Crisis in Ukraine
by Jeff Strahl
The crisis in Ukraine has drawn numerous commentaries. Most of them have fallen into two camps. The mainstream media in Europe and North America have largely made this conflict about freedom fighters fighting off Putin, Europe’s new Hitler. Lots of the items in the alternative/”progressive”/”left” media have taken the line that the overthrow of the Yanukovych oligarchic regime was a coup against a “democratic” government by neo-Nazi thugs and that the oligarchic Putin regime has acted in the right in moving troops across the border, allegedly to protect Russian speakers being threatened by fascist storm troopers. This, while Putin himself denies that there are any Russian troops in Crimea (all those people riding around in new Russian armored vehicles are “local militia”!). Fortunately, there have been other voices, including those from an anarchist/libertarian communist perspective. The purpose of this post is to bring some of these together in one central location. This list will be updated as new accounts emerge, and will be complemented by a longer commentary (by me) as well as by some older analyses that show that the former Soviet bloc was incorporated into the global capitalist system long before its collapse in the late 1980s.
Ukraine is not simply a region, which the term “the Ukraine,” used widely and ignorantly, implies. The term was meant to create this misimpression by its originator, the Czarist empire, which about 300 years ago incorporated Ukraine within its dominions. Previously, Ukraine had an independent existence, and continues to have a distinct language and culture. Ukraine also has a history of anti-capitalist politics, most notably with the Makhnovist movement of 1917-1921, which held off both the Czarist White Army and the Bolshevik Red Army (while usually aligned with the latter but never the former), only to be attacked and overwhelmed by its ostensible ally after exhaustion. My sympathies are with neither the Ukrainian capitalist elite, nor the Russian one, but strictly with the working people in both nations and everywhere. The only stance which makes sense to me is an internationalist perspective against war between nation states and in favor of class war everywhere.
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Runaway Planetary Warming
by Will Barnes
Methane hydrates have been settling in the shallow sea sediment in vast quantities since the late Pliocene (i.e., for well over 2 million years) as ocean waters rapidly cooled. There have been limited releases from 16,000 to 12,000 years ago, and from roughly 130,000 to 115,000, 250,000 to 245,000, 350,000 to 340,000, etc., i.e., during the rapidly warming phases of interglacials, over at least the last 800,000 years. In these instances, the release has been a consequence of cosmological determinism or orbital forcings (i.e., the closer orbital position of the Earth to the sun). Their release has, accordingly, been “slow” enough (and limited [enough]) that the methane has been almost entirely oxidized.
Today, the situation is different, in fact unprecedented. First, if the warming is rapid enough some (not all) of the clathrates will not form the less deadly greenhouse gas CO2 (i.e., they will not be oxidized in the water). Instead these will be released directly to the atmosphere as methane. Occurring at 10,000 times the rate of an orbital forcing, “anthropogenic warming,” i.e., warming induced by the movement of capital, here and now we are witnessing a release in a contemporary (not historical, and certainly not geological) time frame for which there is no analog. Second, because these releases have been limited, the quantities of clathrates have grown absolutely over geological time and grown enormously.
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On Terrorism and the State
by Gianfranco Sanguinetti
From the [bombing of the] Piazza Fontana to the kidnapping of Moro, the only things that have changed are the contingent objectives that this defensive terrorism has achieved, but the goal of the defensive can never change. And the goal from 12 December 1969 to 16 March 1978, and today, as well, has in fact remained the same: to make the entire population, which had not supported the State or had been struggling against it, believe that it at least has an enemy in common with the State and that the State will defend the population on the condition that no one questions it. The population, which is generally hostile to terrorism, and not without reason, must then agree that, at least in this instance, it needs the State, to which it must delegate the most extensive powers so that the State can vigorously confront the arduous task of the common defense against an enemy that is obscure, mysterious, perfidious, merciless and, in a word, illusory. Faced with a terrorism that is always presented as the absolute evil, evil in itself and by itself, all the other evils, which are much more real, become secondary and must even be forgotten. Because the struggle against terrorism coincides with the common interest, it is already the general good, and the State that generously leads that struggle is the good itself and by itself. Without the cruelty of the devil, the infinite kindness of God cannot appear and be properly appreciated.
The State, extremely weakened by all the attacks it has suffered every day for ten years – attacks on its economy made by the proletariat, on the one hand, and attacks on its power and prestige made by the ineptitude of its managers, on the other – can thus [negate] both of them by solemnly tasking itself with staging the spectacle of the collective and sacrosanct defense [of all] against the monster of terrorism and, in the name of this pious mission, it can take from all of its subjects a supplementary portion of their already limited freedom and thus reinforce the police-related control of the entire population. “We are at war,” and war against an enemy that is so powerful that any other discord or conflict is an act of sabotage or desertion. It is only to protest against terrorism that one has the right to the recourse of the general strike. Terrorism and “emergency,” a state of emergency and perpetual “vigilance,” become the only problems, at least the only ones with which it is permitted and necessary for people to be occupied. All the rest doesn’t exist or becomes forgotten, and in any case is shut up, banished, repressed into the social unconscious because of the seriousness of the question of “public order.” And confronted with the universal duty of its defense, everyone is invited to become an informer, to be base and to become fearful. For the first time in history, cowardice becomes a sublime quality, fear is always justified, and the only form of “courage” that is not contemptible is the one that approves and supports all the lies, abuses and infamies of the State. Since the current crisis doesn’t spare any country in the world, there are no geographical boundaries between peace, war, freedom or truth. These borders pass through every country, and each State arms itself and declares war on the truth.
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Resistance is the Only Ethical Response to Near-Term Extinction
by Jeff Strahl
The world today faces three deadly crises. They can be analyzed separately but are interconnected and feed back and forth in major ways. ... Global warming increases pressures upon dwindling clean water sources, and requires more expenses on the part of states which are already facing severe budget constraints. The economic crisis makes investment in renewables increasingly problematic. Peak Oil means the costs of producing oil are such that gas prices have to climb to where they start choking off other spending. And so on. ... Clearly, there is no way out which preserves capitalism. Indeed, there is no way to preserve industrial society and the population levels it has enabled, levels which are far beyond the capacity of the planet to support. We would not be in this situation were it not for the emergence of and global conquest by capitalism and its growth imperative, but more needs to be shed than just the capitalist mode of production. Near-term extinction appears to be almost inevitable. To me, the main question right now is whether the extinction will come first from a new global war, or from runaway climate destabilization. ...
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Clean, Sober and Obedient
by Jack Straw
Back in the Summer of '86, the system’s already frenzied anti-drug campaign took on the aspect of a witch-hunt. At the time, many commentators dismissed the spreading social purge as election-year grandstanding, to be forgotten after Election Day. Boy, were they wrong — or did they lie?
In fact, the level of attack has steadily increased. During the recent residential presidential campaign, both parties identified themselves with an assault on our already meager civil rights. Little need be said about the Bush position, while the "liberal" Dukakis attempted to take a stand to the right of his G.O.P. rival, even calling cops who kick down doors looking for drugs "role models." With bipartisan support, the House voted to suspend the Miranda ruling against illegal search and seizure in drug cases, subject to the searchers' "good intentions.” (The courts are weakening this ruling every year anyway.) The full Congress ended up approving penalties of up to $10,000 for possession of even a single joint, and a cutoff of most federal benefits to those convicted of possession. Recently, courts have approved searches of individuals based upon "suspicious looks", and the National Guard has been recruited to search for drugs at the borders and other entry points.
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In the Wake of the Exxon Valdez:
World Capitalism and Global Ecocide
by Will Guest
"[We] were soon steaming across the great sound in warm sunshine...past islands and headlands, then over the immense expanse of the open water with a circle of snowcapped mountains far off along the horizon, then winding through arms and straits, close to the tree-tufted islands and steep spruce-clad mountains...with glimpses of open meadow-like glades among the trees....We were afloat in an enchanted circle; we sailed over magic seas under magic skies; we played hide and seek with winter in lucid sunshine over blue and emerald waters—all the conditions, around, above, below us were most fortunate."(1)
The wake has begun. People throughout North America are mourning the loss of precious life in Prince William Sound. John Burroughs' description of the sound at the turn of the century captured the breathtaking quality of its beauty, a quality which by all accounts lasted until March 24, 1989, when one oil-tanker too many tried to make the passage with its dangerous cargo. Now the blue and emerald waters are black with a thick, sticky crude oil.
The abundant birds, mammals and fish supported by the waters are now dead or dying, their carcasses unrecognizable, so thick is the oil, until the "rescue" crews scoop them up and probe to see what's at the core of the goo. Two weeks after the spill, at the University of California at Berkeley, a funereal procession of students, staff and faculty, led by a single, slowly-sounding drum, quietly showed their deep sense of loss and anger over the death of one of the world's richest coastal ecosystems.
The earth is dying—it is being killed—and many of us sense it. The cutting of the forests, accelerating extinctions of plants and animals, destruction of the ozone layer, pollution of the oceans—the list seems endless, frightening and demoralizing. Life goes on, but the problems only get worse. People don't seem to be able to do much about them. Perhaps we choose one issue and work to correct it—the "single-issue approach"—while inevitably leaving the other problems for other people. Many of us know that the real, underlying problem is a much larger one, that all the forms and types of environmental destruction are related, that they are caused by how we humans live on the earth, and that to correct them we have to change our way of life. But a strange silence reigns. Few people are talking about the basic problem or the basic solution.
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The Sick Planet
by Guy Debord
Today "pollution" is in fashion, exactly in the same manner that revolution is:
it takes hold of the entire life of society, and it is illusorily represented in
the spectacle. It is boring chatter in a plethora of erroneous and mystifying
writings and discourses, and in reality [dans les faits] it gets everyone in the
throat. It reveals itself everywhere as ideology and it gains on the ground as
real process. These two [mutually] antagonistic movements -- the supreme stage
of commodity production and the project of its total negation, equally rich in
internal contradictions -- grow together. They are the two sides through which a
single historical moment (long-awaited and often foreseen in inadequate partial
figures) manifests itself: the impossibility of the continuation of the
functioning of capitalism.
The epoch that has all the technical means to absolutely alter the conditions of
life of the entire Earth is also the epoch that, by the same separated technical
and scientific development, disposes of all of the means of control and
indubitable, mathematical prediction to exactly measure in advance where -- and
when -- the automatic increase in the alienated productive forces of
class-society will lead: that is to say, so as to measure the rapid degradation
of the conditions for survival in the most general and trivial senses of the
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Occupy Needs To Target And Destroy The Ruling Money Fetish
by Jack Straw
After decades of passivity, the American social/political landscape erupted last fall with the Occupy movement. Suddenly it’s no longer hip to be square and apathetic. The deep global economic crisis which started in 2007, the deepest such crisis since the 1930s, has exacerbated the squeeze on the living standards of the vast majority and widened the already massive gap between the richest one percent and the rest of society to such an extent that an explosion was all but inevitable. So far, to its credit, the Occupy movement has successfully fought off attempts to incorporate it into the existing political apparatus. Yet the question remains how much change it can bring, in particular to the systemic dynamics which brought forth the global crisis to begin with. Its actions have managed to stave off some of the worst consequences for people, particularly by delaying or even preventing foreclosures and home evictions, and have brought back to the American public awareness the question of class. In shutting down the port of Oakland twice, the movement also demonstrated the potential of collective action to bring the present order to a halt. However, without challenging the very basic features of capitalism, in particular capitalist social relations and the fetishism of commodities which they are built upon, the movement is unlikely to amount to anything except a rearguard reaction which will fall by the wayside as it either gets destroyed and/or co-opted by the forces supporting the continuation of the essential features of the status quo.
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The Trapping of Screw Loose Change
by Jeff Strahl
In mid-October 2011, I posted a review of David Ray Griffin's new book, 9/11 Ten Years Later -- When State Crimes Against Democracy Succeed at Amazon, here.
This review drew comments from James B, one of the two top people at Screw Loose Change, a leading "debunking" website used as a reference by many an internet opponent of 9/11 truth. The result was a major debunking of Screw Loose Change. This piece is intended to help those who in the future will go up against the likes of Screw Loose Change, since the trap's nature is both the content of the SLC argument as well as its form. The focus of our exchange was the evidence regarding events at the World Trade Center (WTC) on 9/11, where three steel frame high-rises were destroyed. This is the part of my review which is relevant to the debate:
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Comment on "Too Big Not to Fail"
by Jack Straw
"Too Big Not to Fail" is an excerpt from Life Rules, a book by Ellen LaConte. It examines the various factors behind the high unlikelihood of a recovery from the present economic crisis in a manner similar to the recovery from the 1930s Depression. I thought there were certain shortcomings in the analysis, and wrote about this to the author. We agreed that i should post these remarks as a friendly addendum.
She writes: “Several once-in-an-Earthtime conditions permitted the boom that followed that early 20th century bust. Among them were:
a war-driven, full-employment economy based on the production and deployment of conventional (that is, non-nuclear, non-biological) weaponry.”
The 1930s depression didn't really end till World War II, and this war, the biggest so far in history, indeed involved the full marshaling of productive resources and human labor power. This is what most people think of in connection with the stimulus effect of war. Yet even more importantly, World War II involved the massive destruction of productive apparatus, indeed of much of the productive apparatus of the world, with only the US and Canada amongst major industrial nations emerging undamaged. This in itself directly resolved the problem of overproduction which was a key symptom of the depression. It meant a drastic devaluation of capital seeking profit, carrying out in one big swoop what the recurring economic crises of the 19th Century used to do in small bits (a dynamic analyzed very well by Marx). A similar solution today is not viable, given the scale of destruction likely to ensue from a contemporary global war, with the state-of-the-art weapons of mass destruction
After the war, US factories went into overdrive rebuilding the global productive apparatus. This was a huge aspect of the post WWII prosperity. In addition, the global economic structure was reconstructed with the US at its center, with global coordinating bodies such as the IMF and World Bank, i.e. the structure was rationalized. Of course, this factor is also unique, since there is little left to rationalize regarding the global organization of capital, unless all the ruling elites could be brought under one tent, one global governing structure. This is highly unlikely given the irreconcilable interests of these elites.
There was also widespread destruction due to World War I, but it took place on a much smaller scale, limited to the immediate fighting zone in northeastern France and Belgium and a bit in northern Italy. Air raids still had very limited impact. There was also a global crisis before that war, and the limited destruction did little to relieve it. Prosperity in the 1920s (such as it was) was mostly limited to the US and, to some extent, Japan and the UK, and by 1929 was over.
In addition, i disagree with the analysis of American sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein, who states “Thus it is that we can say that the capitalist world-economy has now entered its terminal crisis, a crisis that may last up to fifty years.” The ameliorative effects of World War II and the postwar reorganization wore off and the terminal crisis reappeared by around 1970. It was put off by massive debt expansion and various waves of speculation bubbles, but these ran their course by the '07 crash. Thus, i think Wallerstein's timetable is way too "optimistic." I don't think global capitalism can hang on anywhere near another half century. [April 4, 2011]
The Global Fascist Terror State
by Tod Fletcher
The Global War on Terrorism that was launched by 9/11 has both an external purpose and an internal purpose. An external purpose of waging war anywhere in the world for purposes of conquest, conquest of resources, space, control, all of that, to govern the “ungoverned spaces” that they’re worried about. But then internally as well, a major focus of the false-flag attack of 9/11, in my view, was to enable states to massively increase control of their domestic populations. This is mainly what I want to talk about today. I have a few more things to say about the external purposes, however, before I go on to the internal ones. And they’re connected. The achievement of both sets of these purposes, internal and external, will allow the construction of this global control system, that I call a Global Fascist Terror State.
My contention is that there is really only one enemy in the eyes of the planners and propagandists and perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks. And that that enemy is the working class, the world’s population, basically.
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Michael Hudson and Webster Tarpley Disseminate Disinformation
by Jack Straw
In an interview broadcast June 16th, 2010, on the Guns and Butter program on Pacifica Network’s Berkeley affiliate station KPFA, host Bonnie Faulkner interviewed Prof Michael Hudson of the University of Missouri-Kansas City regarding the current economic crisis in the U.S. and Europe. Hudson made two main points. He claimed that his perspective is a Marxist one, carrying on the tradition of political economy in contrast to most of the contemporary left. He also stated that there really is no economic crisis per se, but rather a political crisis resulting from the latest chapter of a centuries-long struggle by financial interests to reverse historical gains by progressive forces and regain power over the global economic/political structure. He subsequently advanced a political program to counter this crisis.
A week later, Faulkner (who has done many excellent shows on 9/11) interviewed author and 9/11 researcher Webster Tarpley, who made very similar points, though he did not claim to be in Marx’s tradition. Tarpley presented similar programatic suggestions to Hudson’s, having to do with greater government regulation of finance and efforts aimed at restoring economic growth. The host clearly did not have the familiarity to detect their ugly distortions and serious errors (hard to tell them apart), so it’s up to those of us who can do so to evaluate their presentations and expose these distortions and errors. Not only are their analyses wrong, but they also present prescriptions for “what is to be done” which are so deceptive and pernicious as to amount to outright disinformation. If their program were to be widely accepted and implemented (very unlikely), the effects would harm our species’ ability to survive. But even if it were not, the diversion of attention and energy would be highly damaging.
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Latest Chapter of Anti-Racism: Tim Wise Defends Obama
by Jack Straw
Prominent “anti-racism” activist Tim Wise appeared on the "Morning Show" of Pacifica’s Berkeley affiliate KPFA on March 1, 2010. During the show’s second hour, he asserted in an interview with host Aimee Allison that the growing opposition movement to President Obama, which he called the “Tea-bagger” movement, was essentially all about racism, motivated by the fact that Obama is of African-American background.
Wise provided an account of US history which focused entirely on race relations. He described how the government seized the land which makes up the US and gave it to “white people” through the Homestead Act. He described the post-World-War-II expansion of suburbia as a government affirmative action program on behalf of “whites.” And he essentially described the basic social dynamic in the US as being about race.
The Daily Battle has previously dealt with the question of the diversion of opposition to the dominant system into a perspective which focuses almost entirely upon “racism”. I see little reason to rehash what i discussed in that piece. However i would like to address the two key points that Wise brought up.
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The Working Class, World Capitalism and Crisis
by Will Barnes
[This article by Will Barnes largely shares our perspective. The breadth and scope of the analysis are quite unusual. I have some disagreements with the piece. I do not feel that Barnes has examined the full scope of the US aspect of the global proletarian upsurge during the 1963-78 period aside from the 1977-8 coal miners’ strike, and thus passed over a period during which many young workers challenged not only their working conditions, but the cooperation of unions with management (much of the strike activity took the form of wildcats) as well as cultural norms centered upon the work/consumption cycle, wanting something more out of life than the American Dream.
I also believe Barnes is underestimating the speed at which global climate change is occurring. He does not take into account that the world’s output of oil is right now reaching its maximum and will decline, a phenomenon known as peak oil. This will mean that the present functioning of global capitalism will become increasingly impossible. Nor is there an attempt to deal with the rapid depletion of vital minerals and raw materials, of water, and of topsoil. He is thus overestimating the ability of the system to just plod along for decades.
Nonetheless, the overall thrust of this article is something with which we strongly agree, in particular the politics expressed in it, opposing both capital and the state, as well as the conclusion, that without people acting to replace capitalism with communism, there will be no positive outcome to this crisis. Do look at other items on the website, where this article is available in document form. -- Jack Straw, 3/2/10]
Part I : Forms of the Contemporary Class Relation with the United States
The declining rate of unionization of the industrial working class in America in the last three decades has gone hand in hand with the growing reduction in the numerical weight of industrial workers relative to the total number of waged and salaried personnel as large industrial capitals shifted their operations abroad. In fact, this reduction in the numerical weight of the proletariat in the U.S. economy is the other side of the emergence of vigorous centers of industrially-based, capital accumulation in the world system, in part a product of the flight of U.S. capital “offshore,” in the end though a product of the very dynamics of capitalist development. Moreover, this decline is not a temporary phenomenon: It is a product of the movement of capital, of the new technical inputs mediated, truly astounding productivity of abstract labor. For capital, such productivity, of course poses the threat of a crisis of overproduction.
This decline in the rate of unionization is one feature, among others – all interrelated, that characterize objective tendencies of a development distinguishing the American working classes in the contemporary period. These include formation of vast, new proletariat made up of "contingent" or casualized laborers, much of its cast off in the disintegration of the central core of mass production industries and the permanent shrinking of the municipal proletariat; it includes further the emergence of a low wage manufacturing proletariat; inseparable from low waged manufacturing and casualized labor, the growth of a massive layer of superexploited Latino labor paid at rates far below prevailing wage scales; and, more and more, as casualized labor becomes the predominant figure within the proletariat today, a blurring of historically distinctive features of different strata within and forming the waged relation. It is the emergence of this figure, that of casualized labor, that I think is most significant for what is really crucial, namely, the possibilities for consciousness among workers. I shall return to this.
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The Modern American Left Doesn't Get Capitalism
by Jack Straw
In the midst of the biggest global economic crisis since at least the 1930s, the vast majority of what passes for “the left” in the US in 2010 is proving itself extremely incapable of comprehending the reasons for this crisis as well as any possible trajectories out of it. Much of this is tied to a complete unwillingness by most contemporary American leftists to meaningfully engage with Marx’s critique of capitalism. In fact, many of them have taken to embracing notions coming straight out of orthodox capitalist theory, notions which have repeatedly been proven false. This is a clear recipe for failure of any possibility of transforming this exploitative society and simultaneously avoiding an ecological disaster.
This article will not deal in detail with the dominant left notion that what is currently a “correct” strategy is to call for greater government regulation of business and even state ownership, as well as greater spending by the government on social programs. Nor will i tackle the left’s efforts to promote the “green economy,” “green jobs,” “green energy”; this is a strategy whose mantra is that shifting the economic activity towards supposedly more environmentally friendly practices will solve both the economic crisis and the growing threat of environmental catastrophe. I will restrict this piece to examining the failure of leftists to even understand how the present system functions.
A good place to start is a new article by someone who considers himself a Marxist, John Bellamy Foster (“Why Ecological Revolution?”, in Monthly Review, January 1, 2010). Foster makes good points about the insufficiency of the mainstream approaches to the global ecological crisis, including the critique put forth by “greens.” But then he makes a really bad presentation of Marx's idea of surplus value. “Any attempt to explain where surplus value or profits comes from must penetrate beneath the exchange process and enter the realm of labor and production. Here, [Foster is referring to Capital, Volume 1 and The Grundrisse] Marx argues that value added in the working day can be divided into two parts: (1) the part that reproduces the value of labor power (i.e., the wages of the workers) and thus constitutes necessary labor; and (2) the labor expended in the remaining part of the working day, which can be regarded as surplus labor, and which generates surplus value (or gross profits) for the capitalist. Profits are thus to be regarded as residual, consisting of what is left over after wages are paid out — something that every businessperson instinctively understands. The ratio of surplus (i.e., unpaid) labor to necessary (paid) labor in the working day is, for Marx, the rate of exploitation.”
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The Crisis of Value
by Sander, Internationalist Perspective
There’s no need to repeat that we are in the midst of the worst
crisis of capitalism since the 1930’s: even in the mass media this
has become a mantra. But why are we in this mess? The course of
action (or inaction) that is advocated depends on the answer to this
question. Already, the way in which the crisis is portrayed implies
an answer. The mass media has inundated us with stories of greed,
stories of mismanagement and of lack of regulation. The “Anglo-
Saxon,” “neo-liberal” model of unbridled free markets has been
thoroughly discredited, the economic heroes of the right have fallen
from their pedestals, and good old Keynes is back in fashion. The new
consensus favors more regulation, more state-intervention, and more
debt creation by the state in order to counter-act the deflationary
pull that is contracting the economy. The debate is only about how
much. That is a debate that, by its nature, is waged within the left
of the capitalist political spectrum. It pits those who believe
that fine-tuning the symbiosis between the state and private capital
leads to the best of all possible worlds, against those who
hallucinate that, through gradual statification of the economy, they
will ease capitalist society into socialism. But the latter support
the first in their narrative of the crisis as a result of greed,
mismanagement and deregulation. They both critique capitalism, to
various degrees, but their critique is a positive one. They share and
propagate the belief that capitalism can be improved upon. That makes
them the most crucial defenders of capitalism today.... In contrast
to the left, the pro-revolutionary critique of capitalism is a
negative one. It claims that the current crisis will worsen, whatever
measures are taken. At best, these measures will slow its
acceleration, but any reflation will be a reflation of the bubble;
because the bubble is not only in real estate and in finance. The
world economy as a whole is a bubble that must explode or deflate,
with terrible consequences for the vast majority of humanity,
regardless of how and by whom this is managed. ... there is no other
higher power that can come to the rescue. Capitalism becomes the most
dangerous when the flight forward is the only alternative left. The
negative critique of capitalism claims that it can’t be repaired
because the crisis is the direct result of the historic over-ripeness
of its very foundation: the value-form."
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9/11 In Context:
the Strategy of Tension Gone Global
Guns and Butter, January 24, 2007
BF: This is Guns and Butter. I'm Bonnie Faulkner. Today on Guns and Butter: Tod Fletcher. Today's show: "9/11 In Context: the Strategy of Tension Gone Global." Tod Fletcher is a 9/11 researcher and writer. Under the pen-name Max Kolskegg he has posted online a three-part series of articles on 9/11 in its historical and political-economic context: After Genoa: Reform or Revolution?, 9/11: A Desperate Provocation by U.S. Capitalism and 9/11 In Context: Plans and Counterplans.
BF: Tod Fletcher welcome.
TF: Thank you very much, Bonnie.
BF: You wrote a series of long articles, one before the September 11, 2001 events, and several in the year after. In your article written before September 11, "After Genoa: Reform or Revolution?", you saw events taking place in Genoa, Italy foreshadowing great struggles to come. What went on during the time of the G8 conference in Genoa, in July of 2001, that so alarmed you? .
TF: Well, it was an outbreak of what can only be called fascist attack on the protestors at the G8 meetings, and it was complicated and it was very bloody, and it included the killing of a protestor, Carlo Giuliani by the police, and he was the first protestor in any of the anti-globalization protests that had been happening in cities around the world for several years to be killed, directly like that. And there were reports of other deaths there, but nobody had it on camera like they did with Carlo Giuliani. So that was one thing. Genoa was a meeting of the G8, George Bush was there. The G8 is the seven biggest industrial countries in the world, plus Russia, which is allowed to join with them, sort of out of a courtesy because of its former significance, I guess, economically. And this was a very large meeting. There were over 300,000 people there. It was the largest of the series of meetings. There had been a first major one in Seattle in 1999, and I believe you were there, were you not, Bonnie?
BF: I was indeed. On behalf of Project Censored, by the way.
TF: From there the contestation took off, and there was a long string of meetings. Every time the major economic institutions would try to meet, people would meet out in the streets with them Quebec, Prague, Gotheburg and Genoa and Genoa was the biggest. Bush was there, and Blair, and all the heads of state of these eight nations. Most of them were staying in the Ducal Palace, on land, but Bush was on a ship, a U.S. naval vessel out in the harbor, because they didn't consider the security on land adequate for someone like George Bush. The security that was put in place prior to the beginning of the meetings and before any of the demonstrators arrived was very extreme, including [ground to air] missile batteries on the roofs of the buildings around the Ducal Palace, because they feared that Islamic Fundamentalist Terrorists might hijack a plane and crash it into the Ducal Palace while the heads of state were having dinner sometime. There was a lot of press buildup, and a lot of attention to these security precautions, and they sort of dared the protestors to come on. And so the protestors came from all over the world, hundreds of thousands of them. These are complex demonstrations, involving people from all walks of life, not just entirely industrial proletarians by any means, but environmental activists, people concerned about the terrible conditions in the Global South, anarchists, Marxists, and grandmothers, and all kinds of people who are concerned about what is happening globally part of this movement that's been called the "anti-globalization movement."
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Retort's Response: Intellectual Dishonesty
by Jack Straw
The night of May 26th, i went to Black Oak Books in Berkeley to hear the presentation by members of the San Francisco Bay Area group Retort regarding their new book, "Afflicted Powers: Capital and Spectacle in a New Age of War" . The writers are Iain Boal, TJ Clark, Joseph Matthews and Michael Watts, all associated with UC Berkeley in one form or another, and they claim "situationist" politics. They contend that 9/11 was an effective attack on the empire and the Spectacle, with airliners "detourned" into bombers, as one asserted during the presentation. A close friend of mine asked the first question, brought up the work by situationists Sanguinetti and Debord in exposing Italian state terrorism in the '70s, including "On Terrorism and the State". He pointed out some evidence re 9/11 being an inside job, such as "suicide hijackers" who are still alive, people standing in the WTC North Tower impact zone, where supposedly fires were melting steel, the relatively low temperatures of these fires as noted by the government's own reports, and asked why they accept the official story. (A discussion of such evidence can be found in my last article, "Left Denial on 9/11 Turns Irrational", posted here. Joe Matthews simply said "Because it's true", drawing some laughs from the audience, and went on to the next question.
Several questions all followed, none challenging the team in any way, it seemed like the audience was for the most part made up of academic and political friends of theirs. Then another 9/11 activist whom i know asked some more questions about the physical evidence, and was told to talk to my friend, chuckle chuckle, on to the next question. He, my friend and i tried shouting about the questions not being answered but were ignored. No one really wanted to discuss the matter, it seemed. And several people in the audience who i know think like us stayed silent.
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Left Denial on 9/11 Turns Irrational
by Jack Straw
Ever since the events of 9/11, the American Left and even ultra-Left have been downright fanatical in combating notions that the U.S. government was complicit in the attacks or at least had foreknowledge of the events. Lately, this stance has taken a turn towards the irrational.
In a recent interview, Noam Chomsky has made an incredible assertion:
"There's by now a small industry on the thesis that the administration had something to do with 9-11. I've looked at some of it, and have often been asked. There's a weak thesis that is possible though extremely unlikely in my opinion, and a strong thesis that is close to inconceivable. The weak thesis is that they knew about it and didn't try to stop it. The strong thesis is that they were actually involved. The evidence for either thesis is, in my opinion, based on a failure to understand properly what evidence is. Even in controlled scientific experiments one finds all sorts of unexplained phenomena, strange coincidences, loose ends, apparent contradictions, etc. Read the letters in technical science journals and you'll find plenty of samples. In real world situations, chaos is overwhelming, and these will mount to the sky. That aside, they'd have had to be quite mad to try anything like that. It would have had to involve a large number of people, something would be very likely to leak, pretty quickly, they'd all be lined up before firing squads and the Republican Party would be dead forever. That would have happened whether the plan succeeded or not, and success was at best a long shot; it would have been extremely hard to predict what would happen."
More recently, Ward Churchill, under fire for his comments following the 9/11 attacks comparing the people in the WTC towers to “little Eichmanns”, took a somewhat different turn to the irrational. This comes via an email from a friend.
"I went to the Friday (3/25/05) night event which was organized by the so-called 'anarchist' AK Press people who in 'true anarchist spirit' only allowed
written questions which they selected (i.e. censored) and handed to
Churchill to read one by one. Needless to say my question as to how he
reconciles the fact that his 'roosting chickens' thesis is consistent with
the 'war on terror' mythology was not asked. A badly phrased 9-11 question
did get through. He first said "as to what actually happened on 9-11, I'm open to different theories, I have not seen any evidence" (to which I would
of course say - well look at it you idiot!) - or something to that effect -
at this point there was scattered clapping - and then he added "But, the
problem with the idea that it was an inside job is that it suggests that
brown people are not capable of such feats and gives all the credit to the
white man, another master race fantasy". Many people seemed to like this
silly analysis - although a couple of people shouted loudly "that's
ridiculous!". Anyway he clearly illustrated what a dolt he is, his past work
This happened in Oakland. The following day, while Churchill was speaking at the Anarchist Book Fair in San Francisco, someone yelled out to the effect that the people who are after Churchill are also the real perpetrators of 9/11. He paused for maybe two seconds, and responded to the effect that this was the same racist crap about brown people not being able to defend themselves. The audience gave him a standing ovation.
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9/11 In Context: Plans and Counterplans
by Max Kolskegg
It is time to have a hard, clear-eyed look at our situation here in this post-September 11 "brave new world order", on the brink of a huge conflagration in the Middle East, with endless war beyond. The Global Fascist Terror State has arrived, the fruit of decades of planning, propaganda and provocation. September 11 was its coming-out party, and for us, the last wake-up call. So now let's face the facts. No more self-delusion, no more easy roads. The reality is plain as day, and so therefore is our task.
The rapidly-building worldwide anticapitalist movement (called the "antiglobalization movement" by its enemies both right and left) has forced the planners of capital's predations to abandon all caution and launch, through provocation, a new phase of the global class war. The worldwide revolt against capitalism and the state, increasing inexorably year by year over the last decade, and exemplified most visibly in Seattle, Prague and Genoa, added a final intolerable pressure to the already dismal condition of world capitalism. With profits collapsing, ever-worsening environmental destruction, and looming resource (especially oil) depletion, capital's prospects were poor in any case. Add in mounting autonomous resistance throughout the world, highly conscious of the underlying cause of the planet's many agonies and who is responsible, and suddenly the whole structure is on the brink of collapse.
Provocation and Fake Terror
Provocation and fake terror as the pretext for a new assault on capital's enemy, the working people of the world, is nothing new; most wars of the last hundred years have started this way. (Wars are, above all things, attacks on working people — who fight them and die in battle, and are the vast bulk of the "collateral damage" as well. In the last analysis, all wars are class wars.) By "provocation" is meant the action of an agent provocateur, on any scale: against a cop, or against a country. The purpose is to provide an attack that legitimizes an aggressive response, an attack that otherwise would not occur. When a cop dressed up as a black blocker throws a stone or molotov cocktail at the police phalanx, he provides the pretext they wait for to rush and crush the crowd. "Fake terror" is a type of provocation which selects the innocent, defenseless public as the specific victim of the attack, to wreak maximum psychological damage on the population and render them as putty in the state's hands.
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Established Left as Ideology Police
by Jack Straw
Amongst the stranger phenomena observed in the wake of revelations about U.S. government foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks, we see the established Left launch a coordinated attack against those who maintain that there is a lot more to the story than mere government foreknowledge. Norman Solomon, Ed Herman, David Corn, Martin Lee, ChuckO of Infoshop, Chip Berlet, Mike Albert, Seymour Hersh, and others with similar politics, have all written articles for the usual Left magazines and websites, or have appeared on radio shows, warning their loyal flock against pursuing such lines of inquiry, and asserting that this could divert the Left from the real work that needs to be done. This has involved increasingly nasty personal attacks on those who do indeed pursue such inquiries, such as Michael Ruppert.
Like a chorus, all these supposed critics of the status-quo chime in that the Bush administration and its various agents are simply incompetent: nothing more, nothing less. It would be ridiculous, they say, to think that the administration is even capable of willful negligence in 9/11, i.e. knowing of the attacks but letting them happen so it could implement its policy of military interventions and domestic repression. And active complicity? Forget it. They uniformly voice their disbelief that any American president could be so callous about such mass loss of innocent American lives. More fundamentally, they assert that spending time trying to figure out the extent of U.S. government foreknowledge or complicity amounts to a surrender to "conspiracy theory", a method that overemphasizes bad deeds by bad people, and ignores systemic causes for events and policies. Thus, activists are diverted from the real task at hand, a challenge to the system's core structures.("Structuralism" is what they call their method.) I won't deal here with these individuals as such; others have done a great job compiling the articles and their critiques (see "The Magic Bullet Dissidents" feature section at www.questionsquestions.net). Instead, I'll focus on why I think this organized attack is happening.
The dichotomy which these so-called leftists assert exists pretty much only in their heads. No doubt, the capitalist system is what sets the context for all the actions of the state/corporate apparatus. Capital accumulation (curiously enough, this is left out of their "structuralism," as they have all abandoned a rigorous understanding of capitalism) has to be facilitated, for it is a process that always faces problems, and these problems mount as the accumulation proceeds to ever-larger levels. At the same time, the system must be legitimated. It isn't a very easy thing to convince the vast majority of humanity to go along with a social set-up which is based upon its own dispossession and exploitation so as to make a tiny shrinking minority ever richer, and upon the ever-wider destruction of the world's eco-system and its various human communities. The system's managers are thus obeying an objective imperative, and are not simply evil people who are out mucking up a basically good set-up. But all this involves decisions made by actual human beings, working within specific institutions whose aim is the perpetuation and expansion of world capitalism, or at least the well-being of their personal empires within that global mechanism. Capital in the abstract and institutions in the abstract only explain generalities or tendencies within which human actors have a range of choices, including criminal behavior. Pretending otherwise, taking what is sometimes a useful conceptual and rhetorical tool and making it into a material reality -- in fact a persona which makes conscious decisions -- amounts to understanding nothing.
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Henry the Great on September 11
by I. Berg
Reprinted below is a remarkable text by that remarkable man, Henry
Kissinger. It was posted online at washingtonpost.com not much more
than twelve hours after the first airliner struck the north tower of
the World Trade Center. The text is notable for a number of reasons,
but has gone largely unnoted to date. It seems to express the measured,
even reassuring, view of a major, widely (not universally!) respected
statesman, calling for a new approach to the threat of terrorism, reassessed
in the light of the morning¹s events. Its publication didn¹t elicit
much comment it was just a drop in a mass media tidal wave.
Since September 11, however, a long list of unanswered questions and
suspicions have floated to the surface. The unrelenting media flood
still serves to distract most people, but many are starting to wonder.
Coming out of a state of shock as time has passed, with difficulty shaking
off the mesmerism induced by television and corporate newspapers, a
growing number of people are starting to look more carefully at the
situation we find ourselves in. As part of this process, I'd like to
look more closely at this short utterance of Henry Kissinger, posted
at 9:04 pm on September 11.
A quite extraordinary aspect of the text is its succinct expression,
before Pres. Bush had collected his breath after his day's extensive
travels, of the entire "anti-terror" battle plan. With no time for the
many experts on terror in the many branches of the federal government
to discuss what had happened, let alone what to do, with Bush back in
DC for just a couple of hours, Cheney hunkered in a bunker somewhere,
and everyone presumably in a state of shock at the unexpected calamity,
Henry Kissinger is able to articulate in careful, composed tones the
overall structure of the US response, from which there has been no official
deviation since: a war on the terrorists wherever they lurk, including
attacks on "any government that shelters" them. It's as if Henry had
won the lottery. Good guess, big guy!
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9/11: A Desperate Provocation by US Capitalism
by Max Kolskegg
The "War on Terrorism" is indeed a fraud, as Australian film and print journalist John Pilger has
repeatedly pointed out. "Terrorism" is simply taking the place of
"Communism" during the Cold War as the propaganda line spewed by the
state and the corporate media to rally a confused and fearful
population against "enemies" who supposedly threaten them. This most
effective form of social control was recommended by Hitler's chief
propagandist, Josef Goebbels. The purpose of the "War on Terrorism"
is to maintain carte blanche for the ever more desperate agenda of
American capital: the domination of the continent of Eurasia (the
critical sector of which is Central Asia, precisely where the "War on
Terrorism" just happens to have begun), and the crushing of the Left
worldwide, especially its explicitly anti-capitalist core.
In the face of this juggernaut the Left has shown a potentially
fatal lack of intellectual rigor as well as nerve. The evidence that
the attacks on September 11 were in all likelihood a black operation
of the US intelligence services, a state "provocation" designed as a
pretext to launch the global "War on Terrorism", is very substantial.
It is also painful to consider, but the task must not be shirked. The
purpose of this essay is to consider its relevance to the future of
the only force which holds any hope of saving humanity and the planet
from the megadeath capital is preparing, the anti-capitalist
Shock, Propaganda And Paralysis
Four months after September 11, it appears that most of the Left
is asleep at the switch. Just about the only response has been the
"anti-war movement", which has been weak, especially in the U.S.,
where the propaganda barrage has successfully marshalled the bulk of
the population, including many leftists, into lockstep with their
masters' plans. In any case the movement hasn't stopped the "war" in
Afghanistan (really a one-sided attack against an essentially
defenseless target, not a war). Nor is there any reason to imagine
that it has frightened the Bush cabal from implementing plans to
unleash its death machine on any number of additional targets in the
future. US troops are massing in Kuwait and Qatar, in preparation for
an attack on Iraq, and "special operations" are underway already in
Yemen, Somalia, the Philippines and perhaps Sudan. Then there's
Colombia. . .Venezuela. . .Bolivia. . .Mexico, and these are just the
most obvious near-term objects of attention from the Sickos in
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After Genoa: Reform or Revolution?
by Max Kolskegg
It would be hard to deny that the events in Genoa were, as Starhawk
has said, a major watershed in the history of the movement to create
a livable world. The repressive forces of capitalism were in full
display, so that even the most pacific of pacifists received a salutary
shock and have been forced to reevaluate the rationality, if not the
righteousness, of their strategy for social change. The near-murderous
assault on the sleeping place of the Genoa Social Forum and the Independent
Media Center on the 21st of July will go down in infamy. The skulls
cracked there may change more than a few minds about who and what
we're dealing with, and how best to proceed.
Useful analysis of the crackdown in Genoa by Starhawk, Lorenzo Komboa Ervin and others has pointed to some of the lessons that need to be
learned. The capitalist class has shown remarkable solidarity and
class consciousness in developing a strategy to repress the "anti-globalization"
movement, both by force and by trying to split the movement where
it is weakest, the division between its revolutionary and reformist
wings. Some revolutionaries are pacifists, and the events in Genoa
are not likely to turn them into reformists (although they may kiss
their pacifism goodbye). But the main efforts expended by the police,
politicians and media have been directed to splitting the reformists
away from the revolutionaries by literally creating an image of violent,
out of control "anarchists" who are ruining the party for everybody
and should be shunned or constrained. And their strategy is a good
one, as shown by the numerous calls for "self-discipline" from self-appointed
leaders of the reformist wing like Kevin Danaher of Global Exchange.
The fact is that a significant part of the movement is composed of
people who seek to be recognized as leaders and spokespeople of various
segments of the lower orders; by threatening to "put the masses in
the streets" and make business as usual impossible until their demands
are met, they hope to get a place among the powerful.
But then there are the revolutionaries as well. Although at present
they are fewer in number than the reformists, it's just possible that
they have a better understanding of the nature of the situation we're
in and what we're up against, and a better idea of the appropriate
strategies to pursue: strategies to destroy capitalism, not reform
it, because it cannot be reformed. For the movement to go forward,
it must remain united as one solid force opposed to capital's plans.
Capital wants to split it and conquer it by division, it's age-old
method. The solution? The reformist wing of the movement needs to
recognize the futility of reform, throw off its leaders with their
aspirations for power and prestige, and become revolutionary itself.
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