Tag Archives: capitalism

Where Are the Body Counters?

So if you follow news from America you know that once again the Republicans have come back with a new healthcare bill to replace so called Obamacare. So far it is has passed the House, and Republicans are visibly ecstatic about it. It still has to get through the Senate, but naturally people are already freaking out due to some of the provisions in this new bill. One of the most alarming changes is the return of insurers’ right to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions. What is worse is that things like childbirth via C-section, rape, and a history of domestic violence can apparently be considered pre-existing conditions under the new bill (as far as I know this is based on those parts of the bill which have been made public so far).

Suffice to say, millions of people are in danger of losing their coverage, and the inevitable result of a lack of access to medial care is either suffering and/or death. Prior to the Affordable Care Act, America’s inability to implement a healthcare system on par with the civilized world was more than anything an embarrassment. Once America achieved one baby step in the right direction, i.e. Obamacare, the deliberate effort reverse that precious inch forward ought to be seen as something else. Murder.

Is it too hyperbolic to say that men like Paul Ryan or Donald Trump want to murder people? They are deliberately proposing policy which will literally result in preventable deaths. Seems a little familiar, doesn’t it?

In The Black Book of Communism, the authors assert that 100 million people were killed by “Communism” in the 20th century. Needless to say, there are numerous problems with their methodology, but let us ignore those for a moment. The 100 million figure is largely based on two things- the Holodomor in Ukraine and the famine which occurred as a result of The Great Leap Forward in China. Both of these incidents entail millions of preventable deaths due to ideologically driven government policy. Is it right to compare the deliberate denial of healthcare to Soviet or Chinese collectivization policy? You’re damned right it is- in all three cases people are denied something essential to live for ideological reasons.

Now before someone objects and cries whataboutism, let me shut that down by saying that I’m not using this example of healthcare as a justification for anything terrible that happened in the USSR or China. After all, the outrage we find in The Black Book stems from a genuine concern for human life and human rights, right? If a person can be “killed by Communism,” then it stands to reason that they can be killed by free market capitalism. If not, there needs to be a coherent explanation as to why not. Otherwise the operative fallacy here is not whataboutism (“tu quoque”), but rather special pleading.

What we have here is a rather open and shut case- preventable deaths as a result of ideologically-driven policy and, in this case, the opportunity for a big tax cut for America’s super-rich. Now we can add that to preventable deaths due to lack of healthcare plus malnutrition worldwide, stack that on top of capitalism’s long legacy of colonialism and slavery, and voila! Capitalism’s body count trounces even the Black Book‘s generous total for Communism.

Once again, this isn’t about justifying those crimes committed in the name of Communism, because we are, of course, really just concerned about human rights and morality, just like the authors of The Black Book of Communism. Clearly the higher body count of “free market” capitalism compels us to abolish and replace this murderous dogma. Well at least it would, if professional body counters were actually concerned about human life and not scoring political points.

I’m sure that can’t be the case.

 

Useful Idiot of 2014: Oliver Stone

It has been a long, difficult year. I had considered creating some kind of year-in-review post for today, but that would require going back over dozens of bad memories. How fortunate it is that in absence of any planning for some sort of competition, a last-minute candidate for Useful Idiot of the Year has appeared just in the nick of time! Running unopposed in the first ever competition of its kind, “filmmaker” Oliver Stone handily scores this year’s title!

Stone, of course, has a history of pseudo-left politics. I say “pseudo” because its more like leftish populism than anything concretely revolutionary. Just change the narrative a bit here or there and you’ve pretty much got the same ideology that is espoused by far-rightists everywhere, including those of Ukraine and Russia. Stone is also a perfect example of the failure of “anti-hegemony” politics, the idea that there’s this monolithic “West” led by the US, and Russia, China, and a few other states somehow constitute a “resistance” to the Western capitalist hegemony.

In a recent Facebook post, Stone revealed that he had interviewed former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. The whole thing is par for the course. Maidan was a CIA coup, the CIA was behind the snipers shooting protesters, and so on. Let’s take a look.
Interviewed Viktor Yanukovych 4 hours in Moscow for new English language documentary produced by Ukrainians. He was the legitimate President of Ukraine until he suddenly wasn’t on February 22 of this year. Details to follow in the documentary, but it seems clear that the so-called ‘shooters’ who killed 14 police men, wounded some 85, and killed 45 protesting civilians, were outside third party agitators. Many witnesses, including Yanukovych and police officials, believe these foreign elements were introduced by pro-Western factions– with CIA fingerprints on it.

Ah yes, what more objective source could you find than Viktor Yanukovych? Indeed, Yanukovych was the legitimate president, until he suddenly left on 22 February and then was legitimately stripped of his power by the parliament that was left behind. Indeed you could have questioned the legitimacy of the interim government on certain grounds, that is until they had elections in May and especially after they had parliamentary elections in October.

There is nothing to suggest that the shootings which occurred were the work of “outside agitators.” He cites “many witnesses,” but only names one man who wasn’t in a position to know unless he specifically ordered the police to use live rounds. Stone doesn’t give us any evidence, just innuendo. I find it ridiculous how people who have no problem accepting the fact that American police, in such a litigious society, routinely shoot young, unarmed black males, and yet the same people think that Eastern European paramilitaries would never open fire on massive protests which had been increasingly violent for some time.

The only “evidence” Stone offers is comparisons to actual, historical coups.

Create enough chaos, as the CIA did in Iran ‘53, Chile ‘73, and countless other coups, and the legitimate Government can be toppled. It’s America’s soft power technique called ‘Regime Change 101.’

Stone forgets that these were things which happened during the Cold War, when the US actually had a real opponent and much of Europe was for some of that time, a collection of puppet states. That simply isn’t true these days, when Germany leads a bloc of its own and China is a major rival to the US. Furthermore, Iran and Chile didn’t involve various NGOs or civil society initiatives. Both involved direct CIA involvement in connection with members of the military. Lastly, Mossadegh in Iran and to a greater extent Salvador Allende in Chile were both too far to the left for the US. Mossadegh famously wanted to nationalize the Anglo-American oil company while Allende was essentially a socialist. Yanukovych was neither of these things. He had no social platform other than doing what was best for Viktor Yanukovych and his friends. He was no enemy of the IMF and one way or another he would have had to impose some form of austerity on his own country. This is exactly what I mean when I say that anti-hegemony types are fighting a non-existent conflict. There is no resistance bloc against global capitalism. These people are only backing the losers in the game.

In this case the “Maidan Massacre” was featured in Western media as the result of an unstable, brutal pro-Russian Yanukovych Government. You may recall Yanukovych went along with the February 21 deal with opposition parties and 3 EU foreign minsters to get rid of him by calling for early elections. The next day that deal was meaningless when well-armed, neo-Nazi radicals forced Yanukovych to flee the country with repeated assassination attempts.
Stone is apparently considering a career as a comedy writer. First of all, Yanukovych fled after making that agreement on 21 February. I’ve seen no evidence of any assassination attempt on him and while some radicals had indeed obtained firearms, nobody in their right mind would call them “well armed.” Another important point about this agreement is that the leaders of the opposition parties did indeed sign it, but they clearly couldn’t control thousands of people on the streets. The fact that the new government continued to have problems with Maidan supporters and organizations throughout 2014 shows how limited their control was then.

A dirty story through and through, but in the tragic aftermath of this coup, the West has maintained the dominant narrative of “Russia in Crimea” whereas the true narrative is “USA in Ukraine.” The truth is not being aired in the West. It’s a surreal perversion of history that’s going on once again, as in Bush pre-Iraq ‘WMD’ campaign. But I believe the truth will finally come out in the West, I hope, in time to stop further insanity.

Let’s see here- Russian troops actually occupy the Crimea, and in a short time a referendum with no status quo option declares Crimea independent, then a part of the Russian Federation. How many US soldiers went to Ukraine in that time? How many are there now? Imagine Stone’s reaction if a brigade of American soldiers had arrived in Kyiv around February 21st to “defend protesters from potential reprisals by Yanukovych’s military.” Imagine against that background, the protesters seized government buildings and held a referendum to oust Yanukovych’s government. Do you think Stone would be fine with that? Of course not. What each and every one of these anti-hegemony dipshits fail to understand is the concept of principle. Are you against big, powerful nations using their military and economic leverage to push around smaller nations, or are you only against it when that nation is the US? This is why I became so alienated from much of the left this year- I opposed American imperialism because it was imperialist, not because it was American. Stone, of course, doesn’t have any principles. Rather than actually address problems in America and do something about them, he prefers to engage in conspiracy theories and pretend he has a friend in Moscow. And he speaks about stopping insanity.

One final point I want to make here is on this bullshit about how this “isn’t aired in the West.” I have nothing but contempt for people who hide behind phrases like, “this is something they don’t want you to know,” “everything you know is a lie,” or “this is the politically incorrect story.” These are all psychological ploys to make the audience more pliable to what they’re about to hear. Nobody wants to think they’ve been duped, and everybody rightly suspects what they receive from the media. The problem is, though, that while the Western media certainly didn’t report Stone’s fantasy version of events, you cannot say that the West was all-in for Maidan. Many Western publications and journalists published critical articles about Maidan, ranging from exposures of the right-wing elements in the protest to questioning the protesters’ belief that a European Union trade agreement would truly improve their situation. I have referenced and featured several of these articles on this blog throughout this year. Sure, you could say that on the whole, Western coverage was biased in favor of Maidan. But compare that to the pro-Russian coverage of Maidan, from internet sites like Globalization Research to RT.

Where have you ever seen a single article on any pro-Russian source which even begrudgingly concedes any point to the Maidan movement as a whole? Even from the beginning, when I was quite hostile to the Maidan movement, there were two points I could not even assail them on. One was the fact that Yanukovych was indeed incredibly corrupt and brought nothing positive to Ukraine. The other was that regardless of the politics of any specific group within the movement, at least these people were standing up for themselves. They thought they had been wronged by their government, so they stood up to that government and changed it. Contrast that to Russia where everybody drops their pants, bends over, and begs the government for “stability” they never receive in exchange for their dignity and freedom. Tell me where I can see even that modest nuance in the pro-Russian press when it comes to Maidan. According to them, it was all Nazi, all CIA-backed.
The problem with Stone is that he has the same thought process as many of the people who immediately threw their unqualified support behind Maidan. Stone doesn’t have any real background knowledge on Ukraine or Russia. He doesn’t know what the Yanukovych government was like, or what the Putin government is like. All he knows is that the Western media generally said that this movement was good and this president was bad. Ergo in typical lazy leftist fashion he decides that the movement must be backed by the CIA and Yanukovych’s regime must have been positive. Of course any time you ask one of these dupes about what such and such a regime was supposedly doing to piss off Washington so much, the answer is always that they are “resisting.” How they are resisting or why that is even positive is never mentioned. Nazi Germany was “resisting” Washington. ISIL is “resisting.”

I have a real problem with this tactic of labeling movements as CIA putsches as well. Readers of this blog will note that while my opinions about Maidan changed over time, mostly due to Russian reaction, I never suggested that the protest movement consisted of paid CIA shills. For one thing, I am very familiar with Ukrainian nationalism and I knew that nobody needed to pay those assholes to come out and run amok. And while NGOs no doubt had an influence on many other protesters, it’s important to realize that these organizations don’t pay people to protest, nor do they force them. Most of the time these Western NGOs exist because local governments don’t fund or encourage civil organizations. Some of these organizations are dedicated to one particular social ill, e.g. women trafficking and sexual exploitation. They are more or less non-political but must seek foreign funding as the government essentially ignores them if not eyes them with suspicion. Naturally these people will gravitate to political movements. What anti-hegemony types, lazy leftists, and naive populists can’t understand is that people listen to the message of these NGOs because their own governments offer virtually nothing positive or at best, fail to deliver on their promises. NGOs can shape and channel movements, but they do not conjure them out of thin air.

When you’re an outsider it’s easy to misunderstand people’s motives, so let me put it to you in this way. Did you protest against the Iraq war? Yes? How much did Saddam Hussein pay you? Were you at Occupy, or did you at least support the movement? You know RT did a lot of coverage of Occupy. Perhaps you were paid by the Russian government. Did you protest over Ferguson? How much did you get paid from that? You know some witnesses think that Darren Wilson might have been an outside-agitator working for Russian intelligence. I have criticized Maidan and the US on this blog. Do you suppose I get paid by the Kremlin? How does it feel to have not only your motives, but your very free will questioned by armchair geopolitical wonks? Is it not absurd? Are you not angered? The Kremlin loves to spread this cynical idea because that’s how it has operate for years. It conjures political movements out of thin air and it pays people to come to rallies. It has no other way of attracting support.

Oliver Stone, like many populists and phony leftists, is offering activists nothing more than a fantasy, a dead-end. Rather than actually stand up to power and fighting for justice, the Stones of the world would have us believe that we should sink all our energy in to supporting these alleged islands of “resistance” to the capitalist hegemony. So we follow their advice, and eventually this or that regime collapses due to its own incompetence and corruption. Then it begins again so we can turn another corrupt, bumbling dictator into the next Che Guevara. Isn’t this starting to get old? Does it not seem odd to anyone that the answer to America’s problems with student loans, police brutality, racism, and workers’ rights is to be found in Russia, where conditions are far worse? Does it not seem a bit more subversive to actually start doing something about that instead of carrying a torch for regimes you’ve never lived under?

Meh. What do I know? I need to cash my paychecks from the CIA and FSB so I can go party tonight.

Oliver Stone, you win 2014’s award for Useful Idiot of the Year.

2014, fuck you.