Archive for the 'Orwell' Category

Yet another wignut pundit claims Bush is a “socialist”

Yet another right-wing pundit last week claimed that Bush’ fascistic move to preserve the power and wealth of capitalists was actually “socialist.”

I can see that some people are having a difficult time understanding this, so let’s spell this out as clearly as I can:

Since we socialists can’t seem to agree on even the colour of shit, there are about as many different interpretations of socialism as there are socialists.  But the one thing that we have in common (along with some anarchists such as Noam Chomsky) is that we believe that the state can (and should) be used for a time to curtail the power of capitalists, to remove them from their position of ridiculous power and to redress the gross imbalance in wealth that they have accumulated for themselves while 18 million people (3 times 9/11) die globally every year due to poverty.

Fascists on the other hand believe in using the power of the state to preserve and enhance the power of capitalists (see, for instance, the collusion between Nazi Germany and the infamous Krupp family or Mussolini’s Corporatist régime) at the expense of workers.

I know, I know, it’s hard.  They both deal with the state AND capitalists!  It’s so confusing.  But here’s an easy mnemonic device to help remember the difference between the two for next time.

Saying that Bush’s fascist move this week is actually the same thing as “socialism” just because it involves the state and capitalists is a bit like saying that cancer-causing cigarettes are the same thing as chemotherapy because they both involve cancer and its spread.

~

See Also:

More proof that liberal economics is a radical right-wing ideology

The U.S. embargo against Cuba was never about ‘democracy’

“Day by day and almost minute by minute the past was brought up to date. In this way every prediction made by the Party could be shown by documentary evidence to have been correct; nor was any item of news, or any expression of opinion, which conflicted with the needs of the moment, ever allowed to remain on record.”
                                                                                           -George Orwell, 1984

castro.pngThe progressive blogosphere (or at least what passes for ‘progressive’ these days) are awash lately in discussions about Cuba and the sudden decision of Fidel Castro not to seek the office of President of Cuba in the upcoming election.

Everywhere in quasi-progressive press and blogs, people are finding the courage to ask:  Why is there still an embargo on Cuba?  The problem is not the question — in fact, the question is the correct one.  The problem is that the corporate press — from which the blogosphere generally takes its cues — has managed to cripple the debate by intentionally leaving out an important detail about the long-standing, crushing U.S. embargo against thebush-with-turkey-in-crotch.png tiny island nation.  Namely, the U.S. embargo against Cuba was never about ‘democracy’ or human rights and the U.S. officials at the time that the embargo was enacted, were open and frank about this fact.

But you wouldn’t be able to tell that from the media reports about the recent events in Cuba.

What follows is a small sample of media reports.

The Associated Press [AP] reports that:

Asked by reporters at the State Department if Washington planned to change its Cuba policy now that Castro has stepped down, Negroponte replied: “I can’t imagine that happening anytime soon.”

[…]

We would hope that the departure from the scene of Cuba’s long-ruling dictator Fidel Castro would allow for a democratic transition. … We would hope that his departure would begin this transition,” Casey told reporters.

But he added that the United States is troubled by signs that Cuba’s leadership envisions this as a “transfer of authority and power from dictator to dictator light—from Fidel to Raul.”

Still, he said the Bush administration remains willing to help support the Cuban people in a true transition to democracy. [emphasis added]

The New York Times ran a report which, despite standing at 686 words, only mentions the embargo on Cuba once and even then, only in a dismissive context.  The Times reported:

Mr. Castro, whose photograph looks down from billboards across the island, is both revered and reviled by Cubans. In criticizing him in public, Cubans stroke an imaginary beard instead of uttering his name and possibly running afoul of the authorities. Those who praise him most often cite his investments in education and health care, and they agree with him that the country’s economic woes are caused not by neglect from Mr. Castro but by the trade embargo imposed by Washington.

Huffington Post contributor Sarah Stephens wins the Orwellian prize for her piece, on two grounds:

#1) Stephens writes that South Africa’s post-Apartheid democracy was “born with the help of U.S. sanctions”.  This is the height or Orwellianism.  It was precisely the U.S. that supported economically and politically the racist Apartheid South African regime up until the very end when it became politically impossible to continue to do so.  In fact, Ronald Reagan openly called Nelson Mandela a “terrorist” and here in Canada, even as late as 2001, we still had elected Parliamentarians such as Rob Anders calling Mandela a “terrorist”.

#2) If you read through her piece, it is interesting to examine why she believes the embargo should be lifted.  The reasons why Stephens believes the embargo should be lifted are not because of the massive loss of life it has caused in Cuba (more on that below).  Rather, the reasons she believes they should be lifted are:

a) “the Cuba embargo sullies our image around the world”

b) “[the Cuba embargo] undermines the national interest [of America].”

c) “The embargo sacrifices the constitutional rights of U.S. citizens to travel.”

d) “[the Cuba embargo] trade sanctions cost U.S. businesses about $1 billion annually”

e) “[the Cuba embargo] den[ies] U.S. citizens access to vaccines and other medical treatments.”

f) “Enforcing the embargo drains [American] resources from the war on terror.”

Based on the above reporting, one could be forgiven for assuming that the embargo has #1) been reluctantly pursued in the interests of the Cuban people and democracy; #2) that only crazy pro-Castro communists believe that the hardships of the Cuban people are actually caused by the embargo; and #3) that the reasons the Americans should now lift the embargo is because it’s hurting Americans.

There is no need for conspiracy theories to debunk these claims that the embargo was designed to foster democracy.  Had any of the media outlets reported on the actual openly stated reasons for issuing the trade embargo — reasons given by U.S. government officials at the time, the reality would be all to obvious.

A brief history of the events leading up to this is illuminating:

viva-fidel.png1953-1960: Castro, contrary to popular belief now, but openly acknowledged at the time, was anti-Soviet during his revolution against the brutal U.S.-backed Batista regime.  Indeed his reform proposals were initially were pro-democratic and anti-Soviet.  (see, for instance, the work of Jules Benjamin and Noam Chomsky for more on this).

January, 1960:  The United States begins its first attempts to overthrow the popular Castro regime through assassination and, later, by invasion and terrorism, and re-install a client regime.

1960-1962:  The U.S., having now pushed the previously anti-Soviet Castro into the Soviet sphere, now begins to characterize Cuba as a threat to the United States (itself a laughable concept) by arguing it is a ‘proxy’ or ‘base’ of the Soviets 90 miles off the tip of Key West, Florida.  This, of course, ignores the fact that the U.S. was engaged in actions against Cuba as early as 1960 long before any Soviet relations had been established.  Noam Chomsky, in his work Hegemony or Survival writes:

Washington was concerned that Cubans might try to defend themselves. CIA chief Allen Dulles therefore urged Britain not to provide arms to Cuba. His “main reason,” the British ambassador reported to London, “was that this might lead the Cubans to ask for Soviet or Soviet bloc arms,” a move that “would have a tremendous effect,” Dulles pointed out, allowing Washington to portray Cuba as a security threat to the hemisphere, following the script that had worked so well in Guatemala. Dulles was referring to Washington’s successful demolition of Guatemala’s first democratic experiment, a ten-year interlude of hope and progress, greatly feared in Washington because of the enormous popular support reported by US intelligence and the “demonstration effect” of social and economic measures to benefit the large majority. The Soviet threat was routinely invoked, abetted by Guatemala’s appeal to the Soviet bloc for arms after the US had threatened attack and cut off other sources of supply. The result was a half-century of horror, even worse than the US-backed tyranny that came before.

jfk-on-phone.png1962: United States President John F. Kennedy orders a case of Cuban cigars for his own personal use.  Upon hearing that the cigars had reached U.S. territory, Kennedy promptly begins the embargo under the explicit justification that Soviet presence there posed a ‘grave’ threat to the United States.

1962-1990: The U.S. engages in decades of terrorism, bacteriological warfare and biological warfare against Cuba.  This ranges from the poisoning of the domestic Cuban pork and chicken supply, the attempted destruction of the Cuban cash crop: sugar, and the October 1976 bombing of a Cuban civilian airliner by Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles who currently live in the United States despite their terrorist past.   Cuba, having been denied its traditional markets for sugar export, becomes a ‘favoured export partner’ with the Soviet Union.

1991: The Soviet Union collapses.  Following this collapse, the entire stated justification for the Cuban sanctions are now officially satisfied.  Given the reason stated by the U.S. government for issuing the sanctions — Soviet threat — sanctions should now be lifted as there is no longer any Soviet threat in Cuba.

1992: The George H.W. Bush administration increases the sanctions.  Bill Clinton, running to unseat Bush in the election, also promises harsher sanctions.

1993: Average caloric intake in Cuba plummets by 1/3 in 4 short years.  (see Victoria Brittain, “Children die in agony as U.S. trade ban stifles Cuba.” The Guardian (U.K.), March 7, 1997)

1994: Mortality rates for Cubans over the age of 65 increase 15% over 2 years.

clinton.png1996: U.S. sanctions increased yet again under the Helms-Burton Act which U.S. President Bill Clinton gleefully signs into law.  The new harsher sanctions,  are now justified under the new, post-1990 mantra of ‘democracy’ — the same mantra which, if you read the press reports, you would believe was always the justification for the sanctions.  In fact, as Orwell famously wrote, this history must constantly be ‘brought up to date’ because any detailed look at the original justifications quickly discredits this contention.

1999: Severity of U.S. sanctions increased yet again under U.S. President Bill Clinton’s watchful eye.

2008:  Bloggers uncritically believe media’s insinuation that the embargo has always been about democracy and human rights.  Few liberals bother to research the topic.  Instead, they accept the premise and support ending the sanctions regime because it’s hurting the United States.  Conservatives take the matter further and support continuation of sanctions as a means of collective punishment, then turn around and deny that sanctions have any effect on the Cuban economy, but rather that Castro is to blame for all problems.  Socialist bloggers, anarchists and freethinkers are left staring at each other in disbelief.

See also:

Propaganda in Action (Series)

Che Guevara: Cuban revolutionary or puppy-eating serial murderer?

Kettle calls the teapot black: Bush calls Cuba “criminal”

On intellectual honesty and the Cuba debate

Idiocy doesn’t cease being idiocy because it’s published

Irony… sweet, sweet irony.

So, it turns out that Orwell, author of the futuristic dystopic novel “1984” about a government which spies on its citizens, was himself spied upon for long periods of time by his own government’s MI5 division.

Irony, thy name is politics.

“It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words”

“It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.”   -Orwell, 1984


I know I’ve been bringing up Orwell a lot more frequently as of late (see here, here, here and here), but when I came across this comment on reddit.com yesterday, my mind just screamed to me: “NEWSPEAK!  NEWSPEAK!  NEWSPEAK!”

The comment is:

“Progressives like to blame the greed of corporations. Libertarians like to blame the coercion of government. Progressives want democratic action to solve corporations, and end up giving a ton of power to the government.  Libertarians want the market to solve problems, and give a ton of power to corporations.

We need to get together and realize that elite power sucks regardless of where it originates. Progressives need to stop looking at the government as a benevolent solver of problems. Substitute libertarians for progressives and the market for the government.

What we need is a third way. I don’t even mean a third party, but a political consensus that acknowledges we need to be ever vigilant against elite power.  I think this consensus can be forged and maintained on the internet. I hope that the campaign of Ron Paul is only the start.” (source)

It isn’t that this particular writer is attempting to manipulate somebody.  Indeed, on the contrary,  think it is obvious that this writer is genuinely interested in progressing beyond the existing state of politics.  The reason why this comment is indicative of Newspeak, though, is that this person is writing as if he has just discovered for himself a ‘new’ idea for a political viewpoint when in fact, the idea for what he is talking about has existed for hundreds of years since at least the time of the so-called ‘Diggers’ in mid-17th Century England. The only problem is that, because of ‘Newspeak’ (for lack of a better word), the very essence and meaning of the word he seeks has been removed from political discourse and to the extent that it can be found in political discourse it is, just as Orwell predicted, taken to mean the exact opposite of what it actually means.

Orwell writes:

“Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it.”

So let’s see here: this writer is looking for some new ‘third way’ forward away from Conservatism and authoritarianism other than libertarianism and what the U.S. laughably considers to be ‘progressivism’.

Here is a graphical view of a standard 2-axis political orientation chart with the left-right economic spectrum horizontally and a vertical axis demarcating statism and state control versus anti-statism.  This is nothing new or revolutionary, but it is in a way, precisely its simplicity and commonality that illustrates the point I am trying to make better than anything else.

As you can see, there is a huge gaping hole in one quadrant.

For ease of reference and clarity, I’ve superimposed the position of various people onto this grid according to politicalcompass.org and other sources.

new-left-right-spectrum-people-2.png

While it is clear that every other ideology in the political compass grid is easily labeled (i.e., I could have easily gone into more detail and labeled the bottom right corner ‘Anarcho-Capitalism” and the top edge from roughly the centre to the far right as “fascism” and so on and so forth), it is true that, unlike all other quadrants on this grid, there is no one agreed upon word describing the bottom left quadrant (where Chomsky and I reside).

Chomsky himself alternates between calling it broadly “libertarian socialist” and “anarcho-syndicalist” (yes, I’m aware those are technically two different things, but I’m just talking insofar as a broad name for the quadrant goes).  I call it “True Marxism” or “True Progressivism”.  But there are also any number of other names for it:

-Anti-statist Communism (a redundant phrase as far as I’m concerned)
-Anarchist-Communism
-Trotskyism
-Post-Marxism (a term popularized by Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe)

So, in essence, Orwell’s fear of the ‘destruction of words’ has been realized.  Not only does the general populace not have a universally agreed-upon word to describe our ideas, but we ourselves can’t agree on a word for ourselves.  We are, quite literally, they who are without name.  We can no longer use the word Marxism — although it would quite technically be an accurate label for the quadrant broadly understood — because, just as Orwell predicted, it’s meaning in modern parlance has been inverted into its exact opposite.

In a world without a nomial label attached to these ideas, the consequences of which are illustrated beautifully by the comment above, it has become nearly impossible for people to even think revolutionary thoughts because the person has to derive them from scratch themselves without the advantage of their long and rich history.  And, even if they do derive these ideas from scratch, the problem remains about how to express these ideas to others without further cluttering up the nomenclature for such ideas.  Thus, I would argue that it has come to the point where our very existence, our very presence as individuals holding these ideas, has itself become a revolutionary act.

While I am crushed by capitalism,
I continue to breathe.  And so long as
I breathe, I continue to hope.  And it
is this hope that animates my struggle.

See Also:

War is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Ignorance is Strength

Our entire existence summed up in one cartoon

All that glitters is not golden

When does it start?

U.S. Presidential Candidates compared to Canadian political parties


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