Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category


Death Wins All Wars front coverDeath Wins All Wars: Resisting the Draft in the 1960s, a Memoir, by Daniel Holland, introduction by Chaz Bufe. Softcover, 192 pages, $16.95, ISBN 9781947071353, publication date September 1, 2019.

This entertaining and thought-provoking memoir covers Daniel’s experiences in the anti-war counterculture of the 1960s, experiences which led to his refusal to submit to involuntary servitude as a killer in a criminal war. The book goes on to describe his trial, his legal travails, and life in the counterculture following that trial. The book concludes with a chapter in which Daniel reflects on his and other draft resisters’ experiences during the Viet Nam War, and lessons about achieving peace for today’s activists.

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The Great Evil front coverThe Great Evil: Christianity, the Bible, and the Native American Genocide, by Chris Mato Nunpa, PhD. Softcover, 256 pages, $19.95, ISBN 9781947071360, publication date September 1, 2019.

In this shocking book, retired Native American history professor Nunpa exposes a sordid and little known aspect of American history: The intimate ties between Christian doctrine, Christian churches, and the mass slaughter and enslavement of Indigenous peoples.

(We’ll be running a post by Chris on February 12, Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, on why the Dakota people have very little use for Lincoln, why to them he’s more “the great hangman” than “the great emancipator.”)

 


Salom Mesa Espinoza

“I come from the social subsoil, and my ideas embrace political struggle. . . . to procure a revolutionary order, to leave behind justice for my equals; but the results of the political struggle in which I’ve been an actor haven’t served these ends, but on the contrary it’s served to turn me into an animal, to debase me, to corrupt and degrade the sons of the people. And as an honest man — which I’ve always wanted people to see me as — I had to break with that which life itself showed to be evil. In may case, conventional [electoral] politics.

“The legal [political] parties in which I participated were generous with me. The first, Acción Democrática, made me councilor for the Federal District and later a deputy to the Congress, and for it I spilled my blood. The second Movimiento Electoral del Pueblo, made me a deputy for the Federal District three consecutive times, and the final time nominated me and secured my election while I was imprisoned. It conducted a vigorous and and valiant campaign for my freedom, and its president doctor Luís B. Prieto harshly criticized the government and vehemently demanded my release. I’m profoundly grateful to the MEP and Doctor Prieto, and I won’t forget that.

“But for me social struggle makes sense [only] if it tends in the direction of human emancipation; and forty-four years of party militancy, surrounded in the vast majority by good people, has convinced me that we’ll never reach emancipation through political action, that the sons of the people, like me, should have nothing to do with [electoral] politics nor with government. Our mission is that of destroying the ruling political and social order so as to later construct a just order.”

–Salom Mesa Espinoza, La vida me lo dijo, elogio a la anarquía (rough translation: Life told me this, elegy to anarchy)

(quoted by Rodolfo Montes de Oca in Venezuelan Anarchism: The History of a Movement, which will go to press later this month)

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Venezuelan Anarchism front cover

 


“The American people are fed a daily diet of nonsense-talk and lies in the form of what is effectively state media on Fox News and nobody should underestimate the threat posed by a political party where conservatism is now defined by absolute obedience to a leader with autocratic tendencies who fetishizes dictators and autocrats all over the world. . . . Trump didn’t destroy the Republican Party—it’s the cowardice of the Republican leaders, their complicity in all of it, the lack of courage to stand up for what’s right. Republican members of Congress are cowed and fearful of Trump and they have abrogated their oaths to defend the Constitution of the United States . . .”

–Steve Schmidt (John McCain’s campaign manager), quoted by The Daily Beast


(This is an update of a post I wrote about 18 months ago, and have updated a couple of times since.)

No, I’m not kidding. Trump has actually done a number of good things.

First, let’s list only the unalloyed positives:

  • Trump has armed the Kurdish YPG (People’s Protection Units) fighting ISIS in northern Syria, much to the annoyance of Turkish Islamist would-be dictator and ISIS enabler Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (Update: As of January 2018, the U.S. is planning to keep 30,000 troops in northern Syria — the Kurdish part of Syria — and is promising to help the Kurds builda protective border wall on the Syrian-Turkish border, where for once a wall will be a good thing.)

As for the Kurds themselves, the YPG, a major part of the Syrian Democratic Forces, is the most effective military entity fighting ISIS in Syria. It’s also the only secular, democratic, libertarian (with a small “l”) force in the region in which gender equality is actively promoted. (There are all-women YPG units.)

It’s worth noting that to appease Islamist thug Erdogan, Hillary Clinton, had she won, would probably not have armed the YPG. All of the facts noted above have been obvious for years, yet Obama refused to arm the YPG. It’s a good bet that former Obama Secretary of State Clinton wouldn’t have, either.

Update 12-23-18: Trump, as was predictable, just betrayed the Kurds by announcing a US pullout from Syria. There were only 2,000 US troops there, but they served as a trip-wire preventing invasion by Ergoghan’s, Assad’s, Putin’s, and the Iranian ayatollah’s thugs. Trump just betrayed the only real allies the U.S. has in the region, the only ones effectively fighting ISIS. God help the Kurds. And god help the people in the region once ISIS comes surging back, like a virulent case of syphilis after an inadequate course of antibiotics.

(For more info, see “The Anarchists vs. the Islamic State.“)

  • Trump killed the TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a “free trade” pact and mutant descendant of NAFTA. (I won’t even get started on NAFTA here; for now, suffice it to say that it screwed American industrial workers and Mexican small farmers — spurring a wave of jobless workers across the border,  desperate to provide for their families — while vastly benefiting transnational corporations.) Among other things, the TPP would have a allowed commercial “courts” to overrule U.S. laws, would have made the already atrocious copyright situation even worse, strengthening the hold of the media conglomerates, would have allowed U.S. pharmaceutical firms to force companies in signatory nations to stop producing affordable versions of life-saving drugs, and would have allowed foreign firms to sue the U.S. and U.S. state governments over “loss” of projected profits caused by environmental regulations.

Clinton was in favor of the TPP abomination, calling it the “gold standard” of trade agreements. Until she wasn’t in favor of it. If she’d won, there’d likely have been a few cosmetic changes to it which would have made it “acceptable” to her. And we’d have been further screwed. Trump just did her one better by denouncing NAFTA and then delivering . . . . . NAFTA.

Update: Trump just delivered the rather gay-sounding USMCA. (He even mimed “YMCA” in celebrating it.) It’s essentially NAFTA with minor tweaks and a few minor provisions thrown in from the TPP.  Its $16-an-hour provision might, might, serve as a very minor brake to the export of jobs overseas. (Check out what just happened with GM if you believe this.) At the same time, it contained a provision screwing Canadian and Mexican patients in favor of big pharma by increasing the length of time before generic drugs are available.

  • Trump is reportedly going to crack down on H-1B visa abuse. This type of visa allows employers to hire foreign workers for jobs for which there supposedly aren’t enough qualified American applicants. In practice, this program provides employers with indentured servants working for half the prevailing wages (often in the computer industry). Even worse, some “employers” have been more slave traders than job creators, hiring H-1B workers and then renting them to actual employers while taking part of their wages. (Ironically, in 2017 Trump took advantage of the closely related H-2B program to hire 70 low-skilled workers [cooks, maids, food servers] for his Mar-a-Lago resort.)

Update: Nothing has changed.

  • Trump, almost certainly out of personal pique against CNN, has opposed the ATT-Time-Warner merger, which would have further consolidated media control into fewer and fewer hands.

Update: The merger went through.

  • Trump, through his defeat of Clinton, has partially broken the hold of the corporate Democrats on the Democratic Party — the Republicans’ junior partner in the looting of the American working class — and made it at least possible that the “democratic wing of the Democratic Party” will ascend.

For decades, the corporate Dems have had a stranglehold on the party as they’ve catered to the corporate elite (e.g., Obama’s refusal to prosecute any of the banksters responsible for the financial crash), taken massive amounts of money from the corporate elite, and refused to advance policies (most notably “Medicare for all”) favored by a large majority of Americans, and an even larger majority of Democrats.

At the same time, the corporate Democrats have been chasing the chimera of the “center” (the maybe 10% of eligible voters who are so poorly informed that they can’t make up their minds until the last minute) while ignoring the vastly higher number of those eligible to vote who don’t even bother to do it (41% in 2016), largely because of disillusionment, largely because they can’t see any real differences between the parties (at least in terms of economics).

Next, a mixed but overall positive move:

  • Trump has been pressuring U.S. allies to increase their military spending to bring it more in line with U.S. spending and thus, in theory, relieve financial pressure on U.S. taxpayers. Thus far he seems to have had some success with Canada, which will increase its military spending by 70% over the coming decade. This would be far more impressive if the U.S. didn’t already account for 43% of world military spending, and if Trump didn’t want to drastically increase that spending.
  • Trump recently signed a judicial sentencing-reform bill. It doesn’t go nearly far enough but it’s a good first step in ending America’s mass-incarceration nightmare (under 5% of world population; 25% of the world’s prisoners).

As for other good things Trump has done deliberately, none come to mind. But he has also inadvertently done some good:

  • He’s laid bare the hypocrisy of the Republican Party on healthcare. Republicans had seven years in which to prepare a replacement for Obamacare, and, after they unexpectedly won the presidency in 2016 (plus both houses of Congress), they had to scramble to come up with a nightmarish mishmash of cuts and half-measures that would have cost 23 million Americans healthcare coverage.
  • Trump has laid bare the hypocrisy of American foreign policy rhetoric. For decades, American “leaders” have been spewing the same line about “defending democracy,” while they’ve been supporting many of the world’s most barbaric dictators and authoritarian regimes. Trump’s praise for Putin, Erdogan, mass murderer Duterte, and our war-criminal, Islamist Saudi “allies” brings out in the open America’s support for dictators and authoritarianism.
  • He’s laid bare the racism of the Republican Party. For half a century Republicans have catered to racists — restricting voting rights of blacks and latinos, persecuting undocumented immigrants, promoting the war on drugs that has devastated black and latino communities, promoting “tough on crime” (tough on poor people) laws, and promoting outright slavery of the incarcerated — while at the same time hypocritically hiding behind code words and insisting that they aren’t racist. Under Trump, Republican racism is out in the open. (Unfortunately, that racism sometimes takes physical form; the assaults and murders it produces are a hideous byproduct of it.)
  • By acting as an apologist for neo-Nazis in the wake of Charlottesville, and by pointing out that Washington and Jefferson were slaveholders, he’s put a spotlight on a seamy side of American “revolutionary” history that virtually no one talks about. (For more info on this see “A People’s History of the United States, by Howard Zinn.)
  • Trump, by announcing the move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, has ended the sick charade of the U.S. government’s pretensions of being an “honest broker” in the Middle East. In regard to Middle East policy, for decades the government has been hostage to the extreme right wingers in AIPAC, and to a lesser extent the religious right (some of whom want Armageddon), and has actively aided, abetted, and financed the Israeli oppression of the Palestinians. Trump just tore away the “honest broker” mask.
  • Trump has interrupted the creeping fascism that has been strangling America since at least the time of Truman, in favor of galloping fascism. The good news is that Trump is so repulsive and so inept — good only at manipulating and swindling the fearful, desperate, uninformed, and angry — that he likely won’t succeed in destroying what’s left of our freedoms.

Had Clinton won in 2016, creeping fascism would have continued; nothing would have fundamentally changed; popular discontent and resentment would have continued to fester; even while they controlled both the House and Senate, Republicans would have blamed everything that’s going wrong on the “liberal” (she isn’t) Clinton; and an overt, more competent Republican theofascist would probably have taken power in 2020, which, had Clinton won in 2016, could have meant “game over” for American democracy.

  • Without intending to do it, Trump has spurred a wave of political activism in the U.S., the like of which hasn’t been seen in nearly half a century. This is a good thing for American democracy.

Contrary to popular belief, Trump’s victory in 2016 hasn’t been a total disaster, and in the end might turn out to be a good thing — assuming he doesn’t start a nuclear war or crash the economy. In the long run, a Clinton victory could (in my view would) have turned out a whole lot worse.

Of course, things could and probably will, for now, get worse under Trump. He and his minions will continue to degrade the environment, abet the banksters and other corporate thugs in the looting of the economy, and will continue to impose the evangelical theofascist social agenda on all of us.

Still, they’re probably too inept to stage a Reichstag Fire and get away with it. But god help us if there’s a major terrorist attack. Naomi Klein at The Intercept offers a cogent analysis of this possibility in “The worst of Donald Trump’s toxic agenda lies in wait — a major U.S. crisis will unleash it.”

For now, just be glad that Hillary Clinton isn’t in the White House, and let’s hope for a wave of new social movements; let’s also hope that in the meantime the “democratic wing of the Democratic Party” will at least temporarily stave off the corporate-lackey Democrats and the theofascist Republicans until there’s an opening for real social change.


Thin Air cover(Thin Air, by Richard K. Morgan. Del Rey, 2018, 528 pp, $28.00)

by Zeke Teflon

It’s nice to have Richard K. Morgan (aka Richard Morgan in the UK, for god knows what reason) back writing sci-fi after what seems to have been a decade wasted writing fantasy, the Landpit for Heroes trilogy. Having been a huge fan of Morgan’s previous sci-fi novels (especially the Kovacs trilogy and Black Man) I read the first thick-as-a-brick book in the trilogy, The Steel Remains — notable for its lack of plot — and got through the first two pages of the second book, The Cold Commands, before deciding I couldn’t stand reading any more of it.

Thin Air is a return to form. The tone is reminiscent of both the Kovacs books and Black Man (Thirteen in the U.S.) in both grittiness and political subtext. It’s set on a very dystopian Mars a couple of centuries hence, and is a commentary on the results of colonialism in a neo-liberal context. (Various streets and buildings are dubbed Gingrich, Hayek, Reagan, Rand, etc.)

One of the opening quotes sets the tone:

Far from heroic and romantic heraldry that customarily is used to symbolize the European settlement of the Americas, the emblem most congruent with reality would be a pyramid of skulls. (Dean Stannard, American Holocaust)

For the purposes of this review, suffice it to say that the anti-hero of this brutal tale, Veil, a genetically modified former corporate mercenary, is every bit as emotionally numbed and damaged as former envoy Takeshi Kovacs in the Kovacs trilogy. (FYI, the first book in the Kovacs series, Altered Carbon, and its sequels, is much different and considerably better than the still-good Netflix series based on it.)

The plot is intricate; every single corporate, political and governmental entity is corrupt and treacherous; and the action is almost nonstop and graphically described. There’s a huge amount of violence in this book, all of it very well and stomach-churningly depicted, and a much smaller amount of graphic and accurately described sexual content — a very welcome departure from the customary sci-fi norm of cartoonish ultraviolence and prudish sexual avoidance.

Welcome back Richard K. Morgan.

Highly recommended.

(The only thing I’d add is that for those interested in the psychology of colonialism, the best sci-fi work is Mike Resnick’s A Hunger in the Soul, regarding a barely disguised East Africa. The two best works period are Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and his appallingly funny short story “An Outpost of Progress.” Barbara Kingsolver’s horrifying The Poisonwood Bible is also well worth a read.)

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Zeke Teflon is the author of Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia (pdf sample here). He’s currently working on the sequel, a Spanish-English translation on Venezuelan anarchist history, a nonfiction book on the seamier sides of Christianity, two compilations, and an unrelated sci-fi novel.

Free Radicals, by Zeke Teflon front cover

 

 


Chris Mato Nunpaby Chris Mato Nunpa, PhD
retired Associate Professor of History at Southwest Minnesota State University and author of the upcoming (Sept. 2019) The Great Evil: Genocide, the Bible, and the Indigenous People of the United States

 

One hundred and fifty-six years ago, on November 07-13, 1862, 1,700 Dakota People, primarily women, children and elders, were force-marched 150 miles from the Morton & Redwood Falls area in southwestern Minnesota to a concentration camp at Ft. Snelling, near the Twin Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis. The cold weather that we [in Minnesota] have been experiencing during this November reminds us, the descendants of the survivors, of this act of Genocide perpetrated by the State of Minnesota, the military, and its Euro-Minnesotan citizenry.

Dozens upon dozens of Dakota People were murdered – shot and killed, or bayoneted, or frozen or starved to death on this march! One of my grandmothers was stabbed in the stomach by a saber-wielding white soldier on horseback. Her “sin” was not understanding an order given by a white soldier in a foreign language, English. A friend of mine (now deceased) had a grandmother who was shot and killed because her “sin” was needing to relieve herself, for modesty’s sake, in the woods, along the forced-march route. We know not how many of our women were raped and murdered along the way, and we know not how many of our elders and children who lagged behind because of age, sickness or physical weakness, were shot and killed.

The commander of the troops who enforced the march was a Colonel William Rainey Marshall, who later became a governor of Minnesota, and he has a street in St. Paul, a county in northwestern Minnesota, and a town in southwestern Minnesota, named after him – Marshall! Colonel William Rainey Marshall was a Genocidaire, a perpetrator of Genocide. Forced marches are what Genocidaires do. Forced Marches are genocide, as I learned this from other Genocide scholars when I belonged to the International Association of Genocide Scholars.

The savage cry of “Extermination or Removal” was uttered many times, publicly, even in a speech to the state legislature, by the then-Minnesota Governor, Alexander Ramsey. He was referring to the extermination of the Dakota People of Minnesota, and the removal of the Dakota People from our own Dakota homelands, Mini Sota Makoce, ”Land Where the Waters Reflect the Skies.” In an atrocity six months prior to the November forced march, on May 04, 1863, “Removal” was authorized by the Minnesota state legislature, and 1,300 Dakota women, children and elders were forced from our homelands.

The forced march of 150 miles and the forcible removal were just two of a number of genocidal acts, and various crimes against humanity, perpetrated by the State of Minnesota and its Euro-Minnesotan citizenry, on the Dakota People of Minnesota. However, the State of Minnesota, the Minnesota Ghoul Society (aka the Minnesota Historical Society), and white academia continue to suppress the truth about what was done to the Dakota People of Minnesota and who did it.

We need the help of our white allies and supporters, and the help of other Indigenous Peoples, to help us Dakota People of Minnesota in our struggle to have the truth told! After 156 years (since 1862), it is time for truth-telling!! Namayahunpi kin he nina piwada! “Your listening to me is greatly appreciated!” Ho, he hecetu do! “Yes, it is so!”


Randolph Bourne

“War is the health of the state. . . . In your reaction to an imagined attack on your country or an insult to its government, you draw closer to the herd for protection, you conform in word and deed, and you insist vehemently that everybody else shall think, speak, and act together. And you fix your adoring gaze upon the State, with a truly filial look, as upon the Father of the flock. . . . A people at war have become in the most literal sense obedient, respectful, trustful children again, full of that naive faith in the all-wisdom and all-power of the adult who takes care of them, imposes his mild but necessary rule upon them and in whom they lose their responsibility and anxieties. In this recrudescence of the child, there is great comfort and a certain influx of power. On most people the strain of being an independent adult weighs heavily.”

–Randolph Bourne, The State (1918)