Wednesday, July 22, 2009

What Does It Mean To Be A Revolutionary Communist?

AMY GOODMAN: Carl Dix, what does it mean to be a revolutionary communist?

CARL DIX: Well, what it means, first and foremost, is to understand and to act on the understanding that this capitalist imperialist system cannot—will not, but can’t even meet the needs of the overwhelming majority of humanity, that it thrives and exists on the chase after profit for a handful of super-rich capitalist imperialist exploiters, and that what that means for humanity is exploitation, disease, misery, starvation—you know, because Obama talked about, well, if those African countries would just get good governance, end corruption, more democracy, they could work their way out of it. Well, that will not happen, because as long as they’re enmeshed in the imperialist global entanglement of economic and political relations, the wealth that collects in the metropols of Europe and the United States is the other side of the misery that’s going to continue spreading. And then, acting on that means that what is necessary is to stop cold the system of capitalism and imperialism, dismantle its institutions through revolution, and put power in the hands of the people, build up new institutions that are based upon the initiative and involvement of people and will back up people to make the transformations that are made. And then the core of revolutionary communists who are at the core of that authority have to foster an atmosphere not only of involvement on the end of doing work, but also on the end of figuring out what needs to be done, how it should be done, taking up all the questions facing society. We have to put that before the people and create an atmosphere where even the people who disagree with the revolutionary authority feel free to raise their concerns and disagreements, because that’s the only way we’re going to know enough about reality in order to transform it in the desired direction—you know, because Cornel talks about speaking truth to power, and I love him for that, but the one thing about it is this power doesn’t care what truth you bring to it. They’re still going to go ahead with what’s in their interests.

Those Illusions: Update

CARL DIX: I’m a sixty-year-old black man, which means I have decades of experience with white supremacy. I remember when the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education outlawing segregation in education, Baltimore, Maryland, closed down the public swimming pools, because they saw the writing on the wall, and they’d have to integrate them, and they could not—they were not going to subject white kids to the indignity of swimming in water that had touched the bodies of black kids. That’s how thick this racism has been, and it’s continued on the way down. But that’s just something I remember from my childhood.

So I understand why people got into it, but I did see where this could go. And see, a lot of people say, “Well, look, a lot of black youth are going to get inspiration and hope from Obama being in the White House.” But then, the question I pose to them is, what will happen to that inspiration and hope when it collides with the continuing reality of white supremacy, male supremacy, imperialist, you know, overseas adventures, that remain the defining reality of America?

And see, what is coming around on this is that black youth are more and more being blamed for the situation that the system puts them in. And you look at Obama’s last two Father’s Day speeches, he gets into this thing of, you know, the youth got to pull up their pants. The absent dads got to be involved in their lives. You’ve got—the parents got to turn off the TV and make sure the kids do their homework. In other words, the onus for the youth not achieving is being put on the youth themselves and their parents. And what’s disappearing in that are the continuing obstacles that this system puts in the way of black, Latino and poor youth who want to achieve. So, in other words, the people are being blamed, and who better than Barack Obama, the first black president, to blame black youth for their plight? If George Bush does it, people would say it’s racist. But when the first black president does it, it actually draws people into it.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you share that criticism, Professor West?

CORNEL WEST: Yes, I think Brother Carl Dix is hitting the nail on the head. I think, at the same time, there’s ways in which, at the symbolic level, to break the glass ceiling at the very top of the American empire, the White House. Powerful, symbolically. Brother Carl and I are saying there’s too many brothers and sisters—red brothers and sisters on the reservations, white brothers and sisters poor working class, brown brothers and sisters in barrios, black brothers and sisters in chocolate cities—who are stuck in the basement. You’re stuck in the basement, you break the glass ceiling at the top.

The obsession is keeping track of Obama in the White House, a white house primarily built by black slaves. What about those who are still locked at the bottom, when you have policy team—neo-imperialist policy in foreign policy, neoliberal in economic policy—that’s reproducing the conditions of those stuck at the bottom across race? And at this point, you see, you can’t allow race and him being the first black president to hide and conceal the very ugly class realities of poor and working people. And that’s precisely, I think, why we’re trying to generate some motion, some momentum and some movement.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you share Carl Dix’s criticism of President Obama’s Father’s Day speeches?

CORNEL WEST: Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. I think that it’s quite telling that he would give personal responsibility speeches to black people, but not a lot of personal responsibility speeches to Wall Street in terms of execution. And when you actually look at the degree to which issues of accountability for poor people—but where’s the accountability when you’re bailing out these Wall Street elites, $700 billion? That’s socialism for the rich. That’s your policy. Don’t then go to these folk who are locked into dilapidated housing, decrepit school systems, many on their way to a prison-industrial complex, and talk about their fathers didn’t come through. And we know the fathers got problems. We understand that. But there are structural institutional challenges that he’s not hitting, hitting head on.

And I should say this, too, I think, in terms of style, that the Obama administration is obsessed with the wrong Lincoln. They are obsessed with the Lincoln who they think moved to the right and was trying to create bipartisan consensus with conservatives, whereas we know there’s no Lincoln without Frederick Douglass. There’s no Lincoln without Harriet Beecher Stowe. There’s no Lincoln without Wendell Phillips or Charles Sumner. That was a social movement.

Lincoln supported the slave trade when he was in the House. He supported the Fugitive Slave Act. In the first inaugural lecture he gave, he supported the first proposed Thirteenth Amendment, which said there would be slavery forever in America, the unamendable amendment. That was Lincoln. If it were not for the abolitionist movement, the courageous black and white freedom fighters, from John Brown to Douglass, who put pressure on Lincoln, we would have been dealing with a white supremacist Lincoln.

Lincoln became great, because a social movement pushed him against slavery in that regard. And Obama is looking to the wrong Lincoln. And if he doesn’t understand the greatness of Lincoln was responding to the social movements of working people and poor people, he’s going to end up with a failed presidency, with a lot of symbolic gestures, but, on the ground, everyday people, those Sly Stone called “everyday people,” suffering still.

It's Really A Lot Of Money

Under the worst of circumstances, the report said, the government's maximum exposure could total nearly $24 trillion, or $80,000 for every American.

Obama's New Style - Decently Covert

This past weekend in Buenos Aires, an American acquaintance presented me with page 9 of Saturday’s Buenos Aires Herald, the English-language daily, such that I might join the ranks of those who understood the approach of the US government to the current crisis in Honduras. Page 9 consisted of two Reuters articles, one on top of the other, with the essence of the US approach excerpted in a quote in orange print at the center of the top article: “This is part of Obama’s new style of doing things in Latin America.” How well my acquaintance had read the rest of the article was called into question by his reference to Costa Rican President Óscar Arias as Óscar Asturias.

The top article, entitled “US treads softly as region weighs in,” begins:

“Latin America was for decades seen as the United States’ ‘back yard’—a theatre where it imposed its will often at the barrel of a gun.

“But since Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was snatched from his home in his pajamas and spirited out of the country by the military on June 28, Washington has played an uncharacteristically low-key role.”

It apparently does not occur to Reuters that there is no need for gun barrels when the US is content for Zelaya to remain in his pajamas and out of the country, or that covert support for right-wing Latin American death squads might also have been described as low-key.

...The Reuters article on Honduras continues in the tradition of imbalance by asserting that “[t]he last Democrat in the White House, former President Bill Clinton, sent troops to put ousted Haitian leader Jean-Bertrand Aristide back in power in 1994,” without specifying that former Republican governments had frozen development aid to Haiti during Aristide’s subsequent presidential term—a low-key maneuver obligingly legitimated by the OAS—or addressing Aristide’s claims that he was kidnapped to Africa by the US and France in 2004.

Óscar Arias had confirmed that conservative Republicans in the US preferred Aristide’s departure to prospects of Haitian democracy and had responded negatively to Haitian rebel leader Guy Philippe’s March 2004 announcement that the country was in his hands, an announcement backed up by his supporters’ claims that they had executed opponents and by the fact that Philippe had received US military training in Ecuador. Arias’ negative response is recorded in Paul Farmer’s April 2004 article in the London Review of Books: “Nothing could more clearly prove why Haiti does not need an army than the boasting of… Philippe last week in Port-au-Prince. The Haitian army was abolished nine years ago during a period of democratic transition, precisely to prevent the country from falling back into the hands of military men.” Arias’ failure thus far to draw parallels between countries starting with H may be an effect of the fact that the current non-Republican State Department is still debating the definition of the word “military.”

The US has also still failed to freeze the bank accounts of Honduran coup instigators, which would presumably be more complicated than freezing drinking water loans to Haiti and would jeopardize American entrenchment “firmly in the background.” While not involving gun barrels, such economic maneuvers are nonetheless incompatible with antidemocratic objectives; the implication that the perceived inaction that characterizes “Obama’s new style” is somehow more benign than previous presidential styles is meanwhile offset by the fact that US government contact with Honduran coup plotters up until the day before the coup cannot be characterized as inactive.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Thursday, July 16, 2009

What Zizek knows about Election Fraud

In light of this, a reminder of what he was writing in 2004:
Democracy – in the way the term is used today – means that, whatever electoral manipulation takes place, every political agent will unconditionally respect the results. In this sense, the US presidential elections of 2000 were, despite appearances, effectively ‘democratic’: in spite of obvious electoral manipulation, and of the absurdity of the fact that a couple of hundred votes in Florida decided who would be president, the Democratic candidate accepted his defeat. When, in the weeks of uncertainty after the election, Bill Clinton said, ‘The American people have spoken; we just don’t know what they said,’ the remark should have been taken more seriously than it was meant: even now, we don’t know the ‘true’ result – and maybe this is because there was no substantial ‘message’ behind the result.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Why The Anthrax Letters Were Forgotten

(CBC Documentary, Part one of seven)

Monday, July 06, 2009


Sorry about the screaming all-caps, but this is an emergency:

January First: Notes from Calalini

About Me

Michael Schofield is killing his six-year-old daughter slowly and doesn't even realise it. It is obvious that he himself desperately needs help. He is getting none. And his child is being martyred while he blogs about it.

We tried everything. Positive reinforcement. Negative reinforcement. Hitting her back (I won't tell you how many people told us that all she needed was a good beating). We took all her toys away. We gave her toys away. We tried starving her. We did EVERYTHING we could to try and break her. Nothing worked.

It goes on like that forever. And it gets worse, much worse.

Worst of all, he is being assisted in his efforts by the grotesque US psychiatric profession and praised incessantly in the US media. This brutally sanctimonious claptrap appeared in the LA TImes on June 29th:

Jani's at the mercy of her mind

She is in fact at the mercy of her father and the quacks and the hacks. The diagnosis of "schizophrenia" (sic) is a sick joke.

At his blog and all over the web, comments boxes are filling up with messages of fawning, awe-struck admiration and support - for him, not for his helpless kid.

Urgent request: Does anyone one know anyone in the LA area (or elsewhere) who could intervene effectively to help this child?

She is one of millions, but her current prominence makes her a kind of test-case. She is being put through hell as we speak.

Thank you.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Neverending Civilising Mission

"Wars, Guns and Votes is, in some ways, a darker argument," he says. "The guts of it is that the international community has been naive by denying reality and imagining that security and accountability among the countries in the bottom billion can be readily achieved by just introducing elections." Democracy is about much more than that, he says. "It's very easy to steal an election if there are no checks and balances." Like a free press? "Absolutely; that makes a big difference. But we also need some sort of international standard about what constitutes a decent election."

The EU already offers a monitoring service, but, he says: "The problem is that it's not linked to any consequences." Collier's suggestion that the developed world should be prepared to intervene more often militarily could lead to charges of neo-colonialism, I point out. There's a long pause before he responds: "The citizens of the bottom billion share the planet with us and have needs, some of which have to be met by the international community. Those who want to put up a sign saying 'Keep Out' are not generally the ordinary citizens. They are the entrenched elites who have been exploiting them. In all of these societies there are internal struggles between brave people trying to effect change and powerful vested interests opposing them. We should be supporting the strugglers for change.


"The likes of [President Robert] Mugabe will call us neo-colonialists, but I have no aspirations to govern Africa. What the international community does have is legitimacy for military intervention, where necessary, through institutions like the UN. America has legitimacy, too, since the election of President Obama." Because of his African heritage? "Very much so. Africans are proud of him and see him as one of them.

"What we have seen are wild policy lurches on anything to do with security," Collier goes on. "We left Somalia without government for 15 years because 18 American soldiers were killed there. The lesson was seen to be: 'after Somalia, never intervene'. So we allowed 800,000 people to be butchered in Rwanda. Then we over-reacted the other way in Iraq. Getting it right doesn't mean going to either extreme. British troops, for instance, have done a hugely beneficial job in Sierra Leone. And I've just come back from Haiti, where 7,000 Brazilian troops are keeping the peace."

Paul Collier interviewed by an admiring Chris Arnot in The Guardian

The Peace empire keeps -

McKinney From an Israeli Prison