Archive | October 1st, 2015

Stop the War leaders and Libya: you can’t expel the truth


Record numbers turn out to vote and show their support for President Bashar Al Assad and his government. Damascus, 26 February 2012

Record numbers turn out to vote and show their support for President Bashar Al Assad and his government. Damascus, 26 February 2012

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By attempting to unconstitutionally rescind CPGB-ML’s affiliation to the Stop the War coalition, StW ‘leaders’ are behaving in a criminally sectarian and cowardly manner.

Cowardly, because the Labour party, Counterfire and CPB leaders who dominate our coalition’s executive seek, by unconstitutionally expelling the CPGB-ML, to silence criticism and avoid having their failed policies on Libya in particular, and lack of consistent anti-imperialism more generally, scrutinised and overturned.

They seek to avoid answering to the coalition’s membership and having the truth behind these failures exposed: that their cosy relations with ‘left Labour’ (German-Benn, Murray-Corbyn, etc) and their personal political stock-in-trade are more dear to them than the stated aims of the StW coalition they purport to uphold.

That is why, at the crucial moment, rather than leading British workers to oppose Nato’s genocide in Libya, their personally cherished ideas and relations led StW to parrot the predatory propaganda of British imperialism, which was hell-bent on waging war upon Libya and the devastating this beautiful, historic, cultured and formerly most prosperous sovereign African nation – all in pursuit of Nato’s strategy of capital aggrandisement, regional and world domination.

All of which begs the question: can an anti-war movement be effectively led by members and supporters of a party that condones and conducts those wars?

Libya – a betrayal

Throughout the Libyan crisis, the conduct of the Stop the War Coalition was shameful, bringing us nothing but ignominy in the eyes of the world’s oppressed and struggling masses.

Prior to Nato’s bombardment, when US/British/French intervention was a little less blatant (very much in the vein of its current plot against Syria), conducted via MI6, CIA and other covert operatives, and through the funding of motley feudal and criminal elements, StW organised a demonstration. But this ‘anti-war’ demonstration was not against imperialism and its mercenaries in Benghazi, but against the Gaddafi government!

Owen Jones wrote on the StW website: “Let’s be clear. Other than a few nutters, we all want Gaddafi overthrown, dead or alive. In both his anti-western and pro-western incarnations, his record is that of a brutal and unquestionably slightly unhinged dictator. I will not caricature supporters of the bombing campaign as frothing-at-the-mouth neocons.

Andrew Murray, wrote in the Morning Star, while Nato’s blitzkrieg was underway, that “it is wrong to assert that the rebellion based in Benghazi was some sort of pro-imperialist plot from the outset”.

Is that so?

CPGB-ML, a member of the Stop the War Coalition since its inception, did not fall for this pro-imperialist whitewash, and on 11 March 2011 we issued a leaflet calling for the defence of Libya and its government. This was a principled and coherent anti-imperialist stance, which has stood the test of time. We are proud to have promoted it, among British workers and activists – including those of the StW coalition – as part of our activity to oppose illegal and genocidal Nato wars, in Libya and elsewhere.

The text of our March 2011 Hands off Libya! victory to Gaddafi!  statement is freely available.

Further, in August 2011, we issued a leaflet calling on workers to “support the resistance” and denounce StW treachery”.

It contained the following – remarkably restrained – criticism of StW’s position:

Some people and organisations, such as Stop the War, have been bamboozled by the non-stop and ubiquitous Goebbelsian propaganda that has spewed forth from the imperialist media ever since Gaddafi’s regime was put in place into believing that he is some kind of a monster who must be overthrown at all costs. In view of his record in defending the interests of the Libyan people, such an approach is absurd.

Stop the War, dominated as it is by organisations that devote themselves to spreading illusions in social democracy (ie, futile hopes that solutions for the working class and oppressed people are to be found within capitalism), still finds itself cheerleading for Gaddafi’s opponents: their only reason for opposing imperialist military intervention is that it may be harmful to the cause of imperialism’s local agents in Libya!

Down with social-democratic treachery; down with imperialism!

John Rees and the ‘Don’t Mention the War’ campaign

With the lack of political will to defend Libya from imperialist attack, there was a corresponding dearth of activity on the ground. What happened to ‘our’ alleged ability to mobilise 2-million-strong marches, like the one held in February 2003 before the invasion of Iraq, which is so often cited and trumpeted? This kind of capitulation before the Nato juggernaut has made us an increasing irrelevance to British workers.

As tomahawk cruise missiles, bunker busters, white phosphorous and depleted uranium rained down on Libya, pulverising Tripoli and Sirte, targeting all progressive Libyans, and in particular Col Muammar Gaddafi – whose infant grandchildren were among the early victims of Nato’s dark forces – John Rees apparently felt no shame, declaring (in a similar vein to Liam Fox and William Hague) on a YouTube interview that “nobody is going to shed a tear for the fall of this brutal dictator [Gaddafi]”.

He further advised the quisling ‘Transitional National Council’ (in reality a front forTrans-National Corporations) to gain credibility by “telling the major powers where to get off” – ie, to adopt his own tactic of dressing up an imperialist campaign in ‘anti-imperialist’ colours. No doubt this would have been convenient for Rees, but the heartless clerics had another agenda.

During the bombing campaign, StW leadership belatedly declared its half-hearted opposition to the imperialist bombing campaign – not because they disagreed with Nato’s aims, but because it believed their methods were not effective enough. Bombing, they said, “would merely serve to bolster Gaddafi’s position, and thus undermine the cause of the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime” – which principle aim of imperialism in Libya, ‘Stop the War’ leaders continued to cherish and support.

We published a statement on 8 September, pointing out that with ‘anti-war friends’ like these, the Libyan people might well ask, Who needs enemies?

StW leaders – as the 2012 national conference agenda attests – barely make reference to their betrayal of Libya, as despite some mild queasiness and reservations they remain broadly in support of Gaddafi’s lynching.

Nor is the struggle in Libya – like the struggle in Iraq – over. Resistance is regrouping, even after the wholesale slaughter of the flower of Libya’s anti-imperialist leadership. The Green flag has been raised in Bani Walid, Tripoli, Sirte and elsewhere – long after Hilary Clinton stopped cackling with glee over the gruesome imagery of Gaddafi’s murder.

For while the feudal thugs of Nato’s TNC run amok in Libya, committing mass violations of its citizens’ rights, including (among other things) kidnapping, raping and murdering Libyan women, and lynching anyone with black skin, while helping Nato bandits to help themselves to Libya’s oil and financial wealth, there can be no peace.

Let us all reflect – if there was previously any room for doubt – that these are not the actions of a popular-democratic revolution, but the pogroms of a decaying, imperialist-backed feudal movement attempting to divide and destroy the unity and progressive sentiment built over 40 years among the formerly free Libyan people. Their gains can only be temporary; their ultimate defeat is certain.

Genocide and ethnic cleansing have been perpetrated, a nation stolen, its resources subsumed into the coffers of imperialist finance capital. The issue for us to address is that all the criticism from our ‘anti-war’ group was directed, not against Obama, Cameron, Clegg, Miliband, Balls, or the hosts of retainers without whom the war could not have been waged, but against its victims.

A ‘broad’ movement – the cry was ‘Unity’!

StW leaders frequently call for unity. It is interesting to compare their words with their deeds. Their response to CPGB-ML criticism of their anti-Libya propaganda was not reason or even attempted justification, but sectarian bureaucracy.

On 23 September, the CPGB-ML received an email from the Stop the War Coalition informing us of a decision by the “officers group” to “reject the affiliation” of our party. We were told that this was on the basis that the CPGB-ML had been “publicly attacking Stop the War Coalition” in its publications.

We again brought the debate back to the real issues, in our October statement.

Lindsey German sent a follow-up email clarifying that “the officers” felt that our “reported recent characterisation of some of them, including our chair Jeremy Corbyn, as ‘pro imperialists’ or ‘traitors’ was unacceptable from an affiliated organisation. We understand that sometimes debate on issues becomes heated, but feel that we could only consider affiliating you if there were assurances that you would not make such remarks in the future.

But when did StW declare its ‘officers group’ to be above criticism – on pain of expulsion? In what statute or officers group meeting minute is this ruling secreted away? We are certainly not aware of it. And how is the policy of a broad coalition to be corrected, if it errs, without criticism?

John Rees, speaking at StW’s 2010 AGM, which had just passed the CPGB-ML’s No cooperation with war crimes resolution thundered:

“I personally support the call for victory to the resistance in Iraq and Afghanistan – but I also know that the strength of our campaign comes from its breadth … And if this slogan puts off our affiliates – like the Quakers – then I am against it, and oppose the resolution.” (From memory)

Here is a fine thing. Counterfire leader John Rees opposing his own fervently held beliefs to hold a broad coalition together – for how can we have an anti-war movement without Quakers? (Incidentally, no Quaker we have ever spoken to – and we have spoken to a surprising number, although admittedly not at StW meetings – disagrees with the idea that an oppressed nation or people has the right to defend itself.)

Consistent anti-imperialism is just too far ahead of the curve, you see. Obviously, Rees is well up for the fight against British imperialism, but you know, these Quakers just aren’t gonna go for it, so – regrettably – the deal’s off. His speech, delivered to a carefully managed but highly spirited conference, was just enough to (narrowly) defeat the motion.

The choice: oppose Nato or compromise with imperialism

The real choice, of course, is not ‘Quakers or communists’, but whether the aim of StW can be reconciled with the class interests of the capitalists who wage these wars. If we are serious about actually stopping war, the CPGB-ML believes that we must oppose the capitalist imperialist system that on a daily and weekly basis engenders war – and campaign to raise British workers’ awareness of the actions of their own ruling class at home and abroad. This inevitably involves confronting groups and cliques that directly or indirectly support social democracy with the contradictions in their own political position.

Logically, that includes challenging the social-democratic ‘leaders’ of left Labour whotalk of their opposition to war while in practice make their careers out of sitting in the parties of war and asking workers to support those parties at every juncture. We cannot run with the hare and hunt with the hounds.

Learning lessons for the future – defend Syria!

All this is not simply an academic exercise in point scoring. There are very real practical consequences for our work next week, next month and next year, which make it of vital importance that the coalition should learn lessons and correct its stance.

Since the fall of Libya, all Stop the War’s national efforts have been directed at pointing out the threat of war against Iran. And while that threat is very real, and must certainly be mobilised against, such activity cannot be allowed to act as a cover for ignoring the much more imminent threat against that other sovereign anti-imperialist nation in the Middle East: Syria.

As well as carving out an independent economic path free from the diktat of the IMF and World Bank, Syria is home to the headquarters of many Palestinian resistance movements, and a firm supporter of Lebanon’s anti-imperialist resistance movement, Hizbollah. Millions of Palestinian and Iraqi refugees have made their homes there, and the country is Iran’s strongest regional ally, as well as being an implacable foe of Israel. Although described by western media as a ‘dictator’, President Bashar al-Assad is actually the leader of a broad-based coalition government of national unity, which comprises many political parties, including communists. All of which makes the country a prime target for imperialism’s guns.

The aggressive war being prepared by Nato and its regional stooges against Syria is using all the same tricks that were applied in the case of Libya. Nato is funding, training and arming disparate opposition and terrorist groups and parachuting in covert special forces to give them vital support, while Nato’s leaders push through UN resolutions about ‘democracy’ and the ‘safety of the people’ and, of course, orchestrate a hysterical media campaign of lies and disinformation.

And while some people do seem to have learned a lesson from the carnage in Libya, the Stop the War leadership does not yet seem to be among their number. Yet again, the coalition’s leaders are failing to take a consistently anti-imperialist and anti-war position; yet again, they are failing to stand up against the media lies and declare themselves to be on the side of the Syrian masses against Nato imperialism.

Instead of standing firmly against war on Syria, Stop the War leaders prefer not to talk about it. The recent picket for Iran and Syria didn’t feature a single speaker for Syria on the platform, and its recent emails refer to Syria only in passing.

Instead of standing up to imperialist propaganda, the Stop the War website carries articles referring to “Bashar al-Assad’s killing machine” while John Rees uses his television show to consistently denounce the legitimate government and legitimise Nato’s stooges, including the MI6-backed ‘Syrian Observatory for Human Rights’. Once more, Stop the War’s ‘opposition’ to Nato seems to be based more on tactical grounds than on any real ideological difference.

Let no-one be under any illusion: not only is a beautiful, cultured, independent country and its people under threat, but the illegal war already being waged by covert forces in Syria is a stepping-stone to even bloodier war against Iran, and from there to war against China and Russia. In a very real sense, Syria today stands in the same place as did the Spanish republic in 1936. British workers and progressive people need to stand side by side with the Syrian masses, demanding: Hands off Syria! Victory to Assad!

And above all, we must start to use our collective power to prevent the British ruling class from taking part in this criminal and barbaric conflagration.

CPGB-ML’s work on Libya and Syria:


On Libya
On Syria

Video presentations

Arab spring, Libya and Stop the War (Dec 2011)

Gaddafi tribute in London (Oct 2011)

Libya, a media war (Oct 2011)

PAIGC on Libya and Gaddafi (Sep 2011)

Eyewitness report-back from Libya (June 2011)

Imperialism’s interest in Syria (May 2011)

Libya, Syria and the Middle East (Reply to questions, May 2011)

Libya, Syria discussion (May 2011)

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StW opposes solidarity with Libya under the false guise of the need for ‘unity’

 Image result for STOP THE WAR LOGO

A letter from Bristol comrades, 9 May 2011

The sickest joke to come out of Stop the War’s reactionary stance on Libya has been the accusation that members of StW who stand in solidarity with the Gaddafi-led Libyan revolution are a divisive influence within the anti-war movement and should pipe down at public meetings, reserving their distasteful minority opinions for under-the-counter retail (or preferably shut up all together).

Yet what has truly divided and weakened the anti-war movement, indexed by the dwindling of national anti-war demonstrations from millions to hundreds, has been the perennial reluctance of the leadership to consistently call for victory to the Afghan and Iraqi resistance, a stance that has finally degenerated into John Rees’s open support for the imperialist-backed Benghazi rebellion.

Rees and co have since scrambled back to a stance that they hope will rescue their ‘progressive’ reputations (basically ’stop bombing Libya, you’ll only make it harder to get rid of Gaddafi’), a clumsy and hypocritical manoeuvre which will fool few and inspire none.

It is this misleadership, and StW’s resulting failure to give an anti-imperialist lead as capitalist crisis breeds fresh wars, which undermines and weakens the movement.

We are constantly told that our anti-imperialist stance risks alienating some supporters of StW’s (somewhat narrow) broad front. It is not impossible that some overly sensitive petty-bourgeois liberals might find the atmosphere uncongenial in an anti-war movement which had learned to outgrow its social-democratic prejudices, however many times it was spelt out to such individuals that their presence within the broad movement remained welcome.

But right now, we need to understand why the ‘broad’ front in reality remains so very narrow; how it is that the mass of working people do not actively embrace the cause of peace and withdraw their cooperation with imperialism’s wars. What is it about StW’s approach that so severely limits its scope?

The fact is that, so long as those leading the anti-war movement refuse to give solidarity to the forces that are resisting imperialist aggression on the ground, they will be keeping British workers divided from their real allies in the fight against monopoly capitalism and its wars, hindering them in the indivisible struggle for socialism and peace.

As Karl Marx wrote, no nation that enslaves another can itself be free. The failure to give consistent and wholehearted support to those defending Libya’s sovereignty with arms in hand can only weaken and divide the anti-war movement.

It is not the CPGB-ML and fellow internationalists who pose a threat to the unity and progress of the anti-war movement, but the rotten Trotskyite and revisionist politics that infect the upper echelons of StW and wash back into its branches, rendering the movement vulnerable to being shoved off course by every new wave of imperialist propaganda.

Whilst we have never taken a sectarian approach in our work with StW, cultivating good personal relations with fellow coalitionists from all backgrounds, we cannot shirk the responsibility of identifying the destructive and divisive influence of those political agendas behind which some remain trapped.

Particularly damaging is the Trotskyite combination of deep historical pessimism (’the Soviet Union was a disaster; the working class has nowhere taken and held power and gone on to build socialism’) with the most light-minded optimism over the probability of finding some ‘progressive’ needle in the stinking reactionary Benghazi haystack, some (as yet undocumented) perfect Trotskyite strand within the (very well-documented) hotch-potch of monarchists, veteran opponents of the revolution, paid assassins and mercenaries.

Whilst one might think that their own historical pessimism should instil in them a degree of caution, the reverse is the case. In fact, the phony optimism is about as healthy as the hectic flush on the face of a fever patient, and serves one purpose alone: to make it easier to abdicate political responsibility.

Why endure the unpopularity of standing by the Gaddafi revolution when you can have your cake and eat it, standing shoulder to shoulder with the BBC cheering on the rebels, whilst simultaneously posturing as ‘anti-imperialists’?

With the same glad heart, the same gentry lined up with Thatcher to cheer on Solidarnosc (or ‘progressive elements’ supposedly lurking within that anti-communist lynch mob) against the Polish workers’ state, helping prepare the ground for the subsequent liquidation of socialism.

‘Neither Washington nor Moscow’ was their mantra then, ‘Neither Gaddafi nor Nato’ is their mantra now. Will we wake next week or next month to ‘Neither Damascus nor Nato’, ‘Neither Teheran nor Nato’ or ‘Neither Pyongyang nor Nato’? What about ‘Neither Beijing nor Nato’?

The anti-war movement faces stormy times ahead, where the warmongering scenarios will be getting ever messier and more complex and the choices to be made ever more knotty. (By comparison, Libya should have been a no brainer.) The movement’s ability to weather these storms will increasingly depend upon its ability to grow up politically and develop a consistent anti-imperialist perspective.

We in the CPGB-ML stand ready to assist in this endeavour.

Posted in Libya, UKComments Off on StW opposes solidarity with Libya under the false guise of the need for ‘unity’

STW: Stop the hypocrisy


Image result for STOP THE WAR CARTOON

Proletarian issue 47 (April 2012)


Posted by: Sammi Ibrahem,Sr


No room for democracy or political debate at Stop the War’s annual back-slapping smugfest.
Saturday 3 March saw the first AGM of the Stop the War Coalition (StW) since its leaders had rescinded the affiliation of the CPGB-ML (let’s just call it what it was, an expulsion) by email on 23 September 2011 with the following message:“I regret to inform you that Stop the War Coalition’s officers group today decided to reject the affiliation of the CPGB-ML. We have therefore refunded your recent card payment for the affiliation fee. This decision has been taken due to the fact that the CPGB-ML has been publicly attacking Stop the War Coalition in its publications. Kind Regards, Stop the War.

Our party has been affiliated to StW ever since we formed seven years ago, so the rejection of our annual affiliation payment was a particularly shabby and undemocratic way of excluding us. But given that the leadership of StW is an unprincipled lash-up of social democrats, Trotskyists and revisionists, such underhand methods are par for the course.

Of course, we replied to this email, stating that there were no grounds for expulsion and that the self-appointed ‘officers group’ had no power to expel us either. Our reply was ignored.

The ‘attacks’ that the leadership claims were made by us on StW were real enough, but they were political criticisms of the leadership of StW, and at no time has anyone pointed out to us where it is written in Stop the War’s aims and objectives that such criticism is not allowed. As to the substance of the criticism, we did no more than our duty to the movement in pointing out that StW leaders had supported Nato’s propaganda war against the Libyan people and their government, and thus aided a criminal and unprovoked assault against a sovereign nation.

Aiding and abetting the destruction of Libya 

At a time when the imperialist powers were finalising their plans for the barbarous attack on Libya, and throwing every possible support to their unpopular puppets in the ‘Transitional National Council’; at a time when the imperialist media was spewing forth wall-to-wall saturation propaganda aimed at demonising the Libyan government and preparing the populations of Britain, France and the US for another ‘righteous’, ‘humanitarian’ war, the leadership of StW sprang into action and called a demonstration in London.

Quite right, one might think. Just the kind of thing a good anti-war movement should be doing. Except that StW convened its demonstration not outside Parliament, Downing Street or some other office of the warmongers, but outside the Libyan embassy, against the Libyan government and in support of imperialism’s TNC stooges in Benghazi.

The fact that StW’s leaders are claiming in retrospect to have been ‘even-handed’ and only interested in convincing ‘our government’ not to bomb Libya is made a mockery of by that action. At the very moment that imperialism was trying to justify a war of brigandage, the leadership of StW helped things along by presenting the British people with an ‘across the board’ condemnation of the intended victim!

Whether or not all those who made this decision and carried it out had the intention of serving the imperialist cause is immaterial. In politics, where the lives of hundreds of thousands of people can hang in the balance, only the result of an action is relevant – and the result of the StW demonstration (the only demonstration that the coalition called in regard to Libya, even after the bombs were raining down on the Libyan people) was to support imperialism’s stated reasons for its dirty war and thus undermine opposition to the war among the British people. And that, whether intentional or not, makes the leaders of the coalition guilty of pro-imperialism.

This political characterisation of StW’s actions is an accurate one, and it must be made and understood if such a deadly mistake is to be corrected rather than repeated.

However belatedly, the mistake could still be corrected if StW was to clearly denounce not only the Nato imperialist puppet-masters, who have planned and directed the whole criminal destruction of Libya, but also their mercenary gangster puppets, who are currently rampaging through the country, lynching and ethnically cleansing black people in an orgy of racist violence, as well as targeting all those known to be loyal to the old government.

It might be too late to mobilise the British people to stop Britain’s forces taking part in the rape of Libya, but it is not too late to pull Britain out of the unholy alliance propping up the unpopular TNC. Nor is it too late to give support to the real representatives of the Libyan people – the Green fighters who are currently regrouping to defend their countrymen and resist the fascistic forces unleashed by Nato.

Aiding and abetting the war against Syria 

Meanwhile, equally crucially, the anti-war movement must not allow the same mistake to be made in relation to imperialism’s next intended victim – Syria.

And yet, despite all the costly lessons that Libya could and should have taught StW’s leaders, we are once again seeing that, just as the British people are being bombarded with wall-to-wall propaganda lies that are aimed at demonising the Syrian government and justifying a full-scale war against the country, StW leaders are lining up … to denounce the Syrian government!

At last weekend’s annual conference, despite paying lip-service to the principle that the Syrian people should be free to determine their own future without outside interference, the self-styled ‘officers group’ members took it in turns to emphasise how much they personally deplored the ‘brutality’ of the ‘dictator’ Assad, who was ‘murdering his own people’ etc.

It’s a nasty trick: on the one hand pretend to care about the fate of Syrian people, while on the other you make sure that imperialism’s lies are reinforced, thus giving a helping hand to the imperialist cause of destroying Syria as an independent nation.

The duplicity is quite subtle too. How many people in the hall spotted the incongruity between the position that ‘Syrians should be free to determine their own future’ and ‘We cannot possibly give any support to Assad’? For the great unspoken truth of the day was that the majority of Syrian people are firmly behind their government (a broad, secular, anti-imperialist, national-unity coalition, by the way, not a ‘family dictatorship’ or an ‘Alawite dynasty’).

They wish their leaders to continue with its policies of independent economic and political development; with its policy of support for Palestinian self-determination and opposition to Israeli war crimes and occupation. Indeed, many of the valid criticisms that Syrians have of their government concern recent compromises that have been made with interests aligned to western finance capital at the expense of ordinary people. What the vast majority of Syrians don’t want is a West-imposed coalition of free-market flunkies and religious fundamentalists.

So if Syrians support the Assad government, should we not support their right to support that government? And should we not support the Syrian government’s right to defend itself against attack by imperialist-created militias? Under the pretext of ‘allowing Syrians to choose’, StW’s leaders are in fact telling all those on the left who might think of publicly backing the Syrian government that they must keep their support to themselves.

And when ‘leftists’ like John Rees, who has used his Islam Channel TV show to give airtime to known MI5 agents such as the spokesman from the ‘Syrian National Observatory’ in order that they can denounce the ‘human rights abuses’ of the Damascus government, are agreeing with Cameron and Hague that the Syrian government is an evil dictatorship hated by ordinary Syrians, who is to blame the majority of British people if they are left with the impression that there is no fundamental reason to object to Nato’s stated aim of ‘regime change’ in Syria?

No right of reply in StW’s ‘democratic’ ‘broad front’ 

With such critical political questions in need of serious consideration and debate, it was no wonder that the bureaucrats in charge had come up with two new ways to keep dissent at bay. First, only those sent as official delegates from affiliated organisations or local branches were allowed to speak, while other StW members attending had only observer status. Straight away, this put our comrades at a disadvantage, since, of course, the CPGB-ML was not allowed to send any delegates or propose any motions.

Despite this, at the very start of the day’s business, comrades from the CPGB-ML raised a point of order and objected to the party’s unconstitutional expulsion from the coalition, arguing that we should have the right to hear any charges against us and put our case before the meeting before such an expulsion could be accepted as valid. In the chair, however, that oh-so-mild-mannered and liberal darling of ‘left’ Labour Jeremy Corbyn was having none of it.

He refused our comrades the right to be heard, or even to question this decision, and so began the first shouting match of the day. Pretty? No, but with little other choice open to us than that of meekly accepting the chair’s ruling, anyone who cares to think about it from our standpoint (having been both illegally expelled and denied the right to question that expulsion) might accept that they may well have done something similar.

Having seen to it that most of the meeting had no idea what the fuss was about, the chair took a vote of the assembled delegates, who came down overwhelmingly in favour of giving us no chance to question our expulsion, or, more importantly for us, to question the reasons for that expulsion. We were, however, given an assurance that we would be able to put our case when the subject was raised under proposition 16 on the agenda. This motion had been put forward by a hostile organisation, the CPGB Weekly Worker, but it did call for the acceptance of our affiliation, so we accepted the assurance and retired from the fray.

The second, procedural manoeuvre was then sprung on the conference as a fait accompli, presented by chair Jeremy Corbyn as a way to “get through the agenda”: only one person would be allowed to speak for or against each motion (and this despite the fact that delegates had been encouraged to put their names down on a list if there was a motion they wanted to speak to).

In practice, what this meant was that a whole lot of uncontroversial and very similar motions went through on the nod, with each speaker in favour making the same points and no-one speaking against them, while those motions that werecontroversial were rushed through with no debate allowed: the mover got their allocated four minutes, the leadership opposed and a vote was taken, with no further discussion and not even a right of reply against any slanderous or spurious argument the leadership might have chosen to put forward.

Seeing where this was leading, one comrade, during the break, sought a guarantee from the chair that (a) proposition 16 would definitely be taken and not ‘accidentally’ fall off the agenda, and that (b) our comrades would be guaranteed the right to put their own case for four minutes, rather than having to rely on the mover of the motion. The guarantee on the first point was given but only a commitment to “bear that in mind” was given on the second point.

Given the open manoeuvring to make sure that the reasons for our expulsion were not discussed, it was clear that there was no hope of a ‘peaceful’ settlement, despite the fact that another comrade had approached the Arrangements Committee and been promised that her name would be at the top of the list for speaking to proposition 16.

Early in the afternoon, during a ‘general discussion’ on organisation, one of our comrades did manage to force her way onto the list of speakers, and used her three minutes at the microphone to remind delegates of the need to work actively inside the trade unions in order to mobilise workers in relevant industries to organise collective action that could stop the imperialist war machine.

Every one of us has a duty to do what we can to prevent our country taking part in illegal wars of aggression, said our comrade. If British workers refused to produce weapons, to serve in the forces, to transport the materials or to write or broadcast the propaganda needed to wage these wars, then the British ruling class would be forced to pull out of them, she reminded the delegates – and this speech was received with great applause.

The comrade also reminded those present that this most effective type of anti-war action (as opposed to the ‘keeping people busy’ activity such as petitions and lobbies of MPs favoured by StW’s leaders) was already official coalition policy, since CPGB-ML motions on active non-cooperation had been overwhelmingly adopted by conference at the last twoannual conferences, but had never yet been implemented.

Finally, right at the end of the day, and with the assembly much depleted, came proposition 16. The CPGB Weekly Worker mover naturally focused on explaining why she thought her party’s front organisation Hands Off the People of Iran (HOPI) should be allowed to affiliate. She also spent considerable time pointing out her organisation’s disagreements with ours, which was just as well, since we would have hated anyone to think that we held many of the Trotskyist views and positions she put forward.

Once her four minutes were up, it was over to Lindsey German to oppose the motion. In her contribution she made reference to the last email that she had sent us following our positive reply to a letter the StW office sent us asking us to affiliate. Judging by her response, that affiliation reminder email was sent in error. The email we received from her on 27 February, just five days before the AGM, read as follows:

Thank you for your request for affiliation. As you are aware, the officers felt that your reported recent characterisation of some of them, including our chair Jeremy Corbyn, as ‘pro-imperialists’ or ‘traitors’ was unacceptable from an affiliated organisation. We understand that sometimes debate on issues becomes heated, but feel that we could only consider affiliating you if there were assurances that you would not make such remarks in the future. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you wish to discuss this further. Best wishes, Lindsey German.

From the podium, German again insisted that the problem was one of ‘unacceptable language’. But the idea that poor dear Jeremy is so thin skinned that he needs cushioning from our upsetting accusations is ludicrous in the extreme. This is a man who tells us that he is a socialist, but who has no qualms about getting his pay cheque from serving a party that is drenched in the blood of innocents.

The Labour party that Corbyn is so loyal to has never yet refused to give full support to one of British imperialism’s wars, whether in or out of government. Indeed, the last Labour government was exceptionally active in galvanising support for the aggressive wars of destruction against Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Somalia and Iraq. To remain loyal to such a party is hardly a vocation for the thin-skinned.

Ms German’s performance over, Saint Jeremy moved to the vote, whereupon our comrades once more objected in a very noisy and animated fashion, and it was during this justified uproar that the honourable StW chairman proposed and took a vote denying us the right to speak in our own defence. And he was shamefully supported in this action by George Galloway, who had apparently forgotten that even the Labour party gave him a hearing before kicking him out!

Thus it was that the ‘democrats’ who make up the leadership of StW, who cannot refrain from condemning real anti-imperialist fighters like Colonel Gaddafi and President Assad at any and every opportunity on the grounds that these ‘dictators’ don’t let their people have any say in their country’s affairs, showed that they are not averse to practising a bit of dictatorship when it serves their own agenda.

Meanwhile, whatever the bureaucratic manoeuvrings of Corbyn and co, the struggle against imperialism goes on. While the Trotskyists, revisionists and social democrats who pass as the great and the good of StW drag the coalition further into the gutter, shedding ever-more members as they go, our party will continue to act as a pole of attraction for all those who are serious about destroying British monopoly capitalism’s choke-hold on workers all over the globe – and we will continue to hold out the hand of internationalist solidarity to all those in struggle against British imperialism.

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Posted by: Sammi Ibrahem,Sr

With or without UN agreement, bombing Syria by Russia or UK should be opposed

Lindsey German

Look at the consequences of UN authorised wars in Afghanistan and Libya before voting for war in Syria, says Lindsey German.

Aftermath of air strikes by Russian plane in Tabliseh, Syria, on 30 September 2015

ONE OF the main reasons for disillusionment with mainstream politics has been the denial of democracy that was the vote by parliament to take Britain into the Iraq war.

The Labour party conference has passed a resolution opposing the bombing of Syria unless a number of stringent conditions are met. These include unequivocal UN authorisation for such a bombing, attempts at diplomatic solutions to the crisis, and proper provision for refugees from Syria.

Stop the War would oppose UK military intervention with or without a UN resolution (look at the consequences of UN authorised wars in Afghanistan and Libya). The Labour resolution sets the bar for intervention very high, but that may change with Russia now bombing Syria.

Stop the War is against Russia’s attacks on Syria. We think they should stop immediately. And we would welcome less hypocrisy from those who have supported US and allied bombing over the last year.

It is unlikely that all of the conditions agreed by the Labour party conference will be met when David Cameron urges parliament to vote for bombing. However, it seems that a number of Labour MPs will vote with Cameron in defiance of party policy.

They will do so because they have learnt none of the lessons from previous interventions, including the bombing of Libya that is today a source of ISIS support and weaponry, as well as the starting point of many refugees.

They will maintain a wilful ignorance about the fact that bombing of ISIS has been carried out for over a year, including covertly and illegally by British pilots and drones. They will ignore all the evidence that previous interventions have increased the threat of terrorism, not diminished it.

Some of them will also vote in favour of bombing, not out of any particular conviction but because they want to embarrass and defeat Labour’s new leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

Jeremy’s position is unambiguous, repeated in his leader’s speech this week: he is not abandoning his lifelong commitment to opposing war and nuclear weapons. So some on the right of the party will join the Tories in voting for bombing in order to ensure the motion is carried.

The call by some, including left-winger John McDonnell, for Labour MPs to have a free vote on this matter, will only encourage more of them to vote with the Tories. For right wing Labour MPs to defy both conference policy and a party whip is harder than for them to vote according to their ‘conscience’.

War is not an issue of conscience, but a political question. There are a number of people who oppose wars in principle. But there is no principle involved in supporting wars regardless of circumstances or outcomes. To pretend that it is so is to impute much more lofty motives to a whole number of the MPs who routinely vote for war.

Instead they should respect the mandate that Jeremy has won, not least because of his longstanding opposition to the Iraq war and his promise to apologise for it.

Perhaps MPs of all parties should also reflect that one of the main reasons for disillusionment with mainstream politics has been the denial of democracy that was the vote to take us into Iraq.



Stop the hypocrisy

*Aiding and abetting the destruction of Libya 



*Aiding and abetting the war against Syria 

‘leftists’ like John Rees, who has used his Islam Channel TV show to give airtime to known MI5 agents such as the spokesman from the ‘Syrian National Observatory’ in order that they can denounce the ‘human rights abuses’ of the Damascus government, are agreeing with Cameron and Hague that the Syrian government is an evil dictatorship hated by ordinary Syrians, who is to blame the majority of British people if they are left with the impression that there is no fundamental reason to object to Nato’s stated aim of ‘regime change’ in Syria?









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Orwell at the UN: Obama Re-Defines Democracy as a Country That Supports U.S. Policy


Image result for OBAMA AT UN CARTOON

In his Orwellian September 28, 2015 speech to the United Nations, President Obama said that if democracy had existed in Syria, there never would have been a revolt against Assad. By that, he meant ISIL. Where there is democracy, he said, there is no violence or revolution.

This was his threat to promote revolution, coups and violence against any country not deemed a “democracy.” In making this hardly-veiled threat, he redefined the word in the vocabulary of international politics. Democracy is the CIA’s overthrow of Mossedegh in Iran to install the Shah. Democracy is the overthrow of Afghanistan’s secular government by the Taliban against Russia. Democracy is the Ukrainian coup behind Yats and Poroshenko. Democracy is Pinochet. It is “our bastards,” as Lyndon Johnson said, with regard to the Latin American dictators installed by U.S. foreign policy.

A century ago the word “democracy” referred to a nation whose policies were formed by elected representatives. Ever since ancient Athens, democracy was contrasted to oligarchy and aristocracy. But since the Cold War and its aftermath, that is not how U.S. politicians have used the term. When an American president uses the word “democracy,” he means a pro-American country following U.S. neoliberal policies, no matter if the country is a military dictatorship or its government was brought in by a coup(euphemized as a Color Revolution) as in Georgia or Ukraine. A “democratic” government has been re-defined simply as one supporting the Washington Consensus, NATO and the IMF. It is a government that shifts policy-making out of the hands of elected representatives to an “independent” central bank, whose policies are dictated by the oligarchy centered in Wall Street, the City of London and Frankfurt.

Given this American re-definition of the political vocabulary, when President Obama says that such countries will not suffer coups, violent revolution or terrorism, he means that countries safely within the U.S. diplomatic orbit will be free of destabilization


sponsored by the U.S. State Department, Defense Department and Treasury. Countries whose voters democratically elect a government or regime that acts independently (or even simply seeks the power to act independently of U.S. directives) will be destabilized, Syria- style, Ukraine-style or Chile-style under General Pinochet. As Henry Kissinger said, just because a country votes in communists doesn’t mean that we have to accept it. This is the style of the “color revolutions” sponsored by the National Endowment for Democracy.

In his United Nations reply, Russian President Putin warned against the “export of democratic revolution,” meaning by the United States in support of its local factotums. ISIL is armed with U.S. weapons and its soldiers were trained by U.S. armed forces. In case there was any doubt, President Obama reiterated before the United Nations that until Syrian President Assad was removed in favor of one more submissive to U.S. oil and military policy, Assad was the major enemy, not ISIL.

“It is impossible to tolerate the present situation any longer,” President Putin responded. Likewise in Ukraine: “What I believe is absolutely unacceptable,” he said in his CBS interview on 60 Minutes, “is the resolution of internal political issues in the former USSR Republics, through “color revolutions,” through coup d’états, through unconstitutional removal of power. That is totally unacceptable. Our partners in the United States have supported those who ousted Yanukovych. … We know who and where, when, who exactly met with someone and worked with those who ousted Yanukovych, how they were supported, how much they were paid, how they were trained, where, in which countries, and who those instructors were. We know everything.”[1]

Where does this leave U.S.-Russian relations? I hoped for a moment that perhaps Obama’s harsh anti-Russian talk was to provide protective coloration for an agreement with Putin in their 5 o’clock meeting. Speaking one way so as to enable oneself to act in another has always been his modus operandi, as it is for many politicians. But Obama remains in the hands of the neocons.

Where will this lead? There are many ways to think outside the box. What if Putin proposes to air-lift or ship Syrian refugees – up to a third of the population – to Europe, landing them in Holland and England, who are obliged under the Shengen rules to accept them?

Or what if he brings to Russia the best computer specialists and other skilled labor for which Syria is renowned, supplementing the flood of immigration from “democratic” Ukraine?

What if the joint plans announced on Sunday between Iraq, Iran, Syria and Russia to jointly fight ISIS – a coalition that US/NATO has refrained from joining – comes up against U.S. troops or even the main funder of ISIL, Saudi Arabia?

The game is out of America’s hands now. All it is able to do is wield the threat of “democracy” as a weapon of coups to turn recalcitrant countries into Libyas, Iraqs and Syrias.


[1] “All eyes on Putin,”, September 27, 2015

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The Death of the “Pacifist” Constitution: Japan’s Return to Its Martial Roots



The Japanese Diet’s passage of laws that allow for Japanese military action in support of a “close ally” when attacked represent a violation of Japan’s fundamental law, which (since 1947) has clearly banned the right of the state to go to war, period.

The three constitutional experts called upon by the lawmakers to comment on the issue all attested this.

This Diet members’ action clarifies what ought to be widely understood: there is no connection between formal law in what are fundamentally lawless imperialist states and whatever pretty postulates appear in the law codes of such countries.

In this country, we’ve gotten used to the fact that the U.S. government ignores the constitutional protection against “unreasonable search” through its Stasi-like rifling through our personal communications And we’ve gotten used to the fact that the U.S. executive branch ignores constitutional provisions for the Congressional approval for wars.

So why should it seem unusual that, while the Japanese constitution unequivocally forbids the maintenance of any military at all,  Japan actually has the eighth largest military in the world? And that the Japanese ruling elite is preparing to deploy that illegal military more aggressively?

Let’s not be naïve. Let’s not take seriously those who posture as guardians of legality, standing watch over something they call the “international community.” Such people lie routinely, manipulate fears (about weapons of mass destruction, particularly, since that route of exploiting anxiety has proven unfailingly productive), spew out verbiage like an octopus spurts ink to confuse those who seem threatening, and parse the language of codified consensus to tease out from it deeply skewed interpretations.

Commentators in Japan and elsewhere are united in their conviction that Prime Minister Abe Shinzo has produced a sea change by forcing through his “reinterpretation” of Article 9 in the Japanese constitution. This isn’t just one more of those subtle, incremental steps towards a thorough rewrite of that document so despised by the Japanese far right. It’s a major achievement. A major step backward towards the glorious militarist past!

Some military officers are indeed saying, “We can do anything now”–anything a normal military does anywhere else.

It’s highly disturbing for me, as someone who lived in Japan for years, revisits periodically, is connected by family and friendships and deeply concerned about the future of that beautiful, fragile country. It makes me want to reflect on the military past of that proud nation and how it has shaped the Japan of today.

* * *

Let us start in the sixteenth century, when the first Europeans arrived in Japan, initiating contact, and the first Japanese made their way around the world to Europe.

On March 23, 1585, three nobleman envoys from Japan along with their attendants were greeted in an official ceremony at the Vatican in Rome. The Jesuit mission in Japan, active in that “newly discovered” country since 1549, wanted to impress upon all of Europe its successes in converting hundreds of thousands of Japanese to the Catholic faith. At a time when Protestants were making inroads throughout northern Europe, challenging and weakening the Roman Catholic Church, missionary work in the “newly discovered countries” was extending the reach of the Holy See.

Japan was among the most promising mission fields. Some of its daimyo (“kings” to the Portuguese priests), eager to draw trading galleons to their shores, were willing to convert—for thoroughly worldly reasons—and then command their subjects to do so. (The Portuguese merchants following Church directives notified their Japanese hosts that should they embrace the holy faith, they would receive more visits by the European ships laden with Chinese silks and other precious goods.)

Many religious conversions were insincere or coerced, and when serious persecution commenced in the 1620s, the great majority of converts apostatized. But for a time the Japanese were the darlings of the Roman Catholic Church’s global Counter-Reformation missionary effort.

There was a “racial” aspect to this enthusiastic interaction. The Japanese, wrote Francis Xavier in 1550, are “the best race yet discovered [by Europeans] and I do not think you will find their match among pagan nations.” “The people are white and cultured,” reported the visiting Italian Jesuit Alessandro Valignano several decades later, and even the common people so “remarkably polite” that “they are superior to other Eastern peoples but also to Europeans as well.” Around 1590 the Portuguese Jesuit Luis Frois opined that the Japanese “in their deportment and manners” excelled the Europeans in so many ways “one is ashamed to tell about it.”

(From the inception of contact, Europeans referred to Japanese as “white” and associated their pale skin color to moral virtue and intellectual understanding. Valignano even opined that the “difference between the Indian [South Asian] and Japanese Christians… itself proves that there is no room for comparison between them, for each of the former was converted from some individual ulterior motive; and since they [the Indians] are blacks, and of small sense, they are subsequently very difficult to improve and turn into good Christians; whereas the Japanese…since they are white and of good understanding and behavior…become very good Christians.”)

Before their Vatican visit, the Japanese had already met with the governor of Portugal, Cardinal Albert, in Lisbon; Philip II in Madrid; Empress Marie of Austria, also in Madrid; and Francesco dei Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, in Pisa. (Francesco’s wife Bianco Capello had embraced each one, no doubt delighting in the texture of their silken kimonos). Arriving at the Vatican, cheered on by throngs, a cannon salute, and the tolling of bells, the delegation was greeted by the Portuguese Jesuit and humanist Gaspare Gonsalves who told those assembled:

“The island kingdom of Japan is, it is true, so far away that its name is hardly known and some have even doubted its existence. In spite of this, those who know it set it above all the countries of the East, and compare it to those of the West, in its size, the number of its cities, and its warlike and cultured people.”

Warlike and cultured people! Xavier had written, “Never in my life have I met people who rely so much on their arms…They are very warlike and are always involved in wars…” Even more, perhaps, than the Iberian conquistadores whom Xavier, a Basque from Navarre had probably rubbed shoulders with on occasion. They not only produced the finest swords in the world, excelling the Damascene blades, but they had eagerly embraced the arquebus from the day of its arrival in Japan in 1543. They made design improvements on the European musket and mass-produced it so that there were more firearms in Japan by 1600 than in any European country. (At that time a single Japanese daimyo might have boasted a larger arsenal than the queen of England.)

The Japanese martial tradition had deep roots. The earliest inhabitants of the archipelago (the Jomon, who apparently entered via Siberia) constituted a classless, peaceful society. But by 400 BCE they were joined by the Yayoi people, entering through the Korean Peninsula, bringing with them wet-rice agriculture, metallurgy, class structure, the concept of the state, and a culture of warfare. After the primordial unification of the Japan, which we can refer to as the “Yamato” state (sometime between 350 and 400), the state expanded into southern Kyushu and northeastern Honshu through military force and engaged in conflict on the Korean Peninsula as well. The monumental tombs (kofun) appearing around this period contain ceramic figurines depicting fully armed horse-riding warriors.

The introduction of Buddhism, a belief system that discourages the taking of life, in 538 may have softened the martial tradition. Although local armed uprisings remained quite common, the imperial court centered in Heian (Kyoto) from the late eighth century developed an elegant, peace-loving cultural ethos quite at odds with the culture of the hereditary warriors (samurai) evolving in the boondocks. But from the late twelfth century the samurai emerged as the new ruling class and retained that position until that class was formally abolished in the 1870s.

But back to Rome in 1585. How appropriate it was to greet some of these Christian warriors from the other side of the world, publicly in St. Peter’s! This Vatican visit marked the beginning of a long, tortured East-West love affair. The Portuguese, who monopolized European trade with Japan until the Spanish vessels based in the new colony of the Philippines arrived late in the century, enlisted Japanese samurai to fight Malays in their colony of Batavia in Java (later lost to the Dutch).  The warlike Spanish loved the samurai at first sight, and recruited them as mercenaries for their intended invasion of China and their project for the conquest of Cambodia.

Alas, the love affair began to fall apart in the 1590s, when Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the great warlord-hegemon of a newly reunified Japan, began to persecute Christians and threatened the Spaniards in their Philippines colony with invasion. (Ironically, the first Christian missionaries to visit Korea arrived with a samurai invasion force numbering over 200,000 in 1592.)

Thereafter, the Tokugawa shoguns in power (from 1600) annihilated the Roman Catholic missions the Vatican had considered so promising. It booted out Spanish and Portuguese traders on the (valid) assumption that they would always try to smuggle in missionaries, and limited their trade with the west to dealings with the Dutch.

(The latter—Protestants content to keep their beliefs to themselves—made it clear they were not Catholics and not interested in proselytizing. They were altogether willing to ingratiate themselves with their hosts by trampling on Roman Catholic religious images and even deploying cannon fire on Catholic peasant rebels if that was the price of doing business in Japan.)

But then—surprisingly—these “warlike” Japanese stepped back from a century and a half of incessant civil warfare. Hideyoshi and his successors in power effectively disarmed the peasantry, collecting their swords and muskets, and corralled the samurai (some seven percent of the population) into castle towns—one per domain, of which there were about 260.

This resulted in what one historical anthropologist has called “the taming of the samurai,” accomplished over the course of the seventeenth century. Peace descended. Japan invaded only one country between 1598 (the de facto end of the Korean war) and the end of the Edo (Tokugawa) period in 1868. This was the Ryukyu kingdom (now Japan’s Okinawa Prefecture), which was attacked by the domain of Satsuma in 1609 and forced to accept tributary status.

From the 1630s Japanese were forbidden to travel abroad, with the exception of a few permitted to visit Korea or the Ryukyu kingdom for trade purposes. Far from being an aggressive country, Japan became withdrawn, engaging in a lively but carefully controlled trade with China, Korea, the Ryukyus and the Netherlands. (The Dutch were the only westerners authorized to trade in Japan until 1859.) Within the country, general peace prevailed; there were no daimyo rebellions against the shoguns’ rule, and no wars between daimyo. While there were always localized peasant rebellions in Japan, some of them repressed with musket fire, there was never a nationwide peasant revolt like that in sixteenth century Germany.

While Europe was ripped apart by the horrific Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648), the Pax Tokugawa prevailed in Japan. The warrior class, who were not a vocational category so much as a hereditary status group (including women), lost their martial character and became transformed into pen-pushing bureaucrats as the country entered a sustained period of peace. Under these conditions, the population doubled over the seventeenth century, agricultural production swelled, great cities arose and bourgeois culture flourished.

And so it would remain until the mid-nineteenth century when U.S. gunboats sailed into Edo Bay demanding that Japan open its doors to U.S. trade. British, U.S. and Russian vessels had encroached in Japanese waters for decades, with increasing frequency. Some members of Japan’s long peaceable samurai class called for a forcible response.

In 1808 (during the Napoleonic Wars, which pitted Britain against pro-French Holland) a British naval vessel snuck into Nagasaki harbor sporting the Dutch flag. Its crew kidnapped Dutch traders and fired cannon to intimidate the townspeople. Thereafter a shocked shogunate issued an edict entitled, “Strike against foreign ships without thinking twice,” which obliged the daimyo of coastal domains to fire on unwelcome foreign ships.

Still they came. U.S. warships under the command of Commodore Matthew Perry even entered Edo (Tokyo) Bay itself in 1853, demanding that Japan open its doors to the world economy.

Realistically appraising the situation, the shogunate bowed to pressure, agreeing to establish “treaty ports.” But the economic dislocations produced by Japan’s incorporation into the world economy, and the blow to the regime’s prestige among the people, lead to the violent overthrow of the government during the Boshin War of 1867-1869.

The shogunate was overthrown in this conflict, which took some 8000 lives. A new regime (headed, in theory, by a teenage emperor) focused on learning from the west while resisting further encroachment came to power. This episode is known as the Meiji Restoration.

Burdened though it was by the unequal treaties imposed by the U.S. and other powers, Japan quickly emerged from two centuries of relative isolation to become a global power in its own right. While the status category of samurai was abolished in the 1870s, a new system of military conscription and the national policy of “affluent country, strong army” insured the revival of the long dormant tradition of military aggression.

As early as 1873, just five years into the new Meiji era, the leaders (all of samurai background) planned an invasion of the nearest neighbor, Korea, to force its acceptance of diplomatic and trade ties. The plan was called off (mainly due to western objections). But Japanese gunboat diplomacy mimicking that of the western powers brought Korea to heel in 1876.

In the meantime the new Japanese government dispatched a naval expedition to Taiwan, to punish tribesmen on that island for the killing of 54 shipwrecked Japanese and Ryukyuan fishermen. Qing China claimed sovereignty over the island (just as Beijing continues to this day to insists that Taiwan is and has always been a part of China). After slaughtering dozens, Japan forced China to pay it damages and recognize Japanese sovereignty over the Kingdom of the Ryukyus (Okinawa).

Following multiple armed interventions in Korea, Japanese forces engaged the Chinese army in Korea in 1894. After Chinese forces intervened in the country (at the request of its king) to suppress a peasant rebellion, Japan invoked its treaty right to dispatch forces as well. The latter provoked a skirmish with the Chinese, and all-out war followed. It enveloped the Korean Peninsula, southern Manchuria, and Taiwan. A victorious Japan demanded and received Taiwan as well as the Liaodong Peninsula in Manchuria as war booty.

But diplomatic intervention by Russia, Germany, and France prevented Tokyo from swallowing Liaodong and produced smoldering resentment within Japan against the tsarist empire. This resentment intensified after Russia itself acquired concessions in Liaodong soon after thwarting the Japanese effort.

In 1900 when the Boxer peasant rebels besieged the foreign embassies in Beijing, Japan joined the western powers in suppressing the uprising. The Japanese deployment was the only Asian contingent in the multinational force, and met with praise from the westerners, the British in particular, for its professionalism. Suddenly the darling of British imperialism, Japan signed the Anglo-Japanese Naval Treaty in 1902—as the British dropped the onerous clauses of the unequal treaty the U.K. had contracted with Japan in the 1850s.

Suddenly British intellectuals were talking about the obvious resemblances between the two island nations—their monarchical, hierarchical, eminently polite  societies; their maritime and feudal heritages; their proud martial traditions. It just made sense for the two to align, especially given the common concern with Russia’s expanding role in Asia.

Russia had secured concessions from China on Liaodong after blocking Japan’s acquisition of the peninsula in 1895. Japan attacked in 1904 and as its army fanned out across Manchuria its navy destroyed the Russian Baltic Fleet in the Tsushima Strait the following year. Russia was forced to sue for peace.  It was a stunning defeat for the tsarist empire, the first such victory of an Asian power over a European power in modern times, and the cause of much nationalist pride in Japan. It brought Korea (officially annexed in 1910) into the Japanese empire, along with Russian holdings in Manchuria and the southern half of the large island of Sakhalin.

World War I would seem to have had little to do with Japan. But citing a clause of the Anglo-Japanese Naval Treaty, which called upon Japan to take Britain’s part when the latter was at war with a third party, Tokyo attacked the German concession of Shandong in China, seized it for itself and also seized German possessions in the South Pacific including some of the Samoan islands. By 1918 the Japanese Empire had acquired by military force territory from the subarctic to Polynesia. All within a half-century of the Meiji Restoration.

A very martial country indeed! Very impressive. But the Brits and Yankees were both getting anxious. Both wanted unlimited access to the vast China market, and Japan had displayed in the course of World War I a disturbing penchant to behave exactly like western imperialists. It had imposed the insufferable “21 Demands” on China, which London and Washington had intervened to soften. Britain allowed the Anglo-Japanese treaty to expire, claiming that postwar multilateral agreements such as the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 rendered it irrelevant.

Meanwhile the Japanese regime, responding to hardening racist anti-Japanese immigration policies in the U.S. and elsewhere, and craving Lebensraum outside its borders for its swelling population, pondered ways to expand the realm in northeast Asia.

Japan occupied all of Manchuria in 1931—more due to willful actions by rogue military units than as a result of calculated policy—and added the state of “Manchukuo” to the empire. The Manchurian Incident spelled the collapse of the League of Nations as the Japanese delegation stormed out following the League’s condemnation of its actions. All-out war in China followed in 1937, and a secret war with the Soviets on the Manchurian-Mongolian border raged in 1939. (In the latter Japanese forces were soundly trounced; Tokyo agreed to a non-aggression treaty with the USSR two years later.)

U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, constrained somewhat by popular isolationist sentiment, condemned Japanese aggression in China, proclaimed a “moral embargo” on Japan, and gradually applied more trade sanctions. Following the Japanese advance into the French colony of Vietnam in 1940 (in theory, pursuant to an agreement with the regime in Nazi-occupied France) U.S. sanctions tightened. The U.S. froze Japanese assets in U.S. banks and cut off the supply of oil.

Washington demanded that Tokyo withdraw its troops in China to their prewar positions in the north, and renounce its membership in the Tripartite Pact with Germany and Italy, as a condition for the restoration of normal trade ties. The Japanese leaders, headed by Tojo Hideki, concluded that this would be politically impossible. (The public had been whipped into the sort of pro-war fever that so commonly infects modern capitalist-imperialist countries. Any announcement of such a capitulation to the U.S. would have produced mass outrage with unpredictable consequences.)

So the leadership, with only a year’s stockpile of the petroleum needed for the war effort, chose another course: the capture of the oil fields of the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia). But that meant knocking out U.S. and British military bases in the Philippines, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaya, and Hawai’i. This was done, rapidly and efficiently. In December 1941 the die was cast.

Four years later, Tokyo and Osaka were fire-bombed wastelands and Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuked lunar-like landscapes.

The Japanese leadership did not surrender to the Allies because of the atomic bombing attacks. (These were in fact no more horrific than the conventional bombing that had fried over 100,000 in Tokyo on March 9, 1945.) The entry of the (hitherto neutral) Soviet Union into the war on August 8, 1941, the prospect of a Soviet occupation in the north, the division of the country and the possibility of a communist-led revolution, persuaded the leadership that surrender to the U.S. was the best option. Once occupied by U.S. forces, the Japanese people were obliged (in 1947) to accept a new constitution authored by foreigners that renounced the long history of martial culture described above.

And so a new era began.

* * *

Article 9 of the Japanese constitution is unequivocal: “Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.

“In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.”

Paradoxically, this foreign-authored constitution has—due especially to that article—become for millions of Japanese a fiercely defended national treasure. No one resists amendments to this document more fiercely than Japanese communists.

But U.S. leaders themselves having imposed the “pacifist” constitution on Japan began to change their minds shortly after its ratification by the Diet. The objective of the occupier as of 1947 was to disarm Japan in perpetuity, if not to return an industrial powerhouse to the status of an agrarian backwater. China was slated to become the U.S.’s great ally in East Asia, home of its bases, and limitless market for its goods.

Alas, a communist-led revolution upset all these plans. After 1949, as Washington’s politicians puzzled over “who lost China?” they re-conceptualized the role of Japan as a reconstructed newfound ally.

With the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, the U.S. pressured Japanese Prime Minister Yoshida Shigeru to send troops to join what was portrayed as a UN effort against the communist North. Yoshida shrewdly replied that this wasn’t possible under the (U.S.-authored) Japanese constitution. (Yoshida was a firm anti-Communist, which is why the Occupation regime liked him so much; but he did not want to devote scarce resources to remilitarization at that time.)

As it happened, Japanese industry contributed heavily to the war effort, and Japan’s postwar revival was indebted to U.S. “special procurements” (war-related expenditures in Japan).  Yoshida called these  “a gift from the gods”.  In 1948 the Japanese GDP was only at 55% its 1936 level; by 1953 it was at 155% of that level. Not “generous aid” from the U.S. but war-related spending by the U.S. produced Japan’s postwar recovery.

Under U.S. pressure Tokyo created an incipient war machine in 1950: a “National Police Reserve” of 75,000. This grew to 110,000 by 1952, following the end of the Occupation. On the same day that Japan regained sovereignty (April 28, 1952), Tokyo signed a  “security treaty” with the U.S. legitimating the ongoing presence of tens of thousands of U.S. troops (who were among other things authorized to suppress any domestic disturbances). In July 1954 these “police” were reconstituted as land, sea and air “Self-Defense Forces.” Today they number around 250,000 active duty personnel.

A Japan Defense Agency was established in 1954—but not as a military, mind you! Just as “defense forces.” At least that is the official line. But would not any “land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential” be unconstitutional? In response to repeated efforts by citizens’ groups to deem them such, the Japanese Supreme Court (under documented U.S. pressure) has ruled that a decision on their legality is a matter for the Diet to decide and falls outside its purview.

Step by step, factions within the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP, whose creation was midwifed by the CIA in 1955, and has held power from that point with only brief interruptions in 1993-4 and 2009-12) have campaigned for the abolition of Article 9 and the reemergence of Japan as a “normal country” with a normal, legitimatized military like those deployed by other imperialist countries.

But the Japanese people have not been on board the program. Local and national protests against the U.S. base in Uchinada, Ishikawa prefecture, in the 1950s (where U.S. troops had been trained before deployment in Korea) forced the base’s closure in 1957. Protests at a U.S. base in Tokyo in 1957 resulted in the arrest of seven people charged with trespassing. They were found not guilty by the Tokyo High Court on the grounds that the very existence of the base violated the constitution. (The Supreme Court overruled the lower court’s decision after the Chief Justice exchanged messages with the U.S. ambassador.)

The irradiation of 23 Japanese fisherman, and the death of one, as the result of a U.S. nuclear test in the Marshall Islands in 1954, fueled Japan’s anti-nuclear and anti-military movement. When Prime Minister Kishi Nobusuke worked to push through a bill in the Diet renewing the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty in 1960, over seven million rallied in opposition. Public opinion was overwhelmingly opposed to the security treaty.

But Kishi rammed it through in the wee hours of morning, after having dissenting legislators evicted. So great was the public outrage that Tokyo had to inform President Dwight Eisenhower, who had planned to visit Japan to sign the document, that Japanese security forces could not guarantee his safety.

This prime minister had been detained by Allied forces and held in Sugamo Prison on suspicion of Class A war crimes. He had been Minister of Munitions under Prime Minister Tojo Hideki and one of Tojo’s closest allies. He had spoken in support of the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was deeply involved in the enslavement of hundreds of thousands of Chinese and Koreans in mines and factories during the war. He escaped prosecution due to the intervention of the fiercely anti-communist “American Council on Japan” who felt that he would influence Japanese politics in a “pro-American” direction.

Kishi Nobusuke also happens to be the beloved grandfather of the current Japanese prime minister, Abe Shinzo. Abe, widely regarded as a hawk of his grandfather’s ilk, has recently stated (on the anniversary of the end of the Second World War) that Japanese should not have to keep apologizing about the past.

During the Vietnam War, Japanese public opinion was overwhelmingly antiwar, and critical of the manifest racism underlying that conflict. But again, Japanese industry profited enormously from war-related contracts. The Japanese economy was growing by leaps and bounds in the 1960s, surpassing West Germany to become the world’s third largest economy by 1970. Although Japan produced a vigorous New Left comparable to those of the U.S. and Europe, the people were unable to wrench the country away from the alliance with U.S. imperialism.

Throughout, rightist forces campaigned to whittle away Article 9 and reinstate Japan on its historical path of glorified militarism. The Education Ministry, typically headed by the most reactionary and anti-intellectual LDP politicians (like Fujio Masayuki, who in 1986 called the Nanjing Massacre a fabrication and claimed that Japan colonized Korea at the Koreans’ request), has step-by-step restored nationalistic content to the required “moral education” segment of the high school curriculum; required schools to fly the solar disk flag and force faculty and students to sing the imperial anthem; and approved for public school use history textbooks that prettify or whitewash Japan’s war record.

Meanwhile the prime minister’s office has relentlessly tested the limits of the reinterpretation of Article 9. In 1981, Prime Minister Suzuki Zenko  provoked a storm of criticism when he suggested that the Maritime Self Defense Forces be allowed to defend Japanese shipping up to 1000 nautical miles from Japan. Two years later, Prime Minister Nakasone Yasuhiro (a soul-mate of his contemporaries Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Helmut Kohl) provoked further criticism when he allowed the military (“self-defense”) budget to exceed the traditional one percent of GDP limit—just to test the waters, and see how the public would react. He also sparked outrage when he addressed the U.S. Congress describing Japan as “unsinkable aircraft carrier in the Pacific” serving U.S. needs.

During the first Gulf War in 1991, Tokyo (necessarily) declined to send troops to the war theater. This drew fire from U.S. congressmen clueless about the constitutional issue who complained that Japanese were receiving cheap oil from the Middle East secured by U.S. military action. Some even threatened to withdraw U.S. troops from Japan (whose upkeep then as now is paid for by Japanese taxpayers) if Japan did not contribute to the attack on Saddam Hussein. (A ranking member of the Self-Defense Forces in a rare show of frankness publicly stated that if the U.S. wanted to withdraw, the Japanese would just say goodbye; after all, the Japanese had never asked for their presence in the first place.)

In the end Tokyo paid the U.S. $ 13 billion as its contribution to the war effort that forced Iraqi forces out of Iraq. (Arab states compensated Washington to the tune of $ 36 billion, while Germany paid $ 5 billion.) LDP leaders treated this as a matter of shame; “checkbook diplomacy,” they declared, should be replaced with an actual commitment of boots on the ground.

So in 1992 the Diet passed a law allowing Self Defense Forces to be deployed in UN “peace keeping operations” (PKO) alongside other international forces. It was an important first step, a psychological hurdle mounted. Since then, the SDF have in fact served duty in Cambodia, Mozambique, East Timor, the Golan Heights, Haiti and South Sudan.

The next natural step for the remilitarization campaign was the dispatch of a Navy tanker and destroyer to waters off Pakistan in late 2001 to assist the U.S. in the Afghan War. (These waters are of course far more distant than the 1000 nautical mile limit for SDF actions as envisioned by Suzuki Zenko.) This was a highly unpopular mission, terminated in compliance with a campaign promise by the newly elected prime minister Hatoyama Yukio in 2009.

Japan as a U.S. client state never expresses a firm difference of opinion with Washington on any international issue. (It is at least as deferential to Washington as Warsaw ever was to Moscow.) It is slavishly obedient. In 2003 as George W. Bush embarked on his war based on lies against Iraq, Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro (unlike the leaders of Germany and France) declared his full support and even committed 600 Japanese troops to the effort.

This was a major breakthrough for the Japanese militarists. The Japanese forces were not, of course, deployed in combat, hobbled as they were by that tiresome Article 9. But they could construct a castle at Samawah, in southern Iraq, replete such with homey amenities as a karaoke bar and massage parlor, whence they could venture out each morning—necessarily accompanied by Dutch forces authorized to actually kill people—to do “humanitarian” work like water purification and road construction. (As if the Iraqi people couldn’t do that themselves.) Two-thirds of Japanese polled opposed the mission, many no doubt seeing it for what it was: just another step towards violating Article 9 and normalizing international military deployment.

Koizumi’s successor Abe Shinzo—again, the proud grandson of the Kishi Nobusuke mentioned above—reconfigured the military establishment to create a Ministry of Defense with its headquarters in Tokyo’s Shinjuku. Its head, the Minister of Defense, now serves in the cabinet.  In 2009, while another hawk, Aso Taro, having renewed the refueling mission in the Indian Ocean authorized the Maritime SDF to dispatch destroyers to the Somali coast to protect not just Japanese but others from pirates. Since then there have even been Japanese sailors stationed in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa—a very long way from home.

Much closer to home lay some uninhabited rocks in the East China Sea which the Chinese, who have visited them for over six hundred years, call Daioyutai. The Japanese term, invented in the 1870s, is Senkaku. Whoever owns them owns 21,000 square miles of fisheries and petroleum reserves so they are not unimportant. China (as well as Taiwan) claim them on very well-established historical grounds. Tokyo claims them on what it claims—very plausibly—are internationally recognized legal grounds.

* * *

But (again) doesn’t the Japanese government’s obvious disdain for Japan’s own constitution make us question what “law” has to do with it anyway?

Tokyo says that when it asserted its ownership over the four rocks in the East China Sea (which no Japanese were even aware of in the fifteenth century when the Chinese mapped, visited, and named them) in 1895 they were uninhabited, hence available for anyone’s taking. They were in western legalese “terra nullius” or uninhabited lands. No matter that the greatest Japanese geographer, Hayashi Shihei, had produced a comprehensive map in 1785 indicating that the islands were Chinese. No matter that the Japanese foreign minister, Inoue Kaoru, had rejected a plea for annexation from the governor of Okinawa in 1885 on the grounds that the islands belonged to China.

All that matters is that when rising Japan defeated China in 1895 and impressed the western powers, asserting ownership of these islands in the course of the war (before acquiring adjacent Taiwan itself as a colony), the predatory imperialist powers accepted Japan’s claim. How legitimating! Ever since Japan has had “law” on its side. So what does history have to do with it? (Seriously. I have heard a Japanese diplomat put it in precisely these terms.)

But this islands dispute is actually more complicated, even from the legalistic point of view. In the Cairo Declaration of 1943, wartime victors Roosevelt, Churchill and Chiang Kai-shek declared that, following its unconditional surrender,  “Japan shall be stripped of all the territories it has stolen from the Chinese, such as Manchuria, Formosa and the Pescadores which shall be restored to the Republic of China.” This demand was reiterated at Potsdam by Truman, Churchill and Stalin. In defeat Tokyo conceded the loss of these possessions.

But the status of the Diaoyutai/Senkaku islands remained unclear. They came under the U.S. Ryukyu occupation zone, which was separate from the zone comprising the Japanese main islands. (Since Japan had annexed the Ryukyus in the 1870s the Occupation authorities were not sure whether or not to treat them as part of Japan or as a potential independent state.) The U.S. could, in 1945, when China was led by the united front between Chiang Kai-shek’s Guomindang and the communists, assigned the disputed islands back to China with the stroke of a pen. Instead they retained them within the bounds of Okinawa Prefecture.

In 1972 the U.S. “returned” the Ryukyu islands to Japanese sovereignty (while retaining, indeed insisting on, the right to station 25,000 troops on bases on Okinawa). The Diaoyutai islands reverted with the whole package and now Tokyo assumes that if blows were to come between it and Beijing over this island claim issue, the U.S. will take its part. After some hedging the U.S. has in fact stated clearly that the security treaty between the U.S. and Japan covers these disputed islands.

This is a major triumph for Kishi Nobusuke’s grandson. As he steers Japan towards the status of a “normal” global power, able to bully other nations like the U.S. does—-able to expand Japan’s influence throughout Greater East Asia (unapologetically)—-he can count on the Yankees to have his back. He has restored Japan to the ranks of the white, civilized nations. He is nurturing those warlike roots. Everything’s back on track, just like it was before these annoying pacifist decades.

But this time the “warlike and cultured people” stand astride a fading U.S. empire trying to “pivot” towards the South and East China Seas confronting an inexorably rising China. This China so far proceeds cautiously in pressing its claims, territorial and otherwise. Kishi’s grandson in contrast is a hothead whose vision of military revival—tapping into the gangster-neofascist right that’s always there on the fringes of Japanese politics—-could produce something very ugly, pretty soon.

The Japanese government’s outright purchase of the Daioyu/Senkaku islands from a private owner in September 2012 (which was actually opposed by Washington as an unnecessary provocation of China) may in time be viewed as the beginning of a new stage of confrontation.

The pattern in retrospect is very clear. Step by step the militarists have gained ground in Japan. They scored a big victory last week. The Japanese constitution of 1947 means nothing. Hachiman (the god of war) is smiling. Back to normal, the norm of two millennia. The samurai are back in the saddle, heading for the battlefield, with the stars and stripes alongside the imperial solar disc flag waving in the background.

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Over one hundred thousand Japanese demonstrated outside the Diet last week as the LPD and its partners enacted the pro-war laws. They need the world’s solidarity. This piece is a small contribution towards that.

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The Evolution of Malcolm X: His Philosophy in the Struggle Against Racism and Injustice



Recently we marked the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X (February 21, 1965), and this occasion brought some media focus to his life and significance. This was in contrast to the earlier, U.S., mass media’s stereotyping, vilification, and dismissal of Malcolm X as some hate-filled, violent madman during his lifetime and the overwhelming marginalization and silencing of his message during the past fifty years.

In this article, I’ll attempt to formulate Malcolm X’s philosophy during four stages of his life without providing quotations from Malcolm’s speeches and writings that support these formulations. Before examining Malcolm’s philosophy, I’ll share a very dramatic incident that involved my teaching of Malcolm X.

A Dramatic Challenge and Attack

The mass media’s treatment, usually mistreatment, and later silencing of Malcolm X can be contrasted with what I experienced earlier, especially as related to students and members of the community. My first full-time faculty position was at Southern Illinois University (1967-1972), which was sometimes described at the time as having the largest number of African-American students of any major integrated university. At the time, SIU had a large Black Studies Program with its own building and with many faculty and course offerings.

At the insistence of African-American students, I finally agreed to offer a philosophy course in Black Philosophy. I structured the course by starting with two key figures: three weeks on the philosophy of Martin Luther King, Jr. followed by three weeks on the philosophy of Malcolm X. By comparing and contrasting King and Malcolm, we could examine their analysis of racism, the nature of the self and self-identity, violence and nonviolence, integration and separatism, justice and injustice, and other topics. I found that the class was almost equally divided, with roughly half more sympathetic to Malcolm X and the other half more identifying with King’s philosophy.

One of many, very intense experiences that occurred during the first time I offered Black Philosophy illustrates how some students (and other people of color throughout the U.S. and the world) were relating to Malcolm X. We had completed two weeks on King. At the beginning of the next class, one black student, who at the time identified with the so-called “Black Muslims” of the Nation of Islam, stood up at the front of the class with his “bodyguards” on either side. In a soft-spoken but very dramatic prepared speech, he began as follows: “With due respect, everything we have done in this class is BS (bullshit).” He concluded his speech with this challenge: “What we should be studying is the only issue for black people today. What is the true religion for black people, Christianity, the white man’s slave religion, or Islam, the religion of black liberation?”

The students, black and white, looked at me. You could have heard a pin drop. It turned out that I was very lucky in avoiding what could have easily become a disastrous consequence for the rest of the semester. On the one hand, if I had used my faculty position of authority to ignore or disrespect this black student’s challenge, really more of an attack, I would have lost the respect of many students. This would have confirmed their view of oppressive white power being imposed on blacks. On the other hand, if I had responded in the way that some of the white liberal faculty, driven by guilt and concern about white racism, uncritically accepted or enthusiastically supported whatever black students said in class, I also would have lost the respect of many students. Some might have felt a temporary victory, standing up with dignity and telling the white man off, but more would have felt I had been guilty of a cop-out in not responding to the black student’s challenge adequately.

Knowing that this student and his friends admired Malcolm X, I responded that we would be examining Malcolm’s writings on Islam and Christianity, but to reduce Malcolm’s philosophy to that one topic would be to do him an injustice. Malcolm X was much more complex and insightful than that, so that I also felt an obligation to examine what he wrote about violence and nonviolence, separatism and integration, black nationalism, economics, politics, culture, and other significant topics. I then invited this student and others to share their views on Malcolm X in the coming weeks, even welcoming class presentations, but only if they took this seriously, as I did, and took the time to prepare carefully so that their presentations made critical contributions with philosophical relevance and significance.

As an aside, the students who organized the challenge in class were very satisfied. They had had the courage to stand up and speak in their own voice. The particular black student and I became very good friends. He changed his name to a Muslim name, asked to present on Malcolm X in the following years, and later rejected the Nation of Islam while remaining a Muslim. He recently wrote a book on Black Muslims in the U.S.

Malcolm’s Early Philosophy

By “Malcolm’s early philosophy,” I include what became Malcolm Little’s philosophy during the time he lived in Michigan, later moved to Boston and New York City, went to prison, and before he became a member of the Nation of Islam. This can be described as the Hustler’s Philosophy that intends to relate to the hustler’s hard world in ways that are practical, realistic, and avoid all dangerous illusions and sentimentality.

In Malcolm’s hustler philosophy, one views human beings and the world as ruled by the “Law of the Jungle.” Everything is a hustle. Always look for the material gain, the payoff. The essence of this hustle concept is self-gain. There is a hierarchy with the hustler at the top. The hustler makes money primarily on whom one knows, on one’s connections, through activities that are usually illegal. The pimp and others are lower in the hierarchy. There is a general practice: be hard, be cool, be secretive, don’t trust, and don’t give anyone any unwarranted breaks. This means assuming a stoic attitude in which one is willing to kill point blank, if necessary, without blinking an eye. In the hustler’s philosophy, there is a common foe: police and informers. There is also a common friend: one’s self.

In short, Malcolm Little’s philosophy is atomistic and individualistic with the focus on one’s own separate self as driven by self-gain. This necessitates adopting means, when necessary, that are violent, dishonest, secretive, and illegal. This philosophy is amoral, with no place for ethics and moral values that show weakness and make one vulnerable. It has no place for religious values and concerns that are completely irrelevant in the hustler’s philosophy. And it has no place for any social philosophy and commitment to overcoming racism and injustice.

Perhaps startling and revealing, my students and I began to realize that of all of Malcolm’s philosophies, this early Hustler’s Philosophy is closest to the philosophy and practices of individuals, institutions, and policies of the white, capitalist, power elite. The economic leaders who run huge corporations and Wall Street financial institutions, the political and military leaders, the heads of the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, etc., adopt a view of a world ruled by the Law of the Jungle in which they must unsentimentally and amorally calculate self-gain and material payoff. In other words, when one demystifies self-serving ideologies and justifications, it is clear that the dominant, U.S., economic, political, and military amoral and power-driven polices and values are closest to Malcolm’s hustler philosophy. They have little to do with real opposition to racism and injustice.

Malcolm X’s Philosophy as a Member of the Nation of Islam

During his six years in prison (1946-1952), Malcolm becomes familiar with and then identifies with the Nation of Islam led by “the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.” He rejects his white Christian name, becomes Malcolm X (the X standing for his unknown, ancestral, African name), and embraces the name el-Hajj Malik el-Shabbaz. For more than ten years, he develops his philosophy as a so-called “Black Muslim,” becoming the most charismatic leader in the Nation of Islam.

The Nation of Islam identifies itself as Islamic, with members who are Muslims (“Black Muslims”), but it is a particular U.S. black creation and institution. It contains a philosophy, values, and practices that are peculiar to a U.S. black context and cannot be found in Sunni, Shia, Sufi, and other Islamic denominations. Created on July 4, 1930 by Wallace D. Farr Muhammad in Detroit, the Nation of Islam was most defined by its leader Elijah Muhammad, who was based in Chicago.

What appeals to Malcolm is the Nation’s clear message and rigid conservative code of conduct aimed at black spiritual, mental, social, and economic improvement. Elijah Muhammad teaches that “the white man is the devil” and that blacks are brainwashed. Adopting his Islamic faith position that focuses on the complete separation of the races, justified by an idiosyncratic mythology with its creation narratives and mythic views of history, Elijah Muhammad teaches black separatism, black self-reliance, small-scale black capitalism, and ultimately the return of African Americans to Africa.

Malcolm X is unequivocal in upholding the need for complete black separatism. He provides both religious and historical arguments. Using his faith commitment, with Islam the religion of black liberation and with specific Nation of Islam accounts, he contends that separation of the races is the divine way. If whites do not allow for black separatism, God (Allah) will bring His wrath down on the white race. Providing historical evidence from slavery and racism in this nation and from the contemporary oppression of people of color throughout the world, Malcolm contends that blacks always find that it is racist whites that are oppressing them and treating them unjustly. Whites are the common enemy. Since whites have no real desire for an integrated society and are incapable of treating black as equals, separation of the races is the only solution.

In this philosophy of Black Muslim separatism, Malcolm no longer upholds his hustler’s atomistic and individualistic philosophy of self-gain. He now adopts a philosophy of unity and solidarity, but this is completely defined by the primary category of race. Since so-called Negroes can now see through the brainwashing, they can unite based on recognizing whites as the common enemy and the need for separate black identity and development.

Malcolm X identifies this philosophy of black separatism with Black Nationalism and Black Revolution. He submits that nationalism means getting land, the basis of independence, freedom, justice, and equality. What blacks have experienced in this nation is white nationalism. Since blacks do not have their own land, they are dependent on whites and are treated unjustly and unequally. He submits that real revolution, not the phony so-called Negro revolution of King and the Civil Rights Movement, is based on land. The American Revolution was about whites here getting their own land. Therefore, if whites are the enemy, nationalism is getting one’s own land, and revolution is based on land, Black Revolution involves Black Nationalism involves Black Separatism.

The only long-term solution, as taught by Elijah Muhammad, is complete back-to-Africa separation and return to the true black homeland. However, since America will not allow this, the short-term solution is a separate black territory here within the U.S. with just compensation for past slavery and racist exploitation. Then, consistent with the will of Allah and as taught by the Nation of Islam, blacks will become self-reliant in their separate territory and will live independent, developed, spiritual, psychological, economic, and cultural lives.

Malcolm X’s Transitional Philosophy

Although some of Malcolm rethinking begins to develop earlier, this transitional revision of his philosophy is sometimes dated to the period that starts in December 1963, after President Kennedy’s assassination and when Malcolm is silenced and suspended by Elijah Muhammad on December 4. Malcolm publicly announces that he is leaving the Nation of Islam on March 8, 1964 to organize a new movement. This transitional period extends to April 1964 when Malcolm leaves for Mecca and Africa.

One can provide different explanations for Malcolm X’s separation from the Nation of Islam. The usual explanation traces this to Malcolm’s answer to a question about Kennedy’s assassination that this is a case of “the chickens come home to roost.” Malcolm’s comment is consistent with Biblical passages on God’s justice that you reap what you sow and those who live by the sword will die by the sword. However, his comment infuriates Elijah Muhammad who had sent condolences to the Kennedy family and had instructed Nation members not to comment on the assassination.

There are at least three other explanations for the break. First, Malcolm X has become so visible and influential, and this provokes a negative reaction by some Black Muslims who see him as a threat to Elijah Muhammad’s leadership. Second, Malcolm becomes deeply disturbed and disillusioned as he learns of Elijah Muhammad’s extramarital affairs with young Nation women who work for him and with whom he fathers children. Third and most important for Malcolm X’s evolving philosophy, he increasingly feels restricted by the narrow, rigid, conservative philosophy and practices of the Nation of Islam that do not allow him to engage and become a leader in the larger civil rights and human rights movement.

To summarize Malcolm X’s transitional philosophy, he continues to affirm Elijah Muhammad’s position that the only long-range ultimate solution for African Americans is complete separation with the return to Africa. However, this is not the short-term solution, and Malcolm begins to rethink a more adequate philosophy addressing the situation of blacks in the U.S. today. He formulates this as Black Nationalism: the philosophy of political black nationalism (educating blacks to control the politics of their communities), the philosophy of economic black nationalism (educating blacks to invest in and control the economy of their communities), and the philosophy of social black nationalism (educating blacks to eliminate vices and evils by learning about their cultural roots and how to live with dignity and self-respect).

Malcolm X begins to recognize that if black nationalism means “nothing more” than blacks controlling the economic, political, and social and cultural life of their communities, then it is possible to have elements of black nationalism in secular groups, in religious groups that are not Muslim, and in groups opposed to back-to-Africa separatism. In fact, by the time that Malcolm is leaving for Mecca and Africa, he has little interest in focusing on black separatism. In strong contrast to earlier speeches, he is willing to include in his philosophy of black nationalism those who are not black separatists. He asserts that blacks confuse integration or separation, which are methods employed by different African Americans, with the shared true objective: recognition and respect for blacks as human beings with freedom, justice, and equality. Blacks are fighting not for separatism or integration but for rights that go far beyond civil rights and are human rights.

Malcolm X’s Philosophy After Mecca and Africa

Malcolm X leaves for Mecca and Africa on April 13, 1964, and he holds a press conference on his return on May 21. His Muslim spiritual pilgrimage to the holiest site in Mecca, where he completes the Hajj, and his subsequent visit to several African countries, where he has thought-provoking encounters with militant revolutionaries, are full of powerful transformative experiences. At Mecca, he has positive encounters with a wide variety of Muslims from throughout the world, including Muslims who are not black. In Africa, while Malcolm is being tailed and is under U.S. government surveillance, he shares his philosophy of political, economic, and social black nationalism, and an African revolutionary asks Malcolm where that leaves him, since he is not black.

Malcolm’s life, from May 1964 to February 1965, is extremely difficult, chaotic, and stressful and includes threats on his and his family’s life. Malcolm no longer has the rigid organizational structure, enforced rules, and organized forceful protection of the Nation of Islam. Nevertheless, during this period, Malcolm is extremely active as he founds his nonreligious Organization of Afro-American Unity in June 1964 and gives frequent interviews and speeches right up to the day of his assassination.

In summary, Malcolm X no longer seems to identify with the separatism of the Nation of Islam, even as an ultimate long-term solution. And in his short-term philosophical approach, he is questioning his formulations of black nationalism. As he notes in his last speeches and interviews, he is no longer referring to black nationalism, but he is unsure what to call his philosophy.

Citing examples of immigrant groups that came to the U.S., Malcolm X begins to rethink whether blacks in the U.S. could “migrate” or reach out to Africa in cultural, psychological, and philosophical ways while remaining here physically. This could provide a sense of roots or foundations that blacks will never find in white America and for developing a “spiritual bond” that will be mutually beneficial to both Africans and African Americans.

During his last nine months, Malcolm X’s speeches and writings express an unfinished philosophical project with an openness reaching out to new, necessary, developing reformulations that are cut short by his assassination. For his critics, especially in the Nation of Islam, Malcolm has become unglued, totally confused, and is a dangerous and even treacherous madman. He unappreciatively and arrogantly rejects the teachings and imposed rules of Elijah Muhammad on Allah’s divine plan, the need for black separatism, and the restricted proper focus and conduct for Black Muslims. For his supporters and admirers, Malcolm is rejecting or revising previous, narrow, and inadequate formulations, is indeed struggling but is seeing things much more clearly, and is in the process of broadening and deepening his philosophy and practices.

In my interpretation, Malcolm X is broadening and deepening his thinking and developing his philosophy in both religious and nonreligious ways. Religiously, Malcolm affirms that he is a Muslim, but not a member of the Nation of Islam (a “Black Muslim”). He realizes that the Nation of Islam is not traditional Islam. He also realizes that 99% of Muslims do not accept Elijah Muhammad’s highly idiosyncratic teachings of creation stories and other theological and historical narratives with whites portrayed as white devils and with the unqualified need for complete separation and restricted focus on the internal black community.

Through his experience of the Hajj at Mecca and other encounters, Malcolm X is rethinking his formulations of Islam while upholding his view that it is a philosophy of empowerment and liberation for African Americans. His Islam is not racially defined in rigid ways and can include Muslims who are not black. His reformulated, more inclusive Islam has room for Muslims who are not black separatists and for positive relations with other progressive religious and nonreligious people who are not Muslims.

In larger economic, political, social, and cultural concerns, Malcolm X is radically broadening and deepening his philosophical formulations. It is true that he refers to white colonial domination in his 1963 “Message to the Grass Roots,” when providing historical support for why blacks can unite around a common enemy, but his political and economic thinking are very undeveloped. Now through his transformative encounters in Africa and later experiences, he begins to rethink his philosophical formulations. This is most evident in his struggles with his views of black nationalism.

In my interpretation, Malcolm increasingly realizes that even his transitional reformulations of a broader short-term black nationalism are too narrow and inadequate for black freedom, justice, and equality. If one wants to understand the situation of African Americans, it is necessary to understand the larger economic, political, militaristic, psychological, social, and cultural systems and conditionings that shape the life of the internal black community. And this necessitates an analysis that understands and resists global racist and unjust systems of exploitation, violence, and domination and expresses solidarity with revolutionary and other progressive forces struggling for freedom, justice, and equality.

Therefore, in his confusion as to what to call his evolving philosophy, Malcolm X does not reject major features of his black nationalism, such as the need for African Americans to become empowered to control the economics, politics, and culture of their own communities, even if his black nationalist formulations need to be broadened and deepened. What he realizes is that such a reformulated black nationalism is necessary but not sufficient. Black nationalism by itself, with its focus on black community life, is inadequate. What is required is black nationalism plus a much broader and deeper revolutionary philosophy that recognizes the need for getting at root causes and struggles for radical structural and systemic changes necessary for freedom, justice, equality, and real substantial human rights.

Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.

It has been commonplace for some interpreters to assert that King and Malcolm, who only met once, are moving closer late in their lives. It is claimed that if they had not been assassinated, each at the age of 39, they would have been able to unite in shared struggles for freedom, justice, and equality.

It is important not to gloss over significant differences in their philosophies, even in their last years. For example, Malcolm X, while he revises his formulations of black separatism, never endorses King’s absolute commitment to integration. To provide another significant difference, while largely refraining from his earlier forceful attacks on black proponents of nonviolence, Malcolm never endorses King’s absolute commitment to nonviolence and upholds a philosophy of “by any means necessary.”

Nevertheless, it is certainly true that Malcolm X’s philosophy and King’s philosophy, so widely apart and oppositional in earlier formulations, are increasingly moving closer as each broadens, deepens, and radicalizes his formulations. King’s earlier focus on opposing segregation in the South and promoting civil rights could be supported or tolerated by much of the U.S. power elite. However, in his last years, King formulates a more radical philosophy of integration focusing on real integrated living that necessitates the sharing of power and a radically restructured economic system. He finally comes out strongly against the Vietnam War. He is moving in the direction of what looks like democratic socialism. Going beyond his earlier formulations of segregation, racism, and violence, he begins to provide more of a class analysis of power, as seen in his Poor People’s Campaign and demands for economic justice. He begins to formulate a radical philosophy that opposes capitalist materialism that puts profits before people’s real needs, opposes U.S. militarism, and opposes an unjust global imperialism. Such a King is increasingly a threat to the U.S. power structure.

Similarly, Malcolm X’s earlier hustler philosophy and his later Black Muslim philosophy could be portrayed in racially stereotypical and marginalized ways as so radically unlike and inferior to the values of the dominant white power structure. But they really pose no serious threat to the interests and power of the U.S. elite. However, in his last periods, Malcolm moves away from the black capitalism of the Nation of Islam. He begins to develop an anti-capitalist analysis of economics at home and globally. Through his encounters with revolutionaries, socialists, and others, his philosophical rethinking expresses the need to get at root causes and bring about a radical restructuring of our economic, political, social, cultural, and other systemic structures and relations. Such a Malcolm X, as seen in measures taken by the C.I.A. and U.S. Government, is increasingly seen as a threat to the U.S. power structure.

Malcolm X and Socialism

Late in his life Malcolm X becomes increasingly anti-capitalist. This anti-capitalism is expressed in two ways. First, having focused for over a decade on racism, Malcolm begins to link capitalism and racism. “You can’t have capitalism without racism.” Second, he begins to focus on how capitalism is necessarily exploitative, “like a vulture and can only suck the blood of the helpless.” Since the exploitative “system of capitalism needs some blood to suck” and people and nations will increasingly free themselves, capitalism in time “will collapse completely.”

Malcolm X’s anti-capitalism, anti-imperialism, and growing interest in socialism can be understood in terms of the local, national, and international contexts within which he was living. In the late 1840s, Karl Marx wrote that revolution was in the air, and he supported anti-capitalist revolutionary struggles, even while recognizing that the economic and historical conditions and relations were not ripe for successful revolution. Similarly, by 1964 and early 1965, revolution is very much in the air in black and other radical anti-capitalist and often socialist movements in the U.S. and throughout the world.

Malcolm confesses that he is open-minded, flexible, but unsure of what to call his economic, political, and social philosophy. He now writes that the revolutionary struggles against exploitation and oppression cannot be restricted to local communities or to the U.S. but must be viewed globally. He writes that the remarkable anti-colonial and anti-imperialist leaders and movements throughout Africa and elsewhere all seem to uphold socialist philosophies. In addition, Malcolm writes that when he finds a person who is not a racist, this person is usually a socialist, upholding a philosophy of socialism.

Probably much of the view that Malcolm X, late in his life, becomes a revolutionary anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, and pro-socialist can be related to George Breitman’s The Last Year of Malcolm X: The Evolution of a Revolutionary (1967). Breitman is a dedicated Trotskyist, a founding member of the U.S. Socialist Workers Party in 1937 and editor of the SWP’s weekly newspaper, The Militant. As an aside, amidst internal factionalism, he is expelled from the SWP in 1984, two years before his death. As a committed Trotskyist and formulating the Party’s position during the last years of Malcolm’s life, Breitman knows that nationalism can be very reactionary, but he supports revolutionary nationalist movements taking place throughout the world. He believes that such revolutionary nationalisms will evolve into a new, more adequate socialism. Therefore, as shaped by his own framework, Breitman interprets, usually in convincing terms, Malcolm X’s revolutionary philosophy as pro-socialist and evolving toward a more revolutionary socialism.

What is clear is that Malcolm X, even at the end of his life, is not a Marxist. In my own view, there are at least two main reasons for such a conclusion. First, Malcolm, although he repeatedly emphasizes the need to learn the lessons of history, does not place a major focus on the political economy of historical materialism. Even with his anti-capitalism, he does not focus on analyzing the capitalist mode of production, relations of production as class relations, and the material basis for revolutionary change. Second, although he increasingly focuses on capitalist exploitation and oppression, Malcolm does not emphasize class analysis in any Marxist way. It is true that he begins to express the need for multiracial alliances, that include militant whites dissatisfied with racism, capitalism, and imperialism, but he does not focus on white workers. Unlike most socialist Marxists, he does not address working-class solidarity and unity as part of his evolving revolutionary philosophy.

It is entirely possible that Malcolm would have moved in a Marxist direction. With a modified Islamic position and perhaps consistent with some liberation theology, he might have moved toward a Marxist analysis in making sense of the economics and history of racism and exploitation. And it is significant that Malcolm, even while still a member of the Nation of Islam, shows a remarkable class consciousness, as in his famous distinction between “the house Negro,” with his major examples of King and other Negro preachers, and “the field Negro.” With his class background and consciousness, Malcolm makes clear oppositional distinctions in antagonistic class relations and identifies himself as a field Negro in solidarity with the exploited and oppressed black masses. Malcolm might have developed this class analysis in a more Marxist direction.

So where does this leave us with regard to Malcolm X and socialism? As has been seen, Malcolm X, late in his life, is rejecting many of his earlier positions, is broadening and deepening his analysis, and is unsure of what to call his new evolving revolutionary philosophy. He continues to develop his long-standing analysis of racism, becomes strongly anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist, and increasingly develops sympathy for and identification with socialism.

In terms of later contextualization, it seems clear that Malcolm X, in the decade after his murder, would have become increasingly radicalized in his opposition to capitalism and imperialism and his support for socialism. We can only speculate on how Malcolm, so intelligent and courageous and open to new experiences, would have related to the economic, political, and violent undermining and destruction of black radical groups and individuals in the U.S. We can only speculate on how he would have related to the neo-colonial, neo-liberal, and violent undermining, marginalization, corruption, and violent overthrow and assassination of the remarkable anti-colonial, anti-capitalist, pro-socialist, national, revolutionary leaders and movements throughout Africa and other parts of the world.

All we can say is that Malcolm X, especially in 1964 and early 1965, is becoming more and more attracted to socialism. His socialism in his evolving revolutionary philosophy is undeveloped, but he leaves us with possibilities and directions for more developed formulations.

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The Curse of Totalitarianism and the Challenge of an Insurrectional Pedagogy




The forces of free-market fundamentalism are on the march ushering in a terrifying horizon of what Hannah Arendt once called “dark times.” Across the globe, the tension between democratic values and market fundamentalism has reached a breaking point. [1] The social contract is under assault, neo-Nazism is on the rise, right wing populism is propelling extremist political candidates and social movements into the forefront of political life, anti-immigrant sentiment is now wrapped in the poisonous logic of nationalism and exceptionalism, racism has become a mark of celebrated audacity, and a politics of disposability comes dangerously close to its endgame of extermination for those considered excess. Under such circumstances, it becomes frightfully clear that the conditions for totalitarianism and state violence are still with us smothering critical thought, social responsibility, the ethical imagination, and politics itself. As Bill Dixon observes:

[T]he totalitarian form is still with us because the all too protean origins of totalitarianism are still with us: loneliness as the normal register of social life, the frenzied lawfulness of ideological certitude, mass poverty and mass homelessness, the routine use of terror as a political instrument, and the ever growing speeds and scales of media, economics, and warfare. [2]

In the United States, the extreme right in both political parties no longer needs the comfort of a counterfeit ideology in which appeals are made to the common good, human decency, and democratic values. On the contrary, power is now concentrated in the hands of relatively few people and corporations while power is global and free from the limited politics of the democratic state. In fact, the state for all intent and purposes has become the corporate state. Dominant power is now all too visible and the policies, practices, and wrecking ball it has imposed on society appear to be largely unchecked. Any compromising notion of ideology has been replaced by a discourse of command and certainty backed up by the militarization of local police forces, the surveillance state, and all of the resources brought to bear by a culture of fear and a punishing state aligned with the permanent war on terror. Informed judgment has given way to a corporate controlled media apparatus that celebrates the banality of balance and the spectacle of violence, all the while reinforcing the politics and value systems of the financial elite.[3]

Following Arendt, a dark cloud of political and ethical ignorance has descended on the United States creating both a crisis of memory and agency.[4] Thoughtlessness has become something that now occupies a privileged, if not celebrated, place in the political landscape and the mainstream cultural apparatuses. A new kind of infantilism and culture of ignorance now shapes daily life as agency devolves into a kind of anti-intellectual cretinism evident in the babble of banality produced by Fox News, celebrity culture, schools modeled after prisons, and politicians who support creationism, argue against climate change, and denounce almost any form of reason. Education is no longer viewed as a public good but a private right, just as critical thinking is devalued as a fundamental necessity for creating an engaged and socially responsible citizenship.

Politics has become an extension of war, just as systemic economic uncertainty and state sponsored violence increasingly find legitimation in the discourses of privatization and demonization which promote anxiety, moral panics, fear and undermine any sense of communal responsibility for the well-being of others. Too many people today learn quickly that their fate is solely a matter of individual responsibility, irrespective of wider structural forces. This is a much promoted hyper-competitive ideology whose message is that surviving in a society demands reducing social relations to forms of social combat. People today are expected to inhabit a set of relations in which the only obligation is to live for one’s own self-interest and to reduce the responsibilities of citizenship to the demands of a consumer culture. Yet, there is more at work here than a flight from social responsibility, if not politics itself. Also lost is the importance of those social bonds, modes of collective reasoning, public spheres and cultural apparatuses crucial to the formation of a sustainable democratic society.

With the return of the Gilded Age and its dream worlds of consumption, privatization, and deregulation, both democratic values and social protections at risk. At the same time, the civic and formative cultures that make such values and protections central to democratic life are in danger of being eliminated altogether. As market mentalities and moralities tighten their grip on all aspects of society, democratic institutions and public spheres are being downsized, if not altogether disappearing. As these institutions vanish—from public schools to health care centers– there is also a serious erosion of the discourses of community, justice, equality, public values, and the common good. One consequence is a society stripped of its inspiring and energizing public spheres and the “thick mesh of mutual obligations and social responsibilities to be found in” any viable democracy.[5] This grim reality marks a failure in the power of the civic imagination, political will, and open democracy. [6] It is also part of a politics that strips the social of any democratic ideals and undermines any understanding of higher education as a public good and pedagogy as an empowering practice, a practice which acts directly upon the conditions which bear down on our lives in order to change them when necessary.

At a time when the public good is under attack and there seems to be a growing apathy toward the social contract, or any other civic minded investment in public values and the larger common good, education has to be seen as more than a credential or a pathway to a job. It has to be viewed as crucial to understanding and overcoming the current crisis of agency, politics, and historical memory faced by many young people today. One of the challenges facing the current generation of educators and students is the need to reclaim the role that education has historically played in developing critical literacies and civic capacities. There is a need to use education to mobilize students to be critically engaged agents, attentive to addressing important social issues and being alert to the responsibility of deepening and expanding the meaning and practices of a vibrant democracy. At the heart of such a challenge is the question of what education should accomplish in a democracy? What work do educators have to do to create the economic, political, and ethical conditions necessary to endow young people with the capacities to think, question, doubt, imagine the unimaginable, and defend education as essential for inspiring and energizing the citizens necessary for the existence of a robust democracy? In a world in which there is an increasing abandonment of egalitarian and democratic impulses, what will it take to educate young people to challenge authority and in the words of James Baldwin “rob history of its tyrannical power, and illuminate that darkness, blaze roads through that vast forest, so that we will not, in all our doing, lose sight of its purpose, which is after all, to make the world a more human dwelling place.”[7]

What role might education and critical pedagogy have in a society in which the social has been individualized, emotional life collapses into the therapeutic, and education is relegated to either a private affair or a kind of algorithmic mode of regulation in which everything is reduced to a desired measureable economic outcome. Feedback loops now replace politics and the concept of progress is defined through a narrow culture of metrics, measurement, and efficiency.[8] In a culture drowning in a new love affair with empiricism and data, that which is not measurable withers. Lost here are the registers of compassion, care for the other, the radical  imagination, a democratic vision, and a passion for justice. In its place emerges what Goya in one of his engravings termed “The Sleep of Reason Produces Monster.” Goya’s title is richly suggestive particularly about the role of education and pedagogy in compelling students, to be able to recognize, as my colleague David Clark points out, “that an inattentiveness to the never-ending task of critique breeds horrors: the failures of conscience, the wars against thought, and the flirtations with irrationality that lie at the heart of the triumph of every-day aggression, the withering of political life, and the withdrawal into private obsessions.”[9]

Given the multiple crises that haunt the current historical conjuncture, educators need a new language for addressing the changing contexts and issues facing a world in which there is an unprecedented convergence of resources–financial, cultural, political, economic, scientific, military, and technological–that are increasingly used to concentrate powerful and diverse forms of control and domination. Such a language needs to be political without being dogmatic and needs to recognize that pedagogy is always political because it is connected to the struggle over agency. In this instance, making the pedagogical more political means being vigilant about those very “moments in which identities are being produced and groups are being constituted, or objects are being created.”[10] At the same time it means educators need to be attentive to those practices in which critical modes of agency and particular identities are being denied. For example, the Tuscon Unified School District board not only eliminated the famed Mexican American Studies Program, but also banned a number of Chicano and Native American books it deemed dangerous. The ban included Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest,” and “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” by the famed Brazilian educator Paulo Freire. This act of censorship provides a particularly disturbing case of the war that is being waged in the United States against not only young people marginalized by race and class but also against the very spaces and pedagogical practices that make critical thinking possible.

Such actions suggest the need for faculty to develop forms of critical pedagogy that not only inspire and energize. They should also be able to challenge a growing number of anti-democratic practices and policies while also resurrecting a radical democratic project that provides the basis for imagining a life beyond a social order immersed in inequality, degradation to the environment, and the elevation of war and militarization to national ideals. Under such circumstances, education becomes more than an obsession with accountability schemes, an audit culture, market values, and an unreflective immersion in the crude empiricism of a data-obsessed market-driven society. It becomes part of a formative culture in which thoughtlessness prevails providing the foundation for what the curse of totalitarianism. At a time of increased repression, it is all the more crucial for educators to reject the notion that higher education is simply a site for training students for the workforce and that the culture of higher education is synonymous with the culture of business. At issue here is the need for educators to recognize the power of education in creating the formative cultures necessary to both challenge the various threats being mobilized against the ideas of justice and democracy while also fighting for those public spheres, ideals, values, and policies that offer alternative modes of identity, thinking, social relations, and politics.

In both conservative and progressive discourses pedagogy is often treated simply as a set of strategies and skills to use in order to teach prespecified subject matter. In this context, pedagogy becomes synonymous with teaching as a technique or the practice of a craft-like skill. Any viable notion of critical pedagogy must grasp the limitations of this definition and its endless slavish imitations even when they are claimed as part of a radical discourse or project. In opposition to the instrumental reduction of pedagogy to a method—which has no language for relating the self to public life, social responsibility or the demands of citizenship–critical pedagogy illuminates the relationships among knowledge, authority, and power.[11]

Central to any viable notion of what makes pedagogy critical is, in part, the recognition that pedagogy is always a deliberate attempt on the part of educators to influence how and what knowledge and subjectivities are produced within particular sets of social relations. This approach to critical pedagogy does not reduce educational practice to the mastery of methodologies, it stresses, instead, the importance of understanding what actually happens in classrooms and other educational settings by raising questions regarding: what the relationship is between learning and social change, what knowledge is of most worth, what does it mean to know something, and in what direction should one desire? Pedagogy is always about power, because it cannot be separated from how subjectivies are formed, desires mobilized, how some experiences are legitimated and other are not or how some knowledge is considered acceptable while other forms are excluded from the curriculum.

Pedagogy is a moral and political practice because it offers particular versions and visions of civic life, community, the future, and how we might construct representations of ourselves, others, and our physical and social environment. But it does more; it also “represents a version of our own dreams for ourselves, our children, and our communities. But such dreams are never neutral; they are always someone’s dreams and to the degree that they are implicated in organizing the future for others they always have a moral and political dimension.”[12] It is in this respect that any discussion of pedagogy must begin with a discussion of educational practice as a particular way in which a sense of identity, place, worth, and above all value is informed by practices which organize knowledge and meaning.[13] Central to my argument is the assumption that politics is not only about the exercise of economic and political power, but also, as Cornelius Castoriadis points out, “has to do with political judgements and value choices,”[14]indicating that questions of civic education and critical pedagogy (learning how to become a skilled citizen) are central to the struggle over political agency and democracy.

In this instance, critical pedagogy emphasizes critical reflection, bridging the gap between learning and everyday life, understanding the connection between power and difficult knowledge, and extending democratic rights and identities by using the resources of history and theory. However, among many educators and social theorists, there is a widespread refusal to recognize that education does not only take place in schools, but also through of what can be called the educative nature of the culture. That is, there are a range of cultural institutions extending from the mainstream media to new digital screen cultures that engage in what I have called forms of public pedagogy, which are central to the tasks of either expanding and enabling political and civic agency or shutting them down. At stake here is the crucial recognition that pedagogy is central to politics itself because it is about changing the way people see things, recognizing that politics is educative and as the late Pierre Bourdieu reminded us “the most important forms of domination are not only economic but also intellectual and pedagogical, and lie on the side of belief and persuasion.”

Just as I would argue that pedagogy has to be made meaningful in order to be made critical and transformative, I think it is fair to argue that there is no politics without a pedagogy of identification; that is, people have to invest something of themselves in how they are addressed or recognize that any mode of education, argument, idea, or pedagogy has to speak to their condition and provide a moment of recognition. Lacking this understanding, pedagogy all too easily becomes a form of symbolic and intellectual violence, one that assaults rather than educates. One can see this in forms of high stakes testing and empirically driven teaching approaches which dull the critical impulse and produce what might be called dead zones of the imagination. We also see such violence in schools whose chief function is repression. Such schools often employ modes of instruction that are punitive and mean-spirited and are largely driven by regimes of memorization and conformity. Pedagogies of repression are largely disciplinary and have little regard for analysing contexts, history, making knowledge meaningful, or expanding upon what it means for students to be critically engaged agents.

Expanding critical pedagogy as a mode of public pedagogy suggests being attentive to and addressing modes of knowledge and social practices in a variety of sites that not only encourage critical thinking, thoughtfulness, and meaningful dialogue but also offer opportunities to mobilize instances of moral outrage, social responsibility, and collective action. Such mobilisation opposes glaring material inequities and the growing cynical belief that today’s culture of investment and finance makes it impossible to address many of the major social problems facing the USA, Canada, Latin America, and the larger world. Most importantly, such work points to the link between civic education, critical pedagogy, and modes of oppositional political agency that are pivotal to creating a politics that promotes democratic values, relations, autonomy and social change. Hints of such a politics were evident in the various approaches developed by the Quebec student protesters, the now dormant Occupy Movement, the student movements in Chile, and the pedagogical strategies being developed by the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States.

Borrowing a line from Rachel Donadio, these young protestors are raising important questions about “what happens to democracy when banks become more powerful than political institutions?”[15] What kind of society allows economic injustice and massive inequality to run wild in a society allowing drastic cuts in education and public services? What does it mean when students face not just tuition hikes but a lifetime of financial debt while governments in Canada, Chile, and the U.S. spend trillions on weapons of death and needless wars? How do we

understand police violence against Black youth as part of a broader form of domestic terrorism linked to the rise of mass incarceration and the punishing state? What kind of education does it take both in and out of schools to recognize the emergence of various economic, political, cultural, and social forces that point to the dissolution of democracy and the possible emergence of a new kind of authoritarian rule?

Rather than viewing teaching as technical practice, pedagogy in the broadest critical sense is premised on the assumption that learning is not about processing received knowledge but actually transforming it as part of a more expansive struggle for individual rights and social justice. The fundamental challenge facing educators within the current age of neoliberalism, militarism, and religious fundamentalism is to provide the conditions for students to address how knowledge is related to the power of both self-definition and social agency. In part, this suggests providing students with the skills, ideas, values, and authority necessary for them to nourish a substantive democracy, recognize anti-democratic forms of power, and to fight deeply rooted injustices in a society and world founded on systemic economic, racial, and gendered inequalities. I want to take up these issues by addressing a number of related pedagogical concerns, including the notion of teachers as public intellectuals, pedagogy and the project of insurrectional democracy, pedagogy and the politics of responsibility, and finally, pedagogy as a form of resistance and educated hope.

The Responsibility of Teachers as Public Intellectuals

In the age of irresponsible privatization, unchecked individualism, celebrity culture, unfettered consumerism, and a massive flight from moral responsibility, it has become more and more difficult to acknowledge that educators and other cultural workers bear an enormous responsibility in opposing the current threat to the planet and everyday life by bringing democratic political culture back to life. Lacking a self-consciously democratic political focus or project, teachers are often reduced either to technicians or functionaries engaged in formalistic rituals, absorbed with bureaucratic demands, and unconcerned with the disturbing and urgent problems that confront the larger society and the consequences of one’s pedagogical practices and research undertakings. In opposition to this model, with its claims to and conceit of political neutrality, I argue that teachers and academics should combine the mutually interdependent roles of critical educator and active citizen. This requires finding ways to connect the practice of classroom teaching with issues that bear down on their lives and the larger society and to provide the conditions for students to view themselves as critical agents capable of making those who exercise authority and power answerable for their actions. The role of a critical education is not to train students solely for jobs, but also to educate them to question critically the institutions, policies, and values that shape their lives, relationships to others, and their myriad of connections to the larger world.

I think the late Stuart Hall was on target when he insisted that educators as public intellectuals have a responsibility to provide students with “critical knowledge that has to be ahead of traditional knowledge: it has to be better than anything that traditional knowledge can produce, because only serious ideas are going to stand up.”[16] At the same time, he insists on the need for educators to “actually engage, contest, and learn from the best that is locked up in other traditions,” especially those attached to traditional academic paradigms.[17] It is also important to remember that education as a form of educated hope is not simply about fostering critical consciousness but also about teaching students as Zygmunt Bauman has put it, to take responsibility for one’s responsibilities, be they personal, political, or global. Students should be made aware of the ideological and structural forces that promote needless human suffering while also recognizing that it takes more than awareness to resolve them.

What role might educators play as public intellectuals in light of the poisonous assaults waged on public schools by the forces of neoliberalism and a range of other fundamentalisms? In the most immediate sense, they can raise their collective voices against the influence of corporations that are flooding societies with a culture of violence, fear, anti-intellectualism, commercialism, and privatization. They can show how this culture of commodified cruelty and violence is only one part of a broader and all-embracing militarized culture of war, the arms industry, and a Darwinian survival-of the-fittest ethic that increasingly disconnects schools from public values, the common good, and democracy itself. They can bring all of their intellectual and collective resources together to critique and dismantle the imposition of high-stakes testing and other commercially driven modes of accountability on schools.

They can speak out against modes of governance that have reduced faculty to the status of part time Walmart employees, and they can struggle collectively to take back the governing of the university from a new class of managers and bureaucrats that now outnumber faculty, at least in the United States. This suggests that educators must resist those modes of corporate governance in which faculty are reduced to the status of clerks, technicians, entrepreneurs and a subaltern class of part-time workers with little power, few benefits, and excessive teaching loads. As Noam Chomsky has observed This neoliberal mode of austerity and precarity is part of a business model “designed to reduce labor costs and to increase labor servility” while at the same time making clear that “what matters is the bottom line.”[18]Academics can work with social movements, write policy papers, publish op-eds, and call for young people and others to defend education as a public good by advocating for policies that invest in schools rather than in the military-industrial complex and its massive and expensive weapons of death.

In addition such intellectuals can develop modes of pedagogy along with a broader comprehensive vision of education and schooling that is capable of waging a war against those who would deny education its critical function and this applies to all forms of dogmatism and political purity, across the ideological spectrum. As my friend the late Paulo Freire once argued, educators have a responsibility to not only develop a critical consciousness in students but to provide the conditions for students to be engaged individuals and social agents. This is not a call to shape students in the manner of Pygmalion but to encourage human agency rather than to mold it. Since human life is conditioned rather than determined educators cannot escape the ethical responsibility of addressing education as an act of intervention whose purpose is to provide the conditions for students to become the subjects and makers of history rather than function as simply passive, disconnected objects or, what might be called, mere consumers rather than producers of knowledge, values, and ideas.[19]

This is a pedagogy in which educators are neither afraid of controversy nor the willingness to make connections that are otherwise hidden, nor are they afraid of making clear the connection between private troubles and broader social problems. One of the most important tasks for educators engaged in critical pedagogy is to teach students how to translate private issues into public considerations. One measure of the demise of vibrant democracy and the corresponding impoverishment of political life can be found in the increasing inability of a society to make private issues public, to translate individual problems into larger social issues. As the public collapses into the personal, the personal becomes “the only politics there is, the only politics with a tangible referent or emotional valence.”[20] This is a central feature of neoliberalism as an educative tool and can be termed the individualization of the social. Under such circumstances, the language of the social is either devalued or ignored, as public life is often reduced to a form of pathology or deficit (as in public schools, public transportation, public welfare) and all dreams of the future are modeled increasingly around the narcissistic, privatized, and self-indulgent needs of consumer culture and the dictates of the alleged free market. Similarly, all problems regardless of whether they are structural or caused by larger social forces are now attributed to individual failings, matters of character, or individual ignorance. In this case, poverty is reduced to matters concerning lifestyle, individual responsibility, bad choices, or flawed character.

 Critical Pedagogy as a Project of Insurrectional Democracy

In opposition to dominant views of education and pedagogy, I want to argue for a notion of pedagogy as a practice of freedom–rooted in a broader project of a resurgent and insurrectional democracy – one that relentlessly questions the kinds of labor, practices, and forms of production that are enacted in public and higher education. While such a pedagogy does not offer guarantees, it does recognize that its own position is grounded in particular modes of authority, values, and ethical principles that must be constantly debated for the ways in which they both open up and close down democratic relations, values, and identities. Needless to say,

such a project should be principled, relational, contextual, as well as self-reflective and theoretically rigorous. By relational, I mean that the current crisis of schooling must be understood in relation to the broader assault that is being waged against all aspects of democratic public life. At the same time, any critical comprehension of those wider forces that shape public and higher education must also be supplemented by an attentiveness to the historical and conditional nature of pedagogy itself. This suggests that pedagogy can never be treated as a fixed set of principles and practices that can be applied indiscriminately across a variety of pedagogical sites. On the contrary, it must always be attentive to the specificity of different context and the different conditions, formations, and problems that arise in various sites in which education takes place. Such a project suggests recasting pedagogy as a practice that is indeterminate, open to constant revision, and constantly in dialogue with its own assumptions.

The notion of a neutral, objective education is an oxymoron. Education and pedagogy do not exist outside of relations of power, values, and politics. Ethics on the pedagogical front demands an openness to the other, a willingness to engage a “politics of possibility” through a continual critical engagement with texts, images, events, and other registers of meaning as they are transformed into pedagogical practices both within and outside of the classroom.[21]   Pedagogy is never innocent and if it is to be understood and problematized as a form of academic labor, educators have the opportunity not only to critically question and register their own subjective involvement in how and what they teach, but also resist all calls to depoliticize pedagogy through appeals to either scientific objectivity or ideological dogmatism. This suggests the need for educators to rethink the cultural and ideological baggage they bring to each educational encounter; it also highlights the necessity of making educators ethically and politically accountable and self-reflective for the stories they produce, the claims they make upon public memory, and the images of the future they deem legitimate. Hence, crucial to any viable notion of critical pedagogy is the necessity for critical educators to be attentive to the ethical dimensions of their own practice.

Critical Pedagogy and the Promise of a Democracy to Come

As a practice of freedom, critical pedagogy needs to be grounded in a project that not only problematizes its own location, mechanisms of transmission, and effects, but also functions as part of a wider project to help students think critically about how existing social, political, and economic arrangements might be better suited to address the promise of a democracy to come. Understood as a form of educated hope, pedagogy in this sense is not an antidote to politics, a nostalgic yearning for a better time, or for some “inconceivably alternative future.” Instead, it is an “attempt to find a bridge between the present and future in those forces within the present which are potentially able to transform it.”[22]

What has become clear in this current climate of casino capitalism is that the corporatization of education functions so as to cancel out the teaching of democratic values, impulses, and practices of a civil society by either devaluing or absorbing them within the logic of the market. Educators need a critical language to address these challenges to public and higher education. But they also need to join with other groups outside of the spheres of public and higher education in order to create broad national and international social movements that share a willingness to defend education as a civic value and public good and to engage in a broader struggle to deepen the imperatives of democratic public life. The quality of educational reform can, in part, be gauged by the caliber of public discourse concerning the role that education plays in furthering, not the market driven agenda of corporate interests, but the imperatives of critical agency, social justice, and an operational democracy.

Defining pedagogy as a moral and political exercise, education can highlight the performative character of schooling and civic pedagogy as a practice that moves beyond simple matters of critique and understanding. Pedagogy is not simply about competency or teaching young people the great books, established knowledge, predefined skills, and values, it is also about the possibility of interpretation as an act of intervention in the world. Such a pedagogy should challenge common sense and take on the task as the poet Robert Hass once put it, “to refresh the idea of justice going dead in us all the time.”[23]Within this perspective, critical pedagogy foregrounds the diverse conditions under which authority, knowledge, values, and subject positions are produced and interact within unequal relations of power. Pedagogy in this view also stresses the labor conditions necessary for teacher autonomy, cooperation, decent working conditions, and the relations of power necessary to give teachers and students the capacity to restage power in productive ways–ways that point to self-development, self-determination, and social agency.

Making Pedagogy Meaningful in order to make it Critical and Transformative

Any analysis of critical pedagogy needs to address the importance that affect, meaning, and emotion play in the formation of individual identity and social agency. Any viable approach to critical pedagogy suggests taking seriously those maps of meaning, affective investments, and sedimented desires that enable students to connect their own lives and everyday experiences to what they learn. Pedagogy in this sense becomes more than a mere transfer of received knowledge, an inscription of a unified and static identity, or a rigid methodology; it presupposes that students are moved by their passions and motivated, in part, by the identifications, range of experiences, and commitments they bring to the learning process. In part, this suggests connecting what is taught in classrooms to the cultural capital and worlds that young people inhabit

For instance, schools often have little to say about the new media, digital culture, and social media that dominate the lives of young people. Hence, questions concerning both the emancipatory and oppressive aspects of these media are often ignored and students find themselves bored in classrooms in which print culture and its older modes of transmission operate. Or they find themselves using new technologies with no understanding of how they might be understood as more than retrieval machines. That is, as technologies deeply connected to matters of power, ideology, and politics. The issue here is not a call for teachers to simply become familiar with the new digital technologies, however crucial, but to address how they are being used as a form of cultural politics and pedagogical practice to produce certain kinds of citizens, desires, values, and social relations. At stake here is the larger question of how these technologies enhance or shut down the meaning and deepening of democracy. Understanding the new media is a political issue and not merely a technological one. Sherry Turkle is right in arguing that the place of technology can only be addressed if you have a set of values from which you are working. This is particularly important given the growth of the surveillance state in the United States and Canada and the growing retreat from privacy on the part of a generation that is now hooked on the corporate controlled social media such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

The experiences that shape young people’s lives are often mediated modes of experiences in which some are viewed as more valued than others, especially around matters of race, sexual orientation, and class. Low-income white students and poor minorities are often defined through experiences that are viewed as deficits. In this instance, different styles of speech, clothing, and body language can be used as weapons to punish certain students. How else to explain the high rate of black students in the U.S. and indigenous students in Canada who are punished, suspended, and expelled from their schools because they violate dress codes or engage in what can be considered minor rule violations.

Experiences also tie many students to modes of behavior that are regressive, punishing, self-defeating, and in some cases violent. We see too many students dominated by the values of Malls, shopping centers, and fashion meccas. They not only fill their worlds with commodities but have become working commodities. Clearly, such experiences must be critically engaged and understood within a range of broader forces that subject students to a narrow range of values, identities, and social relations. Such experiences should be both questioned and unlearned, where possible. This suggests a pedagogical approach in which such experiences are interrogated through what Roger Simon and Deborah Britzman call troubling or difficult knowledge. For instance, it is sometimes difficult for students to take a critical look at Disney culture not just as a form of entertainment but also as an expression of corporate power that produces a range of demeaning stereotypes for young people, while it endlessly carpet bombs them with commercial products. Crucial here is developing pedagogical practices that not only interrogate how knowledge, identifications, and subject positions are produced, unfolded, and remembered but also how such knowledges can be unlearned, particularly as they functions to become complicitous with existing relations of power.


At the dawn of the 21st century, the notion of the social and the public are not being erased as much as they are being reconstructed under circumstances in which public forums for serious debate, including public education, are being eroded. Reduced either to a crude instrumentalism, business culture, or defined as a purely private right rather than a public good, teaching and learning are removed from the discourse of democracy and civic culture. Under the influence of powerful financial interests, we have witnessed the takeover of public and increasingly higher education by a corporate logic and pedagogy that both numbs the mind and the soul, emphasizing repressive modes of learning that promote winning at all costs, learning how not to question authority, and undermining the hard work of learning how to be thoughtful, critical, and attentive to the power relations that shape everyday life and the larger world. As learning is privatized, treated as a form of entertainment, depoliticized, and reduced to teaching students how to be good consumers, any viable notions of the social, public values, citizenship, and democracy wither and die. I am not suggesting that we must defend a rather and sometimes abstract and empty notion of the public sphere, but those public spheres capable of producing thoughtful citizens, critically engaged agents, and an ethically and socially responsible society.

The greatest threat to young people does not come from lowered standards, the absence of privatized choice schemes, or the lack of rigid testing measures. On the contrary, it comes from societies that refuse to view children as a social investment, consign millions of youth to poverty, reduce critical learning to massive mind-deadening testing programs, promote policies that eliminate the most crucial health and public services, and define masculinity through the degrading celebration of a gun culture, extreme sports and the spectacles of violence that permeate corporate controlled media industries. Students are not at risk because of the absence of market incentives in the schools, they are at risk because education is being stripped of public funding, public values, handed over to corporate interests, and devalued as a public good. Children and young adults are under siege in both public and higher education because far too many of these institutions have become breeding grounds for commercialism, segregation by class and race, social intolerance, sexism, homophobia, consumerism, surveillance, and the increased presence of the police, all of which is spurred on by the right-wing discourse of pundits, politicians, educators, and a supine mainstream media.

As a central element of a broad based cultural politics, critical pedagogy, in its various forms, when linked to the ongoing project of democratization can provide opportunities for educators and other cultural workers to redefine and transform the connections among language, desire, meaning, everyday life, and material relations of power as part of a broader social movement to reclaim the promise and possibilities of a democratic public life. Critical pedagogy is dangerous to many educators and others because it provides the conditions for students to develop their intellectual capacities, hold power accountable, and embrace a sense of social responsibility.

One of the most serious challenges facing teachers, artists, journalists, writers, and other cultural workers is the task of developing a discourse of both critique and possibility. This means developing languages and pedagogical practices that connect reading the word with reading the world, and doing so in ways that enhance the capacities of young people as critical agents and engaged citizens. In taking up this project, educators and others should attempt to create the conditions that give students the opportunity to become autonomous actors who have the knowledge and courage to struggle in order to make desolation and cynicism unconvincing and hope practical. Educated hope is not a call to overlook the difficult conditions that shape both schools and the larger social order. On the contrary, it is the precondition for providing those languages and values that point the way to a more democratic and just world. As Judith Butler has argued, there is more hope in the world when we can question common sense assumptions and believe that what we know is directly related to our ability to help change the world around us, though it is far from the only condition necessary for such change.[24]

I want to end by insisting that democracy begins to fail and political life becomes impoverished in the absence of those vital public spheres such as public and higher education in which civic values, public scholarship, and social engagement allow for a more imaginative grasp of a future that takes seriously the demands of justice, equity, and civic courage. Democracy should be a way of thinking about education, one that thrives on connecting equity to excellence, learning to ethics, and agency to the imperatives of social responsibility and the public good.[25] We may live in dark times, but the future is still open. The time has come to develop a pedagogical language in which civic values, social responsibility, and the institutions that support them become central to invigorating and fortifying a new era of civic imagination, a renewed sense of social agency, and an impassioned international social movement with a vision, organization, and set of strategies to challenge the anti-democratic forces engulfing the planet. Given the shadow of totalitarianiasm that haunts the United States, resistance is not simply something to consider, it is both a necessity and an urgent call to rise up and once again seize the reigns of collective struggle in the interest of a radical democracy.


[1] See, for example, David Harvey, The New Imperialism, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003); David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005); Wendy Brown, Edgework (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005); Henry A. Giroux, Against the Terror of Neoliberalism (Boulder: Paradigm Publishers, 2008); Manfred B. Steger and Ravi K. Roy,Neoliberalism: A Very Short Introduction, (Oxford University Press, 2010).

[2] Bill Dixon, “Totalitarianism and the Sand Storm,” Hannah Arendt Center (February 3, 2014). Online:

[3] See, Brad Evans and Henry A. Giroux, Disposable Futures: The Seduction of Violence in the Age of the Spectacle (San Francisco: City Lights, 2015).

[4] Hannah Arendt, “The Origins of Totalitarianism, (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York: 2001).

[5] Terry Eagleton, “Reappraisals: What is the worth of social democracy?” Harper’s Magazine, (October 2010), p. at:

[6]. Alex Honneth, Pathologies of Reason (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009), p. 188.

[7] Cited in Maria Popova, AJames Baldwin on the Creative Process and the Artist=s Responsibility to Society,@ BrainPickings

[8] See, for instance, Evgeny Morozov, “The Rise of Data and the Death of Politics,” The Guardian (July 20, 2014).

[9] Personal correspondence with David Clark.

[10] Gary Olson and Lynn Worsham, “Staging the Politics of Difference: Homi Bhabha’s Critical Literacy,” Journal of Advanced Composition (1999), pp. 3-35.

[11] For examples of this tradition, see Maria Nikolakaki, ed. Critical Pedagogy in the Dark Ages: Challenges and Possibilities, (New York: Peter Lang, 2012); Henry A. Giroux, On Critical Pedagogy (New York: Continuum, 2011).

[12] Roger Simon, “Empowerment as a Pedagogy of Possibility,”Language Arts 64:4 (April 1987), p. 372

[13].Henry A. Giroux, Education and the Crisis of Public Values, 2ndedition (New York: Peter Lang, 2015).

[14].Cornelius Castoriadis, “Institutions and Autonomy.” In Peter Osborne(Ed). A Critical Sense (New York: Routledge, 1996), p. 8.

[15] Rachel Donadio, “The Failing State of Greece,” New York Times(February 26, 2012), p. 8.

[16]. Greig de Peuter, Universities, Intellectuals and Multitudes: An Interview with Stuart Hall,” in Mark Cote, Richard J. F. Day, and Greig de Peuter, eds. Utopian Pedagogy: Radical Experiments Against Neoliberal Globalization (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007), p. 113-114.

[17]. De Peuter, Ibid. P. 117.

[18] Noam Chomsky, “The Death of American Universities,” Reader Supported News, (March 30, 2015). Online at:

[19] This idea is central to the work of Paulo Freire, especially hisPedagogy of the Oppressed and his Pedagogy of Freedom.

[20] Jean Comaroff and John L. Comaroff, “Millennial Capitalism: First Thoughts on a Second Coming,” Public Culture 12, no. 2 (Duke University Press, 2000), pp. 305-306.

[21].For a brilliant discussion of the ethics and politics of deconstruction, see Thomas Keenan, Fables of Responsibility: Aberrations and Predicaments in Ethics and Politics (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997), p. 2.

[22].Terry Eagleton, The Idea of Culture (Malden, MA: Basil Blackwell, 2000), p.22.

[23] Robert Hass cited in Sarah Pollock, `Robert Hass,” Mother Jones(March/April, 1992), p. 22. (19-22)

[24]  Cited in Gary Olson and Lynn Worsham, “Changing the Subject: Judith Butler’s Politics of Radical Resignification,” JAC 20:4 (200), p. 765.

[25] Andrew Delbanco, College: What It Was, Is, and Should Be(Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006).

Posted in USAComments Off on The Curse of Totalitarianism and the Challenge of an Insurrectional Pedagogy

Brainless in Washington



Washington’s IQ follows the Fed’s interest rate — it is negative.  Washington is a black hole into which all sanity is sucked out of government deliberations.

Washington’s failures are everywhere visible.  We can see the failures in Washington’s wars and in Washington’s approach to China and Russia.

The visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping, was scheduled for the week-end following the Pope’s visit to Washington.  Was this Washington’s way of demoting China’s status by having its president play second fiddle to the Pope? The President of China is here for week-end news coverage?  Why didn’t Obama just tell him to go to hell?

Washington’s cyber incompetence and inability to maintain cyber security is being blamed on China.  The day before Xi Jinping’s arrival in Washington, the White House press secretary warmed up President Jinping’s visit by announcing that Obama might threaten China with financial sanctions.

And not to miss an opportunity to threaten or insult the President of China, the US Secretary of Commerce fired off a warning that the Obama regime was too unhappy with China’s business practices for the Chinese president to expect a smooth meeting in Washington.

In contrast, when Obama visited China, the Chinese government treated him with politeness and respect.

China is America’s largest creditor after the Federal Reserve. If the Chinese government were so inclined, China could cause Washington many serious economic, financial, and military problems.  Yet China pursues peace while Washington issues threats.

Like China, Russia, too, has a foreign policy independent of Washington’s, and it is the independence of their foreign policies that puts China and Russia on the outs with Washington.

Washington considers countries with independent foreign policies to be threats. Libya, Iraq, and Syria had independent foreign policies.  Washington has destroyed two of the three and is working on the third. Iran, Russia, and China have independent foreign policies. Consequently, Washington sees these countries as threats and portrays them to the American people as such.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin will meet with Obama next week at the UN meeting in New York. It is a meeting that seems destined to go nowhere.  Putin wants to offer Obama Russian help in defeating ISIS, but Obama wants to use ISIS to overthrow Syrian President Assad, install a puppet government, and throw Russia out of its only Mediterranean seaport at Tartus, Syria.  Obama wants to press Putin to hand over Russian Crimea and the break-away republics that refuse to submit to the Russophobic government that Washington has installed in Kiev.

Despite Washington’s hostility, Xi Jinping and Putin continue to try to work with Washington even at the risk of being humiliated in the eyes of their peoples. How many slights, accusations, and names (such as “the new Hitler”) can Putin and Xi Jinping accept before losing face at home? How can they lead if their peoples feel the shame inflicted on their leaders by Washington?

Xi Jinping and Putin are clearly men of peace.  Are they deluded or are they making every effort to save the world from the final war?

One has to assume that Putin and Xi Jinping are aware of the Wolfowitz Doctrine, the basis of US foreign and military policies, but perhaps they cannot believe that anything so audaciously absurd can be real.  In brief, the Wolfowitz Doctrine states that Washington’s principal objective is to prevent the rise of countries that could be sufficiently powerful to resist American hegemony.  Thus, Washington’s attack on Russia via Ukraine and Washington’s re-militarization of Japan as an instrument against China, despite the strong opposition of 80 percent of the Japanese population.

“Democracy?”  “Washington’s hegemony don’t need no stinkin’ democracy,” declares  Washington’s puppet ruler of Japan as he, as Washington’s faithful servant, over-rides the vast majority of the Japanese population.

Meanwhile, the real basis of US power—its economy—continues to crumble.  Middle class jobs have disappeared by the millions.  US infrastructure is crumbling.  Young American women, overwhelmed with student debts, rent, and transportation costs, and nothing but lowly-paid part-time jobs, post on Internet sites their pleas to be made mistresses of men with sufficient means to help them with their bills. This is the image of a Third World country.

In 2004 I predicted in a nationally televised conference in Washington, DC, that the US would be a Third World country in 20 years.  Noam Chomsky says we are already there now in 2015.  Here is a recent quote from Noam Chomsky:

“Look around the country. This country is falling apart. Even when you come back from Argentina to the United States it looks like a third world country, and when you come back from Europe even more so. The infrastructure is collapsing. Nothing works. The transportation system doesn’t work. The health system is a total scandal–twice the per capita cost of other countries and not very good outcomes. Point by point. The schools are declining . . .”

Another indication of a third world country is large inequality in the distribution of income and wealth.  According to the CIA itself, the United States now has one of the worst distributions of income of all countries in the world.  The distribution of income in the US is worse than in Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Benin, Bosnia/Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cote d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guinea, Guyana, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, South Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Latvia, Liberia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malawi, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Senegal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Timor-Leste, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, UK, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Vietnam, and Yemen.

The concentration of US income and wealth in the hands of the very rich is a new development in my lifetime.  I ascribe it to two things.  One is the offshoring of American jobs.  Offshoring moved high productivity, high-value-added American jobs to countries where the excess supply of labor results in wages well below labor’s contribution to the value of output.  The lower labor costs abroad transform what had been higher American wages and salaries and, thereby, US household incomes, into corporate profits, bonuses for corporate executives, and capital gains for shareholders,  and in the dismantling of the ladders of upward mobility that had made the US an “opportunity society.”

The other cause of the extreme inequality that now prevails in the US is what Michael Hudson in his new book Killing the Host calls the financialization of the economy that permits banks to redirect income away from driving the economy to the payment of interest in service of debt issued by the banks.

Both of these developments maximize income and wealth for the One Percent at the expense of the population and economy.

As Michael Hudson and I have discovered, neoliberal economics is blind to reality and serves to justify the destruction of the economic prospects of the Western World. It remains to be seen if Russia and China can develop a different economics or whether these rising superpowers will fall victim to the “junk economics” that has destroyed the West.  With so many Chinese and Russian economists educated in the US tradition, their prospects might not be any better than ours.

The entire world could go down the tubes together.

Posted in USA, ChinaComments Off on Brainless in Washington

Nazi War on Al-Aqsa



Muslim’s call Islam’s third holiest site the Noble Sanctuary/Al-Haram al-Sharif. Over 35 acres enclose fountains, gardens, buildings and domes.

At one end is the Al-Aqsa Mosque. In the center is the Dome of the Rock. The entire area is considered a mosque – sacred ground for Muslims, freely desecrated by Zionist zealots, storming the compound unaccountably, protected by heavily armed, rampaging Israeli security forces.

Attacking Muslim worshipers, firing noxious tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets and stun grenades, again on Sunday, following previous days of violence and chaos, willfully causing damage, injuring numerous Palestinians threatening no one.

Praying at Al-Aqsa is hazardous. Israel made it a near-free-fire zone. Not a word from Washington or other Western capitals denouncing its war on holy ground – the ruthless policy of a racist state.

On Sunday, Maan News reported Israeli forces “stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound” again, this time on “the last day of the Muslim Eid al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice) holiday” – attacking peaceful Palestinian worshipers viciously, terrorizing them like many times before, forcing them to defend themselves with their bare hands against heavily armed soldiers and police.

A police statement lied, claiming security forces were attacked with “stones and fireworks.” They responded using “riot dispersal means.” Victimized Palestinians respond after being assaulted, not before.

Heavily guarded extremist settlers entered the compound provocatively, performing prayers – where they don’t belong on the pretext of celebrating the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot), a seven-day period beginning Sunday, not a significant holy period.

Many Jews ignore it entirely. Some know little or nothing about it. Racist Israeli policy used it provocatively – at the same time terrorizing Muslim worshipers over the important Eid al-Adha period, preventing them from praying in peace.

Murabitoun Al-Aqsa worshiper movement head Yousef Mukhaimar said “Netanyahu’s strategy is fulfilling his promises to his right-wing and extremist supporters to eventually demolish Al-Aqsa and build their alleged temple in its place.”

Arab Knesset leader Ayman Odeh said to “counter Israeli plots to divide Al-Aqsa Mosque between Muslims and Jews,” Israeli Arab citizens intend coming to the compound en masse.

“Now there are crowds in the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque and these crowds will grow larger tomorrow and the day after tomorrow in particular.”

“(The goal is) to uproot the idea of dividing Al-Aqsa and its courtyards” – a longtime objective of Zionist zealots, wanting a new Jewish temple replacing Al-Aqsa, a prescription for holy war.

The bigoted Temple Institute has detailed plans drawn up for a new Jewish temple. It wants control over sacred Muslim ground.

Longstanding policy permits Jewish prayer only at the adjacent Western Wall. Israeli forces regularly storm Al-Aqsa, attacking Muslim worshipers, restricting or prohibiting entry for others, letting extremist Jews pray where they don’t belong – desecrating Islam’s third holiest site in the process.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZIComments Off on Nazi War on Al-Aqsa

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