Who was no platformed at Left Forum?


“Those who attacked Žižek, those who sought to keep him from speaking, didn’t have a positive politics or even a critique. All they had was a posture. For these leftists the act of calling someone out, the denunciation, is an end in itself. Those who heckled Žižek, those who demanded to know why the Left Forum had allowed him to speak, they weren’t attempting to change anything. They were instead only seeking to exercise their collective power in this one instance.”

Douglas Lain writes, while describing a recent protest against Žižek speaking at Left Forum this year as an “illness on the Left“, that details of the protest were not important. Rather, it is “the character of the critique, the reasons Žižek’s new detractors gave for heckling him, and finally what is behind the call to no platform him” that matter. Unfortunately for all of us, Lain does not illuminate us further on those issues in his defense of Žižek, or perhaps more accurately, Žižek’s right to be warmly welcomed and accepted at Left Forum.

Instead, Lain snarks about Amy Goodman’s speech before Žižek’s performance as being “insufferably pious” before launching into defending a man who defends Roma pogroms in his native Slovenia. It’s not hard to understand why Lain was rankled by Goodman and could not wait to hear Žižek speak. While Amy Goodman paid tribute to Bree Newsome, who courageously scaled the flagpole in South Carolina to tear down what crackers call “the Stars and Bars”, Žižek told his front-row acolytes, via anonymous friend, that Native Americans, victims of the largest genocide in human history, cut down more trees and killed more buffalo than the slave-owning colonists who invaded the Western Hemisphere ever did. While Goodman warned the audience against the resurgence of the Klu Klux Klan, a murderous organization created to lynch those brought to this country in chains, Žižek insisted that we should – like the Klan does – seek to build our identity in relation to people of color by calling them the N-word.

I don’t know where Douglas Lain comes from. I don’t know what his class background is. And I certainly don’t know what he means by criticising the “character” of our critique of Žižek as being without substance or purpose.

After all, did Lain feel uncomfortable when he heard the words that came out of Žižek’s own mouth read back to him? Did he feel as though he was suddenly singled out in his enjoyment of Žižek’s rantings that – “of course” – terrorists and rapists were among the refugees in Europe? He insists that “supposedly racist or sexist quotes taken from [Žižek’s] lectures or essays“, were “either stripped of context or misinterpreted” – but was either Žižek or Lain too traumatized by our minuscule protest to say exactly how using the N-word is acceptable in any context?

Was he, like a young man who emailed me earlier today to call me “ugly” and “disgusting”, rather “embarrassed” by the presence of a handful of women and people of color heckling Žižek and insisting that he could not use the N-word on a stage once occupied by Cornell West and Harry Belafonte? At a forum where the “Left” – traditionally people who are in favor of smashing racism instead of welcoming it as “moderately progressive” discourse – did it seem embarrassing for Lain and others like him to find people who cared so deeply about these things?

Did Lain and his companions suddenly feel out of place as the vast majority of the audience — including Ms. Goodman, who was slated to appear on stage with Žižek but left as he began his tirade – walked out on such a performance?

Good! That’s what it feels like to be on the wrong side of a picket line.

It was never my intention to no platform Slavoj Žižek at Left Forum. It was my intention, as I stated at the Q&A section of his plenary, to find out how much money the organizers spent to bring a man who was known to propagate such racist, misogynist, and xenophobic ideas to the Left. I’m still waiting for my answer.

Days after I had a white man in Žižek audience jab his finger at me and insist it was “just fine” for him to call his black friends n—-rs, someone with access to the Left Forum twitter account suddenly revolted.

Our anonymous comrade stated the following:

“The Old guard is threatened by a decentralized movement being led by [people of color]. They cringe at the thought of being useless. They validate their existence by pontificating, criticizing and theorizing. Xenophobia, racism and Euro-centrism hides behind marxist language. The reluctance to rescind Zizek’s invite after deplorable comments on Syrian refugees speaks volumes about the old guard overseeing the [Left Forum]. He was kept on to back the old left (van)guard against what they see as the threat of “identity politics.” Over the last couple years there has been an internal struggle to broaden the content and demographic of the Left Forum. This will undoubtably come at the expense of the older, white traditional marxist left.”

A little more than an hour later, these tweets were wiped from the Left Forum’s twitter account. They followed comments that were critical of Žižek’s appearance also wiped from the Left Forum’s Facebook group. This action followed Kristin Lawler trying to grab the microphone away from me as I stood to read Žižek’s statements back to the audience assembled. And these actions all followed from the live feed covering the event being cut as soon as I opened my mouth to protest in front of people like Douglas Lain.

Who then, is being “no platformed” at Left Forum? Is it someone like Žižek, who the organizers immediately sought to defend and shield from critique? Is it the organizers, who viciously ignored and censored any dissent of their decisions? Is it someone like Lain, a left book publisher who uses his position to mediate left discourse?

No, I think not. Based on what happened, I’d say the people of color, women and our allies who Žižek insists encapsulate “white liberalism” in our refusal to accept racism and misogyny into our discourse at Left Forum were those who were no platformed. And we are the ones who will keep struggling while folks like Lain wring their hands and wonder where their legitimacy has run off to.

You can voice your concerns to Left Forum via their twitter @LeftForum, their Facebook group, or via email: panels [at] leftforum.org



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NO PLATFORM is a project by (me) Taryn Fivek to explore the modern economic and political contradictions across the United States. It is a collaborative multimedia project that aims to explore a side of the US not covered in our 24-hour news cycle. In the tradition of Studs Terkel, Barbara Ehrenreich, and the WPA writer corps, I want to capture a snapshot of what life looks like in the United States in the run-up to the 2016 Presidential Elections.

45 million Americans live below the poverty line, with tens of millions just one paycheck away from homelessness. Tens of millions are without gainful employment. Not a day goes by that we don’t read about more police brutality against people of color. Guantanamo Bay is still open for business, and unprecedented wars rage across the Middle East. Hundreds of thousands are poisoned not only in Flint, but across the country.

The United States runs on billion dollar advertising campaigns. Some of the biggest and most popular of these campaigns are the Presidential elections that arrive every 4 years, more glitzed-up and overwhelming with each cycle. It’s hard to avoid the talking heads when they’re playing on every gas station television and filling up your spam folder. Dinners and church sermons become political arguments driven by the media’s agenda on how we relate to government in this country. We are told over and over that if you don’t vote, you can’t complain.

But the majority of people who are of voting age in this country don’t vote. 11.5 million are working here without legal paperwork, 2.3 million are in prison, more than 40 million aren’t naturalized citizens, and tens of millions more have just given up on the system. These are people who have no platform to speak and no platform to vote for.

Many of the largest structural issues – racism, inequality, and unemployment – are given lip service across the news media. History deserves a better record of what life is like in 2016 – 15 years after the declaration of the War on Terror, a decade after Hurricane Katrina, and eight years since the start of the Great Recession.

Please join me as I travel across the United States, speaking with the working class and people living on the margins about what challenges and struggles they face living in the US.

What follows will be a collection of photos, interviews, audio, video and essays that will contribute to a book about the challenges facing people who live in the US during one of the most controversial election cycles of the century.

I’m currently crowdfunding my 90-day field work across the country via Kickstarter.

You can see the rest of the pitch there. I’d appreciate your support – even $1. More than anything else, this is about building an audience to collaborate on this project. Please share widely with comrades, friends and family if possible. Thanks for your encouragement, and see you (for the summer, at least!) over at noplatform.org.

Stranger than fiction: How to keep an antiwar movement down

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Imagine, if you will, the year 2016. It is a year of war. Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Palestine, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Ukraine, Turkey – just a handful in a long list – are under attack. Covert operations angling at “regime change” take place in the Caribbean, Central and South America. The African continent is engulfed in conflict, the threat of “regime change” knocking against even South Africa’s door. The BRICs are threatened, destabilizing. Thousands drown every year in the Mediterranean while millions more flood Europe, desperate for refuge from the violence and poverty that plagues their homelands. The right is on the rise across Europe, the US, Canada and Australia. The global economy is sagging under the weight of its own contradictions.

The United States government, that acts as the hired guns of a global class of jet-setting billionaires, imprisons 2.3 million of its own people. 3.2 per cent of its citizens are under correctional control. The descendants of those once kidnapped and enslaved are particularly tormented – one in three black males in the USA will spend some time in prison. 12,000 children in Flint, Michigan are poisoned by lead in the water. 60,000 people in New York City are homeless. Nearly 1,000 people were killed by the police in the United States last year. Thousands more are tortured – even boiled alive – in US prisons. In the state of Louisiana, black men in chains pick cotton for slave wages while overseers toting shotguns monitor them from horseback. The electoral system is rigged, disenfranchises millions, and offers the same solution, year after year: submit or be crushed.

Imagine, if you will, the year 2016 without a revolutionary movement against such conditions.

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The Black Panther Party was possibly the highwater mark for American revolution in the 20th century because it existed in concert with, and gave guidance to, a broad-based antiwar movement. While the labor struggles of the working class at the turn of the century were integral in improving the lives of millions of Americans and providing a platform for revolutionary socialism, it wasn’t until the radical labor movement started to speak out against the First World War that they were persecuted in full by the government, lynched, deported and imprisoned. Likewise, the Black Panthers were most heavily targeted when they developed a line that connected the suffering of the American people to the suffering inflicted on others by the United States abroad. In both instances, the culprit was imperialism, capitalism made flesh in the form of guns and planes that could stamp out challenges to its hegemony.

That the Black Panther Party even existed should one of the greatest points of pride among radicals in the United States. Indeed, Black Panthers are still on the run from the FBI or languishing in prisons, sometimes for decades under solitary confinement. They were able to serve the people while educating them about the world we lived in. To the Black Panthers, to anyone who would call themselves a dialectical materialist, the idea that the United States Government is an institution that can be reformed is simply absurd. The United States Government, to Marxists, does not exist as a faulty waiter failing to bring free health care and universal housing with the check, but rather, to mediate class conflict in favor of the bourgeoisie – not just in the United States, but worldwide. The Black Panthers saw this, and declared themselves in solidarity with the victims of imperialism. They toured the world, meeting with revolutionaries from North Korea to Vietnam. And this, along with organizing among poor black communities in the United States, is what brought down the wrath of the state on their heads.

It is possible to say that a revolutionary movement in the United States can only exist when there is praxis that recognizes the relationship between oppression in the US and imperialism. I would further venture to say that there can be no praxis without the two elements being present concurrently, and that no honest effort at building a revolutionary movement in the US can be made without recognizing that there must be an antiwar movement to join, and that this antiwar movement must be anti-imperialist.

After all, the wars of today differ greatly from the wars of the early 20th century, the wars that threw Emma Goldman and Big Bill Haywood in jail. We no longer have the draft – the popular rage over Vietnam saw an end to that – and the US spends more time launching air strikes from unmanned drones than digging trenches or preparing for bayonet combat. Likewise, imperialism doesn’t always take place at the end of a gun. The IMF and World Bank, created at the end of World War II, helped to exert influence over economies and governments where a heavier, more direct hand was once required. The creation of NATO and the Cold War made imperialism seem a war of ideologies, rather than the ham-fisted grab at resources that it was. Now, it seems that while American bombs and bullets murder so many worldwide, we are encouraged to side with imperialism as socialists. We are expected to take on the reasoning of George W. Bush and Samantha Power so long as it is dressed up and marketed in a way that pleases us, even if we consider ourselves “Left” leaning politically. Like soda and smartphones, we are exhorted to find identity in our positions, to represent ourselves by our consumer choices.

An alarming trend is on the rise in the United States and in the English-speaking world more generally: the ubiquitous Op-Ed. What was once relegated to just one page of the newspaper (the term Op-Ed meaning something that ran on the page opposite to Editorial) now makes up large sections of online news media. I imagine it is cheaper to pay a freelancer $250 (optimistic!) for their opinion than finance a foreign bureau. Whole TV networks run on an audio-visual version of the Op-Ed. It is a form of news that directly tells its reader how to think about the current events. Many gain their information on a topic simply from reading Op-eds. Today’s columnist and pundit is a TV show, someone that we can tune into on a regular basis for entertainment and flattery. If one show is boring, if you don’t like what they’re saying – simply switch the channel. It doesn’t matter, as all are trying to sell you a ruling class agenda. And, above all else, in our 24 hour news cycle, we are never allowed to present news in a boring way. The VICE lifestyle brand turned global news channel, with its correspondents pulled from content marketing’s central casting, is a prime example of the desire to “sex-up” news by letting opinions lead coverage. It is a way to engage the youth, as it boasts openly, to not only consume brands, but also official narratives, with enthusiasm.

A narrative example from the Op-ed world of news could be as follows: In Syria, democratic protesters are fighting against a brutal regime that slaughters them with impunity. These democratic protesters, now called rebels, are always at risk of being annihilated by state violence and torture because the Western Left has “failed” them. We must all support these rebels and pressure our government to do the right thing, whatever that might be.

Some articles might be run in conjunction, many that might contradict this narrative. We might learn from respected journalists with years of experience and lauded professional histories that things aren’t so simple. We might learn from State Department press transcripts that these brave rebels take quite a lot of money from the US Government. But it doesn’t matter if half of the paper contradicts the other half. When we are told how to read the news, through the eyes of these pundits, we are happily oblivious of whatever facts might contradict our chosen authority. After all, Thomas Friedman is far more influential and famous than some no-name stringer for The Times. Anyone who might disagree with the official narrative, even if they are respected journalists, scholars or activists, are now called conspiracy theorists, “hacks” or worse.

But while journalists are still nominally held to professional standards, the pundit owes no such thing to her audience. After all, this is just her opinion, and she is not expected to have thoroughly researched differing narratives – nor is she obligated to present opposing views, or to present anything evenly – when publishing her Op-ed. This is not unexpected, nor is it dishonest to the job description of a “pundit”. It’s up to the publication to decide how much of its material is news, and how much of it is entertainment packaged as Op-eds.

Yet, there is danger when a pundit or entertainer decides to call herself a journalist without having been subjected to the same standards we would expect from the NYT stringer. Facts are not checked and sources are not vetted. So-called journalists, such as Michael Weiss or Molly Crabapple, rely heavily on anonymous sources who slip them scintillating information or photographs. And yet, I am unsure who these sources are, who has vetted them, and how they did so. Indeed, as this new generation straddles the line between journalist and pundit, the means by which they communicate are themselves in question. My own WhatsApp number is from Iraq, though I have not lived there since October 2015. So, I think it’s natural to ask how these sources are processed, especially if the Op-ed writers posing as journalists are writing whole books based on their testimony, appearing on talk shows as experts, and building careers off promoting wars. While the content may be biased and one-sided, laden with marketing copy and convenient omissions, we should be incredibly wary on how we define, protect, but also how we verify the “source”. Indeed, I would ask how these pundits find, vet and receive information, but as many already tried to have me fired from my last job for asking such questions, it’s pointless to attempt from my position – though I welcome corrections and inputs from editorial.

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As it stands, The Guardian admitted last week that it had been fed stories on Syria by the UK Home Office operating from behind a PR firm that was operating a Syrian advocacy campaign. Breakthrough Media joins its American agency Purpose (via The Syria Campaign) in pushing advocacy for pro-intervention narratives on the Syria conflict. What is left out of the discussion of whether or not public funds are being used to propagandize war to the tax-paying public is the disclosure of who the freelance “journalists” are that are being paid or otherwise lobbied to write on Syria. We would expect that journalists taking money or in kind contributions from campaign staff disclose such information when writing on the election – why not the same expectation from those who write on foreign policy matters? Perhaps it is because, in the long run, such issues are far weightier than whatever new jab a candidate throws on social media or a cable news talk show. One of the more chilling revelations from The Guardian, one seemingly lifted straight from my book, is that some of the journalists reported they were unaware that they were being utilized in this way.

If we knew that Fred Hampton or Emma Goldman were taking money from public relations firms (who may or may not have been receiving marching orders from governments) when speaking or writing on the wars they opposed, wouldn’t that change the way we see their positions? And certainly, if we were to discover that some of our favorite, cherished personalities who regularly tell us how to read the news were taking money from PR firms, to confuse, mislead, attack or threaten activists who might otherwise try and build a case against the US government’s wars abroad and at home, wouldn’t that be a scandal?

There may be no antiwar movement today because we live in a media environment that seeks to destroy it in its nascence. Andrew Bacevich, in his recent instructive essay for Harper’s called “American Imperium”, makes the case that:

The trivializing din of what passes for news drowns out the antiwar critique. One consequence of remaining perpetually at war is that the political landscape in America does not include a peace party.

Indeed, before there can be a peace party, there must be an antiwar critique. And the “trivializing din” that Bacevich speaks of is not simply drowning out antiwar critique, it is merciless in seeking to destroy and discredit ideas such as the fact that the United States enjoys unprecedented military, economic, ideological and strategic domination over the entire world. Such ideas, when voiced publicly, are met with derision and laughter. As if, with dozens of bases and tens of thousands of soldiers surrounding Russia, one could seriously argue that Russia is imperialist, or an equal threat to world peace as the US. There are no Russian bases and no Russian soldiers garrisoned on our borders. We cannot even know, as the numbers are not publicly available, how many US soldiers and bases are currently in the Middle East – indeed, how many are currently in Iraq and Syria, where much conflict is currently taking place. Whereas before, reliable journalists and their supportive editors might have been successful in discovering such figures, they are now too focused on revenue and survival. This opens wide the door for propagandists who wish to deride and discredit any remaining “Left” antiwar sentiment in the US. Until this is resolved, building an anti-imperialist antiwar movement will remain an uphill battle, even among smaller groups, as subjectivity and sophistry continues to be taught and promoted over objectivity, materialism, serious study and clear thinking.

la solidarité – or – qui bono?


I spent a considerable amount of time in my 20s living in cities where terror was a daily occurrence. I remember celebrating July 4th 2009 with my sheet pulled up to my chin, listening to familiar “Israeli debke” at 3:30am: a crescendo of dogs barking, flash bang grenades, the sounds of doors being busted in. The sudden silence of the streets of Cairo in curfew as armored personel carriers rumbled by. Black billowing smoke from car bombs. Rockets, checkpoints, arrests, guns, grenades – that’s life for billions of oppressed people worldwide.

I was reminded of this when I’m in Paris two weeks ago, watching the gendarmes walk with automatic rifles through the streets, commonplace as you please. It’s a racist dreamscape when people don’t think this encroaching militarism will touch all. It’s a racist dreamscape when the people of the English-speaking world and the people in Europe and the United States think their lives are worth any more to the ruling class than the people the ruling class regularly torment abroad because their passport is a different color.

When we speak of solidarity, they tell me I sound cold. Perhaps it’s because I’ve spent years of my life in war zones and only days in Paris and I know very well in which instance I will receive phone calls when people get blown up in public. I vividly remember sitting on a couch in the United States, watching television and crying as Israelis reinvaded Nablus in 2009. I vividly remember bald racism thrown around the room like a football. “This is normal for them,” people insist.

It isn’t normal for anyone. They cope differently because it happens more, but it’s not normal.

A Palestinian boy shot in the spine cries in fear and pain as his blood runs over Jerusalem’s light rail tracks. A settler circles him like a vulture, filming the boy’s fear, mocking him. A Palestinian girl tackled by strangers on the street in Tel Aviv receives a kick to the head, delivered almost-casually as the assailant keeps walking. In despair, a girl douses herself in kerosene and lights a match. A neighborhood, historically black churches, a refugee camp go up in flames. At least 1,566 young men – sons, husbands, fathers, uncles, brothers – brutally murdered face down in trenches at Camp Speicher in Iraq. This is not normal, but this is what is treated as normal by people elsewhere, by the capitalist media.

If every human life really holds the same weight, why are we told to cry for some and not for others? Qui bono?

only a person with no sense of history (or sense in their head) thinks the world is better off without a communist superpower

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The Ukranian government has been accused of using cluster munitions in Donetsk as it seeks to take control of Russian-speaking parts of Ukraine.

Bizarre, malicious disinfo everywhere. As Russia steps in publicly to support the Syrian and Iraqi governments with airstrikes against NATO/GCC-funded contras, the cold soup of Cold War era hysteria has been warming up on the stove. As the Italians say – it’s not a soup that reheats well. Narrative scripts stashed away for a decade were brushed off somewhat during the Maidan Putsch in Ukraine. Young Russian-Americans I knew confessed to me that they had never felt such living hostility in the United States before in their lives. Yet, the referendums and Russian-speaking minority of the country were firm in their resolve, and the tropes quieted down as the West turned it attention again towards the Middle East, always the barbaric and hysterical Middle East, with its head-chopping fanatics funded by the United States, NATO and its clients.

But with Russia stepping into Syria and Iraq, the irrational cacophony of ahistorical disinfo has once again ballooned. Lines are being drawn not just on the battlefields of the Middle East, but also in ideological circles worldwide. One one side, we have those grateful for pre-packaged op-eds railing against “Russian Imperialism”, and on the other side, those who understand there is no comparison between Russia, a country where 6.7 million Russians died as a result of the disintegration of the Soviet Union, and the United States, which has engineered, funded and caused the disintegration of countries worldwide as an important part of a  foreign policy dedicated to domination and looting, especially after the disintegration of the Soviet Union.


from Against Hayek, Paul Cockshot

These hysterics are to be expected. After all, the antagonism between the United States and Russia has been intense ever since the United States decided to invade on the side of capitalism in 1918. What continues to confound me is the unwillingness of self-professed anarchists and leftists to build a challenge to the US empire. In Syria and Iraq, the lies were immense. One was labelled a conspiracy theorist to say that the CIA was funding the so-called Syrian opposition to the Syrian government, as opposed to the terror being wrecked on the people of Iraq and Sham was homegrown, a product of an inherent violence of the besieged Arab. As the “left” we were suddenly demanded, for the first time in my life anyway, to rally for the violent overthrow of the Syrian and Iraqi governments, vis-a-vis a NATO no fly zone in Syria, arming the “rebels” and in some cases, even invasion. Meanwhile, the United States began dumping thousands of pounds of munitions in Iraq and Syria that hit targets such as “motorcycles”, “trenches” and “bulldozer”. Barack Obama admitted himself that:

The reason, the president added, “that we did not just start taking a bunch of airstrikes all across Iraq as soon as ISIL came in was because that would have taken the pressure off of [Prime Minister Nuri Kamal] al-Maliki.” That only would have encouraged, he said, Maliki and other Shiites to think: ” ‘We don’t actually have to make compromises. We don’t have to make any decisions. We don’t have to go through the difficult process of figuring out what we’ve done wrong in the past.

After Russia’s open involvement began (they were assisting the Syrian government before), the curtain was lifted and those who were calling against NATO intervention in Syria were vindicated – the Syrian “civil war” had been funded and supported by a NATO/GCC coalition led by the United States. Lightning-fast, however, the narrative was shifted. Now that Russia was on the scene, the same people who had called for a movement that would beg for war now demanded that anti-imperialists denounce Russian intervention in Syria and start an anti-war movement against Russia.

As most Americans remain, however, uninformed or apathetic about the going-ons of the US empire, if not quietly in support of it, the real target of this onslaught of anti-Russian propaganda, which is documented problematically by Gary Brecher here, is probably those who would raise objection to the fact that the United States has been exposed, has admitted it is responsible for the actions of their contras in the Middle East and North Africa.

There are those who understand history and those who do not. There are those who can look at the world through the lens of class warfare and those who are unable or unwilling to do so. The goal of the media as it interacts with those who would seek to become informed of the US’s rampage across the world is to discombobulate, disorient and misinform. This will necessitate a rewriting or complete ignorance of history.

Charles Davis, an editor at teleSur, writes today on the Cold War:

For developing countries, though — for much of Asia and the Americas, or rather: the world — the friendly competition between the globe’s leading imperialist powers was a festering sore that promoted the forces of reaction wherever its influence was felt (“left” as well as right) and often enough led those who fought for progress and social justice to a mass grave.

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More bombs (and chemical weapons) were dropped on Vietnam than were used during the entirety of World War II.

This presupposes several untruths: first, that the Cold War was in fact a “friendly competition”, that the Soviet Union was “imperialist” and that the people of the world were not better off in a world where the Soviet Union existed as a check to capitalism’s endless appetite for exploitation, rape and war. At one point, Davis mentions one million Vietnamese died during the US’s imperial onslaught, where more munitions were dropped on a poor developing country than during World War II and where people still die from Agent Orange exposure. Conservative estimates were always around 2 million, with 3 million being reported by the Vietnamese government and the U.N. World Health Organization reporting 3.8 million. These numbers only refer to violent death, not death by chemical weapons such as Agent Orange or other war-related deaths.

But the idea that the Cold War was a “friendly competition” is simply historical revisionism. A child can understand that pointing 9,000 nukes at someone does not indicate a friendly competition of any kind. Actively seeking to undermine a worker’s state through infiltration, sabotage and clandestine operations, as well as simply all-out war, is not how one would describe “friendly competition”. This bizarre, ahistorical view seems to be right out of Guy Richie’s new film which reboots a tired bumbling romantic comedy between CIA, MI6 and KGB agents.

Those who were persecuted for being communists worldwide, including in the United States, would hardly say that the rape and pillage of their communities and their persons was a result of a friendly competition. To most, this is taken for granted as historical fact.

As for the “festering sore” comment, that the Cold War was not a boon for oppressed people, this is yet another lie, as well as an obfuscation. Davis is really referring to communism – is the existence of communism a boon for the world’s oppressed majority? Absolutely – this is a truth without a shadow of a doubt. The world’s oppressed were (for once) able to develop governments and economies not dictated by the interests of the rich, build pan-Africanism and pan-Arabism, the black power and civil rights movement, make remarkable gains in labor and against racism and sexism worldwide. After the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the so-called “End of History”, these gains were almost immediately rolled back at a terrific speed. People worldwide enjoyed new public infrastructure, safer streets and better jobs during the Cold War. While the United States was relentless in trying to turn back these gains for humanity while engaging in the Korean and Vietnam wars, as well as the bloody coups in South America, Asia and Africa, massive gains were made. Losurdo is quite clear:

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The genocide in Gaza is only possible thanks to an Empire that backs it every step of the way.

After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, George H.W. Bush was not puffing himself up when he declared a “New World Order” – one that was exclusive to the American desire to reshape the world to easier drain of life and resources. The first target for the American military was the Republic of Iraq, not incidentally in a constant state of war, bombardment and immiseration since then. Russia, meanwhile, has watched the gains a good proportion of its population once lived, fought and died for be rolled back worldwide.

But there is a red line for Russia, which still retains some degree of military and economic ability after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, which still sits on a great percentage of the world’s natural resources, including 20% of the world’s unfrozen fresh water and what will probably, in the coming decades as the earth’s temperature continues to destabilize, be prime land for farming. As its last allies in the Middle East were destroyed – Libya, Syria, and Iraq, with Iran in constant crosshairs – it has selfish reasons to keep US bases as far as possible from its borders. It has selfish reasons to want to make sure that most of the world’s oil doesn’t come under the control of the United States. Yet, when Patrick Cockburn, who Davis is answering in with his essay on the Cold War, says that there is a possible benefit to the Russians becoming involved quite directly in what has become a messy war between a democratically elected government and dozens of armed gangs, he is not incorrect. This intervention will probably lead to a shortening of the conflict, unless the United States decides to turn Syria into a new Afghanistan and continue to torture the Syrian people.

To thinking people, it’s clear that the same people who would deny US involvement in Syria and Iraq (a proven lie), accuse Russia of not taking action against ISIS (a proven lie), and call for a cruise-missile left movement based on promoting the interests of those who sustained the conflict for so long (the actual goal of this disinfo) would not be reliable arbiters of history. It pains me greatly to even have to correct what should be common knowledge to most people. Yet, it should be done anyway, as this kind of reaction should not be allowed to masquerade as anything left of Reagan. Facts are still important, especially in this environment of disinfo married to imperial war.

Recommended: Domenico Losurdo, History of the Communist Movement: Failure, Betrayal, or Learning Process?

a brief interlude

Summer is heating up for the millions of people violently displaced from their homes in the Middle East. Clocking 44c in Baghdad (111f), the tens of thousands quite suddenly fleeing Ramadi face this heat and oncoming Ramadan without a choice otherwise. On the run from empire’s rockets and explosions, the contras’s IEDs and suicide bombers, they join those in Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Yemen and Palestine who are suddenly refugees. See, if you have eyes to see:

Libya thrown into chaos at the end of a NATO onslaught in 2011 remains not only a failed state in certainly the most academic sense of the word, but a source of people on the run, people drowning in the Mediterranean and dying in the deserts.

Syria, the jewel of the Arab world, a name that brings tears to the eyes when people speak of how it was just four years ago. Her people filling camps in every neighboring country.

Yemen, the people poor, starving and screaming under chemical weapons. The poorest, most helpless country in the region torn to pieces by the richest and most powerful.

Palestine, a long burning fire in the stomach, a constant humiliation.

Egypt – cruelly disciplined.

Iraq, now 35 long years suffering from war.

It’s impossible to express in human language the absolute horror in this part of the world. It’s more expressed in the nine-day fever of a child at a refugee camp, the terror of not knowing where the planes dropping bombs on your head are coming from. The nihilistic certainty, as you flee your home, that no one who is responsible for this cares about you, because no one who is responsible will ever taste this sort of pain.

To get letters from home is surreal, as people care and care and care about a Bernie Sanders run for president of the United States. They care about a television show. They care about food allergies and vaccines. The core adopts a posture of hipster indifference while the periphery writhes under the knife of empire.

“They were killing woman and children.”

“We’ve been waiting for six days sleeping in the street here, but so far we haven’t got permission to enter Kurdistan,” he said, lowering his voice as the checkpoint commander approached.

The commander declined to give his name but was quick to offer an explanation for the delay.

“We respect them. We give them food. We deal with them like humans,” he said. “But we’ve got to investigate before we let them through.”


Are there communists forgotten in Ukraine? Are there communists alive today? A red banner hangs from a fence surrounding an impromptu refugee camp not a mile from where I write these words. It’s an accusatory shade of red. There is no argument that we have been outmaneuvered. The question is: how do we win at a game of Go in which we have been cornered?

(The matrix of control) works like the Japanese game of Go. Instead of defeating your opponent as in chess, in Go you win by immobilizing your opponent, by gaining control of key points of a matrix so that every time s/he moves s/he encounters an obstacle of some kind.

And this perhaps explains this brief interlude. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off again.

SPOOKS by E.M. Quangel


“I’m a journalist,” she said.

“No, you’re not. You’re a propagandist. People in your position lost the privilege to call themselves journalists long ago.”

“I tell important stories,” she insisted.

“You tell important stories, through your own eyes. Literally. The appeal of reading your stories is that you’re the one telling them, right? You crowd-fund trips abroad, you offer the most milquetoast analysis on the tamest of issues, and people buy it because you make them feel like they’re fighting The Man through you. But you’re not fighting The Man. You’re being used – being misled and misleading your followers as well.”

“You’re nuts.”

“They send you on an all-expenses paid vacation to a CIA black site where they torture and murder, where people like me disappear, and you are going to show everyone how transparent our government is while glossing over everything they won’t show you, leaving all the juicy parts out because you just good-faith assume people are going to tell you everything, because you’re so damn earnest and cute, right?”

“I blew the lid off the NYPD getting panthers.”

“You did not. But even then, a few days later, your source is off the street and in jail. You did all the footwork for the pigs, broadcasting everything about this guy to God knows who.”

“Menendez was selling heroin,” she said, her voice growing too quiet for the bar.

“Bullshit, he was one of the best organizers they had out there. And he thought he was doing something smart in talking to you.”

“How dare you.” Caroline was developing a furious flush.

“You’re all a bunch of fucking spooks. And look at your face. You don’t even know it.”

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