Category Archives: Politics

 The Race Trap: Seeking Social Improvement Via Socially Constructed Falsehood

troy-davis

 OVERTURE

If a prime purpose of thinking and study and discussion and learning ends up as something like reasonable action that improves human life, then the overwhelming majority of SOP mediation that happens today in this largely intellectual and dialogic sphere is, viewed most optimistically, counterproductive and absurd.  This assertion might appear quixotic and clearly makes a disputatious claim.  However, this essay will contend that at least provisionally it proves that contention, in relation more exactly to broadcast or otherwise distributed discourse about social conflict that reputedly involves ‘race,’ ‘racial differences,’ ‘racism,’ and so forth.

In essence, because precisely one human race exists, ‘racism’ only addresses a socially developed concept about a false idea, that different races with different biological qualities in fact are a part of the human condition, a popular and yet completely incorrect conceptualization of human social relations that inevitably colors and distorts what happens among diverse social actors, probably in a completely toxic, and ultimately in a totally self-destructive, fashion.

This statement, inherently and indelibly, will likely effect strong feelings.  Does a Spindoctor have the temerity to suggest that color is less important—than class or nation or other trait—as a key piece in understanding the social past?  The answer, as the following initiation of this short monograph proves, would resound as an emphatic “No way!”

However, what we can make of that social import of coloration is still open to definition and interpretation.  Before we continue to expound on such a task of delineation and elucidation, the sections just below offer readers a briefing about the rooted appearance and fuller manifestation of conflicted coloration during the current period of time.

Class slavery 9Legacies of Slavery

A first point to make clear is that color did not always mean darkness, or diminution, nor did it ineluctably lead to an impunity to butcher and discriminate against those whose surface hues were dun or brown or charcoal.  As a respected expert on Elizabethan culture quoted an even more venerated authority about Othello, “(she) situates the play ‘at a crossroads in the history of ethnological ideas when emergent racial discourses clashed with the still-dominant classical and medieval paradigms.”

Those who follow along will see that point more fully in the coming preface.  For now, we can aver that a primary legacy of slavery in the period of capitalism’s infancy was to overthrow most chances that dark skin under a bourgeois rubric could mean power or wealth or high station.

At least as much as any other correlative, the capacity to resist force against oneself or one’s friends or one’s family is a sine qua non of social potency.  In the United States, the uncounted thousands of police and vigilante murders—and hundreds of thousands of assaults—each decade fall with such massive disproportion on people of color, and Black folk first among these assaulted populations, that any notion that chance determines this fate must look surreal.  The very fact of the disparity is explosively ubiquitous at all compass points, both ideological and cultural, in mediated assessments from every possible place on our planet.

Rather than offering details on the panoply of recent men and women whom uniformed, militarized authorities have shot to death or otherwise slain, whether their surnames sound like Boyd or Brown or Crawford or Garner or Gray or Harris or Hicks or Hill or McKenna or Martin or Rice or Scott or Valencia—themselves part of an only casually tracked social set, over the past quarter century, of plus-or-minus tens of thousands of citizens cut down despite brandishing neither armament nor other credible threat against their killers—today’s analysis merely points out that a major disparity marks this population.

As many as three quarters of them descend from former slaves or ‘conquered’ peoples of the hemisphere, even though no more than a third or so of the overall population have such roots.  Moreover, an even higher majority of the killers were Gringos of one stripe or other, and literally none of the ‘executioners’ who were Black ever dispatched a White person.

A fairly thorough search attempt, < “police killings” analysis OR detail OR history OR investigation comprehensive OR complete OR exhaustive OR list >, yielded almost two hundred thousand leads.  Gawker and Mother Jones represent merely a pair of accounts from the first page that this pursuit of citations brought to the forefront.

The comments that accompany the latter article are an eruption of stress, tension, anger, and general defensiveness, with plenty of bigotry and blaming and name-calling mixed in.  The lack of a context for dialog—which inherently must mean listening and respectful treatment—emerges with frightening clarity.

The mediated explanatory nexus, in any case—either as in these two articles a label, racism, or as in the case of other items among the hundreds of thousands of links a dismissal of color as a significant factor—guarantees that people cannot talk with each other about these matters.  The ‘racist’ explanation, arguably, never moves beyond labeling, and overlooking the absolutely incontrovertible color-component either represents willful ignorance or unacknowledged prejudice.

By shifting the grounds of debate, by insisting that ‘police-involved killings’ look at slavery and empire, a different context for discussion might take place.  In any case, further instances of color-coordinated violation and disproportion are easy enough to examine and portray.

war on drugsThe carnage of the police state and the ghetto revolve inextricably around the war on drugs, which in many of its particulars echoes broader accounts of militarized assaults on citizens.  The Spindoctor has written about these matters, establishing a template that allows subsequent analysis to highlight the way that ruling institutions—particularly military and ‘law-enforcement’—have subsumed roles that in earlier generations fell on masters and overseers and other enforcers of slave or colonial discipline.

The American Civil Liberties Union summarizes this malicious and detrimental incongruity, irreconcilable with anything other than vicious injustice, double-dealing, and purposeful division: “Even though whites outnumber blacks five to one and both groups use and sell drugs at similar rates, African-Americans comprise: 35% of those arrested for drug possession; 55% of those convicted for drug possession; and 74% of those imprisoned for drug possession.

This skewed enforcement of drug laws has a devastating impact.  One in three black men between the ages of 20 and 29 are currently either on probation, parole, or in prison.  One in five black men have been convicted of a felony.  In seven states, between 80% and 90% of prisoners serving time for drug offenses are black.

The statistics for the Latino population are equally disturbing.  Latinos comprise 12.5% of the population and use and sell drugs less than whites, yet they accounted for 46% of those charged with a federal drug offense in 1999.”

Moving backward in time, the strict control or prohibition of slave drinking was common throughout colonial English and antebellum United States venues.  That such restriction was never successful is not the point.  Masters believed that prohibiting partaking would help to instill continued inhibition of license or other outrage.  A suspected plan by slave seaman and workers to rise up in New York City and commit widespread arson and pillage was, in the estimation of prominent Whites, largely due to ubiquitous availability of unlicensed dram houses.

“Thus, whether or not there was an actual conspiracy to burn New York City in 1741, what is apparent is the central role drink and tavern life played for many slaves.  Contrary to the advice given to British seamen, many northern slaves used
liquor as ‘a soother of the mind,’ a means to take their minds off the numbing brutality of their daily existence.

And in contrast to the controlled settings of religious instruction, taverns and dram houses provided places slaves could socialize away from the prying eyes of masters and other whites.

Many whites agreed with the concerns expressed by (one) Philadelphian (master) that ‘the constant Cabals’ of slaves gathering ‘every Night and every Sunday’ could result in uprisings to the ‘great Terror of the King’s Subjects.’  (This trafficker in human chattel) believed that while sober most slaves would not go to the ‘desperate length’ of violent uprisings, but noted ‘how much they are addicted to Spirituous Liquor.’  With ‘little dram Shops [o]n every Corner and Alley,’ liquored-up slaves were described as acting with ‘great and uncommon impudence.’”

"Rum display in liquor store" by User:O'Dea - Own work. CC 3.0

“Rum display in liquor store” by User:O’Dea – Own work. CC 3.0

Just as, on any given plantation or in any forced-labor setting, an abrogation of abstemiousness and drudgery could lead to a brutal or even lethal thrashing or other retribution, or at least to steep fines or other economic sanctions, so too in contemporary arenas might the inherent human inclination to ‘get high’ reverberate in an African American life as granting to new ‘slave patrols,’ all clad in uniform blue, a license to discriminate, imprison, terrorize, or even murder the man and woman and child who express preternatural desires to alter consciousness or change their minds.

But these direct and all-too-frequently terminal attacks on brown bodies, and again especially in relation to African Americans, are not the deadliest form of destruction against those whose ancestors ended up being a mélange of slaves, slave masters, indigenous Americans, as well as others, all of whom we now lump under the collective descriptor of Black.  On the contrary, the costs in morbidity add up to millions of years of impaired lives per annum as stress-and-poverty-related illness takes its toll in Black communities.  The disparate mortality equally so taxes African Americans to millions of lost years in any given 365 day period.

Whether one tallies such illnesses as heart problems or cancer, kidney dysfunction or infectious disease, those whose ancestors lived in slavery suffer more.  More grotesquely still, but congruently with the data on disease, the life expectancy of Black men lags behind that of White men by more than five years; Black women, meanwhile, experience three and a half years of lost life, on average, compared to White women.

CDC - A Health Disparities Perspective on Obesity Research

CDC – A Health Disparities Perspective on Obesity Research

These gross disparities in well-being are absolutely irrefutable.  More or less a hundred million years of lost experience and consciousness is such a massive loss as almost to be incalculable.  That Social Determinants of Health include color is no more arguable than that poverty kills. The annual toll of the negative impact of having great-great grandparents who toiled as slaves is, to say the least, a staggering waste, even as socioeconomic components almost always lurk behind these on-the-surface-very-visible issues of color.

Another insidious outcome, which often enough occurs in an even more vicious interpretive nexus, concerns Black families.  Daniel Patrick Moynihan a half century ago authored a report for the Department of Labor.  It couched its conclusions in an overarching concern for, and even solidarity with, the hopes and needs of ‘Negro’ people.  Nevertheless, in terms of its managing its statistical data and in relation to its conclusions, the report without doubt placed the primary burden on Black ‘culture’ and ‘behavior’ as explanations for the inequalities and pathologies that were more and more prevalent in American cities ‘among the colored masses.’

A powerful critique of Moynihan began almost immediately, one that culminated in a thorough and often brilliant work.  Blaming the Victim pushed back against the early erstwhile ‘Neoliberalism’ of the Department of Labor consultant.  As the author, William Ryan, wrote, “My(original) memorandum and articles, along with articles by Benjamin Payton, James Farmer, and others, together with the activities of these and other leaders of the movement, temporarily derailed the Moynihan Report.”  Such a phalanx of analysis needed no labels or jargon: scientific assessment disproved the superficially beneficent and insidiously harmful rhetoric and faux reasoning of The Negro Family.

But, as Ryan notes in disgust, despite all the necessary evidence to prove collusion and plan, sometimes “an ideology like Moynihan’s resonates to perfectly with the mood and purpose of the public and its intellectual leaders…that it is as hard to slay as the Hydra.”  Before long, back in the sixties, and repeatedly since then too, “(s)ubsequent articles, reviews, and columns in Life, Look, The New York Times, and other influential publications supported and adopted the Moynihan thesis and swamped the opposition.”

The upshot, over time, was a ‘circling of the wagons’ among progressives to hurl racisminvectives against racism as the central way of assaulting this tendency.  In the end, then, accusations of racist razzle-dazzle confronted solemnly fatuous pronouncements of Black irresponsibility.  A more surreal juxtaposition is difficult to imagine.  Such fallacious dualism ought to be below the level to which a clever twelve-year-old would cling.

The alternative, after all, is both evidence-based and sound, capable of scientific instead of ideological assessment.  Social replication of oppression and violence and murder, of prejudice and discrimination and injustice, led to horrific social consequences.  One could, in establishing this immutable factual foundation, never conclude that the causal component was responsibility: always the issue would be upper crust benefit from consciously selected laws and policies and customs.

Under slavery, the progeny, both of slave lovers—generally unable to consummate marriage—and raped or seduced slave women whose pregnancies often did result from slave-owners, overseers, and their sons, became property that mostly the practice of the times was to sell to more or less far-afield plantations.  One would struggle to find a more logically or morally repugnant position than contextualizing such predation as irresponsibility by slave fathers and mothers.

So too, today, and in other situations between then and now: most contemporaneously, African-American children come into the world in communities where one half or more of the fathers end up missing because of a system that feeds off their labor and targets their behavior, indistinguishable from that of Anglo-Americans, in such ways as to incarcerate and disfranchise and impoverish them for life.  Again, a less reasonable and civilized nexus for rearing children is tough to dream up, so that to blame Black families and communities in such a context is, at best, noisome and moronic.

The nauseating and idiotic, illogical and immoral elements of the establishment arguments, though, somehow do not end up the endpoint.  The climax instead comes down to racism.

In essence, therefore, this debate, which monopoly-media’s multiple tentacles unvaryingly describe as a racial matter, either a display of racism or a sign of race-neutrality, itself is a legacy of slavery.  That most outlets, even the so-called ‘liberal’ or—heaven protect us—‘leftist’ ones, use sophisticated and frequently sophist argumentation to bolster Moynihan ought to be an expected outcome.  And, meanwhile, everyone who gets to come to the podium is talking about ‘race.’

An only months-old article in New Yorker, which also brings the estimable Orlando Patterson into the fray, is a good example of such a propagation of propaganda.   With a few radical or Marxist exceptions, critics of this and other establishment paragons do not frame the issue as the falsity and error and distortion that are omnipresent in such work; nor do the policies and objectives of the falsifiers ever become the prime locus of controversy; rather, everything comes down to pointing fingers at racist beliefs, which stand as the sole sorts of rebuttals to the heartfelt remorse for immaturity and negligence and so on that typify the Moynihans of the world.

"Daniel Patrick Moynihan, speaking behind microphones" by Trikosko, Marion S., photographer

“Daniel Patrick Moynihan, speaking behind microphones” by Trikosko, Marion S., photographer

Though the Spindoctor would welcome the opportunity rigorously to dispute and deconstruct those who would defend Moynihan’s theses and use of evidence, this is out of the scope of today’s article.  Instead, readers here need only understand the possibility that the characterization of the New York thinker’s followers as racist may itself promote outcomes that further inequity and disproportion, in other words that are racist in their results.  Instead of this, one may at least want to ponder a more political-economic, historical, and social dynamic for negotiating these complex and difficult thickets of America’s past and present.

One might in essence detail every possible sign of social health or social ill, and one would discern the impact, through intermediating decades since the 1860’s, of the murder and mayhem and impoverishment and outrage of chattel slavery on the contemporary experience of Blacks in the United States.  In any portrayal of wealth, status, certification, on the one hand, and neurosis, psychosis, violence, and on and on and on, ad infinitum, on the other hand, the inheritance of four or more centuries of enslavement colors the lives of African Americans in the 21st century.

Orlando Patterson, in his Slavery & Social Death, unfurls for his readers the imposition of the erasures that chattel relations elicit as intentional effects of systematic involuntary servitude.  This dialectic, of exploitation and denigration, even though it has always exploded in the owning classes’ faces, is universal, as Patterson and others show in relation to Southern Europe and the Mediterranean, in regard to Japan and Korea in Northeast Asia, and in terms of every nation that grew out of Spain’s and Portugal’s conquest of most of South America and the Caribbean.

Yet these diverse loci of human ownership of other, often but not always differently colored, people is seldom—and in the mass media or corporate journalism the descriptor is basically never—a topic that those who propose to explain current events explore.  While to delve even minimally in this arena right this second would be unsupportable, must in essence await a contract or something similar for a three-to-five volume series, a less-than-minimal peek at one of these other instances of slavery could be suggestive.

For this purpose, a glance at the plight of Roma peoples can certainly serve.  Interestingly enough, the Romanian period of enslavement very closely parallels what transpired in North America.  Plus or minus four centuries of slave-relations came to an end around 1860, yet social horror—disproportionate difficulty among Roma communities and horrid discrimination and intolerance against Roma citizens—has continued through the present, not only in Southern Europe but throughout most of the Eurasian landmass.

“The difficult situation of the Romani population in Europe has recently attracted widespread attention.  The collapse of communism in Central and Eastern Europe brought with it the demise of state welfare measures and, simultaneously, the end of official pressures for enforced assimilation–suddenly leaving Romani communities there to fend for themselves in a new, uncertain, and often hostile world.

Responding to this quandary, numerous governments, international organizations, foundations, nongovernmental organizations, and, most important, Romani leaders themselves are trying to devise programs and policies to address the deep and complex problems of discrimination and poverty that so disproportionately affect the Roma.”

The legacy of slavery, therefore, both in the United States and elsewhere, hypothetically comes down to centuries of brutalization, demonization, and exploitation long after protest and struggle have sundered the explicit chains of bondage.  The upshot is the reimposition by alternate means of the imprimatur of ownership and conquest.  The ultimate outcome is the universal attempt to degrade the oppressed and demeaned, which serves to salve the psyches of rulers themselves and to malign the ‘lowest of the low,’ and ‘the blackest of the black,’ from others whom elites need to control and manipulate to hegemonic ends.

Legacies of Colonial Empire

from Espresso Stalinist

from Espresso Stalinist

No set of relations which emanated from the English colonies and the United States came closer to a completely ‘successful’ genocide, of course, than did the calculated mass homicide of indigenous peoples.  Since the present-day assault on Native American individuals is less immediately apparent in journalistic or scholarly mediations, readers may rest easy that a more succinct summation is imminent now.

To provide an overview, one cannot turn to a better choice that the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.  John Marshall had in many ways been both a promoter of consolidated elite rule and of color chauvinism in his early career.  In 1823, he issued perhaps the most damning and important opinion of a career that in many ways completely defined a ‘balance of powers’ that was anything but.

In this case, Johnson and Graham’s Lessee v. Macintosh, speaking for the majority, Marshall candidly laid the foundation for a pointed and comprehensive dismissal of any idea that Native inhabitants of the Americas might share even approximately equivalent rights as residents of European ancestry.  From the Atlantic to the Mississippi, the only rule was of European interlopers, maintained by force of arms.  He did not blame either party to this continental conflict, but the victors’ ultimate imprimatur was, despite the facts of interbreeding which he assiduously denied, unquestioned, unquestionable, so that ‘public opinion’s’ softening of harsh rule was not at issue.

After all, from the American ruler’s high bench he could allege, “the tribes of Indians inhabiting this country were fierce savages whose occupation was war and whose subsistence was drawn chiefly from the forest.  To leave them in possession of their country was to leave the country a wilderness; to govern them as a distinct people was impossible because they were as brave and as high-spirited as they were fierce, and were ready to repel by arms every attempt on their independence.

What was the inevitable consequence of this state of things?  The Europeans were under the necessity either of abandoning the country and relinquishing their pompous claims to it or of enforcing those claims by the sword, and by the adoption of principles adapted to the condition of a people with whom it was impossible to mix and who could not be governed as a distinct society, or of remaining in their neighborhood, and exposing themselves and their families to the perpetual hazard of being massacred.

Wounded Knee - from Espresso Stalinist

Wounded Knee – from Espresso Stalinist

Frequent and bloody wars, in which the whites were not always the aggressors, unavoidably ensued.  European policy, numbers, and skill prevailed.  As the white population advanced, that of the Indians necessarily receded.  The country in the immediate neighborhood of agriculturists became unfit for them.  The game fled into thicker and more unbroken forests, and the Indians followed.  The soil to which the Crown originally claimed title, being no longer occupied by its ancient inhabitants, was parceled out according to the will of the sovereign power and taken possession of by persons who claimed immediately from the Crown or mediately through its grantees or deputies.”

Power and victory, swords and sway, Marshall does not once mention race in the opinion, nor need he.  The historical underpinning is one of political economic plunder and social evisceration that may or may not ever necessitate compensation of any sort, let alone remuneration, or even a semblance of mutuality.  Again, indeed, “(h)owever extravagant the pretension of converting the discovery of an inhabited country into conquest may appear; if the principle has been asserted in the first instance, and afterwards sustained; if a country has been acquired and held under it; if the property of the great mass of the community originates in it, it becomes the law of the land and cannot be questioned.  So, too, with respect to the concomitant principle that the Indian inhabitants are to be considered merely as occupants, to be protected, indeed, while in peace, in the possession of their lands, but to be deemed incapable of transferring the absolute title to others.  However this restriction may be opposed to natural right, and to the usages of civilized nations, yet if it be indispensable to that system under which the country has been settled, and be adapted to the actual condition of the two people, it may perhaps be supported by reason, and certainly cannot be rejected by courts of justice.”

Today, one result of this foundation is that so-called Indians have in many jurisdictions the lowest life expectancy of all ethnic groups in North America.   In many cases, their time on Earth compares to that of the citizens of nations with only a fraction of the wealth of the United States.

The most troubled evaluations of self show up in limited studies of cohorts of young Indian men and women as well.  Higher rates of depression, double or triple or higher rates of suicide, and other such indicia are commonplace.

The highest levels of illiteracy, of alcoholism, and of other social dysfunction are also frequent “on the res.”  These difficulties extend from Alaska to Florida, from California to Maine.

Casinos must in some way represent a perverse dialectical punctuation of this entire process.  Here are Indian establishments where retired gringos and well-heeled Anglo fools drop billions of dollars every day.  To what end remains uncertain, but the ironic nutrients of such soil must tantalize the storyteller.

(Courtesy of World Without Genocide)

(Courtesy of World Without Genocide)

Whatever the ultimate assessment of this odd twist might be, the abandonment of Native American communities and the consignment of these ‘Red’ peoples’ bodies to history’s dust-heap remains still the default position of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and other institutional repositories of hegemony.  Nonetheless, these inhabitants who ‘owned’ the continents of this hemisphere until conquest robbed them of their birthrights, having come the closest to extinction, now have manifested powerful proponents of recompense, an American Indian Movement and other propositions that parallel in many ways the work of Huey Newton, Malcolm X, and others among African Americans.

While no nation practices with such thorough arrogance as does the U.S. its war against duskier-skinned original inhabitants, this pattern of discriminatory rough treatment characterizes almost all of Europe as well, both at home and in the outposts of ‘Commonwealth’ and such.  Furthermore, and to the nub of what today’s material concerns, the universal accounting for this oppression of ‘native’ folks is that racism is in play.

As above, a future comparative analysis of these matters might better illuminate what is happening in different local settings than does the light cast from more focused study.  No matter what, though, one need not rely on ‘racial’ rationale to account for what has come to pass.  Justice Marshall’s opinions resonate powerfully without making such opaque and poorly classified terminology the fallback position.

Legacies of Civil War, Reform, & Reconstruction

Again focusing on the U.S.A., distrust is a widespread result of the way that, after African Americans played instrumental roles in conquering the slaveocracy in the South, the Union reneged on its promises—forty acres and a mule were out of the question when not even a franchise and protection of free labor were possible—and reintegrated former Confederate elites back into their accustomed positions of preeminence.  Such treachery made the deepest sort of mistrust unavoidable.

As Melissa Williams makes the case, “(t)he Black political experience during

"Freedman's bureau".

“Freedman’s bureau”.

Reconstruction tells the story of trust given and trust betrayed.”  As Professor Williams delineates in her mixture of political philosophy and history that she applies to the here-and-now, this bad faith has persisted till the current moment, a lingering sore that emanates from opportunistic politics and calculated profiteering that also continues to define the present pass.

While a researcher could develop volumes on this issue, a verse from a song in the Dead Prez compilation, Let’s Get Free, can serve for now.  This is from the track, “The Animal in Man,” which tells the story of George Orwell’s Animal Farm as an admonitory parable of U.S. society, in which the ‘disgust and betrayal’ might readily refer to the lionization of Lincoln and Civil War in light of what followed.

“After they ran the farmer off the farm
The pigs went around and called a meeting in the barn
Hannibal spoke for several hours
But when talks about his plans for power
That’s when the conversation turned sour
He issued an official ordinance to set
If not a pig from this day forth then you insubordinate
That’s when the horses went buckwild
One of them shouted out
‘You fraudulent pigs, we know your fucking style!’
Hannibal’s face was flushed and pale
All the animals eyes full of disgust and betrayal
He felt the same way (Farmer) Sam felt
They took his tongue out of his mouth
And cut his body up for sale, for real
You better listen while you can
Its a very thin line between animal and man
When Hannibal crossed the line they all took a stand
What would have done?
Shook his hand?
This is the animal in man.”

In such an overall milieu, calls for reparations have become more insistent over the past few decades.  They make most Whites want to puke, of course, at least stateside.  The reasons for this distaste, even though the Spindoctor supports the concept of community-based remuneration for past injustice, are not ludicrous.  The most interesting potential of such actions is that they can elicit intercourse between parties that would basically never otherwise talk with each other.

Readers may discover much more about this topic in a future essay, but for now, a snapshot of what happened in a Duke University forum in March, 2015, might help a thoughtful student of these matters put things into perspective.  “Like Coates’ piece (a year ago in The Atlantic), the conversation at Duke centered less on the who, what and how of reparations and more on why reparations are needed.  In their remarks, panelists expressed cynicism that reparations would come to pass in their lifetime or even in the next few generations, but also hope for how even just a serious national conversation about them could transform—or, to use a panelist’s word, ‘redeem’—America.”

Related ‘truth-and-reconciliation’ processes also are an aspect of what some community leaders suggest could play a part in healing and integration.  In November, 1979, with the advance knowledge of various police forces, heavily armed fascist assassins targeted and murdered communist and grassroots activists who were helping to organize workers into unions and community groups in Greensboro, North Carolina.

This event permits a deep insight into the forces at play in situations where color and class and empowerment collide with reactionary forces that will go to any length to prevent social progress.  Of the hundreds of participants in the rally that turned into a killing field, over ninety per cent were African American.  Of those whom the Klan and Nazi hit-men shot to death, four of five were White.  All five were members of the Maoist political group that had organized the rally against the Klan, one of dozens of actions in the mid-to-late-1970’s, of which the humble Spindoctor organized one and argued passionately not to encourage “Death to the Klan” chanting or publicity of the sort that were bedrock aspects of the Greensboro slaughter.

In Greensboro, “The KKK and Nazi members shot at anyone who wasn’t hiding while four television news teams and one police officer recorded the action.   They then got back into their cars and sped away after which the Greensboro police arrived and began arresting protestors.

In the aftermath five people were killed and 11 wounded in the attack.   All five were members of the Workers Viewpoint Organization (WVO), and four were rank-and-file union leaders and organizers.”  Despite the intentional murder or involuntary manslaughter on display, not one of the shooters ever served a day in prison for this charnel dispatch of white organizers.

In a move that many radicals have criticized but which did in fact help to provide clarity and a platform for vocalizing rage and longing in regard to this brutal mass homicide, Greensboro created a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to do something about the rifts that the occurrence created in the city.  “The truth and reconciliation process is designed to examine and learn from a divisive event in Greensboro’s past in order to build the foundation for a more unified future.  The Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission is based upon similar efforts around the world, most notably in South Africa.  Building on this wealth of international experience, Greensboro represents the first application of this model in the United States.”

While these and other stabs at reformulating resistance and reimagining integration very often embrace the very social forces that most profited from the original bondage and exploitation, just this sort of contradiction implies a polarity from which dandy dialectical dances might emerge.  In any event, by placing the discourse on a plane of equality and reason, they make possible conversation that is utterly independent of racial thinking, put-downs about racism, and so on and so forth.

Grant civil war

DonkeyHotey Flickr

The resuscitation of the slaveholding classes almost a hundred fifty years ago, simultaneously as the non-owning Whites served again as whipmasters and enforcers against former chattel, echoes in every police department that ‘serves’ an eighty-percent Black community with a four-fifths European American Gestapo.  Thus, the need for remediation not only stems from relatively long-ago wounds that have festered and never healed, but also from dynamics of inequity and injustice that explode anew on the contemporary scene.

To rectify the past could be, in a sense, to rejuvenate the present thereby.  The devilish details of such possibilities, in and of themselves, establish the boundaries for a discussion that could bring together social forces otherwise seemingly intractably opposed.

Once again, a Spindoctor with a license and a budget could go off while he kept going on here.  These attempts both to express a networked engagement and seek a wider hearing for redress are only possible because a more civil society has to some extent actually come into being; at the same time, unfortunately, in the vein of ‘one step forward, and two steps back,’ the threat of backsliding is ever present.

As in every case in this essay—and in many of the other such analyses that the Spindoctor promotes—the standard-operating-procedure has been to consider events in ‘America’ first, since, if nothing else, they are easiest for him to investigate.  In fact, however, even in this instance of what seems a ‘uniquely’ Yankee process, one might turn to Russia or British India or many other places on the planet to see similar processes in play as have resulted today in the U.S. from Civil War and reconstruction.

A freshly minted news analysis from Counterpunch takes note of a tricontinental strategy session on the topic of reparations that took place in New York early in April of this year.  Contingents from the U.S., Latin America and the Caribbean, and Europe all met with the intention to establish networks and develop a strategic orientation that would allow activists to demand and attain compensation for serving so long as prey for the howling wolves of imperial finance and industry.

“French reparations activists have filed lawsuits and initiated other actions around reparations from deprivations by France in the Caribbean and in Africa.  CARICOM nations have established a Reparations Commission to conduct further research to initiate legal and other actions against governments of Britain, France and other European countries that maintained colonies in the Caribbean basin.

Louis-Georges Tin, an anti-racism and reparations activist in France, said he had travelled to the Summit with a delegation from the European Reparation Commission to establish closer connections with other reparations activists.”

In a wider parsing of these sorts of skirmishes, one can posit that a primary thread of fascism, in every case since Italy, has interwoven with the expression of the insistence that newly freed slaves, serfs, indentured populations, colonial citizens, and so forth receive a boost for having for decades or centuries confronted exploitation and violent violation.  The aristocratic thugs who have most suffered the loss of their privileged position at the ‘top of the heap,’ and easily recruited petty bourgeois sorts who crumble in every crisis, combine and demonize these ‘lower races’ as worthy of renewed depredation.

Legacies of a New Imperialism, Orchestrated from Washington by ‘Free Trade’

In no other arena is the ultimate sinister inheritance of the present historical eventuality worse than in the almost innumerable cases of the rising, and now fully risen, American leviathan’s now planet-spanning neocolonial, neoimperialist enterprises—almost always cast as liberation and aid, as if death and destruction and profiteering and plunder were the result of loving and friendly impulses.  Furthermore, because of the inevitable realities of the historical synthesis of these ventures, whether one examines the Philippines or Honduras, Nigeria or Bangladesh, ‘colored people’ still bear the ugly brunt of the ugly American and his beautiful machinery and other machinations of capital’s sway.

The repercussions of this dynamic universally enable vast, seemingly interminable killing and chaos.  Looking at a map of the world with overlain graphics of contemporaneous war and social upheaval, this is of course obvious.  But in a sense similarly as the Wicked Witch ruminated in The Wizard of Oz, the how of these horrific tortures’ unfolding, again and again with the United States of America in the role of lead executioner and chief puppeteer, is a riddle that study and explication must figure out, unless some sort of random sadomasochistic thrill attends the continuation of these chaotic catalysts of violation and violence.

In an earlier incarnation, the Spindoctor wrote about these matters in relation to Immigration Billthe connection between present-day assaults on ‘illegal immigrants’ and two-century-old attacks on Native Americans.  “These days, along I-20 from Atlanta to Birmingham, State Troopers seek out ‘illegal immigrants,’ trying to catch and eject them from ‘America.’  Eighteen decades ago, along substantially the same route, the leaders of Georgia—who had recently inaugurated the country’s first ‘Gold Rush’ in Dahlonega–and Alabama—who were readying river valley properties for slaves to work–were preparing to throw out local native inhabitants so that the conquering European immigrants could do whatever they liked.  Those who like ironic history will love today’s story.”

Incongruities of this sort, at once bizarre and darkly humorous, abound in the imposition of U.S. imperial authority.  The Philippines is a good example.  Although U.S. rulers positioned their forces as liberators, almost before the Yanks had run the Spanish off, the Moro and other local Filipino freedom fighters had turned against Uncle Sam and his minions.

“This was not the first time that the United States had dramatically expanded its territories.  Neither was this the first time that it had done so by war with another nation (Mexico, 1846-48).  That this expansion required the violent subjugation of nonwhites (in this case Filipinos, but for much of the same century, Native Americans) was hardly new, either.

Nevertheless, ironies of empire abounded for this self-styled democratic republic.  Many of these ironies were scathingly noted by American anti-imperialist Mark Twain in his writings.  Critics pointed out the irony of fighting to free Cubans from Spanish colonial rule then fighting the Filipino War (1900-1902) to retain colonial dominion over a captive people.”

Furthermore, this mismatch between rhetoric and reality—in which prostitution and graft and thuggery accompanied high-finance and ‘foreign aid’ and ‘development loans’ that seemed to make people poorer and hungrier while well-fed American soldiers watched over things throughout the region at facilities like Subic Bay–continued through the closing of the huge base near Manila and persist even as only occasional visits of naval flotillas now occur.

Central Africa, with its mosaic of murderous machinations of British and French and Belgian malediction, would hardly seem like a realm where U.S. malfeasance reigned supreme.  However, in the aftermath of the colonial collapse, a new mechanism for control emerged, in which Central Intelligence Agency and corporate functionaries replaced old-school bureaucrats and aristocratic sociopaths.

Prime_Minister_Lumumba_by_reddartfrogThus, from the well-tuned machinery of assassination that sucked up and spit out Patrice Lumumba and countless others to the coordinated management of mass mayhem that characterized the events of Hotel Rwanda and more, the integrated circuitry of exploitation and control has held sway in this region and throughout the ‘dark continent.’  That ‘race’ was comparatively unimportant in these ministrations of horror is possible to demonstrate: after all, numerous recent retrospectives on the ten years of Vietnam’s agony show similar patterns and goals and outcomes as what happened in Africa, or for that matter in Chile forty-two years ago, the Whitest country in Latin America.

In many cases like those above and in relation to Yemen and throughout the ‘Grand Chessboard’ of much of Southwest Asia and the Horn of Africa, the United States has in some views shouldered the “White Man’s Burden.”  Kipling’s poem was explicitly about enlarging the scope of U.S. dominance and creating a web of Anglo-American rule over all the lesser, darker folk of the planet, albeit for their own good.

How could such lines as these not be racist?

  “Send forth the best ye breed—

Go send your sons to exile

To serve your captives’ need

To wait in heavy harness

On fluttered folk and wild—

Your new-caught, sullen peoples,

Half devil and half child…”

The answer to that query, if one is willing to listen, is threefold: the lyrics of Gunga Din; the repeated, ad infinitum, carefully plotted murder of the best and brightest and dearest of these “sullen peoples” because they dared oppose capital; and the occasional early and now almost constant deployment of other “sullen peoples” to control the initial beneficiaries.

In such a context, ‘race’ offers no more clarity than voodoo as elucidation.  The key issue of who the conquerors actually recruited locally is also centrally important, about which more directly.

In this new kingdom of bourgeois property triumphant, over time, no place has been off limits to the American Century’s imposition of dominance.  Racism is a convenient label that explains none of it, as this preeminent hegemony of the ‘American Way’ has spread out in all directions.

"6.6.10CubanParadeUCByLuigiNovi5"

“6.6.10CubanParadeUCByLuigiNovi5”

Readers may refer to material just above for a reference to Cuba, Westward across the Atlantic.  The Spindoctor has mentioned the island’s history and revolution both here on Contributoria and in earlier writings.  Cuba’s resistance to U.S. depredation is a testament to a non-racialist social system.  Nevertheless, despite decades of rejuvenated Latino empowerment, in part because of Havana’s successfully standing up to Washington, the threat powerfully persists in Latin America of further slaughter that the Gringos orchestrate.

The network of this dictatorial dominance presumes to encompass everywhere on Earth, including Moscow and Beijing and Tokyo and Berlin and London and Paris.  Whether this nearly completed fantasy of a Reich eternal in fact summarizes the human condition may well turn on the capacity to impose a ‘racialist’ mindset on those who protest imperial victory, where the day-to-day operations of ‘business as usual’ lay the groundwork for ghettoes and concentration camps.

Thus, just as in the United States proper, so too in the grinding operations of far-flung provincial and metropolitan dynamos, this systematic mass murder does not lead to the greatest injury and loss and destruction.  In the present parlance, ‘Economic Hit Men’ do substantially, or even vastly, greater damage than do the relatively brief interludes of homicide and mass slaughter.

The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and other ‘partner’ institutions eviscerate the so-called Third World.  Corporate protocols—in arms trade, in relation to ‘medicine,’ in the energy sphere, in technology—further these patterns of dependency and despond.  Again, the critic’s response blames the IMF’s or Apple’s or Chevron’s racism, as if any strategic rejoinder to the anaconda of monopoly finance is possible as a result of such a view of victimization and vengeance.

All such sociopolitical developments, with their very specific and well accounted for political economic results, depend on willing cretins from the ‘free polities’ in question, whose service to imperial interests is no more in doubt than are the trade balances that happen when extracted minerals stack up against automatic weapons and sophisticated telecommunications and electronic control methodologies.  Franz Fanon is just one brilliant annalist who documents these matters, particularly in relation to North Africa.  He speaks hopefully of a revolutionary dialectic that goes beyond ‘development’ that mirrors the West.

“So, comrades, let us not pay tribute to Europe by creating states, institutions and societies which draw their inspiration from her.

Humanity is waiting for something other from us than such an imitation, which would be almost an obscene caricature.

If we want to turn Africa into a new Europe, and America into a new Europe, then let us leave the destiny of our countries to Europeans.  They will know how to do it better than the most gifted among us.

But if we want humanity to advance a step farther, if we want to bring it up to a different level than that which Europe has shown it, then we must invent and we must make discoveries.

If we wish to live up to our peoples’ expectations, we must seek the response elsewhere than in Europe.

Moreover, if we wish to reply to the expectations of the people of Europe, it is no good sending them back a reflection, even an ideal reflection, of their society and their thought with which from time to time they feel immeasurably sickened.

For Europe, for ourselves and for humanity, comrades, we must turn over a new leaf, we must work out new concepts, and try to set afoot a new man.”

MONTAGEAnd he also decries those who sell out the oppressed among their people, the workers and peasants and common folks.  “To its brutal policy of oppression(the colonial administration) adds a spectacular and judicious combination of détente, divisive maneuvers, and psychological warfare.  Here and there it endeavors to revive tribal conflicts, using agents provocateurs engaged in what is known as countersubversion.  Colonialism uses two types of indigenous collaborators to achieve its ends.  First of all, there are the usual suspects: chiefs, kaids, and witch doctors. …Colonialism secures the services of these loyal servants by paying them a small fortune.

(Also), the lumpenproletariat will always respond to the call to revolt, but if the insurrection thinks it can afford to ignore it, then this famished underclass will pitch itself into the armed struggle and take part in the conflict, this time on the side of the oppressor. …who never misses an opportunity to have the blacks tear at each other’s throats.”

Eduardo Galeano articulates similar, if decidedly more optimistic, perspectives about encounters around the world, but most especially in Latin America.  His recent passing leaves a legacy of clear sighted comprehension of factual nuance and underlying dynamics both, for example in regard to the function of latifundia landowners in maintaining semi-feudal, reactionary patterns of land and productive property ownership, an incisive analysis based on real qualities and relationships instead of skin color.

“Even industrialization— coming late and in dependent form, and comfortably coexisting with the latifundia and the structures of inequality— helps to spread unemployment rather than to relieve it; poverty is extended, wealth concentrated in the area where an ever multiplying army of idle hands is available.  New factories are built in the privileged poles of development— Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, Mexico City— but less and less labor is needed.  The system did not foresee this small headache, this surplus of people.  And the people keep reproducing.  They make love with enthusiasm and without precaution.  Ever more people are left beside the road, without work in the countryside, where the latifundios reign with their vast extensions of idle land, without work in the city where the machine is king.  The system vomits people.  North American missionaries sow pills, diaphragms, intrauterine devices, condoms, and marked calendars, but reap children.  Latin American children obstinately continue getting born, claiming their natural right to a place in the sun in these magnificent lands which could give to all what is now denied to almost all.”

33 COLONIALISMSenegalHuntingToday’s dictatorial thug, plied with prostitutes and armaments, turns into tomorrow’s fall guy, while the latifundia, aristocrats, and local propertied classes remain in control and effectively inoculated against the essential step that the workers of their societies have only occasionally embraced, overthrowing their parasitic and conspiratorial imprimatur once and for all.  Though Rodney, in How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, rails against prejudice and “vicious White racism,” he is clear in his analysis In none of the cases that he investigates is the race of the oppressors or the color of the oppressed, or vice versa, the deciding factor.

“(Truly), because of lack of engineers, Africa cannot on its own build more roads, bridges, and hydroelectric stations.  But that is not a cause of underdevelopment, except in the sense that causes and effects come together and reinforce each other.  The fact of the matter is that the most profound reasons for the economic backwardness of a given African nation are not to be found inside that nation.  All that we can find inside are the symptoms of underdevelopment and the secondary factors that make for poverty.  Mistaken interpretations of the causes of underdevelopment usually stem either from prejudiced thinking or from the error of believing that one can learn the answers by looking inside the underdeveloped economy.  The true explanation lies in seeking out the relationship between Africa and certain developed countries and in recognizing that it is a relationship of exploitation.”

Nobel Literary Laureate Wole Soyinka hammers this notion home.  “Walter Rodney was no captive intellectual playing to the gallery of local or international radicalism.  He was clearly one of the most solidly ideologically situated intellectuals ever to look colonialism and its contemporary heir black opportunism and exploitation in the eye.” 

Again, coloration, or race, does not cause or play a significant role in this opportunism and exploitation: these malefactors come in all shades.  What turns out to be dispositive, again and again and again and again—and again—are the twin factors of geopolitical strategy, along with its scramble for resources and markets, on the one hand, and the capacity to control and dispose of vast armies of labor and muscle, as well as buckets of cash, on the other hand.  Skin color just doesn’t explain either the political economic tangles or the socioeconomic conundrums that capital causes in these struggles and then solves to its own advantage until working people of different colors—can anyone present say Cuba?!—have united to oppose bourgeois overlords.

soldier 23Most recently as regards both Africom, with the U.S. emphasis on an entire continent, and Ukraine, with the focus on flanking any Eurasian union that sets American finance aside, militarized and belligerent policies and tactics have again been appearing in the guise of free markets and freedom: “We only want to help you be free, free to sell us your commodities at reduced rates while we provide loans and credits that guarantee debt peonage more stringent than what Argentina is battling.”  A slightly different plotline spins out in Iran and Southeast Asia, merely to mention a couple of other spots that the United States of America intends to dominate as it barricades the Chinese colossus.

Wherever one turns, in any event, literally everywhere on Earth, imperial threads bind up social ties and predatory plutocrats in the service of empire seek to siphon the flow of production and consumption through their elite organizations—banks and conglomerates and corporate behemoths.  They care about skin color only when it serves as a motivation or a distraction, either a ‘carrot’ or a ‘stick,’ that helps to lubricate their successful predominance.  Those whose station in life requires, if they are to prosper or even live, organizational alliances with other similarly situated citizens would do best to keep this point in mind.

Legacies of Relatively Recent Oppression, Discrimination, Brutality, & Murder

One might liken the present pass to a slow motion chain reaction, in which humans act in similar fashion as concentrated atoms of fissile material.  Whether the Uranium originates from Canada or Central Africa makes zero difference, just as the social conflicts of the present, whatever appearances might suggest, do not depend on skin color so much as on deeper historical, geographic, and socioeconomic forces.

Unfortunately, the apparent protracted attainment of a critical mass has probably contributed in lulling people not to worry about the very real potential of crisping in an actual nuclear frying pan, as a result of the volatility of our ongoing social battles.   In a sense, we are like pathetic frogs—some green, some yellow, some brown, all the same species and wary of each other as our fluid perches get warmer and warmer—that will not leap from the water that will boil them so long as it heats up slowly enough.

Just as human communities of any coloration long for the same things—decent employment, good schools, comfortable places to live, etc.—so too the differently hued amphibians would have similar needs and, in their froglike ways, hopes.  Even as the scientists studying the frogs might separate them by color, or the elites ruling the human roost might divide populations by skin tone, these factors will actually mean nothing in terms of their ultimate fate.

In his Impacts of Science on Society, Bertrand Russell spoke to this issue with a simple and yet lovely parable“Mankind is in the position of a man climbing a difficult and dangerous precipice, at the summit of which there is a plateau of delicious mountain meadows.  With every step that he climbs, his fall, if he does fall, becomes more terrible; with every step his weariness increases and the ascent grows more difficult.  At last there is only one more step to be taken, but the climber does not know this, because he cannot see beyond the jutting rocks at his head.  His exhaustion is so complete that he wants nothing but rest.  If he lets go he will find rest in death.  Hope calls: ‘One more effort-perhaps it will be the last effort needed.’  Irony retorts: ‘Silly fellow!  Haven’t you been listening to hope all this time, and see where it has landed you.’  Optimism says: ‘While there is life there is hope.’  Pessimism growls: ‘While there is life there is pain.’  Does the exhausted climber make one more effort, or does he let himself sink into the abyss?  In a few years those of us who are still alive will know the answer.”

The flashpoints, from which our kind can ‘slip into despair’ and disappear in a heated rush, are legion, though some hotspots named in the section just above rank as likelier possibilities for mass collective suicide than do other places.  The conflicts in most of them are possible to view through a lens of ‘race,’ something that half or more of the critiques of U.S. or ‘Western’ policy bring to bear in excoriating the slide toward mayhem and murder.  Yet this trope—that ‘racism’ explains why and how we move toward predatory warfare—simply does not hold up.

The Spindoctor has written on Contributoria and elsewhere about the willful ignorance and distorted propaganda that has passed for monopoly mediation about the past few years in Ukraine.  While ‘racism’ is simply impossible to apply in this location, even though dynamically and structurally it differs little from possible debacles elsewhere, many analysts do view the confrontations there as potentially lethal in any number of ways, including the possible inducement of multiple Chernobylish meltdowns or the simple escalation of conflict between Russia and the U.S., whose combined thermonuclear arsenals are fully adequate to kill all humans in the world several times over.  Helen Caldicott is one of those who warns us.

Trinity Test

Trinity Test

“The expansion of NATO to Russia’s borders is ‘very, very dangerous,’ Caldicott said.  ‘There is no way a war between the United States and Russia could start and not go nuclear. … The United States and Russia have enormous stockpiles of these weapons.  Together they have 94 percent of all the 16,300 nuclear weapons in the world.’

We are in a very fallible, very dangerous situation operated by mere mortals,’ she warned.  ‘The nuclear weapons, are sitting there, thousands of them.  They are ready to be used.’  

Caldicott strongly criticized Obama administration policymakers for their actions in forward positioning U.S. and NATO military units in countries of Eastern Europe in response to Russian support of breakaway separatists in the provinces of eastern Ukraine.  (A few days ago), the U.S. government announced the deployment of the Ironhorse Brigade, an elite armored cavalry unit of the U.S. Army to the former Soviet republics of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, along the historic invasion route from the West to St. Petersburg.

‘Do they really want a nuclear war with Russia?’ she asked.  ‘The only war that you can have with Russia is a nuclear war. … You don’t provoke paranoid countries armed with nuclear weapons.’”

The masters-of-the-universe in charge of things in the District of Columbia and Manhattan and elsewhere are certainly not the first ruling class that has believed it could practice rapine and manslaughter without having ever either to pay any recognizable piper or to confront an opponent that will go to the mat.  Very similar events happened in 1914, when, without once even wondering about ‘racial’ overtones, all the ‘smart money’ plutocrats publicly insisted, and the ‘leaders’ of unions and socialists also contended, that the carnage of World War One ‘would never happen.’

“The key to preventing war, socialists believed, was to force arbitration through the threat of a general strike.  In 1914, their great chance to force arbitration had come, but they had not had time to put their theories into place because events moved with dizzying speed.  None of the Brussels delegates ‘suspected that a European war was imminent,’ even though it was just hours away,” and fated to involve all the ‘races-of-man’ in a mad, homicidal melee.

nuke-bannerOr perhaps the thought is that ‘containment’ is plausible, not of the forces that empire’s fiendish administrators draw forth in opposition, but of the uproar and outbursts of the nuclear explosions themselves.  In such a view, even as imperial fantasies crumble into dust, even as nuclear reactors melt down and spew forth invisible plumes of mass murder, even as people begin to rise in revolution against any further plutocratic plunder, somehow or other the Strangelovian geniuses in command will foreswear the final thrust that delivers the coup d’état to all and sundry all at once.  Does that seem like a reasonable scenario for optimism?

One might ponder the multiple contingency plans of the United States in ruminating about an answer to the question.  As a socialist organization argued about the early-2000’s ‘build-up’ that took place prior to the present ‘build-up,’ “The new nuclear weapons doctrine was drawn up in a secret Pentagon report delivered to Congress in January, and made public by the Los Angeles Times March 10.  Seven countries are on the US hit list, including Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Libya, and the US military would be authorized to use nuclear weapons under a wide range of conditions, including whenever conventional weaponry proved inadequate for Washington’s purposes.”

Six of those polities might lead one to invoke a ‘racial’ explanatory nexus.  Russia, obviously, unless we bring Hitler and his ‘hatred of Slavs’ back to the forefront, as the seventh, could not serve as a ‘racial’ case.  The upshot is that in these matters of calculating life and death, in which the same propositions and theories are in play as in dealings with Mexico or Haiti or inner city conflicts in North America, ‘race’ is at best foolish as a way to account for things, even though people do so, arguing that ‘attacks on Libya/Iran/North Korea/China are racist’ when the same factors induce such actions as induce a skirmish with Russia, or conceivably with New Zealand for that matter.  The journalists from the Fourth International break down how the nations—and ‘races—involved have responded to these games of brinkmanship.

“The governments of the states targeted for nuclear annihilation were naturally unwilling to accept US assurances that the Pentagon nuclear plan was merely a continuation of contingency plans drawn up under the Clinton administration.  (No US spokesman has sought to explain the contradiction between the claim that the plan contains ‘nothing new’ and the fact that it was devised in response to the September 11 terrorist attacks).

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Sun Yuxi stressed that China and the United States had agreed not to target each other with nuclear weapons.  ‘Like many other countries, China is deeply shocked with the content of this report,’ he declared.  ‘The US side has a responsibility to explain this.’

A leading Russian legislator, Dmitri Rogozin, declared that the US government seemed to have lost touch with reality since September 11.  ‘They’ve brought out a big stick—a nuclear stick that is supposed to scare us and put us in our place,’ he told NTV television.  Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov called the reports destabilizing and said that top-level Bush administration officials had an obligation to ‘make things clear and calm the international community, convincing it that the United States does not have such plans.’”

Whatever the case may be, students of human existence far wiser and more knowledgeable than any mere Spindoctor have long warned about these sorts of ‘slippery slopes,’ which can exist as much more than logical fallacies when the necessary prerequisites are, so to say, fully requited.  Many of these wiser heads, though they served as ‘race leaders,’ in fact often focus passionately on these matters of geopolitics and imperial imprimatur.

mlk_by_roberlan-d6ktyuiMartin Luther King, who died interestingly enough when his work turned fully against the Vietnam war and in favor of explicit, multihued working class organization in Memphis, warned presciently, in essence, that ‘the bombs that we detonate in Southeast Asia will explode, soon enough, in our own living rooms.’  He had wedded his career to discussions of racial rights, and yet in these conversations, this way of thinking very definitely receded into the background, since the equities in play applied to people of all colors, even if disparate negative impacts continued disproportionately to affect darker-skinned minorities.

Moreover, no less than Nelson Mandela spent much of his energy in his final years fighting to eliminate nuclear war from the human prospect, doing work in which he often made zero mention of race or racism.  He presented an impassioned plea at the United Nations on the Autumnal Equinox in 1998 along these lines, begging for the elimination of nuclear annihilation as a political tactic, and tying this entreaty to a general analysis of social justice: “The very right to be human is denied everyday to hundreds of millions of people as a result of poverty, the unavailability of basic necessities such as food, jobs, water and shelter, education, health care and a healthy environment. 

The failure to achieve the vision contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights finds dramatic expression in the contrast between wealth and poverty which characterises the divide between the countries of the North and the countries of the South and within individual countries in all hemispheres. 

It is made especially poignant and challenging by the fact that this coexistence of wealth and poverty, the perpetuation of the practice of the resolution of inter and intra-state conflicts by war and the denial of the democratic right of many across the world, all result from the acts of commission and omission particularly by those who occupy positions of leadership in politics, in the economy and in other spheres of human activity. 

What I am trying to say is that all these social ills which constitute an offence against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are not a pre-ordained result of the forces of nature or the product of a curse of the deities. 

eleanor-rooseveltThey are the consequence of decisions which men and women take or refuse to take, all of whom will not hesitate to pledge their devoted support for the vision conveyed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 

This Declaration was proclaimed as Universal precisely because the founders of this Organisation and the nations of the world who joined hands to fight the scourge of fascism, including many who still had to achieve their own emancipation, understood this clearly—that our human world was an interdependent whole.”  The only race here, as Mandela reminds those who will listen intently, is the human race, which is both our mutual collectivity as a species and our long run toward something akin to human thriving and survival.

Color & Convenience in Selecting Schemes of ‘Divide & Conquer’

Karl Marx famously implored unity among working people.  The regular failure of this evident directive notwithstanding, one might reasonably posit that only such an eventuality can result in a historical transformation that makes something other than the decimation or elimination of any human future plausible.

Imbibing argumentation in this manner, one cannot help but wonder if the seemingly random and yet immanent outgrowth of ‘race’ and the legions of other grasping individualistic ‘identities’ are not so much natural as cultivated, not so much inherent as manipulated.  After all, if a fundamental unity, at the same time organic and social, binds people and their fates together, as if some optimistic musical production were in fact actual, then the lines from “Solidarity Forever” would prove unstoppable.

“In our hands we hold a power greater than their hoarded gold,

Greater than the might of armies magnified a thousand-fold;

We can bring to birth a new world from the ashes of the old,

For our union makes us strong.”

In the Gilbert and Sullivan staging of such a drama, the entrepreneur and the banker and the industrialist and the field-marshal in chorus would shudder and shout, “Heaven forfend!!”  They would scurry about, their faces purpled and their hearts aflutter, as they parlayed together to imagine, and then impose, tricks to distance from each other all of their inferiors, in so doing crushing any such prospective union, let alone a real, society-wide class conscious unification.

In this vein, by far the most utilitarian mechanisms for pushing people apart have to include skin-color, language, cultural background, and religious faith.  Thus, that an ongoing conflation of all of these factors as racial has been occurring since at least the 1990’s is noteworthy, not to mention profoundly troubling.  While essentially innumerable examples of such happenings would be possible in a still-longer investigation, here we might peer at a few cases and know that plentiful additional data is available.

A first sampling examines a recent post in the wide-ranging online periodical, CounterCurrents, which speaks of how divide and conquer schemes in contemporary Gujarat have imposed color separation on Hindu and Muslim students.  The predictable outcomes of this policy choice, alienation and tension, are none the less hideous for their plain inevitability.

This story’s articulation details how, following fiscally manipulated and politically enforced ‘concentration’ of Islamic residents, ghettoized Muslim academies are without exception dictating that students wear green uniforms, while Hindu pupils don saffron garb.  “What do we do in the face of a situation where the schools are choosing uniforms according to the religion of the children, and how come the percentage of children is overwhelmingly Muslim or Hindu in particular areas?  This is due to physical segregation and is contrary to the spirit of communal harmony and the values ingrained in the basics of Indian Constitution, the spirit of Fraternity.

One has to counter the myths, biases and prejudices about the ‘other community’ as these stereotypes form the base of communal violence, which in turn paves the way for segregation and ghettoization which further leads to ‘cultural demarcation’, the way these two schools show.  What type of future society(will result), we can envisage with such stereotypes entering into our education system. (At the very least), (t)he physical and emotional divides which are coming up are detrimental to the unity of the nation as a whole.”

The author’s final paragraph harks back to the very year in which Britain’s imperial unraveling consciously surrounded Hindi India with Islamic East and West Pakistan.  “The communal violence has brought to (the) fore the religious identity without bring(ing) in the values of tolerance and acceptance for the ‘other’.  I remember having watched V.Shantarams’ 1946 classic, Padosi (neighbor), and leaving the theatre with moist eyes, wondering whether Hindus and Muslims can ever live like this again, whether the composite culture which India inherits has any chance of survival in the prevalent divisive political scenario!”

U.S. prisons, meanwhile, the seamier and more violent lock-ups especially, offer up a second set of instances, that in general circumscribe an entire universe in which strictly coded and enforced ‘racial segregation’ has become the default, a clearly illegal outcome in terms of equal protection and other such Constitutional fantasies, but a result that authorities permit ostensibly for the safety and security of both the degraded and dehumanized prisoners themselves, often in a state of semi-permanent lockdown, and for the benefit of the largely White population of prison guards.  Recent California legislation to rein in such practices notwithstanding, they remain the cutting edge of current incarceration practice in maximum-security facilities.  Not that such practice is illogical, quite the contrary, in settings in which White-supremacy is a dominant ideology among many Anglo workers, nationalist separatism and self-protection holds sway among particularly some Islamic Black cohorts, and clearly racialist, Spanish-speaking gangs have emerged among Hispanic prisoners, such ironclad division appears immutable.

A young scholar from Florida makes a chilling case that such developments are corporate policy, the imprimatur of imperial capital writ large.  “The aim of this analysis is to uncover the reasons why crime legislation became progressively more punitive, reaction to African Americans gains in post-Civil Rights more hostile, and the manifold ways in which these phenomena drive the expansion of the prison system and its increasing privatization.  In the process of this expansion, a racial caste system which oppresses young African Americans and people of color has become recast and entrenched.  Specifically, I offer the notion that in the last three decades, punitive crime legislation focused on African Americans and served to deal with labor needs and racial conflict with harsher penal legislation; in doing so, it depoliticized race, institutionalized racial practices and served the interest of private prison businesses in new and oppressive ways.”

A New York Review of Books parsing of a 2014 monograph, Why the Germans? Why the Jews? Envy, Race Hatred, and the Prehistory of the Holocaust, demonstrates a third, absolutely fascinating dialectic.  A clearly brillant author, Gotz Aly, a freelance historian, has composed an array of studies that demonstrate the political-economic, class-based, opportunistic, and anti-communist underpinnings of the Nazi rise in Germany; in this newest work, he assembles a powerful argument about how Jewish success in Germany laid the basis for the ‘racial’ fantasies of Mein Kampf, in so doing uncovering a big part of both why ‘liberal’ Germany succumbed to Nazism and how the Reich maintained rank-and-file loyalty through purges and the second greatest loss of blood and property in the mayhem of World War Two.

Aly in essence therein establishes how insidious and destructive are propaganda and ideology that describe ‘racial theories’ as valid.  “Race hatred,” or racism, induces a fascist upsurge when the material basis of economic affairs becomes problematic enough, and struggling against the ‘racial detestation,’ or racism, has little or no impact on the underlying economic and social dynamics actually in play.  Jewish identity, Jewish culture, Jewish religion, along with capital’s intensifying crisis, the increasing centrality of anticommunism, and the escalating desperation of small businesses and workers, all conjoin in a battle between ‘racial ideology’ and the battle against it, a loggerheads out of which one version or another of fascism rises up triumphant.

To finish this tiny little piece of this big and difficult, and yet far too small and sketchy, puzzle, one might ponder a question.  If people’s coloration and arbitrarily attendant factors divide the human species into races, and accompanying this division elites will always benefit from setting people against each other, how on Earth can attacks on racism ever succeed, given the supposedly—no matter how idiotic or fatuous they actually are—irreducible facts of racial separation and difference?

How much worse a recognition is—about which a substantially expanded set of data is forthcoming—that not one iota of biological knowledge supports what one critical volume called The “Racial” Economy of Science that predominates at just this historical stage.  This collection of essays has a brief subtitle that hints at what is at stake in straightening out this elevation of superficiality and fatuous nonsense: Toward a Democratic Future.

Suppressing Class & History As Guarantees of False Consciousness

In the event, then, as will appear in the next, and the next-after-the-next, components of this effort at reportage, the very idea of race is an utterly discredited and socially reactionary theory.  Thus, its close cousin racism cannot under any circumstances exist except as an at once malicious and stupid belief.  And most importantly, the hue-and-cry to eliminate this item-that-has-zero-real-substance can only boomerang and slay the very hopes and dreams of comity and congruence that those who attack it say that they hope to achieve.

What can replace this discreditable, and often discredited, contextualization are rubrics that use historical, political-economic, artistic and narrative, social-scientific, and scientific foundations to scrutinize the ways that people relate, for both good and ill.  Plenty of such case-studies and feature productions do abound among the scholarship and reporting and outpouring of texts and performances around the globe.  That precious few of them seek to synthesize these various methodologies lays the basis for the Spindoctor’s oh-so-humble endeavor at just such an amalgamation.

In particular, in this vein, social class analyses must inform studies that rely on color and other qualities that divide the majority of the planet’s populace, plus-or-minus ninety percent of whom are workers, with little or no access to capital that would permit their survival without wages.  This interweaving of class and color and so forth is essential, in any case, if anything other than recrimination, destitution, and devastation are the hoped-for products of scholarship and journalism and other annals of the human prospect.  In unity lies strength.

As things are transpiring in the realm of the real, despite the absolute and horrifying truth of the injustices that are here in view, people at the grassroots are everywhere on this orb of green and blue recognizing that their differences in hue do not prohibit, as their due, the most intimate and powerful connections among each other.  After all, millions of colorful women have mated with millions of paler men, and vice versa: the Spindoctor’s love-and-life partnership, as well as his sister’s and brother-in-law’s and his brother-in-law’s and sister-in-law’s, are merely personal experiences of this undeniable truth.

The personal decidedly shines with political shades.  As other pieces of today’s article will develop, this conjunction of black and white and brown and yellow and red, not to mention men and women and people of all faiths and nations and cultures, extends well beyond individual or emotional relationships.  It encompasses the best collective chances that humanity has to flower and prosper.  Not surprisingly, also as readers will learn, discursive expression that focuses on race and racism subverts or even destroys such potentiation of human progress as are nevertheless coming into bloom in workplaces and communities, in associations and political parties, and in plenty of other ways as well.

This unfolding posting has sought to develop in this subsection of this report an accurate reflection of one aspect of how people are relating to each other in the present pass, including violent or lethal relations between citizens and ‘authorities.’  In particular, of course, interactions and outcomes among people whose skin colors differ are on display.

That such relationships in multiple historical contexts repeatedly constituted monstrous crimes against humanity, blights on the possibility of humankind’s integrity—realities that today’s text will soon copiously detail without once using the term ‘race’ or its derivative, racism, in any explanatory or analytical fashion—is not particularly radical.  After all, none other than Thomas Jefferson—stout bourgeois farmer optimist that he was— could intone, “The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submission on the other.”

The here-and-now listings in the current chapter show that a substantial and yet largely unremarked correlation exists between on the one hand the likelihood of vicious treatment, ill-health, or death, predation and monstrosity to which the Nation’s third President bore substantial witness two centuries back, and the tendency of today’s victims to share ancestry with the slaves whose plight Jefferson long ago detailed.  Moreover, equally pernicious molestation has attended the evolution of culture and community of other oppressed people of color, so that today’s manifestations, from Africa to Asia to indigenous communities in the Americas and the multiple, intersecting Diasporas of both these peoples and the offspring of enslavement everywhere on Earth, also reveal inequities and morbidity and hurt that color just about everything in modern existence.

That such linkages are patently obvious does not make their plausibly—many would say indubitably—causal impact clear, unless one points them out.  Hence, just such a purpose underlies this somewhat long and yet all-the more inadequate abbreviation of what these issues really are when one ponders them in a fully contextual fashion, one which employs history, political economy, and the evolution of social relations through time.

In any event, the profferal that this briefing conveys must be pertinent, at least as relevant as blaming the entire noisome butchery of inequality on something that generally no one defines, that doesn’t hold water as a scientific concept, that is at once a mere label and a blockade to actual analysis.  Such a perspective is at an absolute minimum worth considering, immediately and thoroughly.

On only a few occasions have presentations from ‘established’ communications outlets presented this sort of nuance and some of the data that can assist an observer in attaining something akin to comprehension.  As venerable a journalistic venture as the Guardian, in reporting the execrable failure of the U.S. Government to aggregate statistics of officer homicides, does manage to conclude that something like 900 to a 1,000 citizens probably die at the hands of militarized gendarmes every year in the U.S., for example.  Herein, we have seen such regular occurrences of vicious inequity as both general portrait and partial inventory.

This could easily continue, until the current total volume of textualization about life—all the manuscripts of every sort everywhere on Earth—had doubled or tripled or more.  Rather than seek to recount even a few additional horrors, however, though doing so would be exceedingly easy and arguably useful in some senses, such as reality orientation if nothing else, the Spindoctor choice at this juncture will be to advance this report’s overall argument once again, which materializes now and again in today’s overall work.

An inculcated bigotry, ignorant chauvinism, an at times ad hoc and at other points highly honed ideology of White supremacy, a likely both biological and socially-promulgated clannishness and ethnocentrism: these are among the explanatory mechanisms that can account for the present pass and its historical underpinnings.  This essay does not define these terms, but it could easily do so and does provide portals that direct readers, if they like, toward awareness that flows from a foundation of agreement about what in hell we’re talking about when we argue and advocate about these deadly encounters and deleterious rubrics that define most of the planet, and U.S. society with special force.

The ultimate point of this aggregation of ideas and facts and positions is that no equivalent definition of race is possible that has any meaning other than bullshit.  Why a default manifestation of dispute about absolutely crucial mosaics of social conflict would devolve to horse manure might well be no more difficult to apprehend than is the underlying rationale for the bigotry, chauvinism, White supremacist ideology, and clannishness or ethnocentrism delineated just above.

These reasons concern power.  They circumscribe class rule.  They proffer the underpinnings of hegemony, which are always replete in division, from which conquest will ever flow.

If, therefore, a citizen’s aim is grassroots empowerment, at least an attenuation of ruling class predation, a reduction in plutocratic hegemony, and struggling to find an answer that avoids yet another pathetic holocaust that must inevitably stem from divided-and-conquered underlings, then one at least ought to consider approaching these matters without ever again accepting or even acknowledging that the issues at hand might center on ‘race’ or ‘racism.’  After all, the minority of victims in these thousand extrajudicial executions each year are White, and if nothing else their presence among the casualties does not emanate from their ‘race’ or hue, though it absolutely associates with working for wages and not being wealthy, just as is the case with nearly the sum total of their erstwhile ‘racial’ counterparts.

Perhaps a brilliant epigram from Arundhati Roy, a multihued writer of color, gives form and thrust to what the Spindoctor has been developing here.  “Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it.  To deprive it of oxygen.  To shame it.  To mock it.  With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness – and our ability to tell our own stories.  Stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe.

The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling – their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability.

Remember this: We be many and they be few.  They need us more than we need them.

Another world is not only possible, she is on her way.  On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”

The most recent Nobelist of color guides those willing to follow to the most crucial reason for abandoning ‘race’ as an organizing principle, for rejecting ‘racism’ as the causal agent of oppression and exploitation and vicious inequity: no matter one’s ‘good intentions,’ insisting on racial categories lets the real factors that cause our woes escape notice; insisting on racial categories gives elites the chance to ‘toss a bone’ to the crushed masses that does nothing to change fundamental problems; insisting on racial categories, in a busy and crowded world, will always cause opportunity costs since one can only do so much, meaning that the real causative elements receive short shrift or no attention at all.

PREFATORY MATTERS

Having such a litany of viciousness, with an apostrophe of hope and power, as what shows up above appear before one’s eyes, one must conclude that murderous oppression has in fact come down to the present day in a way both systematic and incontrovertible, both horrifying and necessary to witness, so that thereby we become capable of recontextualization so as to forge new potency and potential.  With very few exceptions, though, almost all widely publicized chronicles and widely read chroniclers of the present incarnations of these patterns now call the cause of such expressions of mass murder racism.

The estimable Nobelist, Ms. Roy, certainly implicates a different set of inducements, at once more imperial and more ‘self-interested.’  Along similar lines, before we ponder further the Spindoctor point-of-view on these slippery concerns, an examination of how humans have considered each other, in both the distant and recent past, ought to help a thoughtful assessment of these matters to transpire.

The absolutely fundamental point, to start, is that the utilization of ‘race’ as a common term or key concept is actually a quite recent phenomenon.  An excellent proof of that point emerges from the ever-magnificent—if also flawed and culturally very much of its day—eleventh edition of Encyclopedia Britannica.  The entry under the heading “Race” essentially is so paltry as to be nonexistent.

The text consists of a fourteen line dictionary portal in Volume 22.  Almost two thirds of this speaks to running or other competitive activities; five of those lines deal with this: “a tribe, breed, a group of individuals descended from a common ancestor.”  Published in 1916, this material therefore indicates that common employment of race as a term of art is less than a century old.  It also means that only one human race existed, by its own definition.

Whereas contemporary usage seems so obsessive that ‘racial’ appearances are almost constant, its use a hundred or more years back was very much in passing.  The thinker about these things might look elsewhere in this venerable Anglo-American reference source to get a sense of what discussion then deployed instead of race.

Ethnicity and related terminology, Slaves & Slavery, and Negro state a few of these headings.  They are full of misinformation and bigotry, as well as insight and a grappling with empirical reality.  The point for us to consider here is that they did not make a case, in any general or overall fashion at all, for race, the ubiquitous insertion of which so characterizes the current pass.

Myths & Legends of Kith & Kin, & What Humankind Means

Perhaps no easier gateway to these stories exists than the Biblical accounts—and their interpretations—of the ‘sons of Ham.’  An inaugural note about this is that the interpretative nexus that assigns gospel denigration to noir, or “el negro,” comes from the last couple of centuries.  Both upper-crust antebellum apologists and Mormons have made this canonical appeal as a justification of oppression.

“Brigham Young is quoted as stating, ‘In as much as we believe in the Bible, inasmuch as we believe in the ordenances of God, in the Preisthood and order and decrees of God, we must believe in Slavery- The seed of Canaan will inevitably carry the curse [of servitude] which was placed upon them, until the same authority which placed it there, shall see proper to have it removed.’

A hundred years later, when segregation was an issue of national debate, some Mormons matched conservative Southern Christians in justifying American segregation with biblical authority.  A prominent example is McConkie’s 1958 Mormon Doctrine, published during the aftermath of nationally prominent desegregation attempts in Little Rock, Arkansas.  In its entry on ‘Caste Systems,’ the book expressly approved of ethnic segregation and ‘caste systems’ as originating in the gospel.”

Unlike the so-called ‘liberals’ and post-modern theoreticians who have mired public discourse in the indefinable and false concept of ‘racial difference’ and racism, at least Mr. McConkie calls what is going on by an accurate and useful name: Caste Systems.  The commentary on this matter provides an eye-opening, arguably ironclad exegesis of this particular story—i.e., that its origins dealt with incest and had plus-or-minus zero to do with skin color.

If one strays widely from canonical mythology, one discovers still further reasons at every turn to doubt that the cultural divisions that people have inherited and selected, in order to identify themselves, revolve around or even have much of a connection to color.  An example emerges from two geographically adjacent clans, which view themselves as utterly discrete ethnicities, in Uganda, though one might look at any populated part of the ancient world to find similar occurrences of distinction and division in which hue matters not a whit.

In these tales, two brothers come from high in the mountains to be the first people.  One was a farmer, the other a hunter: Cain and Abel, in other words, originated in Africa.  The farmer meets a woman, a daughter of gods, who finds him comely.  In order to marry into the line, however, he must submit to circumcision, which defines his manhood; the chance for her brother to come to Earth and, chaotic roustabout that he is, introduce death, leads to their children’s demise.

Both adjacent Ugandan clans agree on many of these particulars.  Their languages are very similar.  They appear almost interchangeable, not only to outsiders, but to each other.  Yet they identify as different breeds, different sets, more or less different races.

While such thinking might be adaptive under conditions of struggle and scarcity and frequent geographic dislocation or isolation, in the context of seven billion or so cousins who have for centuries intermingled in every way imaginable, from the spiritual to the carnal, to hold such views is fatuous, likely insane, and, to say the least extremely dangerous to the health of human viability.

A Japanese origin myth describes a mythical mother and father whose prayers for any sort of child, even the smallest, bore fruit as “Little One-Inch.”  This diminutive fellow, great of heart, saved a fair damsel at great risk to himself, for which those overseeing the cosmos gave him a fully formed manhood, whereupon the maiden took him home and won the chance to wed.

Though little doubt is possible that the characterization of Japanese society as insular is accurate, this tale tells of an opening for acceding to physical difference.  What could more obviously set apart two different human breeds than a sixty-to-seventy times size differential?  In such old, old tales lie a conception of humanity at once more generous and more inclusive than much of what now passes for humanism.

In Italy, a feminist and socially democratic community of colors highlights the likelihood that Mediterranean creation stories infiltrated Northward from Africa.  In fact, a scholar among the cohort believes that “out of Africa” has emanated a “Dark Mother” of us all.

“Work of other cultural theorists—…Antonio Gramsci on the significance of folklore as transmitter of values, notably the “buon senso” of all peoples, and Noam Chomsky who considers our genetic endowment to be ‘a memory of our earliest existence’—has encouraged me to formulate a working hypothesis: The memory of the prehistoric dark mother, and her values—justice with compassion, equality, and transformation — appear to remain vibrant in subordinated cultures, and in the submerged memories, perhaps, of everyone. 

This working hypothesis is explored in my forthcoming Godmothers~ African Origins la dea madre …wherein, as a historian, I place the themes in a narrative, beginning with signs of the dark mother—red ochre paint in caves of south Africa 900,000 B.C.E., the pervasive pubic V in the rock art of central and south Africa 50,000 B.C.E. when africans migrated to all continents, the similarity of prehistoric rock art everywhere, and the common theme of creation stories of peoples of all five continents.”

The Spindoctor could brief his readers about mythos from Korea and Japan, Malaysia and Singapore, throughout the Americas, in the Greek and Roman worlds, and everywhere else on Earth, all of which contains common themes and characters and action and plotlines.  As Capitalism on Drugs also affirmed, human yarns inherently share common components.  We are all cousins, truly and ineluctably.

Thus, even so apparently ‘dark’ a people as the citizens of Malaysia, or so ‘light’ a folk as the Swedes or the English, as in any nation now, represent an impossible to separate mix of ethnicities, languages, religions, cultural traditions, and so forth.  “The laws of genetics” and the dynamics of culture dictate blending over time to such an extent that after plus-or-minus ten generations—only a few centuries—intermingling and extension eliminate possibilities of ‘pure’ strains, with concentrated attributes.

To circumscribe such an intricate mélange on the basis of skin or tongue or faith or any one or even small number of these contingencies means that the description simply does not come close to matching reality: on the other hand, if one extends the depiction much further, then it creates a web or net that gathers up vastly greater numbers than the ‘race’ in question, quite likely in fact most or all of humanity.  Socially, intellectually, one can make a choice to speak of race, of ‘breeds’ of human, of ‘strains’ of blood, but why in the world—other than clannishness and a fierce insistence on one’s superiority to overcome feelings of inferiority—would one do that?

An incisive essay on “Foundation Myths” from The Encyclopedia of Nationalism does much more than provide both recent and ancient views of Volk or Nation or Race, which do portray stories that dovetail with or even explicitly exhibit clannish and racial ideation at the foundation, as it were, of some mythic elements of our species.  It also specifies the material, and in “political communities,” sociopolitical, features of such thinking, which when visible in the clear light of reason at a minimum serve up choices about continued utilization or adherence.

“Where we choose our point of beginning can say much about who we see ourselves as and who we exclude from such a sense of community.  By establishing boundaries over the flux of time and space, meaning becomes possible and political allegiances and roles are defined and validated.  Equally, however, other potentialities and identities become marginalized or invalidated.”

A two volume set, Creation Myths of the World, reiterates some of these points and presents innumerable examples of such cultural initiation on the largest stage possible.  The volume notes the dialectic of creation and destruction, of advance and decline, that multiple mythic mantras embrace.

“Many cultures see creation as a process involving several stages or historical ages.  Often the stages relate to the development of humankind.  The Greek creation story told by Hessiod in his Theogeny begins with the creation of the universe by Gaia and Ouranos (Earth and Sky).  But this first couple is overpowered by the Titan Kronos.”  Not only in Aryan mythic traditions, where successive periods of violation and violence replace one set of deities with another, even as the goddess succumbed to Olympus, but also in the Americas and in East Asia, other tales related similar horrific exigencies that finally had born humanity into the world.

The purpose of this preface—literally, before the face or the surface of reality or presentation—is anything but completeness.  It seeks only to show that the complexities and inconsistencies and the fierce debates about the mythos of complexion and ‘blood,’ both in the past and over time, contain massive amounts of information that at once elucidates and damns those who would claim that ‘race’ is the primary, or even a useful or otherwise real, category for analysis and understanding of how people see themselves in relation to ‘others.’

Jefferson pointed out what Greece’s legendary bard wrote in this regard.  “That a change in the relations in which a man is placed should change his ideas of moral right or wrong, is neither new, nor peculiar to the color of the blacks.  Homer tells us it was so two thousand six hundred years ago.

‘Jove fix’d it certain, that whatever day

Makes a man a slave, takes half his worth away.’”

Closer to our own time, a Russian scholar’s thesis has elected to explore the intersection of mythology, religion, and origin stories of indigenous North Americans, on the one hand, and the work of contemporary Native American fiction writers, on the other hand.  In so doing, she has delineated significant and relevant information that she conveys to readers about the ‘Indian’ mythos.  For the most part throughout the continent North of the Aztecs, a more or less universal set of principles and promises were present, which were at least in practice often inclusive of the human condition generally.

She quotes “three generalizations” from an authority on the subject:

  1. 1. First, at the time of European contact, all but the simplest indigenous cultures in North America had developed coherent religious systems that included cosmologies – creation myths, transmitted orally from one generation to the next, which purported to explain how those societies had come into being.
  2. 2. Second, most native peoples worshiped an all-powerful, all-knowing Creator or ‘Master Spirit’ (a being that assumed a variety of forms and both genders). They also venerated or placated a host of lesser supernatural entities, including an evil god who dealt out disaster, suffering, and death.
  3. 3. Third and finally, the members of most tribes believed in the immortality of the human soul and an afterlife, the main feature of which was the abundance of every good thing that made earthly life secure and pleasant.

This rubric is certainly congruent with many aspects of Christianity, as the author emphasizes.

She also makes transparent the near-extinction of indigenous communities that happened as a result of consciously adopted English and American policies, which illuminates why considering these mythic elements in relation to material reality is mandatory. The deleterious impacts of this migratory arrival was obviously vastly worse than the worst fantasy of “illegal immigrants” that reactionary U.S. citizens now promote, in which in particular they often target young people and children.

This Russian scholarly paper also examines the focus on young people that characterized U.S. actions, a routinely unsuccessrul attempt to root out any attachment to or knowledge of their own traditions and mythology.  Completely in line with Forrest Carter’s devastating portrait from The Education of Little Tree, Native American Mythology in Modern American Literature states, “During the middle decades of the 20th century, whole generations of children were kidnapped, forcibly confined in residential schools, and abused physically, sexually, and emotionally.”

Perhaps an excerpt from Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, about the children whose lives are the only way that we have of furthering humanity’s race, can move us along.  “Your children are not your children.  They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself,” a cavalcade of cousins seeking to shape a context for continued creation.

Early ‘Scientific’ or Other Authoritative Scholarship About These Bloody Affairs

In essence, then, every human group that has enough staying power to constitute a clan manages to visualize itself in relation to all of nature.  These creation tales do not demand, nor do they prohibit ‘racial’ thinking.  They definitely arise from the material world and are an adaptive response to such issues as the need for loyalty, the inculcation of the young in the ways of survival, and dealing with matters of propagation of the group and the death of its members.  Arguably, human communities cannot subsist without such social technology, as it were.

And again, race just didn’t manifest itself as a categorical element of this process.  However, beginning in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, more or less fully articulated theories of European superiority, as well as an intellectual solidification of the purported ‘missionary impulse’ with which Spain and the rest of Europe justified its depredation, began to appear.  Such literary maestros as Lord Tennyson were avid readers of such texts.

No doubt, one can distance oneself from the silly and even bizarre theories that typified many of these ideas about the origins of human difference and the inherent advantage that ‘Whites’ brought to the competitive table, as it were.  Nevertheless, in florid and brutal detail, such theories guided those who colonized the world from Europe, and their echoes have kept resonating in America’s Manifest Destiny and so forth.

Here we have Herbert Spencer.  “The forces which are working out the great scheme of perfect happiness, taking no account of incidental suffering, exterminate such sections of mankind as stand in their way, with the same sternness that they exterminate beasts of prey and herds of useless ruminants.”

In any case, the Spindoctor has written more than a mere line or two about these matters here on Contributoria in two of his previous installments.  Those pages advanced and defended several contentions that apply to what we are seeking to attain in the present essay.

Capitalism on Drugs provided at least a modicum of detail about aspects of myth and human society.  And the episode about Victor Jara showed multiple facets of U.S. imperial arrogance and the historical, political-economic, and social underpinnings of such high-and-mighty supremacist exceptionalism.

Other of the Spindoctor’s writings have investigated these issues as well.  He has explored the tangles of science and technology and society more than once.  These efforts have demonstrated what is a now well-established fact about ‘scientific’ thinking—that it has little more protection or guaranteed insulation from selfish interest, hypocrisy, or presumption than does the ideation of the merest yokel.

An STS “approach suggests that neither knowledge nor machines emanate from ‘objective’ or neutral labors of unbiased ubermensch, any more than the castles and guilds of feudalism emanated from God’s commands.  Instead, everything that is results from complex webs of relations that inherently blend social, political, and economic factors in a dynamic interplay of human conflict and cooperation that yields the present from the past, just as the only route to the future is through the now.”

Though it primarily evinces the best practices and received wisdom of current scholarship, in the already cited entry on “Foundation Myths,” The Encyclopedia of Nationalism also reviews much that is helpful to readers who want to see the evolution of such thinking over time.  So as both to validate the folk and to invalidate the foreign, mythic iterations may attach to proto-scientific and otherwise rationalized theories that account for and justify victory and desserts.

“Since nationalism is based on the theory that the world is naturally made of nations with territorial domains, one of the functions of much nineteenth-century historiography was to establish through foundation myths and origin myths charter rights of peoples to territories.  Another was to explain favoured political and cultural trends in terms of ancient and accepted practices. …link(ing) imagined cultural, religious, and even biological attributes to territory.”

Perhaps no metaphorical network of this sort has more power in the present moment than does evolution.  Not surprisingly, therefore, social-Darwinist ideology has provided the most powerful impetus for a racialist conception of science and knowledge.  While this thinking became prevalent if not predominant in the nineteenth and much of the twentieth centuries, its critics have, arguably won the field.

Unlike social Darwinists, these rebuttals “contend that the continued racial classification of Homo sapiens represents an outmoded approach to the general problem of differentiation within a species.”  For Steven Jay Gould, for instance, “(i)n other words, I reject a racial classification of humans for the same reasons that I prefer not to divide into subspecies the prodigiously variable West Indian land snails that form the subject of my own research.”

Malthus’ provocative work also contained fodder perfectly formulated to excite the reactionary mind.  Overpopulation, massive die offs, and the general gloom of human existence as human productive capacity advanced, these and other elements of the historian-political economist’s work lent themselves very easily to chauvinistic views.  Of course, those who take such a route overlook the utterly obvious conflicts of interest in his own intellectual path, such as his longstanding dependency of the support and patronage of the East India Company.

The reaction among workers to Malthus, and his coterie of emulators in England and elsewhere, were uniformly hostile.  “Other working class papers consistently opposed Martineau(a Malthusian enthusiast).  The Working Man’s Friend and Political Magazine, another unstamped weekly, published a letter in 1832 containing a fictitious exchange between John Bull, a poor laborer, and a Whig: ‘I don’t believe you,’ said poor Johnny—‘you only wish to put me in a workhouse.’  ‘Read Malthus and Martineau,’ said the Whig—‘the fewer labourers, the more wealth.’  ‘Aye, the more wealth for the idlers because the less worry,’ said poor John Bull.  ‘But I am a working man.’”

Not only did grassroots opposition to such supposedly science-based ideologies emerge, but also the application of such thinkers’ labors to the justification of racial theories frequently profoundly distorted the conceptual and empirical content of those efforts at understanding.  More to the point of the reification of racial ideology, both before and after the labors of Malthus and Darwin had transpired, innumerable apologists for European, White hegemony laid out their premises and conjectures to justify predation and predict continued predominance.  These chauvinists used science, but only opportunistically and duplicitously; their thinking proceeded apace with or without such backing.

As well, the popularization of these theories flew in the face of what, at least once in a while, Darwin said about these mattes even as, for his part, neither Malthus nor his ideas were easy to contextualize as friendly to social democracy.  The author of The Descent of Man never showed a freewheeling acceptance of social equality, but he repeatedly acknowledged that the evidence disallowed racial conclusions.  His work thereby destroyed the basis for a category of ‘race’ in any science of human affairs.

“In all parts of Europe, as far east as Greece, in Palestine, India, Japan, New Zealand, and Africa, including Egypt, flint tools have been discovered in abundance; and of their use the existing inhabitants retain no tradition.  There is also indirect evidence of their former use by the Chinese and ancient Jews.  Hence there can hardly be a doubt that the inhabitants of these countries, which include nearly the whole civilised world, were once in a barbarous condition.  To believe that man was aboriginally civilised and then suffered utter degradation in so many regions, is to take a pitiably low view of human nature.  It is apparently a truer and more cheerful view that progress has been much more general than retrogression; that man has risen, though by slow and interrupted steps, from a lowly condition to the highest standard as yet attained by him in knowledge, morals and religion.”

Nonetheless, the typical or standard ‘official’ view leaned toward bigotry for the generations that lived during the charnel final decades of chattel bondage, as well as during the final quarter century or so that followed slavery’s crashing and burning and dying as the peculiar institution that had laid the basis for so much ‘magnificent’ capital accumulation.  A return to Britannica makes this summary position patently undeniable in one case, and complicated but at least in part accurate in another case.

In the entry for “Negro,”  the exceptionally nauseating arguments balance how self-contradictory and lacking in even the most rudimentary standards of evidence these ‘expert’ authors are.  In any case, they go on for tens of thousands of words with their pontifications and distortions and half-truths and simple, foolhardy errors.

“Mentally, the negro is inferior to the white.  The remark of F. Manetta, made after a long study of the negro in America, may be taken as generally true of the whole race: ‘the negro children were sharp, intelligent, and full of vivacity, but on approaching the adult period a gradual change set in.  The intellect seemed to become clouded, animation giving place to a sort of lethargy, briskness yielding to indolence.  We must necessarily suppose that the development of the negro and the white proceed on different lines.  While with the latter the volume of the brain grows with the expansion of the brainpan, in the former the growth of the brain is on the contrary arrested by the premature closing of the cranial sutures and the lateral pressure of the frontal bone. …no doubt largely due to the fact that after puberty sexual matters take the first place in the negro’s life and thoughts.”

Do what?  Never mind fabricated evidence, predisposition to nonsense, complete addiction to non-sequitur, a total unwillingness to accede to refuting data, and projection of insecurity wholly unrelated to the issue at hand, this entire entry stinks of the darkest fantasies and most hideous idiocy.  But it is the authoritative view, imposing racial categories even as the foundations of science—not to mention Britannica itself, reject such conceptual frameworks.

To ameliorate this excrescence but also see ongoing difficulties with the tenor of the times, one could turn to the long and generally informative article on “Ethnology and Ethnography.”  It completely overturns the later piece that just manufactures its facts and tortures its analysis on Negroid life and biology, yet it also bows and scrapes to White supremacist and otherwise chauvinistic views.  In any event, at its base, it discards a racial view as both false and untenable.

“The only fundamental problem which need here be referred to is that of the whole question of the division of mankind into different races at all, which is consequential on the earlier problem(dealt with in the article ANTHROPOLOGY) as to man’s origin and antiquity.

If we assume that man existed on the earth in remote geological time, the question arises, was this Pleistocene man specifically one?  What evidence is there that he represented in his different habitats a series of varieties of one species rather than a series of species?  The evidence is of three kinds, (1)anatomical, (2)physiological, and (3)cultural and psychical.”

Vast numbers of other works from this time—travelogues, journalism, erstwhile authoritative scholarship, political theory, and more—followed a supremacist line more in keeping with the execrable former assessment, though they did not yet universally justify the effort on the basis of race.  That sort of linkage was coming however, as we will soon see, both among those who advanced, and those who decried, these points of view and the results that they both elicited and annotated.

At this point in our passage, primarily, we will simply assert that this congruence of denigration and hegemony was no accident.  The workers and their media recognized this at the time, as noted above, so perhaps we ought to notice too.  Given time and inclination, of course, Spindoctor argumentation could prove the point beyond any dark shadow of doubt.

Historical & Social & Popular Annals from Slavery’s Foundation to Its End & Beyond

Whatever the diverse theories and analyses that have come from biology or anthropology or otherwise, a useful comparison is possible with how historians, journalists, and other commentators once presented these eventualities.  Inevitably, again, only the briefest glimpse is possible in these matters, though in the fullness of time a deeper delving could be possible to achieve.

That paradox and dark contradiction rule in this realm would prove impossible to deny.  Many a dissertation, beaucoup popular histories, would be possible to compose at this intersection of consciousness and production about color and social relationships: bigotry meets social equality; righteous selflessness sits down with hypocritical grasping greed; black and white as allusions to insoluble separation dance as Blacks and Whites who push each other away and pull each other closer.

One might begin such a contextualization by examining two writers’ brief lives.  Stephen Crane, without once mentioning ‘race’ as a pseudoscientific or social construct—except in relation to a squirrel that skedaddled—without a single note about slavery—except in relation to the soldiers who were slaves of slaughter—and with only one note about a negro character, part of the Union army, created Red Badge of Courage, a lasting testimony to the sacrifice and sacrilege of war’s political import and mass murder.

Crane clearly understood the context of the fight.  “The North had a larger population—22 million compared to the South’s 9 million, of which 4 million were slaves who were not eager to support the Southern cause.  Some of these slaves fled to the North to claim their freedom and fight for the Union.  The North was able to enlist 2 million soldiers, including almost 200,000 African Americans, while the South gathered only 900,000 soldiers.”  And such factors were all about the book, though the story was not about them.

He is a child of the working class, at least inasmuch as he had no capital or trust fund to back up his pen.  He constantly worried about debt and income.  He contracted tuberculosis and died in its throes, aged twenty-eight years.  His work never suffered from any sort of committed White supremacist stance.  Nor were his political sensibilities much engaged in his work, however.

Jack London, at once a committed socialist and a seemingly irremediable bigot, appears, at first glance, very much ‘on the other hand.’  He too is a working class boy who rises through literary practice and physical drudgery to become one o the world’s most popular writers of the early twentieth century.

He lives in a world surrounded by inculcated prejudice.  He at one and the same time tells stories that reinforce chauvinism and composes paeans to color and working class solidarity.  He drinks far too much and suffers both bodily and spiritual sickness that leads him to use morphine as a palliative.  Only forty in the Autumn of 1916, he dies from uremia and too much opiate, possibly a suicide.

The received wisdom is that ‘racism,’ though culturally transmitted, infected London and deflected him from perfecting his revolutionary work.  Recent scholarship, such as Rereading Jack London, a collaborative monograph of Leonard Cassuto and Jeanne Reesman, has developed a more nuanced view.  By examining both London’s journalism—his reportage on Black boxer Jack Johnson revels in the African American heavyweight’s intelligence and wit—and his fiction—in which multiple tales celebrate the soul and smarts of Asian and African ‘stock,’ as well as his personal correspondence, Cassuto and Reesman make a compelling case that London was in fact grappling with just the issues of racial nonsense and class conflict that the Spindoctor notes.

Near the end of his life, he resigned from the Socialist Party because he was basically looking for greater revolutionary fervor.  He wrote a missive to convey his choice.  He truly embodies the transition to an era of racial thinking, which immutably destroys the project of class solidarity that defined London, heart and soul.

“In this letter, in perhaps his final words on the race issue, questions of power and courage are inextricably linked to those of race and class: ‘If races and classes cannot rise up and, by their own strength of brain and brawn, wrest from the world liberty and freedom and independence, they never in time can come to these royal possessions.”

American literature more generally, in at least some instrumental ways, originates in tales of slavery.  Uncle Tom’s Cabin, for those who have read it once, is a fitting example, a narrative that draws a reader back repeatedly.  Not only was this the best-selling volume of the nineteenth century in North America, but it also palpated themes of liberation and struggle that came to pass in the blood and fire of Civil War.

Mark Twain’s works were others that often both reflected the diminution of African American humanity that was inescapable either under slavery or the Jim Crow repression that followed, on the one hand, and depicted the monumental strength and intelligence and decency that Black characters had in their confrontations with hateful and harmful prejudice, the wastage and evisceration of their humanity and potential.

Or one could look at both the work and attitudes of an itinerant bard such as Walt Whitman, the quintessential American individualist.  His poems and letters too contained both an overall commitment to ethnic compatibility, even love, and plenty of instances of personal prejudice and violent racialized rejection.

Most central to this nineteenth century contextualization of these brutal eventualities, at least arguably, were the works of escaped slaves and free Black thinkers and writers and activists.  In particular, Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs deserve pride of place in any such litany of actualization of action against a murderous and very strange way of organizing human affairs.

Douglass’ efforts, his various incarnations of his autobiography and his activism and coalition building, for example, may well have amounted to a greater impulsion to the overthrow of slavery than many other elements of the drive to Civil War put together.  His signature, “Life is struggle,” defined his existence and altered the course of history.

Not nearly so well known now, Jacobs horrified Northern Whites in the last antebellum years.  Her recounting of the routine rapes and plotted plunders of Southern life so graphically branded the minds of millions of readers and citizens that she too must equal any number of other basic components of the irresistible forces to eliminate at least the formal acceptance of human bondage in the land of the free and the home of the brave.  As in the case of Douglass, one could go on, essentially forever, and not run out of ammunition that these two—and others purveyed to abolitionists and others who demanded change.

Nor would we necessarily stop with depictions from the intellectual arena.  Slave rebellions and plots, and rumors of such, not to mention the acts and ideas of the likes of those that Douglass and others inspired—such as John Brown—played huge roles in bringing an end to the Confederacy even before it took completely tangible form.  Among all of these actors on their own behalf—Whites like Brown absolutely believed that they fought for their own and their progeny’s lives—none made appeals to ending racism.  As the Spindoctor pointed out near the beginning, the key issues centered on power and engagement, not on color or ‘race.’

Furthermore, in this vein of ‘self-help,’ slave tales themselves also appeared on the nineteenth century cultural stage.  Whites appropriated and sold them.  Blacks performed their stories for each other as a form of resistance.  These yarns and folktales and poems and skits form a rich loam of American literature that has continued to fertilize narrative and production to this day.

Even Edgar Allen Poe’s genius, steeped in rum and opium and chattel relations, was inextricable in its connection to slavery and resistance, White supremacy and Black persistence.  Romancing the Shadow: Poe and Race, is a collection that documents this.  Erotic, quixotic, dark, and twisted, the connection of White folk and dark folk in some ways permeated his work, especially his poetry.

John Henry more explicitly exemplified multiple elements that characterize folk tales and songs and poetry and literary stories all at once, White and Black, with no mention of race or racism, just a lionization of strength and heart“There are almost two hundred recorded versions of the ballad of John Henry.  It was among the first of the songs that came to be called ‘the Blues’ and was one of the first recorded ‘country’ songs.  Folklorists at the Library of Congress call it the most researched folk song in the United States, and perhaps the world.

Particularly among African American men and women, John Henry has remained an icon. …In the schoolrooms of working-class Cleveland and rural West Virginia, teachers recite his exploits to inspire Black boys and girls to think about their own history.  For more than a century, most historians and folklorists have assumed that John Henry was just a legend, a story designed to inspire pride, an invention.  When I began my research, I too started looking for a legend, but in the end I found a real man.”

Indisputably, no doubt about it, ethnocentric, bigoted, even vicious cultural production was also present, simpleminded and onesided.  In many ways, these kinds of storylines may very well have added up to a substantial majority.  None of them, however, sold the millions of copies that Harriet Beecher Stowe and Frederick Douglas sold.  None of them, moreover, despite plenty of violent, even fascist, White supremacist chauvinists who linger on—not to mention the imprimatur of vast numbers of faux-scientific justifications—appear above the horizon that past literature and music and so forth must rise from in order for readers and listeners today to name and notice these prejudiced contextualizations.

As a matter of scholarship, or predilection, of course, one can find such items.  They exist in archives.  But the routine paucity of their presence among us is not primarily a matter of their falsity, though they were false, but of how superficial and paltry and boring they were, compared to what Huck Finn and Jim, what Cassie and George Harris and George Shelby and Simon Legree represented, the conflicts that the latter sets of characters sought to negotiate the networks of wonder and woe, of insight and doubt that they confronted or elicited and that in turn were part and parcel of the complexities and difficulties of actual existence at that time.  More to the point of what literature serves in society, these remembered and still-loved volumes serve us too, as we face the ‘complexities and difficulties of actual life.’

In this lengthy and yet all-too-brief presentation, a bystander might theorize the existence of a dialectic.  The original narrative threads of Homo Sapiens, far and wide, share much in common, to such an extent that almost certainly contact and biology have played a role in different kin groups’ having manifested remarkably similar tales of their emerging into the world.

Yet, with the coming of a new rubric of both production and dominance, and its accompanying mastery of the empirical and the initiation of the scientific epoch, ruling elite priorities conveniently melded with growing political domination to permit clearly false, and merely scientistic, biological conceptualizations, which established a pseudo-authoritative foundation to explain and justify socioeconomic and political supremacy.  From these roots sprang the initial tendrils of racialist worldviews, perspectives that contradicted and yet in twisted-sister retelling somehow also harmonized with the thousands-of-years-old and still unfolding folk ethos of myth and legend and fairy tale.

A similar push and pull existed between these early experts’ holding forth on where and how noticeably different human ranked in comparisons with each other and the outpouring of literature and other cultural output that so often and so tangibly spoke to mutuality and even equality.  This interaction of what we might proffer as technos and what is certainly in some senses an ongoing expression of mythos endures to such a degree that no matter what appears on the Internet tomorrow, from whatever the most recent music video presents to whatsoever the table of contents of the upcoming scientific journal contains, it likely will embody this dancing interplay, or a very close facsimile thereof.

In any case, at this conjunction, we can move one step closer to the present passing moment and completion, to see if such a prediction continues to appear plausible.  Ralph Waldo Emerson can usher us forward, showing how an Anglo’s vision and wisdom and honesty and poetry viewed the context of color and conflict and commerce.

“(T)he negro has been an article of luxury to the commercial nations.  So has it been, down to the day that has just dawned on the world.  Language must be raked, the secrets of slaughter-houses and infamous holes that cannot front the day, must be ransacked to tell what negro-slavery has been.  These men, our benefactors, as they have been producers of corn and wine, of coffee, of tobacco, of cotton, of sugar, of rum and brandy; gentle and joyous themselves, and producers of luxury and comfort for the civilized world…I am heartsick when I read how they came there and how they are kept there.”

BY WAY OF INTRODUCTION

Thus far, the material here has laid a foundation to understand either how these issues have come to the fore primarily prior to the twentieth century, or how they are manifesting in our faces, so to say, yesterday and today.  In this section, this more recent period—the 1900’s—will have its chance to strut across the page.

Periodization always tenders interesting wrinkles in such narratives as this.  Why stop at plus-or-minus 1900?  How far should the next section proceed?

The answer to such interrogatories can always be strictly arbitrary, but the Spindoctor has actual social and political and like benchmarks in mind when he looks at a particular arc of time’s arrow.  In today’s article, the initial material scrutinized more or less the immediate present.  The just completed preface stepped back, in part starting over from the foggy shrouds surrounding humanity’s first days, in part beginning with the origins of modern slavery in more or less the fifteenth century, and then moving forward to the ending of the 1800’s.

At just that juncture, as the colonial European project arrived at the cul de sac that called forth the murderous carnage of World War One, the hyped-up ‘American Century’ arguably began.  Thus, the end of the previous section and the initiation of the present one both originate here, at plus or minus 1900.

More or less, the materials here will take readers to the cusp of the cold war and the nuclear arms race.  The basis for this choice is strictly empirical, inasmuch as the decades that followed that, more or less the half century or so prior to now, have been the time that, for better or for worse, the imposition of what Spindoctor has here called The Race Trap happened in fact.  As such that period demarcates the following section, our so-called Core Matters of this narrative.

More so than has thus far been the case in this effort, the heart of the material in this, and to an extent in the next, section will center on the Southern U.S.  The motives for such a choice flow from the topic at hand; so much that is ‘racial’ or that concerns Black and White interrelations stems from the war that defined America, the conflict that ended slavery and revolutionized the South and represented the first giant step toward a globe-trotting U.S. empire.

In the event, the rise of Fascism, the revolutionary struggles of Europe, and the nascent by growing challenges that confronted colonialists from China and its fringes to Latin America and every square inch of the African continent had identifiable roots in Southern soil.  That Hitler borrowed from the Klan, that Southern soldiers manned empire’s outposts, that Southern ‘statesmen’ and corporate functionaries oversaw pieces of the grand imperial puzzle, are true and just a part of the grand scheme of interconnection that now marks every relationship that matters on Earth.

Early Modern ‘Literary’ & Initial Mass Mediation of Color-Conflict & ‘Race’

Conceivably, an analyst could spend a lifetime, say seventy years or so with luck, in studying just this time and subject matter and literally deal only with such a small fraction of the wealth of material available that he or she would look back and wonder how in heaven not even a ripple on the surface marked the passage of the years and the decades of sweat and thought.  At the same time, someone like the Spindoctor, having parsed these matters less deeply over time, can proffer for readers an overview that ought to orient one.

Of especial pertinence today, of course, is an orientation that permits an observer to gain some insights about an intersection of ‘race’ and region and resistance that, the Spindoctor has argued before, is as critical to human survival as is any dynamic anywhere else on this lovely planet of ours.  Multiple skeins account for this regional, which is to say Southern, criticality.

In some senses, this import flows, speaking of critical masses, from such tangible facts as the South’s having become the Hydrogen Bomb breadbasket after it played such critical roles in the coming of the atomic age; in other ways, this key role comes from the way that Southern politicians have for well over a century—with the likes of Wilson, Johnson, Carter, and Clinton truly small potatoes in the mix—orchestrated anticommunism, anti-unionism, anti-progressivism, anti-intellectualism, and anti-solidarity, so as to define and delimit United States society; in somewhat different fashion, the cultural and activist roots of just about every aspect of what is most lively and powerful in America has a Southern parent or grandparent.

Thus, Birth of a Nation in some ways served as a sort of midwife to a certain sort of epic film.  In the U.S., such creative works rarely if ever crossed the color line, and D.W. Griffith, border-state Southern family ties firm, certainly would not do so.

Yet, paradoxically, this film that ever since has received the label of ‘racist’ instead of an analysis of its White supremacist ideology and clearly political support for a Jim Crow and gerrymandered South in which corruption and lynching go hand in hand, contained more of a portrait of Black experience than almost anything out of Hollywood over the next fifty years.  This portrayal is false and pernicious, but, unlike the vast majority of Hollywood’s rare depictions of Black people on screen, fully half of the caricatured African Americans in the movie were actually Black.

Privately financed at a cost of what would today be a blockbuster budget—the first of its kind—the movie went on to make more money, vis a vis its production budget, than any other mediated creation in history.  It established a protocol for Southerners and Hollywood that in some senses has kept on until this moment in time, passing on its way through both Gone With the Wind and, populist blossoms as colorful as Munchkinland, Wizard of Oz.

At the same time that the preeminent cultural behemoth that developed in Southern California literally almost never stepped across the color divide till after the civil rights movement unfolded, music and local performance more than at least occasionally did so.  Jim Crow strictures remained in force for the most part, but the very nature of radio and recordings meant that the Blues infiltrated White homes and dances and at the fringes of country a new form that blended Black and White into Rock and Roll began to take shape.

Moreover, dualities and polarities and bountiful paradoxes and contradictions affected the lives that wrote and played the songs of the era.  As well, this climate of contrariety flickered from the silent screen at the period’s beginning, and, with the release of Gone With the Wind at the cusp of another world war, also announced itself more powerfully, in Technicolor surround-sound, as the years in questions drew to a close.

In regard to the business of the human voice, one would need a volume apiece to even approach a clear telling, instead of a paragraph for all three, but Billie Holliday and Marion Anderson and Paul Robeson washed over American music like a cleansing powerful tidal wave.  Holliday’s willingness to face prison rather than stop her singing of the lynching tree, Anderson’s finessing of the Daughters of the American Revolution to perform at the Lincoln Memorial, and Robeson’s constant contact with Soviet Russia, whose lifelong “loyal friend” he vowed to be, practically swamped classical and popular song, nor were White performers all Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, as Will Rogers and Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie and others risked being politically risqué, and antithetical to ‘race’ separation, more than once in a while.

Mass media during this period was only just taking shape.  While the money to build and create, and the profits from output and creation, tended to flow, respectively, from and to financial centers, communities throughout the South and in rural areas elsewhere, had radio stations and access to movies.  Thus, as a result of electronic innovations, a networked society began to happen far from metropolitan centers, a phenomenon that simultaneously reinforced stereotypes and prejudices and served to undermine or erode them.

W.E.B. Du Bois, with his Massachusetts origins and Harvard PhD about the trials and breakthroughs of Black reconstruction—does not instantly spring to mind as either a cultural mediator or one whose joinder with the South would be easy to illustrate.  But his Souls of Black Folk combined poetry and reportage and storytelling, while his long tenure at Atlanta University in Georgia’s capitol, one of the first Historically Black Colleges and Universities, connected him to the heartland of the what he termed “the problem of the twentieth century, the color line.”

While at AU, one of the ‘race riots’ of the first half of the 1900’s came to pass, in which gangs of Whites pillaged Black property and decimated African Americans themselves.  Du Bois witnessed this horror with a fire and thrust that were both potent and creditable; his own life became a template for achieving the unity about which he waxed eloquent. A chronicler has summarized what was going on.

“It was no coincidence that Atlanta’s white press was taking such an interest in black crime on the eve of an important gubernatorial election.  Both Democrat candidates were newspaper editors, and inflaming racial tensions was a tested party method for securing the vote of southern white men.  A decade prior, city had served as the birthplace of Booker T. Washington’s infamous Atlanta Compromise that exchanged black aspirations and progress for interracial peace and charity, and Atlanta’s educated and wealthy black community had grown uneasily in the shadow of this pact.  White businessmen were becoming resentful of black success, and the Democrats promised a return a familiar social order that became more distant with each special edition.”

The searingly honest and powerfully crafted novels and stories of Richard Wright also emerged toward the end of this half-century.  Though he succeeded in fleeing Mississippi and Tennessee, Wright’s voice is unmistakably that of a Southern scribe.  Even from Paris, where he wrote The Outsider, he retained touches  of the Gothic and the horrifying that were like a toxic tonic of Southern bloodlines.

Black Boy almost bursts with tension, both physical and psychic.  A noisy feline shows the intersections of authority and detestation that burst like pustules in every life.  He takes literally his father’s directive to get rid of the creature that is bothering the elder.  He kills it, which immobilizes pa with horror.  “I had made him believe that I had taken his words literally.  He could not punish me now without risking his authority.  I was happy because I had at last found away to throw my criticism of him into his face.”

When his mother forces him to bury the cat, he freaks out at the thought of night and death and responsibility.  “Then, just before I was to go to bed she uttered a paralyzing injunction: she ordered me to go out into the dark, dig a grave, and bury the kitten.

‘NO!’ I screamed, feeling that if I went out doors some evil spirit would whisk me away.

‘Get out there and bury that kitten!’ she ordered.

‘I’m scared.’

‘And wasn’t that poor kitten scared when you put that rope around its neck?’ she asked.

‘But it was only a kitten,’ I explained.

‘But it was alive,’ she said.  ‘Can you make it live again?’”

Childhood terror; the iconography of lynching; and the uptake of moral accountability in half a page: the man was a genius for whom color was his métier, who instructed all and sundry—Black and White—who would read or listen.

Perhaps the novel at the center of the American canon, Native Son describes in gripping, and yet sickening detail, the horror and alienation, the violation and violence, that occupy the dark heart of American history.  Bigger Thomas, surly and unsuited for liberal largesse, suffocates his employer’s daughter when, as he does his job as chauffer and ushers her, drunken, to her room, where she begins to kiss and grope him, the poor young woman’s blind mother shows up.  Bigger just hoped for silence to hide his actions, whether sinful or natural or whatever in hell they were.

Of course, he falls into the net of the police.  He has killed, willfully and with purpose, his own Black lover, but this is a trifle.  He will die in an electric chair for the crime of being Black and over his head and scared.

Before he faced that fate, however, a lawyer, a revolutionary Communist Party lawyer, Max, who desperately longs to be able to give Bigger the chance at life in prison, becomes the young doomed man’s defense attorney.  In his presence, listening to him speak and argue on Bigger’s behalf, this Black youth learns what the world is and how it works, which has nothing to do with categories that don’t exist and everything to do with profit and oppression, with corruption and exploitation.

Max’s summation is a text for all time:

“What atmosphere surrounds this trial?  Are the citizens soberly intent upon seeing that the law is executed?  That retribution is dealt out in measure with the offense?  That the guilty and only the guilty is caught and punished?

No! … The hunt for Bigger Thomas served as an excuse to terrorize the entire Negro population, to arrest hundreds of Communists, to raid labor union headquarters and workers’ organizations.  Indeed, the tone of the press, the silence of the church, the attitude of the prosecution and the stimulated temper of the people are of such nature as to indicate that more than revenge is being sought upon a man who has committed a crime.

What is the cause of all this high feeling and excitement?  Is it the crime of Bigger Thomas?  Were Negroes liked yesterday and hated today because of what he has done?  Were labor unions and workers’ halls raided solely because a Negro committed a crime? …

Your Honor, you know that that is not the case!  All of the factors in the present hysteria existed before Bigger Thomas was ever heard of.  Negroes, workers, and labor unions were hated as much yesterday as they are today.

Crimes of even greater brutality and horror have been committed in this city.  Gangsters have killed and have gone free to kill again.  But none of that brought forth an indignation to equal this.

Your Honor, that mob did not come here of its own accord!  It was incited! Until a week ago those people lived their lives as quiet as always.

Who, then, fanned this latent hate into fury?  Whose interest is that thoughtless and misguided mob serving?

The State’s Attorney knows, for he promised the Loop bankers that if he were re-elected demonstrations for relief would be stopped!  The Governor of the state knows, for he has pledged the Manufacturers’ Association that he would use troops against workers who went out on strike!  The Mayor knows, for he told the merchants of the city that the budget would be cut down, that no new taxes would be imposed to satisfy the clamor of the masses of the needy!

There is guilt in the rage that demands that this man’s life be snuffed out quickly!  There is fear in the hate and impatience which impels the action of the mob congregated upon the streets beyond that window!  All of them—the mob and the mob-masters; the wire-pullers and the frightened; the leaders and their pet vassals—know and feel that their lives are built upon a historical deed of wrong against many people, people from whose lives they have bled their leisure and their luxury!  Their feeling of guilt is as deep as that of the boy who sits here on trial today.  Fear and hate and guilt are the keynotes of this drama!”

Years prior to Wright’s rapid ascent to cultural pinnacles, the Harlem Renaissance had displayed its raucus roots that snaked North from Dixie.  While Zora Neale Hurston’s Alabama and Florida flowering genius may be the best-known example of this back-and-forth fertilization, as when Ms. Hurston won second place in a 1925 Short Story competition with an entry dripping the Gullah Speech of the Sea Islands, but plenty of other examples are available.

Music, dance, and the interplay of club and street, of theater and salon, characterized the 1920’s there.  “Patrons,” rich Whites, ruled the roost.  The literary and artistic work was soft and full of fluff.

“Wallace Thurman provided the only detailed contemporary account of the movement, (a) thinly veiled satire…of…mediocre artist lost in a web of frivolity and recalcitrance without purpose… .By the mid-1930’s, exotic and genteel novels about Black life were no longer popular with publishers and were attacked by a new breed of Black writers and critics.”

Nor were Black producers and writers the only promulgators of such incisive and provocative work.  Lillian Smith, while facing Klan arsonists in Georgia, wrote essay after essay that flaunted her rejection of color segregation.  Her novel of the same name as Billie Holliday’s controversial song put forward a Black woman and a White man as lovers and deeply flawed protagonists against all odds of society and convention and personal and social moral corruption.

Inevitably, the story ends in tragedy and murder.  Smith recognizes that her own moralism hurts the literary quality of the narrative, but despite bans and fury from the clans around her, the story has prevailed, with new editions now a regular event every decade or so.

“Whatever else it might be, Strange Fruit is about relationships, crossing lines, breaking rules, being different, rejecting prescribed rules, transcending categories, and those ‘racial abstractions’ that Smith often said existed only to divide and conquer and corrupt their victims.”

Steinbeck and Faulkner and others also sport grounded Southern roots, a function of the migration that readers will see below as economic collapse and the drumbeats of mass slaughter took hold.  The Okies were Southern tenant farmers to their core, and their trek to California was a flight from the impossible to the improbable, which they made because they had no choice.

Faulkner famously summarized the critical impact of history in the South.  “In the South, the past isn’t dead.  It’s not even past.”  In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, in a matter of minutes he honed in on, in relation to the most personal and the broadest reaching aspects of ourselves, what is undoubtedly a core component of modern psychic meltdown.

“Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it.  There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only the question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.”

Above, contradictory aspects of Walt Whitman’s work and life appeared, vis a vis how he viewed and related to abolitionist movements and slavery and so forth.  His attitudes have over time proven very noteworthy to other writers and thinkers, who have included the likes of D.H. Lawrence, whose masterful Studies in Classic American Literature developed a thesis of what caused Whitman both to sigh in sorrow at slavery but his turn his back on individual African Americans.

“If Whitman had truly sympathized, he would have said: ‘that negro slave suffers from slavery.  He wants to free himself.  His soul wants to free him.  He has wounds, but they are the price of freedom.  If I can help him I will: I will not take over his wounds and his slavery to myself.  But I will help him fight the power that enslaves him when he wants to be free, if he wants my help, since I see in his face that he needs to be free.  But even when he is free, his soul has many journeys down the open road, before it is a free soul.’”

Ralph Ellison could serve as a point of demarcation.  His at the same time highly acclaimed and fiercely criticized Invisible Man came out in 1952, a bit beyond most of the rest of the material in this section.

This both adulatory and ferociously dismissive response makes perfect sense.  He started the novel while working for ‘the war effort.’  He shaped the narrative as the return stateside of millions of soldiers both elicited a predictable baby boom and a heightening of tensions between Black and White working people throughout the land.

Thus, perhaps, from establishment media “it receive mostly positive reviews.  However, Communists attacked it as being affected and pretentious, written to please ‘the White supremacy,’…’a vicious distortion of Negro life.’”  Irving Howe, at first favorable about the work, ultimately excoriated Ellison as failing to create a text that dug deeply into Black life and the tortured social relations of ‘America the bestial.’

In sum, then, a few interesting thoughts are possible to articulate.  For one thing, a significant chunk of the cultural output of the entire United States—much or most of the music business, the most profitable film in history and another top-ten hit of the silver screen, and literally dozens of canonical and unsung thousands of lesser-light novels and stories and poems revolved around the color line and the social dogfight that defined its daily unfolding.

As well, in ways that had only rarely appeared before these works came to the forefront at this time, the entire process had both a subtext and multiple direct messages that occasionally cast down a bigoted gauntlet and just as frequently, or likely more often—at least on the literary front—challenged social actors to discard chauvinistic and unequal and viciously unjust mores and norms.  A truly insurrectionist tension, one day reactionary and the next revolutionary, lived inside the words and images that defined the times.

Finally, for now, the creators themselves not only now were very frequently African American and otherwise ‘of color,’ but they also quite often made connections and established collaborative nexuses that shattered every semblance of a theretofore sacrosanct color line.  Wright and Ellison might be at each other’s throats, but they both had White agents and editors and friends; in clubs in the North and West, and even on the fringes of the South itself, White women danced cheek to cheek and crotch to crotch with Black men, and Black women tangoed with White men; Lillian Smith could write and Billie Holliday could sing of ‘Strange Fruit,’ even as the corpses of the lynched dangled their reproval of any easy conscience.

Twentieth Century Historical & Social Scientific Scholarship, Through the ‘Cold War’

After Darwin, as the prefatory sections showed, opportunistic intellectual thugs latched on to the notion of the ‘survival of the fittest as a way to, on the one hand, justify predation and, on the other hand, to blame those who suffered, even mortally, as being somehow not good enough to survive.  This variety of hypocrisy and self-dealing continued throughout this period, though the ferocity of capital’s crisis in the 1930’s made hiding behind superficial pretense more difficult.

Thus, the median social scientist during this period probably kept on with his commitment to Social Darwinist and other chauvinist ideologies.  Upton Sinclair righteously and rigorously demonstrated such a tendency in his fierce critique of the American University a quarter way through the twentieth century.

In The Goose Step, Sinclair described campuses that were almost exclusively lily-white as a result of vicious color prejudice, but this is not what made these ‘idea factories’ into dens of ‘yes-men’ who would go along with such a stupid and wasteful scheme.  No indeed: the ‘trusts’ owned the schools and did not see them as much more than finishing academies for inculcating the ideologies and social mannerisms of big business, which as all and sundry knew was a bastion of whiteness.

“Let us continue East on the Northern Pacific Railroad, which has Mr. Morgan and two of his partners for directors, a recent Harvard overseer and Massachusetts Tech trustee for chairman, a Harvard overseer and Smith College trustee, a Cornell trustee, an Amherst trustee, a Hampton trustee and a Union Theological Seminary trustee for directors, also three First National Bank directors… .

For a generation the grand duke who ran the University of Minnesota was John S. Pillsbury, co-author with his two brothers of a famous work entitled ‘Pillsbury’s Best,’ widely known all over the United` States.  I had better abandon this feeble jest and be explicit, stating that Governor Pillsbury belonged to a family of flour manufacturers, the founders of the Milling Trust.  Governor Pillsbury himself went in more especially for lumber; he got fraudulent possession of more public lands than any other person in the state, and gave some of the profits to the university, and so is called the ‘father of the university.’  Now he is dead, and the grand duke of his institution is his son-in-law, Fred B. Snyder, president of a mining company and director of the biggest bank and trust company in Minneapolis.  As his right-hand man he has Pierce Butler, railroad attorney, a hard-fisted and aggressive agent of the plutocracy, counsel for the Great Northern Railroad. …

I remember Lincoln Steffens, telling twenty years ago of the Shame of the Cities, describing how the politicians in Pittsburgh would travel to Philadelphia, Boston, Cincinnati, and other cities, to find out the latest wrinkles in graft, with a view to applying them at home.  It occurs to me that the interlocking regents of Minnesota must have sent a commission to study methods at the University of Pennsylvania; for when I asked Minnesota professors to tell me what happened to them, I heard the same story that I had heard in the Wharton School of Finance, told in the very same phrases.”

In An American Dilemma, however, by Gunnar Myrdal, a different and less indirect system of corruption and plunder appears.  The Swedish Nobel Prize winning economist writes in 1,500 pages of The Negro Problem for which the ‘Dilemma’ is the subtitle about the horrors that bound Jim Crow even in the 1940’s when jobs and wages and ease are more accessible than they’ve been in a quarter century, since the last worldwide carnage.

Though Myrdal’s labors produce a good liberal document, which locates the problems of ‘the Negro’ in the White person’s heart, and no doubt the Carnegie Foundation was happy with the result that it sponsored, the conclusions and analytical framework for the volume—lacking in real political-economic and social insights and without a historical context—are sorely in need of improvement.  Many critics have pointed this out over the years, while acknowledging the value of the Scandinavian’s vast troves of data in the effort.

One of the critics was Ralph Ellison, who took the book apart in a critical and powerful 1944 review “Since its inception, American social science has been closely bound with American Negro destiny.  Even before the Civil War the Southern ruling class had inspired a pseudoscientific literature attempting to prove the Negro inhuman and thus beyond any moral objections to human slavery.  Sociology did not become closely concerned with the Negro, however, until after Emancipation gave the slaves the status—on paper at least—of nominal citizens.  And if the end of the slave system created for this science the pragmatic problem of adjusting our society to include the new citizens, the compromise between the Northern and Southern ruling classes created the moral problem which Myrdal terms the ‘American Dilemma.’”

Another scholar, but driven by life’s lessons away from easy liberalism, W.E.B. Du Bois more properly belongs in a subset of materials where other respected scholars, and more than a few charlatans, show up.  The estimable thinker, who lived to be nearly a hundred, began his intellectual career as a fierce critic of ‘Negro sloth’ and ‘a tendency to thieve.’

However, as he founded the N.A.A.C.P. and became more of a practical activist, his own personal tendency to blame Black victims receded as he recognized more and more the systematic ways that the United States knowingly and profitably crushed black people, grinding them down mentally, spiritually, and physically.  As Communists made organizing inroads in the States, he increasingly fraternized and collaborated with reds.

He also battled with the Party, which ferociously critiqued the NAACP on many occasions.  His faux comrades among liberals left him hanging when McCarthy’s inquisitors grilled him, at the age of 81.  When the U.S. prohibited to permit him to travel to the Bandung Conference that he played a part in formulating as a program, this in some basic way broke his heart.

In 1961, aged 93, on the verge of relocating to Ghana, he finally joined the Communist Party.  He was furious at the Supreme Court’s upholding the law, the McCarran Act, which required Party members to register, like Jews in Hitler’s Germany.

As he was dying in Ghana a few years later, the liberal warhorse, and longtime editor of the Atlanta Constitution, Ralph McGill traveled to Africa to interview him.  They parried about life, the South, and cooperation between those McGill would consider the right White people.  By this he meant Joel Chandler Harris for example.

Du Bois grew angry and told the presumptuous journalist why he had never sought the folklore thief out.  “’(I)t was no use.  He and they had no question in their minds about the status of the Negro as a separated, lesser citizen.  They perhaps were kind men, as you say.  They unhesitatingly lived up to a paternalistic role, a sort of noblesse oblige.  But that was all.  The status slowly had become immutable insofar as the South’s leaders of that time were concerned.  Booker T. Washington had helped them rationalize it.  I do not think that he meant to do so.  But he did.  In fact, he put a public stamp of acceptance on it there in your city when he spoke at the Atlanta Exposition.’”

Another angry American, a local combatant in the socioeconomic battlefields that accompanied Southern transformation, lived and practiced medicine in Birmingham.  Thomas Duke Park felt sickened by the convict lease system that grew up alongside Andrew Carnegie’s and J.P. Morgan’s steel interest in the region.

During World War One, when demand for iron and hardened steel was at a high point, as many as a hundred and fifty or more out of a thousand imprisoned miners died in the traces.  The largest companies were the prison system’s biggest clients, putting the hapless misdemeanants caught up in Birmingham area stings against gambling, ‘race-mixing,’ and other ‘crimes’ such as drunkenness into jail for months at a time, to work twelve hour and longer shifts underground extracting the coal that made combined with local iron ore and limestone to make the region so perfect for metallurgy.

The struggle against the convict lease merely represented one tentacle of a monstrous octopus of imprisonment and oppression that, just as under slavery and during Reconstruction, continued to characterize Southern ports of call during these years—just as this pattern not only persists in the region but has spread far and wide to circumscribe almost the entirety of American police-community relations in the current moment.  In every state in the region—from Florida to Arkansas and From Texas to Virginia— police state conditions prevailed repeatedly.

In a 1904 conference that Du Bois helped to organize in Atlanta, the keynote speaker dispassionately and brutally laid out the truth“The abuses of (our criminal justice system) have often been dwelt upon.  It had the worst aspects of slavery without any of its redeeming features.  The innocent, the guilty, and the depraved were herded together, children and adults, men and women, given into complete control of practically irresponsible men, whose sole object was to make the most money possible.”

The very names of the State Prisons—Huntsville, Angola, Parchman, Reidsville, and more—have entered the lists of song and story as symbols of devastation and peonage.  A 1996 monograph, Worse Than Slavery, offered readers an in depth introduction to Parchman Farm and Jim Crow Justice.

Describing social conditions that approximated life in a Holocaust labor camp, the author outlined what happened when profiteering became the primary motive of imprisonment.  “’Self-supporting prison systems must, in the end, become slave camps.  Slavery is the partner of the lash.  The wielder of the lash is brutalized along with the victim, and bruts will sometimes kill.”

Among the most important developments in all American history, the Tennessee Valley Authority represented an opportunity for the U.S. to turn toward social democracy.  However, under the leadership of David Lilienthal, as World War Two washed over the country, this key institution, which employed tens of thousands of White and Black laborers and skilled workers, turned toward the military industrial complex and monopoly capital.

In a strange and little studied case of anticommunism, the “Knoxville Fifteen faced job loss and prison for the ‘crime’ of believing in unions, consorting with socialists, and, in some cases, having once joined the Communist Party.  This relatively small sidebar of this period is a useful case study, however, because it illustrates so clearly how little color played in many decisions—even of life and death, even in the heart of Dixie—when basic political-economic and geopolitical interests were in play.”

While TVA ended up as the South’s largest single employer, an immense migration nevertheless accompanied Jim Crow and depression and the coming of war.  Chicago  gained hundreds of thousands of Black residents, as did Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Oakland, and many more.

This is another of those eventualities of the period that completely undermine, and, if examined closely enough, fundamentally destroy even the notion of a socially constructed racism as causing anything.  Number one, Southern Whites often enough made leaving a crime; they lynched labor agents along with Blacks on occasion.  Number two, the White power brokers who orchestrated and benefited from this migratory influx of labor—and hence competition with Northern Whites—then set about establishing police forces, housing restrictions, and other coded laws and norms that absolutely guaranteed that White and Black workers would have little or no basis to meet or unite.

If racism were the issue number one would happen at all.  If racism were the issue, number two wouldn’t be necessary.

At the end of this period, meanwhile, the coming of War itself proved transformative, as the radical or even revolutionary impulses that the South had seemed halfway prepared to unleash again put on harnesses to provide the martial and muscle and productive potency to win World War Two and further solidify the American Century.  From Oak Ridge to Fort Benning to Pensacola and on and on, Southern town and countryside promoted the war effort.

As well, in murderous outbursts, Black soldiers at times likely suffered much worse fates that they would have expected had they found themselves at the Battle of the Bulge.  One of these cases, narrated in The Slaughter, tells a tale of Camp Van Dorn, in Southwestern Louisiana.  The book’s subtitle speaks volumes: “An American Atrocity,” alleging the murder in the middle of 1943 of over a thousand Black soldiers who were protesting conditions at the camp and violent treatment at the hands of local civilians.

To close this session, one might turn to what Louisiana State University has produced in the way of a comprehensive Southern history.  Though these issues of color and caste, of bigotry and discrimination, extend around the planet, again ‘As the South goes, so goes the nation,’ gives plentiful reason to raise the level of attention to these erstwhile ‘provincial’ accounts.

This series establishes a foundation from the sixteenth through the twenty-first centuries, for analyzing a region as an internally related whole and as a funnel through which the connections of the world pour and permit the broadest sort of comprehension.  As an intellectual middle-ground, a place of data and rationality from which citizens can talk to each other in level tones, with honest estimations of reality, and honorable intentions, this collection is invaluable.  Such materials are never enough, for all that, but they are nonetheless marvelous.

Grassroots Responses, Institutional or Otherwise Organized, to This Mayhem

In any event, the stands and actions that have resulted from people themselves are critical to contemplate separately.  Indeed, the great exodus from Dixie in some senses represents such a bottom-up occurrence, though its level of organization was at most marginal.  Here, in any case, readers will discover a series of mutually contradictory and ineluctably authentic uprisings toward popular power, some of which could lead to fascism resplendent, others of which at least grapple with establishing a basis for social justice, if not social and economic democracy.

A further insight to develop is that spontaneous outbursts were distinguishable in various ways from organized responses.  For one thing, the former were much more prone to prejudice and the manipulation of established biases, though things did not always work out in this fashion.  Concomitantly, those actions that resulted from specific campaigns were much more likely to represent strategic or otherwise self-conscious attempts at social improvement.

Beginning with this final sort of situation, an indubitable truth is apparent, even though monopolized mediation and much standard scholarship avoids this evidence as if it were plague-ridden or otherwise anathema.  This incontrovertible fact is that the inauguration of the widespread social struggle against color hatred and chauvinist ideology and policy had three primary sources: grassroots Black activists themselves; communists and socialists; and labor union proponents.

One of the most powerful arguments in support of this thesis stems from the way that courts have so often completely screwed working people.  In particular, a case from a half century prior to this period, the Dred Scott ruling, established a protocol that some people would contend was still in play: that “no Black man has rights which any White man is bound to respect.”

More in keeping with the period under consideration, Plessy versus Ferguson made ‘racism’ completely unnecessary by permitting—which in terms of practice meant mandating—segregation of facilities, transport, housing, schools, and everything else.  “Separate but equal” is Apartheid and counts as either a lie or bullshit, depending on who is supporting it.

The United Mine Workers of America was arguably the first national organization specifically to feature the idea that multicolored organizations had to happen.  Under the vigorous and militant leadership of John L. Lewis, UMWA organized all and sundry.  Mary Harris (Mother) Jones was an organizer.  The union sought to bring together Blacks and Whites again and again, despite murder and mayhem at its attempts, not because of racism, but because of profit.

John Sayles film, Matewan, is a beautiful and nuanced, if heartbreaking narrations of such a story.  The Spindoctor has written an extensive review essay about the movie that tells the underlying story fairly thoroughly, as is his wont.

The Coal Creek Wars is another instance of Blacks and Whites actually uniting to fight the power, despite the fact that race-mixing was illegal at that time in Tennessee, around the turn of the twentieth century.  White miners from Chattanooga to Knoxville, and points in between, were lobbying for an end to leasing convicts, as well as safer conditions.

Some miners wanted unions, which most owners thought should be illegal too.  In any event, in came the convicts, almost exclusively Black.  The miners, armed as well as the guards or better, proceeded to let the ‘criminals’ go and on several occasions to burn the stockades.  In at least half a dozen cases, the Black prisoners chose to join the miners rather than to run off and be ‘free.’  If we put our thinking caps on, just so, we ought to be able to notice that this sort of crushes the ‘racism-was-the-problem’ argument once again.

In close temporal alignment with the UMWA were all manner of socialists.  Eugene Debs was a stout opponent of segregation.  Other social democrats were at least occasionally likely to be White Supremacist and basically to accept the arguments of ‘separate-but-equal,’ but the Socialist Party itself always provided at least strong rhetorical backing for a color-blind society.

At least some of Debs votes in 1912 came from African Americans.  The Socialist Party was never a big hit with Blacks, but neither were African Americans and the party at odds.

Soon enough, though, communists—initially almost all Bolsheviks—began to rally round the notion first of all that absolute social equality was an immutable law of working class empowerment and second that Blacks deserved a Negro Nation as reparations for slavery, a place where Whites would be welcome but ownership would concentrate overall more or less exclusively among the residents and arrivals who were African American.

The Communist Party proved adept at developing grassroots campaigns.  Its members included hellacious and tenacious organizers.  And the Commies ‘walked the walk,’ as well as ‘talked the talk.’  Thus, in fighting to keep the Scottsboro boys alive, in fighting to build the Southern Tenant Farmers Union, in fighting to build the Congress of Industrial Organizations—which was the steelworker, auto worker, chemical worker, rubber worker, and so forth side of what is now AFL-CIO—communists were instrumental in building for working class power from the ground up.

Writers depended on Communist help.  Actors and artists flocked to red banners, as the film, Cradle Will Rock details in one instance.  Culture, labor, social equality, no wonder that the U.S. government elected to make communism a crime.  Again, the issue was not race.

A possible exception to the rule above—grassroots black activists themselves, reds, and labor organizers as the only institutional support for equality—would be the Highlander Center.  As the Spindoctor once wrote, “Seventy-eight years ago, Don West, Myles Horton, and James Dombrowski had just embarked on the odyssey of the Highlander Folk School(HFS), which has played a key behind-the-scenes role in supporting civil rights, labor rights, women’s rights, and environmental justice in the South since 1932.

Of course, students now almost never hear about HFS, even though it still operates in a Smoky Mountain, New Market, Tennessee home.
Least heralded of HFS’s founding trio, Don West’s North Georgia youth included lessons in Radical Republican anti-bigotry at his grandfather’s knee.

He attended Berry College in Rome, a wild collegiate saga involving Ford family money and all manner of radical Reds.
When West fulminated a mass rally against the campus screening of “Birth of a Nation,” which included false and bigoted depiction of African American rapine as justification for the KKK, Berry expelled him.

He went to Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee, where he led a protest ‘against campus paternalism,’ which also culminated in his expulsion, though his fellow students succeeded in gaining his reinstatement.  Upon graduating, he enrolled at Vanderbilt’s Divinity School in 1929.
James J. Lorence writes about this period of matriculation.  ‘As a student West visited Danish folk schools inspired by N.F.S. Grundtvig, who advocated curricula based on tradition and cultural heritage.’  Because this visionary Dane ‘believed in the wisdom of the ordinary people above the educated and elite, and thought that it was the ordinary people who were capable of enlightenment,’ the schools that he facilitated, like HFS, have fostered social transformation toward justice, equity, inclusion, and democracy.”

Highlander only may be an exception because all of these young fellows, and some others besided, could conceivably have been Pinkos.  In any event, they never barred or otherwise discriminated against Communists or Blacks, both of which inclusive institutional behaviors violated different Tennessee and other Southern statutes.

Among more than any mere smattering of powerful advocacy groups, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People would almost always rank as first among equals until Martin Luther King formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Atlanta.  Above, readers will have noted Du Bois’ founding role in the group, as well as seeing some of the problems and contradictions that it faced.

Booker T. Washington’s hopes at Tuskegee, where syphilis infection of working class Blacks was U.S. policy, the Urban League’s hopes to become something akin to a Black Chamber of Commerce, and other attempts to work with the American marketplace typified African American organizing efforts on many occasions.  Without exception, they failed.  ‘Racism’ was the culprit, in the end, though a Spindoctor would pray to heaven that readers who’ve actually managed to imbibe all that’s here would doubt that proposition already.

In essence, on can state an essentially irrefutable hypothesis.  Not all ‘progressive’ propositions were exclusively red, at the same time that no honest labor for social justice happened during this period, and especially in former Confederate jurisdictions, without some involvement and support from Bolsheviks or their close allies.

One response among those Blacks who hated socialism, and even more robustly despised Marxists and Leninists and Stalinists, oh my! was a turn toward return to Africa and other Black Nation movements.  A century before, such thinking and activities had led to the disastrous attempt to return freed American slaves to Liberia, where many died and many more turned into ugly, ugly profiteers.

Elijah Muhammad was, arguably, merely the most prominent Black Nationalist— Marcus Garvey supporters might disagree, but they don’t currently sport a vibrant organization that entertains both ReDemoPubliCratiCan politicians and leaders of the American Nazi Party—of the past century.   Muhammad has played a crucial role in later development of African American, Black power.  He not only trained and mentored Louis Farrakhan, but he also was responsible for recruiting Malcolm Little, whose X even today marks an amazing American story of fighting for justice and facing an extrajudicial death sentence for his troubles.

To point out that the Nation of Islam, now Farakhan’s organization, is controversial, is a gargantuan understatement.  Relations with women, violence against dissenting members, friendly arrangements with fascists of all stripes, these are just a few of the issues that a thorough study in this arena would touch on.

Throughout this period, in fact, the White nationalists, the Ku Klux Klan also worked actively to assure that no movement to advance civil rights would succeed.  Because of the reach of the organization—which ranged from veterans groups to lawyers and professors and teachers to all sorts of businessmen and at least a few workers’ networks—and its fiscal muscle—bankers and merchants, at least who weren’t actively Jewish, loved KKK—it caught up all kinds of White Southerners in its webs.  Hugo Black was just one famous ‘liberal’ who was a longstanding adherent in his native Alabama.

The Klan’s involvement in lynching, its good-old-boy networks in charge of running rural jurisdictions, its lumping together of Catholics and Jews and Commies, oh my! as equally deserving  of bigotry, hatred, and violence as were Blacks, certainly does not make of it a politically correct organization.  But from White Citizens Councils to Tea Parties, its input has continued to be measureable, especially in Dixie.

Having mentioned John Steinbeck and The Grapes of Wrath above, nothing could be more appropriate than to examine, at least briefly, the horrifying conditions, and organizational resistance to those subhuman circumstances, that Southern Sharecroppers mounted.  The Southern Tenant Farmers Union relied on brave and stalwart labor organizers, communists, and a smattering of radicals without portfolio to accomplish some gains for landless farmers in the South.

White and Black together, in violation of the law, STFU faced beatings, murder, jail, and general harassment not because of race, since many of the members were white, but as a result of their being willing to organize for justice in spite of color.  The organization’s history is an absolutely key component of deconstructing the madness of blaming ‘racism’ for the problems of poor workers of any color.  Fighting ‘racism’ will never win much at all for the folks at the bottom, so why in hell focus on such a pointless categorical fantasy?

In reaching this point, we have conducted an absolutely whirlwind tour of a dialectic of reaction and resistance that was part of the cultural experience worldwide, but which we have seen via what we might imagine as flashcards of Southern conflicts and connections that both subsumed and countermanded the ruling insistence that ‘Black is Black and White is White.’  Do writers now, and did writers then—like Du Bois, for example, among many others—speak of race and racism as accurately descriptive of this flowing fifty years of wild upheaval, encompassing two world wars, the introduction of the first weapons capable of killing everybody in the world at once, and the second coming of the KKK?

Of course they do.  But a different view is possible.  We can hold in abeyance how we will decide, but we should at least listen and ponder—based on sound reasoning and copious documentation—possibilities that a Spindoctor believes are true, to wit that only by absconding with ourselves, away from ‘race-based’ conversations, can we advance socially toward sustainability and survival.

CORE MATTERS

Once again, a Spindoctor’s congratulations are in order to those who have come this far.  Inevitably, both some repetition and occasional inadequate development will be apparent.  What follows essentially explicates, for the time period roughly 1950 to the present, five subsections that are important to the overall presentation.

Before we embark on this most central set of facts and ideas, a brief summary of the overall direction of this report couldn’t hurt.  The essential point is relatively simple to state: for reasons unlikely to be entirely random, those in charge of matters in the social world have substituted a causal explanation for most conflict on Earth that is at best meaningless, an explanatory nexus that guarantees to those who use it that the sorts of problems that it purports to explain will deepen and worsen—welcoming all and sundry to the world where a ‘race’ that doesn’t exist brings about horrible ‘racism’ that in turn brings about all that is wrong with our relations with each other.

The Emergent Categorical Imprimatur of Race for Both Analysis & Redress

Without contradiction, the honed and often enough almost exclusive focus on race and racism, to the exclusion of class or general social assessments, now characterizes more or less all institutionally initiated, financed, or otherwise supported attempts to ameliorate the conditions that have shown up in these pages as a noisome inventory of shame and violation.   This has basically been so since plus-or-minus 1960.

To some extent, a conference that to all but those who live in this world was quite obscure, could serve as the launching pad for the ascendancy of Race.  The Bandung Conference, supported by the U.S. and various high-level multilateral organizations, and also important to the so-called ‘non-aligned movement,’ took place in Indoneasia in April, 1955.

It enshrined respect for all races in its pronouncements, which of course means that it enshrined the notion of a rich plethora of human races in its protocols.  From this point on, race was a key component of all upper crust dialog.

Nationally, foundation-led initiatives in the lee of this meeting began to tie grants and institutional support from NGO’s to applicants that focused on racial issues of different sorts.  Further data in this arena will appear soon.

Exceptions to, or at Least Critiques of, This Rule Among Marxists & Radicals & Reds

thierry ehrmann flickr

thierry ehrmann flickr

Those who have perused previous elements of this narrative will have noted that communists universally rallied to the defense of all workers, at times as the only organized force that willingly took such risks, whatever the wage-earner’s color or culture.  In keeping with such indisputable facts, one can also demonstrate that the theoreticians, as well as the practitioners, of social democracy—which is to say Marxists of different stripes—have generally rejected this uber-emphasis of the exigencies of racial categories, race, and racism.

As with other portions of this attenuated centerpiece of today’s essay, more details—flesh on the bones, so to speak—will be coming soon.  Readers may rest assured on that point.

Social anarchists too have rallied to the flag of human rights and a diminution of the obvious drive toward a police state that so marks the modern moment.  Such a Canadian blithe spirit has recently had the temerity to interview the powerful and brilliant creator of the aggressive insistence on our oneness against fascist police forces, Rob Hustle.  The estimable artist affirms our oneness, whatever our variations in hue.

Affirmations of Race & Nation & Reaction in Black & White

Inevitably, given this evolutionary rubric, those who would like to dispatch the differently colored, and presumably weaker, stupider, and less genetically sublime specimens to kingdom come are precisely the social forces that affirm, even insist on race.  Thus, Nazis and other fascists, inveterate nationalists and their accompanists, are the defenders-of-the-faith in this regard.  If nothing else, we might reflect on ‘the company we keep’ if the temptation exists to explain our troubles in terms of race and racism.  As with other portions of this version of Core Components more is on its way very soon.

Dialectical Developments in Popular Culture

Nevertheless, whether in rap music or in spoken work, whether in independent film or community performance spaces, production both wildly successful and radically critical of the triumph of prejudice and supremacism have become prominent, if not outright predominant.  One might find the energy of This Is What Happens When You Call the Cops either threatening or enlivening, the politics either aggressive or apropos, but the message does not appeal to race but to democracy, nor does it elevate color consciousness over human rights.

Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison’s current novel, God Help the Child, perfectly illustrates this impossible union of opposition, this polarity of what is and fantasies of commodified ideals.  The main character is a beautiful baby, who grows up to be a beautiful woman.  Her only problem, which she will imbibe with her mother’s condemnation, straight from the breast as it were, is that she’s a little on the dark side.

A New York Review of Books release from this very instant contains a briefing about this ‘failing,’ which in fact of course is a failing of those who believe in racial typology in the first place.  The essay’s title is instructive: “Growing Up Too Black.”  The article quotes from the book.

“It didn’t take me more than an hour after they pulled her out from between my legs to realize something was wrong.  Really wrong.  She was so black she scared me.  Midnight black…Some of your probably thinks it’s a bad thing to group ourselves according to skin color—the lighter, the better—in social clubs, neighborhoods, churches, sororities, even colored schools.  Bu how else can we hold on to a little dignity?…I hate to say it, but from the very beginning in the maternity ward the baby, Lula Ann, embarrassed me.”

At its best, instructional practice now integrates a more holistic and less judgmental approach to identity.  This means that our myths of creation, not to mention our surface attributes of coloration and facial organization, do not separate us from each other any more than would the differential placement of our freckles and birthmarks.

“This lesson introduces students to the relationship between humans and planet Earth by focusing on creation stories from a range of cultures.  The resources section provides a selection of creation stories from a range of cultures, such as the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh, the Iroquois creation myth, the Mayan Popol Vuh, and a popular Japanese myth from Genji Shibukawa.  Activities and reproducible pages will guide students in analyzing and comparing these stories as they look at how creation stories provide insight into humans’ relationships with the environment. ”  And, of course, we are part of that environment that we’re all relating to.

The Developing Solidification of Biology’s Utter Rejection of Race

Scholars from around the world are now, if not universally then generally, if not completely, then mostly, in agreement with Stephen Jay Gould, quoted many pages ago.  In other words, they have foresworn continue reliance on ‘race’ as worthy of any scientific imprimatur whatsoever.

One such brief establishes a bright line that must inherently separate assessments of genetic properties of organisms, from different places or the same place, etc., and investigations of culture and narrative and such.  This is just one of hundreds of recent entries from the technical literature of genetic scholarship along these lines.

Fitzpatrick Color Chart

Fitzpatrick Color Chart

A widely reviewed new monograph by a scholar of skin makes this point with judicious scholarly restraint.  A more aggressive, or journalistic, take on the issue would simply say that ‘people in the past paid little attention, so far as credible data suggests, to each other’s coloration, at least in terms of contending social superiority or inferiority.’

“We have no evidence that when people of different skin colors first met in the regions surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, their relationships or business transactions were affected by skin color. … (Later, however)European explorers tended to be more exploitative than egalitarian in their attitudes and less than charitable in their descriptions of the peoples they met during their travels.”

Proving that technical expertise in physical anthropology does not in any sense dispose a thinker to the capacity to analyze political economy, Jablonski goes on to contend that opportunistic denigration by the traders—who then dabbled and would soon own the slave trade—was the cause of slavery, rather than an opportunistic effect of its plunder and predation.  Such a miscue is forgiveable, but the not one iota the less erroneous.

Nevertheless, she closes brilliantly, insisting that any coloration or race that relies on skin tone is worthy only of complete rejection.  “The association of color with character and the ranking of people according to color stands out as humanity’s most momentous logical fallacy.  While widely recognized as malignant, color-based race hierarchies are still treated as facts of nature by some and are duly upheld and promulgated.  A large portion of this book explores the origin and ramifications of this powerful social deception and the many ways in which it has played out in human history.”

The Spindoctor has written before on these matters.  One such previous posting, “We’re All Cousins After All,” provides a fairly thorough chronicle of much of the scientific and expert thinking on these issues.  Updates, for those with an interest, are also forthcoming that will significantly expand and update this earlier incarnation.

In such an arena, then, one might stare in stupefaction at the persistence of ‘racial’ thinking.  But such disbelief overlooks the guiding forums that—through the grants and directives and legislated steps—dictate the bounds of these sorts of conversations.  It also overlooks the primary directive by which all rulers operate: Divide & Conquer.

CONCLUDING COMPONENTS

5766893660_5ae04b206a_mAs always, this portion of this narrative has been impossible to predict, since the assemblage of data and argument are the only basis for suggesting reasonable actions in reply to a specific nexus of social conflict and crisis.  While literally scores—at a minimum—of such plausible or rational inferences would be reasonable to construct, at least half-a-dozen must make a scene here.

Or so the Spindoctor will allege.  What shows up below tends toward the dialogic, aimed as much at engagement and consciousness-raising as at specific policies or occurrences.  Could we ask for or imagine more?  Surely such would be the case, but “let’s talk about it” would be an essential starting point, come what may.

AN INITIAL DEDUCTION

For residents who hope that their children and grandchildren might just conceivably have an opportunity to create a human existence, an absolutely mandatory development is a community-based process of talking about and determining action in regard to the thorny thickets of social upheaval that we now contextualize as race or racial, as emanating from racism.

While a typical retort to such an idea is something akin to, “Yeah, right!” any cynicism so profound as to disallow at a minimum a consideration of this kind of approach will likely assassinate action at any level.  All social transformation that does not ‘grow directly from the barrel of a gun,’ to borrow from Chinese insurrectionists, can only start with a dialog of one sort or another.

A SECOND DEDUCTION

The utilization of social technologies that have often enough assisted in such processes—citizens’ juries, citizens’ panels, truth and reconciliation commissions—are readily accessible, in that at both the most elevated international level and in various national instances, institutions and communities have attempted, through these means, to resolve intractable problems, which in one way or another have become incapable of addressing through other methods.

France, Scandinavia, and the United Nations represent just a sample of the venues that have attempted to deal with social issues with such formulations as those above, or through similar mechanisms.  Such intellectual technology or social machinery counts as part and parcel of the range of potential social engagement that the present pass requires.

A THIRD DEDUCTION

Not only should reparations for atrocities not be out-of-the-question, but their exploration ought to be a top priority and their employment a distinct possibility, no matter either their likely unpopularity, or even that some social sectors express downright outrage about such suggestions. 

To an extent, when one confronts a Scylla and Charybdis situation, the default preference of many people is to wait, or to do nothing.  However, in the current sociopolitical context, that likely equates with a decision to wait for an onrushing freight train to smack into humanity’s VW bug, because a swamp awaits if we back up and a precipice looms if we go forward.  Anything is probably superior to the certain doom of treading water.

16A FOURTH DEDUCTION

In relation to number three, above, a key approach has to be to insist that all sorts of remunerative potential should be ‘on the table,’ so to say, so that free-of-strings community development funding that participant communities might themselves control would be a part of the discourse and a distinct potential outcome of any action.

Politics always entails sweeteners of one sort or other.  Thus, what this is suggesting is that more sources of support might be plausible to enlist if the orientation of the overall process were accepting of inducing buy-in among various parties, or in the parlance of the present paradigm, stakeholders, by dangling carrots—one can imagine funded local research initiatives, the construction of Internet cafes, opportunities for grassroots theater or other production and performance, and so on and so forth—in front of those who ought to take part in the conversational nexus, so to say.

A FIFTH DEDUCTION

Along an at least somewhat similar path as number four, a huge influx of both State-level and National-level and various sorts of nongovernmental organization funding must take place, on the order of hundreds of millions or billions of dollars a year—in other words between one dollar for every ten thousand and one dollar for every thousand military dollars that the United States spends—to encourage essays, research papers, monographs, films, and other intellectual production and mediated output about these issues.

The marketplace is much worse than structurally deficient in regard to such matters.  Not only are the profit margins for hip-hop about racial ideology likely smaller than those that deal with booty and contraband, but also those who are in charge of the world feel a much more profound threat from the former product than they do from either of the latter.

In such a context, likely the only and definitely the most efficient way to ensure that necessary output takes place is through socially promoted inducement.  To fight against this is like saying that ecocide and mass collective suicide are preferable to even pondering going against vaunted ‘free market’ principles.

A FINAL DEDUCTION

From the United Nations and elsewhere at the international level, initiatives that address these matters need to pour forth, not to replace but to augment or otherwise seed local action that could very well initially be more difficult to ‘sell’ to so-called ‘gatekeepers.’

That the United States—the birthplace of both Frederick Douglas and the Ku Klux Klan; the progenitor of both the total replacement of the aristocracy and the complete canonization of the bourgeois, all of which came into the world via portals of bondage and chattel slavery—must end up as one epicenter of such activity is obvious.  On the other hand, almost no other political jurisdiction on earth confronts worse distractions, diversions, and vicious trickery to forestall any real chances of discursive commitment.

Confronting such blockage, a finesse ‘from on high’ could just conceivably make a difference.  In any event, bringing international organizing pressure to bear cannot possibly make the present pass worse than it is, with police murder that rivals low intensity conflict in the center of North America, the belly of the beast so to speak.

Rather than positing that such developments as these are so unlikely, given all the hurdles to overcome in their attainment, that observers might as well ignore them, those who want at least to imagine a future that makes Homo Sapiens’ lives plausible in other than horrific circumstances might instead recognize—which should not be difficult to do, so long as one can ‘get real’—that absent something like this retinue of reform and engagement, the human prospect will, probably sooner rather than later, end in a vicious crush or a fiery rush of decimation and conflagration.  Any number of sober voices of optimism could shepherd us forward as we move toward the end of this journey.

Clearly, these suggestions are irrational, in that no basis for their immediate accomplishment is readily apparent.  George Bernard Shaw has at least a little bit of juice for us to imbibe, however.  “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself.  Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

Closer to the current day, we might listen again to Nelson Mandela, whose existential struggle was in large measure an attempt altogether to remove ‘racial-thinking’ and color prejudice from everyday life and routine practice.   “We are fighting for a society where people will cease thinking in terms of colour. …(though we realize both that) (w)ithout democracy there cannot be peace. …(and that) (r)econciliation means working together to correct the legacy of past injustice.”

 AFTERWORD

So saying, we have wended our way again to almost the very end.  More than merely occasionally, the Spindoctor has faced some scores of people, generally but not always both youthful and putatively seeking knowledge.  They have generally not wanted to delve as deeply as their instructor would have liked; they have normally expressed at least mild skepticism that the manner of these things working out would ever, ever change.

iww posterIn such situations, the first response from a Spindoctor perspective has been a simple query.  It has more than eight times out of ten gone out to a roomful of young Koreans and Korean Americans, or Chinese and Chinese Americans.  The remaining listeners have basically split down the middle between Americans of European and African origin, though the presence of Hispanic or Native American or other linguistic or ethnic groups would not have changed the reality that the inquiry had intended to reveal, to wit, “What are you in relation to everyone else in this room?”

Without exception, this interrogatory has caused a lessening of tension, a sense of uncertainty, a willingness to consider.  “Well, I don’t know, what am I to you, or you, or you, teacher man?”

The answer, which in dozens of instances of posing this question not a single person has figured out, is easy.  We are cousins, with only the occasional sibling or parent or child a counterpoint to this otherwise universal and undeniable fact.  Within the past few thousand years, we’ve all shared common grandparents.

In a different context, on art that he and his sweet love have jointly made, this essay’s creator stated the matter thus: “The circle of our closest relations includes basically all of the creatures in Earth’s biosphere, since even as seemingly unlikely a candidate as slime mold shares plus-or-minus half Homo Sapiens’ key protein-coding or enzyme-processing genetic capacities: that each human cousin is a more-or-less close relative of a single human species, or race, basically goes without saying, or should anyway, except that the rubric of ‘racial differences’ and its inextricably intertwined concept of ‘racism’ fatuously or insidiously—in any case, bizarrely—holds sway at the highest levels of our vaunted cognoscenti.”

376px-John_F._Kennedy,_White_House_photo_portrait,_looking_upOf all the successful, established political leaders of the United States, none have recently appealed to idealism as readily or as powerfully as did John Fitzgerald Kennedy.  Ironically, his father—a bootlegger and stock manipulator whose hundreds of millions in fortune came from felony and predation— bought the election for young Jack in Cook County, Illinois.

As President, Kennedy seemed to move in multiple directions: the initiation of involvement in Vietnam and acceding to the Bay of Pigs attempt to murder the young socialist experiment in Cuba on the one hand, and true openings to civil rights leaders and peace proponents on the other hand.  This is neither the time nor the place to try to set that convoluted context in smooth and satisfactory order.

However, we might note that at American University, in June 1963, JFK delivered a commencement address that has since passed with little notice, till recently.  It has of late garnered attention anew because the world’s power brokers appear fixed on intractability about empire and the rights of monopoly finance to rule every roost, attitudes that might bring about nuclear holocaust as cousins of different colors, different religions, different cultures, and different backgrounds, essentially shrug and accept the march to war, all the while insisting that they don’t want ‘racism’ to triumph, yet looking on passively at all the preparations for mass evisceration of different nationalities and traditions and ‘races.’

“I have, therefore, chosen this time and this place to discuss a topic on which ignorance too often abounds and the truth is too rarely perceived–yet it is the most important topic on earth: world peace.”

Quite reasonably, our former President, who was almost painstakingly humble when he delivered this address five months before a gangland hit cut him down as if he were a mob boss, could have been referring to ‘race,’ or, more rationally, color and class and ethnicity, when he mentioned ‘the most important topic’ for us to consider.  For at least equivalent to any other contributory factor in the complex mix of causes for warfare and violence is the admixture of just these issues of skin and speech and facial characteristics and neighborhoods, which the condemnation of ‘racism’ in the end does less than nothing to ameliorate.

In any case, Kennedy continued so as further to evoke the context that this report has created.  “What kind of peace do I mean?  What kind of peace do we seek?  Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war.  Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave.  I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children–not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women–not merely peace in our time but peace for all time.“

One might yet cavil: this has little or nothing to connect it to questions of race and racism.  In the event, John Kennedy thought otherwise, on a windy late Spring day on a Washington campus, where his audience delivered its most thundering affirmation when he spoke about these connections between social justice and peace.  Perhaps we would be willing to tune our ears to this.

“(W)herever we are, we must all, in our daily lives, live up to the age-old faith that peace and freedom walk together.  In too many of our cities today, the peace is not secure because freedom is incomplete.

It is the responsibility of the executive branch at all levels of government–local, State, and National–to provide and protect that freedom for all of our citizens by all means within their authority.  It is the responsibility of the legislative branch at all levels, wherever that authority is not now adequate, to make it adequate.  And it is the responsibility of all citizens in all sections of this country to respect the rights of all others and to respect the law of the land.

All this is not unrelated to world peace.  ‘When a man’s ways please the Lord,’ the Scriptures tell us, ‘he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.’  And is not peace, in the last analysis, basically a matter of human rights—the right to live out our lives without fear of devastation; the right to breathe air as nature provided it; the right of future generations to a healthy existence?

While we proceed to safeguard our national interests, let us also safeguard human interests.  And the elimination of war and arms is clearly in the interest of both.”

As ever the case will be, the Spindoctor could go on; and on.  The point that has appeared here, with evidence and argument to bear it out, is that any racial conceptualization must in the end do us in.  If we want to live, we have no choice but to discard these false and yet seductive, as well as currently orthodox, views.  On another panel of the driftwood art that the Spindoctor and his spouse manufacture, the message takes this form.

“Every human cousin here started as an infant, every God-fearing Christian, every Allah-loving Muslim, every Torah-toting Jew, every reincarnated Hindi, every nonattached Buddhist, every patriot, every terrorist, every nationalist, every clan supremacist, and so on and so forth: what would need to happen to have the far-flung members of our fractious clan treat each other with mutual respect and compassionate regard?  Inquiring minds should want to know.”

Such an inquisitive perspective might lead to the recognition that no other pathway to comity exists than the empowerment of those who are lowest, which, whatever else comes to pass, can only occur in a context of social justice and social equality.  Those who would fight ‘racism’ allege such good hearts and sweet intentions that one might pray, at least, that a commitment to socially equal prospects would ever remain central to their agendas.  If these stances are other than pretense, their jobs must include grappling with the paradox, no matter how perverse it may seem, that an obsession with ending racism not only can never bring to pass social democracy but also must inexorably assassinate its potential for existence.

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Past As Prologue in Ukraine

Communism & Reaction, Fascism & War, Finance & Community in ‘Little Russia’

ukraine

repost from Social Policy, Fall 2014 issue

PREFATORY NOTE

1One of the little pieces of art that my wife and I create has this inscription on it: “The Needle of Consciousness Will Penetrate Next to Nothing If Our Thirst for Knowledge Does Not Outweigh Our Fear of Honesty.”  In particular, when we investigate the intertwining of geography, history, culture, and economics in some definite conflicted place, we must ask—and be willing to discover without fleeing—“At what point can we pinpoint the inception of patterns similar to those currently present?”

Do organizers pose such questions?  I know that I have.  Perhaps, often enough though, faith that people themselves know this background and the press of the present combine to make a shrug an easy enough answer.

The current moment’s crushing weight is irremediable.  But, at least on this side of the Atlantic—and throughout that portion of Europe that the United States ‘freed’ through the Marshall Plan and other means—most folks are unaware of anything akin to nuanced Ukrainian reality.  They see pictures of death raining from on high.  They hear repeated imprecations that what Reagan hypocritically called ‘Evil Empire’ has again ascended to the political pinnacle.  They have little other than horror or distorted nonsense to guide them, in other words.

The intention of these pages is to provide some context in this context, as it were.  I tell my students, “Context is king.”  And the only way to grasp such underpinnings is through examining the past.

 

BY WAY OF INTRODUCTION

Commitment to historical grounding provides the foundation as we search out scraps of understanding about why things are unfolding among the monumental complexities of Ukraine as they are.  For whether one relies on Consortium News’ excellence or on writers who cover this ‘beat’ for Global Research or other ‘progressive’ outlets, or instead gravitates toward the Times’ drivel or other ‘establishment’ non-sequiturs, the litany of reportage makes no sense of what’s taking place.

2Certainly, the former group presents wisps of comprehensible explication: vaguely defined lure of empire; desperate drive for hydrocarbon stocks; desire to tame and dismember Russia; fierce determination to forestall the looming threat of BRICS, the Eurasian Union, and so forth.  And obviously these are compelling components of a plausible explanation.

But they do not elicit a full-bodied account. If such rationale truly rule, if Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, or the union of China and Russia and all in between were really core issues here, then—unless they are complete idiots, buffoons of legendary stupidity—our present world’s rulers would not act so as to necessitate a stronger BRICS, a Eurasian Union powerful enough to destroy their empire.

So what is going on?  This essay contends that analysts must wrestle with historical timelines to create a fabric out of today’s seemingly disconnected threads.  From facts and reasoning that concern these issues, a hypothesis appears—four parts, stemming from just before1900 until World War Two’s evisceration and slaughter yielded a ‘Cold War.’

  • First, Ukraine’s longstanding radicalism, even Bolshevism, peaked during this timespan; simultaneously, anti-communism emerged as the official ‘Western’ response to these socialist inclinations, a visceral hatred capable of fostering mass murder.
  • Second, ‘international communism’ so terrified big-business that ‘free-market’ advocates embraced fascist means as a predominant way to shape policy, if not always openly to contextualize public relations.
  • Third, Earth’s self-anointed rulers recognized that cycles of collapse and destruction fundamentally grounded political economy, with one depression, war, and bloodletting following another—implosions and attendant opportunistic explosions that also contributed to Nazism and its ‘fellow-travelers.’
  • Fourth, financiers—cold-blooded and cool-headed impulsion to own, control, and dispose of everything in existence their primary drive—also came to the fore during these decades of working class uprising, fascist response, and militarization of underlying economic relations, all of which now serves as nexus for Armageddon on Europe’s fertile Southeast plains.

This four-piece dynamic explains how Ukraine came to be what it is today; it rests on historical reality.  Ukrainians themselves—in Crimea, Donetsk, Odessa, especially, will nod in recognition at what shows up here.  We need to acknowledge these nods.

This analysis in turn rests on evidence from the past ten thousand years, till the end of the eighteen hundreds, in which other important factors have also played a role.  These other components persist, too, though we leave their discussion for another time and place.

As well, this contextualization interweaves with seven decades of a so-called ‘American Century.’  Zbigniew Brzezinsky ‘champions’ this “New-Rome” vision.  His monograph, The Grand Chessboard, summarizes in very businesslike language imperial plutocrats’ perspectives.

Landscape

“Russian recovery is essential … . But any recovery of its imperial potential would be inimical… .  Moreover, this issue (could cause) differences between America and some European states, especially as the EU and NATO expand.  Should Russia be considered a candidate for eventual membership …? And what then about Ukraine?  The costs of the exclusion of Russia could be high — creating a self-fulfilling prophecy in the Russian mindset — but the results of dilution of either the EU or NATO could also be quite destabilizing.”

Today’s narrative focuses primarily on parts one and two of the analytical quatrain above.  Foundations will appear for the third and the fourth components, but these will only qualify as the most basic abstracts.  Social Policy readers may anticipate, should fortune favor such, a Part Two to the present initial installment.

As things stand, today’s plus-or-minus five thousand words barely initiate the empirical exploration of this fifty-year evolution of the present pass.  The explication here does constitute a testable set of assertions, though, that starts to add things up so the final tally tallies, so to speak.

Honestly, our lives may well depend on such bottom-line comprehension.

 

REDDISH HUES

To the soil and spirit of Eastern Ukraine and Southeast Russia, no better English-language introduction exists than Mikhail Sholokhov‘s And Quiet Flows the Don.  Love, treachery, landlust, loyalty, social-conservatism, and revolution course through the novel in frank and graphic succession.

4A key role in the story, though the character appears near the end, is a Chernigov-Province Ukrainian, a Communist machine gunner who successfully converts Grisha-the-Cossack to Communism, while they are in a hospital recovering from wounds that almost blinded them.  Grisha, the tale’s spiritual center, regains his sight and for the first time in his life opens his eyes.

“Most terrible of all, Grigory began to think Garanzha was right, and that he was impotent to oppose him.  He realized with horror that the intelligent and bitter Ukrainian was gradually but surely destroying all his former ideas about the tsar, the country, and his own military duty as a Cossack.  Within a month of the Ukrainian’s arrival the whole system on which Grigor’s life had been based was a smoking ruin.  It had already grown rotten, eaten up with the canker of the monstrous absurdity of the war, and it needed only a jolt.  That jolt was given, and Grigory’s artless straightforward mind awoke.”

A primary character throughout the novel, moreover, Ilya Bunchuk, a Cossack from the Don region immediately adjacent to Ukraine, was another clever, forthright Marxist-Leninist.  Machine-gun expertise, because such knowledge defended the revolution, was also his forte.  His physical prowess, choice of arms, and dedicated revolutionary consciousness, in fact, closely paralleled those of an actual comrade from Odessa, who rose to become Minister of Defense and member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Central Committee, General Rodion Malinovsky.

5The war’s mayhem, for the Cossacks and Ukrainians, occurred largely on the terrain of ‘Little Russia.’  At one point, survivors of an engagement, having seen half their number literally cut to pieces by Austrian machine-gunners in Galicia, returned to find Golovachev, the Division Chief-of-Staff, showing off snapshots of the action that he had taken and developed.  A lieutenant struck him in the face and then collapsed in sobs.  “Then Cossacks ran up and tore Golovachev to pieces, made game of his corpse, and finally threw it into the mud of a roadside ditch.  So ended this brilliantly inglorious offensive.”

But these communistic proclivities did not spring forth full-blown from the Russian Revolution or from Russia’s and Ukraine’s horrific experience of WWI.  The radicalism that permeated Ukrainian culture also contributed to the area’s being a center of the 1905 uprising against the Czar, where the insurrection on the Battleship Potemkin took place in Sevastopol.  As the nineteenth century turned into the twentieth in fact, what we now know as Ukraine—which was then ‘Little Russia’—was home to diverse radicals and militants.

One whom many Ukrainians consider a ‘national poet,’ Ivan Franko, embraced Marxism, socialism, and internationalism on occasion, while also feeling the populist pull toward nationalistic pride and rejection of Russian preeminence.  In displaying the complexities of Ukraine, he demonstrated the fierce core of a ‘to-the-ramparts’ orientation.  Many other commentators also note the late-nineteenth century prevalence of socialist, communist, and other anti-establishment movements and analyses among Ukrainians, with the common emergence of revolutionary leaders here such as Leon Trotsky.

6But these fiery threads of contrariness go back further still in regional history.  Partly, this relates to the role of Jewish culture in the region, on the one hand serving as exploitative agency for the czar’s tax-collections, on the other hand yielding the wage-earners and artists and thinkers who rejected their forebears’ legacy to become the region’s first proletarians and gadfly intellectuals.

Not that these veins of insurrection were the only elements of Ukrainian life, on the contrary, deeply reactionary forces, loyal to czar or Archduke or church, also existed.  Many Jewish people feared and loathed their neighbors.  Memories of discrimination and murder, of double-dealing and betrayal, were also part and parcel of the lives that unfolded here.  Yet, central conduits of these bubbling cauldrons of contrariety were radical; citizens more often than not spit at the czar, studied Marx, plotted revolution.

Part of this red strain also results from the mines that are today part of the very locus of contemporary carnage in the area, and in the 1870’s gave birth to wildcat strikes and syndicalist actions that spread through all Ukraine.  Nikita Khrushchev came into the world in East Ukraine, outside Donetsk; his father worked the mines, and young Nikita followed him at age sixteen as war engulfed the entire region.

The bloody mess of World War sparked the seething spirit of rebellion among workers and soldiers, Cossacks, Jews, Russians, Ukrainians, and the mélange of nationalities that inhabit these lands.  Extensive, well-rooted stalks of revolt blossomed in showers of blood, from abbatoirs of human flesh.

7Khrushchev joined the Red Army rather than continue mining coal, returning a seasoned Party activist who helped build socialism in Ukraine throughout the 1920’s.  In addition, many of his associates and opponents also started out nearby.  One of his longstanding comrades, as noted above, could have been the prototype for Sholokov’s character, Ilya, the machine gunner.  The burly, earthy, much-beloved Malinovsky, from an Odessa-area peasant family, frequently paralleled Bunchuk‘s profile.

As the Bolsheviks wrested control of Russia from capital’s predominance and signed a peace treaty with Germany—fueling a sense of betrayal among the rulers of Europe that was volcanic in its intensity —Ukraine on its own  also accepted German terms, but only after its political leaders pocketed plus-or-minus fifty million francs of bribes from France to desist parlaying with Berlin.

The agreement with Germany basically turned over Europe’s ‘grainbasket’ to the Triple-Alliance and threatened to boost the planned German offensive in Spring 1918.  That Ukraine so blithely instituted this arrangement, from which attacks on Jewish residents increased and criminalization of dissent also flowed, showed in this instance the power of local nationalists and counterrevolutionaries.

As Germany’s defeat approached, however, in no small part because of Bolshevik organizing efforts, Ukrainians revolted and before the final defeat of ‘White-Army reactionaries,’ Kiev also entered the communist camp.  The industrialized East, in particular, led the way in these developments, overturning the ‘patriots’ who had parlayed with German militarists.

Before the Armistice with Germany, meanwhile, England and the United States intervened in Russia to ‘free’ allies trapped among reds and to wreak havoc on the Bolsheviks.  With increasing intensity during the Winter of 1918-19, all of the enemy combatants and allies of the just-finished capitalist slaughter turned savagely on the Soviets.

The White Armies persisted partially because of ‘Western’ support.  Otherwise, the revolution would likely have triumphed by the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front.  Meanwhile, Americans invaded Siberia; Austrians, British, and minor contingents from elsewhere led armed incursions into Mother Russia and the Caucasus; France joined Greece and Turkey in trying to consolidate Ukraine, which might permit recovery of some of the fifty million pilfered francs.

8Such interventions elicited powerful outcries.  These attacks targeted workers who wanted to find different ways to do business, after years of mass murder in the service of profit.  In London, in Berlin, in New York, pamphleteers and demonstrators shouted out for wage-earners at home to stand in solidarity with revolutionaries abroad.  Lenin, Trotsky and others made direct appeals to fellow toilers far afield.

Jacob Abrams, who near Kiev had played some significant part in 1905 unrest, fled to Brooklyn to escape Russian-Ukrainian secret police and encountered political authorities every bit as thoroughgoing as anything on Europe’s Eastern fringes.  In New York, he joined anarchists, socialists, communists who remonstrated against assaults on the barely-born Soviet Union.

All these workers and writers and thinkers abhorred the war when it came.  They even more stringently objected to the intervention against the Bolsheviks, in which the United States, as noted, had joined with Germany and Turkey, its recent enemies, as well as with its various allies.

To make their objections concrete, Abrams and his comrades printed flyers that called out Woodrow Wilson—“The President was afraid to announce to the American people the intervention in Russia. …too much of coward to …say, ‘We Capitalistic nations cannot afford to have a proletarian republic in Russia.’ …This is not new.  The tyrants of the world fight each other till they see a common enemy—working class enlightenment—as soon as they see a common enemy they combine together to crush it”—and defended the rights of Russians to act as they saw fit.  “Workers in the ammunition factories, you are producing bullets, bayonets, cannon to murder not only the Germans but also your dearest, best, who are in Russia and are fighting for freedom.”

Though “Great War” had finished, the U.S. still maintained plus-or-minus ten thousand soldiers in Siberia and Caucasian Russia.  And the ‘Sedition Act’ was more intrusive and threatening than ever.

Thus, Jacob Abrams and his fellows faced the wrath of the U.S. Palmer-Raid police state; he and all of his cohorts confronted twenty or more years in prison, a sentence that represented a sick travesty of “free speech,” according to Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’ minority opinion.  Eventually, Abrams and his co-defendants accepted deportation back to ‘Little Russia,’ from whence the peripatetic Ukrainian perambulated to Mexico to play chess with Leon Trotsky before the latter’s assassination.  He and his comrades irritated the Soviets as they had the Americans, so that their complicated cases, which again intersected with Ukraine in various ways, have no easily identifiable ‘good guys’ or ‘bad guys’.

In a sense though, Ukraine spread a anarcho-social-democratic, revolutionary web that covered the planet, a phenomenon that occurred because such militancy indisputably permeated Ukrainian culture and society.  That some rank-and-file hourly employees in the West felt similarly is equally verifiable.  An additional palpable empirical reality was the United States’ outraged response to this, as if its imprimatur ought also to have spanned the globe.

9The U.S. and its allies and enemies from the recent carnage evinced a fury and horror at Bolshevism that went much further than rhetoric and intervention, though, as the following section demonstrates.  In the recent war, nationalist fervor had been adequate.  “Over there!” complemented “Willy the Happy Hun,” and all but a handful of non-Bolshevik-infected socialists joined up and went to war as patriots, just as Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler did in Italy and Austria.

But after the Soviet ‘cowardice’ in surrendering, H.G. Wells and George Kennan were just two of hundreds of annalists who documented the vituperation that greeted Boshevism among the upper classes, the landed and moneyed sets.  At the level of Winston Churchill or Henry Ford, down through the coteries of capital to many a floor manager or shopkeeper, the portrayal of Commies as execrable scum was rife.

In sum, then, the multilayered, often contradictory radicalism of the Ukraine, together with the visceral hatred of these socialistic or anarchistic tendencies on the part of ruling interests further West, expresses a pattern.  This dynamic persisted, as the next sections amply demonstrate, and it today underlies a continuing fury on the part of the privileged and powerful at Eastern Ukraine and Russia.

This connection with the present, in terms of analogous interventions, is obvious.  Not by accident are the Ukrainian sectors now under attack realms where streets bear the names of Lenin and Stalin.  Not by chance is this the part of Ukraine where those who are community leaders still imagine a social democratic society.

Moreover, the general historical connection between Ukraine and Russia is also indubitable.  Communism and the Soviet way were every inch Ukrainian, ‘Little Russian’ attributes.

Just as many residents in 1900 rejected “Ukrainian nationalism,” so too now such ideation is far from overwhelmingly prevalent.  Indeed, the 16th edition of Britannica had only this to say about Ukraine: “The name formerly given to a district of European Russia, now comprising the governments of Kharkov, Kiev, Podolia, and Podova.  The portion East of the Dnieper became Russian in 1686, and the portion West of that in 1793.”

Kiev, Kharkov, Little Russia, and more merited many pages of narrative, however, noteworthy as dispositive circumstantial evidence of the interpenetration of ‘Great Russia’ and ‘Little Russia.’  The rubric of nationalism, in other words, was at least in part a construction of those who wanted soldiers to march and shoot as instructed.

As upcoming paragraphs reveal, Communists struggled both to accept and transcend the many ‘nationalisms’ that they inherited.  And many people in these places understood, revered, fought for, and have remained committed internationalists, in a word ‘Reds’ such as those whom capitalist cronies throughout the world have detested from the very start.

 

FASCIST BLUES

When Winston Churchill spoke of wanting to “strangle the Bolshevik infant in its crib,” he was thus, at least by extension, referring to Ukraine.  This resort to high-handed violence, mass murder as a social policy, might seem bizarre given the decimation that had for four years eviscerated the populations of Europe.  But its anomalous nature does not undermine its actuality.

10This detestation led to all manner of tactics against the young Soviet regime.  Agents from the war period merely adjusted their caps slightly and continued spying and provoking and so forth. Economic warfare occasionally manifested in trade and such, but especially Germany desperately needed any relationships that was not immediately worth less as a result of reparations; this dependency on Bolshevik New Economic Policy commodities and currency fostered Soviet growth and survival.

Both this inherent need for connection and the infiltration of spies that it permitted affected Ukraine, at once beneficence and affliction.  Soviet food supplies in any event depended on this fertile region of large and productive farms.  And the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, including the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, moved forward, which mortified and further infuriated the upper reaches of capital’s ruling classes no end.

So the intrepid murderers who placed themselves at the apex of ‘freedom-and-plutocracy’ needed some other way to eviscerate the Reds.  Not by accident did the rise of various Nazi strains follow immediately on the victory of Bolshevism.  All manner of ‘scholarly’ writing conflates communism and fascism in some shape, form, or fashion.  For our purposes, this should suffice about such attempts: they are at best pathetic and wrong, all too often intellectually dishonest or worse, apologies for Nazism.  But the fascist ‘triumph’ did indeed come to pass.

This fascist ascendancy flowed from many sources, for example that national patriotism had lost its ‘divide-and-conquer’ allure, after various mechanisms had annihilated tens of millions of workers ‘for God and country.’  Some new motivation, more potent, at once authoritative and authoritarian, was necessary.

This new embrace of madness and mayhem devolved into the rise of a new form of capitalism, which utilized the wheat stocks, or fasces, that pervaded Roman symbology and represented ‘strength in unity.’  Hence the world birthed fascism, which came to the fore as an explicit assault on the rise of working class movements that sought power over capital.

Churchill was just one of dozens of Western business and political leaders ‘charmed’ by Il Duce.  FDR praised the “fine Italian gentleman.”  The corporate press often and the business press almost unanimously promoted the Italian model.  Churchill gave the clearest rationale for such attitudes, which seem—to put the matter mildly—bizarre in hindsight“(Italy under Mussolini) has provided the necessary antidote to the Russian poison.  Hereafter no great nation will be unprovided with an ultimate means of protection against the cancerous growth of Bolshevism.” 

11Mussolini’s initial foray into fascist State power served as something akin to an experiment.  In the end, it did not meet the many-pronged necessities that big business was seeking: economic stagnation continued; the capacity actually to war against communism was missing; fascism in Italy remained insular rather than expansionist.  Further North and East, however, a perfect storm was brewing.

Capital’s early fascination with Hitler did not begin and end with German manufacturers and merchants.  Quite the contrary, from the early 1920’s, this artist and poet and believer in Germany’s volksreich attracted influential patrons from further afield than Central Europe.

The Rapallo Treaty between Germany and Russia, meanwhile, showed the risk of permitting even a ‘liberal’ German polity free rein in the aftermath of Versailles.  Trade and even collaboration with communists rooted and grew.

This then is the context for the origins of Mein Kampf and the conflation of Jewishness and banking by social reactionaries.  As opportunities dissipated, as jobs disappeared, as those who had lived gaily and sweetly found themselves hungry and fearful, the attraction of ‘strong policies’ that squashed unions, eliminated immigrants, emphasized warlike investment became irresistible for many.  But this social setting for fascism did not pay the tab.

Who Financed Hitler is one of many sources that prove that the potent attraction that industrial and even finance capital felt for Adolf Hitler elicited his ascendancy.  Again, this took place not only among German titans but throughout the haute bourgeoisie in the ‘free world’ as a whole.

A fascinating case study in this regard concerns Henry Ford’s admiration and support for the Austrian corporal and his National Socialist machine.  Readers may find a thorough introduction to this tale here.  Hitler kept a portrait of Ford behind his desk, the only such depiction in his office.  Mein Kampf itself owed allegiance to Ford’s monograph on “international jewry,” which the industrialist had bequeathed to the Nazi leader without strings.  Ford Motor Company laid the basis for the expansion of military production that, as Ford and Hitler both agreed, would have the primary purpose of annihilating the Soviet Union.

12Under such circumstances, that a centenarian survivor of the French resistance might, in relation to the upsurge of fascism in the world, recently points an accusatory finger at the wealthy is unsurprising.  That Indignez Vouz’s condemnation is not better known evidences both the propaganda or evasion that characterizes ‘established’ explication about these matters, and the confusion or ignorance that is almost universal concerning these issues.

“’When I try to understand what caused fascism, what caused the invasion by it and by Vichy, I tell myself that the wealthy, with their selfishness, have been terribly afraid of the Bolshevik revolution. They have been guided by their fears.’  In relation to Nazism, ‘the sense of history is the irresistible path of disaster to disaster.’”

While this decade-long fertilization of the fascist curse was occurring in the West, moreover, a parallel seeding of the ground took place on the fringes of Russia.  Even inside the Soviet state, agents operated to lay the basis for upheaval in the present and collaboration with Nazis in the future.

The Georgian uprising and other cases of sallies against the Russians occurred throughout this period.  The Polish State, weeks after its creation, with tens of thousands of its citizens languishing from Typhus and a million and a half of its children eating from the bread bowl of the American relief fund, decided to invade the Soviet Union and seize Moscow, though in the event, the Poles decided to seize Ukraine first.

George Kennan is just the most cogent, easily available chronicler to detail this sort of madness, which actually sounds strikingly like some of the developments of recent history.   The Russians begged for negotiations.  The Poles assaulted and won Kiev, where ragged pieces of a pro-Western administration remained.

The ‘victorious’ advances of anti-communist forces fell to pieces, however, and elicited the Red Army’s counterattack to the gates of Warsaw.  Embedded French advisers, dispensing American money and British arms and ordnance, eventually drive the Bolsheviks back.  Weary of carnage, all sides agree to a truce.

“So much for the Russian-Polish War.  It was really only a delayed phase of the Russian intervention and civil war: delayed because the Poles did not want to be associated in any way with the White Russian opponents of the Bosheveki, and preferred to tackle the Soviet Communists themselves.”

The Arcos imbroglio is merely another instance of this sort of hostile relationship.  The All-Russian-Cooperative Society was a British firm.  However, just as the ‘free world’ spied on and agitated in and near the Soviet Union, so too did Russian agents seek access to useful intelligence and contacts in London or New York, in many cases with Ukrainian agents.  And after all manner of dramatic testimony of illicit activity and unwelcome trading came to light, the English MI-5 authorized a general raid of and destruction of the outfit.

The events even extended to the U.S.  “Jacob Moness was arrested in New York after information recovered by the Metropolitan Police in the ARCOS raid of 1927 implicated him in a worldwide Soviet espionage organization. The American authorities discovered a large number of documents at Moness’s New York apartment. These provided considerable proof of Soviet espionage networks in the US and revealed that the Russians’ principal interest in the US lay in their armed forces and defence industries.”

Thus, in a way that inextricably intersected with the products and personnel and prospects of Ukraine, a treacherous dynamic was in place between Europe and the U.S., on the one hand, and Soviet compatriots, on the other.  This was transpiring, more to the overall point, in the context of absolute acceptance—and frequent monetary and constant political support—for Nazi initiatives and parties in German and Italy and throughout the Balkans and Eastern Europe.

ssssA contemporary socialist chronicle sums up some of this overall dynamic. “What was the real situation in the 1930s?  The appeasement policy was not the result of some failure to stand up to the dictator Hitler, but involved a very definite set of calculations.  British accommodation to the Nazi regime was based on the hope that Hitler would carry out the program outlined in his book Mein Kampf and launch a war against the Soviet Union, from which British imperialism would be able to benefit.  Britain had pursued the overthrow of the Soviet regime from the day after the revolution of October 1917.  There was no more passionate supporter of this goal than Churchill, who advocated military intervention by the imperialist powers to “strangle the Bolshevik infant in its cradle.”

The overall point of noting these attempts aggressively to assault and brutalize Russia is that Nazism as well existed to strike blows against the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, including Ukraine, where Nikita Khrushchev was a rising leader in the Soviet leadership.  These developments represented an explicit strategy, having nothing to do with any real hope for such ‘values’ as democracy.  They did opportunistically enlist nationalist critics and opponents of Russia, but this is a different issue from the central choice to ally with fascism.

Of course, none of these points rebut the fact that Joseph Stalin was one of history’s monstrous criminals.  His most strident accuser ended up being Nikita Khrushchev, because this ardent comrade and proponent of a people’s socialism was aware of the damage that ‘Uncle Joe’ had done to this cause.

More to the point of this narrative, Stalin’s viciousness resulted in the starvation of literally millions of Ukrainians when he forced the concentration of agricultural production in the region.  This mass murder is of course inexcusable.  Still, substantial numbers of Ukrainians support social democracy and recognize that this tremendous brutality occurred in a context of significant attacks on the Soviets and forced isolation of the Russians from trade and other sources of growth and exchange.  Agents of the West, moreover, used the horror at what happened to build their intelligence arms and abilities in Ukraine, which in turn supported Hitler’s work when the time came for the Germans to invade.

In fact, the fascist gangs that presently plunder East Ukraine and sit in the halls of power in Kiev in many cases emanate directly from Stepan Bandera and his ilk.  Such ‘liberal’ outposts as New York Review of Books have the temerity to play down Bandera’s fascism and label him a hero: nor is NYRB alone in such amelioration of Nazis.

13The biographical facts are accessible in many places.  Bandera came of age in the aftermath of the Soviet’s coming to power.  He and his family, near the Polish border, were strongly nationalistic and accepted German help and funds.  They participated in various actions during the Soviet years and orchestrated multiple slaughters of Poles and Jews and Communists until the Nazis themselves turned against Bandera and had him interned for the rest of the war.  He died as a result of cyanide poisoning at the hand of the KGB in 1959.

The key facts here—those which more than any of the others ‘define’ this fellow—were the alliance with Nazis early on; the insistence on an ethnically ‘pure’ nation in an area with literally dozens of nationalities; the promulgation of mass murder.  No matter what extenuating circumstances exist, one can no more ground a polity’s present on such a past, without fascism, than one can hail to Hitler as a hero and escape the Nazi brush.

Anyhow, as in the case of Bandera, more generally too, laying the groundwork for WWII, German interests in some cases merely networked with former or current English or French operations.  Intelligence networks on the borders of and perhaps inside of the U.S.S.R. thus played a sinister role in preparing for what was one obvious ultimate purpose of Nazism, the utter evisceration of the Soviet Union and elimination of a Communist regime there.

The recruitment of local residents on the road to invading Russia was obviously a part of this process.  Trade contacts, communication with public officials—such as police, administrative officials, public health functionaries, and more—and other means facilitated Western, and ultimately Nazi, access to knowledge of and power inside of Ukraine and other areas at the borders of Soviet control.  These connections soon enough came into play.

Flugzeuge Junkers Ju 87The horrors of the war period in Ukraine stagger the imagination.  The worst massacres, the most casual brutality, the most hideous violence and nonchalant bigotry took place in and around Ukraine. And for two years, Ukraine was a Nazi locus, till the Red Army—with tens of thousands of eager Ukrainian recruits—rooted them out.

One way of thinking about such things is to state that on June 29-30, 1941, German and Ukrainian operatives undertook the monumental task of slaughtering 33,000 Jews and Communists at Babi Yar, near Kiev.  The hourly rate boggles the mind: a thousand corpses per hour; twenty thousand hasty burials per day; such statistics induce nausea.

The summary murder of as many as 50,000 more in Odessa a month later—this time with Romanian and local troops and police—imposes a similar psychic space.  That both of these events—most people killed and the third-largest massacre of the entire Holocaust—occurred in Ukraine exemplifies both the complicated mayhem that the region is capable of manifesting and the presence in these places of agents with whom Nazis had for some time been in contact.

Another way to look at these developments is through the lens of literature.  Here is Mikhail Sholokhov.

“His entire face was a cry; bloody tears were raining from his eyes that had been forced out of their sockets. …(O)ne leg, torn away at the thigh, was dragged along by a shred of skin and a strip of scorched trouser; the other leg was gone completely.  He crawled slowly along on his hands, a thin, almost childish scream coming from his lips… . No one attempted to go to him.

‘Both legs gone!’

‘Look at the blood!’

’And he’s still conscious.’

Uryupin touched Grigory on the shoulder… . (and) drew Grigory along by the sleeve… .  Under Zharkov’s belly the pink and blue intestines were steaming.  The tangled mass lay on the sand, stirring and swelling.  Beside it the dying man’s hand scrabbled at the ground.”

The point of any such capsulization, whether empirical or narrative, however, includes the following idea.  These facts and atrocities resulted from consciously adopted directives.  They were not accidents; nor miscalculations; nor mistakes.

The carnage’s aftermath, too, came down to a policy by the U.S. almost the obverse of its post-WWI invasion, taking the form of recruiting and finding homes around the world for thousands, or tens of thousands of German, Ukrainian, Romanian, and other fascist adherents.  To an extent, such choices were religious, paralleling the Catholic Church’s well-documented embrace of Nazi forms and dreams.  To an extent, these moves were tactical, ‘lesser-of-two-evil’ comradeship with the followers of Hitler and the promulgators of holocaust.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATo wrap up this section, therefore, one might note that out of an initial revulsion for a locus of revolutionary critique grew a response that we now define as fascist, a deployment of tools-to-rule that persists to today and will keep on appearing tomorrow.  A deeper penetration of the annals of this process will—without a single doubt—further prove that the United States explicitly and completely allied itself with fascism as the primary means of undercutting socialists, communists, and other anti-capitalists, both in Ukraine and more generally.

The connection with the present should be palpable.  The social basis for fascist thinking is as simple to manifest as the massive uptick in downward mobility among the erstwhile ‘middle-classes,’ which is to say the shop-owners and insurance agencies and other small operators who collapse sooner or later as crisis follows crisis and the rich get richer.  Unemployed and otherwise disaffected workers also join in.  The ideological basis often comes down to an appeal to honor the nation, and, more particularly the state.

In the world of the here and now, and for the better part of a century, any fiercely nationalistic furor has skated along this route, a road to hell paved with good intentions perhaps.  To insist on the nation, as a category superior to humanity, always now invites the Nazi wolf into the fold.  These forces in Ukraine today not only have such obvious and discernible social and ideological roots, however, but they also both symbolically and actually have ties to the Banderas and Von Brauns and the predators whom the U.S. extricated following Germany’s collapse in 1945.

 

TSUNAMIS FROM CAPITALISM’S COLLAPSES

As noted at the outset, the brevity of the next two components of this argument result from exigencies of time and space.  Much more remains to develop above.  Even more so is that true below.

The ‘received wisdom’ in 1914 was that war was impossible. Integration would prohibit it.  Except it did not do so.  Among the topics and evidence important to consider here are the following.

  • Economic Consequences of the Peace, John Maynard Keynes’ prescient warning  about particularly Britain’s and France’s attempts to extract reparations from Germany.
  • The Kellogg Briand Pact, which ‘outlawed’ war in the late 1920’s and ‘30’s.
  • The Merchants of Death ideation, both as an independent scholarly explication and as the result of the Senator Gerald Nye extensive committee hearings about the banking boons that resulted from financing Europe’s war.
  • The Manhattan Project, as a prototypical embodiment of conjoining State and War and production.
  • The Marshall Plan, which both unleashed the productive capacity that had burgeoned from the corpses that war created and acted to forestall Soviet involvement with Western Europe’s imperial states.
  • The governmental reorganization —DOD, CIA, NSA, AEC, & more all began between 1945 and 1950—that put into ongoing practice what the Manhattan Engineering District had foretold.

16This short overview, then, establishes a three-part intersection that prevailed throughout this time and space: economic crisis, technological and organizational development, and the political commitment to warfare-Keynsianism.  A continuation of these forces still marks the here and now.

The connection with the present day is therefore as simple to show as the ouster of Victor Yanukovich after he refused an IMF ‘loan’ and instead accepted a Russian plan.  No sooner had Petro Poroschenko taken charge than he set in motion the political networking and quid pro quos to accede to the Western loan that Yanukovich had rejected.

Such apparently rational and natural choices as Yanukovich’s flow from the way that repeated prosperous bubblings collapse into destitution.  Nevertheless, under the present relations of power and property, any similar decision is fundamentally impermissible.  It violates the basic nature of the standard operation procedures, agendas, and needs of the powers-that-be.  Soon enough, planes explode in midair and threats of utter annihilation replace the saber rattling of yore.  And the past becomes a foggy plain, full of the stench of rotted corpses and the fear of instant death, that no one wants to venture to view.

The financiers who sit at society’s peak—at least on occasion—make sure that inhibitions against any deeper examination are powerfully present—in the news, in the halls of government, in the political and financial contextualization of such matters. After all, these bankers and traders and arbitrage experts hold levers of power that permit such obfuscation and deflection to proceed apace.

 

THE CIA-BANKING NEXUS AND ITS TARGETING CRIMEA

A grand compromise drove this supremacy of banking and finance.  This entente allowed unions and other working-class empowerment.  Social security became the norm.  Its shadow, however was a ‘national socialism’ with which it must eventually clash, even as the hope among both some financiers and many industrialists was that unleashing Germany against Stalin’s Russia would eliminate the threat of organized communism while at the same time making fascism weak enough or tractable enough to manage.

The connection with the present day contains readily identifiable elements.  The non-governmental organizations that sowed the fields that we are now readying to reap in Ukraine emanated from the likes of Pierre Omidyar and George Soros on ‘the left’ and from more obviously reactionary sorts as the Hoover Foundation and the Council for Foreign Relations on ‘the right ,’ not to mention various opportunistic outsiders, from Ukrainian-Israeli billionaires to the legal-eagle sons of Vice Presidents.

‘Left’ and ‘right’ are directions to turn.  They do not represent any necessary polarity of opposition.  Not so communist and capitalist, which, particularly as the moneybags’ stranglehold on policy becomes unstoppable, manifest a Manichean necessity of conflict to the bitter end.

 

A CONCLUDING INVITATION TO CONTINUING CONVERSATION

Another piece of art that my wife and I produced has this to say.  “The Complex Convolutions of Contemporary Social Crises Mandate Inclusive, Forthright, & Complete Conversations, Freewheeling Debates That Foster Popular Empowerment & Enlightenment, Which in Turn Yield Potent Democratic Action; Unfortunately for Human Prospects, All Inclusive Discursive Movements Elicit Often Fierce & Official Resistance: Hypocritical ‘Gatekeepers,’ Polite Hosts, & Timid Citizens Mainly Either Proscribe or Avoid Any Discussion That Threatens to Touch on Sensitive Issues Critical to Human Survival—Humanity’s Epitaph Might Soon Enough Read, ‘They Could Have Solved Their Problems, But Didn’t Care to Talk About Them.’”

17

This essay invites ongoing conversation.  Unlike Goldilocks, it does not pretend to have everything ‘just right.’

It develops a set of arguments that flow from intuition and observation and match aspects of evidence and knowledge about a place and time, some of which just showed up on my radar screen and some of which I’ve dug out with the help of my wife and other colleagues.  This place and time, Ukraine more or less immediately prior to the present pass, must interest us, at least if our common thriving, even survival, has any appeal at all.

 

 

 

Photo Captions/Credits

  1. Art – personal collection
  2. Map – http://ukrmap.su/en-uh10/1066.html
  3. “Begin Brzezinski Camp David Chess” by Original uploader was Perceval at en.wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia; transferred to Commons by User:IngerAlHaosului using CommonsHelper.. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Begin_Brzezinski_Camp_David_Chess.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Begin_Brzezinski_Camp_David_Chess.jpg
  4. “Stanley Wood CossackCourage” by Stanley L. Wood (1866 – 1928) [1] – http://www.greatwardifferent.com/Great_War/Stanley_Wood/Stanley_Wood_08.htm. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Stanley_Wood_CossackCourage.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Stanley_Wood_CossackCourage.jpg
  5. “Don Cossacks monument Luhansk” by Riwnodennyk – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Don_Cossacks_monument_Luhansk.JPG#mediaviewer/File:Don_Cossacks_monument_Luhansk.JPG
  6. “Shestviye u Narvskikh vorot” by Неизвестен – Первая русская революция 1905 года. М., 1925 г.. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Shestviye_u_Narvskikh_vorot.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Shestviye_u_Narvskikh_vorot.jpg
  7. Kruschev – “1916. Khrushhev-s-zhenojj-efrosinejj” by Unknown – http://foto-history.livejournal.com/1686834.htmlhttp://www.moskva-put.net/attraction/kremlin/generalnye-sekretari-ck-kpss-v/nikita-sergeevich-hruschev/. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1916._Khrushhev-s-zhenojj-efrosinejj.jpg#mediaviewer/File:1916._Khrushhev-s-zhenojj-efrosinejj.jpg
  8. “The hand that will rule the world” by Ralph Chaplin – Industrial Workers of the World journal “Solidarity” (June 30, 1917 issue). Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_hand_that_will_rule_the_world.jpg#mediaviewer/File:The_hand_that_will_rule_the_world.jpg
  9. “In for a trimming” unknown; public domain – http://rationalrevolution.net/articles/rise_of_american_fascism.htm
  10. He Would Turn the Clock Back 1,000 Years: (1919) public domain http://rationalrevolution.net/images/bolciv.png
  11. Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, June 1940 (NARA) Public Domain: via com
  12. “Ford assembly line – 1913” by Unknown – http://www.gpschools.org/ci/depts/eng/k5/third/fordpic.htm. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ford_assembly_line_-_1913.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Ford_assembly_line_-_1913.jpg
  13. “Stamp of Ukraine Stepan Bandera 100 years” by The stamp was designed by Vasil Vasilenko [2]. It most likely uses this photo. – own scan by Vizu. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Stamp_of_Ukraine_Stepan_Bandera_100_years.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Stamp_of_Ukraine_Stepan_Bandera_100_years.jpg
  14. Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-646-5188-17, Flugzeuge Junkers Ju 87″ by Opitz – This image was provided to Wikimedia Commons by the German Federal Archive (Deutsches Bundesarchiv) as part of a cooperation project. The German Federal Archive guarantees an authentic representation only using the originals (negative and/or positive), resp. the digitalization of the originals as provided by the Digital Image Archive.. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0-de via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bundesarchiv_Bild_101I-646-5188-17,_Flugzeuge_Junkers_Ju_87.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Bundesarchiv_Bild_101I-646-5188-17,_Flugzeuge_Junkers_Ju_87.jpg
  15. “Marshall Plan poster” by E. Spreckmeester, published Economic Cooperation Administration – Source. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Marshall_Plan_poster.JPG#mediaviewer/File:Marshall_Plan_poster.JPG
  16. Money, from org
  17. Art, personal collection

A Democratic, Grassroots Media Requires Media Analysis: Mediated Communication, Media Literacy, Missing Links:

PREFACE

This humble correspondent has just had the opportunity to make a Power-Point presentation to a hundred or so ‘progressive’ senior citizens.  The topic, Understanding the Origins of the Internet, and the questions that it engendered, led to a recognition that folks generally might benefit from some orientation in thinking about the problems and prospects of creating a democratic media from the ground up.

“How can we ferret out what is true and accurate?” 

“How can we overrule such powerful institutions as the Supreme Court?” 

“If both parties offer nothing but doom and gloom for us, what are we supposed to do?”

These were a few of the questions posed by audience members.

The words of Thomas Jefferson resonate two hundred years later in response to these inquiries.

”I know no safe depositary of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.”

Even old James Madison, whose Federalist Paper Number Ten envisioned the two-party system as a way of keeping majority-rule at bay, proffers inspiring thoughts in this regard.  ”A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

The deduction to which these ideas logically lead is that we have no choice but to educate ourselves nor any choice but to follow up our learning with action that is ‘of the people, by the people, and for the people.’  Paulo Freire sums up, generally, the tasks at hand.  “Human existence cannot be silent, nor can it be nourished by false words, but only by true words, with which men transform the world.”

He goes on:

“To exist, humanly, is to name the world, to change it.  Once named, the world, in its turn, reappears to the namers as a different problem that requires of them a new naming.  Men are not built in silence, but in word, in work, in action-reflection.

The ‘words and work and action-reflection’ that common citizens need is not happening.  One reason for this is that even the most ‘progressive’ mediated communication is failing to engage people in such a way as to impart actual knowledge, which is only possible to obtain through historical, political-economic, and social assessments that begin at the beginning, deal with paradox-and-complexity, and follow the money.

The natural result of such real, ‘popular education’ can only be radical, meaningful critiques that in turn facilitate something like a ‘revolt of the commons.’  This essay begins a process of examining the failings of so-called ‘liberal media.’  A year-and-a-half ago, a purported champion of people’s reporting joined forces with one of the largest and most reactionary media powerhouses.  A correct comprehension of this merger has yet to emerge, even after more than eighteen months.  As this humble correspondent’s grandmother was wont to say, “It’s never too late: where there’s life there’s hope.”

INTRODUCTION

In this first of a multi-part series—today’s intro, a final component many weeks hence, plus at least four or five segments in between that examine the ‘meat-and-potatoes’ of the Huff-Po/AOL conjunction–giving credit where credit is due is a good way to start.  Arianna Huffington‘s How to Overthrow the Government  performs a valuable service for anybody who both believes in popular empowerment and has an inkling that the rule-of-the-rich has gone too far.  The book offers at least a modicum of clear and apt guidance to those who would foment or fuel an uprising from below.

The likes of this humble correspondent would vociferously suggest that ‘the book doesn’t go nearly far enough.’  Less charitable, and equally historically and socio-economically aware, critics have argued that, analytically and conceptually, the volume is at best irritatingly cautious and generally vapid.  Nevertheless, the work offers some useful advice to those who want to return socially democratic political action to the grassroots.  At least it conceives of public engagement as a necessary predecessor of political change.

That said, last year’s merger of Huffington Post and America Online is an entirely different kettle of fish.  Many honestly and erstwhile ‘progressive’ and ‘leftist’ commentators celebrated this joining, or at least, gave it a ‘wait-and-see’ nod.

The only certain thing is that the writers and participants who built Huffington Post won’t see a slender cent from among the thirty billion pennies, or billion and a half pennies in stock, that changed hands in that bargain.  Several already wealthy people, whose political and ‘strategic’ leadership had, for better or worse, guided the site, have, on the other hand made out like proverbial bandits.

The idea that this $315 million wedding, much to the benefit of Ms. Huffington’s coffers, might also represent ‘progress’ or be in the best interest of the ‘left’ arguably has much more to say about the deficiencies that attend the language of political description in the United States than it does with any rationally defensible consideration about promoting the needs of common people.  The notion that this is in the popular interest also speaks volumes about the lack of class leadership among working people, who prove willing all too often to rely on the likes of a rich globe-trotting fashion moll with the opportunistic instincts of a coyote.

‘Liberals’ also cozy up to hyper-imperialists such as Hilary Clinton, or so some would say; ‘progressives‘ commonly make common cause with Barack-the-Magnificent, whose wars will soon eclipse those of his predecessor; the ‘left’ is a hodgepodge collection of folks who a lot of times are trying to avoid the label that is at least honestly descriptive, that of socialist, or social-democrat.

This humble correspondent considers himself ‘progressive,’ and he’ll only squirm and grit his teeth at the nearly meaningless moniker of ‘leftist.’  However, he is avowedly and unabashedly socialistic in his approach and his analytical proclivities.  He has no problem noticing an obvious fact: without some sort of struggle for social and economic democracy, the worlds working people face further devastation and possible annihilation.

And in this vein, the marriage of the modern defense and imperial establishment, in the form of America Online, with a fetishized, paltry, petty-bourgeois liberalism, in the form of Huffington Post, accomplishes a perfect union from the perspective of ‘free-market’, ‘free-enterprise’ fraud-mongers.  As such, the following prediction makes sense: it will continue to turn out as it already has—at best a lukewarm hodgepodge.  Thus, for working people, for those who care about more than political labels and actually worry about substance, it will be at best a disastrous misallocation of allegiance and resources.

One way or another, the lack of class leadership, and the explicit embrace of both imperial ideation and bourgeois marketing and markets, will mean at best ‘friendly’ misleadership for the average people of the planet, who are suffering one body-blow after another to any hope that a ‘middle-class’ life will be even a credible fantasy.  One would have to acknowledge, at least as a possibility, that the time for a media of the people, by the people, and for the people is long overdue.

Such an admission ought then to portend a serious effort in such a direction.  Whether folks are, even now, ready to admit the obvious–‘But mommy, the king has nothing on!!’–and whether, even now, such an acknowledgment will yield the radical, populist upsurge that recognition ought to call forth, remains to be seen.

For this humble correspondent, the remainder of the present introduction merely contextualizes, all too quickly, the historical and conceptual undergirding of the media marriage that transpired at the start of 2011.  A four-piece unit on AOL’s background follows over the next few weeks, more or less.  Then, a three-chapter unit appears about Arianna Huffington and her love-child at Huff-Po.  A long single take on the merger itself will appear at that juncture, to complete the substantive units of this series.  Finally, a conclusion will then show up that, in the light of the insights and ideation of the intervening reporting and analysis, returns to some of the issues raised in today’s introductory paragraphs

BACKGROUND SYNOPSIS: the News-Media-Context From Which this ‘New-Media’-Deal Devolved

People who fancy themselves media-literate, or even who believe that following the news is important, have a duty to understand how in the world the media that we take for granted has transmogrified to become the apparent digital phantasmagoria that it is today.  This is neither the time nor the place to go into copious detail.  On the other hand, readers may rest assured that more detail will be forthcoming.

For now, this humble correspondent proposes that people consider one simple fact: media springs from the rich dirt of politics like magic mushrooms pop up from cow dung.  Ever since the creation of the secret, and sacred, codes that underlay the first written forms, publication has been a battlefield; the priestly and royal control–extended imperiously–always met a challenge from below, in the form of vernacular articulations of one sort or another.

Need one consider such arcane interpretations of such facts as Derrida’s “The Mystical Foundations of Authority?”  Or perhaps a more straightforward recollection, that law–the legitimation of force in favor of some stated ‘State,’ heretofore unheard of without social class divisions–is nothing without the capacity to record and annotate it, would serve as a ‘wake-up call’ about media’s social reality.  No matter what, from the ‘dawn of history,’ or text, as it were, the connection between writing and rule is unbreakable.

In any event, much more recently, since Gutenberg, for instance, every communication medium’s technological development and social deployment has entailed this combative dialectic.  The Bible may have been Johann’s first big project, but not too long afterward, the press itself helped Martin Luther affix his challenge to various posting places.

 

‘Martyrs-of-the-book’ died at fiery stakes, fueled in part by the materials that they created.  The English crown disallowed all but ‘licensed’ printers in similar fashion as the F.C.C. only permits safely-establishment and oligopolistic voices to have their portion of the broadcast spectrum today.  And even though the eviscerated First Amendment still exists, as a text, the quip is more apt than ever: “freedom of the press only applies if you own one.”

In essence, this all describes a pattern that has, quite plausibly, come to stand for a central trait of capitalist evolution.  Put most simply, “ruling classes today ‘manage’ people through a combination of ‘public-relations,’ propaganda, distraction, and repression.”

A more nuanced statement of this point is possible.  It might look something like this: “Key struggles over meaning, knowledge, and power all intersect with and emanate from controlling, first, the technologies and labor that compile recorded speech, and, second, the media for presenting those now extremely varied recordings; advantages in this contest, almost universally in the form of successful–or replicable–networks and paradigms that reach expanding ‘publics,’ serve to influence, and often to determine, social, political, and economic outcomes.

For all of its frequent flaws of glaring bourgeois bias, Paul Starr’s The Creation of the Media: Political Origins of Modern Communications offers pupils of these matters a relatively elegant empirical bedrock for supporting the above conclusion.  From the concomitant downfall of strict censorship and the censorious Stuarts; to the simultaneous libertine upsurge of colonial textuality—newsy, pugilistic, and both globally and locally aware; to the persistent rebellion that pamphleteering and ‘correspondence societies’ helped to launch and sustain; to the dialectically intertwined manifestation of knowledge, distribution, and publication forms that have seesawed their way through American history, this characterization of mediation seems, at least, reasonable.

The nearly universal initiation, co-optation, or capture of news-and-publishing outlets by the rising bourgeoisie took many forms.  However, this humble correspondent would insist that folks apprehend the undeniable veracity of the proposition that we have not come to today’s seemingly unstoppable effusion of hyper-monopoly in any other fashion than step-by-step, following original inclinations to their logical and predictable ends.

This is corroborated whether one adopts a biographical approach–from Horace Greely’s faux-Horatio-Alger-garnering of capitalist backing, to Hearst’s gold-mining, and gold-digging, parentage, and beyond, to the Luces, the Paleys and so forth and so on–to ascertaining information networks, or whether one prefers to examine the way that business and regulatory structures favor particular organization forms over others, or whether one chooses different, more intellectual and ideational formulations.  The history of media in America is, practically speaking–‘Citizen-Kane’ gossipy details notwithstanding, indistinguishable from the history of capitalism in America.

Advertising and marketing and propaganda together confirm thisPower-politics and the specifics of character assassination and the sway of secrecy demonstrate this.  The opportunistic inclusion or exclusion of access to ‘legitimate’ or ‘unacceptable’ publics combine with criminal and civil media law again and again to prove this.

Forthcoming investigation will delve more deeply into the political-economic and historical background that underpins the current media conundrums that afflict citizens.  The point of both this explication and what is to come is simple: in the realm of AOL’s conjunction with Huff-Po, such a conceptual, historical, and political-economic framework is critical to any understanding that is richer and deeper than either a ‘follow-the-yellow-brick-road’ optimism or a ‘lions-and-tigers-and-bears’ sense of panic.

 

SOME FINAL WORDS: The Only Media-Coup That Can Promote Democracy

The Grateful Dead’s “New Speedway Boogie” could easily serve as an anthem for the present pass.  It’s threatening lilt and gutsy force match the sensibilities of the current moment as well as anything outside the realm of rap.

“Please don’t dominate the rap, Jack, if you’ve got nothing new to say.

If you’ll please stomp back up the track, this train’s got to run today. …

I don’t know but I been told,

It’s hard to run with the weight of gold.

On the other hand, I done heard it said,

It’s just as hard with the weight of lead.

Who can deny, who can deny, it’s not just a change in style.

One step’s done, and another’s begun.

And I wonder how many miles. …

You can’t overlook the lack, Jack, of any other highway to ride.

It’s got no signs or dividing lines, and very few rules to guide

Now I don’t know but I’ve been told,

If the horse don’t pull, you got to carry that load.

Now, I don’t know whose back’s that strong.

Maybe find out before too long.

One way or another, one way or another, one way or another

This darkness got to give.

One way or another, one way or another, one way or another,

This darkness got to give”

            One way of responding to such energy is to flee in terror.  Another approach, however, is to recognize that, in times of “one way or another,” “Which Side Are You On?” and so forth, coalition is a necessary response to the inevitability of schism and polarization.

But before anything akin to coalition can even become a faint possibility, people need to wake up.  They need to turn off the TV’s that poison them with fear and loathing and fill their minds with misinformation or nonsense and their hearts with envy or despondency.  Like the denizens of ‘Dead Prez,’ they need to admit that we’ve been “telling lies to our children” and begin to correct them and atone for them.

One way or another, the only salvation for a popular democracy is a media that actually remains under popular control.  And that will never happen at Huffington Post, at Nation of Change, at Op-Ed News, or at most other ‘left-media’ outlets as currently constituted.

This humble correspondent has long promulgated the idea that People’s Information Networks might serve as a conceptual model for actual progress in relation to gaining grassroots power in the information sphere.  While future articles will further explore this idea, a few pointers now are apt to mention.

In this vein, this humble correspondent ends with some simple suggestions.  Let’s get together and call for a People’s Media Congress.  A People Power Congress shouldn’t be far behind.  People Power Seminars need to begin as soon as readers finish this sentence.

What are all of these things, exactly?  Well, let’s start talking about it. A grassroots, participatory, community-based uprising has to be better than what’s happening now.

As a Congressional candidate and acquaintance of this humble correspondent has stated the matter, “The time has come to take a stand.”  Oblivion beckons otherwise.

Readers might want to stay tuned and remember the words of Bette Davis.  “Fasten your seat-belts; it’s going to be a bumpy night.”

 

Miley’s Brand & What It Means

            Who would have thought that spindoctorjimbo would ever write about Miley Cyrus?  While she served as something like a role model for my daughter—presumptions of privilege and wealth, libertine lifestyle, flashy au courant style—her imprimatur has remained ‘outside the contemplative box’ for the likes of this humble correspondent(THC).  Still, Cyrus’ recent work, “Liberty Walk,” and commentary on it, command a reply from the spindoctor’s pen, as it were.

            Certainly, this brouhaha contains interesting economic underpinnings and impacts.  Equally so, the political meaning of the piece and its interpretation are noteworthy.  Finally, the social implications of the situation are especially interesting.  Although these three categories are actually inseparable, a brief examination that uses this economic-political-social rubric gives THC a chance to say his piece.

from Miley Cyrus Liberty Walk

           The overarching economic fact of the last forty years, more or less, has been that capital’s leadership has failed to deliver on its promises for most inhabitants of the planet.  This is to say that more and more marginalization of working people has occurred, while the so-called middle-class section of the laboring masses has found its toehold on decent living conditions increasingly tenuous.

            This economic quagmire has manifested in a variety of fascinating and important ways.  A few of these follow here:

  • Only through the repeated expansion and monetization of credit have economic leaders averted total meltdown, and even this persistent reliance on a ‘bubble system’ appears now to be breaking down.
  • While every civilian productive sector has confronted glut after glut, each sector—agriculture, energy, textiles, metals, everything—has also created massive productivity gains that could readily serve community purposes instead of existing exclusively for profit.
  • This contradiction has necessitated, on the one hand, an ever-growing reliance on militarized spending, including the massive expansion of the ‘Prison-Industrial-Complex’ via the ‘War-on-Drugs,’ the ‘War-on-Sex,’ etc., and, on the other hand, a burgeoning focus on fetishized commodification, ranging from plastic surgery and Viagra to tanning beds and hyper-inbred pets, and so on and so forth, ad infinitum.
  • Objectively, Ms. Cyrus’ slickly produced and fetchingly packaged music extravaganza fits into this second category of the ‘functioning’ economy of capitalism now.

from Miley Cyrus Liberty Walk

This précis of the contemporary moment, though condensed and capable of plenty of amplification, allows an observer to ponder an aspect of Miley’s most recent effort to ‘build her brand.’

            Meanwhile, the central political fact of the present period—again, the last four decades or so—has been a dismantling of ‘liberalism’ as constituted in ‘safety nets’ and ‘New Deals’ and a concomitant surge in repressive, even fascistic, laws and approaches to politics.  Inevitably, in inchoate ways here in Central North America and in more organized fashion in parts of the world less ‘liberated’ by the constraints of being the imperial center and the misled ‘bastion’ of ‘freedom and patriotism,’ resistance to this amped-up oppression has risen among the working folks for whom capitalism isn’t working very well anymore anyhow.

from Miley Cyrus Liberty Walk

 This subjugation to plutocracy has, as in the economic sphere above, shown-up in myriad ways of note and import.  A few of these follow here:

  • Even as ‘information’ has proliferated and become one of the current, purported ‘freedoms,’ actual access to data and knowledge has suffered severe diminution, at the same time that various whistleblowers—and ‘Wiki-Blowers’ have sought to counteract this trend toward both secrecy and fee-based exclusion from facts.
  • Even as international political norms have become ubiquitous in all areas of politics, so that on the surface all and sundry are subject to the rule of law, in actuality, imperial crimes occur with increasing impunity—ranging from the mundane frauds of everyday life—three hundred dollar seat-belt tickets to make people ‘safer’—to the most murderous plunder—mass carnage in Fallujah that served both to open new territory for capital’s untrammeled sway and to cover up capital’s complicity in creating what it saw fit to destroy there.
  • Even as the celebration of ‘the blessings of liberty’ have advanced on every front, political participation and the forms of democracy have become ever more tenuous, especially in the ‘belly-of-the-imperial-beast’ here in the United States; what with mass disfranchisement, purposeful political paralysis, and decreasing legitimacy of dissent, even the façade of majority rule is at risk.
  • Even as any promise in the Bill of Rights takes center stage in all established mediation of power and justice, progressively more draconian suppression of real rights—from the negative capacity to avoid ‘unreasonable’ searches and seizures to the positive autonomy to speak and organize for a better world—continues to manifest itself; the Patriot Act is only an ongoing explication of this long standing and now seemingly intractable trend.
  • Even as capital has, in these varied ways, arrogated ever-greater legitimacy to its hegemony, protest to this arrogant disregard for human rights and social potential has increased, especially in recent years, as the economy has spiraled downward.
  • Non-assaultive political and economic responses of bourgeoisie rulers to such outbursts of discontent has operated in tandem: the packaging of radical-chic and the lionizing of ‘liberty’s guardians’—especially those in places like Cuba and China and Egypt—has always proceeded in both the marketplace and in every arena of power politics.
  • Objectively, Miley Cyrus’s work operates both as real dissension and as an easily-packaged deflection and cooptation of discord; to an extent, her own coming of age has made resistance to the machinations of domination unavoidable, simultaneously as her ‘brand’ had to seek to commoditize and neutralize this nevertheless honest disagreement with the powers-that-be.

Politics, like economics, proffers onlookers with a lens for examining “Liberty Walk” and those who would deconstruct it.

from Miley Cyrus Liberty Walk

 Just as what Marcuse called ‘one-dimensionality’ has taken over economics and politics, so too compression and limitation have come to characterize the social realm.  This process is all-the-more astounding in its delicious contradictions and luscious paradoxes.

  • Thus maximum ‘diversity,’ ‘identity,’ and pluralistic mores coexist with straitjacketed uniformity and lack of individual capacitation.
  • Entirely new, ‘revolutionary’ developments of community have led to diminished social contact and collectivity.
  • Maximization of conformity has accompanied the most profound ‘desublimation’ of inhibition in every area of existence.
  • At once, surreality passes for reality and alienation passes for compassion and empathy.
  • Aggressive attacks on ‘depression’ and unhappiness yield the highest degree of cynicism and fatalism ever.

Wherever one looks, the processes of emiseration call forth countervailing tendencies, toward human fulfillment and the realization of the potential that exists in the combination of social labor and technique.  Yet, still, those in charge seek ways to subvert and divert these outpourings of social desire for justice and democracy.

            Once again, Miley Cyrus straddles both of these tendencies.  Hers are liberating tropes at the very same instant that they represent marketing fetishes and misleading triviality.

One cannot watch “Liberty Walk” without seeing the deepest challenge to capital’s sway.  Nevertheless, by itself, the effort therein is completely inadequate, since lacking a combination of dialogic capacity-building and conscious action-against-oppression, the song and its performance represent primarily another Walmart ledger entry, a further rationale for an i-Pod existence that lacks any creative or liberating outlet in the realm of the real.

When the State Murders the Innocent, When Will We Really Stand Up?

 Further Reflections on the Planned Judicial Murder of Troy Anthony Davis

Now and again, off and on, everything in this essay consists of ideas and facts that I have been conveying and reporting for years.  The text here basically accomplishes two things.  It presents the information that I received about Troy Anthony Davis when I was a reporter in Savannah on another assignment, in 2003.  It summarizes the meaning of that data, in relation to the likely murder of Troy Davis tomorrow.  It suggests what a rational, powerful response to Mr. Davis’ lawful and stupid and evil execution would be.  As I noted to start, none of this is new.  The lack of a media that has the resources to communicate such material adequately is another item that I have long sought to proffer, something in fact that I’ve been reporting for thirty-odd years as I’ve talked repeatedly about the need for Peoples Information Networks and Popular Action Networks with which they conjoin, especially in relation to the Southern U.S.

Several times in the Winter and Spring of 2003, I found myself in Savannah to cover the unjust and ludicrously biased disbarment of a powerful and prominent local Black attorney, Joyce Marie Griggs.  As the saying goes, that “is another story.”  However, as a result of that process–with its components of color prejudice, bigotry, and the elimination of threats to the powers-that-be–I learned what the true definition of a mistake is, in the context of one of several conversations about Troy Anthony Davis.  “A man who says, ‘we made a mistake,’ almost always is asking you to overlook that he has just violated you in the most profound way, robbed you of your humanity, and that he hopes to escape any consequences for such brutality.”

The speaker, a promoter of a Black Holocaust Museum in Savannah, was comparing the lynch-mob justice that had caught Troy Davis in its web, with the vast crimes of slavery and Jim Crow, responsible for the deaths of millions of Africans and African Americans.  He affirmed what three other Savannah residents, as well as Attorney Griggs, testified to as common knowledge ‘in the ‘hood’ in the city.

  •  First, Troy Davis did not kill Officer MacPhail.
  •    Second, the police knew this and had employed strong-arm tactics to gather the necessary ‘evidence’ to convict an innocent man.
  •  Third, the police, and many in the community, knew who had killed Officer MacPhail, one of the ‘witnesses’ against Davis.
  •  Fourth, this man–occasionally an informant for the police–had terrorized and threatened and eliminated people who had suggested that they would rat him out.
  •  Fifth, the Savannah police were notoriously brutal and corrupt, in the nature of an organized gang of thieves and dictators who operated rackets in the city for the upper classes.

As I have said, I have spoken and written about these matters before.  I have implored various individuals and agencies for help in investigating these allegations.  Even a hint of truth to most of them ought to exonerate Troy Davis, perhaps even extricate him from prison.  Nothing ever has come of these requests on my part; now and again, though, I have continued to write about this matter.

What these reported facts imply is clear.  The likely execution of Troy Davis tomorrow will be the most horrific sort of soulless, brutal, and evil act, a murder based on false witness and opportunism and hypocrisy and corruption.  Millions of Georgians, either through collusion or silence, will become accessories to a venal and vicious homicide.

Someday, within a couple of years at the most, Georgia will admit that it “made a ‘mistake,'” though unfortunately Mr. Davis will likely be dead.  If it manages the second time to nab the Black man–a career criminal, according to many witnesses–who did in fact gun down Officer MacPhail, then in a sense, this most bigoted of States will be getting ‘two-for-the-price-of-one’ in ridding itself of two African Americans.

That those who carry out this murder will argue that they were ‘mistaken’ cries out for a response.  What should people do about this murderous duplicity and criminal impunity on the part of constituted authorities?

Organizers of a ‘liberal’ bent have been beating the bushes to save Mr. Davis’ life.  They have, through a heroic effort, gathered 600,000 signatures calling for clemency, which the State Board of Pardons and Parole, predictably, ignored.  They have conducted vigils and marches and speaking tours.

Unfortunately, their tactical response otherwise has been tame.  ‘Write letters,’ they have advised.  ‘Make phone calls’ to complicit leaders, they have counseled.  ‘Quietly and peacefully protest,’ they have asked.  The time for such tactics has passed, in my estimation.  Here are some minimal ways that people should react, should Davis die by a ‘mistaken’ needle tomorrow.

  •  Everyone, in and out of Georgia, should do the utmost to boycott Georgia businesses, unless they have explicitly contributed to and participated in the effort to commute Davis’ sentence.
  •  No one except those who like to pal around with murderers should ever again go to college in Georgia, again unless an institution clearly fought for sparing Davis’ life.
  •  No convention should ever again occur in Georgia, until reparations and justice have been provided, except of course that those organizations that support judicial murder of the innocent ought to come only to Georgia.
  •  Everyone who can speak, write, and otherwise communicate should set aside time each year to continue condemning Georgia as in league with all that is satanic and wrong in the human condition.
  • Anyone who works for the state of Georgia, or does business for the State of Georgia, should quit their employment, or quit providing services to the State of Georgia, unless they want to support judicial murder of the likely innocent.

Again, this is a minimalist response, one which I have on other occasions embedded in both text and conversation.

However, the likely murder of Troy Anthony Davis demands a more stringent response.  This is also something that I have said in the past.

Self-defense is the very essence of much that passes for “human rights.”  As a matter of self-defense, citizens must begin to organize to take action that goes well beyond any ‘hat-in-hand’ request for assistance.  We must in fact, begin to organize to be able to show up, en masse and in force, to participate in bringing democracy–majority rule–to fruition, in some ways for the first time in U.S. history.

 Joe Hill is another victim of judicial murder.  Only recently, have scholars demonstrated ‘beyond a shadow of a doubt,’ the way that corrupt criminals in power ‘made a mistake’ and shot Joe Hill to death by firing squad in Utah.  He might well have advised us to consider thinking along the following lines.  ‘If 100 people showed up to blockade a prison and demand the release of those held within, the ‘forces-of-disorder’ in charge of the world would arrest them and put them behind bars; if a thousand people showed up at such a blockade, the authorities would arrest or shoot them down; they might even mow down ten thousand; but would they so easily be able to subvert the popular will if 100,000 or a million citizens showed up at the prison gates and demanded, with Moses, “Let my people go!”?

In any event, until we have the capacity and the will to manifest such a potent expression of majority rule, then we will never be able to say, as Georgia’s most magnificent preacher did before he too was cut down, “Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, I’m free at last.”

Accessories–Before, During, and After the Fact

From Dr. Boyce Watkins, "Facts You May Not Know About the Troy Davis Case"

A fascination with, aversion toward, and utter confusion about the United States are all paradoxically possible at the same point in time.  To an extent, these seemingly incompatible feelings accompany the imperial position of hegemony that the U.S.A. currently occupies.  In this context, what happens in the U.S., particularly when lives are at stake and oppression appears irresistible, deserves the world’s compassionate attention.  Legal matters, especially when capital punishment is at issue, are typical of this sort of important development that mandates a closer look.

Though I’m not an attorney, as a wordsmith I know that a fascination with language and meaning is a lawyer’s stock in trade.  A while back, contemplating the term ‘accessory,’ in its criminal legal sense, seemed particularly apt in regard to the State of Georgia, where until recently I resided in the Southern U.S.  A wide-ranging and authoritative definition of ‘accessory’ shows up  in Black’s Law Dictionary and multiple other sources: “one who is not the chief actor in the offense, nor present at its performance, but in some way concerned therein, either before or after the act committed; one who aids, abets, commands, or counsels another in the commission of a crime.  Accessory after the fact–person who, knowing a felony to have been committed by another, receives, relieves, comforts or assists the felon, in order to enable him to escape from punishment, or the like.   Accessory before the fact–one who orders, counsels, encourages, or otherwise aids and abets another to commit a felony and who is not present at the commission of the offense.   Accessory during the fact–one who stands by without interfering or giving such help as may be in his power to prevent the commission of a criminal offense.”

Inasmuch as any Georgia resident, who is not actively protesting the pending execution of Troy Anthony Davis, either is or ought to be aware of this coming killing, such a one is quite likely about to become every sort of accessory to this still young man’s judicial murder, which, if Davis is innocent, is at the very least a negligent homicide.  Let me be completely clear: this means that not only would Governor Nathan Deal and most of the State’s legislature be culpable for what is as likely as not a major felony, it would mean that the several million Peach State occupants who are doing nothing would also be chargeable, in that their silence and inattention, or, in far too many cases of misguided vengefulness, their active support and direction, provided aid and comfort to the actual executioners.

    Undoubtedly, someone viciously killed Mark Allen MacPhail on August 19, 1989.  Just as obviously, a Savannah, Georgia jury convicted Troy Davis of that brutal murder in August, 1991.  Lacking physical evidence that Mr. Davis was the killer, however, or any circumstantial evidence other than his presence at the scene, where off-duty officer MacPhail was attempting to break up a parking lot melee, Chatham County prosecutors relied on the testimony of nine eyewitnesses to make the charges against Troy Anthony Davis stick.

Today, seven of those nine observers take back their testimony, admitting that they cannot state with any certainty who pulled the trigger and slayed an honest cop doing good work.  Several recanting witnesses speak of blatant police misconduct, including threats of imprisonment if they did not implicate Troy Davis.

Mark Allen MacPhail’s death is a fact; that someone gutlessly murdered him is a fact; Troy Anthony Davis’ conviction for that soulless crime is a fact.  But we should make no mistake: given copious other facts that are now at hand, including and in addition to the recantation of over three quarters of the eyewitnesses who formed the sole basis for the State’s pinning this act on Mr. Davis in the first place, his actual guilt is at best one possibility among many others to account for the cretinous and hateful destruction of Officer MacPhail’s life.

Thus, at the very least, a significant possibility exists, a possibility that any reasonable person would acknowledge adds up to a “reasonable doubt” that was unavailable to jurors in Savannah in August, 1991, that Mr. Davis, an innocent man, has served over twenty years in prison, almost all 240 of those months on death row, for something that he did not do.  Moreover, of course, all Georgians who do not insist that he receive clemency are in one way or another playing a role in a murder of Troy Anthony Davis that will be, if he is guiltless, at least as sinister and cruel and stupid as the killing for which he may unjustly soon lose his life.

In a word, passively or actively, millions of Georgians are about to become accessories before, during, and after the fact to a homicide that even those who count themselves staunch advocates of capital punishment can only claim is possibly, or at most probably, a justifiable taking of human life.  Obviously, these millions of ‘accessories’ will never face justice for their acts.  Procedural layers of contemporary law protect them as seamlessly as a kevlar vest would fend off a BB gun.

  Perhaps those who bother to read this missive will take comfort in their legal blamelessness, even as Troy Anthony Davis suffocates on a ‘cocktail’ of lethal poisons administered by agents of the Georgia citizenry.  Nevertheless, to execute a blameless bystander for a horrifying homicide merely compounds the crime; not only does no one responsible face justice, but also all of those who impassively watch the new killing become morally bankrupt, whatever escape clauses permit them to evade proper criminal blame.

I for one refuse to stand with the murderers, and I pray for an upwelling and outpouring of support to the same effect.  I’m not a particularly religious person, but if Troy Anthony Davis dies at the hands of Georgia’s criminal authorities on September 21 or the days that follow, then the vast majority of my former home-State’s citizenry deserve a common epithet delivered to the guilty: “May God have mercy on their souls.”

The equinox this year, in the event of Troy’s wanton execution, will portend an endless night of gruesome injustice.  What must result from that, sooner or later, is a fulfillment, whatever particular ‘war of attrition’ comes as

comeuppance for the arrogance of vicious murder by which Georgia operates, of Abraham Lincoln’s inquiry in his Second Inaugural.

“‘Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh. If we shall suppose that American slavery(or Troy Davis’ murder by acts of omission and commission by Georgia’s people) is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives … this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him?  Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away.  Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash(or the hypodermic) shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.'”

   Why should someone who is not a U.S. citizen care about this?  One might just as easily pose the question of a resident of Maine, or California, who looks askance on the bigotry and brutality so characteristic of oxymoronic “Southern justice.”  The answer depends on the individual in question.  Does he or she complain about imperious American actions?  Or does he or she long for a world with more of a balanced distribution of power?  For the resident of other states: do they ever deplore that a cretin like George Bush stole the Presidency?  Do they ever wish for fairer criminal justic policies, a rejection of fascistic laws such as the U.S.A. Patriot Act, or a general diminution of the power of the ‘prison-industrial-complex?’

For non U.S. citizens or non Georgia residents who never ponder issues such as these, or who feel in fact that everything is more or less hunky-dory on the planet earth, the answer to the initial question about why some should care is simple.  “They needn’t care a bit about Mr. Davis’ murder by the State and the accessory status of Georgia’s citizenry.”

But for anyone else, anyone who knows, with Hamlet, that “something is rotten” indeed in the State-of-Everything-on-Earth, the answer to the first interrogatory above is simple, but not quite so easy.  To them, a concerned observer might suggest, “people who want significant reform need viewpoints that proffer something to fight the powers-that-be.  Being able to note, with complete accuracy, that most Georgians are culpable for an innocent man’s murder, because they are too vicious, lazy, bigoted, or ignorant to be other than criminal accessories to such a crime, sounds to me like ammunition in the battle about what kind of future we hope to fashion for our progeny.”

When I investigated this story in 2004, I uncovered evidence that the Savannah Police know precisely what they’re doing.  Executing an innocent man, while the killer is on their payroll is part of Departmental protocol somehow.  In any event, that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it, with an update that is more concerned with my work on the case, and actions available to those who oppose murdering innocent men, due out early next week.

Understanding 9/11 & Acting on That Insight/PART FOUR

In the previous three sections, readers will have considered, in Part One, an overall overview of the very idea of memorializing 9/11; the point there was that we cannot commemorate unless we understand.

Part Two, in investigating the 1945 Peace Treaty with Japan, proffered a ‘book-end’ for the period of time that 9/11 arguably closed; this assessment both cast an appraising eye back in time and recounted events that followed in the aftermath of WWII’s denouement, which effectively inaugurated the period that ranged to at least September 10, 2001.

Part Three contained two sections: the first utilized events in Santiago, Chile as a focal point for grappling with the second half of the period between 1945 and 2001, a time in which the contradictions and paradoxes of corporate, imperial imprimatur became increasingly difficult to manage, though the plutocrats did try; the second gave a lightning tour of the parameters of post-9/11 existence, a glum and grim decade that will surely appear like ‘the good old days’ unless working people manage to throw off corporate rule and bring something akin to participatory democracy to pass.

Today’s final piece of this little puzzle provides readers with conclusions to ponder and the nerdy reflections of this humble correspondent about what is most important in this material.  Paulo Freire, whose Pedagogy of the Oppressed ought to be universally mandatory reading, has contended that becoming fully human requires a dialogic nexus.  Whenever readers are ready would be a good time to start.

CONCLUSIONS–Rationale for Continuity, Inevitability of Karma, & Transformative Possibility

The upshot of this analysis ought to operate essentially as a no-brainer.  ‘What is going on?’  The USA is continuing on a path that has always been one aspect of its tendencies, from the theft of North America and the enslavement of Africans through the wholesale slaughter of civilians on every continent save Australia and Antarctica.  This, put simply, is the pathway of imperial imprimatur, dressed up as ‘development’ and assistance and ‘freedom.’

‘Why did 9/11 happen?’  The comeuppance of ‘what goes around comes around’ had to take place.  Sowing the wind cannot but reap the whirlwind; this humble correspondent’s wife, whose grandfather died in a hail of Pinochet-inspired bullets, understands this much more deeply than do most hyper-privileged ‘middle-class’ Americans.  But obviously, even the fantasy of this ‘middle-class’s’ existence is on the wane.

‘Why has the aftermath of 9/11 made the world even less secure and more prone to mass collective suicide?’  The fundamental contradictions of SOP political economy, the vicious suppression of democracy while purporting to support majority rule, and misguided and mistaken consciousness all portend ill.  Only the last of these, a grappling with consciousness, can yield the possibility of transformation however.

Such conclusions are obvious to anyone who can stand the storm of condemnation that attends speaking truth to power.  In the midst of imperial arrogance, truly, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.

One might anticipate that, at least occasionally, intimations of such thinking would wend their way into the primary mediated expressions upon which most residents of the planet rely.  Not only has this been rarer than hen’s teeth, but the opposite is also manifestly the case: corporate views are practically universal in one form or another, from laudatory reporting on ‘tea-party’ fatuousness to superficial boosterism in regard to ‘Obama’s job initiative,’ from fetishistic accounts of individuated ‘art’ at Burning Man’s petty bourgeois celebration of nihilism to the latest Hollywood gossip, and on and on and on and on and on, apparently ad infinitum, world without end.

At the very least, one might hope that, confronted with crisis after crisis, with every indication that all the accepted nostrums are crashing and burning, organized contingents of citizens would begin to network with each other to contend for power.  Instead, through a combination of hypocrisy, bigotry, laziness, and willful ignorance, folks in the United States seem inclined to ‘worship false gods’ and rely on greedy, venal ‘leadership’ to rescue them from looming crises on every front.

One need not, thankfully, hope for a Western Hemisphere ‘Congress of Soviets’ to set things right.  On the contrary, homegrown models are readily available.  The Economic Bill of Rights is solid thinking for a transition in the direction of social justice and actual democracy.  Tens of thousands of individual initiatives to achieve justice and empower communities occur every day.  These have appeared in SERMCAP’s work and elsewhere that this humble correspondent has published.

As well, this humble correspondent is one of the many scattered grassroots thinkers who want to light a pathway toward something akin to sustainability and human flowering.  A “New Ten Commandments” is a recent example.  From number one, “The Golden Rule Reigns supreme,” to number four, “All Who Work Are Equal,” to number ten, “All Else Is Negotiable,” it represents a common-sensical, class conscious morality and ethics that might underlie democracy.

The epilogue to this hortatory set of ten rules serves as well as anything to close this brief section.  “The central task of the social reformer, or ‘progressive,’ as the first decades of the twenty-first century unfold, is to form relationships that are durable and pointed enough to begin, on the one hand, to dismantle the Imperial-Financial-Military-Prison-Pharaceutical-Industrial Complex, the various arms of which–the ‘War on Drugs, Homeland Security, Xenophobia-Incorporated, Operation Iraqi Liberation and similar exercises in military mass murder and social control, and so on and so forth–effect the enervation of the working class, both in terms of consciousness and in terms of action, and, on the other hand, to work to reconstitute the social and productive forces in that ‘Complex’–now turned to exploitation and repression and inanity–so that they can start to express humanity’s innate creative capacity to construct a human existence.”

As this series has hammered home, such a capacity to reform and resuscitate has to start with analysis and continue with conversation.  This humble correspondent is having his say herein.  He’d love to hear from folks.

AFTERWARD–The Dialogic Necessity of Exchanges That Deal with Ideology and Consciousness

W.E.B. Du Bois, genius that he was, estimated that “the great problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line.”  Perhaps the grand dilemma of the twenty-first century is the conundrum of false consciousness.

In saying this, as the final paragraphs of a series on ‘Understanding 9/11’ spin-out, this humble correspondent is remonstrating that we must either demonstrate a willingness to talk about all of these things together, holding fast to the standards of evidence and intellectual honesty of any debate that hopes to learn and teach something, or we face a more or less rapid decline as a species.  At the least, no ‘good life,’ as in an evolution of humans to include conscious agents who shape their lives and the world, can transpire if we refuse the mental labor that this series extols and proffers.

The title of one of William Appleman Williams volumes neatly summarizes the ideation and ideology of citizens of the United States in this regard, at least since the 1940’s.  The Great Evasion remains a timely manual for what Americans choose to ignore.  Survivors of the storm that is breaking upon us now may well recall the phrase and nod ruefully.

Williams was writing of the wisdom that Karl Marx evinced; he subtitled this slender volume, “an essay on the contemporary relevance of Karl Marx and on the wisdom of admitting the heretic into the dialogue about America’s future.”  Others who have followed the traditions of that thinking include, of course, this humble correspondent.  As well, readers not afraid of engaging the real, and its sexy cousin, the possible, may want to consult innumerable additional intellectuals.  Three will serve to close our interlude here.

**Jurgen Habermas has for decades sought the joining of art, science, and morality.  The conjunction depends, in the current context of rampant compartmentalization, on the only glue that can cause these things to stick together: honest and respectful conversation.

Against the opportunistic thugs of ‘neoconservatism’ and ‘neoliberalism,’ not to mention the hypocritical bourgeoisie who worship at the ‘cult of the expert,’ Habermas defends the modernist prospect: to comprehend reality, to work with others to shape that reality, to transform consciousness and reality in league with others so as to have a positive impact on the world.  He offers sage ideas to readers willing to listen.

“(W)ith the decisive confinement of science, morality, and art to autonomous spheres separated from the life-world and administered by experts,” precisely the protocols in place in all establishment government agencies and most Non-Governmental Organization granting agencies, “what remains from the project of cultural modernity”–learning so as to rescue ourselves from perdition–“is only what we would have if we were to give up the project of modernity altogether.”  And ‘to give up altogether’ is to invite, and to deserve, the long darkness that looms.

**Paulo Freire is another proponent and practitioner of mutual dialog in the service of empowerment and transformation.  In Pedagogy of the Oppressed, cited above, he sticks to the contention that only through mutual dialog is full humanity accessible.  He thus rejects the one-way manipulation of advertising, foreswears the ‘bank-deposit’ pretension of U.S. pedagogy, and overturns any reliance on the ‘cult of expertise’ that capital uses to hide its sins and justify its excesses.  Basically, in this view, we desperately need listening sessions in which the working class gets its chance to speak.

As one commentator summarized, “Freire’s life and work as an educator is optimistic in spite of poverty, imprisonment, and exile.  He is a world leader in the struggle for the liberation of the poorest of the poor: the marginalized classes who constitute the “cultures of silence” in many lands.  On a planet where more than half the people go hungry every day because nations are incapable of feeding all their citizens, where we cannot yet agree that every human being has a right to eat and to be housed, Paulo Freire toils to help men and women overcome their sense of powerlessness to act in their own behalf.”

**David Graeber is brilliant American anthropologist, teaching in Ireland, who reveals indelible connections among morality, money, debt, and governments, connections that ‘free-market’ flacks would have us believe are ‘theoretically’ unnecessary.  Ranging incisively through historical and anthropological evidence, he proves his negative case–that the ‘free market’ is a fraud–decisively, and makes a good start on supporting his positive point, that humans have long cycles defined by alternating uptake of commodity and debt monetary relationships.

Perhaps more in tune with the specific undertaking of this series, he has also written Toward an Anthropological Theory of Value: The False Coin of Our Own Dreams.  Therein, he insists on multidisciplinary analytical tools as the essential accompaniment of addressing the multiple, intersecting crises that our planet full of cousins faces.

Such nerdy fellows as these, and the multitudes of other men and women who refuse to compartmentalize and insist on wide-ranging analysis and honest political economy, can contribute to the capability to discuss the world intelligently.  But ultimately, much larger groups of folks are going to have to jump into the game, if we’re to have a prayer to rescue something for our progeny.  That, above all else, is the lesson of 9/11: Learn and Participate, or die.

Truly, the working people of all the Earth must find a basis for unity–winning a world and losing our chains simultaneously.  Otherwise, we will merit nothing less than the carnage that is already happening and will, more or less steadily, worsen during this period of darkness that could portend a new dawn or might preface a long and possibly endless night for the lucky fuckers here who are busy pissing away our birthright–consciousness and reason–out of a perverse combination of greed and fear and wanton self-righteous indulgence in infantile narcissism.

Understanding 9/11 & Acting on That Insight/PART THREE

In two previous installments, this humble correspondent has provided, first of all, an overall contextualization of how to think about this tenth anniversary.  Secondly, an oh-so-rudimentary–and yet lengthy and too-involved for many readers–examination has appeared here of the inception of the epoch that 9/11arguaby  brought to an end.  The previous post ranged back-and-forth from that sixty-six year old anniversary.

As was the case in Part Two, this humble correspondent’s lens chooses not to home-in on what members of the British general-staff first labeled the ‘Mid-East’.  That John Foster Dulles, not yet head of the State Department, and his brother, Allen Dulles, not yet head of the CIA were crucial to the popularization of the term in the U.S., is useful info.  But such bon mots, and the analysis which flows from them, are not present here.  This does not stem from lack of capacity to tell that part of the tale, nor from a belief that such narrative is unimportant.

Others, however, have covered that ground, as has this humble correspondent in a different context.  In fact, reviewing ‘leftist’ and ‘progressive’ attempts to tell the tale of 9/11, the focus is often more or less exclusively on Israel, Saudi Arabia, and so forth.  This direly imperils the attempt to know what is happening in relation to 9/11; the American empire spans the globe, and ‘changing Mid-East policy,’ reducing our ‘greed for oil,’ and other laudable reforms are no more enough to forestall future carnage than cutting out a lung cancer is an adequate response to a tumorous invasion that has metastasized to brain and liver and bones.

Thus, today, readers will encounter another pair of summations.  The first investigates, again with lightning speed, a significant ‘bump-in-the-road’ that followed by a few decades the ‘ides-of-September’ beginning of our age.  Miraculously enough, this occurrence also took place on September eleventh, though the vast majority of Americans are as ignorant of this dual conjunction of late Summer tragedy as they are of the Federalist Papers, the history of World War One, or any other matter, no matter how crucially relevant to their lives, that is unlikely to be popular in People Magazine, Facebook, or the sports and fashion newscape.

The second element of today’s posting confronts readers with the here-and-now.  As noted in Part One, Earth’s sojourners are headed toward dock at a definable bend of the river, a passage that does not have a pretty ending.  This portion of the series looks at those ends, dealing with plausible, arguably likely, results that will become increasingly inevitable in the lee of 9/11–which, in turn, represents the unfolding of a new chapter in world history–results that might manifest very differently were engaged and capacitated groups of citizens to show up to contend for power.

BODY #2–Adjusting to Contrariety and Contraction, Trying to Finance Miracles on the Installment Plan, Falling Back on the Old Standard–‘Divide & Conquer’

As noted on Sunday, USA elites’ expectations of an extended reign went smoothly enough for a quarter century.  As the Vietnamese intervention unraveled, however, at a cost of plus-or-minus a million butchered Asians, challenges to unilateral imposition of United States proclivities cropped up on every continent.

As one might expect in looking into any complicated phenomenon, this ‘falling-apart’ of one way of doing business had many components.  One could pick and choose among dozens of eventualities, or more, that help to explicate how things worked out as they did, why certain choices seemed attractive or even inevitable.  For purposes of this series, the focus falls on events in the Western hemisphere early in September, 1973.

Imperial Impunity in a State of Denial


Rebellions in Central America had long been heating up, regardless of the self-congratulation that typified U.S. agents’ beliefs about ‘successes’ in undercover operations–murder and mayhem, incorporated–in Guatemala and elsewhere over the years.  At the same time, further South, Chile had evinced the temerity to elect a socialist, Salvador Allende, who preached that he needn’t overthrow capitalism since he had won an election that allowed him to establish a constitutional socialist agenda.

Financiers and industrialists found the idea nauseating that, not only could a daring and savvy revolutionary fighter, such as Fidel Castro, once in a while win a bout with the mightiest nation on earth, but that elections themselves–which were so firmly under control stateside–might soon produce similar effects as had emanated from armed conflict.  In the course of 1973, these upper-crust malcontents made common cause with the higher strata of Chile’s military, which felt similar discontent at the developing radicalism of Chilean society.

In the event, roughly twenty-eight years after the conclusion of the slaughter of WWII, which in turn left the U.S. master of the whole world, the boards of directors and top bureaucrats of government secretariats–who, by the way, were almost to a man(or an occasional woman)exactly the same people–had little choice, in their view of the priorities in play, but to unleash a brutal unhinging of Salvador Allende and his companeras y companeros.   Senor Allende and many others faced summary execution on that day, 9/11/1973.

This gruesome torture and homicidal mania ultimately killed in excess of ten thousand, possibly many more, solidifying the idea in popular thinking  of the ‘desaparicidos,’ those who have simply vanished from the world.  Alberto Bolano, the masterful Chilean novelist and poet, writes about them, pushed from planes, taken on terminal jaunts into deserts and jungles, bundled up and trundled away to eliminate messy evidence of murder.  Thus, the ‘masters-of-the-universe’ in charge of America began a new chapter with thuggish killing many times greater than what took place a decade ago in New York and Washington.

The same sort of scenario, though stretched over more years, happened in relation to Iran–which rid itself of Reza Pahlavi, the storied psycho whom Dulles and Dulles and BP put into place in Persia in ’54–ten years in the aftermath of Chile’s descent into the inferno.  This Southwest Asia imbroglio involved an equally obvious criminal conspiracy, in which President-elect Ronald Reagan–the ‘gipper’ himself–played a formative, “October Surprise,” role.

The Iran-Contra chicanery, a vile and vicious hoax that supplied drug-financed ordnance for the decimation of tens of thousands of Nicaraguans who had demonstrated the insolence of seeking a democracy to replace U.S. corporate henchmen and killers like Anastasio Somoza, involved the highest levels of multiple executive departments of the U.S. Government.  A few, like Oliver North, were convicted of felonies–though North’s ‘sentence’ was “a fine, community service, and probation, and some spent time in prison, though they now reap thousands per appearance on a lecture circuit that celebrates criminal conspiracy in the name of anti-communism.

The invasion of Panama continued this trend, albeit in a slightly different vein.  The removal of Manuel Noriega from power occurred after he threatened to unleash torrents of information about the hypocrisy, venality, and misrepresentation that underpinned both the War on Drugs and our relations with Latin America generally, without doubt clouded now by “corruptions of memory”.

While imperial servants thus throttled one monster of our own making, whose vision in some ways paralleled that of another favorite Frankenstein–Saddam Hussein–U.S. money and policy, funneled as usual through the CIA, gave birth to the slimy upper-class cabal that would inflict the poison of 9/11 twenty-two years later.  Of course, anyone who looks into the matter discerns the facts, yet Americans remain almost utterly ignorant: Osama Bin Laden was a highly-paid contract employee of the U.S., to spread depredation and death against Russia.

“Charlie Wilson’s War” is farcically evil in many of its conveyances, at the same time that the film does ‘spin’ a tale that makes self-serving selections of reality a part of the narrative.  Bin Laden was ‘our guy’ before he was the ‘bad guy.’  For his multi-billion dollar wages, this scion of a Bush-connected oil family saw fit to plot attacks on the house of the ‘hand that fed him.’

This quick accounting deserves a much deeper attention and a complete unveiling of the as-yet ‘classified’ materials that continue to hide big sections of what actually makes up our past.  And many other cases remain to tell, so soon as citizens insist on the real story of their lives.  Finding new ways to practice death-worship and new techniques for perfecting theft and corruption, however, could not forestall the economic wreckage of the 1970’s, which is another characteristic of the new phase of things, for which Salvador Allende and countless others paid with their lives.

Falling Profits, Rising Debts, Declining Fortunes, Increasing Joblessness, Oh My!

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting States, naturally, was in significant part a creature of corporate capital and imperial convenience, in which ‘developing countries’ like Kuwait and Saudi Arabia get far more credit for ‘independence’ than is their due.  Its oil-shock and the fiscal precipice that loomed ahead of what Americans received due encouragement to blame OPEC for, both followed from and furthered a deconstruction of many elements of the famed, and critically important  Bretton Woods agreements, among them Nixon’s ending of the gold standard.

This linking of economic decline and energy politics and massive deficit-spending has proved an unshakeable connection.  M. King Hubbert, ‘Mr. Peak Oil’ himself, early on saw this, although very few commentators, this humble correspondent excepted, note that he ended his life a devoted proponent of solar-energy and other legitimately renewable technologies.

The imposition of nuclear energy–and the continued budgeting of nuclear megadeath–thus has also shown up as a never-to-end aspect of this new age, never mind popular opposition, the potential for the end of human life on Earth as a result, and the unbearable expense of atomic technologies.  Anti-nuclear activists simply cannot explain such ‘nonsense’, since they eschew analyzing the historical and political-economic underpinnings of what they deplore; in similar fashion, they also fail to connect such matters with 9/11, preferring insularity and a narrow focus, no matter how impotent.

In the past forty years, every new ‘creation of wealth,’ about which stock-brokers and other financial accessories of a flailing capitalism crow constantly– the second half of the Reagan reign, under Bill Clinton until the dot.com implosion, and so on–has ineluctably caused a bursting bubble more nauseating and horrifying than the last one.  ‘Tea-Partiers’ and other reactionaries, Ron Paul included, importune about debt and ‘fiat currency’ and the evils of the Federal Reserve, completely missing that their parties and policies and leadership in the past has been at least equally as responsible as any Democrat has been for all such developments.

Capital’s travails extend to every single sector of the economy, from the most stolid to the most ‘innovative’.  Citizens intuit such contradictions and misrepresentation that are everywhere apparent.  Yet they have yet to develop their own capacity, as the working Americans who create all the wealth of the nation, to insist that a worker-friendly policy come to the fore.

As Pete Seeger and millions of adherents have intoned, in Ralph Chaplin’s International Workers of the World song of class solidarity, “It is we who plowed the prairies, built the cities where they trade, Dug the mines and built the workshops, endless miles of railroad laid.  Now we stand outcast and starving ‘mid the wonders we have made, But the union makes us strong.” In place of ‘solidarity forever,’ however, an initial chipping away at the rights of workers and the poor became an avalanche of crushing blows to workers’ perquisite.  The social effects of such developments were, of course, quite predictable.

Unraveling the Social Safety Net and Promoting Internecine Uproar

The War on Drugs is arguably the most successful criminal fraud  in history.  Quite logically, its initiation was exactly congruent both with the open decimation of popular politics in Chile and elsewhere and with the crashing of the vaunted ‘free market’ into repeated implosions of despondency, debt, and decline.

Additionally , the creation of a ‘black market’ that overwhelmingly victimized Blacks  and other poor and minority folks paralleled one case after another of attacking and beginning to dismantle FDR’s ‘New Deal’ policies.  Of course, some of them, for example labor’s right to organize, had already received death sentences, during the prior decades, in the form of ‘right-to-work’ amendments and so forth.

Liberal unemployment benefits and easily obtainable workmen’s compensation became increasingly dicey for many workers in many states.  America, more and more, began to resemble a debtor’s prison .

Moreover, welfare programs came under unparalleled attacks during each of the three Presidencies preceding 9/11.  In many ways, Bill Clinton’s handling of ‘welfare reform’ ended up being the most draconian.

These varied assaults on the viability of working class life–what many folks wrongheadedly and erroneously label ‘middle-class’ existence, which had remained a sine qua non of U.S. politics for four decades after the bruising battles of the 1930’s had occurred–picked up steam and began to eviscerate political support for the socially vulnerable.  At the same time, regulatory responses to structural problems of corporate profiteering–environmental agencies, ‘fairness’ laws of all types for ‘consumers,’ and ‘equal opportunity’ approaches to built-in inequality, became the norm.  Title VI, Title IX, and so forth helped to fuel an inescapable swamp of growing resentment between men and women, White and Black, immigrant and ‘native.’

Despite this threefold ruling-class response to the crises of the 1970’s, however, a return to Kennedy’s ‘Camelot’ or Ike’s ‘good old days’ never transpired.  Instead, as one crisis made way for a new inflationary miracle, each sickening pop of each new bubble led to precipices that apparently verged on unfathomable abysses.  And the people, rather than regularly and compliantly either shutting up or turning on each other, looked like they might find a basis for unity in a new sort of politics –spirituality, technology, and plain old class consciousness played a role here.

As the second millennium of the ‘current era’ came to a close, prospects had rarely appeared bleaker for the captain’s of capital and their cohorts in the manipulation of mass consciousness.  Of course, then the ‘unimaginable’ came to pass, just like in a movie of ‘evildoer terrorists’ who dared to assault the nicest folks on the planet.

Thus, a new groove seemed accessible to big business and its minions–the ‘homeland security’ spigot, a never-ending ‘war-on-terror,’ a blacklist flexible enough to encompass almost anybody who argued.  Those who refuse to recognize these actualities will have only themselves to blame if sufficient numbers survive to the new ‘dark ages’ that could easily loom ahead.  In many ways, such an imposed brutality might resemble Chile in the late 1970’s.

BODY #3–Revealing the iron Fist Inside the Velvet Glove, Preparing for a Dark Eternity

Interestingly enough, twenty-eight years to the day following one of history’s most-ignored mass-murders–carnage in the ‘Southern Cone’, American and United jets purportedly brought down the Twin Towers.  This heart-stopping drama, paradoxically and yet irresistibly, laid the basis for a reassertion of the most nakedly imperialistic elements of U.S. rule.

One can “deal in conspiracy facts,” in the vein of a Michael Ruppert.  His Crossing the Rubicon makes a prosecutor’s case for the notion that everything that transpired ten years ago was the result of a careful and well-thought out criminal enterprise.  ‘Malice aforethought’ is everywhere, in this view.

Or one can merely note how conveniently the prod–of planes that flew into buildings–“fit to a ‘t'” the needs and plans  of a ruling plutocracy steeped in blood and convinced of its own righteous omnipotence.  And people shouted their demands that the government respond to the victimization of Americans with a policy of retributive vengeance.  Either way, the track that ran on after 9/11 followed perfectly the course that the imperialists had long advocated.

Never mind that millions upon millions also protested the drive toward a ‘war without end.’  Corporate media, corporate government, and corporate enterprise blithely turned a mostly blind eye toward all who complained that ‘justice’ ought not to include serial killing of millions of innocents in the name of Americans who would never profit from the process like the capitalists who had designed and sought to implement such a program from the 1970’s on.  The components of this programmatic state-terror are starkly easy to view.

**National Security States and the Termination of ‘Freedom’**

The so-called Patriot Act just stands out as the easiest-to-see example of fascism in America resplendent.  ‘Homeland Security,’ the war on immigrants, and more have become a part of the log-rolling, money-making operations that defenestrate all pretense of ‘liberal’ bourgeois democracy.

**Instant Access to the National Treasury for Militarists, and Their Imprisonment-and-Pharmaceutical-Pacification Allies, and a Disenfranchisement of all Other Constituencies**

Operation Iraqi Liberation(O.I.L.)was too transparent even for an administration as filled with apparent morons as was that of Yale’s stupidest-ever graduate.  However, as the ‘hope’ that Barack-the-Magnificent embodied has proven to be the facade that thinkers such as this humble correspondent promised, anyone who cares to contemplate the matter can see that this dual process–everything for the ‘merchants of death,’ penury for everybody else–has continued and promises to be the sine qua non for many years to come, but for the rise of America’s ‘missing’ working class.

**Endless War and Guaranteed Bad Guys**

The ‘fall’ of communism, even as Hugo and Evo and Lula and Daniel joined Fidel in this hemisphere, and the Chinese showed themselves more astute as bourgeois producers than perhaps they had ever been as ‘Red’ levelers, necessitated a new locus of ‘evil.’  That Osama was ‘our creature’ from the get-go mattered not at all.  That the Iraqis were at odds with the Bin Laden racket was immaterial.  The ‘fix was in,’ and only a populist uprising that seemed like a worse wager than a drunken lotto-pick could turn the tide.

That this long-odds potential is real fits with many facts.  For the most part, though, all of these eventualities stand alone, alienated and isolated from each other.

Post-9/11/2001, Augusto Pinochet, another American darling mass-murderer, finally faced justice at the behest of Spain, which had undergone its own bout of bloodletting–For Whom the Bell Tolls anyone?–in a furious civil war that had at its heart the fascistic notion that pursuit of social democracy deserved a death-sentence.  Pinochet died before he had to confront a final accounting for the crimes that he committed as an accessory to the USA’s empire of blood.

Many Chileans do not remember 9/11 as do a likely majority of U.S. citizens.  One difference between the two groups is that the Chileanas and Chileanos are cognizant of what went down in 2001.  Would that we could say that even a significant fraction of North Americans were similarly aware about the ‘terrorist’ shit-storm, which the United States of America unleashed on thousands upon untold thousands of innocents, for the ‘crime’ of believing in social democracy.

Hundreds of cases like these exist.  Innumerable thousands of such stories go without adequate mediation.  Literally billions of residents of our lovely planet would be on the right side of a choice, were the dialog and democratic process to make such a choice in place.

The list of hopeful signs, separate and generally unconnected, is practically infinite.   Uniting them, in a mass movement for democracy and social justice, is the missing ingredient.  But that’s like saying when we have the butter and eggs and sugar and fixings to create the sweetest feed ever, flour is the missing ingredient for a cake.

Can we stand up, as in the song?  “They have taken untold millions that they never toiled to earn, But without our brain and muscle, not a single wheel can turn.  We can break their haughty power, gain our freedom when we learn That the union makes us strong.”

An organized solidarity, based on thorough and persistent analyses of the realities of this Earth, beckons citizen-workers to save their own lives, the futures of their children, and the possibility of a human community.  Truly, we have only to lose the chains of false consciousness that our ‘superiors’ yank with such legerdemain in enslaving us.

Understanding 9/11 & Acting on That Insight/PART TWO

The first piece of this four-part series offered both a call for collective responsibility and a selective summary of doubts and criticisms of the ‘standard’ responses to 9/11.  Today’s material begins, regarding the horrors of ten years ago, the analysis that is consistently missing from most accounts of the event.

While this humble correspondent is fully capable of accomplishing such a project in an exhaustively thorough fashion, present-day ‘attention-deficit’ readers howl at such a prospect.  “Just stick with the basics, keep it simple, and give us ‘the executive summary.'”  Therefore, what follows remains in every sense a brief, a precis, an overview.

Nevertheless, because the delving here will never fit in a Facebook quip, or prove congruent with Twitter protocols, many readers–the vast majority, in fact–will still cavil that what follows wallows in too much detail and expects folks to partake of too much complexity.  As my mother was fond of saying, “More’s the pity:” such readers deserve the crushing cretins whom their willful ignorance and cavalier inattention bring forth.

Paradoxically, and hilariously really, some of the same critics who moan about the difficulty of engaging this topic in anything other than an utterly superficial way, will look at bits and pieces of what unfolds below and they will shout righteously, “This is way too simplistic!  The reality is a lot more complex.”


To this sort of critique, one can only reply, “Well, duh.”  The present process seeks to walk the line between complete over-simplification and paralyzing analytical detail.  It will thus suffer the conundrums of trying to dig through too much, too quickly.

Other commentators might grumble, “There’s not much about the Palestinians or the Saudis or Afghanistan here; you just can’t leave those things out!”  This humble correspondent begs to differ.  He asks that would-be pupils like him, who insist on a thorough capacity to apprehend our world, read on and see for themselves if the explanatory nexus provided below seems reasonable.

To those happy readers who welcome the challenge that always attends grappling with reality–whether they find my thinking totally off-base, mainly wrong-headed, often insightful, or generally correct–the next step ought to be easy.  Let us continue talking about these matters, with the notion uppermost that citizen participation can only emanate from the learning curve that accompanies dialog.

So saying, the first of three analytical sections appears below. Today’s element deals with the broader historical context and immediate aftermath of what this humble correspondent argues was, sixty-six years ago, the onset of the modern period of time.  It consists of two sub-sections, one looking backward and the other forward, from 1945.

BODY #1–The Genesis and Early Functioning of America’s Plutocratic Predominance

The ides of September, 1945, in some real sense centered on the deck of the Battleship Missouri, marking there both a culmination and an outset.  The Japanese surrender, a version of which the country’s leadership had proffered through the Soviet Union earlier in the Summer, had not precluded the U.S. decision, five weeks earlier, to vaporize plus or minus 200,000 civilians–with many more tens of thousands long-term casualties–at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  However, excluding the Soviets from the peace process, learning operationally how a new weapon performed, and demonstrating far and wide precisely the extent of American potency and ruthlessness were apparently adequate counterweights to the murder of several hundred thousand civilians.

Through a Glass Darkly

This event acts as a window on several previous periods of history.  Through its panes, the observer sees a clear ‘chain-of-title’ that connects this single greatest-act-of-homicide-ever with the origination of one version of the United States.  This is true even though such a development was, at the start, a future, domineering in design and imperious in attitude, about which George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine and many others had warned.

“Conquest is not in our principles.  It is inconsistent with government,” Jefferson wrote to a diplomat in Spain in 1790.  Perhaps naive, clearly  not spoken in the context of a modern-day peacenik, this thinking nevertheless repeatedly typified the nation’s second President.  That this vision now appears nonsensical does not negate the actuality that a program based on peace and mutuality was once the stated goal of leading Americans, who in these thoughts reflected common people.

Through the contradictions inherent in these thinkers’ ideation, and to fulfill the needs of a slaveocracy and merchant elite that equated trade with territorial expansion and military capacity, not to mention that the entire national prospectus depended on a continental-sized theft, the USA embarked on a different course from that highlighted in the ideas of high-minded ‘founding fathers.  The War With Mexico and the extermination of indigenous Americans allowed the nascent ‘manifest destiny’ of the U.S. to flex muscles as yet unable to rule the globe.

Thoreau’s On Civil Disobedience was merely one piece of a significant anti-war and anti-slavery dissent that confronted the move to dominate North America.  This is a tension from which today’s polarization around issues of war and peace is a lineal descendant.

In turn, the Civil War gave the first opportunity to join total war with industry and finance and government, as the North spilled theretofore unparalleled buckets of blood to quash secession and change the platform upon which White supremacy operated, from slavery to Jim-Crow-apartheid.  This iron-triangle–business, money, and the State–has reemerged again and again following the War Between the States, to become the underlying SOP of the U.S. economy and polity for the past seventy years or so.

This dynamic industrial capacity, seeking outlets around the world, countered a depressed economy in the 1890’s by ‘liberating’ Cuba and the Philippines and more, only to inaugurate tyrannical butchery with an American flavor that rivaled or surpassed Spain’s repression.  All of this transpired in the name of ‘opening doors’ to trade and helping benighted populations develop.


World War One, after the next period of fiscal panic, served as the fulcrum point for the supremacy of American industry and finance, as the European bloodletting, financed and supplied by the USA, left the continent in a shambles of upheaval and revolution.  The invasion of the Soviet Union in its infancy was a part of this process too, a “secret war against Bolshevism” precisely aligned with our present day ‘war on terror.’  Though Wilson booted any potential for U.S. world leadership, as J.M. Keynes documents in The Economic Consequences of the Peace, and the League of Nations did not fit with an ever arrogant and exceptionalist ruling-class political culture here, the war and many American leaders then did foresee the coming ‘American Century’ and more.

This is an excellent point in the flow of this series to make an important analytical point.  This essay has not presented much at all about the so-called ‘Mid-East.’  Surely the early U.S. interest in the “shores of Tripoli;” the consistent identification with the way that England’s empire filled the ‘void’ caused by the complete collapse of Ottoman rule, particularly in Iraq, but also in Egypt and elsewhere; the way that the ‘House of Bush’ and the ‘House of Saud’ have relational roots over eighty years old; and multiple other events and developments in and around the Eastern Mediterranean are of crucial consequence in explaining 9/11.

Well, of course that is true.  However, the nearly exclusive emphasis on such aspects of anglo-American and capitalist colonialism, ‘neo-colonialism,’ and so forth is a dangerous mistake, or worse.  The most thorough telling of these tales will never account for the phenomenon of imperialism as a whole; nor or they essential to an accounting of that complex reality of empire.

Instead, they are in the nature of a fetish.  Since those who would look only at these matters–too much ‘favoritism’ for Israel, too much ‘greed’ about oil, not enough ‘balance’ in relation to Palestine and democratic nationalism, and on and on and on–cannot, or do not desire to, explicate a robust account of U.S. imperialism, they substitute what seems a tasty treat in place of the intellectually nutritious diet that is actually essential to conceptual health and fitness about an event like 9/11.

For a robust understanding, one needs a broader view, a more honestly political-economic and world-historical assessment.  A two-time Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, who rose to become the general who headed the United States Marine Corps for nearly a decade, offers citizens grist for folks who desire a deeper and broader concept.

Smedley Butler left the Marine Corps as the Great Depression unfolded.  The narrative that defined his life ensued.  And War Is a Racket shows the sort of depth and breadth that analysts desperately need, though Butler’s story remains one of the little-known keys to American history.

In the book, he spoke what had become his watchwords: “I Was a Gangster for Capitalism.”  Not coincidentally, he spent the last years of his life promoting a wide-ranging and thorough comprehension of capitalist empire, as he watched and spoke about the coming conflagration of 1939-1945.

In this vein, World War Two consolidated  the ‘wasted opportunities’ for totalitarian plutocracy that had evaporated at Versailles.  The ‘Science State,’ in which megadeath and technical knowhow wed, came to a triumphant and ecocidal fruition in the Manhattan Project, which has served as a model ever since for what Dwight Eisenhower warned could easily become a dictatorial “military industrial complex.”

Giving Birth to the Current Context

In addition to its function as a way of revealing the past, the end of WWII also operated as a midwife which assisted in the birth of the modern age, which America’s rulers saw as the beginning of their own ‘thousand year Reich.’  Eric Barnouw, whose Tube of Plenty examines the origins of television in part as an exercise in empire, is one of dozens of thinkers who review and explicate the connection between WWII’s completion and the rise of a USA ‘superpower’ bent on world domination.

As in the previous section, this humble correspondent is not focusing on Southwest Asia and Northern Africa.  The formation of the State of Israel, in which the U.S. played critical parts, the Suez-war, the invasion of Lebanon, and the ‘strategic partnership’ with Israel all contain important information about U.S. empire.

But they are no more the a satisfactory causal and investigative background for comprehending 9/11 than seeing a tumorous mass is a usefully comprehensive way to understand cancer.  The remainder of this section and this series seeks to proffer that adequate analytical background for understanding 9/11 as a natural expression of a ‘racket,’ run by the USA, in which occasional ‘gangland wars’ exact tragic tolls on the majority of citizens, whose lives in a sense depend on their manifesting a fuller knowledge of their world and its causes.

To begin, therefore, the centrality of secrecy in an erstwhile ‘open’ society over and over again showed up as a clear component of this hegemonic America.  In the formation of the Atomic Energy Commission, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the execution of the Rosenbergs for the crime of assisting the inevitable rise of the Soviets as a nuclear force, for example, the arrogation of knowledge to those with ‘clearance‘ became de rigeur.

The suppression of protest and any ideological deviation from the falsely-labeled ‘free market,’ especially if such dissent or divergence honestly supported social democracy, appeared repeatedly as well.  From the vicious depredations of the House Un-American Activities Committee to the crimes of impunity committed by the FBI in its Cointelpro operations to the totalitarian machinations of the ‘Patriot’ Act, an overarching, invasive attack against dissent has transpired in which subterfuge, subversion, and sabotage have been hallmarks of ‘the American way’ of government.

The deployment of innumerable agencies of murder in the guise of ‘foreign aid,’ ‘free information,’ and sophisticated ‘dirty tricks,’ hidden behind various covers, also characterized this period of time.  While any honest study must admit to this American inclination, what William Appleman Williams called The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, the overall ignorance about this palpable proclivity continues to astound those with even a sliver of knowledge.

Guatemala was one of the first to fall to American hit-men and thuggery. ‘Sanitized’ versions of original ‘intelligence’ plans are now accessible.  That such blithe employment of homicidal conspiracy to advance the interests of business, for example United Fruit, led to tens or hundreds of thousands of later killings, seldom becomes a part of the ongoing discussion.

Practically simultaneous with the skullduggery on the Central American isthmus, British Petroleum and the CIA joined hands to install a psychotic killer in Tehran, in place of an elected President who believed Iran’s border with Russia made economic ties useful and necessary.  Of course, any critique of contemporary Iran makes zero sense without the contextualization of this point.  Equally obvious should be the connection between condemnations of ‘terrorism’ so steeped in hypocrisy that they would be laughable if attempted by a child.

Among the dozens of additional instances of such murderous, yet hidden, imperial trickery, none caused more carnage or involved greater complications than did the quagmire of death that the United States plowed into in Southeast Asia.  The Pentagon Papers, as voluminous in its day as Wikileaks is now, is merely the tip of a large iceberg that demonstrates the imperial purpose of U.S. mayhem(v) inflicted on the Vietnamese.

In what might well have been the piece de resistance of cloak-and-dagger politics, had Fidel Castro been more like Salvador Allende, whom this series will discuss on the morrow, the U.S.’s ongoing attempts to unseat socialism in Cuba might have been another ‘masterful’ lesson in the art of mass homicide, instead of representing a prime failing of U.S. policy.  In passing, the fanatical obsession with ridding the world of one of its heroes has also suggested the threat-level that American business perceives in any attempt to brook its gaming of the Earth.

The tiny slice presented here of the evil and terror that have typified U.S. foreign policy makes a point about a period of time.  After WWII, the U.S. conducted such operations with an aplomb that befitted a nation with no rival that could even begin to demonstrate the same resources and reach.

A comprehensive examination of like cases would provide a litany of death and destruction that would make the consequences of a pair of jets’ flying into a couple of skyscrapers seem like a drop of blood in a lake of gore.  This is a harsh assessment.  However, it is a conclusion well-supported by a truthful accounting of what began with the end of the last worldwide bloodbath, from which the United States of America emerged as global kingpin.

Thus, MacArthur’s triumph aboard the Missouri offers a way of looking backward to the origins of the military industrial complex, the national security state, and the Uranium economy, among other things.  These roots flourished in the soil of the British empire and matured in the identification of capital with “open-door” trade policies and a complete accession to the development of the maximum industrial-war-making capacity imaginable.

As well, the treaty provides a way of tracing the development of the terroristic subterfuge that came to mark U.S. policy for the next several decades. The formation of the CIA, the overthrow of multiple legitimate governments, the promotion of war and terror as part of the enterprise of freedom, these and other ‘dirty tricks’ flow ineluctably from the ink on the peace treaty with Japan.

For two decades or so, U.S. leaders seemed almost as “untouchable” as the lawmen in the T.V. show, whose ‘whatever-it-takes’ methodology for derailing bad guys also rationalized the anti-communist, pro-imperialist, faux-free-market, profiteering ventures of U.S. rulers.  As the 1960’s yielded the ’70’s, however, and defeats such as in Vietnam, assassinations and upheaval exploded in the streets, troubling signs of economic stagnation affected most economic enterprise, and challenges to U.S. supremacy seemingly emerged from every direction, a transition became irresistible.

A Sizeable Dixie Rally for Working Class Solidarity

Georgia’s proportion of unionized workers is four percent, tied for forty-eighth and close to the bottom of the heap in the U.S., which is close to the bottom among nations that consider themselves ‘advanced’ in living standards, technology, and social conditions generally.   As a result, Georgia’s wage earners make less money, have fewer benefits, and generally confront lower living standards.  Few places on the continent would benefit more than the Peach State from a strong drive to increase trade-union representation.

Thus, the rally at Georgia’s state Capitol yesterday, called by the State’s AFL-CIO, the Atlanta Labor Council, and other organizations, was a heartening sign.   On the steps of Georgia’s capitol in Atlanta, in the shadow of Tom Watson’s commanding presence, five hundred or more union members, community activists, students, and various other citizens—a widely representative sample that split fifty-fifty between men and women, was roughly equally White as Black, with a smattering of Hispanic and Native American advocates—stood up and shouted “Stop the War on Workers. “  Peace groups, revolutionary proponents, and folks just generally angry at a system that rewards greed and privilege with money and perquisites while it squeezes everyone else out of any semblance of rights and benefits that groups like unions have fought hard to attain.

Throughout the United States, the courage and strength of thousands of workers in Wisconsin has given inspiration and leadership to wage-earners elsewhere.  At times, the messages of these stalwart souls, braving frigid conditions and, as often as not, a media blackout, or at least a diminution of their struggle and a distortion of their perspective in the press, is exactly what working people need to hear.  “This Land Is Your Land” rings true with class-conscious solidarity and an uncompromising sense of democracy that must guide those who want decent lives.

Those who attended this gathering today articulated these and other points powerfully.   “Don’t let this be a one time rally,” said one preacher near the end.  ”The people inside that building(the capitol) need to know that we’ll be back, we won’t leave, we’re not going away.”

Steve Henson, a progressive-Democratic State Senator, asked, “Why is it that all sorts of associations are OK to come and lobby us in the legislature, but lobbying for working people is not OK?”

Another legislator spoke of her five year old grandson ‘leading the way.’  He wanted to pack up to go and join the fight in Wisconsin.  She continued, factually, “If you can take a vacation; if you can take a sick day with pay; if you have a right to overtime pay; you have the labor movement to thank.”

In addition to the speakers at the front—a mix of union leaders, Democratic politicians, and religious and community activists—lively outbursts from the vociferous and boisterous crowd were constant, as if a massive labor beast, wild and fierce, were roaming the street.  “The people, united, will never be defeated!”  “Hey, hey!  Ho, ho!  Union busters got to go!!”

These and other chants and catcalls were directed across the intersection of Washington Street and Martin Luther King Drive to the at most one hundred Tea Party counter-protesters whose sole coherent message seemed to be ‘Leave Poor Governor Walker alone.’

One of the savviest local politicians in America, Billy Mitchell, capsulized the meaning of the gathering when he said, “You always get exactly the government that you deserve,” a take-off on Frederick Douglass’ famous take on power.  He continued, wry smile breaking out, “I promise you that the people inside this building are paying attention to you out here, and it will make a difference.”

A teacher’s representative, speaking of the 100,000+ American Association of Educators and American Federation of Teachers members in Wisconsin, was fierce in his call for action in Georgia.  “The time has come to take back America and democracy from the billionaire’s boy club.”  He was referring to the now incontrovertible behind-the-scenes manipulation of the Koch brothers, in Wisconsin and elsewhere, and a working class boycott of Koch Enterprises that is coming.

A militant Black woman’s voice rang out from the podium.  “A threat to justice in Ohio is a threat to justice in Georgia…and we have to remember that this is not about us, it’s about our children and our grandchildren, and if we want them to live decent lives, we have to stand up now.”

Another speaker vowed to follow through on this call.  “We have to stand up on the capitol steps of every state in the union; we’re gonna stand up and we’re gonna fight, and we’re gonna win.  Yes, we can!  Yes, we can!”  And the crowd roared its approval as it took up the chant in an electrifying shout into the sun-dappled Capitol building.

Karla Drenner, another Democrat who considers herself progressive, spoke of her own family union roots.  She continued, “Instead of sending jobs to China, we need to helping out the working people here.”  Her voice rising in shrill indignation, she vowed that nothing would stop the persistence of a united people.  “You will hear us in the governor’s mansion; you will hear us in the legislature; and you will hear us on the street, because we are not going to go away.”

From the sidewalk, one fired-up protester rallied his misguided cohorts across the street. “Worker power is democratic power!  Worker power is democracy.”

Another young teacher from the Northern Atlanta suburbs where many of the ‘Tea-Partiers’ keep their cupboards stocked with loot, lamented the implications of their message.  “Let’s go back to workin’ 80 hours a week; let’s go back to child labor, your ten year old can get a job.  That’s what they’re saying if they say get rid of unions.  They’re just completely misguided.”

Everywhere, in solidarity with the specifics of the fight in Wisconsin, the message was insistent.  “Kill that bill!  Kill that bill!  Kill that bill!” an unending litany of ‘we’ve had enough, we’re not going to take any more, we’re drawing a line in the sand.’

Across the street, meanwhile, the so-called ‘Tea-Party’ counter-protesters sang Sha-na-na.  Their message continues to back the reactionary idea that, at exactly the same time that working-class tax dollars give trillions to the hyper-rich, working people who are barely making ends meet should have even less of a livelihood available.  They sometimes also support the explicitly fascist notion that unions should not be legal, that labor should have few or no rights compared to money and property.

Matt Stoller wrote in a similar vein in his article, “The Liquidation of Society Versus the Global Labor Revival.”  His insights command attention from anyone who has a sense of self-preservation or hope for the future.

The Southeast Review of Media, Culture, and Politics does not practice a journalism built on the pretense of objectivity.  SERMCAP without qualification supports democratic and social justice as necessary components of a decent world.  This humble correspondent and his partner wore signs that vocalized this point of view at the rally.  One pair, modest sandwich board draped over THC’s shoulders, said, “The Problem Is Not Democrats Versus Republicans—Corporate Masters Own Them Both,” & “The Problem Is Organizing a Working-People’s-Power Party.”  The second duo offered these lines.  “The Current Crisis Affects Not Just Union Workers or Government Workers, but ALL Workers,” & “Big Business Disempowers All the World’s Working People by Dividing Them From Each Other—Solidarity is the Only Answer.”

SERMCAP insists that only through worker empowerment, involvement, and leadership can the faintest prayer of social equality come to pass.  Thus, the events in Wisconsin, and yesterday in Atlanta, like the recent outpouring of activism in the Middle East, are first steps only.  Without a more completely defined agenda, one that is both resolutely local and irrepressibly internationalist, one that puts working peoples’ rights and power at the forefront, one that sets aside all jingoistic nationalism and false patriotism, all of the rallies and songs and hopes of solidarity won’t amount to much that working people can take to the bank or put on the stove.

Given such a paradigm, the time has come for a grassroots sociopolitical movement that honestly contends for power.  The fake ‘two-party system’ doesn’t come close to achieving this possibility.  Working people not only deserve better, but they also will gain little or nothing unless they organize and strive to gain, for themselves, of themselves, and by themselves, a conscious leadership role in the manifestation of a transformed society, a society in which property and wealth cannot overturn the social and economic rights and needs of working people.