Monday, September 14, 2009

Anarchism and Marxism

The statement which concluded Eric Kerl’s review of Wobblies and Zappatistas – a conversation on anarchism and Marxism, synthesizing the two – in issue 67 of the International Socialist Review, that a synthesis of “Marxism and anarchism, ideas which have repeatedly waged combat with one another, can only offer more confusion and hesitation in the midst of these turning points of human history,” cannot but come off as useless and unthoughtful sectarianism; a recurrent theme, I have found, of the ISR’s distasteful Leninism.

For as I have written in some detail[1], the two tendencies have all throughout history converged and in many instances are virtually indistinguishable: Anton Pannekoek’s council communism and Rudolf Rocker’s anarcho-syndicalism is a vivid instance.

Kerl points out that many anarchists embraced Marx’s analysis of the political economy of capitalism and wants to make this seen as hypocritical or inconsistent in some sense, writing that anarchists such as Mikhail Bakunin “appropriated” Marx’s analysis “wholesale for their own program.” Bakunin certainly did champion Marx’s analysis, translating Capital into Russian, but that has absolutely nothing to do with Bakunin’s now almost prophetic criticism of portions of Marx’s tactics, especially with regards to the state as a transitory mechanism (a tactic altered after the Paris Commune and Marx’s address The Civil War in France). Undoubtedly one can accept Marx’s breathtaking analysis of political economy while simultaneously rejecting some of his tactical decisions and premises, there is simply no contradiction there.

Kerl, while making this trifling charge, ignores the fact that Marx was greatly influenced by the anarchism of Proudhon (to later pen a full length polemic against his one time comrade, a recurrent theme of Marx and Engels: viciously and publically castigating former comrades), for, as Rudolf Rocker observes, it was Proudhon’s What is Property? that led Marx to embrace socialism in the first instance. As Rudolf Rocker writes in Marx and Anarchism: “As editor in chief of the Rheinische Zeitung, one of the leading newspapers of the German democracy, Marx came to make the acquaintance of France’s most important socialist writers, even though he himself had not yet espoused the socialist cause. We have already mentioned a quote from him in which he refers to Victor Considerant, Pierre Leroux and Proudhon and there can be no doubt that Considerant and Proudhon were the mentors who attracted him to socialism. Without any doubt, What is Property? was a major influence over Marx’s development as a socialist; thus, in the periodical mentioned, he calls the inspired Proudhon ‘the most consistent and wisest of socialist writers’” (Rheinische Zeitung, 7 January 1843).

It is here that one actually has a case of inconsistency, the early Marx who embraced Proudhon and the later Marx who castigated him, whereas with anarchists such as Bakunin their embrace of Marx’s analysis of political economy and rejection of portions of Marx’s tactical premises are entirely consistent.

Rather than attempting to wedge a superficial divide between the two tendencies one would do much better by working towards just the kind of synthesis that indisputably exists (i.e., Pannekoek and Rocker); considering that one of the most severely debilitating aspects of the left as well as a cause for much failure is the crippling sectarianism that Kerl has decided to become the latest proponent of.

[1] Anarchist-Marxist Convergence: Part 1

Anarcho-Syndicalist Council Communism

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Towards Socialism

For those of us who advocate the striving towards a just socialist society free of exploitation, oppression, hierarchy and domination and instead founded upon rational ethical principles such as equality, mutual aid, solidarity, cooperation, freedom and democracy, we certainly do not expect to see such a radical transformation occur overnight. Any rational person looking at existing society could not possibly believe that it is anything like ripe for substantive, foundational socialist change; that would be a ludicrous conclusion. These are for sure long-term goals, although anything can happen at anytime, most unexpectedly.

This being the case, the question arises: what to do? Noam Chomsky stresses that what should drive people working “for change are certain principles you’d like to see achieved,” such as the ones I have cited; people must advance these principles. Chomsky observes that many people refer to such tactics as “reformism,” and that this is more of a baseless “put-down” because “reforms can be quite revolutionary if they lead in a certain direction,” and they can certainly help better lay the foundation and create the material conditions for a more thorough transformation.

The question then arises as to what reforms should be advocated and implemented, what reforms would be likely to help work towards a more just socialist society. In my view some of the immediate tasks should be the reestablishment and reorganization of the unions that have been absolutely decimated from, conspicuously, the Reagan administration throughout every following administration (both Republican and Democratic). Historically unions act as centers furthering democracy, freedom, solidarity, welfare and so on. Noam Chomsky elaborates upon this point in his lecture “Class War: The Attack on Working People”:

“Effective democratizing forces has always been the labor movement, labor unions; history on that is completely clear. In countries that have a strong labor movement there is also a very strong tendency or a strong correlation with a real, live, functioning social contract that includes not only rights for working people, but for people who need help and protection: for the defenseless, for children, for women, for families, for people in need of assistance generally, for the general public in fact. And there’s also a culture that goes along with it: a culture of solidarity and sympathy and mutual aid and support.”

For these reasons it is surely of critical importance to reorganize the unions and to reinvigorate and empower the labor movement. The labor movement is a strong countervailing force for democracy promotion, social justice and the like and must become again a leading social force.

It would also seem practical to form a viable labor party that actually represents working class and regular, ordinary people – rather than being forced with simply two divergent factions of the single business party – seeing as the United States is one of the only, if not the only, “first-world” industrialized nations without such a labor party.

Taking into consideration the effects of corporate globalization – for example, the fact that a multinational corporation, such as a car manufacturing company, can, when labor demands become “too costly” for the company, simply, because it is cheaper, transfer manufacturing somewhere else, from the United States to Mexico or Indonesia, from Germany to Alabama, etcetera, where workers rights have either not been achieved or have been decimated – the reconstitution of the labor movement must truly be international, as they have always made a pretense of. This project can take as a guide the Industrial Workers’ of the World Union’s international unionization of Starbucks baristas where labor actions have taken place in various countries, following the fact that the company is international, so too must be the unionization of it.

Following the subject of internationalism, the Humanist Manifesto 2000, drafted by Paul Kurtz, presents some pragmatic international reforms. A Planetary Bill of Rights and Responsibilities is proposed. “It incorporates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but goes beyond it by offering some new provisions” and goes into detail describing these new provisions, such as economic security, protection from unnecessary injury, danger and death (the inadmissibility of capital punishment), protection from discrimination based upon race, ethnic origin, nationality, culture, caste, class, creed, gender, or sexual orientation, the necessity of the principles of equality (equality before the law, equality of consideration, satisfaction of basic needs, equality of opportunity) and so on.

Discussing “The Need For New Planetary Institutions” it is observed that “[t]o solve problems on the transnational level and to contribute to planetwide development, we need gradually but drastically to transform the United Nations…The most fundamental change would be to enhance the effectiveness of the UN by converting it from an assembly of sovereign states to an assembly of peoples as well.”

The Manifesto cites as some more reforms that “the world needs…to establish an effective World Parliament – and elections to it based on populations – which will represent the people, not their governments.”

The Security Council veto must be abolished due to its having the effect of allowing any permanent Security Council member, such as the United States (the most egregious abuser), to halt any action or policy it wishes, even over and against overwhelming international consensus. As the manifesto states “[t]he basic principle of world security is that no single state or alliance of states has the right to undermine the political and territorial integrity of other states by aggression; nor should any nation or group of nations be allowed to police the world or unilaterally bomb others without the concurrence of the Security Council.”

There must be developed “an effective World Court and an International Judiciary with sufficient power to enforce its rulings.” There needs to be “a planetary environmental monitoring agency on the transnational level” and “the development of global institutions should include some procedure for the regulation of multinational corporations and state monopolies.”

Outside of these broad, international reforms, tactics must vary, being contingent upon specific circumstances, geographic regions and so forth. In this sense local community centers, cooperatives and activist groups should be created in order to address local issues as well as partake in the broader, larger issues; such a reorganization should begin from the ground up.

Elaborating upon these themes Chomsky suggests that “in your local community you want to have sources of alternative action; people with parallel concerns, maybe differently focused, but, at the core, sort of similar values and similar interests in helping people learn how to defend themselves against external power, taking control of their lives, reaching out your hand to people in need, that’s a common array of concerns. You can learn about your values, you can figure out how to defend yourself and so on in conjunction with others.”

Working towards socialist change must be variegated and diverse, manifesting the specificities of the regions, organizations, cultures, issues and peoples working toward such change and such work should begin immediately, where it has not begun already.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Substance Abuse and the 12 Steps

In the letters section of the June/July 2009 edition of Free Inquiry two people wrote in reaction to Seven Mohr’s “Exposing the Myth of Alcoholics Anonymous," both with unjustified criticism.

I would like to now respond to these letters.

As someone who, as an adolescent, suffered through and eventually fully overcame extreme, nihilistic and, near the end, suicidal substance abuse, I have direct experience with AA. I was therefore beyond pleased to find a rational secular critique of this dismal religious organization that, like Scientology’s Narconon, sustains itself upon those at their most desperate.

In both letters the writers falsely proclaim that alcoholism, and by extension drug abuse generally, is a “disease.” An absurd notion that many rational people as well as experts on the subject reject, such as the psychiatrist Thomas Szasz who, incidentally, is a contributing editor to Free Inquiry, and who goes through the entire relevant and inglorious social history in his brilliant and incredibly well-informed exposition of “the ritual persecution of drugs, addicts, and pushers,” and all of that which is necessarily related in his Ceremonial Chemistry.

Substance abuse is a behavioral problem/abnormality, it is not a disease. As Lance M. Dodes, M.D. states: “Addiction has long been deeply misunderstood in both our culture and clinical practice. Rather than of being a reflection of impulsivity or self-destructiveness, or a result of genetic or physical factors, addiction can be shown to be a psychological mechanism that is a subset of psychological compulsions in general.”

In response to the proposition that “addiction is a physical disease caused by being addicted to drugs,” Dodes writes: “Physical addiction is often confused with the problem of addiction in general. Actually, it plays a very minor role. Physical addiction is important mainly as a medical problem when people try to withdraw from certain drugs. Sudden withdrawal from drugs like alcohol or certain tranquilizers (benzodiazepines like Valium or Xanax) can be life-threatening. But in terms of why people perform addictive behavior, physical addiction is not important. For one thing, physical addiction is easy to treat. People can be safely detoxified (withdrawn) from drugs usually in a matter of days. But as we all know, even months or years later they may return to addictive use of the same substances…Another illustration of this is that many drugs are incapable of producing physical addiction, yet they can be used addictively (compulsively) and even substituted for addictive drugs. Marijuana, LSD, amphetamines, and others can all be used addictively though they do not produce physical addiction in the way that sedative drugs (alcohol, heroin, barbiturates) can. Non-substance addictions like gambling or sexual addictions illustrate the same point. Since it is well-known that people can switch back and forth from drug to non-drug addictions like gambling or even other compulsive behaviors like shopping, it is clear that the physical component in some drugs is irrelevant to the nature of addiction. For a full discussion of the role of physical addiction see chapter six of ‘The Heart of Addiction’.”

The preposterous notion that it is a disease stems from, as Szasz points out, metaphorizing “disagreeable conduct and forbidden desire as disease – thus creating more and more mental diseases…they [the neuropsychiatrists of the nineteenth century] literalized this metaphor, insisting that disapproved behavior was not merely like a disease, but that it was a disease – thus confounding others, and perhaps themselves as well, regarding the differences between bodily and behavioral ‘abnormalities.’”

A devastating point against AA is its abysmal success rates, a point conceded by the letters. However, the authors wish to credit this general failure with the “disease” instead of the AA program. Galten claims “that without AA the natural course of the disease will almost certainly return after detox” unless the individual continues going to AA. However, for many people, such as me personally, it was the program itself that was a major obstacle to recovery.

One of the greatest factors in the program being an abysmal failure is the stunning revelation that the program actually makes little attempt to reform or cure the addiction and treat the underlying motivation compelling the addictions continuation. A tacit assumption within the program is that one is an addict for life and that one can only survive day by day, humbling one’s self before a gracious god.

The program claims that the individual is “not responsible for his/her disease.” This is an unfortunate, if logical, extrapolation of the false notion of addiction being a disease. The individual that is suffering from the severe consequences – that are the direct product of their decisions – of addiction are culpable for their own behavior, they are themselves responsible and attempting to lay blame on some external force, petty as it would be, is extravagantly malevolent in its undermining of recovery.

In fact, the first step of the program insists that we admit “we were powerless over our addiction.” A proposition that I saw, in times of great crises, severe cravings and so on, as justifying the fact that I simply didn’t have the power to stop myself from further engaging in substance abuse.

This leads to the second step which insists that we believe that a power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity. This is obviously a problematic step for those who, like me, don’t believe in the supernatural. When anyone within the program attempts to reconcile this second step with secularism, arguing that it need not rely upon god, they necessarily illustrate the irrationality inherent within the program itself. They will tell people that “the power doesn’t have to be god, it could be a rock,” at once insulting the individual with outrageous condescension and making a mockery of their own program simultaneously. Step three only furthers this dilemma by stating that must “turn our will and our lives over to the care of god as we understood him.” Could this too also be only a rock?

Moving along, for purposes of space, to step eleven, we are supposed to seek “through prayer and meditation” the improvement “our conscious contact with God as we understood him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.” This would make as much sense to a Buddhist or a Hindu, for example, as it did to me. Speaking of god in such terms proves what the idea of “God as we understand him” is supposed to be.

Step twelve calls for blatant proselytizing: “Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.” The Christianity of this program is not even subtle, it’s blatant and transparent. The last step tells the addict that after having a “spiritual awaking” – hopefully through Jesus, as the Christian chaplains at 12-step treatment centers push for – we must now go out and proselytize to the poor and suffering, the desperate and the susceptible.

Why the program is a dismal failure is as transparent as is its Christian dogma. To indoctrinate people with the belief that their behavioral problems and habits are not their responsibility, but are rather the symptoms of some disease, is to emasculate them of any personal responsibility over their problems and, with the further claim that they are powerless without the interference of a divine force and, even further when the program teaches that one can only survive as an addict for life day by day – that’s one of the chief dogmas of the program, that once an addict, always an addict - a desperate notion if ever there was one, can in many, if not most cases, induce paralyzing hopeless despair.

The reality is that addiction is a psychobehavioral problem and the underlying psychological problem/s must be addressed and treated. If people are able to become sober through the program that’s good, although it’s indisputably rare and it’s also not treating the problems that motivated the substance abuse in the first place - as is obvious in many cases by those in the programs, those who still clearly have festering issues that have yet to be resolved – and those who do resolve the underlying problems are not getting their treatment from the twelve steps, but rather are likely getting professional psychotherapy or something of that nature while simultaneously attending the organization. As the dismal statistics of success illustrates, the program simply does not help most are even a significant number of people in recovery, in fact, as in my case and as in so many others, it simply further spurned the downward spiral into desperate darkness and despair.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Socialist Organization

One of the most critical issues for the left is the question of organization. For the purposes of this duscussion I would like to focus upon two general tendencies, the decentralized, democratic libertarian left and the centralized, authoritarian vanguard that stems from Bolshevism (a contrast between the libertarian and authoritarian left, if the latter can be considered left at all), although various alternatives presented by others are welcomed.

By way of introduction I would like to present a quote by one Otto Ruhle about social revolution in general, that social revolution, by definition, “is not a party affair; politically and economically it is the affair of the whole working class.” Social revolution is either carried out by society, by the people, the workers and so on, or it is not a social revolution (this is simply a matter of elementary definition).

In the footnotes to Noam Chomsky’s famous “Objectivity and Liberal Scholarship” he emphasizes that it must be noted “…the ways in which exercise of control over steps of the [early] revolutionary process [in China] was a factor in developing the consciousness and insight of those who took part in the revolution, not only from a political and social point of view, but also with respect to the human relationships that were created.”

Importantly, as Chomsky here emphasizes, integral and direct participation in the revolutionary process is central to the raising of revolutionary consciousness and the further unfolding and expansion of the revolution, leading to its likelier success. Rather than forcing processes upon the people – although, actually, the Bolshevik program constituted the destruction of revolutionary processes, such as the immediate dissolution of workers’ soviets and councils and so on – the people must be in control of the processes themselves. Instead of leading a vanguard party of mostly bourgeois intellectuals, the masses must be the central agent in revolutionary change.

The left-Marxist Anton Pannekoek explained that “belief in the party constitutes the most powerful check on the working class' capacity for action. That is why we are not trying to create a new party. This is so, not because our numbers are small -- a party of any kind begins with a few people -- but because, in our day, a party cannot be other than an organization aimed at directing and dominating the proletariat. To this type of organization we oppose the principle that the working class can effectively come into its own and prevail only by taking its destiny into its own hands.”

Rudolf Rocker, one of the leading proponents of anarcho-syndicalism, concurs writing that “[p]articipation in the politics of the bourgeois states has not brought the labour movement a hairs' breadth closer to Socialism, but, thanks to this method, Socialism has almost been completely crushed and condemned to insignificance. The ancient proverb: 'Who eats of the pope, dies of him,' has held true in this content also; who eats of the state is ruined by it. Participation in parliamentary politics has affected the Socialist labour movement like an insidious poison. It destroyed the belief in the necessity of constructive Socialist activity and, worst of all, the impulse to self-help, by inoculating people with the ruinous delusion that salvation always comes from above.”

It is critical that people realize progress must be made by the whole of the people involved, from the bottom up, democratically, and do not wish for and rely upon a Christ-like savior, someone like Lenin, who is allegedly going to initiate, progress and defend socialist revolution alone with their vanguard party of intellectual and revolutionary betters, for history has clearly shown to us the consequences of such an elitist, authoritarian program: it’s known as the counterrevolution.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Abortion

For those of you who don’t know, the time of violent male dominance, the Victorian era, the “cult of domesticity,” the notion that a man’s wife is his, such as property, and that others shouldn’t interfere or bother if they may notice signs of abuse – now, thanks to the raising of consciousness brought about by the feminist and social movements, there are domestic abuse call centers for help – that women are inferior to men intellectually and emotionally and so on: all of this is no longer tolerable to socially conscious human beings.

When a woman becomes pregnant after suffering through a violent rape, she is to be in control of her own body and her body’s biological processes. No male authority, no authority period, has the justification for deciding for women what they can and cannot do with their own bodies and biological processes. Even setting aside the all too frequent nightmare cases such as pregnancy through rape and incest, a woman has the right to her own body and control over her own biological processes, regardless.

The hysterical and extremist anti-choice movement (such as the crazed organization “Operation Rescue,” formerly headed by the charlatan Randall Terry) that recently saw to the murder in cold blood of Dr. George Tiller (a brave giant of a man who placed his own life on the line in defense of women’s health and the rights of women everywhere), the fourth victim of the blood-thirsty, death-cult since 1993, has, especially since Bill Clinton’s election in 1992, grown in momentum.

The Bush Presidency saw to the appointing of social conservative, radical Catholic judges to the Supreme Court – John Roberts and Samuel Alito – an aggressively undemocratic political institution that the religious extremists have been attempting to control since at least Reagan’s presidency in recent times; which is one of the reasons Obama’s election came as such a relief, in opposition to the wildly reactionary McCain-Palin horror-show of a ticket.

This reactionary, extremist and murderous cult of death, hatred and oppression must be broken. It is well beyond time for people who believe in women’s health and rights to stand and hold firm to the elementary principles involved in allowing legalized abortion methods.

The claim made by those who act as megaphones for extremists, reactionaries and killers – such as the O’Reilly Factor bully-pulpit that helped foment hysteria about Tiller (“O’Reilly repeatedly attacked Tiller on air, referring to him as a ‘so-called baby killer’” and the clinic he worked in “as a ‘death-mill,’ in segments he called ‘Tiller the Baby Killer,’ O’Reilly hurled wild accusations” such as that “George Tiller…will execute babies for $5,000 if the mother is depressed. And there are rapists impregnating 10-year-olds who are being protected by abortion clinics.” As Nicole Colson observed in the Socialist Worker) – that abortion represents a holocaust of babies is nothing but vulgar propaganda.

If an abortion is performed, it is by definition not the termination of a baby, but rather, even late into the pregnancy, the termination of a fetus. This of course is irrelevant to religious extremists and their anti-legal abortion movement – comprised of the Christian equivalent of al-Qaida organizations, organizations that inspire fire-bombing, the throwing of acid upon human flesh and murder in cold blood – who consider the moment of conception and the tiny cluster of cells that will later develop into a fetus to mark not the beginning, but the full realization of a human person endowed with a “soul” (overtly illustrating that their sociopolitical views are dictated by their religious dogmas, which, observing the separation of church and state, means that they cannot enter into the realm of political and legal discourse on the matter in a society where not everyone is a Christian extremist).
Peter Singer points out that “some opponents of abortion respond that the fetus…is made in the image of God, or has an immortal soul. They thereby acknowledge religion is the driving force behind their opposition. But there is no evidence for these religious claims, and in a society in which we keep the state and religion separate, we should not use them as a basis for the criminal law, which applies to people with different religious beliefs, or to those with none at all.”

Such beliefs are so much white noise and ignorance, the product of religious indoctrination and tyranny (religious institutions being historically patriarchal, women-hating and oppressing and extremely violent and authoritarian). Peter Singer points out in his Practical Ethics (pp. 150-1) that “[t]he weakness of the first premise [it is wrong to kill an innocent human being] of the conservative argument is that it relies on our accepting the special status of human life. We have seen that ‘human’ is a term that straddles two distinct notions, being a member of the species Homo sapiens, and being a person. Once the term is dissected in this way, the weakness of the conservative’s first premise becomes apparent. If ‘human’ is taken as equivalent of ‘person’ the second premise of the argument, which asserts that the fetus is a human being, is clearly false; for one cannot plausibly argue that a fetus is either rational or self-conscious...For on any fair comparison of morally relevant characteristics, like rationality, self-consciousness, awareness, autonomy, pleasure and pain, and so on, the calf, the pig and the much derided chicken come out well ahead of the fetus at any stage of pregnancy – while if we make the comparison of a fetus of less than three months, a fish would show more signs of consciousness.”

Singer suggests “that we accord the life of a fetus no greater value than the life of a nonhuman animal at a similar level of rationality, self-consciousness, awareness, capacity to feel, etc. Since no fetus is a person, no fetus has the same claim to life as a person. We have yet to consider at what point the fetus is likely to become capable of feeling pain. For now it will be enough to say that until that capacity exists, an abortion terminates an existence that is of no ‘intrinsic’ value at all. Afterwards, when the fetus may be conscious, though not self-conscious, abortion should not be taken lightly (if a woman ever does take an abortion lightly). But a woman’s serious interests would normally override the rudimentary interests even of a conscious fetus. Indeed, even an abortion late in pregnancy for the most trivial reasons is hard to condemn unless we also condemn the slaughter of far more developed forms of life for the taste of their flesh.”

The argument centered upon the fetus as “potential life” may be more compelling to some, but is as fallacious as any and the refutation of this argument can also be found in full detail in Singer’s Practical Ethics (pp. 152-6).

There is then also the social consequences of making abortion illegal. As A. Faundes and E. Hardy state: “Illegal abortion is responsible for up to half of maternal deaths and consumes a large proportion of health resources in many developing countries, particularly in Africa and Latin America. The legal situation of abortion in a country does not influence the abortion rate, but illegality is associated with a much greater risk of complications and death. To make abortion legal is not enough. Access to safe abortion strongly depends on the capacity and willingness of physicians and the health system to provide safe services, which sometimes are made available in spite of restrictive laws. The abortion rate will drop and the safety of the procedure will improve, parallel to the position women occupy in a given society, and to the level of recognition of their sexual and reproductive rights.”

It is well beyond time for those of us who are concerned for women’s health and rights, for elementary human rights and social justice, to be loud and clear, to hold firm that these rights will not be abrogated by a reactionary movement of religious frauds, hucksters, extremists and killers – the movement must be broken, left without any credibility or illusory moral standing - and that no one will be frightened away by threats of violence and terrorism from supporting what they know to be right and just.

Monday, May 04, 2009

President Obama: Reflections Upon the First 100 Days

The victory of Obama’s campaign over the hysterical, reactionary, rabid and racist elements of the McCain-Palin campaign came with an indescribable sense of joy, relief and validation to innumerable people (myself included) and celebration was justifiable. However, with the election also came a sort of intoxication and as with any intoxicant there were blinding effects (such as that Obama represented real, substantive change rather than mere cosmetic alterations and improvements). I along with everyone on the left worthy of mention knew and predicted ahead of time that real substantive change was not going to be freely offered by Obama over and above the will and power of the corporate business world (with the backing of the federal state system) without serious, organized and sustained grass-roots mobilization.

Any self-delusion that Obama was going to introduce sweeping and substantive change immediately dissipated when he began to assemble his administration. His economic team almost down the line are all former Clinton personnel, the very same people who helped to orchestrate the gross deregulation of the financial system that sunk the world economy. “Summers, Bernanke, Geithner, Furman, Rattner…what are they, if not the long-caricatured ‘executive committee of the bourgeoisie’?” Mike Davis rhetorically asks. Obama has pledged billions and trillions of dollars to help bailout and rescue the private banking system, continuing a central policy of Washington: socialism for the rich and free-market discipline for the poor.

In a society that values social justice a failed banking system run by corruption, well connected insiders, avarice and deceit wouldn’t be rewarded by their gross failure – which has resulted in millions of people being thrown out of their homes and into the streets by the very same hucksters who fished them into shyster deals, while those hucksters are now being rescued and even given bonuses by the very public they swindled – with public subsidy (the public paying trillions of dollars in order to save the shadowy banking system and those who helped to destroy it).
Instead, everyone who was in a position of private and managerial power within the banking industry, within the failed banks, would be rightfully fired, replaced by those whose capital was rescuing the system (the public). The public has paid, they should now own. The banking industry in any sane and fair society would be fully nationalized (rather than forcing the public to pay for the banks losses while keeping those who were responsible for the losses in their positions of management and power, those responsible for the losses should be either fired or indicted or both and managerial power should be in the hands of those who came to the rescue). However, Obama and his team of free-market fundamentalist Clinton carry-overs are doing nothing of the like, quite the opposite. They are doing precisely what you would expect those who are part of the failed system and responsible for its failure to do: saving their own interests and the interests of their connections and associates (simply review Paulson’s Goldman Sachs connections and the way in which he decided who was to be bailed out and rescued: read, who were his friends and accomplices? The same holds for Geithner as well as the rest of the usual suspects).

While Obama’s horrific position within the economic realm may be the most blatant, it certainly isn’t unique among his positions. Militarily Obama has committed the country to possibly even more war than McCain. Obama has certainly crossed over, very quickly and without hesitation, to the imperial ambitions of state: in Afghanistan and Pakistan, most conspicuously, as elsewhere. With his decision to keep at the helm Robert Gates, Obama has signaled that he doesn’t intend to substantively alter Washington’s imperial and hegemonic foreign policy; it may now have a more diplomatic and gentler quality about it – changes may be made, progress may occur – but it remains militant and ruthless nonetheless and holds onto the general ideology that begins from the absurd and violent premise that the United States owns the world. Obama represents and has assumed the “realist” tradition within the government, the very same tradition that is responsible for an almost infinite index of invasions, occupations and international terrorist actions. No one should be surprised when Afghanistan and Pakistan turn into an even worse nightmare of atrocities. Obama has adopted the Bush Doctrine that the United States can and should wantonly bomb Pakistan (there have been a slew of such bombings). As Noam Chomsky observed on Democracy Now!: “There has been for example a great deal of chaos and fighting in Bajaur province, which is adjacent to Afghanistan and tribal leaders – others there – have traced it to the bombing of a madrassa school which killed 80 to 95 people, which I don’t think was even reported in the United States, it was reported in the Pakistani press of course.”

Obama’s silence on Israel’s terrorism in Gaza – as well as his appointing for Chief of staff, Rham Emmanuel (who, among many other horrors, helped set a record for supporting Tel Aviv’s political assassinations of Palestinians) – outside of being a moral disgrace also serves as yet more evidence of heinous continuity. His treatment of the Middle East generally is yet to prove much different from any of his predecessors as well as his treatment of Latin America. While the left in the South remain open to normalizing relations with the United States – Chavez, Morales, etcetera – Morales points out that “[i]n Bolivia… one doesn’t feel any change. The policy of conspiracy continues,” and he says this within the context of a brutal opposition in Bolivia (an opposition of corrupt, dangerous, ultra-right, protofascist party leaders and wealthy corporate CEOs and so on over and against the populace, many supported by the CIA) that has recently even plotted to assassinate Morales and secede from the state.

While thankfully repudiating the criminal and internationally illegal use of torture methods used in the Inquisitions and as prosecuted by the United States when used by the Khmer Rouge and others, Obama has left open whether or not any Bush administration officials (such as the moral slug of a former attorney general, Alberto Gonzalez, who referred to the content of the Geneva Conventions in relation to torture as “quaint,” as I pointed out in my post about humanism and the occupation of Iraq) will even ever be prosecuted; once again proving that the “rule of law” is in reality the rule of concentrated capital and power and it is a real shame (although it was predicted by everyone on the left worthy of mention) that Obama has assumed the leading role in such rule.
While repudiating the use of torture, Obama plans to continue the system of military commission trials for some Guantanamo prisoners. As Tom Eley reports: “The articles, which are based on anonymous White House sources, and statements by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Attorney General Eric Holder appear designed to prepare public opinion for a revival of the trials, which were temporarily suspended in an order issued by Obama on the day of his inauguration. The suspension is due to end May 20.
In testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee Thursday, Gates was asked whether the Guantánamo military commission system would be shut down, to which he responded, ‘not at all,’ and added that ‘the commissions are very much still on the table.’
At a news conference last week, Holder said that ‘it may be difficult for some of those high-value detainees to be tried in a normal federal court.’”
As for the big ado about Obama’s war budget and the significant cuts called for, there is little substance behind the smoke screen. As Jeff Leys writes: “At first glance, it is easy to conclude that the proposed 22 percent reduction in war spending from 2008 to 2009 represents a significant shift in war strategy and is indicative of a drawing down of the twin wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sadly, such a conclusion would be wrong…In October 2006, England [Deputy Secretary of Defense] directed the military to submit spending requests to not only cover the incremental costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also to include any new costs attributed to the so-called “long war on terror”.
Procurement appropriations exploded, jumping from $22.9 billion in 2006 (the fiscal year immediately prior to England’s directive) to $45.4 billion in 2007 (the first fiscal year under the new directive), and then to $64.9 billion in 2008.
Thus, it is likely that the reduction in Procurement monies to be appropriated in 2009 simply reflects a reversal of England’s directive, with a shift back to a more normative budgetary process which seeks to limit new “emergency” procurement requests to those incremental costs directly related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, rather than being reflective of significant shifts in the direction of the overall war strategy.”

There are also the myriad of issues upon which Obama has staked out a triangulatory opportunist, compromised and intolerable position: gay marriage rights, single-payer nationalized healthcare, possibly even EFCA and so on. As Patrick Martin writes: "The wage cuts imposed on auto workers at Chrysler and General Motors at the insistence of the Obama administration demonstrate the class strategy that American big business as a whole is carrying out: to impose a reduction in the living standards of American workers on a scale unprecedented since the Great Depression."



It is now the task of everyone concerned for social justice, freedom and equality to oppose such unjust policy, to offer, demand and work towards more just alternatives where people are not lorded over and huckstered by elite, well connected insiders and highly concentrated capital, where promises of change do not amount to mere cosmetic redecorating and general continuity and where the interests that dominate are not those of the rich and well connected few (corporations, conglomerates, corporate paid and supported political lackeys and corrupt and failed banks and all those subservient to said power), but rather by the many through direct forms of democracy creating in embryo what is to be the future just society while at the same time putting pressure on President Obama, the Congress, the Courts and so on to support real, effective, substantive change.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Left and the LGBT Movement: Past, Present and Future

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

The current grass-roots mobilization and politicization of the LGBT rights movement has been emboldened rather than set back by the recent spate of anti-gay ballot initiatives (dating from virtually time immemorial through the Clinton era DOMA, Defense of Marriage Act, legislation to the recent passage of Proposition 8 in California).
With victories in Iowa, Vermont and so on and accounting for certain future set backs the mounting successes continue to come and will only further lay the foundation for and help ensure ultimate victory.

Many separate yet contingent factors have led to the politicization of young people and the further and deeper politicization of many others. A prominent, arguably the most prominent, among them is Obama’s election (the campaign through the inauguration) an historical event still worthy of celebration in and of itself. As Issue 63 of the International Socialist Review writes: “Many feel they played a part in Obama’s election; they were politicized by the experience, and are ready to take action to make sure they get the things they want.”
Very unfortunately for the LGBT movement, the event was bitter sweet for several reasons. To begin with, Obama, though coming out unambiguously for gay marriage rights – along with, presumably, all others – during his 1996 senate run, as reported by Windy City Times newspaper (President Obama’s answer to a 1996 Outlines newspaper question on marriage was: “’I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages.’ There was no use of the phrase ‘civil unions’.”), has transparently because of his Presidential Campaign and real and/or perceived political dependencies and obligations reversed his position and now claims that he “disagrees” with gay marriage – the very same reactionary conservative bigotry euphemistically manifested in disingenuous arguments about the “definition of marriage” as related to religious extremism – because, as is the conventional wisdom in Washington, gay marriage is politically risky at best and possibly suicidal. So, ignoring the for the most part open depravity of the McCain-Palin position on such matters, among innumerable others, Obama’s position was a politically opportunist compromise (predictable and possibly understandable yet unethical as well as intolerable). Then there was the devastating passage of the heinously anti-gay Proposition 8 in California (which restricts the definition of marriage to opposite-sex couples and eliminated same-sex couples’ right to marry).

Setting aside for now the absolutely grotesque and evil involvement of the Mormon racket in the Prop 8 campaign and passage, which was also possibly illegal (as alternet.org reported “[a]ctivists claim that money from the Mormon Church was the deciding factor in passing Proposition 8 in California - banning gay marriage. The church claims to have only spent a few thousand dollars on the campaign, but ANP has uncovered evidence that may expose a gaping hole in that claim. Also, the IRS forbids religious organizations from "substantially" lobbying for political legislation. Did the Mormon Church violate this law?”) there is now considerable frustration and anger “at the corporate driven strategy of the No on 8 campaign that,” as Sherry Wolf writes in the ISR, “disastrously misled the Prop 8 battle.” Wolf agrees with Rolling Stone writing that the proposition “was down seventeen points only two months before the election. The reversal wasn’t inevitable, it was unwittingly orchestrated by corporate-driven, Democratic-Party beholden interests who ran a tepid and defensive campaign of euphemisms obscuring the stakes in the fight.” Alongside of this was the racist and class antagonistic atmosphere of local organizers – that led some to form independent organizations, such as Love Honor Cherish – that was also evidenced “[i]n Sand Diego and San Francisco…Upper-middle-class gays who led the local No on 8 ‘fight’ sequestered the movement inside trendy gay ghettos while the working-class neighborhoods and non-white ethnic groups were written off,” whereas the obscenely Mormon financed Yes on 8 campaign “was in evidence as every gridlocked crawl through LA’s notorious traffic revealed Spanish and English language ‘Yes on 8’ stickers adorning bumpers of pick-ups and Mercedes alike.”
Obama’s campaign wisely directly engaged the online community, a generally younger demographic, and it is these online networks, such as Facebook, that have helped to organize and politicize the protests against Prop 8 nationally. For instance, as Jason Farbman and Lonnie Lopez from Seattle write to Socialist Worker, “[t]wenty-one-year-old Kyler Powell – a gay Mormon – had never organized or even attended a protest before spearheading the anti-Prop 8 march in Seattle. Due largely to Facebook and word of mouth, it drew nearly 10,000. The turnout was a testament not just to the fierce opposition to the second-class citizenship of gays and lesbians, but to the willingness of many outside the gay community to take action.”

The nascent movement that is emerging from these spontaneous grass-roots protests (and the organizing necessarily involved), politically, is strikingly pro-labor and anti-corporate. Sherry Wolf writes that “…new movement activists, students and socialists organized a gay marriage forum in Chicago on December 11, one day after the historic victory of the Republic Windows and Doors factory occupation in that city. Fresh from winning nearly $2 million in severance and vacation pay for the multiracial group of factory workers, Raul Flores addressed the crowd brilliantly, saying that our struggles are united and we must be too. ‘Our victory is yours,’ he said, ‘Now we must join with you in your battle for rights and return the solidarity you showed us.’ The day before, hundreds of gay protesters rallying for equal marriage rights as part of the national Day Without a Gay initiative linked their march with the Republic Workers’ protest outside Bank of America. Trade Unionists, immigrant rights activists, and gays rallied together in the most eloquent display of genuine rainbow power Chicago has witnessed in decades. One Chilean immigrant described the day’s action as ‘a school for struggle.’”

It is for these reasons that Sherry Wolf writes that “[t]he release of Gus Van Sant’s brilliant biopic of gay activist elected San Francisco Supervisor in 1977, Milk, has arrived in theaters at a crucial teaching moment in the struggle. The film alludes to a key aspect of the successful gay-labor struggles against Coors beer and the 1978 Briggs Initiative that would have banned LGBT teachers and their allies from ‘advocating, imposing, encouraging or promoting’ homosexuality in California’s classrooms.” The initiative would have banned anyone who was gay from teaching and fired all those who were already. “By uniting with Teamsters in the Coors battle and forging lasting alliances with blue and white-collar workers in the Briggs initiative, Harvey Milk along with tends of thousands of activists advanced both the fight for gay civil rights and for labor unity." Rob Epstein’s documentary The Life and Times of Harvey Milk goes into these areas more thoroughly which helps further illustrate all of this.

In the late sixties, when the gay rights movement began to really take off after the Stonewall riots and groups such as the Gay Liberation Front were formed, the radicalization of the movement was already clearly existent. The very name of the GLF was a tribute to the South Vietnamese Liberation Front, at the time fighting the United States military forces in Southeast Asia. Sherry Wolf observes that “[t]he influence of small radical groups in the GLF was evident in its statement to one underground newspaper the Rat: “We are a revolutionary homosexual group of men and women formed with the realization that complete sexual liberation for all people cannot come about unless existing social institutions are abolished. We reject society’s attempt to impose sexual roles and definitions of our nature. We are stepping outside these roles and simplistic myths. We are going to be who we are. At the same time, we are creating new social forms and relations, that is, relations based upon brotherhood, cooperation, human love, and uninhibited sexuality. Babylon has forced us to commit ourselves to one thing…revolution.”
The Chicago chapter of the GLF, writing in the Gay Flames pamphlet, as Wolf quotes, wrote that “because of the rampant oppression we see – of black, third world people, women, workers – in addition to our own; because of the corrupt values, because of the injustices, we no longer want to ‘make it’ in Amerika…Our particular struggle is for sexual self-determination, the abolition of sex-role stereotypes and the human right to the use of one’s body without interference from the legal and social institutions of the state. Many of us have understood that our struggle cannot succeed without a fundamental change in society which will put the source of power (means of production) in the hands of the people who at present have nothing…But as our struggle grows it will be made clear by the changing objective conditions that our liberation is inextricably bound to the liberation of all oppressed people.”
The last line about gay liberation being “inextricably bound to the liberation of all oppressed people” is a central tenet of socialist and anarchist thought – the great syndicalist unions dominant principle and slogan was and is that “an injustice one is an injustice to all” – and Martin Luther King Jr. – who associated with socialists and trade unionists, such as Bayard Rustin and A. Philip Randolph, who both helped organize the unions for the famous march on Washington – proclaimed that “an injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere.”

The current and immediate struggle for gay marriage rights should be variegated and diverse, certainly not wholly tied to and dependent upon larger anti-capitalist struggle, lest it be burdened with reactionary red-baiting and general, infantile anti-left hysteria and slowed down or defeated by such rabid ideological reactions. However, the general LGBT movement as such must emphasize the fundamental struggles interwoven and shared in common with all oppressed people, the power of social movements lies in the organizing, consolidating and solidarity of these movements. There must be forged and strengthened lasting alliances among the LGBT movement, the labor movement, the feminist movement, the immigrant rights movement, student movements and so on.
Real and effective change must be demanded immediately, going through every route available (the judiciary, the legislature, the executive and the streets). Opportunism and compromise must be adamantly opposed, for there is no opportunity in compromising with bigots, the ultra-right and religious extremists and there is simply nothing about freedom and equality that can ever be conceded; one either supports and works towards the fuller realization of freedom and equality or one does not and the movement can no longer afford any of the latter.
Anyone who believes in freedom, equality and civil rights must now take a stand and hold firm: “We hold these truths to be self-evident,” that all are created equal, regardless of sexual orientation. The people united will never be defeated.

Monday, February 02, 2009

For Whom The Bell Tolls

Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom The Bell Tolls is a great work of literature, an insightful journey into the minds and hearts of Spanish guerillas held out in the mountains fighting the fascists in the Spanish Civil War. A story detailing the horrors of war, the effects of said horrors upon the minds and psyches of the victims and the aggressors. A story of the excesses of war and violence like no other I have read before.

Unfortunately, the book in many places repeats Stalinist propaganda. Unknown to those who have not studied the Spanish Civil War is the fact that Stalin’s “Popular Front” played a large role in the Spanish Republic, communists having joined the Republic in defense against the fascists and in offense against the Trotskyists, anarchists and workers and peasants who, in the face of the failure of the Republican government, organized cities and farm land under shop committees, collectives and community centers.

Ernest Hemingway unfortunately appears to defend in the book the murder in cold blood of such Trotskyists and anarchists – who were imprisoned, placed in labor camps, tortured and murdered (it was these murderous purges that motivated George Orwell to write Animal Farm ) – as well as providing the counterrevolutionary Stalinist caricature of them as wild, undisciplined, beasts of men who need to be murdered.
However, fortunately, these severe drawbacks of the book are few, there is positive mention of the great anarchist leader Durruti and the greatness of the other aspects of the book overwhelm the vulgarity of the Stalinist propaganda. Possibly and most likely Hemingway was simply mislead and honesty believed in these things.

The love story, between Robert Jordan and Maria, although at times very sexist in nature (surely an accurate representation of sex roles at the time) shows how the light of humanity can shine through even the most horrific events and the darkness of war. Hemingway’s romantic depiction of the “good” Spanish and of Spanish ways of talking, thinking and of their customs is insightful and brilliant and his depiction of their camaraderie, fraternity and solidarity is fantastic, as is his depiction of their ideals (as ill conceived as the unfortunate drawbacks were) and how they motivate a religious-like righteousness that is able to overcome the most difficult and horrific obstacles. It’s difficult to put into words the brilliance of these aspects.

All in all a great work of literature, a giant, that stands the test of time; worthy of being read by all, though surely with the qualifications cited in mind and in conjunction with, say, George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia.

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Discovery Institute Fraud (Creationism)

The Discovery Institute racket – the Christian extremist organization that rejects evolution and believes that the Earth was created spontaneously by a grand wizard in vacuous darkness in a matter of seven days and is only several thousand years old, laughably, placing creation 2,500 years after the Babylonians and Summerians developed techniques for brewing beer – has called for an “Academic Freedom Day” on the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth, a day being celebrated by conscious and educated human beings with radio shows, documentaries and exhibitions.

The depth of deceit and hucksterism inherent in the very phrase “Academic Freedom Day” as espoused by the same sects of Christian extremists who many times spawn abortion doctor murderers is absolutely breathtaking. Academic freedom has nothing to do with the fact that first century religious barbarism isn’t to be taught in the science class room. If people want to wear prairie dresses and ride around in horse drawn buggies teaching their children that science is of the devil and that human beings were created from dirt by a fatherly wizard in the sky, that’s fine with me, the Amish seem like decent people. People should be able to live however they want so long as it doesn’t harm others. They can stay in their isolated, archaic villages out in the wilds, or the desert, if they’re with the Latter Day Saints, so long as they don’t rape minors (despite polygamous preaching that it’s alright by god), murder people, or try to force their religious hucksterism and idiocy into the science rooms of the secular public educational system.

The truly baffling aspect of this movement is that they aren’t a bunch of religious fanatics living out in the wild. They live in modern suburbs, drive cars, enjoy modern medicines and vaccines developed through medical knowledge only made possible with an understanding of the evolution of viruses and diseases and yet they still fervently cling to a myth created through the ignorance of the human species at a time when people thought that, rather than bacteria or viruses, invisible demons and spawns of Satan were possessing people (in a manner similar to the way in which “body thetans” attach themselves to people in the crazed space opera of Scientology) thus making them ill.

These people believe that the universe shows intelligent design, the same universe that is absolutely seething with dark matter and black holes, unable to support life anywhere but in the most miniscule galaxy on a tiny planet that is still cooling while the tectonic plates continue to shift, causing earthquakes and volcano eruptions, not to mention the hurricanes, tornadoes, mud slides, wild fires, thunder storms and other natural catastrophes that maim and kill millions without much if any warning at all.
To choose only one example of the human body, the means of taking in air for the lungs and liquids and food for the stomach all funnel through the very same place, many times causing people to choke, gasp and actually suffocate and die. That doesn’t strike me as anything like intelligent. Furthermore, 99.9% of every species that has ever existed has gone extinct. That doesn’t to me suggest intelligent design, if anything it strikes me as malevolent design.

The creationist demand to teach biblical myth alongside and as an alternative to scientific theory, specifically, Darwin’s theories of natural selection and evolution, is predicated upon neither evidence nor logic generally, but rather upon faith. As Christopher Hitchens, who can be insufferable, as I’ve written about, asks, where would this end and why? Why just the biology class room and Christian extremist dogma? Why not in conjunction with chemistry also teach alchemy? Or how about astronomy followed by astrology? The straightforward answer is because that would be absurd and insulting to the intelligence of the teachers, the students and the general public (religious extremists notwithstanding), not to mention stultifying of the intellectual growth of American children already ranked rather poorly internationally.

As comedian and columnist for the Independent, Mark Steel wrote, “[i]f all theories are given equal status, teachers could say: ‘Your essays on the cause of tornadoes were very good. Nathan’s piece detailing the impact of warm moist air colliding with cool air, with original sources from the Colorado Weather Bureau, contained some splendid detail. But Samatha’s piece that went ‘Because God is cross’ was just as good. So you all get a B+,’” thus humorously illustrating the “god of the gaps” fallacy as well as the sheer craziness and stupidity of the creationists.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Israel’s terrorism in Gaza

The estimates of Palestinians killed in the recent Israeli invasion and destruction of Gaza runs somewhere around 1,184, including 844 civilians and 281 children; although these are surely underestimates (decomposing bodies are still being unearthed from rubble in areas that the IDF wouldn’t allow entry to humanitarian organizations). It must be noted that the overwhelming number of people killed were noncombatant civilians, many times apparently intentionally targeted, as in the Zeitoun massacres (although, as Noam Chomsky observes, it matters little whether they were intentionally targeted or whether they have been killed out of “depraved indifference,” which is arguably more heinous), the bombing of a United Nations compound “which contained the UNRWA warehouse” which held “’hundreds of tons of emergency food and medicines set for distribution…to shelters, hospitals and feeding centers,’” all destroyed, and other similar examples. Israel used white phosphorous (which can burn through skin down to the bone), which is a war crime, one among many others committed by Israel, bombed schools, police stations, Mosques, villages, homes, refugee camps, hospitals and ambulances, more war crimes, and decided to begin the assault, as Chomsky writes, “shortly before noon, when children were returning from school and crowds were milling in the streets of densely populated Gaza City. It took only a few minutes to kill over 225 people and wound 700, an auspicious opening to the mass slaughter of defenseless civilians trapped in a tiny cage with nowhere to flee.”

The above alone, hardly the totality of horror Israel inflicted upon the Gazan population, is clearly indefensible, disproportionate and evil. The pretext Israel used to unleash its violent blitzkrieg upon Gaza was the firing of homemade rockets into Israel (rockets that have accounted for the deaths of eleven Israelis in the three years between 2004-2007, according to B’Tselem, the Israeli Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories), which are war crimes. However, U.S.-Israeli propaganda pretends that these rocket attacks threaten the very existence of Israel and its military, one of the most technologically sophisticated and the fourth largest on the planet Earth – a claim so preposterous as to not warrant a response – that the rockets are entirely unprovoked and simply the product of the inherently savage “two-legged beasts” (to borrow a slur used by Israeli politicians). However, the rocket attacks were a reaction to Israel’s ending of the ceasefire when they killed six Palestinian militants on November the fourth, as Amnesty International and others report, and the brutal and relentless blockade of Gaza that has turned it into essentially the largest prison on Earth.
Ha’aretz, one of Israel’s main newspapers, also reported that the invasion of Gaza had been planned six months in advance, even as the ceasefire was initially being negotiated. It was these rocket attacks Barack Obama referred to when he said that “if missiles were falling where my two daughters sleep, I would do everything in order to stop that.” Noam Chomsky points out that he is only “referring to Israeli children, not the many hundreds being torn to shreds in Gaza by US arms.” Outside of this one comment Obama made, he remained silent, an act of political cowardice. This doesn’t bode well for the future. Neither does the fact that Obama’s Chief of Staff and his adviser, Rahm Emanuel and Dennis Ross, are both Israel-first extremists. Obama’s silence on the death and destruction in Gaza was a shaming moral disgrace and his most recent comments about Israel-Palestine represent a continuation of carte blanche support for Israeli aggression, expansion and rejectionism. Chomsky observed on Democracy Now! that "the thrust of his remarks...is that Israel has a right to defend itself by force, even though it has peaceful means to defend itself, that the Arabs must—states must move constructively to normalize relations with Israel, but very carefully omitting the main part of their proposal was that Israel, which is Israel and the United States, should join the overwhelming international consensus for a two-state settlement. That’s missing."


While Israel no doubt is entitled to security – although Israel pursues expansion over and against security at every turn – Hamas does not pose an existential threat to the state of Israel. Furthermore, there are multiple ways by which to pursue security and reduce terrorism. I’ve discussed these subjects before here on my blog and will put this discussion to the side for now. The most obvious way forward, the first step, is the peace process, which, since the election of Sharon, has been aborted.
Hamas, in fact, has called for a reengagement of the peace process, which Israel views as a threat, the “Palestinian peace offensive” as they call it. The state of Israel, it’s militant and illegal settlers and the ultra-Zionists in Israel and world over don’t want peace with the Palestinians, they don’t want the two-state settlement, they want all of Palestine and the eradication of the Palestinians, to “wipe them all out,” to quote a crazed ultra-Zionist at a recent pro-Israel demonstration in New York (note that no one presents these facts as justification for an invasion of Israel). They don’t want a viable Palestinian state, they want to reduce the West Bank and the Gaza Strip into unviable, disconnected ghettos that will be so unbearable that no one would want to stay, continuing a central Israeli policy explicitly made manifest by Moshe Dayan. As Noam Chomsky observes: “The plan for the Palestinians under military occupation was described frankly to his Cabinet colleagues by Moshe Dayan, one of the Labor leaders more sympathetic to the Palestinian plight. Israel should make it clear that "we have no solution, you shall continue to live like dogs, and whoever wishes may leave, and we will see where this process leads." Following that recommendation, the guiding principle of the occupation has been incessant and degrading humiliation, along with torture, terror, destruction of property, displacement and settlement, and takeover of basic resources, crucially water.”


Chomsky fleshes this out writing that "[t]he rocketing is criminal, and it is true that a state has the right to defend itself against criminal attacks. But it does not follow that it has a right to defend itself by force. That goes far beyond any principle that we would or should accept. Nazi Germany had no right to use force to defend itself against the terrorism of the partisans. Kristallnacht is not justified by Herschel Grynszpan's assassination of a German Embassy official in Paris. The British were not justified in using force to defend themselves against the (very real) terror of the American colonists seeking independence, or to terrorize Irish Catholics in response to IRA terror - and when they finally turned to the sensible policy of addressing legitimate grievances, the terror ended. It is not a matter of "proportionality," but of choice of action in the first place: Is there an alternative to violence?

Any resort to force carries a heavy burden of proof, and we have to ask whether it can be met in the case of Israel's effort to quell any resistance to its daily criminal actions in Gaza and in the West Bank, where they still continue relentlessly after more than 40 years.

Israel has a straightforward means to defend itself: put an end to its criminal actions in occupied territories, and accept the long-standing international consensus on a two-state settlement that has been blocked by the US and Israel for over 30 years, since the US first vetoed a Security Council resolution calling for a political settlement in these terms in 1976. I will not once again run through the inglorious record, but it is important to be aware that US-Israeli rejectionism today is even more blatant than in the past. The Arab League has gone even beyond the consensus, calling for full normalization of relations with Israel. Hamas has repeatedly called for a two-state settlement in terms of the international consensus. Iran and Hezbollah have made it clear that they will abide by any agreement that Palestinians accept. That leaves the US-Israel in splendid isolation, not only in words."

Israel claimed that its war aims were to “discredit” Hamas and evoke from the Palestinian population a rejection of Hamas, this of course being the textbook definition of terrorism: punishing civilian populations for political ends.
The destruction of Hamas is impossible, for every Hamas leader killed another will take his place, an even more radical militant. Just as Israel’s disastrous invasion and destruction of Lebanon in 2006 didn’t eradicate the Hezbollah – instead emboldening the terrorist elements within the resistance and shoring up sympathy for the Hezbollah even among Christians, Druze and so on – so too has Israel’s invasion and destruction of Gaza not evoked a rejection of Hamas, but rather served beyond anything Hamas could have done themselves to shore up sympathy and support. An illustrative example is the reaction from one of the “moderate voices in the Arab world, Prince Turki al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia, who said on January 6 that ‘The Bush administration has left [Obama] a disgusting legacy and a reckless position towards the massacres and bloodshed of innocents in Gaza…Enough is enough, today we are all Palestinians and we seek martyrdom for God and for Palestine, following those who died in Gaza.’” Gabriel Kolko, one of the leading historians of modern warfare, observes that Israel “has produced horror in much of the world, creating a new cause which has mobilized countless numbers of people – possibly as strong as the Vietnam war movement. It has made itself a pariah nation – save in the United States and a few other countries. Above all, it has enflamed the entire Muslim world.” Not only has Israel failed at its stated objectives, to “discredit” Hamas and end the rocket attacks – just before the ceasefire Hamas lobbed many rockets into Israel proving that they were still capable of doing so – it has helped garner sympathy and support for Hamas, enflamed not only the entire Muslim world, but the entire world generally. Noam Chomsky has for many years pointed out “that those who call themselves ‘supporters of Israel’ are in reality supporters of its moral degeneration and probable ultimate destruction.”