Imperialism: two equally needed takes

14 Jan

Image from a BBC story – Iraq: ‘We are systematically programmed to kill’

Caitlin Johnstone – yes, her again – says today that:

The Capitol riot wasn’t the worst thing a US president has done. It’s not even the worst thing this president has done. It doesn’t come near his top ten. It’s not even the worst thing he’s done this month.1

This is clear to anyone who thinks non-American lives matter.

Imagine a world where ordering the butchery of human beings in other countries elicited the kind of outraged backlash we’re seeing over a riot quantifiably far less destructive. Imagine a world where the US saw those victims as human beings. It would be good.

If your response to being told the US empire constantly does far worse things than the Capitol riot is to shriek “STOP MINIMIZING THIS!”, it is you who is trying to minimize the horrors of US imperialism. Obviously the Capitol riot was bad. Now look at US military slaughter.

America’s imperial violence, with my country’s active and avid complicity, is the most prevalent theme of this blog. I’m thinking about it even when not writing about it. Like death, taxes and Banquo’s ghost it’s always there; now at the fore, now at the back of my mind.

A simple but not simplistic definition of imperialism is as the North-South export of monopoly capital, and South-North repatriation of profits. The exploitative relations Karl Marx dissected, between Capital and Labour, were underpinned by the State’s monopoly on violence. They still are. But those relations have to a game-changing degree become relations between Northern Capital and Southern Labour. These too are underpinned by a monopoly on violence, held by a handful of nations armed to the teeth and led by the USA.

(That the imperialist powers have a less secure monopoly on violence at the global level than at home is what now makes the world so perilous. See Our beautifully democratic wars.)

I gave imperialism central place in my recent post on the tragedy of Corbynism. I began with a claim that my differences with the liberal and even Marxist left boil down to their failure to see, as a matter not of opinion but incontestable fact, that ours is an imperialised world. This failure, and an Overton Window which makes writers like me seem extreme, puts my views on subjects as superficially disparate as Russia, Brexit, Trump, Syria and Venezuela beyond the pale.

On Donald Trump, for instance, my 2016 refusal to accept Hillary Clinton as lesser evil baffled and infuriated liberal critics, one of whom called me ‘human excrement’. If you too are baffled and infuriated, might I suggest you do three things. One is to re-read Caitlin’s words, above. At time of writing these are augmented on my masthead by another of her edgy offerings:

In two centuries we’ve progressed from expecting our leaders to murder brown-skinned people while saying racist things, to expecting our leaders to murder brown-skinned people while condemning racism.

The second is to compare Trump’s record on murdering brown-skinned people with that of Bill Clinton (don’t forget the half million Iraqi under-fives), George Bush (and his puppet masters, Dick and the other Donald) or the absurdly idolised Barack Obama.

Not all Americans are (politically) shallow, self absorbed and privileged but IME the cap fits most Obama fans.

The third is to get out of the binary mindset, another product of the Overton Window, which has us equating refusal to accept Clinton (and now Biden) as ‘lesser evil’ with support for Trump. Or saying that placing the Capitol rioters in perspective was tantamount to cheering them on.

The focus of my Corbynism post was what I deem the most incisive of the many post-mortems I’ve read on Labour’s crushing defeat thirteen months ago. It alone put Britain’s status as major imperial predator at the heart of its analysis. A key aspect is that British workers – i.e. all whose sole or primary means of meeting their material needs is to sell their labour power, white collar or blue – are lesser beneficiaries in the super exploitation of the global south.2 This conclusion was challenged below the line by commentators I respect but with whom on this matter I differ.

That post also prompted John Smith – author of Imperialism in the twenty-first century – to send me a 25,000 word PDF, based on a paper recently given to a conference on International Solidarity and Relational Inequality. At present I’m a third of the way through it, but hope to give a review in the not too distant. Meanwhile, though its tone remains academic – a guarantee of tiny audiences it goes some way to addressing my sole criticism of Imperialism in the twenty-first century: that its density puts so invaluable an achievement beyond the reach of all but the most committed.3

Pending that review, let me leave you with this commendably lucid extract:

So, the left has embraced Black Lives Matter … affirming how important it is to remember the legacy of 19th and 20th century imperialism. But what we do not hear from any section of the left, including the great majority of those who identify as the revolutionary left, as Marxists, is any recognition, let alone explanation, of how imperialist plunder of poor nations is still going on. Imperialism is not just something that happened long ago, it continues right now … in old as well as new and sophisticated forms, indeed on an unprecedented scale, damaging and diminishing the lives of hundreds of millions, even thousands of millions of working people in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Unless this reality is recognised and acted upon, the progressives’ embrace of this antiracist movement is in fact an attempt to smother it, and the lefts’ policies and programmes point rebellious youth to a dead end.

In the neoliberal era … imperialist exploitation has become the global shift of industrial production to low-wage countries, where hundreds of millions of workers are paid a small fraction of prevailing wage levels in Europe and North America, producing intermediate inputs and consumer goods for Western firms and consumers, surpassing other forms of wealth-extraction such as environment-destroying extractivism by oil and mining corporations and the continuing debt slavery practised by parasitic Western banks and the finance capitalists they serve.

John Smith’s world view, like mine, is that of a Marxist. As far as I can tell, Caitlin Johnstone’s is not. Yet both are important voices on the same subject. Where John draws on theory and huge volumes of data to show what is happening and why, Caitlin skewers – in a manner second to none – the horrors, hypocrisies and outlandish consequences.


  1. Caitlin doesn’t say what she deems the worst things Trump did this month but my list would include refusal to pardon Julian, and would be headlined by his allowing Mike Pompeo to give Yemen’s Houthis terrorist status and on the same day (January 11) reinstate Cuba as a state sponsor of terror.
  2. ‘Lesser beneficiaries’ does not, in my book, equate to ‘junior partners’ – but that’s one for another day.
  3. A recent comment by Douglas Bell on my 2017 review of Imperialism in the twenty-first century raises the issue of its opacity and asks for “a smaller version, equally rigorous but easier to understand”. With no immutable law to say this task must fall to John Smith, I gave a hint that I might – might – at some point have a stab myself.

20 Replies to “Imperialism: two equally needed takes

  1. I agree with you.
    Many in the so-called left do not accept that imperialism is alive and well.
    As I understand things, liberals do not believe in imperialism. Social democrats do not believe in imperialism. Utopian socialists do not believe in imperialism. It is only Marxists who do.
    So no wonder you get criticised by your so-called friends.
    But I’m sorry that you get abused. (So much for liberalism.)
    By the way, can you help me with understanding the term “left liberal”? I know it is widely used but I genuinely don’t understand it.

    • I am what is probably referred to as a Liberal leftie. I agreed with what Marx envisioned I just don’t think it was ever achievable and Lenin proved the point when the “state apparatus” with the aid of German Socialist funding, murdered or imprisoned thousands of peasants. I believe that small business/enterprise should be encouraged, but would very much like to see the corporations devolved and taxed into extinction. Having worked for local government, which is inherently corrupt, I do not believe in simply putting utilities into the hands of corrupt councils but neither do I agree with privatisation but do believe in co-operatives. I also have major problems with unions because so many of them are also corrupt and I was at one time a union rep. and saw first hand how corrupt they were.
      However, even as a liberal, it is impossible to suggest that Imperialism in all it’s many forms does not exist. I would say that it has manifested itself admirably in the many western and even non western, interventionist and “democratisation” schemes it has embarked on either covertly or overtly.
      IMHO both John Smith and Caitlin are exposing the same truths even if they have emerged from different starting lines. So whilst I may have socialist inclinations and would advocate solidarity, I am not a socialist, but a liberal and frequently find myself at odds with the Socialist alternate media. I am a fan of Bill Van Auken’s writings over at WSWS, but that does not mean I agree with him on everything. I find it disgusting that any socialist forum should condone the imperialist wars against the ME, or Russian satellites of the old Soviet Union,(Ossettia) or the interventionism in Hong Kong – a problem that Britain created, as in the case of Myanmar, who then walked away from, leaving another country to sort out the mess.

      Phillip knows my views, so perhaps he can use me as an example of the Left liberal and explain why, because other than offering my several divergences from what is typical socialism, I really don’t know what I am.

      • Actually Susan I don’t see you as a left liberal. You’re too direct! (That’s meant as a compliment.)

        Since both you and Doug challenge my sloppy usage (unforgivable given my insistence on clear definitions of terms like imperialism and ruling class) I’d better come up with a sharper one else ditch the term. For now I’ll say that the person I have in mind is a progressive but lacks a class perspective. S/he will abhor racism, sexism and other forms of social exclusion but, failing to locate oppression in the context of class exploitation and especially imperialism, also fails to see that credulous silence on the exploiting, sanctioning and bombing of the global south – the victims dark skinned and disproportionately female – while condemning racist and sexist speech shows great (and at times smug) ignorance.

        You have never shown the slightest sign of being such a person!

        • Let me add that some of those I call liberal are good friends whose intelligence and integrity I value. Only on politics are we at odds.

    • Doug, see my reply to Susan. I’m guilty of scattergun targeting of all your categories – liberals, soc-dems and utopialists. I’d add only that not all Marxists ‘get’ imperialism as I define it. One reason being that Marx did not address it at all.

      (John Smith points out that Capital necessarily analyses, as scientists do, a ‘pure’ capital where commodities tend to sell at their value. He never saw the age of neo-colonialism and the ability of privileged capitalisms consistently to buy – at one step removed – labour-power below its value. (The implications of this are, for anyone with a grasp of the law of value, chilling.) Even Lenin’s most famous work was written at the dawn of “the highest stage of capitalism” and in any case more a polemic on the eve of the first imperialist war than a major work of theory. These things may have some bearing on why so few Marxists have seriously engaged with the subject. Those who did, most notably Ellen Wood and David Harvey, seriously lost the plot says John Smith – IMO convincingly.)

      Yes, the illiberalism of liberals can be funny if you’re in a good mood!

      • Let me add that some of those I call liberal are good friends whose intelligence and integrity I value. Only on politics are we at odds.

  2. Many thanks Phillip. A good article and Caitlin Johnson is now a firm favourite of mine also.
    Keep keeping on and stay safe.

  3. Hi Phillip,
    Thank you for responding to both myself and Doug but I am still in the dark as to what I am. If I have socialist inclinations but do not want the violence of insurrection, if I want the elites brought low and the corporatists being forced to cough up what they have thieved from the rest of us, if I condemn the imperialist illicit enterprises in other countries and condemn their interference in other country’s affairs, what exactly am I? I don’t seem to have a niche or a label. Lost and without direction? I studied Marx, but as previously stated, could not envision how we might achieve self governance by the people without a state apparatus governing us and how on earth could we ever realise Trotsky’s ideology? So I decided that I was not a socialist, just someone who was dissatisfied with the way things are but with no real answers as to how the situation might be remedied.
    I did like the fact that workers in the US have amalgamated several unions under an umbrella led by some kind of workers forum – that appealed to me.
    Oh dear. I wish I wasn’t so muddled in how to put things right.

    Best regards, Susan

    • If I have socialist inclinations but do not want the violence of insurrection, if I want the elites brought low and the corporatists being forced to cough up what they have thieved from the rest of us, if I condemn the imperialist illicit enterprises in other countries and condemn their interference in other country’s affairs, what exactly am I?

      Well not a ‘left liberal’ in the (admittedly sloppy) sense I’ve used the term, Susan! If I were to hazard a guess – and we’ve never met – I’d say you are a highly principled person, angered by the criminal insanities we both observe, but unhappy with any of the ‘remedies’ on offer. Other than that, labels are best reserved for jam jars.

      I studied Marx, but as previously stated, could not envision how we might achieve self governance by the people without a state apparatus governing us and how on earth could we ever realise Trotsky’s ideology? So I decided that I was not a socialist,

      Marx did sketch out a futuristic vision of the state ‘withering away’ as socialism gave way to communism. But scientific Marx was at this point enjoying a well earned rest from the dialectically materialist analysis of really existing capitalism. His vision is of a society so far distant as to lie beyond scientific analysis. That aside, like you (I think) I can’t envisage the end of capitalism. In my December Reads post I spoke of:

      … Left groups whose theoretical understandings of capitalism I take seriously, but which devote no space to the not insignificant problem of how a revolution can be made in a context of bourgeois states armed to the teeth and skilled in counter insurgency – and possessors of surveillance technologies beyond the wildest dreams of 20th century totalitarianisms – which makes the Russian Revolution look like a palace coup.

      As one who so often sets out the problems – and insists that capitalism and decency never did co-exist in the world as a whole, and are growing less and less able to do so even in the West – I am painfully aware that I bring no solutions … I have faith in neither reformist nor revolutionary roads to what has to happen if barbarism is to be averted …[but] I never saw the logic in insisting that, if we have no solution, we have no business speaking of the problem. I can barely see a yard ahead, but continue to speak to all who’ll listen about the evils I see in that single yard.

      … [as Gramsci said] when that which must happen cannot happen then we are in the age of monsters.

      Our chief difference, as I see it, is that your conclusion from the same bleak assessment is that you are not a socialist. Mine is that socialism – privately owned production for profits realised in anarchic markets OUT; socially owned wealth creation planned by and for humankind IN – may indeed be unattainable but is humanity’s only hope. I am therefore a pessimistic socialist.

      It’s not easy, and I tell myself 2.67 times a week I’m going to quit and devote whatever time I have left on this earth to photographing nature and writing the odd film review or humour piece. But the reply always comes back – how can a person un-know a truth once discovered? If you know the world to be spherical when all around are saying it’s a flat disc, life would in many ways be easier if you paid lip service to the majority view.

      But would the price be one you could in all conscience pay?

  4. Many thanks Phil. I certainly can identify with all you speak of and know that I am more than a label. In answer to your last suggestion, I could never adopt the majority view and pay lip service to what I consider to be deceptions, misrepresentations or any other fakery so I would have to be led by my conscience regardless of the cost. Sadly, that means if the answer is a revolt by the exploited against the 10% which did indeed involve violence, I would be in quite a dilemma, but life is rather worthless if one cannot stand up for one’s beliefs. I really don’t want to end up in hospital with a cracked skull from a police baton and that is the reality of the way things are going. Having said that I would not follow someone like Scargill and his thugs who travelled down to Wales in buses boozing and mooning at everyone down the A1 to M1(past a village called Yaxley)
    Thank you for your reply, it has made me feel a good deal better about myself and my place in the grand scheme of things.

    Stay safe,

    Susan 🙂

  5. Dear Sue
    “If I have socialist inclinations but do not want the violence of insurrection, if I want the elites brought low and the corporatists being forced to cough up what they have thieved from the rest of us, if I condemn the imperialist illicit enterprises in other countries and condemn their interference in other country’s affairs, what exactly am I?”

    What, or rather who, are you? – Well, to quote Che Guevara, “if you can feel a sense of rage any time you hear of an injustice, anywhere in the world, then we are comrades”.
    You’re also an honest person, expressing your doubts about what is attainable and how to obtain it. You say that you do not want the violence of insurrection, but an insurrection, as opposed to a riot or a leaderless, unorganised rebellion, is a peaceful action in the full meaning of the word peace: as Martin Luther King said, “peace is not the absence of violence, it is the presence of justice.” The Bolsheviks seized power with hardly a shot fired or a life lost; the violence that ensued resulted from the reaction of the oppressors and their ‘democratic’ allies abroad. The entire strategy of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara was to create the conditions for the working people of Cuba to seize power in a magnificently peaceful revolutionary general strike— an insurrection. Since the form of capitalist rule in Cuba was torture and state terrorism, a peaceful insurrection required the defeat of this army— and this was accomplished not so much by killing them, but by winning over the ranks, by treating captured soldiers with utmost respect, treating their wounds, sharing food with them, releasing them at the earliest opportunity so that they would take their story back into the ranks of the enemy.
    So, I think you are posing the question in the wrong way. The Back Lives Matter demonstrations were so powerful because they were massive, organised, peaceful and disciplined; violence arises from ultra-left impulses and from agents provocateurs—this is the lesson of all serious struggles, all rebellions, eg the brave Nigerian youth protesting police violence in 2020 blamed riots and looting on thugs infiltrated by the state.
    At the same time, ‘self defence is no offence’— we have a right to defend ourselves by any means necessary, to cite Malcolm X’s magnificent revolutionary slogan. We must do whatever is necessary to overthrow oppression, to end our exploitation, to win our freedom; we must do whatever is necessary to halt and reverse the capitalist destruction of nature. And we can only discover what is necessary through science, by studying the miserable condition that exists on this earth from all angles, by gathering and analysing all relevant data and drawing on all relevant experiences.

    The ecological crisis provides a striking example of the gulf separating revolutionary realism from bourgeois pragmatism. Science tells us what is necessary if we are to avert cataclysm, but bourgeois politicians will only do what is possible short of destabilising the capitalist system that is responsible for this existential threat in the first place, and short of provoking resistance from the capitalists who mightily profit from it—in other words, practically nothing. Their ‘art’ consists of fooling the rest of us that they’re taking meaningful action and that nothing else can be done, crucially aided by the servile media. For example, in 2017, the most recent year for which there is data, imperialist nations donated just $18 billion towards their pledge of made at the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009 of contributing $100 billion per annum to help poor countries adapt to climate change, representing just 0.03% of their combined GDP of $55 trillion. As Greta Thunberg said, in her address to the UN in November 2019,
    “For more than 30 years, the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you’re doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight…. You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say: We will never forgive you.”

    Finally, while thinking about how to reply to your repudiation of “the violence of insurrection”, I remembered the words of Claribel Alegria, a Salvadoran revolutionary and poet who died in 2018 at the age of 93. Here’s her poem, which directly addresses your comment:

    Because I Want Peace

    Because I want peace
    and not war
    because I don’t want to see hungry children
    or emaciated women
    or men with silenced tongues
    I must keep on fighting.

    Because there are
    Death Squads
    and White Hand
    that torture
    that maim
    that murder
    I want to keep on fighting

    Because on the mountain range
    of Guazapa
    from their hideouts
    my brothers lie in wait for
    three battalions
    trained in Carolina
    and Georgia
    I must keep on fighting

    Because from armed Huey
    expert pilots
    wipe out villages
    with napalm
    poison the water
    and burn the crops
    that feed the people
    I want to keep on fighting

    Because there are territories
    now liberated
    where those who don’t know how to
    are learning to read
    and the sick are treated
    and the produce of the land
    belongs to everybody.
    I must keep on fighting.
    Because I want peace
    and not war.

    • Thank you John Smith.
      I am not well versed in anything (and you and Phillip most definitely are) and this contributes mightily to my confusion. I did find the quoted Martin Luther’s words especially applicable in the context in which they were used(for my elucidation)and as a fan of Gandhi would agree with his solutions. I’m all in for that.
      What concerns me is how police and troops will be used by western governments to brutalise the proles who dare to speak out. I remember seeing a ‘phone recording of police brutality against a woman peacefully demonstrating in the march around Westminster over the NHS cuts several years ago. I also remember Scargill’s gangs isolating miners who were trying to get back in to work(scabs is the pleasant term for depicting men fearful of losing their jobs) beating the **** out of them and the resulting mounted police who were sent to smash the heads of anyone who stood in their way(Ormskirk, I believe)whether they were Scargill’s or innocent miners. The were never going to win, Thatcher had stockpiled coal.
      On a side note, in Russia, miners and those who do heavy or dirty manual or menial labour earn 33,000 r. academics and people having attained a state funded higher education or doctorate, 23,000 r and admin wallers like me 12,000 r….something I would like to see in this country which probably would not sit well with doctors and university lecturers – sorry Phillip – in Britain, I believe all education should be free.
      My knowledge of Lenin is through a biography which may or may not have been accurate. That biography stated that Lenin used the German Socialist funds given him to arrest, detain and murder the rural peasants who had suffered so much under the Kulaks, because they were in essence profiteering. Had he merely addressed the problem of such people who were intensively making money out of exploitation I would not feel so fearful, but his “army” – many of whom were merely murderous and spiteful thugs, applied HIS justice with wide mile brushstrokes. This gives me pause for real concern as to who would dictate to us should we ever manage to overthrow our oppressors currently acting under the state title of imagined democratic “government”, whether sitting or shadow.
      It could be that the biography I read and the remarks made by others promoting socialism are misrepresentative of all the facts and have maligned the man either by omission of other contributing facts/truths or by blind acceptance of justifiable means(and I don’t believe the ends justify the means across the board)to protect his ideology.
      As for the rest of your response to me, I am very grateful you took the time to respond and can take on board an alternate perspective because of it.



  6. Great comment, John.

    And to complement the above poem:

    “A Moment of Silence, Before I Start this Poem
        Before I start this poem, I’d like to ask you to join me
        In a moment of silence
        In honor of those who died in the World Trade Center and the
        Pentagon last September 11th.
        I would also like to ask you
        To offer up a moment of silence
        For all of those who have been harassed, imprisoned,
        disappeared, tortured, raped, or killed in retaliation for those strikes,
        For the victims in both Afghanistan and the U.S.
        And if I could just add one more thing…
        A full day of silence
        For the tens of thousands of Palestinians who have died at the
        hands of U.S.-backed Israeli
        forces over decades of occupation.
        Six months of silence for the million and-a-half Iraqi people,
        mostly children, who have died of
        malnourishment or starvation as a result of an 11-year U.S.
        embargo against the country.
        Before I begin this poem,
        Two months of silence for the Blacks under Apartheid in South Africa,
        Where homeland security made them aliens in their own country.
        Nine months of silence for the dead in Hiroshima and Nagasaki,
        Where death rained down and peeled back every layer of
        concrete, steel, earth and skin
        And the survivors went on as if alive.
        A year of silence for the millions of dead in Vietnam – a people,
        not a war – for those who
        know a thing or two about the scent of burning fuel, their
        relatives’ bones buried in it, their babies born of it.
        A year of silence for the dead in Cambodia and Laos, victims of
        a secret war … ssssshhhhh….
        Say nothing … we don’t want them to learn that they are dead.
        Two months of silence for the decades of dead in Colombia,
        Whose names, like the corpses they once represented, have
        piled up and slipped off our tongues.
        Before I begin this poem.
        An hour of silence for El Salvador …
        An afternoon of silence for Nicaragua …
        Two days of silence for the Guatemaltecos …
        None of whom ever knew a moment of peace in their living years.
        45 seconds of silence for the 45 dead at Acteal, Chiapas
        25 years of silence for the hundred million Africans who found
        their graves far deeper in the ocean than any building could
        poke into the sky.
        There will be no DNA testing or dental records to identify their remains.
        And for those who were strung and swung from the heights of
        sycamore trees in the south, the north, the east, and the west…
        100 years of silence…
        For the hundreds of millions of indigenous peoples from this half
        of right here,
        Whose land and lives were stolen,
        In postcard-perfect plots like Pine Ridge, Wounded Knee, Sand
        Fallen Timbers, or the Trail of Tears.
        Names now reduced to innocuous magnetic poetry on the
        refrigerator of our consciousness …
        So you want a moment of silence?
        And we are all left speechless
        Our tongues snatched from our mouths
        Our eyes stapled shut
        A moment of silence
        And the poets have all been laid to rest
        The drums disintegrating into dust.
        Before I begin this poem,
        You want a moment of silence
        You mourn now as if the world will never be the same
        And the rest of us hope to hell it won’t be. Not like it always has
        Because this is not a 9/11 poem.
        This is a 9/10 poem,
        It is a 9/9 poem,
        A 9/8 poem,
        A 9/7 poem
        This is a 1492 poem.
        This is a poem about what causes poems like this to be written.
        And if this is a 9/11 poem, then:
        This is a September 11th poem for Chile, 1971.
        This is a September 12th poem for Steven Biko in South Africa, 1977.
        This is a September 13th poem for the brothers at Attica Prison,
        New York, 1971.
        This is a September 14th poem for Somalia, 1992.
        This is a poem for every date that falls to the ground in ashes
        This is a poem for the 110 stories that were never told
        The 110 stories that history chose not to write in textbooks
        The 110 stories that CNN, BBC, The New York Times, and
        Newsweek ignored.
        This is a poem for interrupting this program.
        And still you want a moment of silence for your dead?
        We could give you lifetimes of empty:
        The unmarked graves
        The lost languages
        The uprooted trees and histories
        The dead stares on the faces of nameless children
        Before I start this poem we could be silent forever
        Or just long enough to hunger,
        For the dust to bury us
        And you would still ask us
        For more of our silence.
        If you want a moment of silence
        Then stop the oil pumps
        Turn off the engines and the televisions
        Sink the cruise ships
        Crash the stock markets
        Unplug the marquee lights,
        Delete the instant messages,
        Derail the trains, the light rail transit.
        If you want a moment of silence, put a brick through the window
        of Taco Bell,
        And pay the workers for wages lost.
        Tear down the liquor stores,
        The townhouses, the White Houses, the jailhouses, the
        Penthouses and the Playboys.
        If you want a moment of silence,
        Then take it
        On Super Bowl Sunday,
        The Fourth of July
        During Dayton’s 13 hour sale
        Or the next time your white guilt fills the room where my beautiful
        people have gathered.
        You want a moment of silence
        Then take it NOW,
        Before this poem begins.
        Here, in the echo of my voice,
        In the pause between goosesteps of the second hand,
        In the space between bodies in embrace,
        Here is your silence.
        Take it.
        But take it all…Don’t cut in line.
        Let your silence begin at the beginning of crime. But we,
        Tonight we will keep right on singing…For our dead.”
        EMMANUEL ORTIZ, 11 Sep 2002.

  7. Hi Susan
    I share your concern about ‘how police and troops will be used by western governments to brutalise the proles who dare to speak out’. It would be completely mad not to be concerned. But I don’t understand your ‘alternative perspective’. Gandhi? He has become a mythical figure. I’ve appended below an excerpt from a speech by Norman Finkelstein on who Gandhi really was.
    Lenin has also been mythologised, and much maligned. I hope you will base your opinion on him on more than a malign ‘biography’. Where to begin on (i.m.o.) the greatest figure of the twentieth century? You could begin with his ‘last fight’, to stop the ascent of Stalin:’s+political+battle+to+maintain+proletarian+course+of+Russian+Revolution.doc/file
    As for the miners’ strike, their defeat was not inevitable, notwithstanding the stockpiles of coal. The Falklands/Malvinas war, massive state violence, Labour Party/TUC treachery all had something to do with it. We’d need a careful discussion of the whole thing in order to assess the particular event you referred to.

    Best wishes
    Finkelstein on Gandhi

    Gandhi’s concrete application of his doctrine appears replete with contradictions. Asserting that “my nonviolence cannot deviate from what is practical,” Gandhi could sanction “calling in the army and having a handful of men shot” to stop inter-communal rioting. The world’s most famous exponent of nonviolence recruited an ambulance corps for the British side in the Boer War and Zulu War [Gandhi tried convincing British authorities during the Zulu War to arm his Indian volunteers but they refused], again offered to raise an ambulance corps to serve the British army during World War I, and then recruited Indians to take up arms and fight in the war.
    Throughout his life he averred that such active wartime partisanship did not contradict his commitment to nonviolence… He can state in one breath that even in “the classical instance of the defenseless sister or mother who is threatened with molestation by an evil-minded ruffian,” use of violence would not be permissible, yet in the next breath state that he would “defend” use of violence “against the whole world if I found myself in a corner when I could not save a helpless girl from violation.”

    Norman Finkelstein, Resolving the Israel-Palestine Conflict: What we can learn from Gandhi, Tans Lecture, Maastricht University (13 November 2008)

  8. Many thanks John Smith. I have to admit that I am guilty of liking what I read based on a biography whose provenance may or may not have been accurate or without bias, so it is good the contradictions of Gandhi’s life and times are challenged.
    As for Lenin, I have read many articles but some I recognise immediately falsely represent the man and his intent and others who write about a man they did not know and could not speak with any true authority because a) they were not Russian and b)did not live in those times. Lenin certainly started out with the noblest of intentions and what followed between Stalin and Trotsky was a quagmire if you are not Russian born. History has a habit of changing with the times and the motives of those who write about it, so no surprise that I have no context in which to base my (possibly/probably)ill-informed opinions.
    I am no intellectual and do know my limitations which is why I have a tendency to follow the words of someone who has given me good reason to trust, ie Phillip. Not that I follow blindly, but on his site I can read comments from people he respects as well as his own words. I accept that I am not a fan of the unions even though Unite does good work overseas, which is why I prefer co-operatives.
    I have read several of Norman Finkelstein, todays offering by him was another good one(on the Apartheid of Israel in response and as an op-ed to the announcement by BT’selem of which I am a supporter as well as PSC).
    Thank you also for the poem by the Sandanista revolutionist Clara Isabel Alegría Vides, I am still wading through the links on Wiki for information on her work.
    Although I know I am not a stupid woman I am capable of stupidity and often have to remind myself that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing and therefore appreciate you taking the time to advance my knowledge without the slog that you and Phillip must have done over the years.

    Best wishes,


  9. Hi Susan
    thanks for your refreshingly honest message. I wince to think of the stupid things I’ve said and done, often at the time thinking I was being smart… This brings to mind a favourite riddle: “what’s worse than discovering a worm in an apple?”
    I’ll send the answer later today, unless you or someone else gets there first…

    • I wince to think of the stupid things I’ve said and done, often at the time thinking I was being smart.

      Copy that!

      what’s worse than discovering a worm in an apple?

      Discovering you’ve already eaten it …

  10. Hi Phil,
    you’ve got it! Specifically – worse than finding a worm in an apple is finding half a worm, because it means the other half is in your mouth!
    So, half the truth can be like half a worm – worse than no worm at all. To cling to a one-sided, incomplete explanation and think that you know that answer is much worse than acknowledging one’s lack of understanding.
    Another, even deeper answer is – not finding a worm. Because the worm might well be more nutritious than the apple, and that we should not reject an unexpected discovery just because it moves us out of our comfort zone…

  11. My answer to the riddle of the worm was to discover that you have eaten it (and the way you would know is to feel it wriggling in your mouth).
    That tells me something about my logic, but I have absolutely no idea what!

    It’s been fun, sort of, many thanks to both of you.


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