I’m leaving again

Do you know what’s messed up? When 150,000 people are having their water shut off by capitalists in Detroit. The government there let it happen. People didn’t pay their water bills, so now they don’t get water.

I was born in a country where this happens.

There are camps set up on army bases right now in this country filled with thousands and thousands of children. They live behind barbed wire, they share a bathroom with 600 other kids. Most are children who are running from a brutal, US-backed coup in Honduras, where hundreds of children have been disappeared this year so far. Still, the white racists stand by the side of the road and hurl slurs and threats at these children as they are bussed in.

Many of the people I love live here.

The homeless are miserable, sick, need help and a place to stay. Every day on the train, the collective cringes as “Ladies and gentlemen,” loudly interrupts everyone’s game of solitaire. There are over 60,000 homeless in New York City, where the average rent is over $3,000 per month. There are around 23,000 homeless children in the same city that shelters all the banks, the NYSE. The New York Times.

So I’m leaving again.

Honestly, it makes me a little crazy living here. I need a break, and I have the opportunity to go elsewhere, doing something that makes me feel useful. Not that I didn’t feel useful organizing or working in publishing. I learned a lot. I met amazing people and stood in solidarity with them. I wrote a book. But my heart is in hiding here, it’s too painful right now. I was born here and my family lives here, but this government makes me crazy and I have to go for a minute. There are hardships elsewhere but I feel like I do better and work more effectively elsewhere for the time being.

I was heartened to meet so many amazing comrades, who all do such hard work. I will do what I can. I’m leaving my books here, so I’ll be back.

Nobody Politics

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You may learn in time that “activism” and militancy is the highest stage of alienation.

Do you really think it matters whether you “oppose” imperialism or not. Your yelling and “loud” opposition is utterly ineffectual and impotent.

She’s a bit too “enthusiastic“. I think she’s slightly over-estimating her self-importance and that of those she associates with.

What is a troll? Accused of anonymity and distasteful disagreement, a troll is a nobody. Nobodies inhabit the earth in billions, just numbers on a census, silenced from debate and discourse. A troll is a nobody who goes against what good nobodies are supposed to be doing: acquiescing, marching behind somebodies, those unique souls imbued with a sense of authority by the powers that be. This class of somebodies include tenured professors, experts, pundits, image-conscious journalists, celebrities and politicians.

I laughed when Professor Rechtenwald left the above paternalist comments on my recent essay on the urgent necessity of anti-imperialism. I currently pay for a shared studio with vermin on a street where people are murdered, I make $15 an hour as a temp in New York; no one has to tell me I’m alienated. I do not disagree that militancy and activism are results of alienation. Word on the street is that this is how revolutionaries live: cut off from all sorts of things, certainly from the teat of NYU positions. But his comments got me thinking about unimportant nobodies versus very important somebodies, and I’d like to make some comments about nobody politics.

As much as anyone wants to beat up on Stalin and Mao for “cults of personality”, we have a strange blind spot towards our utterly bizarre celebrity culture.

Celebrity is a gorgeous date for neoliberalism. The cult of the individual manifests itself as worshiping the individual traits of those we have never met or spoken with. We need to see cellulite, we need to read interviews, we need to breathlessly pour over family photos of intimate gatherings on their timelines. This cult of celebrity is encouraged by and exists for the purposes of capitalism. Celebrities mean celebrity endorsements, of course, but they also foster a sense of individual worship. The difference between Stalin and an American celebrity is that Stalin was seen as the embodiment of the Soviet Union and its values, while we love our celebrity because of her individual qualities, namely her saucy attitude, sizzling hot fashion sense, and her performances for us – be they on stage or on Instagram. Stalin never posed for centerfolds, he never gave out fashion tips or spoke about his family and personal relationships at length. He was a portrait, a ghost of an actual individual, an iconic face that meant nothing to most of us on an individual scale.

For sure, our present ruler in the United States indulges in this celebrity, playing to memes or appearing on ironic hipster webisodes. But mainly, we eat up our information from the New York Times op-ed pages. We are told how to think about things by columnists that indoctrinate us with capitalism’s smokescreens and lies, revealing just as much about themselves in the process. These are important people. This pundit class that gets asked to speak and sign autographs are very important people. Their opinions are considered authoritative and valid. They must be smarter, more hardworking than all of us. They must have access to different, better information. After all, they are there for a reason, no?

Much of the authority bestowed on us by capitalism correlates to our socio-economic status and relationship to the means of production. Law makers, politicians, professors, millionaires – by and large these actors come from a certain class, and are generally white and male. What then, of the other voices we see represented  – who are they meant to appeal to? Like the indigene begging for NATO intervention, feminists incessantly speaking about sex work, the person of color arguing that we are in a post-racial society: celebrity pundits must also appeal to power.

I wrote on this about a year back. I wrote about American radicalism and the sacrifices that had to be offered to count yourself among the likes of Assata Shakur, Malcolm X, Fred Hampton, John Brown, Bill Haywood, and others. I wrote that the person embraced and encouraged along by the imperialist machine would be suspect, because being an actual radical can be fatal. There are dead workers buried all over this country from crushed strikes that are testimony, among others in unmarked graves. But now there are radicals who promote Pussy Riot, who cheer on the bombing of Libya, who hustle hard for imperialism, who endorse products. Radicals who make lots of money on the stock market and buy brownstones (oh, maybe they give some of their money away, but probably not to the Naxalites). These people also happen to be Somebodies. They are pulled in towards the heart of Empire and so are rewarded not just with wealth and power, but also a platform to speak from. This is somebody politics.

But let’s talk about nobody politics. On the other end of the spectrum, we have those who are hungry, those who are poor and frustrated. These are nobodies. These are the alienated. They are the ones who die under NATO bombs. They are the ones vaccinated without giving informed consent, their signatures forged. These are the youth, the people of color, the poor. They are nobodies. Their voices are seen as insignificant.  Their opposition to imperialism and capitalism is, as Professor Rechtenwald tells me, meaningless, utterly ineffectual and impotent. The militant activists are alienated, not important.  Nobody politics are for nobodies. Somebody politics are for somebodies. So, if you’re a nobody, why not try shilling somebody politics for a change? It may even result in a respite from the alienation, may help one bootstrap their way into a book deal or high-paying job.

Or not. As the numbers tell us, opportunity for youth, people of color, and other oppressed communities is nonexistent compared to the exciting lives of our favorite celebrities. They jet around the world on company money, endorse products for easy cash, and spend an awful lot of time reinforcing to us how empire is blameless and there’s really no other way that things could be. You get the freelance journalists hustling for a staff position. You get the academics hustling for a book deal. You get a lot of hustle from lawmakers, artists – in fact let’s just call then “somebodies” – for just straight-up payoffs and bribes.

Meanwhile, the nobodies hustle for rent, debt, and hospital bills. In fact, the more of a nobody they are, the more they owe, the more they “hustle”. The nobodies hate capitalism. The nobodies hate imperialism. The nobodies hate racism, the nobodies hate sexism. The nobodies hate poverty. They hate hustling. Nobodies want free housing, education, healthcare, food and guaranteed employment. They hide their faces or don’t speak up because they know what they want goes against what those in power want for them. If they are too loud with their discontent, there is a crackdown, minute pressure points in society the people in power can press, releasing spurts of misogyny, racism, xenophobia, and mass incarceration. The somebodies know how to shut nobodies like me up – that’s how they stay in power.

So I laughed when Professor Rechtenwald tried to do me a favor and remind me how unimportant I am. Yes, professor: I have bed bugs, rats, a low-paying temp job, tens of thousands in debt, and unstable access to healthcare. Everything in my life serves to remind me of my unimportance, my alienation. I get it. I’m a nobody. And I live on a street in a neighborhood full of nobodies. A city and country, a world full of nobodies. I write under a pseudonym and I hide my face, among other reasons, because there really is nothing so special about me. I’m not important. Not much unique. I’m just one of many gunning for your class, gender, sexual, and racial privilege with my politics, which I have decided to speak up about. I’m not a celebrity, not quirky and sexy and talented and nodding along with empire, I’m a nobody. Now, move along. We’re talking nobody politics with other nobodies.

Let’s talk discipline

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Our world is in crisis and we have no idea how to confront it. We are groping in the dark, often alone in our concern. The radical groups that gather to organize are small, timid, and fleeting. Noncommittal. Meanwhile, the terror grows. Massive NATO wargames in the Baltic. Fascists on the march in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, South and Central America. Here, even, in the United States; widespread anti-immigration and chauvinist sentiment, millions of economic refugees coupled with worsening conditions for all of us: decaying infrastructure, a welfare state hacked to pieces, the evaporation of jobs that pay a living wage. And the rich get richer, of course, but what else? The left, the actual last vestiges of the left worldwide, is being wiped out. Red activists thrown from windows or chased underground, into hiding. Assassinations in Greece, the dismantling of the PFLP in Palestine, a possible final assault against the Naxalites in India, raids of activists houses, arrests, disappearances. Mass incarceration in the imperial core. Extralegal prisons and kill lists. Weaponized, remote controlled airplanes, deployed in dozens of countries. Massive foundations run by billionaires such as Bill Gates wreck the people of the global south, destroying infrastructure and forcibly sterilizing and killing women and girls as test subjects and foreign markets for poison. The KKK is arming itself. These things are happening; the situation isn’t comparable to any other we have faced.  Chemical weapons, poisoned food and water, a planet that is crumbling around us. There is also the surveillance state, ever-present in our homes, our pockets: all of our data, photos, communications, purchases, deepest secrets, now all cataloged and ready to be used against us. And the protest movements in the West seem more determined to overthrow foreign governments targeted by US-NATO than to overthrow capitalism.

So when I start to speak about conspiracy here, about propaganda, psyops and intelligence, I hope you will cut me some slack. We have to admit that there is a ruling class, that its purpose on this planet is to accumulate more capital at the expense of the workers. As we have seen, they will do anything to ensure this. They will rape, murder, plunder, lie, cheat, steal, whatever. We should be able to agree on this before proceeding.

To connect the worsening situation abroad to the one at home is risky business, because it is something that has strong potential to heighten political consciousness and rally the people. The United States is not going to willingly let go of its power worldwide. Fascism is capitalism in crisis. When we can no longer be controlled by our more basic needs and desires, fascism comes along to make every space hostile towards organizing against the capitalist state. It can contain popular resistance on a very micro-level. Walking outside and seeing that everyone already has you in their sights will check your behavior. So too will thinking somewhere in the back of your head that your communications are being monitored or at least stored somewhere, if not by the government, then by Google or your bank.

So maybe this is part of the reason why nobody shows up to meetings, or if to meetings, then not to street action. After all, despite this growing sense of urgency and fear in our stomachs, the media assure us that all is relatively well. Even the leaks about our surveillance program are meted out in bite-sized chunks, celebrated with much fanfare, rolled out with showman style. We go home and scratch our heads as nothing happens – what did all of those fireworks really mean? Like “Big Brother is Watching You” signs, we are being told quite frankly that our communications are monitored. What is missing from the leaks is our new COINTELPRO. But we know the cops are busy. We know mercenaries are all the rage nowadays, and corporate spies as well, so why even just constrain ourselves to the CIA and FBI? When there is a crackdown, we should be ready. And we should be aware that a crackdown is coming. It doesn’t matter how ineffectual or small the Left might be, we will see a crackdown anyway – that’s how this works.

So why are we giggling when there is a panel at Left Forum called “Zizek must be destroyed“? The facts are clear. Molly Klein invites us to consider the possibility that the Left is being targeted for infiltration and destruction. Is that so much to ask? I heard someone walk out of the panel huffing, “Well, I know Zizek is a racist, but that’s just crazy.” Are you kidding me? If Zizek is a racist, if he supports ethnic cleansing, if he sides 100% of the time with an imperialist agenda, if he spends much of his efforts presenting a grotesque caricature of a “Marxist” and misattributing Goebbels quotes to actual revolutionary Marxists, shouldn’t we be concerned? Apparently, a time of dark reaction such as this is the wrong time to consider the possibility.

Likewise, if a woman who has taken money from some of the more powerful foreign-policy shapers on the stage today – Al Jazeera, Open Society, Freedom House, New America Foundation – suddenly decides, 24 hours after the first decent anti-imperialist article has run in Jacobin magazine, to slander all the masthead and yes, even the “Left” itself, with allegations of supporting rape, shouldn’t we pause and think on that? Considering our circumstances, shouldn’t we at least consider the possibility? When national security advisors and contractors start to chime in, isn’t that weird? Molly Crabapple, a cheerleader for NATO intervention on many fronts, also participates in this labeling of the Left as rapist and misogynist (if not just jealous of her success). Of course, this is a woman who receives all-expenses paid trips to Guantanamo Bay and forgets to mention the murder and torture coverups covered in Harper’s, and whose partner and room mate (Fred Harper, pictured) is quite literally an Army propagandist. Taking these sorts of people into our conversations on good faith is the same as allowing an oil-industry showman to enter the debate on climate change – they have a vested interest in obscuring the truth, which they do. They are not revolutionaries. Their place here is too comfortable, too dependent on the status quo. We must not forget that the ruling class does not value honest debate – there are millions of dead bodies that can testify to this – and they will only enter into it when they see a tactical advantage.

I have a hefty bag full of complaints about the Jacobin “Brand” and its DSA style publication, its political posturing and its entrepreneurial propaganda, it’s misogynist mishaps and its unreliable grasp of history, but even I cannot help but notice it’s sometimes the best we’ve got in terms of widespread organization and messaging. And so, if someone comes punching left, I’ll take the opportunity to throw myself behind a party I don’t feel so hot about, because I realize the fash are coming. We have to hold the line until we get our act together.

It’s necessary to buy time and space while harrying the enemy: US-NATO imperialism, capitalism and its disciplining of resistance. I wish people would stop seeing this as a battle of egos and leadership positions – leader of what, really? – and instead come at this like we need communism yesterday. We need an end to imperialism now. We need this system yanked from the walls and we need the people of this world, this planet itself, to survive until we can get our acts together. So we shouldn’t take part in these games, and we shouldn’t be seduced into thinking we can all get tenured positions and six figure book deals. The folks with the tenured positions and six figure book deals have them for a reason, and it sure ain’t because they have a strong line on anti-imperialism.

Assess our global and local situation with a rational mind, as if you’re looking back, reading up on it in a history book. Divorce yourself from the equation. If someone suggests something that sounds conspiratorial, don’t laugh. Listen and learn. Even the craziest person speaks some degree of truth. Realize that the enemy’s technological capabilities are almost beyond imagination. Remember that our government is a pay-to-play system. Recognize that the planet and its lower 85% are stewing in pain and misery. Just because the television and internet say that our situation is mostly a bed of roses doesn’t mean it actually is. That’s propaganda. To get on stage and speak the truth would not get you killed necessarily, but it will get you laughed off, shut down and shunned.

Someone claims they think their calls are being monitored, they take their battery out of their phone when they talk to you. This will earn you oh really? smiles. To suggest that Zizek is a part of a greater imperial project and attack against the Left will earn you laughter and nasty drooling from old rich men. To suggest that a sudden, vicious attack against Jacobin magazine (after they published their first solid anti-imperialist article might I add! Good show.) that possibly more than a million viewers read is possibly a coordinated operation is going to make people embarrassed to be seen with you. But hey, considering the fact that Leftist youth are being kidnapped, assassinated, murdered, physically and mentally intimidated worldwide right now, while pretty much ALL other youth is further immiserated, unable to focus on much more but a livelihood, maybe it’s actually not so much of a stretch to think there may be those with less than helpful agendas among us? And to consider that the FBI regularly entraps vulnerable or mentally ill Muslims, targets antiwar and peace activists, prosecutes disaffected youth more stringently than rightwing terrorists, makes it clear an organized crackdown does not need to be legitimated by an organized threat.

And yes, as a young red, you actually have a great deal of responsibility and opportunity to fix this situation. But first and most importantly, properly situation yourself within history and your current environmental conditions. This includes taking full stock of what’s around you, what could be happening. We should operate fearlessly as much as we can while realizing that yes, we will be subject to pressures for doing so. What is most important, though, is to have each other’s backs. We have disagreements about all sorts of things, but when the fash is bearing down on us, I’m going to put off my sectarian arguments  until we’re in the clear. When I see them punching left, I will punch right. When they punch down, I will punch up. It’s the least I can do to hold the line under such conditions.

Related:

In Praise of Conspiracy Theory: http://www.midnightnotes.org/pdf00010wages.pdf
Dissent Commodities: http://fables-of-faubus.com/n+1
Zizek Delenda Est: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IrEJW3INm58
Take Your Drip and Stick It! http://ohtarzie.wordpress.com/2013/09/10/fuck-the-guardian-take-your-drip-and-stick-it/
Unity of the Working Class against Fascism:  https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/dimitrov/works/1935/unity.htm

 

 

 

somatophobia IV: consumer-oriented ideology

Does everyone feel so replaceable?

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First introduced in 2010 after nearly a decade of development, the Roxxxy line now includes RoxxxyGold, RoxxxySilver, and RoxxxyPillow, as well as Rocky. Only RoxxxyGold comes equipped with a ‘personality,’ although RoxxxySilver will talk during sex. RoxxxyPillow, the least expensive model, is only the torso, head, and three ‘inputs’ – vagina, anus, and mouth. Unlike the other models, which are full-sized, RoxxxyPillow can be tucked away discreetly when not in use.

from Leah Reich

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Forty bucks and a car with a front seat can get you sucked off. But you want someone … nice. Pretty. “Classy.” Innocent enough. You’re a tech guy. You want a Stanford girl.

The good news: Cute, bored, slightly-short-on-cash Stanford girls are a dime a dozen. Plus $200 to $300 up front. But it’s not an easy thing, the blowjob. Here’s a step-by-step guide.

from Melissa Gira Grant

On the urgent necessity of anti-imperialism

Many of the youth coming into the anti-imperialist movement today seem genuinely confused about what imperialism is – what it smells like. Off the top of my head, I can think of two reasons why this is. First, popular cultural American portrayals of imperialism focus mainly on nostalgic representations of Victorian society. As the United States is engaged at the height of its imperialism, this does not surprise me. While the empire’s enslaved may be mostly absent from films like Sherlock Holmes, there is a common cultural nostalgia for the fashion and manner of being of the Victorian era. This corresponds with the presentation of imperialism in most American history textbooks, such as when children are taught about the British Empire. Americans struggle to connect their present day culture with that of one hundreds of years ago elsewhere in the world. This makes imperialism, like fascism, something that happened in the past that is no longer with us, though still something we are culturally inundated with through Victorian nostalgia.

I believe the second main reason for the misunderstanding of imperialism is an association between anti-imperialism and broader anti-war activism. Anti-war positions and anti-imperialism, while sometimes coexisting in each other’s spaces, are not equivalent. To many in the anti-war camp, so long as there are no American boots on the ground, no official “war” so to speak, there is no need to fret. So long as the people in mysterious places abroad are accepting the tremendous amount of American aid money with smiles and open hands, we should not see imperialism here. We should instead see the Millennium Development Goals. Only when the fever pitch of war is at its height and the need to win over the American population the most essential do we see women blowing kisses at US soldiers on their way to Baghdad – clear propaganda. Otherwise, the smiles come from women showing off their ink-stained fingers after voting in an election made possible by  US-NATO  intervention – propaganda largely unchallenged. Because there is a near-complete absence in the discourse on what imperialism actually is, there is much confusion. Clarification is needed.

It is in this light that I would like to respectfully respond to Matthijs Krul’s article on imperialism and anti-imperialism.

I hope that many of my comrade scholars and organizers can agree that foreign aid money, not limited to the NED and other so-called democracy-building organizations, represents a rather naked form of imperialism. In fact, there is already a discipline to study this type of phenomenonit is called development. Anyone still paying attention knows that the planet is currently facing a number of challenges, from climate change to human safety. From hunger to diseases and illiteracy. The core issue, however, is one of poverty. Any number of development economists, such as Harvard professor and millionaire Amartya Sen, write extensively on this topic. The focus of all development work is basically the same: how to fix the problems that imperialism has wrought upon the world? But instead of attacking imperialism as the main perpetrator of the above conditions, the development economist hopes to find a way that will solve these problems while keeping capitalism intact. This may be out of an ideological commitment to capitalism, but is just as likely adopted because of the desire to give their plans teeth. Without the financial and logistical backing of the Pentagon and the US-NATO capitalist class, such development might never take place. Alternative modes of development that find success just as often find themselves staring down the barrel of a gun, as the powers that be and their relentless appetite for markets decide to drop bombs when their aid packages and foreign direct investment are not accepted.

This is why anti-imperialism is not simply about drones and boots on the ground, but also about the incredible lengths the class protected by US-NATO goes to shape the  conditions in which decisions about governance are made. A country such as Iran may be relatively untouched by imperialism in a direct way, as far as shock-and-awe or billion-dollar investments  are concerned, but the active proliferation of these mechanisms on their border affect their decision-making. They have agency, certainlyas does technically everyone on earth, but this agency is informed by the surrounding environment. One may have the choice between a noose or pills with which to kill oneself, but one hardly chooses the chronic unemployment, crushing debt, poverty, desperation and loneliness mediated by ubiquitous capitalist atomization.

So, the activist’s new rallying cry is “Hands off!” because imperialism isn’t just about bombs and guns, but hands that go into people’s pockets and livelihoods, into their voting booths, hands that seize their hopes for the future. Madeline Albright and others from the US-NATO’s pack of imperialist running dogs attended to the recent elections in Ukraine. She and other international observers assured us that the election was legitimate. Aside from the fact that the US-backed junta banned communist parties (as they have in Palestine and countless other places), we should also consider that gangs of armed fascists that were funded by American money and manned by US-NATO mercenaries terrorized the Ukrainian people. This included not just communists, but a broad coalition of people who were against a legislative agenda that called itself a “Kamikaze government” due to the ‘unpopular decisions that needed to be made’ for the sake of austerity. In Syria, the United States government calls the upcoming elections prematurely invalid because of the “conditions” within which such elections would take place, and while the US government called the elections in Crimea prematurely invalid because of alleged Russian interference, there was no outcry or allegations of a prematurely invalid election when Madeline Albright was the one confirming the veracity of the polling sites in Ukraine. This is precisely because the conditions under which the election takes place were already heavily influenced and endorsed by the United States. It’s impossible to say that elections in Syria will not be affected by the Americans. But the fact that the sitting Syrian government is on the ballot is precisely the reason why the United States calls it illegitimate. When the election was between alleged “warlords” in Libya, the United States did not object because it had already removed the most direct threat to its influence. After the new government, set up by the  rebel groups funded and armed by the CIA, disappointed, Washington sent tanks rolling again to Benghazi, this time led by their own man from Langley. Imperialism is what sets the conditions for agency.

The fact that the United States and Russia are armed with enough nuclear weapons to destroy civilization many times over, the fact that we are facing a global catastrophe of epic proportions as the climate is radically transformed, these are all conditions that are both caused by capitalism and, at the same time, required by capitalism to subjugate the people of the earth. The main problem (contradiction) is that the constant immiseration of imperialism leads to eruptive civil unrest. This encourages another facet, what we call development, which is focused on delivering heaping spoonfuls of aid to the people who face their misery due to the present system. And yet, the people can’t get aid without first subjugating themselves to imperialism on a legislative and economic level. Each spoonful of aid comes with a truck full of this kind of poisonous influence. Each spoonful gives way to a feeding tube.

Now on to Matthijs Krul’s criticisms. He presents what me and many of my comrades see as a straw man of anti-imperialism. When the protesters shout “No Blood for Oil!” they are not speaking simply as if the United States is going to gobble up all the oil in Iraq. “No Blood for Oil” signifies something more important. As Harvey writes: control of the world’s oil supply and prices is what really matters. With a jackboot on the spigot, the United States-NATO suddenly commands not just the military capabilities of countries that do not have the same bottomless checkbook as the US-NATO, but also the rate of development for many countries. In this light, it is quite legitimate to use this slogan. And if the average protester does not understand wholly the conditions of the world petroleum market, how it works, they are still taking a correct stance against US Imperialism; that is: to condemn it.

There are those who are against certain US-NATO conflicts or intervention, but not all. This is a problem of educating people about imperialism. It warmed my heart to have attended recent meetings and marches in New York against US imperialism, where slogans were chanted in solidarity with several different fronts, not just one in particular. This is because anti-imperialism is not about weighing certain situations against others. It is a broad line. Demanding that people have room to organize without the oppressive conditions US-NATO puts down is the first, important step.

Anti-imperialists based in the United States should not be taking equal time to condemn countries facing the brunt of US-NATO military and economic power. Certainly, there are things to criticize about foreign governments, even things to criticize about all governments as they are currently structured. But behind each government that is allowed to exist on this planet is the background of the world imperialist system. Therefore these issues, such as the continued gender apartheid in Saudi Arabia for instance, are implicitly supported as a way to keep the situation conducive. The United States does not presently take decisive action in a number of fronts not because it doesn’t have the passive consent of the American population, but rather because it is taking different means to an end, using tactics that are more effective, clandestine and (most of all) profitable. When US-NATO takes action in a theater of war or strife in a decisive way, it’s because it is something worth investing in.

Before we proceed: we simply cannot equivocate this stage of US-NATO imperialism to those before the collapse of the Soviet Union. We should look at the present stage objectively. In this stage of imperialism, there is no threat that significantly checks imperialism such as the Soviet Union. The last minor remaining threats to complete US-NATO domination are currently being brought to heel. That which remains of the Soviet Union are hardly ideal models for governance, but US-NATO imperialism has helped decisively shape those very models. Whatever remains of elevated working conditions and a basic standard of living must be eradicated. Imperialism would rather eliminate any traces of a dictatorship of the proletariat. This is why countries such as North Korea, which experience frequent brown and blackouts, are portrayed as existential threats to US-NATO in films such as the Red Dawn remake, or in alarmist propaganda in the news media. These countries may not be much compared to the great power of the US-NATO armies, but they might be able to spur something of a larger challenge, and imperialism cannot abide it.

To call out Marxist-Leninists in the same language imperialist running dog Thomas Friedman assigns to Arabs – “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” – is a straw man. Marxist-Leninist anti-imperialist groups are clear that one should provide moral support to regimes facing the onslaught of US imperialism, but they are hardly ignorant, brainwashed, or naive.

To Marxist-Leninist anti-imperialists, the main condition that prevents the rising of the working class is the violent exploitation, terror, and flat-out murder of working people worldwide. Imperialism first and foremost seeks to strangle these sorts of uprisings in their cradle. As Lenin writes in To The Rural Poor, the people need space to organize in order to make socialism possible. And as we can see by the conditions  worldwide, historically and in the present era, US-NATO influence precludes that space. Whether it is bombing infrastructure, training intelligence services and officer corps, or hand-picking cabinet members, the space for people to think, dream and plan a dictatorship of the proletariat are strangled by imperialism.

This is not an issue we can safely situate in countries halfway across the world – the United States itself is filled with oppressed nations living under the yoke of imperialism, and we have seen their constant oppression, especially with regards to working class or anti-imperialist movements. Untold millions of undocumented workers provide a source for murderous exploitation while African Americans, dragged from the African continent in chains and enslaved for nearly half a millennia, are routinely imprisoned, impoverished, and murdered with impunity.

We must, as Lenin says, fight to achieve this space for organization. We cannot equivocate the governments of US-NATO with those on the periphery. One bloc is focused on a global campaign of domination and subjugation and is armed to the teeth. The others are its shopping list: Syria, Venezuela, Russia, Honduras, North Korea, Ecuador, Ukraine. We really cannot scientifically equivocate here, and we shouldn’t be wasting time contorting ourselves in all sorts of bizarre positions to try and do so. The equation is simple, far from the “realist” view of international relations that anti-imperialists are accused of. No Blood for Oil! Hands off!

The goal for Americans should be to try to hobble the greatest threat to building a better world. This means being loud and unequivocal about our dissent. There will always be those cheerleaders for capital that dredge up dirty laundry and horror stories for the nightly news from fronts across the world, reasons why we should only be passive against imperialism. Anti-imperialism can’t earn the trust of oppressed peoples worldwide by speaking out against imperialism while parroting the talking points of the imperialists. As Audre Lorde said, we cannot destroy the master’s house using the master’s tools. They are tainted, exist only to serve the master.

The “Made in USA” brand earns distrust and resentment worldwide, it’s time we started to speak out against it, trash it. Those who count themselves as revolutionary anti-imperialists know that history text books are falsified, and they know that Victorian nostalgia is window dressing for deplorable crimes. What is needed is a program and organizational strategy towards mass education, an education that connects the plight of the worker here to the plight of the worker in sweatshops abroad, to those workers under fire by US-NATO weapons, those workers who struggle under US-NATO influence. We must have uncompromising solidarity with those people fighting against US-NATO domination or aggression and must insist that at this time, a country founded on dispossession, genocide, slavery, operating on the threat of nuclear weapons and the eradication of people’s movements worldwide has no place to determine the legitimacy of elections, much less determine the ‘superior’ system of government or economies.

This does not mean you need to support the atrocities of these besieged places, the mistakes they make, or the tragedies they oversee. There is a way to denounce and disassociate oneself without doing a favor for imperialism. But it is not alright to be on the side of the imperialists, and that means calling out propaganda for what it is. I’d never heard a supposed communist, even a concerned “leftist” call out the imperialist crimes of Muammar Ghadaffi before Libya was squarely in the imminent sights of US-NATO bombs. When anti-imperialists call out US-NATO support for the tyrannical governments of the Gulf States, they should do so only to expose the fact that US-NATO dictates the conditions in which such tyrannical governments exist – not to point out our alleged “hypocrisy” (Really, there is none!) towards human rights issues. Human rights are the wedge used by imperialism to pry open stubborn mouths to those feeding tubes of aid, arms and influence. If the good of humanity was truly US-NATO’s concern, we should find this current system of world domination immediately dismantled to allow socialism to be built. This is what we must be calling for as anti-imperialists. We do not shout for the end of imperialism and with the same breath embrace its inevitability. We do not shout to end imperialism because we want things to remain the same. We do not accept the conditions built around us. Ending imperialism will bring an opportunity to break this path towards ruination and immiseration, which US-NATO is invested in blazing at all costs.

Male sexual entitlement: It’s deadly!

Women dropped like flies last night in California. Behind the trigger was a 22 year old male who hated the female sex. To him, women were not fully human beings. To him, they were “beasts”, animals that did not clamor to worship him. They were not acting like the girls he saw in pornography, not like the girls he saw on the billboards, not how the world told him women should be. In a world where male sexual entitlement is sold alongside consumer goods, alongside war and white supremacy, alongside popular culture, it should not surprise us that a man who felt deprived of his God-given right to pussy felt like he needed to punish somebody. If he doesn’t get it, it’s not his fault. It’s hers. From his own words:

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This mentality is deadly. It would be impossible to quantify the number of female bodies piled up on the alter of male sexual entitlement. An atrocity like the one last night in California is the truest definition of terrorism. This is the kind of violence that keeps the female sex in check. Schizophrenic demands: warned since birth about rape, getting knocked up, she must also face the demand that she is sexually desirable and available at all times. She must be attractive, nice to look at – not old, not fat. Fertile and warm. Her flesh is exposed, it is sold for money. Her virginity goes to the highest bidder. She thinks she is a full human being, but is treated as an object. She is told to monetize her hotness and also told to keep her knees closed. It is l’origine du monde that sets her apart. The harassment, the unwanted touching is her fault, the original sin of her birth. Constantly under attack, if she is on the wrong side of a bullet walking down the street on a warm California night, this is just another load she is told to bear. And no matter how well she bears it, it’s never enough to avoid violence.

Briefly glancing at the “customer reviews” posted at The Invisible Men Project shows us the type of male sexual entitlement that feminists are expected to underwrite nowadays. Somehow taking our exploitation into our own hands – if we happen to be high class pretty young things anyway –  is supposedly empowering. There have been women from here to the beginning of the human species who thought to negotiate their position in society by harnessing their own sexual exploitation, but even Anne Boleyn has a story to tell you about that. At the end of the day, this mentality puts the onus once again back on women as being responsible for their own safety. It doesn’t matter if the women murdered at UC-Santa Barbara were extra careful at parties, never drank too much or too little, never showed too much skin but just enough, never asked for it but never made men feel uncomfortable by virtue of their rejection. It doesn’t matter at all, because at the end of the day they were murdered anyway. Male sexual entitlement caught up with them, and it didn’t matter who they were as people, just who they were to this monster: women.

Nice girls don’t get into politics: on the sentencing of Cecily McMillan

I once told my grandfather about what I was reading in school. I was reading Emma Goldman at the age of twenty. I thought he could appreciate it somehow; his father was an organizer with the IWW, blacklisted and imprisoned for it. Instead he turned, touched my hair in a tender way, and told me that “Nice girls don’t get into politics.” 

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Yesterday, Cecily McMillan was given a sentence of 90 days in prison and 5 years of probation. For the trial, McMillan and her defense portrayed her as an antithesis to the caricature of the “smelly hippy” protester. McMillan also said from the stand that she was not a communist. She wore pearls to the trial and portrayed herself as a normal, reasonable, smiling woman. From this portrayal and towards the logical end of the trial itself, in addition to probation and jail time, she was given the order to attend mandatory mental health counseling.

Ulrike Meinhof was murdered in her cell by the West German government. A mother, Meinhof was berated for abandoning her family to take up the cause of guerilla war. After her death, an autopsy was performed, and she was said to have a tumor in her brain that, according to her captors and murderers, must have contributed in some way towards her political beliefs and actions. Simply put: a white woman who objects or acts in self-defense against a society that worships the body parts of white women is seen as crazy, not nice. She needs mental health counseling, brain surgery, a good fuck to get better.   

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To avoid a draconian sentence of 2-7 years for defending herself against police violence, McMillan was forced to forgo her radicalism and appear as non-threatening and complacent to the system that put her in Rikers as possible. McMillan very emphatically said she was not a communist. She said that she had protested alongside cops in the past. She dressed up in normie drag: white pearls, make-up, very professional, very smart. More importantly, her defense atomized the incident, making the trial less about the repressive state violence used to crush a legal, non-violent protest, and more about an individual (herself) responding to another individual (Grantely Bovell) who grabbed her breast. The defense was not interested as portraying her as emblematic – they strategically broke down the situation into bite-sized individual pieces that the jurors and the judge were more likely to swallow. 

The defense strove to make McMillan appear as a sane, well spoken, middle class lover of humanity. And she is. But despite all of this, she was still sentenced to jail time and 5 years probation, with the bourgeois state that did such violence against her now having a very active and constant presence in her life for years to come. Most importantly, she will be psychologically evaluated and treated by the very machine of horror she protested against. Any traces of a larger social experience must be erased from her mind. The state of New York makes the case that if she really is a pearl-wearing, cop-respecting white cis woman, she must need psychological treatment in order to retake her social place in good standing. If she has PTSD from living under capitalism, from being beaten by the police, she must learn to accept that it was her fault with the way her mind worked – after all, she was found guilty. The bourgeois state sees her as broken, malformed somehow. Instead of the bourgeois state itself and it’s mechanisms of violence coming under scrutiny and re-evaluation, it is she who must be reformed and made whole by bourgeois justice. 

The pig who assaulted her, meanwhile, is vindicated in his action. He will probably receive a promotion. 

Somatophobia pt. III

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Do you think Glass will change how artists perceive their own art, if they use it? 

Molly Crabapple: Drawing while wearing Glass is incredibly distracting. You keep having this Pavlovian drive to look at the little image on the glowing cube, as opposed to the big world in front of you, which is really one of the downfalls of mobile tech in general. When it’s hacked to run uStream, the little image in the Glass is the same as what’s in front of me in the real world — and I find myself wanting to look at that little image.

Are there going to be contact lenses in 10 years that use facial recognition to tie people to their Facebook accounts?

Was it hard to narrow your focus to exclude the Glass? And, if so, do you think that it’s going to be difficult for others as well? 

Crabapple: Very hard. I think that’s the point: to colonize daily life and make it seamless with the network. Even the term “Explorers Program” is unintentionally sinister. Explorers historically haven’t been neutral. They’ve been the shock troops for an empire taking over a new place.

Is it bad that Google wants to insert more Internet into our lives? 

Crabapple: I wouldn’t moralize like that. It’s Google’s nature. Companies want more market share. [What if] you could make reality itself that thing you get market share of?

[…]Which is incredible, from a technological point of view. Crabapple: It really is. That’s the fascinating, fantastic part of it. It’s black magic, the world literally from another’s eyes.

 

from CNET interview, December 2013 

 

To get a “true” photo, you need to remove artifice. This means removing art. Art’s opposite is bulk surveillance. Drones, CCTV, ultra-fast-ultra-high-res DSLR, our fingers stroking our iPhones or tapping at Google Glass. Omnipresent cameras suction up reality without curation. We’re at the finest time in history to see stars, or anyone, photographed looking like hell. 

For women, this surveillance is far harsher than posed artificiality. Under the regime of phone cams, you must be ever photo-ready. Never wrinkle your forehead. Never let your belly out. When Jezebel pays for leaks of raw photos, they mirror tabloids that mock famous cellulite. Noble justifications aside, both rip away a woman’s control over her own image. Both profit off nonconsensual exposure. Behind both is a nasty whisper: “You pretended to be perfect. We caught you. You are not.”

Media concern-trolls Photoshop’s effect on teen girls. Meanwhile, teen girls use iPhone retouching apps to construct media of themselves. 

A teen girl knows the lies behind photography best. When she takes selfies, she’s teaching herself what were once trade secrets. Now she’s the one who angles, crops, and blurs. 

 

Molly Crabapple, from VICE magazine, May 2014

 

It seems as though a woman’s best friend is the filter. Empower oneself by casting away the harsh modes of reality, harness your surveillance to curate a sense of self. You do not exist. You are what you make yourself. In this world, a woman is simultaneously untouched and completely dominated by market forces, forces that allegedly transcend morality. Without the body, without a sense of self to ground her, a woman is both the center of the world while also absolutely nothing at all. The empowered woman in this world is an entrepreneur, smart enough to capitalise off her transient, photoshopped sexiness. Shill for profit, preaching the just neutrality of the markets. The new feminist is a spear for empire, empty and unstoppable, oblivious to the forces that drive her. Attempting to argue one’s agency while being hurtled through the air towards a no-fly-zone. 

Revolution in Snowpiercer (2013)

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Snowpiercer (2013) is a film about revolution. The year is 2040. Global warming and man’s solution to it has caused the eradication of the human species. The only life remaining on earth is on a train that circles the earth once per year. The train is a closed ecosystem that contains the last remnants of humanity, contained in its ugliest manifestation. At the front of the train, the conductor, the worshipped “Wilford” keeps the engine running. Further back are the scenic aquariums and greenhouses, perfect classrooms, dance halls, and sleeping cars. After the water treatment, barracks and prison cars comes the caboose. A group of people live in the “tail car” as hanger-ons, refugees who did not freeze to death in the sudden eradication of the planet. They live in squalor and eat protein blocks, and their children are taken away. They seem to exist at the pleasure of those caught sunning themselves near the front. Sometimes they are recruited to go to the front to serve the more privileged of the species. Of course, the people in the tail car are plotting revolution.

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In fact, the film basically starts with this revolution. After briefly seeing the brutality of their conditions, we are tossed rather quickly into what happens when the tail car inhabitants realize that their guards have no bullets to shoot them with. They spring a Korean man and his daughter (though a Korean film, about 80% of the movie is in English) to help with the doors between cars. Along the way, they discover the indoctrination other inhabitants, including the soldiers, go through. They discover that their protein blocks were actually liquefied cockroaches. They drop like flies in front of a car full of axe-wielding police. Still, the people push forward. Awed by the sights of the front cars, they suddenly sit down for sushi, which they are informed is only eaten twice per year to preserve the delicate balance of life in the ecosystem of the train. This they hear after exactly 74% of them are targeted for execution to preserve the same balance.

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I don’t really want to spoil the plot, because I think it’s a rather enjoyable film, visually stunning with decent acting and directing. That’s rare enough these days. This means you should stop reading here if you want to be surprised. Onward, I’ll say that despite heavy losses, the revolution makes it to the front of the train car and has to contend with the same challenges revolutions in this life face. The leader of the revolution is persuaded to take over operation of the delicate balance, as his compatriots are killed. It’s only when the girl peels up a panel in the floor, dream-like, that we see the children gone missing from the tail car are being used as replacement parts in the machines themselves.

Before our hero can change his mind, the train derails, completely oblivious of the greater ethical questions of man’s governance, killing all inside but the girl and one of the stolen children. Despite being told all their lives that they would freeze to death immediately upon leaving the safety of the closed ecosystem on the train, both children emerge from the train in fur coats, spying a polar bear in the distance. Life is possible on the outside.

From an ecological perspective, this film rings true as effective propaganda. The ridiculousness of considering revolution as a way of changing the way the world works while at the same time heading towards complete disaster comes through loud and clear, especially because so much of the “changes” we see just happen to be more of the same, if not in more cynical packaging. The only solution, it seems, is to overthrow the entire system, not simply to get someone from the tailcar into power. A system where something like Soylent exists to solve “world hunger”, where there will always be hidden slaves behind panels, is not a system I think needs to be sustained. The film does a good part in making this point as well. In our future world, things end because we were unwilling to change the economy to prevent global warming. We tried to find a workaround and ended up ruining everything. Will this be how things are? Yikes! We all deserve to get off the train, not just change the conductor.

How I See Victory Day (as an American)

Red salute to the millions who died in the fight against fascism! Tragically, it seems there are more martyrs to come.

Emboldened by US backing of their newly-installed government in Kiev, fascists brutally murdered at least forty anti-fascists in Odessa this last week. The response should have been unequivocal – ¡No pasarán! – but immediately following the tragedy, the spin machine was kicked into full gear. Who could say who actually killed the protesters? Who could say they did not kill themselves with piano wire? And here comes the anti-communist “Left” squad with truncheons, beating back people who mourn the death of these martyrs with their famous slogan: Neither Moscow nor DC.

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Positioning the United States, which is undoubtably at the helm of our planetary slide into darkness, as a comparable threat to Russia, encircled on all sides by the American war machine, is laughable, if not actively malicious.  According the latest SIPRI report on military expenditures, The United States spent $640 billion on “defense” in 2013, while Russia, with its conscripted military, spent a little more than 13% of what the US did.

But to frame this tragedy as a conflict between pro-Ukraine and pro-Russian forces is to buy into the idea that Ukraine is standing bravely, on wobbly fawn’s legs, against the giant monster of Russia. Another way to frame the debate would be that a US funded coup brought a fascist, pro-austerity government into power in Kiev, and mobs of brownshirts are mopping up localized resistance against the fascists in parts of East Ukraine, going as far as to torture and burn them alive. If the Russian government is offering assistance to these  antifascists, among them communists, then shouldn’t we as antifascists even be a bit glad? And yet…

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see: https://twitter.com/keithgessen/statuses/462609427930308608

Even if there were anti-government protesters – *cough* excuse me, I mean to say Pro-Russians – shooting at pro-government protesters – *cough* excuse me, I mean to say Pro-Ukraines* – does this excuse the butcher of 40 armless civilians and then the arrest of hundreds more? I missed the numbers of those killed outside of the House of Labor that day… how many were there?

But for socialists, those who aspire to instill change in our world, who believe the system is fundamentally unjust and stacked against the world’s oppressed supermajority, the insistence on condemning “both imperialisms” is clearly an excuse to do nothing. A cop-out.

Warning flags go up when one hears the following: Yes, but isn’t Putin bad? You’re not saying you’re a “Putin-understander” are you? Saddam did gas his own children. Ghadaffi was leaning towards market reforms, wasn’t he? Iran makes its women wear hijab. It’s not purely socialist. Etc. Chances are these are people who cannot be arsed into marching to support the people being lynched in Ukraine. And if they were, well, they’d feel compelled to hand out flyers while marching explaining that yes, Putin is bad too. When you give credence to the imperialist narrative, you give people excuses not to act. What’s the point? Both sides are clearly in the wrong, and the offender bears the brunt of the barbarity.

This is false propaganda. The American fantasy of a hulking bloodthirsty Russia must be dispelled. Let the Russian left worry about Putin. The American left should be worrying about their own president, their own two-party mock democracy, the oppressed nations of African Americans and the Native Americans, the shadow, superexploited workforce they call “illegal”. And, more pressingly, the billions under surveillance, millions under occupation, drones butchering children, and yes, tax money going into the hands of fascists in Ukraine, who make molotov cocktails and strangle pregnant women to death.

There are fascists marching in Ukraine now. They are doing better than that, they have been installed and recognized by NATO and her allies. They are emboldened. They are firing on their own civilians who march for Victory Day, the day commemorating the unquantifiable sacrifice made by the Soviet Union in smashing Nazi Germany. Forty million killed as USA and UK sat back on their hands and watched, intentionally hoping the two would cull each other’s numbers. When the Ukrainian people hope to beat back the tide of austerity and god knows what else, they are labelled “Pro-Russian”. When they object to an unelected government on a “suicide mission” to strip the population of its last shreds of prosperity, must we allege they are on Russian payroll? Can we not guess that the Ukranian people, themselves having lost millions to Nazi aggression, know the cost is too high without “Russian agents” telling them about it?

So, on this Victory Day I try and remember all the people still fighting fascism today just as much as those who died fighting. As an American, I look to my own heroes and seek to emulate them in my struggle. And this means, as an American, being uncompromising and unwavering in my denouncement of our imperialist aggression abroad.