Louis Proyect

On 3/17/21 12:10 PM, Michael Meeropol wrote:

"Instead, it is Lula’s position as an independent actor who has consistently stymied US imperial ambitions in Latin America and beyond that is the real problem."

Obama wants Lula as next World Bank president, Brazilian magazine says


Michael Meeropol

Re: On grazing and land conservation again: Assessment of Allan Savory anyone?

hari kumar

Again - Thanks David W and Dave R for all the very thoughtful replies and comments. As to fitting into a materialism, I fully agree with that sentiment.
I apologise to all, I am trying to 'process' all this. Yet increasingly I seem not to know how to allocate my time... I thought then I retired from my 'day job' I would fit it all in...  
Thx to all, Hari

Myanmar in Struggle: Workers of the World Unite!

John Reimann

183 killed, 74 last Sunday, March 14, alone. 2,175 reported arrested, many facing charges that could mean execution. Yet tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, maybe millions continue to pour onto the streets. The killing of a 15 year old girl on Sunday has not stopped the youth, nor has the open fire with live rounds stopped striking workers, especially garment workers.

This is Myanmar today as it joins the ranks of countries that seem to be going up in flames. (Think: Belarus.) Yet today Myanmar and the entire region present the world working class with a huge challenge and a huge opportunity. What is the historical background and the future perspectives for this uprising and how does it offer opportunity for the world working class?
Read full article:

“Science and socialism go hand-in-hand.” Felicity Dowling
Check out:https: also on Facebook

West Bank hospitals reach full capacity as COVID-19 crisis worsens

Dennis Brasky

Next ICC prosecutor will hopefully just drop the case against Israel, says a Biden ally

Dennis Brasky

Dan Shapiro, Obama's former ambassador to Israel, continues to serve as a mouthpiece for the Israeli government with this laughable claim: "Israel... has a long record of conducting investigations of actions of its own military... it's quite professional."

TOMORROW | Jews + Palestinians in the late Ottoman Era

Dennis Brasky

On Wed, Mar 17, 2021 at 11:04 AM CPS Palestine <palestine@...> wrote:
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12pm — 1:30pm NEW YORK /
6pm —7:30 pm PALESTINE

Join us for a conversation with Louis Fishman and Rashid Khalidi about Fishman’s recent publication, Jews and Palestinians in the late Ottoman Era 1908-1914, Claiming the Homeland (Edinburgh University Press, 2019).

Uncovering a history buried by different nationalist narratives (Jewish, Israeli, Arab and Palestinian) this book looks at how the late Ottoman era set the stage for the on-going Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It presents an innovative analysis of the struggle in its first years, when Palestine was still an integral part of the Ottoman Empire. And it argues that in the late Ottoman era, Jews and Palestinians were already locked in conflict: the new freedoms introduced by the Young Turk Constitutional Revolution exacerbated divisions (rather than serving as a unifying factor). Offering an integrative approach, it considers both communities, together and separately, in order to provide a more sophisticated narrative of how the conflict unfolded in its first years.

Louis Fishman is an associate professor at Brooklyn College, City University of New York

Rashid Khalidi is the Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University

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Re: On grazing and land conservation again: Assessment of Allan Savory anyone?


I think one element offered by Savoury needs to be taken on hesitantly: rotational grazing as a fix-it carbon sink. This is trumpeted elsewhere journalistically -- see Cows Save the Planet -- and a bone of contention among academics.
Each year the scientific study of soil improves greatly and the complexity of the ecological processes is awesome...But we cannot say that grazing can be the primary tool to sequester the carbon emitted worldwide.
Sequestration rates are so variable and volatile over time.
Although his figures are dated, Simon Fairlie in Meat: A Benign Extravagance has a good discussion about the statistics involved.
We are beginning to understand soil structures and microbiological templates that best sequester greenhouse gases but there is no absolute reliability vis a vis woodland, grassland, and brittle environments...anywhere in anyone's paddock.
For instance, back in 2014 -- in was Australian desert areas that sequestered carbon on par with the Amazon.
Because of this, besides its gross commodification of Nature, carbon trading is really a scam.
Ultimately, the key problem with Savoury's perspective is that it is just another bioengineering method that doesn't  tackle the political challenges  the environment faces. Even if millions of acres of land worldwide are grazed holistically the overall ecological challenge is still gonna be larger than any number of bovines stomachs.
So to sign up to the Cows-save-planet scenario is a huge mistake -- but that attitude is pervasive within the regenerative agriculture movement. Here, among glaziers in Australia a large sector insist that we can still have our fossil fuels cake because farmers can do such a great job burying emissions by just farming a different way.
In this sense, Holistic grazing and regen agriculture has also become a shibboleth for conservative agrarian forces among farmers.
The other problem is that like so many organic movements the adjustment to holistic framing (and even the name suggests the theme) is a spiritual and personal journey. So you get a ready idealisation -- one that, as John Bellamy Foster points out, resides in these currents as far back as Jan Smutts and Rudolf Steiner.
In that sense,  the fight for regenerative agriculture must ALSO be a fight for materialism because the shallowness of many of the arguments employed, panders to localism and consumerism. 
However, the irony is that the sort of human within nature intermesh argued by Marx and Engels -- and broken by commodifying processes like the Metabolic Rift -- is sustained in the outlook of indigenous peoples and some traditional farming systems. Despite the spiritual tradition, we need a scientific handle to explain this that does not fall victim to reductionism -- and reducing carbon sequestration to cows stomachs is still reductionism.

dave riley

Forrest Hylton | Lula Returns · LRB 15 March 2021

Louis Proyect

-Call for Papers for Marxism & Sciences: A Journal of Nature, Culture and Society.

Jim Farmelant

Helena Sheehan - "Here is a call for papers for a new journal Marxism & Sciences: A Journal of Nature, Culture and Society. I'm on the international advisory board (although I haven't done any advising so far). Most unusually, the website includes a musical composition - variations on themes composed by Friedrich Engels. "

Volume 1- Issue 1 Fall 2021 The Actuality of Friedrich Engels

BTW I notice that Patrick Bond is on the editorial board.

Honduras Amid the Maelstrom

Louis Proyect

Honduras Amid the Maelstrom

The Central American nation has become a terrifying case study in what results when climate change, government failure, gang violence, and natural disaster collide.

Wendell Escoto/AFP via Getty Images

The aftermath when the Chamelecon River burst its banks because of Hurricane Iota, La Lima municipality near San Pedro Sula, Honduras,
NY Review of Books, November 21, 2020

They had been told to look for the body in an abandoned lot that straddled an unmarked frontier between gang territories. The area sat on the southeastern edge of the city of San Pedro Sula, the industrial heart of northern Honduras. It was December 9, days after rivers and canals coursing through the city had twice burst their banks during back-to-back hurricanes in early November.

For about an hour, Pastor Daniel Pacheco, an evangelical minister, and Victor Ventura, his guide, had lurched through knee-deep mud, stopping to sniff the air for the telltale stench of decomposing flesh. But their noses were poor guides—everywhere in this barren field a smell of rot drifted over expanses of pooled floodwater, among the household detritus marooned in the brush—a burst mattress twisted against a tree stump, a soiled doll, the wooden skeleton of a chest of drawers.

Even for a country accustomed to violent death, it was hard to know whether the missing cadaver, unclaimed and unidentified, was a victim of drowning in the catastrophic floods that followed the hurricanes or of gang killing. In this sprawling sector of La Rivera Hernandez, the rival gangs Barrio-18 and MS-13, and at least two smaller criminal groups, staked out control block by block. The official national death toll from the hurricanes was just under a hundred, though the government acknowledged that this could be an underestimate (both because the post-disaster chaos made reliable data hard to collect and because widespread mistrust of the authorities meant people often avoided reporting disappearances). In comparison, the police registered 3,496 homicides in 2020; in previous years, at least a third of murders involved criminal groups, including gangs, according to Honduras’ independent National Observatory of Violence.

Ventura was a carpenter whose mud-blasted house and workshop across the road from the field looked like they had been dynamited. It had taken him fifteen years to build up his small business, to purchase his carpentry tools, while striving to keep his two children in school and out of the clutches of the gangs.

Since the waters had receded, he’d spent all his waking hours rummaging through the muck in his house for anything salvageable or scraping out bucketloads of filth from his elderly mother’s place, a few doors down. With no savings, he could not hope to even repair the car he’d bought his son months earlier, an investment to keep the boy fixed on a future at university. Ventura would have to break it down for parts. As for what to do next, “We’ll have to start from zero,” he sighed.

Next was not meant to include searching for the dead. The tip about a body came from a grocer, via a farmer, who’d stumbled upon it when fording the still partly flooded field to check on the sorry state of his corn crop.

No one had called the police. To call the police would invite calamity upon calamity, they all said. The gangs had their spies on every corner. “Hear nothing, see nothing, say nothing” goes the refrain in Honduran barrios. And despite huge recent purges of officers, many on suspicion of drug-trafficking and extrajudicial killing, no one trusted the force. As far as the residents of La Rivera were concerned, the local police were all too likely to “solve” a case by pinning the blame on the first available witness—meaning, often, the person who reported the crime.

Instead, Ventura phoned his friend Pastor Daniel, who, as a man of the church, enjoyed relative protection from both gangs and police. Between his Sunday sermons, Pastor Daniel was a neighborhood peacekeeper who had on occasion persuaded gang members to release a hostage. He surely would know how to honor unidentified dead souls, reasoned Ventura.

Hence this quest. Overhead, vultures circled, plunging in turns to pick at a dead dog. But so far, no human corpse.

Delphine Schrank

Pastor Daniel Pacheco following Victor Ventura in their search for a body in a waterlogged field near San Pedro Sula, Honduras, December 9, 2020


A mere thirteen days apart, Hurricanes Eta and Iota had slammed into the isthmus of Central America on near-identical paths last year. In a record-shattering Atlantic hurricane season, both Eta and Iota formed as tropical depressions in the Caribbean and strengthened with unprecedented speed before making landfall in Nicaragua and hurtling counterclockwise from Panama to Belize, causing enormous rainfall, deadly torrents, and landslides as they went.“They were some of the most rapidly intensifying hurricanes we’ve ever seen for any time of year,” said Jeff Masters, a meteorologist with the Yale Climate Connection.

Nowhere was the destruction more extensive than in the densely populated industrial and agricultural heartland of northern Honduras. On November 3, Eta’s pummeling precipitation soon overwhelmed waterways’ banks and levees in the region. The tributaries feeding the Sula Valley were already saturated from higher than usual rainfall since May—a stark turnaround after four years of drought, said Juan Jose Reyes, who heads the early warning section of Honduran disaster relief agency COPECO.

Muddy river water rushed through alleyways and across highways, sweeping away thousands of homes, whether wooden shacks or cinderblock houses. Weeks later, vast stretches of the city were still a wasteland. In street after street, the contents of homes lay in mud-slaked piles—the hard-earned assets of people who had already been struggling to subsist in a country with a poverty rate near 50 percent.

At 10:00 AM that day, in barrio Asentamientos Humanos, across the Chamelecon River from the San Pedro Sula airport, another evangelical pastor named Rosa Orbellina stood ankle-deep in her home, frantically trying to bail out the rising water with a kitchen pan. It took a daughter rushing in from her place down the road to rouse her from her panicked trance. They hoisted her bed as best they could and waded out as the waters rose to their knees, then hips, then chests. “If it had been night, we would have all died,” Orbellina told me later.

By 3:00 AM that night, in barrio Cruz de Valencia, Kenya Alcantar and Ismael Nunez had clambered with their two daughters, aged seventeen and fifteen, from their home on the edge of palm and banana plantations to the roof of a shack nearby. When the swirling waters threatened to carry that structure away, they climbed to the branches of a giant tamarind tree. They spent the rest of the night there with some fifty neighbors, yelling at intervals to prevent the community’s children from falling asleep and tumbling from the tree into the wild currents. Three children did plummet down—but with linked arms and adrenaline-fueled ingenuity, even using flotsam for rafts, the whole neighborhood managed to pull and push each other to higher ground. Three weeks later, after the waters had receded enough to allow Kenya and Ismael to return, all that was left standing of the home they’d saved for twelve years to build was the concrete foundation and a bright blue toilet.

Yoseph Amaya/Getty Images

Aerial view of the San Pedro Sula–Progreso Yoro highway flooded after Hurricane Iota, San Manuel, Honduras, November 20, 2020

The rescue teams had done their best. COPECO led the effort, together with the army, police, firefighters, and the Red Cross. But the currents were too strong for rescue boats in Cruz de Valencia. In Asentamientos Humanos, people said they never saw any. COPECO workers, blamed for their absences and suspected without evidence of stealing international aid shipments, felt it safer sometimes to remove their bright orange vests with the agency’s logo before heading out to help. Some received death threats. Even the more trusted San Pedro Sula firemen had only four boats to haul away people they estimated at tens of thousands. Via USAID, relief workers sent location coordinates of stranded communities to US military Black Hawk helicopters, which airdropped supplies of beans, rice, and cooking oil.

The most vulnerable—and worst hit—districts were settlements along the waterways themselves, populated mainly by trash pickers, tortilla vendors, mechanics, and part-time construction workers. Gangs had long ruled with impunity in these communities. Inevitably, a Barrio-18 crew held up one of the boats that first critical night, forcing firefighters to ferry to safety only their members and their relatives. “Sometimes,” a firefighter told me, “one cannot comment on this type of inquiry because [the gangs] investigate and dispatch you to the other world.”

Two weeks after Eta, as Iota was gathering over the horizon, tens of thousands of people were still sleeping around gasoline stations, several to a mattress in the homes of distant acquaintances, in makeshift tents down the highways, and, in one case, even among the coffins of a funeral parlor. Health officials sent medical teams to government shelters in schools and churches, aiming to isolate anyone with symptoms of Covid-19, but they later admitted that these efforts were largely in vain, as people resisted testing for fear of being removed and losing their chance of having secure shelter. When the second storm struck, the riverbanks, already gouged and breached, never stood a chance; whole districts that had just begun to reappear vanished underwater. Once more, scattered hamlets for miles around were cut off.

Carlos Madero, the minister charged with the government response, told me the two hurricanes constituted the most catastrophic event in the modern history of Honduras. Roving units of Doctors Without Borders reported encountering mass depression: people’s losses, atop the pandemic, atop the chronic violence, amounted to an “emotional bomb,” said the group’s northern Honduras project coordinator, Juan Carlos Arteaga. For some, it was a final sign that was there was nothing left for them in this country.

Orlando Sierra/AFP via Getty Images

People, unhoused by the floods, sheltering under a bridge, San Pedro Sula, Honduras, November 21, 2020

Even before this natural disaster, Honduras was most often the leading national source of people who told US asylum officers they feared returning home, according to monthly data from April 2018 through December 2019 from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. It was from San Pedro Sula that the largest of the caravans to make international headlines during the Trump administration departed in October 2018, dubbed by its participants “the Exodus.” Since the floods, plans for new caravans circulated on social media and word of mouth among the fractured communities. The largest reached the border with Guatemala in January with an estimated seven thousand people, but Guatemalan security forces scattered its members with tear gas and batons before they ever neared the barricades of National Guard troops at the Mexican border. Hondurans say they will keep trying, in groups or alone—and their redoubled urge to abandon Central America and head north is already presenting a severe test of President Biden’s resolve to reverse his predecessor’s hardline border policies.

For Ventura and Pastor Daniel, as for so many others who lived in the areas savaged by the storms, the government’s capacity to help had always been limited and fallible. It was even worse now: untold numbers have had to rebuild their lives and livelihoods effectively from scratch. By COPECO’s tally, at least 90,0000 people remained in shelters a month after the storms, and the government was calling for international aid and admitting it was having trouble even assessing the full scale of the problem.

Orlando Sierra/AFP via Getty Images

A family setting off with the first migrant caravan of the year, fleeing floods, gang violence, and economic crisis, and heading north toward the United States, San Pedro Sula, Honduras, January 14, 2021


For Luis Da’ Costa, though, accountability for the failures exposed by the storm damage was urgent. Da’ Costa is a hydraulic technician at a small government agency called the Commission for the Control of Flooding in the Sula Valley. His job includes checking and maintaining the data from the early warning flood alert system, a system of telemetric stations that measure the flow and height of the water along the two great rivers, the Chamelecon and Ulua, that flow through San Pedro Sula city and the surrounding alluvial plain.

Recent glitches had compounded long-standing infrastructure problems. Of the twenty-nine alert stations meant to monitor water levels on the Sula Valley riverbank, only four were functioning when the first hurricane struck. Covid-19 restrictions limited field trips to check on them; they hadn’t been verified since the spring. And that, said Da’ Costa, had curtailed a perennial struggle against vandalism and robbery. The solar panel charging each alert station could serve for a car or a house. Its transmission device was worth around $16,000. The process of ordering spares from cash-strapped government agencies was byzantine—Da’ Costa had taken to chasing down parts himself.

But they did have accurate weather forecasts: “We knew the threat,” he told me. On October 31, three days before Eta made landfall, Da’ Costa sat watching his favorite YouTube meteorology channel as the hurricane approached. Since then, Da’ Costa has not been able to shake the guilty suspicion that others in the flood commission and senior government officials knew, too. Alerted by the meteorological reports, they had enough information to have warned people to evacuate, he said, and there should have been better coordination between his and other government agencies. He’d advised his boss about the threat, he said. He’d informed an engineer at the Cajon hydroelectric dam. He’d spoken to colleagues at the relief agency COPECO.

This was predictable: Honduran officials had long expounded, with the backing of scientific consensus, on how the country—with its Pacific and Atlantic coasts—was especially vulnerable to extreme weather events that climate change would accelerate or exacerbate. And the country had experienced disastrous hurricanes—notably with Fifi in 1976, and Mitch in 1998. “Everyone expected [another] within twenty years,” Da’ Costa told me.

But how had the Honduran government actually responded? Desperate to kickstart a tourism industry paralyzed by successive pandemic lockdowns, it encouraged people to celebrate the national holiday known as Morazanica Week by heading to the beach. “Right as a tropical storm was developing in the Caribbean,” said Da’ Costa, outraged. No one had wanted to hear bad news before Eta struck, said Marvin Aparicio, head of COPECO’s Incident Command System, noting that the agency had issued warnings as the first storm approached. “People were tired, fed up, saturated with the pandemic measures,” he said.

For Da’ Costa, that was no excuse. “The fact that one person dies, already that’s a failure,” he said. “It shouldn’t have happened.” He, too, had a home he’d been forced to abandon to the floods—in his case in La Planeta, another humble, low-lying district that the local government had long since surrendered to the rule of Barrio-18. His wife was on the verge of divorcing him, he said, for failing to take time off work to help his family rebuild.

Days after the flood, he trudged in rubber boots into the wreckage of his neighborhood, surrounded by the same waterlogged mess of household goods that had become a signature of the deluge: smashed television frames, short-circuited stoves, broken crockery. Incongruously, a child’s inflatable swim ring floated nearby. On one street, a private security guard in uniform stood watch, but the looting of anything electric and still functional began when residents who’d returned to clean up left again for their temporary shelters after sunset.

Encarni Pindado

Hydraulic technician Luis Da’ Costa checking the ailing Santiago River flood alert station, Honduras, December 2, 2020

Having started a family in his early twenties, Da’ Costa never finished his engineering degree but received certification under a USAID-sponsored program after Hurricane Mitch. Furious at his own agency’s failure over Eta, he had begun posting videos of the destruction and spoke up in meetings, risking a reprimand or firing. Over and over, he contemplated resigning. But he couldn’t leave: he still had a mortgage—on his flood-damaged home. A greater weight was his sense of mission. “We must go forward,” he said.

On another day, he drove his pickup down a bumpy road to one of the last four functioning alert stations, in a town called Santiago. The water level “goes down this hose, and the pressure that the water exerts is registered, decoded, and transmitted to a satellite and received worldwide,” he said, fiddling with a small black box next to the swollen Ulua River. But the floods had torn away the hose. For days, the Santiago station had been transmitting random data.

So now the flood commission was down to just three sensors—and meteorologists were predicting more rain. Anyone returning to dig out their homes faced the prospect of rebuilding next to burst riverbanks that no one had yet begun to fix. Because of cost, the levees had never been built to international standards. Instead of more resilient geotextile materials, the banks were mostly just compacted earth—far less resistant to erosion. Over time, informal settlement in areas long since mapped as no-go flood zones had further degraded them. In many places, people had taken to sowing and harvesting crops, including yucca, a root vegetable. Even as they dug for food, they were undermining the region’s already fragile flood defenses.

In Santiago, as elsewhere, when one river had overflowed, its waters swiftly merged with those of a nearby canal. During Eta, “this place, it was all one sea,” said Reynaldo Caballero, a water-level monitor at the Santiago station. As the rains thundered down that first day, he had waded through still-chest-high water to reach the site in time for his shift. One more heavy rainstorm and it could all be one sea again.


Yoseph Amaya/Getty Images

A family salvaging belongings from the floods that followed Hurricane Iota, San Pedro Sula, Honduras, November 21, 2020

The worst-hit house on one of the worst-hit blocks of barrio Asentamientos Humanos belonged to Pastor Rosa Orbellina. The barrio’s name means “Human Settlements,” and it, too, was built on a flood zone. Part of the crime-ridden Rivera Hernandez sector, it was home to between 15,000 and 25,000 people, according to two nonprofit organizations. Yet it was ignored by the local municipality, which failed to maintain the roads, provide any amenities that might offer alternatives for the district’s impoverished, gang-lured youth, or even lay a sewage system.

Pastor Orbellina had spent decades of her life here, at times appealing in vain to the local mayor’s office for basic services for the expanding community, as well as watching her children grow up and then helping to raise her grandchildren. She counted some forty members in her congregation. At least she had a receipt of payment for the patch of land that was hers.

After Eta, she was forced to take refuge uptown in a more expensive part of the city, sharing space on a giant mattress in a room that doubled as the kitchen with her daughter, her daughter’s husband, and their two children, and her son, his wife, and their two children.

There, too, her adored eldest grandson, now twenty, was hiding from MS-13, which had repeatedly threatened his life for deserting the gang. When the family’s temporary uptown lease ran out, Pastor Orbellina parted ways with him, weeping. Under threat of reprisal from the gang, he could not set foot in Asentamientos Humanos, nor any other of the patchwork of zones they controlled. That barred him from vast stretches of his own country, but his family could afford nowhere else.  

By the time their lease ran out, there had been no progress in repairing her house. She had no money to relay the floors, let alone raise the structure above river level. Her relatives, their livelihoods lost, were too busy hammering back together houses that had more hope of restoration to help.

For now, the weather had held, and the river was flowing within its banks again. “I’m not a knowledgeable person,” she said to me. “But I say that if the banks had been made of rock and cement, the water would not have broken through.” In the last hours before Eta, Orbellina’s relatives had joined neighbors in a desperate race to pack sandbags against the earthen levee, already fearing the worst.

On her first night back, Pastor Orbellina settled into her daughter’s two-room concrete-brick bungalow, her mattress occupying a rare dry spot on the mud-damp cement. Outside, her son-in-law was nailing together slats of tin roofing for a makeshift toilet to replace their destroyed outhouse. She sent her blessings to her congregants. “God was in control of our emotions to overcome all this grief,” she said. “He strengthens us when he tests us.”

Her deepest sorrow, though, she reserved for her now-absent grandson. A day earlier, as the rest of the family packed up to return to their wrecked homes in an MS-13-controlled district, the young man had extracted himself finally from his grandmother’s long, rib-crushing embrace, shouldered his backpack, and walked into his fugitive existence, alone.

Even close family who lived in relatively safer zones had refused her pleas to offer him shelter, terrified of harboring the wanted target of a powerful gang. Their rejection had cut her to the bone. “Because of the increase of wickedness, the heart will grow cold,” she said of them, quoting Matthew 24:12. “Many errors and defects, my grandson, but you cannot imagine how much I love him.”

He had tried to console her with the promise that he would somehow make his way to the United States. For days, they had talked of his joining a caravan. If he made it north, he would work hard and one day have enough to rescue her, too. The idea had become his motivating dream.

But privately, they both had doubts—all too aware that he was just as likely to end up among the lost, unclaimed in an abandoned field, one more in a category of countless disappeared in Honduras yet to be accorded the minimal dignity of becoming a statistic.

Orlando Sierra/AFP via Getty Images

A child’s toy caught on barbed wire after Hurrican Iota in the flooded municipality of La Lima, near San Pedro Sula, Honduras, November 20, 2020

“People can’t even afford to buy bulgur”: Discontent is on the rise as Syria’s economic crisis worsens | Middle East Institute

Louis Proyect

These conversations reveal that despair over the economic situation cuts across boundaries of political loyalty and even encompasses the regime’s base. Syrians, whether regime supporters, opponents, or apolitical, express anger toward those on top who are enriching themselves while people starve. Most Syrians do not trust the government’s ability to dig the country out of the current crisis, but just as many see little hope for an alternative or think the regime will collapse or reform due to economic pressure — the belief underlying the wide-ranging sanctions imposed by the West.

Re: What Frederick Taylor could only dream of

Jim Farmelant

As long as we're on the topic of the socialist calculation debates, it is interesting to note that Joseph Schumpeter had a different take on them than did either von Mises or Hayek. Like them, he was a product of the Austrian School, but unlike them, his thinking was more reflective of the early Austrian School which wasn't quite so dogmatic as the later Austrian School. Like von Mises and Hyaek, Schumpeter was opposed to socialism and preferred free market capitalism. However, he was convinced that socialism was feasible and he was well aware that socialism had many clever advocates including his teaching assistant, the young Paul Sweezy, who were perhaps just clever enough to make it work.

In his posthumously published book History of Economic Analysis  he presented the following critique of von Mises:

"The essential result of Barone’s or any similar investigation is that there exists for any centrally controlled socialism a system of equations that possess a uniquely determined set of solutions, in the same sense and with the same qualifications as does perfectly competitive capitalism, and that this set enjoys similar maximum properties. Less technically, this means that so far as its pure logic is concerned the socialist plan makes sense and cannot be disposed of on the ground that it would necessarily spell chaos, waste, or irrationality. This is no small thing and we are within our rights when we emphasize again the importance of the fact that this service to socialist doctrine has been rendered by writers who, since they were not socialists themselves, thereby victoriously vindicated the independence of economic analysis from political preference or prejudice. But, at the same time, this is all. We must not forget that, just like the pure theory of the competitive economy, the pure theory of socialism moves on a very high level of abstraction and proves much less for the ‘workability’ of the system than laymen (and sometimes theorists also) think. In particular, the proposition about the maximum properties of the solution that characterizes the equilibrium of a socialist economy is of course relative to its institutional data, and avers nothing concerning the question whether this purely formal maximum is higher or lower than the corresponding maximum of the competitive economy—especially if we refuse to go into the further questions, whether the one or the other institutional set-up is less exposed to deviations from its own ideal or more favorable to ‘progress.’ These questions are so much more important in practice than is the question of determinateness or ‘rationality’ per se, that it is sometimes not easy to tell whether the later critics of the socialist plan, especially von Mises, really meant to deny the validity of the Pareto-Barone result. For it is quite possible to accept it and yet to hold that the socialist plan, owing to the administrative difficulties involved or for any other of a long list of reasons, is ‘practically unworkable’ in the sense that it cannot be expected to work with an efficiency comparable to the efficiency of capitalist society as revealed by the index of total output. But although pure theory contributes little to the solution of these problems, it helps us to posit them correctly and to narrow the range of justifiable difference of opinion. We thus arrive at the same conclusion as in the case of nonsocialist planning; ever since Marshall, the theoretical possibility of improving the purely competitive mechanism by public policy should no longer be a matter of controversy; but it is of course still possible—as Marshall well understood—to criticize either particular measures or even the whole idea of planning on such grounds as lack of confidence in the political or administrative organs that are available for the task. (It seems as if Marshall had been alone in understanding this situation.)"

In fairness to von Mises, he did see significant administrative problems likely under socialism that could cancel out whatever efficiency gains that might otherwise be possible but it is also clear that he had little doubt concerning its practical feasibility.

The March Action and the Tragedy of German Communism

Louis Proyect

A hundred years ago today, the German Communists tried to spark a revolution, but their would-be uprising ended in disaster. In this extract from a recently discovered memoir, Rosa Luxemburg’s biographer Paul Frölich describes the failure of the 1921 March Action and its impact.

The watchdogs of imperialism and the Uyghur genocide slander | MR Online

Louis Proyect

MR Online continues its defense of forced assimilation, this time posting a link to an article by Stephen Gowans who is best known for his work absolving Bashar al-Assad of mass murder. Gowans's blog is so obscure that it doesn't even register on It is obvious to me that the imbecile behind MR Online has blinkers on that prevent him from being aware of any important writing outside his conspiracy theory cocoon.

Sperm whales in 19th century shared ship attack information | Whales | The Guardian

Louis Proyect

A remarkable new study on how whales behaved when attacked by humans in the 19th century has implications for the way they react to changes wreaked by humans in the 21st century.

The paper, published by the Royal Society on Wednesday, is authored by Hal Whitehead and Luke Rendell, pre-eminent scientists working with cetaceans, and Tim D Smith, a data scientist, and their research addresses an age-old question: if whales are so smart, why did they hang around to be killed? The answer? They didn’t.

Fascism and Analogies — British and American, Past and Present

Louis Proyect

NAVIGATING UNCERTAIN TIMES, it is tempting, and helpful, to search the past for precedents that might help guide understanding and action — inevitably with the risk of drawing false equivalences. Comparing Trumpism to 1930s fascism, especially, has struck some historians and political theorists as likely to blind us to the longer trajectories of Trump’s reactionary politics — his quintessential Americanness.

Columbia Graduate Workers Set to Strike on Monday | Left Voice

Louis Proyect

The History of Freedom Is a History of Whiteness

Louis Proyect

The Nation, March 17, 2021
The History of Freedom Is a History of Whiteness
A conversation with Tyler Stovall about his recent book White Freedom and whether or not the legacy of liberty can break away from racial exclusion and domination.
By Daniel Steinmetz-JenkinsTwitter

In his new book, White Freedom: The Racial History of an Idea, the historian Tyler Stovall seeks to offer a new approach to the relationship between freedom and race in modern Western societies. This approach reveals a different historical perspective for understanding how the Enlightenment era, which provided the basis for modern Western conceptions of human freedom, coincided with the height of the transatlantic slave trade, and for how the United States could be founded simultaneously upon ideas of both liberty and African slavery, Native American genocide and systematic racial exclusion.

Stovall does so by arguing for an alternative explanation to what he describes as the standard “paradoxical” interpretation of freedom and race. “If liberty represents the acme of Western civilization,” says Stovall, “racism—embodied above all by horrible histories like the slave trade and the Holocaust—is its nadir.” In other words, the paradoxical approach sees freedom and race as opposites. This means that there is nothing about freedom that is inherently racialized. The relationship between freedom and race from this perspective, argues Stovall, is due more to “human inconsistencies and frailties than to any underlying logics.”

Stovall challenges the paradoxical view by arguing that there is no contradiction between freedom and race. Instead, he thinks that ideas of freedom in the modern world have been racialized, and that whiteness and white racial identity are intrinsic to the history of modern liberty. Hence Stovall’s notion of white freedom.

Stovall’s book aims to tell the history of white freedom from the French and American revolutions to the present. But to what extent can the vast history of modern freedom be reduced to white freedom? How can white freedom account for class differences? Moreover, if modern freedom is racialized how is it to be differentiated from fascism and others forms of white nationalism? And can political freedom break away from the legacy of white freedom? To answer these questions, I spoke with Stovall about the history of US slavery and immigration, the fascism of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler, Trumpism, and Joe Biden’s recent election to the White House.

—Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins

DANIEL STEINMETZ-JENKINS: Can you explain your concept of white freedom?

TYLER STOVALL: In this study I argue that white freedom, which is a concept of freedom conceived and defined in racial terms, underlies and reflects both white identity and white supremacy: To be free is to be white, and to be white is to be free.

DSJ: Your thinking on white freedom has been strongly influenced by whiteness studies. Can you explain the connection between the two?

TS: Whiteness studies starts from the proposition that whiteness is not simply the neutral, unexamined gold standard of human existence, arguing instead that white identity is racial, and white people are every bit as much racialized beings as are people of color. White Freedom explores the ways in which the ideal of freedom is a crucial component of white identity in the modern world, that great movements for liberty like the American and French revolutions or the world wars of the 20th century have constructed freedom as white. More generally, this book follows the tradition of whiteness studies in considering how an ideology traditionally viewed as universal in fact contains an important racial dimension. I argue that frequently, although by no means always, in modern history, freedom and whiteness have gone together, and the ideal of freedom has functioned to deny the realities of race and racism.

DSJ: How might you respond to the criticism that your notion of white freedom is potentially monolithic? How do you account for its diverse historical application and impact, especially concerning class differences?

TS: I would begin by saying that white freedom is by no means the only kind of freedom, that in modern history other, more inclusive visions of liberty have frequently opposed it, and those visions have often interacted and mutually reinforced each other. One thinks, for example, of the rise of the movements for women’s suffrage in 19th-century Britain and America out of the struggles to abolish slavery. The concept of white freedom does position race at the center of the history of liberty, something I found it necessary to do both because it has frequently been left out or seen as peripheral to the story, and because making it more central in my view offers new insights about the nature of freedom in general.

Class differences, and the ways in which they have historically been racialized, play an important role in the development of white freedom, as well. The example of Irish immigrants during the 19th century provides an interesting case in point. In both Britain and America, Irish immigrants not only occupied the lowest rungs of society but were frequently racialized as savage and nonwhite during the early parts of the century. In Britain, integration into working class movements like Chartism and the 1889 London dock strike to a certain extent brought them white status, whereas in America the ability of the working-class Irish to differentiate themselves, often violently, from African Americans gradually helped enable their acceptance as white by the dominant society, integrating them into American whiteness.

DSJ: You argue that the paradox of American slaveholders fighting for liberty is not a paradox at all if one considers the racial dimensions of the American idea of freedom during the American Revolution. Denying freedom to Black slaves was not a contradiction, you show, because freedom was reserved for whites. How does your thinking about white freedom and slavery differ here from the notable The New York Times’ 1619 Project, which caused a storm of controversy by arguing that the American Revolution was primarily waged to preserve slavery?

TS: I think the 1619 Project’s argument that the founding fathers waged the American Revolution in defense of slavery has much to recommend it, although I think this debate could benefit from some nuance. Certainly American slaveowners, who were amply represented among the proponents of independence, worried about the implications of the 1772 Somerset case, which banned slavery in Britain, for the colonies and their own property. The 1775 call by Lord Dunmore, royal governor Virginia, to American slaves to free their masters and fight for the British further outraged them, leading them to condemn him in the Declaration of Independence for having fostered domestic insurrections against the colonists. It is also true that this question bitterly divided Northern and Southern patriots, in ways that ultimately prefigured the Civil War. It is quite possible that revolution devoted to abolishing slavery, as many Northerners wanted, would have failed to enlist the support of Virginia and other Southern colonies and thus would have gone down to defeat. Whether or not that means that the Revolution’s primary goal was the preservation of slavery was less clear.

However, there are other ways to approach this issue, which the current debate has tended to neglect. First, one must consider the perspective, and the actions, of the slaves themselves, who constituted roughly 20 percent of the population of colonial America. White Freedom not only considers the question of slavery central to the American Revolution but also sees the Revolution as one of the great periods of slave resistance and revolt in American history. Tens of thousands of slaves, including 17 belonging to George Washington himself, fled their plantations in an attempt to reach the British lines and freedom. Whether or not white patriots believed they were fighting for independence to preserve slavery, many of their slaves certainly did, and acted on that belief with their feet. American history to this day praises Blacks like Crispus Attucks who fought for the Revolution, but ignores the much larger number of American slaves who took up arms for the British. For many African Americans, therefore, the American Revolution was certainly a struggle for freedom, but for freedom from their white American owners and the new independent nation they fought for.

Second, one should underscore the basic point that, whatever the relative motivations of the patriots of 1776 in seeking freedom and independence from Britain, the new United States of America they created was a slave republic, and would remain so for the better part of a century. It is certainly true that the Revolution resulted in the abolition of slavery throughout the North after the Revolution, but that did not change the fact that the overwhelming majority of African Americans were slaves before 1776 and remained so for decades thereafter. Moreover, far from a relic of an imperial past, slavery proved to be a dynamic and central part of America’s economy and society during the early 19th century. Whether or not American patriots revolted to preserve slavery, the success of their revolt did exactly that, creating a new nation that largely reserved freedom for whites.

DSJ: The Statue of Liberty might be considered the most well-known symbol of freedom in the modern world. You provocatively state that “it is the world’s greatest representation of white freedom.” Why is this the case?

TS: The Statue of Liberty symbolizes white freedom in several respects. In my book I analyze how both its French origins and its establishment in America underscore that perspective, and in doing so illustrate the history of white freedom in both nations. In France the image of the statue drew upon the tradition of Marianne, or the female revolutionary, most famously depicted in Eugène Delacroix’s great painting Liberty Leading the People. Yet at the same time it represented a domesticated, nonrevolutionary vision of that tradition; whereas Delacroix’s Marianne is carrying a rifle and leading a revolutionary army, the Statue of Liberty stands demurely and without moving, holding a torch of illumination rather than a flame of revolution. She is the image of the white woman on a pedestal. The racial implications of this domestication of liberty became much clearer in the United States: Although France gave the statue to America to commemorate the abolition of slavery in the United States, Americans soon ignored that perspective and instead turned the statue into a symbol of white immigration. The broken chains at Liberty’s feet that symbolized the freed slave were effectively obscured by the pedestal and more generally by the racial imagery surrounding the statue, and remain so to this day. America’s greatest monument to freedom thus turned its back on America’s greatest freedom struggle, because that struggle was not white.

Moreover, many Americans In the early 20th century considered the statue an anti-immigrant symbol, the “white goddess” guarding America’s gates against the dirty and racially suspect hordes from Europe. Only when the immigrants, and more particularly their Americanized descendants, were viewed and accepted as white did the Statue of Liberty embrace them. To this day, therefore, America’s greatest monument to freedom represents above all the history of white immigration. No equivalent memorials exist on San Francisco’s Angel Island to commemorate Chinese immigration, or on the US-Mexican border to memorialize those Americans whose ancestors came from Latin America. The Statue of Liberty effectively conceals the fact that New York City was itself a great slave port, so that for many the arrival in the harbor represented bondage, not liberty. Not only the statue’s white features, but its racial history, make it for me the world’s greatest symbol of white freedom.

DSJ: One implication of your argument about white freedom is that it suggests that the modern history of liberal thought actually shares something in common with the fascism of Hitler and Mussolini, namely that both systems of government defined freedom in racial terms. What, then, fundamentally distinguishes these understandings of freedom?

TS: As I and many other historians have argued, there are some fundamental similarities between fascism and liberal democracy when it comes to race. In some ways, the increasing emphasis on the role of the state as the central locus and guarantor of freedom found its logical culmination in the fascist state, which rejected individual liberty, instead defining freedom as integration into the racial state. But I would also point out two important differences. First, Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany stated their commitment to a racist vision of freedom far more explicitly and dramatically than did the democracies of the liberal West. The Nazi vision of a racial hierarchy in Europe with Aryans had none of the pretensions of uplift and stewardship found in Western imperialism, but instead called for domination and ultimately genocide. The horrors of the Shoah were a foretaste of what awaited Europe, especially Eastern Europe, had Nazi Germany triumphed. The liberal democracies of the West, for all their racism, did not share that vision, were instead horrified by it, and in the end combined to destroy it.

Following from this point, I would also argue that, unlike liberal democracy, European fascism developed in a climate of total war, which fundamentally shaped its vision of race and freedom. Fascism and Nazism were born at the tail end of World War I (both Hitler and Mussolini were war veterans), and their histories culminated with World War II. The era of total war powerfully reinforced state racism—the idea that the enemy posed a biological threat to the nation. This happened in the West as well, of course, but did not constitute the heart of national identity in the same way. Moreover, unlike in fascist Europe, total war in the West also created a massive movement against white freedom, for a universal vision of liberty.

DSJ: I found your parts of the book on the end of the Cold War fascinating. Regarding Eastern Europe, you write, “The overthrow of communist regimes in this period happened in the whitest, most ‘European’ part of the world, one barely touched by the history of European overseas colonialism or non-European immigration.” Does this view of Eastern Europe fall prey to a mythology of white homogeneity, which is exploited by white nationalist leaders in Eastern Europe today driven by anti-immigrant and Islamophobic sentiment? The region had long had millions of immigrants from Central Asia.

TS: There are very few, if any, purely “white” parts of the world, and Eastern Europe’s contacts with Asia go back at least to the Roman Empire. There is, for example, an interesting history of Blacks in the Soviet Union, which was itself a regime that spanned and brought together Europe and Asia. I would nonetheless argue that, compared to the rest of the continent and to the Americas, the peoples’ republics of Eastern Europe lacked racial diversity, a situation that led many American conservatives to embrace their resistance to the Soviets during the Cold War as a struggle for white freedom. In the minds of many, the liberation of Eastern Europe from Soviet control represented a continuation of the war against Nazi rule of Western Europe, an unfinished campaign to ensure freedom for all white people. It was counterintuitive to witness nations of white people as “captive” or “enslaved,” so that the Cold War against Soviet Communism had an important racial dimension. The collapse of the Soviet bloc represented in theory the unification of white Europe, yet at the same time it underscored the fact that Europe wasn’t really “white.” The dramatic rise of ethnic and racial tensions in the former communist countries, especially eastern Germany, after 1991 illustrated the extent to which the victory of whiteness was not completely assured in the post-Soviet era.

DSJ: Do you understand Trumpism to be a white freedom backlash to the Obama administration or in continuation with the longer history of white freedom? Intellectuals and pundits, for example, are significantly divided on the question of whether Trumpism is unleashing long-standing fascist impulses in this country, especially given the events of January 6. Where do you stand?

TS: The Trump phenomenon certainly represents a backlash against the Obama presidency, but it goes well beyond that. In my book I discuss how the campaign for universal freedom represented by the campaign civil rights and many other popular movements provoked the rise of the New Right, which in many ways reinforced America’s history of white freedom. The current Freedom Caucus of the House of Representatives, composed overwhelmingly of white conservatives, exemplifies that. To an important extent, Trumpism represents a continuation of that political movement which triumphed under Ronald Reagan. At the same time, however, the Trump presidency, in contrast with Reaganism, has sounded a defensive and at times even desperate note, a fear for the survival of white freedom. The election of Barack Obama demonstrated that a universal vision of liberty could triumph at the highest levels of American society and politics, prompting an anguished reaction that created the Tea Party and other reactionary movements. The fact that Trump never won a majority of the popular vote combined with the increasingly multicultural and multiracial makeup of America’s population has led many to believe that the days of white freedom are in fact numbered. The fact that so many Americans cling to Donald Trump and his Republican party, in spite of their outrageous and buffoonish behavior, I believe arises out of this elemental fear.

I do believe events in America since the 2020 presidential election show that Trumpism has the potential to morph into an outright fascist movement. We have never in the modern era witnessed such an outright attempt to overthrow the will of the electorate after an American election, one grounded squarely in the fascist technique of the Big Lie. It has represented the culmination of Republican party efforts to suppress the ability of peoples of color to vote, efforts whose history goes back to the white terrorist campaign against Reconstruction after the Civil War. Moreover, I believe that if fascism does come to America, it will come in the guise of white freedom. The insurrection of January 6 is a case in point. On that day America witnessed the spectacle of thousands of mostly white demonstrators invading the US Capitol Building and trying to overthrow the government. They proclaimed their movement as a campaign to protect their freedoms, and were for the most part allowed to depart peacefully after violently invading federal property. If that didn’t demonstrate that whiteness remains an important part of freedom in America, I don’t know what does.

DSJ: Given mainstream acceptance of Black Lives Matter and Biden’s election to the White House, what do you see the implications to be for white freedom today in this country?

TS: For me and many other African Americans, one of the most surprising things about the murder of George Floyd was the intense reaction by so many white people against the official brutalization of Blacks in America. Leaving aside the rather belated nature of this reaction, or the observation that a movement calling for the right of African Americans not to be murdered is hardly radical, the mainstream acceptance of Black Lives Matter does point to a new day in American racial politics, a new affirmation of universal freedom.

Joseph Biden’s electoral victory, and his acknowledgment of his debt to Black voters and voters of color, also suggests the limits of white freedom in American politics. The fact remains, however, that 74 million Americans voted to reelect Donald Trump. He continues to dominate the base of the Republican Party and maintains a wide base of support in the nation as whole. White freedom is in many ways on the defensive, but that can make it more dangerous than ever. It also remains to be seen how committed President Biden is to a progressive vision of liberty. Initial signs seem encouraging, but during the election campaign he boasted of his ability to work across the aisles with white Southern senators to resist busing for school integration. Such bipartisanship in the past led to Jim Crow and Black bodies swinging from trees. Hopefully President Biden will prove more adept at resisting the Republicans’ siren song of white freedom.

DSJ: Finally, very little is mentioned in White Freedom about the political tradition of democratic socialism, which is experiencing a revival today. Do you believe it is a viable option for resisting white freedom today?

TS: I think democratic socialism is not only viable but vital in the struggle against white freedom. The fact that a significant segment of the white working class has embraced Trumpism is by no means inevitable, but rather speaks to the widespread conviction that the Democratic establishment has abandoned the concerns of working people. Some people who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 also supported Bernie Sanders, for example. Right now in America one of the strongest reasons for the survival of white freedom is the belief of many white workers that their racial identity “trumps” their class position, that, in a political world where no one stands up for working people and their interests, racial privilege is their greatest asset. The election to the presidency of a key member of the Democratic establishment like Joseph Biden does not augur well in the short term for changing this perspective, yet as the painstaking work of Stacey Abrams in Georgia has demonstrated there is no substitute for long-term political organizing. Socialism does have the potential to empower all people and thus demonstrate the universal nature of liberty. Developing and actualizing that potential will be a central part in the campaign to render white freedom history.

Daniel Steinmetz-JenkinsTWITTERruns a regular interview series with The Nation. He is the managing editor of Modern Intellectual History and a Postdoctoral Fellow in the History Department at Dartmouth College. He is writing a book for Columbia University Press titled Raymond Aron and Cold War Liberalism.

Just Imagine, My Dear, It Won’t Be Painless – Spectre Journal

Louis Proyect

In 1872, José Hernández published an epic poem, Martín Fierro, the eponymous story of an outlaw Argentine gaucho, or cowboy. The text was canonized over the years, seen as a special window into the nineteenth-century national soul of Argentina. In form and content, Gabriela Cabezón Cámara’s short novel, Las aventuras de la China Iron – originally published in 2017, translated into English in 2019, and shortlisted for the International Booker Prize the same year – is a radically subversive encounter with Martín Fierro. Cabezón, born in Buenos Aires in 1968, has several acclaimed novels under her belt, and was a founding member of the feminist collective Ni Una Menos.

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