A Few Notes on WHAT IS LEFT (or Toward a Manifesto for Revolutionary Emancipation)

19 Jun


WHAT IS LEFT in two senses:


            –what remains of the historic left, conceived more universally as emancipatory politics independent of place and cultural nexus; that is, not

just Marxism, and its progeny, but all forms of resistance to oppression, including by indigenous peoples or in response to religious convictions;

            –the definitional challenge associated with defining ‘the left’ under contemporary conditions; the position taken here is that the left is somewhat obsolete if conceived in Eurocentric terms as opposition to the right, and needs to be conceived in relation to visions and projects of emancipation and through the aperture of historic struggles.


Toward a Manifesto for Revolutionary Emancipation:

            –the need for a radical depiction of transformative politics that takes full account of the historical particularity of present world conditions;

            –the importance of repudiating and transcending the anti-utopian ethos of prevailing political perspectives on change and reform;

            –the potentiality of generalizing a politics that seeks a just and sustainable future for all living beings on the planet;

            –the engagement with a conversational approach to political advocacy, and a corresponding rejection of all forms of dogmatic thinking.


The ‘left’ agenda of the early 21st century:


            –support for the Palestinian Solidarity Movement, including its BDS campaign as both a creative form of resistance to oppressive circumstances, not just territorial occupation, but also to the struggle to overcome the enforced refugee and displacement status that has afflicted millions of Palestinians for more than six decades and a vision of justice and reconciliation;

            –struggle against global capitalism, especially in its neoliberal globalizing phase of super-financialization, as fundamentally unjust and unsustainable;

            –support for movement from below to push for adjustments to the challenges of climate change; the emissions of greenhouse gasses must be drastically reduced as an urgent priority; waiting until the harm is sufficiently tangible to produce effective governmental responses will be waiting too long, and involves the neglect of justice to future generations and indifferent to the present sufferings of sub-Saharan  Africa, islands and coastal areas subject to flooding.






The leading forces for and against emancipatory politics:


            –FOR: the declining effectiveness of hard power politics either in its governmental or resistance forms; militarism is failing, although the political elites of the world, led by the United States, seem oblivious to this decisive historical trend; confirmations include the revolutionary potential of the Arab Spring, as well as the outcome of the Vietnam War, the Iraq War, and the still persisting Afghanistan War; it is not that military power has become irrelevant, but that it rarely in this historical period determines the political outcome; the great series of struggles in the last 60 years against colonialism ended with victory by the militarily weaker side, or by the side, as in India, that did not contest the imperial presence by violent forms of resistance; in contrast, hard power warfare and rulership were effective in earlier historical eras, and throughout the world;


        –AGAINST: the spreading of materialist consumerism as the new opiate of the people that hides the destructive and alienating dimensions of late modernity, and shields capitalist behavior from transformative critique; economic globalization as exhibited through franchise capitalism is the most widely endorsed regressive ideology operative in the world today, and is characteristic in different formats of the two leading exponents of the capitalist path: the United States and China. The absence of a counter-ideology of wide applicability after the Soviet collapse combined with discrediting a socialist ethos as alternative foundation for economic and political activity and organization has contributed to a widespread mood of resignation (‘there are no alternatives’). Replacing despair with hope is indispensable if new

globally attractive forms of emancipatory politics are to emerge and evolve.



Comments on Legitimacy Wars as the encompassing form of struggle:


–an overriding recognition of the historical ascendancy of soft power;

–tactical and strategic commitments to nonviolence, although not unconditionally;

–crucial emphasis on gaining the high moral ground to widen popular appeal,

and use of law as an instrument to mobilize support, especially international law (‘lawfare’ as an approved modality of struggle);

–use of international arenas, whether regional or global, local or national, to wage symbolic struggles on behalf of legitimate claims, with a special stress on the symbolic significance of gaining support in the United Nations;

–understanding that most struggles for legitimate goals are non-territorial in relation to the symbolic and soft power battlefields that give potency to public opinion, to exemplary leadership (e.g Gandhi, Nelson Mandela); to tactics such as boycott, divestment, and sanctions, and to the certification of the moral and legal authority of grievances and claims (e.g. the Goldstone Report);

–patience and perseverance  as cardinal political virtues, along with the realization that legitimacy wars can be lost as well as won, with outcomes contingent on many contextual factors (e.g. self-determination for Tibetans, Chechens; indigenous peoples);

–a vision of the goal that includes reconciliation, accountability, and forgiveness, with the realization that there will be tensions and contradictions present in clearing the path forward, away from conflict, toward sustainable and just peace.





These notes are meant as tentative and conversational expressions of an emergent political point of view, and will be revised in response to commentary by others. Obviously, also, there is no pretension on my part of comprehensiveness, or else many other issues would have been addressed: struggles against various types of patriarchy; the need to renounce nuclear weaponry, and work toward a phased process of nuclear disarmament, as well as other aspects of demilitarization; extending rights of self-determination to indigenous peoples variously situated; and establishing institutional arrangements giving opportunities for popular and direct representation of the peoples of the world (e.g. a UN Parliament of Peoples); building in all social spaces substantive democracy based on the equality of persons, reverence for the natural environment, and celebration of diverse spiritual and religious traditions. A cosmopolitan ethos that affirms love of self and others, tradition and otherness, and the familiar and the exotic.

14 Responses to “A Few Notes on WHAT IS LEFT (or Toward a Manifesto for Revolutionary Emancipation)”

  1. Barbara Nicholson June 19, 2011 at 10:09 am #

    Nuclear power for weapons should never be used but it seems to me that nuclear for energy would be OK. I understand that the new fast reactors sre such that the waste is NOT usable for weapons. This according to our friend Jim Holm’s web site coal2nuclear.com . Please comment after checking his extensive web site.

  2. Anthony J. Hall June 19, 2011 at 11:12 am #

    The Left, Progressive Politics, and the Fourth World

    by Anthony J. Hall
    Professor of Globalization Studies
    University of Lethbridge
    Alberta Canada

    Thank you Professor Falk for this very thoughtful and significant commentary on what I would dub a Fourth World agenda of global transformation. As I outline in The American Empire and the Fourth World as well as in Earth into Property: Colonization, Decolonization, and Capitalism, the historic resistance of Indigenous peoples to imperial globalization since 1492 forms a core trajectory of progressive politics that can inform and animate the liberation struggles of most oppressed groups, including women, the unemployed, wage laborers and green environmentalists.

    Following from Sartre’s masterful introduction to Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth, I take Indigenous peoples to mean the three-quarters of the world’s peoples on the receiving end of imperial globalization as initiated by the overseas exploits of imperial Portugal, Spain, France, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Russia and Belgium. The vacuum created by the demise of European empires after 1945, including eventually the demise of the Soviet empire, was filled in large measure by the US-based national security state and its attending military-industrial complex including the media conglomerates.

    The imperial orientation of the United States, as guided increasingly by the Washington-Tel-Aviv axis, became especially pronounced after the fall of the Berlin Wall. This post- Cold War trajectory of imperial globalization began with the exercise of soft but nevertheless coercive power at the World Trade Organization; it evolved into the 9/11 Wars after the false flag events of September11, 2001. Those who emphasize the move towards the ecological globalization of the Fourth World must oppose the armed aggressions, invasions of civil liberties and propping up of corrupt oligarchies, all facilitated by the 9/11 Wars.

    Progressive activists must work especially hard to expose the frauds, Black Operations, and psychological warfare integral to the manufacturing of political consent for the continuing resource and Lebensraum grabs from Indigenous peoples being done in the name of the Global War on Terror. The Obama regime is extending this GWOT under a variety of new nomenclatures. Because many of the thick webs of organized crime attending the GWOT are centered on the Executive branch of the US government, special efforts must be directed to bringing this rogue agency within the constraints of the rule of law. Progressives globally must extend special efforts efforts to assisting progressive individuals and groups seeking justice within the rogue superpower.

    Because of the corrosive role of the media conglomerates and the controlled opposition embedded in the so-called alternative media, we must place a high emphasis on protecting and expanding the openness of the Internet and the ideal of web neutrality so as not to disadvantage voices of dissent.

    Those who are attentive will appreciate what the catastrophe at Fukushima is teaching us. This episode illustrates, for instance, the thick web of connections between the war machine and the nuclear energy industry through agencies like GE, Westinghouse, Bechtel and Toshiba. The movement for nuclear disarmament must extend, therefore, to ending the nuclear energy industry.

    In the place of infrastructures that centralize the generation of electricity we must develop decentralized systems for the transformation of energy into media of power conducive to the generation of human wellbeing. We must endeavour to extend the requirements of ecological equilibrium between human beings to more harmonious interactions with our plant and animal relatives in a sustainable web of life.

    At the same time as we decentralize some facets of government we must concurrently build up agencies with the capacity to elaborate and enforce the rule of law at the global level. We need a stronger set of international institutions to enforce fairly and uniformly prohibitions on war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes against the peace. We need a stronger system of juridical institutions to enforce universal standards for the protection of the biocultural diversity so essential to the pluralistic coherence of the Fourth World.

    • Richard Falk June 20, 2011 at 9:05 am #

      Thanks for your thoughtful and illuminating comment. I agree with your assessments, but wonder whether there can be a stronger rule of law without a prior ‘cultural revolution’ with respect to nationalism, the sovereign state, and the semi-sovereign, transnational market.

      • Carol P. Christ June 20, 2011 at 10:55 pm #

        I was going to mention the (militarized) nation state as problematic (a la Schell) as another thing to include in your analysis–in my response below, but my computer was flashing and I thought I didn’t have room. There is so much that is wrong with our world…

      • Richard Falk June 21, 2011 at 7:17 am #

        Of course, I agree, and will try to include in an extended version of this preliminary statement.

  3. Carol P. Christ June 20, 2011 at 4:03 am #

    Richard, this is an important dialogue. Here are 2 things I am missing:

    1) Commitment to women’s rights including control of their own bodies and the right to choose their own marriage partners (or not).

    2) Specific opposition to militarism and the military industrial complex, not simply as a part of other issues but as a separate item in the list.

    • Richard Falk June 20, 2011 at 8:59 am #

      Thanks, Carol, for these comments. I did mean to imply both concerns, but did not make sufficiently explicit. I will try to be more comprehensive in a future blog. Warmly, Richard

  4. Ann Nevans June 20, 2011 at 11:42 am #

    Dear Richard,

    I appreciate your comprehensive re-defining of the meaning and goals of the “left” in relation to present conditions. You specifically referred to “a politics that seeks a just and sustainable future for all living beings on the planet”. I was very happy to read that because this holistic approach has to be included in any manifesto which purports to champion the least powerful members of a society. I believe that this is the great and overriding issue of our time (and one that can unite all of us across political lines) although it is still completely ignored by world leaders.

    I refer to BILLIONS of suffering animals on factory farms, massive use of antibiotics to keep them alive, desecration of habitats to raise gm mono-crops to feed them hence complete depletion of soils, uncontrolled waste with devastating environmental consequences, dangerous conditions for slaughterhouse workers who have less rights now (in the US) than they did in 1911, rampant abuse of animals and withholding from them even the basic right to physically move and stretch themselves. This is an issue largely kept under raps, but it is the sickening underbelly of everything. Although we “know” factory farms are bad we have not clearly addressed just how terrible the abuse really is. We have completely broken the covenant between ourselves and the domestic animals we raise for food. If we think this is as bad as it can get we have to think again because the frankenstein laboratories of big meat industries are busily dreaming up ever more ways to increase their yields and profits – including cloning, mixing up genes and using pharmaceuticals for unethical results. This is perpetrated on our fellow creatures who have no rights at all to fight back.

    Meanwhile we are told that this is necessary to “feed the world” because there are so many of us now and this shuts us up. This is just another HUGE lie of big corporations. In fact there are very good alternatives to the CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) which would benefit and heal the natural world in so many ways, but our government is lackey to a system that is both morally contemptible and environmentally completely unsustainable.

    I would like to throw out some ideas to end with: The Taoists in ancient China were champions of the poor and downtrodden against corrupt power and they did not overlook the animals in their world view. The soft power of the feminine is also emerging as a great force for love and healing. William Wilberforce ended slavery in England and he was one man. Permaculture can raise an astounding amount of healthy food and regenerate the soil at the same time.

    Let us not be only people oriented. Let us go back to a more holistic world view. We can figure out our food choices in a more sustainable and humane way if we take the responsibility to figure it out. This is the basis of everything.

    • Carol P. Christ June 20, 2011 at 10:52 pm #

      So important Ann.

    • Richard Falk June 21, 2011 at 7:20 am #

      Dear Ann: Thanks so much for this illuminating elaboration of what I was trying to express, and your
      references to soft power of feminism as well as Taoism are most congenial. I didn’t realize that Wilberforce
      deserved such credit with respect to slavery. Warmly, Richard

      • Anthony J. Hall June 21, 2011 at 11:27 am #

        Choosing Exemplary Figures from History to Inspire Our Freedom Movement

        Putting so much emphasis on Wilberforce in the movement to bring slavery to an end somewhat diverts attention from the actions mounted by slaves to free themselves. The organized mobilization of several hundred thousand slaves to transform the French sugar colony of San Domingo into the republic of Haiti is one of the most inspirational stories to emerge from the saga of the French Revolution.

        As C.L.R. James long ago announced, Toussaint L’Overture’s leadership of this liberation movement gives the forces of enlightened progress one of their most instructive examples of courage and intelligence in the face of repression. Napoleon and Thomas Jefferson led the counterrevolutionary efforts to reimpose the shackles of slavery on those who had broken free to from the vile institution to claim the status of persons, of citizens.

        I often link the liberation struggles of Toussaint to those of Tecumseh, the leader of the pan-Indian Confederacy in the North American interior that mounted in the War of 1812 the most serious challenge ever to the transcontinental expansion of the nascent US empire.

        In the movement to restore principle,vision and traction to the progress of progressive forces we need to draw examples from history to help point the way in the quest to move from the darkness of military, political ,commercial and environment oppression to the light of liberation for both people and peoples. Tecumseh and Toussaint emerged from the ranks of slaves and dispossessed Indigenous peoples to demand places at international negotiating tables for the dark-skinned wretched of the earth. Joined by representatives of the USA and subsequently Japan, this colonial club carved up the world in the imperial transformation of earth into property.

        The membership of the empire builders’ club would find, with some revisions, extensions in the membership of, for instance, the UN Security Council, NATO, the G8, and the International Monetary Fund. In so many ways history has shown the institutions of slavery and empire to be incredibly resilient.

        We still have not gone very far in affording a fair share of power and wealth to the constituencies that Toussant and Tecumseh tried to represent. Both men died young, martyred like Che Guevara and Patrice Lumumba in the struggle to help humanity escape the tryanny of capital’s empire.

  5. Joshua Blakeney June 21, 2011 at 8:04 pm #

    Reestablishing A Paleo-Marxist Critique of Capitalism and Imperialism:

    A Response by Joshua Blakeney to Professor Richard Falk’s article:
    “A Few Notes on WHAT IS LEFT”

    Overcoming Postmodernism

    It is important for those of us genuinely aspiring to improve the world that we recognize the need for an absolutist “counter-ideology” which can act as a tenable and attractive alternative to the ideology of possessive individualism coercively forced upon the planet by the bought-and-paid-for ‘intellectual’ apologists for global capitalism. There needs to be a recognition that authentic Marxism has been overwhelmingly a positive force for humanity and that a Marxist understanding of capitalism should inform any alternative ideology.

    It must be acknowledged that past Communist and socialistic governments, belying the stereotype of being callous self-interested elitists, invariably took risks to side with the underdog. Contrastingly the global bourgeoisie ensconced in countries like Britain, the United States, Canada, South Africa, Israel and Australia have consistently buttressed the most reactionary, proto-fascist regimes imaginable on the agreement that such regimes kill communists, trade unionists and anyone who aspires to progress society beyond a class-based stratified economic system. When reading Donald Woods’ exceptional and courageous (he had to flee South Africa to publish it) biography of Steve Biko I came across the following testimony by Nelson Mandela during the famous Rivonia Trial of 1964:

    “[F]or many decades communists were the only political group in South Africa who were prepared to treat Africans as human beings and their equals; who were prepared to eat with us, talk with us, live with us and work with us. They were the only political group which was prepared to work with Africans for the attainment of political rights and a stake in society. Because of this, there are many Africans who, today, tend to equate freedom with communism.”

    One key trait of the pre-1968 left was that it, at least to some extent, knew where it was heading, namely towards the establishment of a world based on socialist-Marxian principles (defined primarily as workers’ control of production) and internationalism. What socialism would or would not entail, and the means by which it would be achieved (through armed struggle, through the parliamentary system, etc) was disputed. But there was at least some overarching consensus regarding what was the correct palliative for society’s capitalist-inflicted sicknesses. Each faction of the left (anarchist, Trotskyists, orthodox Marxists etc) harnessed to varying degrees an economistic analysis of capitalism. Most on the left concurred that the ending of capitalism, coupled with the nationalization of the commanding heights of the economy, were necessary conditions for the resolution of cultural, psychological, legal, political and family-related problems as such problems were direct outgrowths of a capitalist mode of production.

    Post-1968 the left began a fatal shift away from the science of Marxism towards the complex of theories, methodologies, attitudes and assumptions which are referred to under the rubric of “postmodernism.” [Although some academics dispute terminology and distinguish between post-structuralism (aka anti-foundationalism) – which refers to particular sets of philosophies and theories – and the wider sets of trends known as “postmodernism” or “postmodernity” I will not split hairs for the purpose of this concise piece and will use postmodernism to denote all of the above.]

    The shift towards postmodernism resulted in a preponderance of left-thinkers:

    1) Rejecting the quest for objectivity in research and by extension rejecting the possibility or desirability for unmasking absolute truth through experimentation and observation of the natural world.

    2) Obsessing themselves with subjective beliefs and subjectivity regardless of the truth or falsity of a subject’s beliefs. This often resulted in outlandish, superstitious beliefs being spoken of as knowledge (a justified, true belief). N.B.- Subjectivism and the study of identity and subculture often reaffirms the core precepts of capitalist individualism.

    3) Disproportionately studying the form rather than the content/substance of beliefs, arguments and texts. Whilst studying form rather than content is often justifiable in the arts and with ascetics in general, when it comes to political-historical-sociological analyses involving knowledge, such epistemic relativism has the effect of enabling bourgeois concocted-fantasies and politically expedient myths (e.g. the official interpretation of 9/11) to go unchallenged, contributing to societal obscurantism and the further stupefaction of the working class.

    4) Displaying distain towards science, logic and the scientific method; throwing the baby out with the bath water by failing to distinguish between power’s exploitation of science (such as with nuclear weapons and nuclear power) and the scientific attitude itself. This anti-technology, anti-science, anti-progress postmodern disposition likewise contributes to societal obscurantism and allows politicized pseudo-science (such as the NIST report fraudulently explaining World Trade Centre building 7’s collapse) to gain traction among the public which in turn abets imperialism. Natural scientists’ emphasis on empirical evidence, logic and reason are viewed merely as “one paradigm” rather than the only credible way to ascertain external truth.

    5) Rejecting utopianism and generalized ideological prescriptions (to quote Lyotard’s favorite edict “incredulity toward metanarratives”); when the failures and crimes (real and imagined) of the Soviet Union reached the consciousness of leftists in the period leading up to 1968, many went through ideological crises. Many leftists asininely rejected Marxism and the aspiration to progress humanity beyond capitalism. The post-1968 attempts to emancipate people via ethnic, cultural and gendered vehicles largely failed and wasted a great deal of precious energy and resources. Such postmodern ethno-gender-politics often served the interests of the class oppressors. During this postmodern epoch we can have a black man as U.S. president but the vast majority of men and women of all ethnicities have experienced a decline in standards of living and an increase in class oppression. It should be remembered that there are rich black women, for example, who have far more power and dignity than poor white men.

    There are quite stark limitations to ethnic and gendered approaches to emancipation. Ending class rule should be a priority.

    From Left-Anti-Communists to Left-Islamophobes:
    Careerist ‘Leftists’ who Refuse to Bite the Hand that Feeds Them

    Rather than seeking to diagnose the array of problems with Soviet-style communism (such as the lack of incentives for managers, lack of incentive for technological innovators, inefficient usage of resources and the lack of incentives to fill quotas) and critiquing and learning from those mistakes (whilst also commending the remarkable achievements of communist governments), post-1968 leftists abandoned the quest for economic democracy altogether. Post-1968 the slew of born-again left anti-Communists, the forerunners of the post-9/11 left-Islamophobes, begun (misguidedly) to promote emancipation via ethnic, gendered, race, cultural and religious vehicles metamorphosing into what Michael Parenti calls ‘ABC theorists’ [Anything But Class theorists]. Many leftists rejected the end goal of establishing of workers’ control of production in favour of encouraging (sometimes with CIA backing) postmodern ethnic nationalist projects.

    Whenever the Soviet Union or Cuba, for example, intervened to assist the oppressed in their legitimate emancipation struggles, such as in Angola, this would often be critiqued on a par with the imperialism of the bourgeoisie. The fact that typically the Soviet Union backed the underdog and the capitalists backed the most reactionary and militarized elements in a given society (e.g. in Chile, in Nicaragua, in pre-1959 Cuba, Southern Africa) was disregarded by these left-McCarthyists. While Marxists were being ostracized by many on the left, millionaire capitalist restorationists such as Vaclav Havel were held up as progressives. Left-anti-Communists disregarded the fact that such individuals oppressed their people, privatized everything they and their corrupt friends could get their hands on and criminalized dissent once in power (Havel actually suspended parliament and enshrined a law proscribing “class hatred”).

    The C-word became taboo among most left-anti-Communists who cashed in on lucrative grants from capitalist philanthropic organizations (e.g. Ford Foundation) to conduct power-serving studies emphasizing ethnicity, gender and culture (divorced from economic analyses) in nations such as Nicaragua and Congo where workers had previously been seeking to transcend ethnic and cultural parochialism and build a society based on universal socialist principles. In 1986 sociologist Stanley Aronowitz opined “When I hear the word ‘class’ I just yawn.” Ronald Aronson in his After Marxism, disregarding statistics indicating increased stratification in society, declared that classes were “less polarized” rendering Marxism obsolete. Others simply argued that because Marx wrote what he wrote many years ago that somehow this rendered his analyses devoid of any contemporary application (which makes one wonder if such people no longer believe in gravity since Isaac Newton wrote Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica over three centuries ago). Sokal and Bricmont write in their Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals Abuse of Science:

    For most of the past two centuries, the left has been indentified with science and against obscurantism, believing that rational thought and the fearless analysis of objective reality (both natural and social) are incisive tools for combating the mystifications promoted by the powerful – not to mention being desirable human ends in their own right. And yet, over the past two decades, a large number of “progressive” or “leftist” academic humanities and social scientists…have turned away from this Enlightenment legacy and…have embraced one or another versions of epistemic relativism.

    By the 1990s the regressive postmodern current had marginalized Marxian (economistic) critiques of capitalism paving the way for capitalist restoration in communist countries that had made several strides for humanity with the abolition of most private property, the nationalization of resources and in health and education. Under the guise of “fighting dogmatism right and left” many academics criticized an easy target, communism, whilst refusing to bite the hand that fed them.

    On Indigenous Peoples

    ‘Indigenous peoples’ is a fashionable phrase which is interesting to contemplate. By using the word peoples rather than people one is supposing that it is necessary to carve humanity up along ethnic, cultural and religious lines and to express this sectarianism in one’s lexicon. It is assumed that we are not one people – we are many peoples. There are however many ways to categorized humanity. Eugenicists believed not in one human family of people but in different strata of peoples. These different peoples were ranked based on pseudo-scientific, Social Darwinist categories. Social Darwinism served capitalism greatly as it allowed the ruling class to divide the working class and to enslave certain populations when capitalism went into crises. With the Nazis making overt Social Darwinism unfashionable, emphasizing ethnicity became the most convenient way for the bourgeoisie to inculcate notions of ‘otherness’ amongst workers of the world. Dividing humanity up based on (often arbitrary) ethnic/cultural lines is an approach which has traditionally been rejected by Marxists. Marxists have tended to view ethnic-sectarianism as serving to obfuscate the most egregious chasm burdening the human family which is the division of humanity into capitalist and wage labourer.

    In attempting to overcome parochialism in Latin America, Che Guevara would proclaim “We are all Mestizo!” Ethnic and religious sectarianism is necessary for capitalism to function as capitalism, like slavery and feudalism requires the vast majority of humanity to toil so as to provide opulence for a small cabal of elites. The oppressed being the majority in a class-based society results in them possessing the collective-power to overthrow their rulers. Hence, the ruling class conspires against the workers annexing them along ethnic and religious lines. By conspiring to create divisions amongst the working classes revolutionary potential remains unrealized and bourgeois hegemony is perpetuated.

    To this day, having travelled to almost as many countries as years I’ve been on this planet, and having lived on the Blackfeet Indian reservation in Montana for several months at a time, I have never encountered an ethnic group in which there are not oppressors and oppressed, exploiters and exploited and for that matter aberrant superstitious dogmatists and a rational majority seeking to improve their lot in life independent of cultural and religious (metaphysical) considerations.

    The supplanting of class-analyses with cultural, gendered and ethnic based analyses in the social sciences has resulted in 1) a reluctance to assist – or attempt to emancipate – certain oppressed people out of a fear that one might be castigated as being “Eurocentric” or be accused of “trampling on somebody else’s culture”. When, for example, a Mayan Indian is prescribed an aspirin for a headache only the most extreme postmodern nihilists would stop to ask if that aspirin is imposing Eurocentric values, attitudes and norms on that human being. Yet when Marxists have attempted to prescribe palliatives for grave societal problems among oppressed groups, or have merely attempted to educate certain human beings on mistakes they make in every day life, they are denounced as ethnocentric and coercive. In a world of epistemic relativism – where there is no right or wrong – attempting to educate individuals from distinct cultural groups on their failure to properly analyze their exploited status in capitalist society – i.e. tell such people they are wrong/myopic is deemed dogmatic, Eurocentic and unethical. Meanwhile the capitalists lack such mores and with the complicity of the postmodern bourgeois-academic-journalistic complex continue to exploit individuals of all ethnicities globally. Who could deny, for example, that Kurdish ethnic-nationalism has served imperialism rather than been a mechanism for anti-authoritarianism and emancipation in recent decades? Rather than ‘celebrating difference’ as most left-academics do today we need to recognize our few differences as human beings and seek to overcome them.

    It is in actuality disparaging to members of non-European ethnic groups to associate them all with the most obscurantist, superstitious factions in their societies. But attempts to define someone as belonging to a distinct people (rather than to a universal class of wage-labourers) necessitates such guilt by association. Why should workers from an individual ethnic group be lumped together with the most superstitious retrograde (I used this word based on a belief in the notion of progress) shaman for example? Would all individuals of Jewish ethnicity like to be lumped together with fanatical religious Zionists? Why should we employ such arbitrariness when categorizing individuals living in, say, Guatemala, Kenya or Bolivia? Professor Hall in Earth into Property illustrates well that the original people of Central America used scientific reasoning and advanced horticultural methods to provide us with the various strains of corn, tomato, potato and squash that us Euro-Americans enjoy today. Rather than exclude such American rationalists from the Enlightenment’s legacy we should recognize that the Enlightenment’s goals of Liberté, égalité, fraternité and the quest to conquer nature is not an exclusively European initiative.

    Zionism in The Era of Ethnic Romanticism and Excessive Moral,
    Epistemic and Cognitive Relativism

    The above discussion leads nicely into a consideration of the Palestine Question. With relativist ethnic-analyses being the paradigm du jour arguing that Zionist romantic nationalism is unjustified because it is inherently exceptionalist and because it feeds racism is a bitter pill to swallow for many postmodern academics. Just as thousands of left-anti-communists were manufactured with ease by capitalist knowledge producing institutions during the Cold War so left-Zionists and their counterparts left-Islamophobes have proliferated since the events of 9/11 (events which Likudniks are heavily implicated in). With the ignominious post-1990s decline of the American Empire we’ve seen the “globalization of Zionist power”, to quote James Petras. Critically analyzing the different factions that constitute the bourgeoisie has become increasingly difficult and politically incorrect due to the reality that a large percentage of the oppressing class consists of those who can play both the “oppressed minority” card and “victim of genocide” card whilst concurrently meting out genocide and oppression in the Middle East. Israeli settler colonialism has, unlike South Africa’s version of it, been able to survive the post-Cold War reordering of world power because: 1) A large portion of the world’s rich are blind supporters of Israel (Israel acts as a safe haven for numerous fraudsters and gangsters). Sociologist James Petras writes of the locus of power he calls the Zionist Power Configuration: “Jews in North America, South America and Europe are disproportionately in the highest paid positions with the highest proportion in the exclusive, prestigious private universities, with disproportionate influence in finance and the media. It is clear that “anti-Semitism” is a very marginal global issue and, in point of fact, that Jews are the most influential ethnic group.” 2) The manufactured events of 9/11 made Israel’s enemies the perceived enemies of Western governments resulting in a perceived convergence of interests between Israel and many Anglo-American political elites. Perhaps pro-apartheid Afrikaners should have conducted false-flag terrorism in Western countries and blamed in on black Africans to allow their political sponsors in the United States and Europe to justify continued support for their racist regime?

    We must take a similar attitude towards Zionism that the prolific writer and philosopher Lenin took as he and his comrades attempted to unite the 192 nationalities that the Russian monarchy had been cynically pitting against each other prior to 1917. Writing of the relationship between Marxism and Nationalism Lenin wrote:

    Marxism cannot be reconciled with nationalism, be it even of the ‘most just,’ ‘purest,’ most refined and civilized brand. In place of all forms of nationalism Marxism advances internationalism, the amalgamation of all nations in the higher unity…The principle of nationality is historically inevitable in bourgeois society and, taking this society into due account, the Marxist fully recognizes the historical legitimacy of national movements. But to prevent this recognition from becoming an apologia of nationalism, it must be strictly limited to what is progressive in such movements, in order that this recognition may not lead to bourgeois ideology obscuring proletarian consciousness…Combat all national oppression? Yes, of course! Fight for any kind of national development, for ‘national culture’ in general? — Of course not.

    Lenin was contemptuous towards Jewish nationalism:

    The Jews of Galicia and Russia are not a nation; unfortunately (through no fault of their own but through that of the Purishkeviches (they are still a caste here…[It is] only Jewish reactionary philistines, who want to turn back the wheel of history, and make it proceed, not from the conditions prevailing in Russia and Galicia to those prevailing in Paris and New York, but in the reverse direction – only they can clamor against ‘assimilation.’

    Just as leftists ought to have opposed German ethnic nationalism and Afrikaner ethnic nationalism in past epochs so genuine leftists must resist Jewish ethnic nationalism whilst promoting universalist approaches to emancipation today.

    The Cure Should Not Be Worse than The Disease

    One principle for all revolutionary struggle against capitalism is that the cure should not be worse than the disease. One reason the postmodern holocausts in Iraq, Rwanda, Yugoslavia, currently in Libya and soon Syria, have arisen is due to a latent nihilistic attitude that “anything is better than the status quo.” When one overcomes postmodern anti-progressivism and establishes a continuum for progress one then recognizes that most postmodern, ethnic-nationalist revolts actually regress the standards of living for the vast majority of people. Iraq, for example, was no bed of roses under Saddam Hussein, but it is worse now it has been broken down along sectarian lines. In Saddam’s Iraq people were Iraqi’s first and Shia or Sunni second. Now the situation is the obverse.

    Cuba contrastingly was worse before the Cuban revolution with infant-mortality rates diminishing and life-expectancy elongating post-1959. The cure was better than the disease in the case of the Chinese Revolution too. The Chinese Communist Party is responsible for the greatest elevation of human beings out of poverty and privation in history. Hundreds of millions of human beings were liberated from the semi-feudal (dare I say backward?) society which existed before a vanguard of communist revolutionaries mobilized the working class of that region. Mao Zedong and his comrades denounced subjectivism and encouraged a universal language, Mandarin, to allow the different Chinese nations to overcome their differences and build a better future for their children. Many Tibetans, although not all, benefitted from the ousting of the slave-owning, later-CIA sponsored tyrant, the Dalai Lama.

    Needless to say the Likudnik faction who orchestrated the ‘war on terror’ and who aspire to balkanize the Middle East benefit greatly from the fashionable celebration of ethnic nationalism contemporarily. Universalist Arab-nationalism was always the biggest threat to the imperialist interventionists in the Middle East. A weak, atomized Middle East will allow Israeli regional hegemony to prevail and civil war to ensue. If Arabs are fighting Arabs then they wont be able to resist Israeli colonialism. The Likudnik ‘Final Solution’ to the Palestine Question will be easily implemented once all the Arab strongmen are finally ousted and the Middle East is carved up like a sharwama into ethnic statelets based on the millet system of the Ottoman Empire.

    Towards a Reestablishment of a Paleo-Marxist Critique of
    Capitalism, Imperialism, and Its Outgrowths Coupled with a
    Revival of Working Class Consciousness

    I propose that leftists of conscience return to a Paleo-Marxist critique of capitalism. One reason the international capitalist class have been so audacious and unscrupulous in waging the 9/11 wars has been because they have nothing to fear. With so many leftists jumping on the Islamophobic bandwagon – which is of course predicated on the official conspiracy theory of 9/11 – there is no credible opposition to the ruling class’s exploitative agenda. One can imagine, for example, former Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista getting word in Havana of the countless victories of the revolutionaries in the Sierra Maestra – at the time when Cuba was faced with comparable lawlessness and impunity to that we bear witness to today – and feeling intimidated, grieved and fearful.

    Thanks to the disempowerment engendered by the well-funded postmodern genocidaires in Western academia and due to the success of the war on communism during the Cold War there is little threat posed to our exploiters. Whilst international law does indeed contain many of the concepts – such as a belief in absolute truth, universalism as well as an emphasis on accountability and anti-authoritarianism, – that postmodern relativism destroyed, attempts to enforce international humanitarian law must be accompanied by attempts to cease the legalized theft of the capitalist class. We must not be content with rules for managing imperialist wars; we must end the economic system that begets imperialist wars.

    We must reestablish a Paleo-Marxian agenda; critique of capitalism that emphasizes the notion that the economic mode of production in a given society determines the legal systems, culture, academia, family structures present in that society. There is no legitimacy in despoiling the world’s resources and appropriating the fruits of workers’ labour. Let the ‘legitimacy war’ begin by questioning the legitimacy of the economic structure of our society.

    We should not romanticize culture, ethnicity and religion which are merely products of a given economic mode of production. Insofar as these metaphysical constructs unify human beings and contribute to the victories we seek let us refrain from excessive criticism of them. When such constructs blind and intoxicate our fellow workers encouraging them to consent to oppression (e.g. religious obscurantism blinding a comrade into being duped into serving as a patsy for imperialist false-flag terrorism) let us not shy away from demystifying such pernicious metaphysical constructs. Call us Eurocentric if you will; the fact that Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, Gramsci and other great philosophical humanists came from Europe doesn’t, by definition, falsify their tonics for our oppression. It is axiomatic that without a clearly defined end goal we cannot know where we are heading. It will be impossible to alter the superstructure (legal system, culture, political realm) unless we establish a more rational economic mode of production. Thus our primary goal should be a new economic order.


  1. TRANSCEND MEDIA SERVICE » A Few Notes on WHAT IS LEFT (or Toward a Manifesto for Revolutionary Emancipation) - June 27, 2011

    […] Go to Original – richardfalk.com […]

  2. A Manifesto for Revolutionary Emancipation | Veterans Today - April 15, 2016

    […] An Abbreviated Version of Joshua Blakeney’s Response to Professor Richard Falk’s Article […]

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