As imperialism spirals out of control, and as the manifestations of its wickedness penetrate every pore of human existence everywhere, the resistance against it also has emerged from every cell of social and political organization, taking many diverse forms that defy easy encapsulation. As the forms of protest and resistance have multiplied, the problem of choosing an appropriate political strategy has become that much more difficult. Is the resistance to be mounted only globally? Are we to fight only licentious finance and the greed of marauding transnational corporations and leave everything else to be settled after that global fight is won? Or are we to fight every little tyranny everywhere—the corruption of municipal officials, the arrogance of party bosses seeking to control local democracy, and the callousness of public hospital authorities? And are we to treat as enemies every political formation that provides succor and comfort to such petty tyrants and overweening bureaucrats?
The chief, indeed the only, justification that Washington offered for its invasion of Iraq during its build-up for war between September 2002 and March 2003,was the need to disarm an Iraqi regime that Washington contended had broken UN resolutions banning weapons of mass destruction in that country. The problem, though, was that there was no hard evidence that Iraq, which had effectively destroyed its weapons of mass destruction in the 1990s under UN supervision, had any such weapons—or if it did that they were functional and constituted a significant threat. Nevertheless, the Bush administration continued to insist (based on speculation, hearsay, and what turned out to be fabricated evidence) that Iraq had such banned weapons in significant quantities and was actually deploying them. In an extraordinary propaganda campaign in which the whole mainstream media took part, the U.S. population was led to believe that they were in imminent danger of attack from these phantom weapons and had no choice but to support a pre-emptive invasion of that country
If we learn nothing else from the war on Iraq and its subsequent occupation, it is that the U.S. ruling class has learned to make ideological warfare as important to its operations as military and economic warfare. A crucial component of this ideological war has been the campaign against “left-wing media bias,” with the objective of reducing or eliminating the prospect that mainstream U.S. journalism might be at all critical toward elite interests or the system set up to serve those interests. In 2001 and 2002, no less than three books purporting to demonstrate the media’s leftward tilt rested high atop the bestseller list. Such charges have already influenced media content, pushing journalists to be less critical of right-wing politics. The result has been to reinforce the corporate and rightist bias already built into the media system.
It is not for the first time in history that militarism weighs on the consciousness of the people as a nightmare. To go into detail would take far too long. However, here it should be enough to go back in history only as far as the nineteenth century when militarism, as a major instrument of policy making, came into its own, with the unfolding of modern imperialism on a global scale, in contrast to its earlier—much more limited—varieties. By the last third of the nineteenth century the British and French Empires were not the only prominent rulers of vast territories. The United States, too, made its heavy imprint by directly or indirectly taking over the former colonies of the Spanish Empire in Latin America, adding to them the bloody repression of a great liberation struggle in the Philippines and installing themselves as rulers in that area in a way which still persists in one form or another. Nor should we forget the calamities caused by “Iron Chancellor” Bismarck’s imperialist ambitions and their aggravated pursuit later on by his successors, resulting in the eruption of the First World War and its deeply antagonistic aftermath, bringing with it Hitler’s Nazi revanchism and thereby very clearly foreshadowing the Second World War itself
What comes after neoliberalism? To answer that question we must ask a more fundamental question: What do neoliberalism and neoconservatism have in common with the antiglobalization and antiwar movements? The answer is that all ostensibly share a focus on redefining democracy in the contemporary world system. “Spreading democracy” is the rallying cry of both the Washington Consensus and the Bush Doctrine. The “Washington Consensus” is the claim that global neoliberalism and core finance capital’s economic control of the periphery and the entire world by means of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) is the only realistic alternative to misery and disaster. The “Bush Doctrine” is the bald neoconservative justification of U.S. global military domination and preemptive war—as part of a renewed attempt to make the world safe for democracy. For the antiglobalization and antiwar movements these establishment doctrines, insofar as they profess to be “spreading democracy,” are nothing but window dressing for the global dictatorship of the U.S. and core corporate governing elites. While focusing their attack on the institutions that enforce this dictatorship, these movements also strive to create an alternative, a genuine participatory democracy
Joe Strummer, the pioneering punk rock musician, former front man of the Clash, and political activist, died of a rare heart condition at his home in Somerset, Broomfield, England at the age of fifty on December 22, 2002. Barely twenty-five years earlier the Clash burst onto the London music scene to become one of the great rebel rock bands of all time-fusing a mélange of musical styles, with riotous live performances, and left-wing political activism, that inspires many to this day
Angola is by most accounts a decimated, nearly hopeless land, ruined by more than three decades of war. But there was a moment in the mid-seventies when this former Portuguese colony shone as a beacon of hope for all Africa. It was here that the mythic power of white military supremacy was smashed by black troops from Angola and Cuba. And though the role of Cuban volunteers in this victory inspired Africans and left internationals everywhere, the details of the story have remained largely hidden and even in Cuba, uncelebrated
On May 3 MR will be hosting its Imperialism Today conference in Burlington, Vermont in honor of Harry Magdoff’s ninetieth birthday. Harry officially became an editor of Monthly Review thirty-four years ago this month in May 1969, when he joined Paul Sweezy as co-editor following the death of Leo Huberman in 1968. In the period since then he has edited 408 monthly issues of the magazine (counting the summer issues as double issues). MR would not be what it is today without Harry’s imprint on each and every one of these issues. During the last thirty-six of these we have shared this role with Harry. What this has driven home to us is Harry’s exceptional warmth as a human being, his brilliance as a political-economic analyst, his unlimited patience as a teacher and writer determined to communicate in plain terms, his openness to new radical vistas, and above all his personal integrity and courage, which, as with Marx, allows him to elude the traps of ideology and dispense with all fashions, acting according to the motto: Go on your way, and let the people talk (a variation on a line from Dante used by Marx at the end of the preface to the first edition of Capital)
On November 11, 2000, Richard Haass—a member of the National Security Council and special assistant to the president under the elder Bush, soon to be appointed director of policy planning in the State Department of newly elected President George W. Bush—delivered a paper in Atlanta entitled “Imperial America.” For the United States to succeed at its objective of global preeminence, he declared, it would be necessary for Americans to “re-conceive their role from a traditional nation-state to an imperial power.” Haass eschewed the term “imperialist” in describing America’s role, preferring “imperial,” since the former connoted “exploitation, normally for commercial ends,” and “territorial control.”
David Barsamian: What are the regional implications of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq?
Noam Chomsky: I think not only the region but the world in general perceives it correctly as a kind of an easy test case to try to establish a norm for use of military force, which was declared in general terms last September. Last September, the National Security Strategy of the United States of America was issued. It presented a somewhat novel and unusually extreme doctrine on the use of force in the world. And it’s hard not to notice that the drumbeat for war in Iraq coincided with that. It also coincided with the onset of the congressional campaign. All these are tied together
Three themes stand out in Iraq’s history over the last century, in the light of the present U.S. plans to invade and occupy that country. First, the attempt by imperialist powers to dominate Iraq in order to grab its vast oil wealth. In this regard there is hardly a dividing line between oil corporations and their home governments, with the governments undertaking to promote, secure, and militarily protect their oil corporations. Second, the attempt by each imperialist power to exclude others from the prize. Third, the vibrancy of nationalist opposition among the people of Iraq and indeed the entire region to these designs of imperialism. This is manifested at times in mass upsurges and at other times in popular pressure on whomever is in power to demand better terms from the oil companies or even to expropriate them. The following account is limited to Iraq, and it provides only the barest sketch
I have been in Palestine for two weeks and one hour now, and I still have very few words to describe what I see. It is most difficult for me to think about what’s going on here when I sit down to write back to the United States. Something about the virtual portal into luxury. I don’t know if many of the children here have ever existed without tank-shell holes in their walls and the towers of an occupying army surveying them constantly from the near horizons. I think, although I’m not entirely sure, that even the smallest of these children understand that life is not like this everywhere. An eight-year-old was shot and killed by an Israeli tank two days before I got here, and many of the children murmur his name to me—Ali—or point at the posters of him on the walls. The children also love to get me to practice my limited Arabic by asking me, “Kaif Sharon?” “Kaif Bush?” and they laugh when I say, “Bush majnoon,” “Sharon majnoon” back in my limited Arabic. (How is Sharon? How is Bush? Bush is crazy. Sharon is crazy.) Of course this isn’t quite what I believe, and some of the adults who have the English correct me: “Bush mish majnoon”—Bush is a businessman. Today I tried to learn to say, “Bush is a tool,” but I don’t think it translated quite right. But anyway, there are eight-year-olds here much more aware of the workings of the global power structure than I was just a few years ago
It was as if someone pushed a giant delete button. The United Nations World Conference Against Racism (WCAR), held AugustSeptember 2001, was one of the most important conferences and social mobilizations to take place in years. Voices from the global South decried the continued presence of racism and xenophobia. Thousands of people assembled in Durban, South Africa with great symbolic importance after the successful anti-apartheid struggle
Truth and conscience, and with them art, are the first casualties of any war. The impending U.S. invasion of Iraq has already provided us with two major examples of this. The first of these was the cancellation by First Lady Laura Bush of a White House Symposium on Poetry and the American Voice scheduled for early February 2003, once it was discovered that some of the invited poets were voicing opposition to Bush administration plans for an invasion of Iraq and might use the occasion to address the conscience of the country on the war. (Upon receiving the White House invitation, as explained in this issue, Sam Hamill, founding editor and co-founder of Copper Canyon Press, issued a call for the establishment of Poets Against the War. His call was answered by thousands of poets, including many of the country’s leading literary figures, who offered their antiwar poems. Some of this poetry protesting the impending war is printed for the first time in this issue of MR.)
Only a few years ago it was widely suggested that the capitalist economy had entered a new economic era. The rapid economic growth experienced during the brief period of the late 1990s, we were told, would become virtually endless, spurred on by rising productivity led by high technology and the New Economy. The circumstances that now confront us following the bursting of the speculative bubble could not be more different. The country is once again mired in economic stagnation. In the present “recovery”—if indeed we can call it that—new jobs remain few and far between. Of the four sources of demand that create economic activity—personal consumption, business investment, government spending, and net exports—it is mainly consumption, backed by increasing debt, that is currently keeping the economy from slipping deeper into stagnation. Indeed, many business leaders and economists fear the return of recession—referred to as the likelihood of a “double dip.” Behind this fear lies excess capacity in almost every industry, the absence of new growth stimuli, slow growth or recession in most of the rest of the world, and the aftereffects of the bursting of the speculative stock market bubble. All of this suggests that there is more at stake than the traditional business cycle. At the very least, there is reason to expect the continuation of the tendency of stagnation.