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Eve's Review

Maybe Civilization Was a Mistake, After All

Work, Work, Work

Michael Yates

Monthly Review Press, 216 pages

$19

 

 

Eve Ottenberg

Civilization was possibly a mistake. It led to capitalism five hundred years ago, and that was unquestionably, absolutely a mistake. Capitalism now consumes the planet. It expands like a metastasizing cancer over the face of the earth, heating the atmosphere to unbearable levels and at the current rate may well destroy our world within another hundred years. We would do well to replace it with something that won't render the globe uninhabitable. But what? Well, of the 200,000 years that humans have dwelled on this planet, 95 percent of that time we were hunter gatherers. We had better health, greater longevity than our agricultural descendants who ruled for millennia before the current, unfortunate arrangement, less patriarchy, lived without direct authority over us, and, critically, we didn't ravage the earth.

 

Michael Yates' new book, Work, Work, Work references this human hunter-gatherer ancestry, though he would clearly like to replace capitalism with socialism, rather than return to the wisdom of our nomadic forebearers. But we may not have much choice. From my perch in the peanut gallery, I'd like to note that socialism is about as likely as scavenging for roots and bark. Global brainwashing against socialism and communism may only have succeeded in the west, but that's the place responsible for belching millions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere (though China has lately caught up fast) and thus heating it so badly that polar ice caps melt. Ask an ideologue like House speaker Nancy "We're All Capitalists Now" Pelosi and you'll find her enthusiasm for socialized medicine about on a par with her eagerness to forage in the woods for her dinner.

 

And then there's senator Marco "Bomb the Chinese Aircraft Carriers" Rubio. He's ready and rip-roaring to go for World War III, which, according to latest estimates would promptly starve over five billion people to death via nuclear winter, and leave the rest of us…hunting in the forest for fiddlehead ferns to eat, while consulting our wild food guidebooks about which mushrooms are not poisonous. Maybe we could just delete the nuclear war step and skip straight to a hunter-gatherer culture. There would be a lot less yellow-peril, racist razzmatazz, thus disappointing GOP demagogues, though certainly many more survivors.

 

But clearly Rubio's on board with zipping back in time to our hunter gatherer past, it's just how he plans to get us there that's objectionable; indeed, I'm sure he'd prefer nuts, tubers and rhizomes to the socialized state picking up the tab for housing, medicine and education. But actually, in any event, he doesn't have to worry. He probably won't be foraging for immature cattail spikes in wetlands. High-ranking congressmembers likely can claim cushy berths in the government's nuclear apocalypse bunker and feast on evaporated milk and canned corn for a few years, something the rest of us proles will only be able to dream of as we pick the few berries that can grow with sunlight limited by nuclear winter and gather dandelions for salads. So no wonder Rubio wants war with China. Unlike eight billion other people, he had no skin in the game (whose bright idea was it so send him to congress in the first place?)

 

Probably the same imbeciles who voted for the current grand pooh-bah of nincompoops, senator Marsha "Bring on Nuclear Armageddon" Blackburn, who recently informed us that Taiwan "declared their independence." If that had happened, so would a Chinese invasion of the island and the inevitable futile, idiotic and radioactive U.S. military response. "Taiwan has its own president, military and constitution. It's obvious it is an independent country," according to Blackburn, who also thumped her chest and announced that "Xi Jinping doesn't scare me."

 

But this bluster has nothing on the imbecility of Blackburn's grasp of the past, worthy of any ignoramus elected to the U.S. congress: "China has a 5,000-year history of cheating and stealing. Some things will never change…" said Blackburn who represents a country that recently stole $7 billion from Afghanistan, over $300 billion from Russia and loots Syrian oil even as you read these words. Meanwhile China alarms U.S. financial bigwigs by setting a virtuous example that doubtless nauseates them, namely forgiving loans to 17 African nations. Who's the thief again? Don't ask fact-free Blackburn. Her moronic pronunciamentos garnished her recent adventure in Taiwan, one of several by U.S. members of congress in the wake of Nancy Pelosi's deliberately provocative jaunt there earlier this summer. Apparently, the view among elected U.S. nitwits is that Joe "Russian Roulette" Biden is too lethargic when it comes to his various oaths to support Taiwan militarily, so they outdo each other, more vigorously flirting with atomic apocalypse. Voters who sent these stupids to Washington generally deserve what they get, but even those who backed Blackburn don't deserve the three years of no sunlight that the nuclear winter she promotes will cause.

 

By contrast, you've got to admire socialists like Yates. They stick to the truth and denounce war wherever it comes. His new book takes apart and then demolishes any myth any idiot might harbor about the dignity of work under capitalism. It also recognizes how capitalism poisons the planet. "Radical change is not utopian; it is necessary," he writes. "No liberal or social democratic program has any chance of avoiding our annihilation." That's annihilation from climate change, folks, which, if you haven't heard, is killing us. Currently it drowns people in floods or kills them with heat prostration or those once-in-a-millennium, now routine, freak weather events. But remember, the climate catastrophe is just gearing up. And Yates doesn't even broach the potential global nuclear fiasco of a U.S. proxy war with Russia or an out-and-out one, like Republican lunatics want, with China. The radical socialism Yates says we need presupposes going completely green and ditching all weapons of mass destruction.

 

And who spearheads this radical socialism? Not only the world's three to four billion workers, but also the two billion global peasant farmers, the many unemployed, who knows how many homemakers, everyone who scrapes by through participating in the informal economy, all 1.46 billion of them, and indigenous hunter gatherers, in short, the vast, humongous majority of humanity. And since capitalism so promiscuously scarred the earth and its people – billions, remember, dispossessed by this economic and political arrangement – any new anti-capitalist order would end private ownership of the means of production, including land.

 

Yates lists other arrangements that ideally would cease: "Production for profit. The obsession with endless economic growth. The exploitation of wage labor. The expropriation of peasant land, urban and rural common spaces, the labor and bodies of women, Black bodies, and all forms of patriarchy and racism. The private plunder of the natural world. Imperialism." And more. Perusing this laundry list of things that gotta go, it's impossible not to conclude that billionaire oligarchs won't give all that up without a fight. Workers in the plutocrat-infested pampas of the United States, already beleaguered, have a gargantuan battle ahead of them.

 

"It takes boldness and courage to attack capital." Yates writes. "But attack we must. This system is a human disaster, and it proves itself every day to be incapable of satisfying our most basic needs." Instead, it poisons the earth and renders billions of people destitute, those who somehow scramble to survive on a few dollars or less per day. "The implication of everything said in this book is that the working class must change the world. There is no choice." Because certainly capital ain't about to do it.

 

The rich benefit from the current ecological and economic catastrophe. They don't care if oil spills pollute indigenous lands in some faraway corner of the globe or if a million child laborers languish in mines, factories and farm fields around the world. And remember, even for adults, work "is a soul-destroying lethal experience." That's because "most workers do hard and dangerous labor, wearing out their bodies every minute they toil, fearing the day that they will be discarded." That includes those one million kids. But plutocrats don't give a hoot. They've got theirs. And the same, Yates says, holds true of the comfortable middle class in places like the United States.

 

Meanwhile, in other parts of the world, things just go from bad to worse. Take, for instance, Ukraine, destroyed in every way by its association with the west. Well, they've just banned labor unions. Another great western neoliberal idea. On August 23 came the news that Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky ratified Law 5371. As a result, trade unions no longer protect workers, who have lost the right to bargain collectively. So in addition to serving as cannon fodder for the west's insane proxy war with Russia, ordinary Ukrainians are now the hapless victims of the class war, of neo-liberalism unchained and gone wild.

 

As anyone can see, the world's billionaire oligarchs remain busy waging that class war wherever they can. And they would undoubtedly prefer to destroy the world than sacrifice one iota of their privilege. Something they are completely capable of doing. If not nuclear war with Russia or China, our elites will undermine any radical change to prevent the climate catastrophe that is happening now, much faster than even the most pessimistic scientists predicted.

 

Aside from capitalism's climate catastrophe, there are other very good reasons to end this sadistic arrangement. Businesses use employees like machines, Yates observes. "It is profoundly anti-human. It is not just that employers exploit labor. Rather, they consume workers, and, in the process, deaden them. And when no more can be taken by capital, shells of human beings are simply disposed of and fresh new ones put to work."

 

So capitalism burns through the natural world, burns through workers, and, let's not forget, inflates a deadly, multi-billion dollar weapons industry. "The market will, absent powerful countervailing forces, not only reproduce inequalities, but deepen them, as we have seen so clearly in the United States over the past fifty years," Yates writes. "The greater the inequality of income within a state, the higher the mortality rate." This is so because "it's not the ceo and the managers who suffer depression, hypertension and heart attacks from being too long on the job. Instead, it's the assembly-line worker, the secretary, and the kitchen laborer." And this, Yates adds, is only in the richest country. The injuries of class "get truly demonic as we move outside the rich nations and into the poor ones." And the billionaires in those poor countries live like kings.

 

In the United States, only a few radical unions remain, having somehow weathered red-baiting vilification and anti-communist hysteria back in the mid-twentieth century. One of those radical unions, the United Electrical Workers led the struggle for workers' rights during covid. At the pandemic's start, Yates quotes UE leaders, "our union…UE has called on all workers, both our members and nonunion workers, to stand up and fight." This was back when the virus was new and our rulers not yet blasé about compelling employees to expose themselves to a lethal disease. Now such exposure is expected. Workers are thus asked, more openly than usual, to die for capitalism and the moneybags its smooth operation enriches.

 

The thorniest problem is how to wrest control from the capitalist aristocracy. Yates lists three important elements in any worker movement: direct action, labor organization and political effort. "Direct action is often characterized, even on the left, as wanton rioting, without rhyme or reason. This is never the case." In this context, Yates cites Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter. He also several times mentions the impressive community services performed in the 1960s and 1970s by the Black Panther Party. These three movements also share a sharp-eyed assessment of the enemy, whose iniquity is perhaps best recorded in another book by a committed leftist, Eduardo Galeano's Open Veins of Latin America.

 

Never underestimate the wickedness of the rich. They'd rather bequeath us mushroom clouds than give up one yacht. Me, I think it's time we started learning to identify our wild, edible plants. Sauteed thistle roots for dinner, anyone?

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Elites Use Identity Politics To Wage Class War

Elite Capture

Olufemi Taiwo

Haymarket Books, 157 pages

$16.95

 

 

Eve Ottenberg

Identity politics got a bad name in recent years. This happened because the Democratic party abandoned its base of ordinary working people for Wall Street, and as it did so, made a big fuss about its progressive cred by appointing token women, Blacks, gay and trans people to various high perches. But not surprisingly, working people of all colors and genders concluded the Dems didn't care about them anymore and either abandoned voting, or masochistically defected to the GOP, which meanwhile started having a field day treating Dem tokenism as proof of the Great Replacement in action.

 

So everyone got riled up about identity politics, while the one identity never mentioned, and possibly the most important, though assiduously elided in the public sphere, is class identity. Both political parties ignored working people's economic concerns, to the delight of their mega-corporate donors. The public's desire for single-payer health care, increased minimum wage, affordable higher education, decent infrastructure, an end to foreign military adventures and other such social benefits couldn't be ditched fast enough by Dems and a GOP both utterly beholden to Big Money.

 

The role of identity politics in any sane attempt to fight back against the power of obscene wealth is discussed in Elite Capture, a new book by Olufemi Taiwo. It asks at the outset, what is identity politics? It is, according to Dominic Gustavo at the World Socialist Web Site and quoted by Taiwo, "an essential tool utilized by the bourgeoisie to maintain its class domination over the working class by keeping workers divided along racial and gender lines." Hard to argue with that. But then alternatively, Taiwo asks, is identity politics "as embodied in critical race theory, a dangerous ideology and threat to the established order that the powers that be aim to stamp out?"

 

Possibly it is both. But personally, I fail to perceive how this ideology menaces an established order that its identity-activists have unctuously and sedulously wooed. Worse, identity politics weakens worker solidarity, because it never mentions class. And class very much divides the population. There's even a class war, being waged by a vast clan of financial titans against the rest of us hoi poloi. Class consciousness usually leads to class war, but identity politics is a different animal, a chameleon happy on either side of the class divide, and quite noticeably eager to seduce the rulers of swankier realms. It pays to keep a watchful eye on this slippery ideology.

 

At the same time, however, one might leave the door open and say that identity politics could conceivably threaten the status quo. Conceivably. And it has certainly helped win critical rights, from the female vote to affirmative action to gay marriage and more. But in recent years, overall, in practice it rarely menaces the established order and, as far as anyone can tell, has been pretty much co-opted by our rulers. So overall, the World Socialist Web Site seems to hit closer to the truth. Identity politics splintered the working class, and it's hard to see how to undo the damage.

 

What does elite capture of identity politics mean in practice? Well, Taiwo writes, "when elites run the show, the interests of the group get whittled down to what they have in common with those at the top, at best." So feminists supporting Hillary Clinton might fret about glass ceilings, while female home health aides just worry about making the rent. When these two cohorts join in politics, the concerns of women high up on the career ladder dominate. "At worst," Taiwo continues, "elites fight for their own narrow interests using the banner of group solidarity." Again, to use the HRC example, at worst women might find their feminism pressed into support of, say, U.S. imperialism, toppling foreign governments that are too left-wing (Manuel Zelaya's Honduran presidency) and advocating the murder of leaders disliked by their feminist icons in Washington – think Libya's Gaddafi.

 

Or say a young progressive congresswoman like Alexandria Ocasio Cortez goes to Washington, having campaigned on Medicare For All and a Green New Deal. But well, there's House speaker Nancy Pelosi, and the new congresswoman soon learns that it's "my way or the highway" with centrist Dems. And so, before too long, she's voting for billions of dollars for military aid to Ukraine, which also happens to enrich puissant defense contractors. And then maybe she yammers about freedom in Taiwan, as the military industrial complex expects her to do, while subsidized health care and the climate catastrophe slip ever further into the shadows. So what's left? She stays passionate when it comes to bathrooms and the latest me-too tumult, but really, look at the priorities here. They seem to be that she can continue to flaunt her leftwing bona fides while ignoring other issues that just so happen to be life and death matters. And not just ignoring. In the case of Washington's potentially globally lethal proxy war in Ukraine, she chooses the side of mass death over screaming for peace negotiations, which was, after all, the sort of thing she was elected for.

 

Thus goes subordination to the elites. But Taiwo's new book, at times elliptical, highlights other oddities of identity politics. It makes clear that leftists spend far too much energy virtue signaling and not enough out there, organizing. This distracts from constructive politics. As Taiwo observes, when Flint, Michigan residents noticed that their water smelled and was yellowish brown, "in that moment what they needed was not for their oppression to be 'celebrated,' 'centered' or narrated in the newest academic parlance…What Flint residents really needed, above all, was to get the lead out of their water." Celebrating and centering amount to deference politics. While they may have their time and place, clearly that's not when there's a crisis. Constructive politics, Taiwo argues, deals with the problem: it gets the lead out of the water.

 

It's ridiculous that this even needs to be spelled out. But so many leftists waste so much time with well-intentioned virtue signaling that it's no wonder so little gets done. And that's a problem. Because there are mammoth issues out in the world that people need to address, like, to repeat that which cannot be repeated enough, the class war, and why several billion ordinary people are losing that class war.

 

After all, ours is a world in which "1.6 billion people live in inadequate housing (slum conditions) and 100 million are unhoused, a full third of the human population does not have reliable drinking water." Taiwo also cites an example from Africa, where "82 million Nigerians…live on less than a dollar a day." These people's carbon footprints are negligible. Yet they're the ones climate change, caused by rich countries, will kill first – with famine due to drought, or drowning in floods, or expiring from heat stroke. The only way to change this is to organize, not to quarrel over pronouns.

 

So yes, continue with identity politics and virtue signal if you feel so compelled. But try to keep the outcomes of politics in mind. Of course currently raging right-wing persecution of trans people is horrible and should be opposed, and of course trans rights are human rights, but the right to an abortion is a woman's right, as is a female prisoner's right not to be raped by her trans-woman cellmate, and if we spend all our time fidgeting and hedging over such matters, whose truth is obvious, and fighting about them, we're doing the enemy's work for him. Because as I've heard labor leaders holler at union meetings – "The enemy is strong!" Carping at feminists for using the word "woman" just makes the enemy stronger. And so does pretending that the first Black president was anything other than a tool of the billionaire oligarchy. The elites have "a big [slightly diverse] club," as comedian George Carlin said, "and you ain't in it!" And you ain't in it for one main, rock-solid reason: you belong to the wrong class.

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Abolish the CIA

Scorpion's Dance, The President, the Spymaster, and Watergate

Jefferson Morley

St. Martin's Press, 326 pages

$29.99

 

 

Eve Ottenberg

Just about every lousy U.S. foreign policy escapade from the 1950s to the late '70s traces back to the CIA. From the catastrophic1953 coup of Iranian president Mohammad Mossadegh, the 1954 regime change of Guatemalan president Jacobo Arbenz for daring to step on United Fruit's toes, the Bay of Pigs fiasco, the many, some of them quite ridiculous, attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro, South Vietnamese leader Ngo Dinh Diem's demise, a possible right-wing Cuban link to the JFK assassination, the murder of Chilean general Rene Schneider and the overthrow of Chilean president Salvador Allende, the Watergate break-in and much, much more – the CIA's fingerprints were all over these crimes. It got so bad that two high-level, echt-centrist government officials called for scrapping the CIA: senator Patrick Moynihan in 1995 and president Harry Truman in 1963. They were right.

 

A new book proves it. Jefferson Morley's Scorpion's Dance, the President, the Spymaster and Watergate, details decades of CIA funny-business, and there was loads of it. Indeed, if you ever wonder how the world got to be such a mess and who's responsible, read this book. And there's no reason to believe the nonsense has stopped or that somehow, despite the Taliban, the CIA is just quietly minding its own business and watering its poppy fields in Afghanistan.

 

No. The CIA trained terrorists throughout the greater Middle East and Nazis in Ukraine. They're still at it, though their adventures on Russia's border make for by far the most deadly possible disaster in a history riddled with them, for the simple reason that the Russia caper could go nuclear at any time. From the way they've behaved, it's almost as if that's what the CIA wants. If Biden can control the agency and avert nuclear winter and radioactive global mass death, I'll be very impressed.

 

Morley's book focuses on the relationship between president Richard Nixon and CIA director Richard Helms. Their somewhat uncomfortable, edgy teamwork led to debacles domestic and foreign. With Nixon's approval, Helms illegally spied on the antiwar movement. Meanwhile the CIA-assisted murder of general Schneider – because he supported a civilian transfer of power and would not undo Allende's legitimate presidency, something which profoundly affronted the testy pride of Nixon and his advisor Henry Kissinger – encouraged fascist killers to go after Allende himself. It signaled that the U.S. not only would not stop their excesses, but also supported them.

 

 And Chile did not even threaten any vital American interest. It was of international insignificance to Washington. But Morley observes: "Chile mattered as Cold War theater." And the U.S. stole the show. The anti-Allende coup provided a stellar performance of how Nixon and Helms deployed the CIA to the ruin of freedom, fairness, democracy and decency. It ushered in decades of overt fascism under Pinochet. But U.S. elites considered this worth it. Managing the public perception that Washington was winning the cold war remained paramount, and the gaudier the exhibition, the better.

 

This was and remains typical. Washington believes it must be seen as winning and its enemies as utterly depraved. "There is no disputing that the idea of staging a spectacular crime," Morley writes, "and blaming it on Cuba as a way of overthrowing Castro was in circulation at the highest levels of the Pentagon and CIA in mid-1963." Sound familiar? Substitute Russia for Cuba and Putin for Castro and you'll see little has changed in 50 years. The CIA owns a very skimpy playbook, peppered almost exclusively with failed strategies, but this failure never seems to stop the agency from repeating the same idiocy, hoping for a different result – Einstein's definition of insanity. And by that rule, Helms was one of the craziest of all. "Helms, like Nixon, favored action. Communism, they believed, had to be resisted everywhere." Even with the manifest fiasco of Vietnam, Helms and Nixon still doubled-down on the strategy. Now, communism in the twenty-first century may be in retreat, but the fanatical, paranoid sense of a threat to America saturates Washington's upper echelons. That combined with other governmental maladies is toxic.

 

"One of the chief legacies of Nixon and Helms was cynicism," Morley writes, and later of the American people: "In the absence of a credible explanation of Kennedy's death, mistrust of government exploded and conspiratorial thinking was legitimized." And who's to say it wasn't legitimate? The CIA, the mafia, the anti-Castro Cubans all hated Kennedy, and their skullduggery all intertwined. Indeed, Robert Kennedy assumed some such lethal combo killed his brother, but Morley notes, he could not act on it until he became president. He very conveniently didn't. And the JFK assassination was swept under the rug. As Morley writes of French president Charles De Gaulle: "Not long after Dallas, he predicted that American officialdom would shy from investigating the enigmatic crime of Dallas. 'They don't want to know,' De Gaulle said. 'They don't want to find out. They won't allow themselves to find out.'"

 

The late 1970s Frank Church congressional committee investigation of CIA and FBI abuses marked the zenith of government efforts to drag these shadowy criminal enterprises into the light. It's been steeply downhill and a plunge into darkness ever since. After 9/11 came the insane war on terror, when things got much worse. With carte blanche from the George "Mission Accomplished" Bush administration, the CIA tortured innocent people at black sites all over the world. These pointless and gruesome atrocities were never prosecuted. In fact, Barak "I'm Good at Killing People," Obama deliberately swept them under the rug and matters only deteriorated during his reign. But they plummeted to rock bottom under Joe "Russian Regime Change" Biden: Thanks to CIA and U.S. special forces in Ukraine, humanity gets to peer over the abyss at nuclear annihilation.

 

According to the New York Times June 25, "some CIA personnel have continued to operate in [Ukraine] secretly, mostly in the capital, Kyiv, directing much of the vast amounts of intelligence the United States is sharing with Ukrainian forces." Because the Russians, of course, know this, it is a recipe for nuclear Armageddon. If the CIA pulls that off, that will be its worst atrocity yet, far, incomparably worse than its possible involvement in Kennedy's assassination.

 

Biden proclaims he wants to avoid World War III, but his actions tell a different story. This is something for which he will pay at the polls in 2022 and 2024, but that is cold comfort. We could all be dead by then on account of his nuclear brinksmanship. "As usual it appears that the administration wants to have it both ways: assure the American people that it is being 'restrained' and that we are not 'at war' with the Russians, but doing everything but planting a U.S. soldier and flag inside Ukraine," wrote Kelley Vlahos in the June 27 Responsible Statecraft. The Quincy Institute's "George Beebe…wonders if Washington even knows how far it is going here." It probably doesn't and thus plays an iniquitously cavalier game with the fate of humanity. Who's rolling the dice in that game? The CIA of course, just the sort of amoral gang dedicated to its own perpetuation regardless of cost that you don't want anywhere near the borders of a nuclear-armed nation.

 

This is the agency Helms bequeathed us: Violent, criminal, secretive, lawless, it is an agglomeration of murderers and torturers who rampage across the globe with impunity. Former CIA director Mike Pompeo boasted of the agency that "We lied, we cheated, we stole." Those, unfortunately, are merely the agency's misdemeanors. It's the felonies that should worry you. The CIA not only collaborates with Nazis, it trains them. And it does so right under the nose of a country deeply, tectonically offended by Nazism and, it happens, armed with more nuclear warheads than the U.S. So currently, the CIA flirts with the ultimate genocide, the extinction of the human species. It is an instrument of evil incarnate. Dissolve it.

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How the Genocide Rolls

An Enemy Such as This

David Correia

Haymarket Books, 222 pages

 

 

 

Eve Ottenberg

When Navajo activist Larry Casuse kidnapped Emmet Garcia, mayor of Gallup, New Mexico in March 1973, he certainly knew he could die. And he soon did. After police shot Casuse, they posed grinning over his body, displaying their guns, like big game hunters. This would not have surprised Casuse, well versed, as he was, in white barbarity toward Natives and indifference to their suffering. In fact, he resorted to kidnapping the mayor, because he had exhausted all other remedies to solve a fatal problem for his fellow Navajos: Besides being mayor, Garcia co-owned a bar, the Navajo Inn, frequented by indigenous people. Drunk, they died in droves of exposure in winter on the long stagger back to the reservation. Or they meandered out onto the road and got smashed up and killed by cars. The bar caused many Native deaths, regularly. But Mayor Garcia wouldn't close it, despite Larry Casuse's nonstop efforts to get him to.

 

In a week when senator Mazie Hirono just urged President Biden to pardon Leonard Peltier, a Native activist wrongfully imprisoned for roughly 50 years, Casuse's story and beliefs are especially relevant. He was quite clear-eyed about what white colonialism meant for Natives. White men "brought disease, raped our women, killed our brothers the animals, murdered our elders, levelled out the vast forests, polluted our rivers, filled our air with chemicals, called us savage, pagans, Indians," Casuse testified to the New Mexico senate at a time when, David Correia clarifies in his new book, An Enemy Such as This, Casuse still clung to nonviolence to bring change. But none of it worked. Patient cooperation had no effect at all. What was the Navajo college student to do?

 

Corrreia's new book zooms in on Casuse and his ancestors, using this one family as a lens through which to view treatment of Native Americans by the U.S. and Mexican governments over hundreds of years. As everyone knows, that treatment was abysmal.  The two countries sank to the lowest point in that abyss with blood contracts – bounties on indigenous scalps. This started in the southwest in the 1830s. "The military strategy prior to the use of scalp bounties was based on a ration-based pacification strategy," but "Mexico discovered that it was cheaper to pay Americans to kill Apaches than to maintain Mexican armies to pacify them."

 

Scalping Native Americans became big business, drawing murderers from all over the U.S. "Chihuahua established an official state-regulated price on Apache scalps: one hundred pesos for an adult male, fifty pesos for an adult female, and twenty-five pesos for the capture of a child twelve years old or younger." That's how the genocide rolled.

 

The book detours into this gruesome account of chopping off the tops of people's heads because that was the colonial response to indigenous attacks on the Santa Rita copper mine. And that mine looms like an inescapable curse in the Casuse family story. Indeed, Correia delineates the mine's history, because Larry Casuse's father, Louis, worked there and belonged to the very radical miners' union.

 

Father and son's lives were iconic; they illustrated in two different ways indigenous response to the dominion and cruelty of colonial empire. Correia devotes as much space to Louis as to Larry: Louis whose mother died when he was young and who was sent with his older brother to Standing Rock near Chaco Canyon to live with his grandmother. His father remarried and reunited all his children into one capacious family. Louis grew up poor and fought in World War II in Germany. By some miracle, he survived this grisly, bloody struggle in forests where almost all his fellow soldiers perished, and he endured his wretched time as a POW. He married an Austrian child war bride, took her back to the southwest and worked as a miner. They had six children, and life was hard. Much later, after divorce, he worked at another mine, slept in his station-wagon and turned his wages over to his ex, so she could support their kids in Gallup. Larry was the oldest, born in 1953.

 

The 1950s in the southwest brutalized Native Americans. The violent Indian hatred there, Correia writes, is difficult to overstate. In the '50s, "Navajos died from tuberculosis at a rate nearly ten times that of white people; dysentery by thirteen times; invasive gastroenteritis by twenty-five times. Measles took the lives of Navajos at a rate nearly thirty times greater than white people. Where white people expected to live to nearly seventy, Navajos were lucky to live to twenty. Few unions took up their cause."

 

Larry Casuse made it his business to document the goal of settler colonialism, which, Correia writes, is genocide. Casuse did this by photographing the patrons of the Navajo Inn, as they stumbled into ditches or onto the road and passed out. Indigenous activists like Larry called the border town of Gallup the "Exploitation Capital of the World." He did everything he could to shutter the Navajo Inn, and in the end, he was killed for it. Like his heroes at Wounded Knee, Larry Casuse fought back. That led promptly to his violent extinction.

 

Despite Larry's grim fate, this book not only eulogizes him, but also it implicitly calls for resistance; though even if legal, resistance, when not outright neglected, leads often to ferocious abuse. Still, there's no time like the present. Especially now with a white house more favorably inclined to Native concerns than the next one will probably be. Because in two years, the formerly conservative now openly fascist GOP may well have seized power, and you can be sure, if it does, the rights of the indigenous won't even be on the back burner, or in the kitchen or in the house.

 

 If Trump or an imitator regains the white house, planned destruction of nature will zip along at 90 miles an hour. This especially impacts Native Americans, whose relationship to the natural world is so much less alienated than that of whites.  Indeed, one environmental group profiled in Truthout May 30 is Native Movement, whose spokeswoman told the interviewer that in Alaska a just transition to a renewables-based society "must be rooted in Indigenous perspectives, because it is Alaska's Native nations who have lived in harmony with these lands for over 30,000 years, and whose deep connections, encyclopedic knowledge and spiritual interconnectivity will heal the wounds of the past 100 years of colonization and extractive capitalism."

 

The GOP most of us are familiar with is not concerned with a just transition, renewables, Native nations' encyclopedic erudition regarding nature or the Indigenous bond to the land reaching back tens of thousands of years. Republicans are concerned with business and profits. So are Dems, but they at least pay lip service to other values, even if thoroughly hypocritically. The right doesn't even bother with hypocrisy. As Republicans made clear with their removal of protections for the Bears' Ears monument in Utah just a few years ago and on countless other occasions, the GOP holds the most repulsive goals of the unfettered capitalism that is destroying the planet and the lives of indigenous people everywhere quite dear to its heart.  

 

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Radical Left-Wing Science Fiction

Dangerous Visions and New Worlds, Radical Science Fiction 1950-1985

Edited by Andrew Nette and Ian McIntyre

PM press, 216 pages

$29.95

 

 

 

Eve Ottenberg

Despite its boys' club origins, science fiction long exhibited a leftist streak. Even in the early 1950s, the heyday of white masculine conquest of space and battle with multi-legged monsters and nefarious aliens, there lurked at the margins of the genre alternate views on human forays into the future. And of course, with predecessors like H.G. Wells, Aldous Huxley and George Orwell, other possibilities blazed up, as one would expect for a genre alternately dubbed "speculative." It would be surprising indeed if so-called speculative fiction did not, sooner or later, trample taboos.

 

Well it did, briefly, with a vengeance. The real fiesta of sci-fi taboo smashing was the 1960s and '70s, as documented in the newly published Dangerous Visions and New Worlds, Radical Science Fiction 1950-1985, edited by Andrew Nette and Ian McIntyre. This survey includes essays on sci fi and the Vietnam war, post-nuclear-apocalypse dystopias, second wave feminism, the antiauthoritarianism of Philip K. Dick, Black power, eco-death, marijuana, LSD and methamphetamine, Dr. Who, radical sci fi in the Soviet Union, gender as reflected in the life and work of Alice Sheldon, aka James Tiptree Jr., animal liberation, the Women's Press, Octavia Butler and much more.

 

The essay on the stupendous oeuvre of Philip K. Dick discusses his well-known reliance on amphetamines, which stoked his truly prolific output. The article does not mention his conviction, shortly before his death, that he was in telepathic communication with extra-terrestrials, but it does elaborate many of his mental oddities, for instance his paranoid certainty that the CIA was after him. If not the CIA, a conspiracy equally minatory. "Dick exhorted the FBI to investigate the break-in" to a safe in his house, "which he linked to what he called 'a covert organization including politics, illegal weapons, etc., who put great pressure on me to place coded information in future novels.'"

 

Dick called this shady organization Solarcon-6. The essay also notes that "even though Dick was an avid drug user [who at one point converted his home into a commune, living with hippies and junkies], had once been married to a communist, and had a life-long one-way beef with Richard Nixon, in many ways he was profoundly conservative." The wild man of sci fi also achieved fantastic success posthumously, with many of his novels converted into knockout movies, like Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report and others.

 

The 1950s naturally displayed great concern with nuclear annihilation. What could be more timely in 2022 than that early cold war fixation on atomic apocalypse? In recent months, nuclear brinksmanship roared back into our lives, even if the likes of white house spokeswoman Jen Psaki dismiss Moscow's "empty threats." One would think Russia's assertion, repeatedly and over decades, that Ukraine's absorption into NATO would cause war and the fact that it recently did just that might make the Biden dimwits take the Kremlin's threats as something other than "empty." But so far, no luck. Still they might want to lift a page out of 1950s sci fi. That's when people damn well had the sense to take the menace of nuclear war seriously. That realistic, healthy fear permeated political life, literary work and, very thoroughly, sci-fi – especially the stories of Roger Zelazny.

 

This excellent writer, neglected now, dealt definitively with nuclear Armageddon. Descendants of his classic Damnation Alley include the films Escape from New York and Road Warrior. He also co-authored another post-nuclear war dystopian fiction with Philip K. Dick, entitled Deus Irae. In this novel, hydrogen bomb warfare destroys human faith in God, birthing a new religion based on a God of Wrath. With echoes of another dystopian post-nuclear holocaust icon, A Canticle for Leibowitz, this book portrays the scarred, incinerated landscape, full of death and mutants, that human hubris inflicted on earth. Zelazny was a sci-fi legend for a reason; his collaboration with Dick produced a great, under-appreciated example of the genre.

 

"The specter of nuclear war," writes Andrew Nette, "cast a huge shadow over postwar science fiction." These books in the 1950s portrayed characters who must cope with "radioactive fallout, find food and help fend off looters…trigger happy soldiers and cannibalism…bandits and starvation…sickness from radiation and biological attack…gangs of savage homeless children." The criminal nuclear cremation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had occurred in the very recent past, far too recent for anyone to be lulled into forgetting them. That generation had seen the extermination of atom bombs, unlike today's millennials, accustomed to the American empire haughtily imposing no-fly zones and bombing countries back to the stone age with no repercussions, certainly not nuclear ones. Such, to many Americans, are barely imaginable. They think the U.S. can do to Russia what it did to Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. The only problem is that unlike those poorly defended nations, Moscow commands thousands of nuclear missiles, more even than Washington. Perhaps even now some uncommonly thoughtful sci-fi writer imagines a carelessly, ignorantly shattered, post-Ukraine-war world.

 

Later, sci-fi leftists consciously, deliberately transformed the genre. Take Ursula K. LeGuin and her feminist anti-capitalism. "From a social point of view, most science fiction has been incredibly regressive and unimaginative," LeGuin said. "All those Galactic Empires, taken straight from the British Empire of 1880!...The Rotary Club on Alpha Centauri; that's the size of it." LeGuin belonged to a cohort of feminists, who, the rather conservative Isaac Asimov claimed, invaded science fiction. But then, Asimov had created the most extensive galactic empire in the genre, which was millions of planets bigger than the British one, with his Foundation series.

 

Of course, this new, comprehensive tome also deals with the sci-fi reactionaries, like Robert Heinlein. By 1968, this "ex-leftist who had become a cold-warrior for the right" was definitely out of step with the times, which produced sci-fi's New Wave. This movement got underway "with the anarchist Michael Moorcock, who took over the English science fiction magazine New Worlds." Meanwhile feminist sci-fi cycloned onto the scene. Its writers "served as a counterweight to the more or less explicit misogyny of the sexual revolution."

 

Avant-garde prose, radical politics, demotic themes – one cadre of sci-fi writers definitely turned left in the '60s and '70s. But many of these radicals quite intelligently retained an ethos from an earlier time, one especially relevant today, one that started back in the '50s, in the ionized shadow of the bomb.

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Climate Collapse or Nuclear Winter, Take Your Pick

Living the 1.5 Degree Lifestyle

Lloyd Alter

New Society Publishers, 163 pages

$19.99

 

 

 

Eve Ottenberg

One of the many lousy effects of the Russia/Ukraine war has been on the climate. Because Biden made the idiotic choice of sanctions over negotiation, the price of oil skyrocketed. This could have been avoided. But Washington scoffed at Moscow's oft repeated, over decades, and finally written, security concerns. And here we are. A horrible war and climbing inflation.

 

The price of gas soared due to Biden's sanctions. That's because Russia is one of the world's biggest energy exporters. Sanction Russia and you have to find new sources of oil and gas or pay through the nose. And most rational politicos do not want to tell their people they have to choose between buying an iPhone and filling their car's tank with gasoline.

 

So the hunt for more fossil fuels is on, with American right-wingers screaming that we need to drill and frack more and bashing anyone who objects on environmental grounds. How does this bashing go? If you support renewables over more fossil fuels, you are a left-wing, Marxist Democrat inflationary fool. That's what our homegrown reactionaries say. They claim renewables jacked up prices at the pump. This is hogwash, because it's sanctions on Russia that did that. But that won't stop the nonsense from being repeated ad nauseam. And though there's usually a lag time of a few weeks before such imbecilic hyperbole taints the mainstream media, now with inflation being very real and very dramatic, expect to see the "ditch renewables at once" rash break out any day, on the face of the body politic.

 

Don't rely on Biden to cure the infection or rush to the rescue of wind and solar. The president who tried to palm off the pathetic lie that astronomical prices at the pump were Putin's fault, pivoted to desperately courting Venezuela for its oil: "Oh, just forget about our sanctions that killed over 40,000 of your citizens, ignore the failed assassination attempt on your president, never mind about your funds that our attack dog, the UK, snatched from you in an act of brazen larceny and skip the ferocious propaganda war we've waged against your country – this is the U.S. empire calling and we need your oil!"

 

Not surprisingly, right-wing morons in congress who've been thoroughly propagandized into a stupor of brainlessness objected to Washington courting Caracas. But Biden needs oil! And there has to be lots of it, so it can be cheap. Next up, Iran! Another official enemy is expected to save the hapless Democrats' bacon. So Washington has negotiated like mad to reinstate the nuclear pact, which would enable it to drop sanctions, without losing face – always THE critical consideration – and buy cheap Iranian oil. Well, I guess something good will come of cuckoo-bird U.S. economic policy: one les nuclear-armed state.

 

But wouldn't it just have been simpler for Washington to swallow its pride, promise publicly what it says privately, namely that Ukraine will never join NATO, restate the obvious, that Crimea is, as it was for centuries, Russian, and that the Russian Ukrainians of the Donbass have a right to life, which can only be insured by a measure of independence? If U.S. rulers had done that, it would have been no skin off their noses, the Dems wouldn't be looking at a November electoral wipeout due to oil-based inflation and those of us concerned about a rapidly warming planet – where capitalism's jones for fossil fuels has made the Arctic 50 degrees hotter than it should be in March and the Antarctic 70 degrees hotter – could advocate for a switch to renewables without rightist stupids foaming at the mouth about price inflation and green energy, while centrists chant "Putin's prices!" and not even braindead Amuricans, who want a no-fly zone over Ukraine, believe them.

 

Because the climate is getting worse. And it's doing so terrifyingly fast. In a generation, we, homo sapiens, could face ruin of our own making. Mindful of this, some people still keep sounding the alarm. One is Lloyd Alter, whose new book, Living the 1.5 Degree Lifestyle, came out before Washington turned up its nose at Moscow's request, thus setting us all on a possible path toward something just as bad, or worse, than climate collapse, namely nuclear war.

 

Alter's book reminds readers that just because we got distracted doesn't mean the earth stopped overheating. We still burn fossil fuels prodigiously, and that could kill lots of us in the not-too-distant future. Our oligarchs who benefit from our oil and gas addiction bank on the mirage that climate collapse won't affect them in their posh New Zealand bunkers. They're mistaken, but who cares about them? This problem is global and there's no escape. A solution must be found. Alter believes that means downsizing our individual carbon footprints.

 

In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that I profoundly disagree with this book's thesis that ordinary people are to blame for global warming. I blame Exxon, BP and all the other thieving fossil fuel polluters. That said, it's undeniable that Alter makes one of the most convincing cases around for the critical importance of reducing consumption. It's hard not to support that, especially if you never liked conspicuous consumption anyway, or even just the consumer culture. Most of it is so unnecessary, especially for those of us proles who focus our purchases exclusively on what Marx termed use-value.

 

Alter provides a how-to for those who want to stop contributing to the climate collapse. Those of us who already shop for little besides fruits and vegetables, and drive and fly as rarely as possible, will still find valuable advice in his book. But most of all, it serves as a reminder that the problem has not vanished just because we became riveted in terror at the millions of American halfwits clamoring for boots on the ground in Kiev, which would abruptly terminate human civilization once and for all. Or as we listened in shock to Biden's demented call for regime change in Russia, the most heavily nuclear-armed nation on the planet. Biden's lunacy moved us closer to the atomic Armageddon his witless policies already summoned quite visibly onto the near horizon. With that reality front and center, it's hard to re-focus and remember that the earth is burning and our haughty corporations are the cause.

 

As the Dems stampede to whatever country can turn on the oil spigot they turned off for the worst of all possible reasons, it's good to remember that our future depends on NOT burning oil and gas. Rightwing Republicans and slightly less rightwing Dems have forgotten that – if they ever believed it, which is doubtful. But a grim future on a hot planet looms. That is, of course, if the geniuses in Washington don't bring on nuclear winter first, with their high-handed arrogance that they could drive a nation armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons into a corner and then, somehow, expect to survive it.

 

 

 

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Curing the Pandemic of Gendered Violence

Abolition. Feminism. Now.

Angela Davis, Gina Dent, Erica Meiners, Beth Richie

Haymarket Books, 245 pages

$16.95

 

 

 

Eve Ottenberg

It's a truism that domestic violence victims suffer twice: at the hands of a partner and from a criminal justice system that's supposed to protect them but usually doesn't. Indeed, such victims who dare defend themselves often land in the clink, as if they're the criminals. That's why radical feminists who long labored against domestic abuse, advise women NOT to dial 911. Because the cure is worse than the disease.

 

And the disease is pretty awful, as documented in Abolition. Feminism. Now. by Angela Davis, Gina Dent, Erica Meiners and Beth Richie.  This new book lays out the systemic oppression and abuse of minority women and children not only by the police and courts, but by the foster care system and a so-called child protection bureaucracy that criminalizes, inter alia, mothers sleeping in the same bed as their infants! Can you imagine any government agency prosecuting a white middle-class mother for nursing her newborn in bed – or using such a routine, beneficial practice as an excuse to steal the infant from its family? Such a bureaucracy is in fact an icy sarcophagus for maternal love. So it's no surprise that for the authors of this new book, everything – police, courts, prison, child "protection" bureaucracy – has got to go. And they make their case convincingly.

 

Gendered violence is not some marginal annoyance. It is widespread –but regarded slightingly in the wider culture because its victims usually are seen as marginal. It's on a par with homelessness, a problem that's always there and lacks an easy fix. The fact that domestic abuse has roots in a social chasm so deep and dark that contemplating it is dizzying consigns the problem to the political wilderness. No politico aims to restructure society. Besides, who would benefit? It's not as if domestic abuse victims or homeless people are senators after all. But revolutionaries are different. And when they say let's smash the prison industrial complex, including those parts of it that supposedly aid battered women, they mean it.

 

"Turning to punishment agencies and tactics of social control will not protect women and others harmed by gendered violence," the authors argue. Citing examples, they show how the state "coopts seemingly radical tools and languages, and sometimes entire organizations in the service of legitimizing state violence." Such cooptation occurred with "restorative justice" activism. This book describes how those activists were crowded out, as criminal justice mainstreamed their movement and began paying restorative justice experts for their services. "Many of these positions can now only be filled by someone with expensive certifications and credentials," the authors write.

 

Underlining the systemic nature of the problem, this book discusses impoverished mothers who lose custody of their children, if, for example, rats are detected in their apartments, when, the authors argue, it's the landlord who should be penalized. That's the problem with the petrified reasoning of "the system." It has things backwards. The question is, what to replace it with? For without these official structures of punishment and control, how to cope with "the pandemic of gender violence?"

 

On that the authors are less precise. "We hold people accountable and believe that people can change." This is fine, but lots of wife-beaters don't want to change and have no intention of doing so. What then? My guess is that these activists would work to extricate the person from such an abusive relationship. For that, community mental health organizations and domestic violence shelters come into play. Not prosecutors and police, whose relationship to minorities in general and battered minority women in particular is murderous, to say the least.

 

The term "safe spaces" pops up in gender abuse discussions – if communities can provide such havens to victims, that helps greatly. The emphasis is on the safety of the victims, not the punishment of the perpetrators, because of "the ideological connections between state violence, street violence and interpersonal violence, a conjunction at the heart of all the work of abolition feminism." These radicals want to banish the state altogether, not least because it enforces a hierarchy of "worthy" victims.

 

"The legitimate victims of gender and sexual violence," the authors write, characterizing official views, "could not be a sex worker, a queer person, a woman of color and certainly could not be an incarcerated person." That leaves white, financially secure, heterosexual women not in jail. It excludes what may very well constitute the majority of gender abuse victims. Such an approach, such a frame of mind is worse than useless, because it devalues the lived reality of so many people.

 

Unfortunately, dialing 911 is easy. It's what lots of desperate people do, even though they may know that cops are not mental health professionals and that when they arrive on the scene, they may very well kill the person who telephoned. But in truth, a gender abuse victim who calls the cops, probably in extremis, ignores such common sense.

 

So until there's an alternative, as quick and easy as an emergency phone number, victims will doubtless continue to make the error of calling the police. But an alternative, whatever it may be, is what we need. Something a person suffering harm can resort to in a flash. Something that won't, in turn, inflict new harm.

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The Left Demobilized -- the Usual Suspects Are To blame

A Left Green New Deal

Bernd Riexinger, Lia Becker, Katharina Dahme, Christina Kaindl

Monthly Review Press, 125 pages

$17

 

 

 

Eve Ottenberg

Just two years ago, the sky was the limit for progressives: Medicare for All, a Green New Deal and a Sanders' candidacy for president. There was serious talk of forgiving student debt, of free community college, paid parental leave, finally lowering the costs of essential medicines and more. Now, the best progressives can muster is primarying the treacherous, corporate, bought-and-paid for Arizona senator Kyrsten Sinema. What a difference a couple of years make!

 

This was all entirely predictable. The Democratic party has mainly functioned since the 1930s to demobilize left movements, and these latest weren't even movements. (Certainly thin soup compared to the militant communism FDR set out to dilute.) These were platforms in a candidacy. Platforms that the cautious, billionaire-sycophant likes of Barack Obama had no intention of ever seeing signed into law – so he coordinated the withdrawal of all other Dem presidential candidates at a critical juncture to boost Biden over Sanders.

 

Another reason for this repulsive electoral jujitsu was that Obama doubtless believed Biden not Sanders was the only one who could defeat Trump. But he did not take the long view. Obama didn't look past 2020. Had Sanders won, and got a few executive orders like forgiving student debt under his belt, we wouldn't be looking at a possible fascist catastrophe in 2024. These halcyon mid-election cycle days would not feel so much like a Weimar interregnum.

 

It may all be moot, however, if, as the war and peace expert Michael Klare says, there is a 100 percent chance of a Cuban Missile-type crisis, between the U.S. and Russia and/or China in three years. The anti-war left in the U.S. is tiny. It commands no media attention. When Trump launched his public opinion war against China in 2018 and then busied himself laying the groundwork for militarily confronting the nuclear-armed superpower, the left barely uttered a peep. Meanwhile, quite horribly, liberal Dems, depressingly embodied in media host Rachel Maddow, beat the drums for war by demonizing Russia. She's literally made her career out of such war-mongering. If nuclear Armageddon arrives, it will be too late for Maddow to say, "oh, I didn't mean that."

 

So, no massive, left-wing anti-nuclear war movement, as the biggest issue of this or any time threatens to engulf the planet. Similarly, the climate protest, weakened by the ridiculous – but better, I guess, than nothing – COP26 summit, which did absolutely zip, nada, zilch, sputters and stalls.  Americans are apparently content to leave these two massive monsters in the very negligent care of their worse than do-nothing government.

 

Because what we have in Washington is barely a government. It's more like a puppet show manipulated by a voracious military industrial complex, one that controls the biggest and one of the most violent, globe-spanning empires in human history. And it does so by sucking the blood out of the American people. The republic is on life support, losing blood to the imperial military industrial vampire at the dizzying rate of nearly a trillion dollars a year. And now that vampire prepares to sink its fangs fatally deep, with an all-out war with Russia and China. Yet this prospect so far neither energizes nor mobilizes a mass movement for peace. Blame Democrats, blame bloodthirsty Republicans, blame the second-rate mediocrities who compose the ruling class in Washington, and blame the belligerent propaganda machine, the most deafening and total of its kind in world history, the horrid thing we call our corporate media.

 

Biden came to power based on many promises to the left. He also said, "Nothing will fundamentally change." Most of his promises, unsurprisingly, died on the vine, leaving the left fragmented at a historical moment that screams for solidarity. Yet despite this disarray caused by the amoral Washington circus, workers strike in great numbers, people quit their jobs in the millions rather than toil for wretched pay and corporations find themselves bewildered by the Great Resignation. Trade unionism is still the hope of the future – if that future doesn't vanish under a mushroom cloud.

 

Meanwhile in Europe, events parallel those in the U.S. Corbyn was done in and his massive following dispersed. Podemos in Spain, La France Insoumise, Syriza in Greece, all stumbled and a hostile media amplified their missteps. Their corporate enemies, having machinated to produce such errors, then piled on.

 

Also sputtering along is the left party, Die Linke, in Germany. One of its biggest successes, as recounted in a new book, A Left Green New Deal, by Bernd Riexinger and three other activists, was the Berlin rent cap, passed by the city in January 2020 and overturned by a court in April 2021. The rent ceiling was wildly popular, making hundreds of thousands of households eligible for reduced payments. But real estate investors and landlords hated it and ultimately killed it. The April 23 Guardian said, "landlords may have scored a pyrrhic victory, with suggestions activists could move to expropriate empty flats." One can only hope. Despite its judicial defeat, the rent cap, and especially the organizing that brought it about, remains a model for mobilizing around issues of concern to ordinary people.

 

As part of its push for a Green New Deal, die Linke also agitates for closing coal and nuclear plants and shifting to renewables. Germany actually has achieved much in this regard, thus leading many to hope that the "green" part of the green new deal will be implemented – even if the "new deal" part isn't. But it's an uphill battle. All left causes are, because capitalist misrule is planetary. Only a handful of governments on the globe eschew it.

 

Worse, fascists aim to forge an International. Steve Bannon's seedy and bedraggled visage recently appeared in brief videos, where he whoops up the idea of a global, unified, right-wing juggernaut. The left should take a page out of that book. Jean Luc Melenchon, leader of La France Insoumise, pointed the way in mid-January by demanding that France leave NATO. This would be a twofer: chip away at the military industrial empire and hopefully, indefinitely postpone humanity's day of reckoning with its nuclear weapons. Three years to nuclear winter, as has been predicted, are too terrifyingly short.

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How CIA Plots Undermined African De-Colonization

White Malice, The CIA and the Covert Recolonization of Africa

Susan Williams

Public Affairs, 651 pages

$35

 

 

 

Eve Ottenberg

For those who believe Africa was decolonized decades ago, it's time to wake up from dream-world. True, colonial European powers no longer impose direct rule on African nations, which are nominally "independent." But those European countries, beaten back from their African colonies in the second half of the twentieth century, had no intention of losing their investments or access to Africa's vast mineral wealth. So, with the help of groups like the CIA, Europeans and Americans covertly recolonized the continent, with bribes, murders, loans, privatizations (aka looting) and the installation of western-friendly regimes.

 

The latest and most noxious of these colonial iterations is the U.S. military's AFRICOM, although a French oligarch "controls 16 West African ports through bribery and influence peddling," as Margaret Kimberley recounted in Black Agenda Report, December 1. "Canadian companies control gold mining in Burkina Faso, Mali and D.R.C.…British soldiers are still stationed in Kenya." So the west never stopped strangling African nations. In this effort, the vile 1961 assassination of Patrice Lumumba was key. Needless to say, the CIA was involved up to its eyeballs.

 

As Congo's first freely elected leader after the Belgian rout, Lumumba made the honest mistake of trusting western democratic ideals.  Then, when he discovered they were phony, he tilted – very slightly – toward the Soviets. That sealed his fate. "President Eisenhower authorized the assassination of Lumumba," writes Susan Williams in her newly published book, White Malice, the CIA and the Covert Recolonization of Africa. The consequences were ghastly. After Lumumba's murder and dismemberment, for well over three decades, "the Congo was ruled with an iron fist by Mobutu – a dictator chosen by the U.S. government and installed by the CIA."

 

Now Congo again leaps into headlines – not because of its rich uranium deposits, so coveted by Washington in the 1940s and '50s, but because of cobalt and other minerals essential to a green energy transition. Mining cobalt is an ugly business. Roughly 40,000 cobalt miners are children, out of 255,000 Congolese cobalt miners. They work in nearly slave labor conditions, earning less than $2 per day. Their intensive labor is extremely hazardous and there have been charges that AFRICOM indirectly oversees these mines. Context is key here. D.R.C. is an extremely poor country. Life expectancy is 60 years. But the U.S. craves D.R.C. resources, as it has, going back to the 1940s. So pretty much anything goes.

 

Once again in Congo, Washington finds itself snarling imbecilically at a communist competitor – this time China. But unlike the struggle with the U.S.S.R., which had safely sequestered its economy from western capitalism, China is the U.S.'s biggest trading partner; the two economies are inextricably intertwined. Insulting and threatening someone you regularly do business with may seem cretinous to the casual observer, but somehow it's the best the American politicos can come up with lately.

 

So Washington fulminates in fury at being outmaneuvered by a supposed foe – when in fact China, recently an American friend until idiotic sachems in the U.S. declared it otherwise, has long invested in Africa, occasionally quite generously handed its infrastructure over to local governments, and, contrary to western financial barbarism, forgiven loans when African countries couldn't pay! The U.S. government long knew about the nature of these Chinese investments, but lately goes out of its way to distort and lie about them.

 

Trump's secretary of state, Mike Pompeo fibbed about a port in Sri Lanka, which those supposedly devious Chinese had, he lied, repossessed as part of their "debt trap" for Africa. (This repossession never happened.) Even comedian Trevor Noah flogged this bogus story, demanding to know what is going to be done about how those Asiatics ensnare poor nations to steal their infrastructure. And the most recent propaganda has been some nonsense about an airport in Uganda, supposedly stolen by China. (It wasn't.)

 

The description of the CIA's viperous attitude toward Lumumba, made by journalist Cameron Duodu and recounted in Williams' book, unfortunately, still holds for today: "His country has got resources. We want them. He might not give them to us. So let us go get him." In addition, Washington bigwigs regard the entire African continent as a stage for their Great Game competition with China, which is disastrous. Africans of all nationalities will only suffer as a result.

 

So a history like White Malice could not arrive at a more opportune time. It shows how Ghanian President Kwame Nkrumah – ousted by a CIA plot in 1966 – dreamed of a united states of Africa. While Washington ensured that never emerged, African countries can still coordinate and work toward shared goals. Williams' account spells out the cost of not doing so.

 

This book showcases three main villains – CIA director Allan Dulles, diplomat and arts patron William Burden (a one-time director of New York City's Museum of Modern Art, which boosted the abstract expressionism the CIA so vigorously funded and promoted) and the crudely murderous Leopoldville CIA station chief, Larry Devlin. But behind these three monsters loomed a vast, homicidal military empire, piloted by capitalist ideologues, who did not value human life, to put it mildly, especially if that life belonged to black, brown or communist people.

 

In that sense, little has changed from the 1950s and '60s to the present. Which should be cause for alarm. It probably is, to the Chinese, and to the Ethiopians, who find their prosperous country in imperial crosshairs, much as another once wealthy African nation, Libya recently did. But otherwise, most of the world sleeps through this repeat performance of the African tragedy.

 

It shouldn't. The CIA committed atrocious crimes in the '50s and '60s, and not just on the African continent. Williams cites the suspiciously premature deaths of left-leaning African notables, as well as that, in Paris, of the great African American novelist Richard Wright. And one of the most despicable of the CIA's many murders was that of Congo's first elected leader. "Lumumba, Malcom X believed, was the 'greatest black man who ever walked the African continent,'" Williams writes. Malcom X was not alone in this judgment. Which is why, as Williams notes, when CIA hands got together to boast of their dirty exploits, the CIA's man in Congo, Devlin, so pivotal in schemes to trap and murder Lumumba, always carefully kept his mouth shut.

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Big Oil's Big Lie About Who Caused the Climate Collapse

We're All Climate Hypocrites Now

Sami Grover

New Society Publishers, 162 pages

 

 

 

Eve Ottenberg

Veganism isn't the answer to climate change, nor is eschewing air travel. Both help, but don't tackle the problem systemically. Ending drilling oil and gas wells would zap emissions much more effectively, but since every little bit counts, it's a good idea to encourage people to reduce their carbon footprint. Encourage, not shame. And renouncing shaming especially goes for those who insist that having children unacceptably raises a person's carbon footprint to the level of a climate problem. It doesn't. And the word for the harangue that it does is eco-fascism.

 

The very problematic concept of one's carbon footprint is the subject of Sami Grover's new book, We're All Climate Hypocrites Now. Who kicked the carbon-footprint-individual-responsibility-for-climate-change bandwagon into gear? None other than the guilty parties, the oil companies. BP to be exact. Fossil fuel companies love it when ordinary people blame themselves for the climate collapse, for an obvious reason: it gets them off the hook to keep raking in profits, receiving mega-subsidies from government and polluting the atmosphere with carbon without getting fined for it – as they would in any sane world.

 

"BP's championing of carbon footprints should be viewed not simply as a naïve and imperfect effort at corporate responsibility," writes Grover, "but rather as a direct and calculated attempt to shape discussion of the problem in BP's favor." Oil companies, Grover notes "are actually all too happy to talk about the climate crisis. They just want you to know that it's mostly your fault." And they've succeeded remarkably with this subterfuge. Lots of people dither about eating a cup of yogurt when they could be joining Extinction Rebellion. Some benighted souls have even been hoodwinked into foreswearing children.

 

It's no news that oil companies curate their image. But in recent years, they've taken it to new extremes. As Brian Kahn noted November 17 in earther, they even recently had the chutzpah to publicly bemoan "cancel culture on hydrocarbons." As Kahn comments, that takes some nerve, "as if this is somehow a real problem and not the fact that we are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction tied to said hydrocarbons." But their obsessive focus on image has paid off.

 

Fossil fuel corporations deceived as many people as they could for as long as they could. Their own scientists told them decades ago that their product was cooking the earth. Did that lead them to change course? No, it did not. It led them to suppressing the science, lying about it and seeding that monstrosity called climate denial. So now half the rulers of the U.S., one of the most powerful, violent, extensive and carbon polluting empires in human history, parrot idiotic talking points about burning oil, gas and coal supposedly NOT warming the earth. And until recently, the U.S. was the world's worst polluter of greenhouse gases. Now it's got the distinction of being the second worst. But with congressional suzerains denying the damage, how can anyone compel the U.S. to pay its fair share for mitigation?

 

The only solution is a mass movement. Grover's book argues for this, as do lots of other folks, and given what a bust the recent world climate summit was, I would add, take a leaf out of the Trump playbook and clog the courts with lawsuits. Sue these criminal oil, gas and coal plutocrats until something sticks, they get the message and cease their global pyromania.

 

But oh yes – someone did that: Attorney Steven Donziger won over $9 billion in an Ecuadoran court from Chevron for its pollution of the pristine Amazon wilderness of Lago Agrio and the cancers Chevron thus inflicted on indigenous children. And guess what? Chevron said it wouldn't pay, went judge shopping, found a compliant jurist, Lewis Kaplan, in New York, took its case there and schemed to get Donziger thrown in jail, where he now resides.

 

So never forget that fossil fuel mega-corporations play as dirty as their product. After all, way back in the 1960s, Shell reportedly got Ogoni protesters arrested, tortured and executed in Nigeria. The Ogoni were upset about Shell coating their tribal lands in oil, transforming a once fertile region into a toxic cemetery. Shell struck back, making an example of activist and novelist Ken Saro-Wiwa, hanged by the Nigerian military junta. So this is nothing new. It's a real, blood-drenched fight.

 

You wouldn't know that, however, from privileged westerners who argue about straws. Yes, the cardboard kind are better, because the world is drowning in plastic, but get real. The most powerful man on the planet, Joe Biden, has dozens of fossil fuel projects on his desk with emissions roughly the equivalent of 400 coal-fired plants annually. The U.S. also subsidizes fossil fuel corporations, already swimming in money, to the tune of $20 billion per year. These facts should loom front and center in everyone's mind – not policing whether or not an acquaintance has a baby or ate their whole wheat bread with butter on it.

 

But speaking of butter, meat and dairy conglomerates are in fact a huge problem. Grover records one expert source: "The world's top 20 meat and dairy producers alone emitted 932 megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions." He quotes more: "If these companies were a country, they would be the world's seventh largest greenhouse gas emitter."

 

In addition, there's the gruesome matter of animal cruelty. The world is not only awash in the blood of animals, but it also resounds with their screams of agony, as they are tortured for human pleasure. Just because you don't hear what's going on in the slaughterhouse doesn't mean it ain't happening.

 

So definitely become a vegetarian, and a vegan if you can. But do more; find other ways to extinguish fossil fuel arson. If enough people try that, we might actually keep these poisons in the ground and give those children fascists don't want you to have a livable planet.

 

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