and imports, and they made sure that Iraq was unable to export its oil, which was the main source of its revenue at the time.

    In addition to that, they introduced a new weapon called depleted uranium, which was used by the U.S. forces driving the Iraqi Army out of Kuwait. That was used again in southern Iraq in the Basra area, and led to a massive accumulation of nuclear debris which led to leukemia in children, and that took three, four or five years to become evident.

    So when I got to Iraq in 1998, the hospitals in Baghdad, and also, of course, in Basra and other cities, were full of children suffering from leukemia. Meantime adults had gotten their own cancer, mainly not a blood cancer diagnosis. Those children, we reckon perhaps 200,000 children, died of leukemia. At the same time, Washington and London withheld some of the treatment components that leukemia requires, again, it seemed, in a genocidal manner, denying Iraqi children the right to remain alive.

    And as you quoted 500,000, that was a statement made by Madeleine Albright, the then American Ambassador to the United Nations who, live on CBS, was asked the question about the loss of 500,000 children, and she said that the loss of 500,000 children was “worth it,” in terms of bringing down Saddam Hussein, which did not happen until the military invasion of 2003.

    So the point is that the Iraqi sanctions were uniquely punitive and cruel and prolonged and comprehensive. They remained in place no
    matter how people like myself or others, and not just me alone, but UNICEF and the agencies of the UN system – many states including France, China and Russia – complained bitterly about the consequences on human life and the lives of Iraqi children and adults.

    My desire in resigning was to go public, which I did. Within one month, I was in Washington doing my first Congressional briefing on the consequences of these sanctions, driven by Washington and London.

    So I think the United States and its populus, who vote these governments in, need to understand that the children and the people of Iraq are just like the children of the United States and England and their people. They have the same dreams, same ambitions of education and employment and housing and vacations and all the things that good people care about. We’re all the same people and we cannot sit back and think somehow, “We don’t know who they are, they’re Afghans, they’re Iranians, they’re Iraqis. So what? They’re dying. Well, we don’t know, it’s not our problem, this happens in war.” I mean, all that sort of rationale as to why this is unimportant.

    And I think that aspect of life in the sanctions world continues, whether it’s Venezuela, whether it’s Cuba, which has been ongoing now for 60 years. People are not aware or don’t think in terms of the lives of other human beings identical to ourselves here in Europe or in the United States.

    It’s a frightening problem, and I don’t know how it can be resolved. We now have sanctions on Iran and North Korea. So the difficulty is to bring alive that we kill people with sanctions. They’re not a substitute for war – they are a form of warfare.

    ND: Thank you, Denis. I think that brings us to another question, because whereas the sanctions on Iraq were approved by the UN Security Council, what we’re looking at today in the world is, for the most part, the U.S. using the power of its financial system to impose unilateral sieges on these countries, even as the U.S. is also still waging war in at least half a dozen countries, mostly in the Greater Middle East. Medea Benjamin and I recently documented that the U.S. and its allies have dropped 326,000 bombs and missiles on other countries in all these wars, just since 2001 – that’s not counting the First Gulf War.

    You worked for the UN and UNDP for 34 years, and the UN was conceived of as a forum and an institution for peace and to confront violations of peace by any countries around the world. But how can the UN address the problem of a powerful, aggressive country like the United States that systematically violates international law and then abuses its veto and diplomatic power to avoid accountability?

    DH:  Yes, when I talk to students, I try to explain that there are two United Nations: there’s a United Nations of the Secretariat, led by the Secretary-General and staffed by people like myself and 20,000 or 30,000 more worldwide, through UNDP and the agencies. We operate in every country, and most of it is developmental or humanitarian. It’s good work, it has real impact, whether it’s feeding Palestinians or it’s UNICEF work in Ethiopia. This continues.

    Where the UN collapses is in the Security Council, in my view, and that is because, in Yalta in 1945, Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill, having noted the failure of the League of Nations, decided to set up a United Nations that would have a controlling entity, which they then called the Security Council. And to make sure that worked, in their interests I would say, they established this five-power veto group, and they added France and they added China. And that five is still in place.

    That’s 1945 and this is 2021, and they’re still in power and they’re still manipulating the United Nations. And as long as they stay there and they manipulate, I think the UN is doomed. The tragedy is that the five veto powers are the very member states that violate the Charter, violate human rights conventions, and will not allow the application of the ICC to their war crimes and other abuses.

    On top of that, they are the countries that manufacture and sell weapons, and we know that weapons of war are possibly the most profitable product you can produce. So their vested interest is control, is the military capacity, is interference. It’s a neocolonial endeavor, an empire in reality, to control the world as the way they want to see it. Until that is changed and those five member states agree to dilute their power and play an honest role, I think we’re doomed. The UN has no capacity to stop the difficulties we’re faced with around the world.

    ND:   That’s a pretty damning prognosis. In this century, we’re facing such incredible problems, between climate change and the threat of nuclear war still hanging over all of us, possibly more dangerous than ever before, because of the lack of treaties and the lack of cooperation between the nuclear powers, notably the U.S. and Russia. This is really an existential crisis for humanity.

    Now there is also, of course, the UN General Assembly, and they did step up on nuclear weapons with the new Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which has now officially entered into force. And every year when it meets, the General Assembly regularly and almost unanimously condemns the U.S. sanctions regime against Cuba.

    When I wrote my book about the war in Iraq, my final recommendations were that the senior American and British war criminals responsible for the war should be held criminally accountable, and that the U.S. and the U.K. should pay reparations to Iraq for the war. Could the General Assembly possibly be a venue to build support for Iraq to claim reparations from the U.S. and the U.K., or is there another venue where that would be more appropriate?

    DH:   I think you’re right on target. The tragedy is that the decisions of the Security Council are binding decisions. Every member state has got to apply and respect those decisions. So, if you violate a sanctions regime imposed by the Council as a member state, you’re in trouble. The General Assembly resolutions are not binding.

    You’ve just referred to a very important decision, which is the decision about nuclear weapons. We’ve had a lot of decisions on banning various types of weapons over the years. Here in Ireland we were involved in anti-personnel mines and other things of that sort, and it was by a large number of member states, but not the guilty parties, not the Americans, not the Russians, not the Chinese, not the British. The ones who control the veto power game are the ones who do not comply. Just like Clinton was one of the proposers, I think, of the ICC [International Criminal Court], but when it came to the end of the day, the United States doesn’t accept it has a role vis-a-vis themselves and their war crimes The same is true of other large states that are the guilty parties in those cases.

    So I would go back to your suggestion about the General Assembly. It could be enhanced, there’s no reason why it couldn’t be changed, but it requires tremendous courage on the part of member states. It also requires acceptance by the five veto powers that their day has come to an end, because, in reality, the UN carries very little cachet nowadays to send a UN mission into a country like Myanmar or Afghanistan.

    I think we have no power left, we have no influence left, because they know who runs the organization, they know who makes the decisions. It’s not the Secretary-General. It’s not people like me. We are dictated to by the Security Council. I resigned, effectively, from the Security Council. They were my bosses during that particular period of my career.

    I have a lecture I do on reforming the Security Council, making it a North-South representative body, which would find Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa in situ, and you’d get very different decisions. You’d get the sort of decisions we get in the General Assembly: much more balanced, much more aware of the world and its North and South and all those other variations. But, of course, again, we can’t reform the Council until the five veto powers agree to that. That is the huge problem.

    ND:   Yes, in fact, when that structure was announced in 1945 with the Security Council, the five Permanent Members and the veto, Albert Camus, who was the editor of the French Resistance newspaper Combat, wrote a front-page editorial saying this was the end of any idea of international democracy.

    So, as with so many other issues, we live in these nominally democratic countries, but the people of a country like the United States are only really told what our leaders want us to know about how the world works. So reform of the Security Council is clearly needed, but it’s a massive process of education and democratic reform in countries around the world to actually build enough of a popular movement to demand that kind of change. In the meantime, the problems we’re facing are enormous.

    Another thing that is very under-reported in the U.S. is that, out of desperation after twenty years of war in Afghanistan, Secretary Blinken has finally asked the UN to lead a peace process for a ceasefire between the U.S.-backed government and the Taliban and a political transition. That could move the conflict into the political realm and end the civil war that resulted from the U.S. invasion and occupation and endless bombing campaign.

    So what do you think of that initiative? There is supposed to be a meeting in a couple of weeks in Istanbul, led by an experienced UN negotiator, Jean Arnault, who helped to bring peace to Guatemala at the end of its civil war, and then between Colombia and the FARC. The U.S. specifically asked China, Russia and Iran to be part of this process as well. Both sides in Afghanistan have agreed to come to Istanbul and at least see what they can agree on. So is that a constructive role that the UN can play? Does that offer a chance of peace for the people of Afghanistan?

    DH:   If I were a member of the Taliban and I was asked to negotiate with a government that is only in power because it’s supported by the United States, I would question whether it’s an even keel. Are we equally powerful, can we talk to each other one-to-one? The answer, I think, is no.

    The UN chap, whoever he is, poor man, is going to have the same difficulty. He is representing the United Nations, a Security Council dominated by the United States and others, as the Afghans are perfectly well aware. The Taliban have been fighting for a helluva long time, and making no progress because of the interference of the U.S. troops, which are still on the ground. I just don’t think it’s an even playing-field.

    So I’d be very surprised if that works. I absolutely hope it might. I would think, in my view, if you want a lasting relationship within a country, it’s got to be negotiated within the country, without military or other interference or fear of further bombing or attacks or all the rest of it. I don’t think we have any credibility, as a UN, under those circumstances. It’ll be a very tough slog.

    ND:  Right. The irony is that the United States set aside the UN Charter when it attacked Yugoslavia in 1999 to carve out what is now the semi-recognized country of Kosovo, and then to attack Afghanistan and Iraq. The UN Charter, right at the beginning, at its heart, prohibits the threat or use of force by one country against another. But that is what the U.S. set aside.

    DH:   And then, you have to remember, the U.S. is attacking a fellow member state of the United Nations, without hesitation, with no respect for the Charter. Perhaps people forget that Eleanor Roosevelt drove, and succeeded in establishing, the Declaration of Human Rights, an extraordinary achievement, which is still valid. It’s a biblical instrument for many of us who work in the UN.

    So the neglect of the Charter and the spirit of the Charter and the wording of the Charter, by the five veto members, perhaps in Afghanistan it was Russia, now it’s the United States, the Afghanis have had foreign intervention up to their necks and beyond, and the British have been involved there since the 18th century almost. So they have my deepest sympathy, but I hope this thing can work, let’s hope it can.

    ND:  I brought that up because the U.S., with its dominant military power after the end of the Cold War, made a very conscious choice that instead of living according to the UN Charter, it would live by the sword, by the law of the jungle: “might makes right.”

    It took those actions because it could, because no other military force was there to stand up against it. At the time of the First Gulf War, a Pentagon consultant told the New York Times that, with the end of the Cold War, the U.S. could finally conduct military operations in the Middle East without worrying about starting World War III. So they took the demise of the Soviet Union as a green light for these systematic, widespread actions that violate the UN Charter.

    But now, what is happening in Afghanistan is that the Taliban once again control half the country. We’re approaching the spring and the summer when the fighting traditionally gets worse, and so the U.S. is calling in the UN out of desperation because, frankly, without a ceasefire, their government in Kabul is just going to lose more territory. So the U.S. has chosen to live by the sword, and in this situation it’s now confronting dying by the sword.

    DH:   What’s tragic, Nicolas, is that, in our lifetime, the Afghanis ran their own country. They had a monarchy, they had a parliament – I met and interviewed women ministers from Afghanistan in New York – and they managed it. It was when the Russians interfered, and then the Americans interfered, and then Bin Laden set up his camp there, and that was justification for destroying what was left of Afghanistan.

    And then Bush, Cheney and a few of the boys decided, although there was no justification whatsoever, to bomb and destroy Iraq, because they wanted to think that Saddam Hussein was involved with Al Qaeda, which, of course, was nonsense. They wanted to think he had weapons of mass destruction, which also was nonsense. The UN inspectors said that again and again, but nobody would believe them.

    It’s deliberate neglect of the one last hope. The League of Nations failed, and the UN was the next best hope and we have deliberately turned our backs upon it, neglected it and distrusted it. When we get a good Secretary General like Hammarskjold, we murder him. He was definitely killed, because he was interfering in the dreams of the British in particular, and perhaps the Belgians, in Katanga. It’s a very sad story, and I don’t know where we go from here.

    ND:   Right, well, where we seem to be going from here is to a loss of American power around the world, because the U.S. has so badly abused its power. In the U.S., we keep hearing that this is a Cold War between the U.S. and China, or maybe the U.S., China and Russia, but I think we all hopefully can work for a more multipolar world.

    As you say, the UN Security Council needs reform, and hopefully the American people are understanding that we cannot unilaterally rule the world, that the ambition for a U.S. global empire is an incredibly dangerous pipe-dream that has really led us to an impasse.

    DH:   Perhaps the only good thing coming out of Covid-19 is the slow realization that, if everybody doesn’t get a vaccine, we fail, because we, the rich and the powerful with the money and the vaccines, will not be safe until we make sure the rest of the world is safe, from Covid and the next one that’s coming along the track undoubtedly.

    And this implies that if we don’t do trade with China or other countries we have reservations about, because we don’t like their government, we don’t like communism, we don’t like socialism, whatever it is, we just have to live with that, because without each other we can’t survive. With the climate crisis and all the other issues related to that, we need each other more than ever perhaps, and we need collaboration. It’s just basic common sense that we work and live together.

    The U.S. has something like 800 military bases around the world, of various sizes. China is certainly surrounded and this is a very dangerous situation, totally unnecessary. And now the rearming with fancy new nuclear weapons when we already have nuclear weapons that are twenty times bigger than the one that destroyed Hiroshima. Why on Earth? It’s just irrational nonsense to continue these programs, and it just doesn’t work for humanity.

    I would hope the U.S. would start perhaps retreating and sorting out its own domestic problems, which are quite substantial. I’m reminded every day when I look at CNN here in my home about the difficulties of race and all the other things that you’re well aware of that need to be addressed. Being policeman to the world was a bad decision.

    ND:   Absolutely. So the political, economic and military system we live under is not only genocidal at this point, but also suicidal. Thank you, Denis, for being a voice of reason in this insane world.

    The post Denis Halliday: A Voice of Reason in an Insane World first appeared on Dissident Voice.