May 20, 2018

Revolution or Decadence? Thoughts on the Transition between Modes of Production on the Occasion of the Marx Bicentennial by Samir Amin May 01, 2018

Revolution or Decadence?

Thoughts on the Transition between Modes of Production on the Occasion of the Marx Bicentennial

Romans during the Decadence
Thomas Couture, Romans during the Decadence, 1847.
Samir Amin is the director of the Third World Forum in Dakar, Senegal, and the author of many books, most recently Modern Imperialism, Monopoly Finance Capital, and Marx’s Law of Value(Monthly Review Press, 2018).


Karl Marx is a giant thinker, not just for the nineteenth century, but even more for understanding our contemporary time. No other attempt to develop an understanding of society has been as fertile, provided “Marxists” move beyond “Marxology” (simply repeating what Marx was able to write in relation to his own time) and instead pursue his method in accordance with new developments in history. Marx himself continuously developed and revised his views throughout his lifetime.
Marx never reduced capitalism to a new mode of production. He considered all the dimensions of modern capitalist society, understanding that the law of value does not regulate only capitalist accumulation, but rules all aspects of modern civilization. That unique vision allowed him to offer the first scientific approach relating social relations to the wider realm of anthropology. In that perspective, he included in his analyses what is today called “ecology,” rediscovered a century after Marx. John Bellamy Foster, better than anybody else, has cleverly developed this early intuition of Marx.
I have given priority to another intuition of Marx, related to the future of globalization. From my PhD thesis in 1957 to my latest book, I have devoted my efforts to unequal development resulting from a globalized formulation of the law of accumulation. I derived from it an explanation for the revolutions in the name of socialism starting from the peripheries of the global system. The contribution of Paul Baran and Paul Sweezy, introducing the concept of surplus, has been decisive in my attempt.
I also share another intuition of Marx—expressed clearly as early as 1848 and further reformulated until his last writings—according to which capitalism represents only a short bracket in history; its historical function being to have created in a short time (a century) the conditions calling for moving beyond to communism, understood as a higher stage of civilization.
Marx states in the Manifesto (1848) that class struggle always results “either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.” That sentence has been at the forefront of my thinking for a long time.
For that reason I offer my reflections on “Revolution or Decadence?” the concluding chapter of my forthcoming book for the bicentenary of the birth of Marx.


The workers’ and socialist movement has sustained itself on a vision of a series of revolutions beginning in the advanced capitalist countries. From the criticisms which Marx and Frederick Engels made of the programs of German social democracy to the conclusions derived by Bolshevism from the experience of the Russian Revolution, the workers’ and socialist movement has never conceived of the transition to socialism on the world scale in any other way.
However, over the past seventy-five years the transformation of the world has taken other paths. The perspective of revolution has disappeared from the horizons of the advanced West, while socialist revolutions have been limited to the periphery of the system. These have inaugurated developments of sufficient ambiguity for some people to see them only as a stage in the expansion of capitalism to the world scale. An analysis of the system in terms of unequal development attempts to give a different answer. Beginning with the contemporary imperialist system, this analysis obliges us also to consider the nature and meaning of unequal development in previous historical stages.
The comparative history of the transition from one mode of production to another calls for posing the question of the mode of transition in general and theoretical terms. Thus, similarities between the current situation and the era of the end of the Roman Empire have led those historians who are not proponents of historical materialism to draw parallels between the two situations. On the other hand, a certain dogmatic interpretation of Marxism has used the terminology of historical materialism to obscure thought on this theme. Thus Soviet historians spoke of the “decadence of Rome,” while putting forward the “socialist revolution” as the only form of substitution of new relations of production for capitalist relations. The following comparative analysis of the form and content of the ancient and the capitalist crises in relations of production addresses this issue. Do the differences between these two crises justify treating one in terms of “decadence” and the other in terms of “revolution”?
My central argument is that a definite parallel exists between these two crises. In both cases, the system is in crisis because the centralization of the surplus it organizes is excessive, that is, is in advance of the relations of production that underlie it. Thus the development of the productive forces in the periphery of the system necessitates the breakup of the system and the substitution of a decentralized system for collecting and utilizing the surplus.


The most commonly accepted thesis within historical materialism is that of the succession of three modes of production: the slave mode, the feudal mode, and the capitalist mode. In this framework, the decadence of Rome would be only the expression of the transition from slavery to serfdom. It would still remain to explain why we do not speak of a “feudal revolution” as we speak of bourgeois and socialist revolutions.
I consider this formulation to be West-centered in its overgeneralization of the specific characteristics of the history of the West and its rejection of the history of other peoples in all its particularities. Choosing to derive the laws of historical materialism from universal experience, I have proposed an alternative formulation of one precapitalist mode, the tributary mode, toward which all class societies tend. The history of the West—the construction of Roman antiquity, its disintegration, the establishment of feudal Europe, and, finally, the crystallization of absolutist states in the mercantilist period—thus expresses in a particular form the same basic tendency that elsewhere is expressed in the less discontinuous construction of complete, tributary states, of which China is the strongest expression. The slave mode is not universal, as are the tributary and capitalist modes; it is particular and appears strictly in connection with the extension of commodity relations. In addition, the feudal mode is the primitive, incomplete form of the tributary mode.
This hypothesis views the establishment and subsequent disintegration of Rome as a premature attempt at tributary construction. The level of development of the productive forces did not require tributary centralization on the scale of the Roman Empire. This first abortive attempt was thus followed by a forced transition through feudal fragmentation, on the basis of which centralization was once again restored within the framework of the absolutist monarchies of the West. Only then did the mode of production in the West approach the complete tributary model. It was, furthermore, only beginning with this stage that the previous level of development of the productive forces in the West attained that of the complete tributary mode of imperial China; this is doubtless no coincidence.
The backwardness of the West, expressed by the abortion of Rome and by feudal fragmentation, certainly gave it its historic advantage. Indeed, the combination of specific elements of the ancient tributary mode and of barbarian communal modes characterized feudalism and gave the West its flexibility. This explains the speed with which Europe passed through the complete tributary phase, quickly surpassing the level of development of the productive forces of the West, which it overtook, and passing on to capitalism. This flexibility and speed contrasted with the relatively rigid and slow evolution of the complete tributary modes of the Orient.
Doubtless the Roman-Western case is not the only example of an abortive tributary construction. We can identify at least three other cases of this type, each with its own specific conditions: the Byzantine-Arab-Ottoman case, the Indian case, the Mongol case. In each of these instances, attempts to install tributary systems of centralization were too far ahead of the requirements of the development of the productive forces to be firmly established. In each case, the forms of centralization were probably specific combinations of state, para-feudal, and commodity means. In the Islamic state, for instance, commodity centralization played the decisive role. Successive Indian failures must be related to the contents of Hindu ideology, which I have contrasted with Confucianism. As to the centralization of the empire of Genghis Khan, it was, as we know, extremely short-lived.


The contemporary imperialist system is also a system of centralization of the surplus on the world scale. This centralization operates on the basis of the fundamental laws of the capitalist mode and in the conditions of its domination over the precapitalist modes of the subject periphery. I have formulated the law of the accumulation of capital on the world scale as a form of expression of the law of value operating on this scale. The imperialist system for the centralization of value is characterized by the acceleration of accumulation and by the development of the productive forces in the center of the system, while in the periphery these latter are held back and deformed. Development and underdevelopment are two sides of the same coin.
Thus we can see that further development of the productive forces in the periphery requires the destruction of the imperialist system of centralization of the surplus. A necessary phase of decentralization, the establishment of the socialist transition within nations must precede the reunification at a higher level of development, which a planetary classless society would constitute. This central thesis has several consequences for the theory and strategy of the socialist transition.
In the periphery, the socialist transition is not distinct from national liberation. It has become clear that the latter is impossible under local bourgeois leadership, and thus becomes a democratic stage in the process of the uninterrupted revolution by stages led by the peasant and worker masses. This fusion of the goals of national liberation and socialism engenders in its turn a series of new problems that we must evaluate. For the emphasis shifts from one aspect to the other, due to which the real movement of society alternates between progress and regression, ambivalences and alienation, particularly in nationalist form. Here again we can make a comparison with the attitude of the barbarians toward the Roman Empire: they were ambivalent toward it, notably in their formal, even slavish, imitation of the Roman model against which they were revolting.
At the same time, the parasitical character of the central society intensifies. In some, imperial tribute corrupted the plebeians and paralyzed their revolt. In the societies of the imperialist center, a growing portion of the population benefits from unproductive employment and from privileged positions, both concentrated there by the effects of the unequal international division of labor. Thus it is harder to envision disengagement from the imperialist system and formation of an anti-imperialist alliance capable of overturning the hegemonic alliance and inaugurating the transition to socialism.


The introduction of new relations of production seems easier in the periphery than in the center of the system. In the Roman Empire, feudal relations took hold rapidly in Gaul and Germany, but only slowly in Italy and the East. It is Rome which invented serfdom which replaced slavery. But feudal authority developed elsewhere and feudal relations never fully developed in Italy itself.
Today the feeling of latent revolt against capitalist relations is very strong in the center, but it is powerless. People want to “change their lives” but cannot even change the government. Thus progress occurs in the area of social life more than in the organization of production and the state. The silent revolution in lifestyle, the breakup of the family, the collapse of bourgeois values demonstrate this contradictory aspect of the process. In the periphery, customs and ideas are often far less advanced, but socialist states have nonetheless been established there.
Vulgar Marxist tradition has effected a mechanistic reduction of the dialectic of social change. The revolution—the objective content of which is the abolition of old relations of production and the establishment of new relations, the precondition for the further development of the productive forces—is made into a natural law: the application to the social realm of the law by which quantity becomes quality. The class struggle reveals this objective necessity: only the vanguard—the party—is above the fray, makes and dominates history, is de-alienated. The political moment defining the revolution is that in which the vanguard seizes the state. Leninism itself is not entirely devoid of the positivist reductionism of the Marxism of the Second International.
This theory that separates the vanguard from the class is not applicable to the revolutions of the past. The bourgeois revolution did not take this form: in it the bourgeoisie co-opted the struggle of the peasants against the feudal lords. The ideology that enabled them to do this, far from being a means of manipulation, was itself alienating. In this sense, there was no “bourgeois revolution”—the term itself is a product of bourgeois ideology—but only a class struggle led by the bourgeoisie or, at most, at times a peasant revolution co-opted by the bourgeoisie. Even less can we speak of the “feudal revolution,” where the transition was made unconsciously.
The socialist revolution will be of a different type, presupposing de-alienated consciousness, because it will aim for the first time at the abolition of all exploitation and not at the substitution of new for old forms of exploitation. But this will be possible only if the ideology animating it becomes something other than the consciousness of the requirements of the development of the productive forces. There is nothing to say, in fact, that the statist mode of production, as a new form of relations of exploitation, is not a possible response to the requirements of this development.


Only people make their own history. Neither animals nor inanimate objects control their own evolution; they are subject to it. The concept of praxis is proper to society, as an expression of the synthesis of determinism and human intervention. The dialectic relation of infrastructure and superstructure is also proper to society and has no equivalent in nature. This relation is not unilateral. The superstructure is not the reflection of the needs of the infrastructure. If it were, society would always be alienated and I cannot see how it could become liberated.
This is why I propose to distinguish between two qualitatively different types of transition from one mode to another. When the transition is made unconsciously or by an alienated consciousness, that is, when the ideology animating classes does not allow them to master the process of change, the latter appears to be operating like a natural change, the ideology being part of nature. For this type of transition we can apply the expression “model of decadence.” In contrast, if and only if the ideology expresses the total and real dimension of the desired change, can we speak of revolution.
Is the socialist revolution in which our era is engaged of the decadent or the revolutionary type? Doubtless we cannot as yet answer this question definitively. In certain aspects, the transformation of the modern world incontestably has a revolutionary character as defined above. The Paris Commune and the revolutions in Russia and China (and particularly the Cultural Revolution) have been moments of intense de-alienated social consciousness. But are we not engaged in another type of transition? The difficulties that make the disengagement of the imperialist countries nearly inconceivable today and the negative impact of this on the peripheral countries following the socialist road (leading to possible capitalist restoration, evolutions toward a statist mode, regression, nationalist alienation, etc.) call into question the old Bolshevik model.
Some people are resigned to this and believe that our time is not one of socialist transition but of worldwide expansion of capitalism which, starting from this “little corner of Europe,” is just beginning to extend to the south and the east. At the end of this transfer, the imperialist phase will appear to have been not the last, the highest stage of capitalism, but a transitional phase toward universal capitalism. And even if one continues to believe that the Leninist theory of imperialism is true and that national liberation is a part of the socialist and not of the bourgeois revolution, would not exceptions, that is, the appearance of new capitalist centers, be possible? This theory emphasizes the restorations or the evolutions toward a statist mode in the Eastern countries. It characterizes as objective processes of capitalist expansion what were only pseudo-socialist revolutions. Here Marxism appears as an alienating ideology masking the true character of these developments.
Those who hold this opinion believe that we must wait until the level of development of the productive forces at the center is capable of spreading to the entire world before the question of the abolition of classes can really be put on the agenda. Europeans should thus allow the creation of a supranational Europe so that the state superstructure can be adjusted to the productive forces. It will doubtless be necessary to await the establishment of a planetary state corresponding to the level of the productive forces on the world scale, before the objective conditions for superseding it will obtain.
Others, myself among them, see things differently. The uninterrupted revolution by stages is still on the agenda for the periphery. Restorations in the course of the socialist transition are not irrevocable. And breaks in the imperialist front are not inconceivable in the weak links of the center.

May 16, 2018

Key Democrats Back CIA Director Nominee Gina Haspel, DEMOCRACY NOW! MAY 16, 2018

Key Democrats Back CIA Director Nominee Gina Haspel

Democracy Now!MAY 16, 2018
H2 haspel cia
President Trump’s nominee for CIA director, Gina Haspel, appears to have won enough backing to be confirmed by the full Senate, after Haspel came out saying the CIA should never have undertaken its post-9/11 torture program. The Senate Intelligence Committee voted today to recommend her confirmation to the full Senate. Among the Democrats who have come out backing Haspel is Virginia Senator Mark Warner, the top ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. At her confirmation hearing last week, Haspel repeatedly refused to call the CIA’s post-9/11 treatment of prisoners “torture,” and declined to state whether she believes torture is immoral.
But in a letter to Virginia Senator Mark Warner, she admitted that the CIA torture program never should have existed in the first place, writing, “While I won’t condemn those that made these hard calls, and I have noted the valuable intelligence collected, the program ultimately did damage to our officers and our standing in the world. With the benefit of hindsight and my experience as a senior agency leader, the enhanced interrogation program is not one the C.I.A. should have undertaken.” Haspel is a 33-year CIA veteran who was responsible for running a secret CIA black site in Thailand in 2002 where at least one prisoner was waterboarded and tortured in other ways during her tenure. She also oversaw the destruction of videotapes showing torture at the black site. We’ll have more on Gina Haspel later in the broadcast.


North Korea Describes “Sinister Move To Impose On Our Dignified State The Destiny Of Libya Or Iraq”

Openly States Its “Repugnance” Toward John Bolton

Official translation of a statement released by the Korean Central News Agency of North Korea on Wednesday.
Kim Kye Gwan, the first vice-minister of Foreign Affairs of the DPRK, made public the following press statement on Wednesday:
Kim Jong Un, the chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, made a strategic decision to put an end to the unpleasant steps for peace and stability in the Korean peninsula and the world.
In response to the noble intention of Chairman Kim Jong Un, President Trump stated his position for terminating the historically deep-rooted hostility and improving the relations between DPRK and the U.S.
I appreciated the position positively with an expectation that upcoming DPRK-U.S. summit would be a big step forward for catalyzing detente on the Korean peninsula and building a great future.
But now prior to the DPRK-U.S. summit, unbridled remarks provoking the other side of dialogue are recklessly made in the U.S. and I am totally disappointed as these constitute extremely unjust behavior.
High-ranking officials of the White House and the Department of State including Bolton, White House national security adviser, are letting loose the assertions of so-called Libya mode of nuclear abandonment, “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization,” “total decommissioning of nuclear weapons, missiles and biochemical weapons” etc. while talking about formula of “abandoning nuclear weapons first, compensating afterwards.”
This is not an expression of intention to address the issue through dialogue. It is essentially a manifestation of awfully sinister move to impose on our dignified state the destiny of Libya or Iraq which had been collapsed due to yielding the whole of their countries to big powers.
I cannot suppress indignation at such moves of the U.S., and harbor doubt about the U.S. sincerity for improved DPRK-U.S. relations through sound dialogue and negotiations.
The world knows too well that our country is neither Libya nor Iraq which have met miserable fate.
It is absolutely absurd to dare compare the DPRK, a nuclear weapon state, to Libya which had been at the initial state of nuclear development.
We shed light on the quality of Bolton already in the past, and we do not hide our feelings of repugnance towards him.
If the Trump administration fails to recall the lessons learned from the past when the DPRK-U.S. talks had to undergo twists and setbacks owing to the likes of Bolton and turns its ear to the advice of quasi-“patriots” who insist on Libya mode and the like, prospects of upcoming DPRK-U.S. summit and overall DPRK-U.S. relations will be crystal clear.
We have already stated our intention of denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and made clear on several occasions that precondition for denuclearization is to put an end to anti-DPRK hostile policy and nuclear threats and blackmail of the United States.
But now, the U.S. is miscalculating the magnanimity and broad-minded initiatives of the DPRK as signs of weakness and trying to embellish and advertise as if these are the product of its sanctions and pressure.
The U.S. is trumpeting as if it would offer economic compensation and benefit in case we abandon nuke. But we have never had any expectation of U.S. support in carrying out our economic construction and will not at all make such a deal in future, too.
It is a ridiculous comedy to see that the Trump administration, claiming to take a different road from the previous administrations, still clings to the outdated policy on the DPRK – a policy pursued by previous administrations at the same time when the DPRK was at the stage of nuclear development.
If President Trump follows in the footsteps of his predecessors, he will be recorded as more tragic and unsuccessful president than his predecessors, far from his initial ambition to make an unprecedented success.
If the Trump administration takes an approach to the DPRK-U.S. summit with sincerity for improved DPRK-U.S. relations, it will receive a deserved response from us. However, if the U.S. is trying to drive us into a corner to force our unilateral nuclear abandonment, we will no longer be interested in such dialogue and cannot but reconsider our proceeding to the DPRK-U.S. summit.

May 14, 2018


Posted by W. T. Whitney, Jr. | May 11, 2018 

By W. T. Whitney Jr. in M-L Today
April 26, 2018

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Colombian government signed a peace agreement on December 1, 2016. The FARC laid down arms and a war of more than 50 years was ended. Since then, dozens of former guerrillas have been killed. Settlements were established in rural areas to enable groups of demobilized combatants to prepare for civilian life.
But now they lack supplies and decent housing. The Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), whose job is to punish or pardon ex-combatants guilty of crimes, barely functions. Agrarian reform, the first agenda item of the peace agreement, looks like it’s been forgotten.
On April 9 the peace process took a big hit. As a prelude to his extradition to the United States, Colombian state agents arrested FARC leader Jesús Santrich. The Attorney General’s office claims he was trafficking in illegal drugs and did so after the peace agreement was signed. By contrast, well over 60 FARC members indicted in the United States prior to 2016, mostly on narcotics charges, have yet to be extradited. Presumably the peace agreement does apply to them.
On being arrested, Santrich immediately began a hunger strike. In a message sent from Bogota’s La Picota prison he bade farewell to his elderly parents. This was his “last battle.”
Santrich was a key participant on the FARC side in the almost five-year long peace talks in Havana. Iván Márquez, the lead FARC negotiator, told reporters that Santrich’s arrest puts the peace process “at its most critical point.”
He’s been a leader of the People’s Alternative Revolutionary Force, the political party formed by the demobilized guerrillas.  He and a few others were to have filled ten seats set aside for the new party in Colombia’s Congress. Santrich was one of three FARC representatives serving on the “Commission for Promotion and Verification of Implementation” of the agreement.
Agents of the attorney general’s office and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency had trailed Santrich and three others from June 2017 on. The indictment issued by the Southern New York District Court accuses the four of conspiring to sell 10 tons of cocaine for $15 million to the Sinaloa Cartel in México for shipment to New York.  The report on says prosecutors in New York are holding “photos and hours worth of audio and video recordings.”
U.S. authorities have 60 days to “formalize their extradition request,” The JEP, Colombia’s Supreme Judicial Court, and President Juan Manuel Santos each will have to approve it.
The others arrested were: Marlon Marín, nephew of Iván Márquez, Santrich’s close FARC colleague; Armando Gómez España, who suffers from stomach cancer; and Fabio Simón Younes, a 72 year old lawyer. DEA officials flew Marlon Marín to New York in order for him to testify for the prosecution. Supposedly, an intercepted conversation has Marin conferring with an “assistant of Santrich.”
Interpol (The International Criminal Police Organization) routinely identifies alleged criminals sought for extradition by posting “red notices” on them. Interpol had already issued six red notices applying to six other former FARC guerrillas accused of narco-trafficking. Later on, it withdrew five of them presumably on the theory that they’d be judged by the JEP. There was no red notice on Santrich until April 4.
His arrest on April 9 apparently was a hurry-up job, timed perhaps to President Donald Trump’s visit in Bogota later that week. The FARC’s new political party expressed concern that Santrich would be “a trophy to hand over to Trump on his visit to Colombia.” Ultimately Trump didn’t appear in Colombia.
Born in 1967, Santrich grew up in Colombia’s Caribbean region where he studied law and social sciences and joined both the Communist Youth organization and the Patriotic Union. The latter, recently revived, was a left-leaning electoral coalition whose members over two decades were murdered by the thousands.  His parents were philosophy teachers. Santrich’s original name, Seusis Pausivas Hernández, reflected his father’s admiration for two ancient Greek painters.
State agents seeking to kill Santrich instead shot and killed his best friend and a fellow Communist Youth member. His name was Jesús Santrich. The Santrich of today adopted the victim’s name and fled to the FARC. He was 21 years old.
As a leader of the FARC’s Caribbean Bloc, Santrich specialized in radio communications, propaganda, negotiations, and political analysis. He can barely see, due to Leber’s optic neuropathy. Santrich authored a book on indigenous peoples. He’s a poet, painter, and player of the flute, harmonica, and saxophone. In Havana he represented FARC negotiators in editing the peace agreement, in company with Sergio Jaramillo who filled that role for the government.
In the opinion of analyst José Antonio Gutiérrez D, Santrich’s fate is a warning “of what can happen to demobilized FARC guerrillas if they don’t behave.” Santrich, having “defended the legitimacy of the rebellion for almost three decades,” is “one of the few FARC leaders who have spoken clearly about the failure of the peace process.” He had opposed giving up arms and predicted the JEP would imprison former guerrillas and grant impunity to state agents. Gutiérrez thinks Santrich has shown a “dignity which for the oligarchy is arrogance.” Santrich has been persecuted by the media and “certain repentant FARC leaders.”
Interviewed a week before his arrest, Santrich mentioned that, “The regime confronting us for more than half a century hasn’t changed its character of injustice. This means that spaces for democratic struggle are still closed.” “What’s coming for the former FARC combatants,” he predicted, “is the most stubborn and vengeful judicial persecution. It will go hand in hand with paramilitary persecution and every kind of non-fulfillment [of the accord]. So far, they’ve failed to set free more than 500 comrades in prison.”
Could it be that Santrich did traffic in illegal drugs? Defenders reject the idea, pointing out that he’s been living in Bogota surrounded, for his protection, by soldiers and United Nations. Many would argue that his life history and his intellectual and artistic interests are inconsistent with a turn to narco-trafficking.
His experience with the FARC probably had nothing to do with producing, processing, or distributing illicit drugs. Colombian prosecutors say that between 1995 and 2014 military units of the FARC “made most of their money taxing drug traffickers and coca growers.  The Washington Office on Latin America and the InSight Crime organization each agree that taxation, not trafficking, was the FARC’s preferred mode of drug involvement.
In pursuing Santrich for drug trafficking, the U.S. government, a well-known enabler of that crime, may not easily escape accusations of hypocrisy. During the Vietnam War the CIA cooperated with a Laotian general to make Laos the world’s largest exporter of heroin. CIA pilots transported weapons to the Contra opponents of Nicaragua’s Sandinista government and on return flights transported cocaine to the United States. In 1988, the CIA assisted a money-launderer working for the Medellin cocaine cartel. The U.S. government turned a blind eye to the Wachovia Bank as it laundered “at least $110 million in drug profits.” The HSBC Bank, with U.S. operations, and Bank of America laundered drug-trade profits on behalf of Mexico’s Zetas and Sinaloa cartels and a Colombian cartel.
For Colombians, the issue of extradition is contentious. Left-leaning critics maintain that in complying with U.S. demands for extraditing alleged narco-traffickers, the government is bending to imperial power. Colombian sovereignty is at risk, they say.
It’s a political tool. Ex- President Alvaro Uribe in 2008 extradited 14 paramilitary chieftains to the United States for prosecution on drug charges. Their removal spared his government the inconvenience of punishing them for murders and human rights violations and staved off embarrassing revelations as to their good relations with politicians.
Uribe extradited 1,149 alleged drug traffickers to the United States between 2002 and 2010, perhaps as a show of good faith. The U.S. government, after all, was using drug war as pretext for providing Colombia with billions of dollars in military assistance. In resorting to extradition, Uribe was overlooking a 1980 Colombian Constitutional Court decision  that rejected his nation’s extradition treaty with the United States.
President Santos, Uribe’s successor, has promised his “hand will not tremble” when the time comes for him to authorize Santrich’s extradition. The wheels for that to happen are well greased.
And in the United States Santrich’s extradition is on automatic pilot. “Once extradition requests are issued, it is almost impossible to call them back,” one analyst explains, adding that, “The indictments … come from grand juries, presided by judges, and the U.S. government’s executive branch cannot interfere in the actions of the judicial branch.”
The prospect of Santrich’s extradition to the United States recalls the fate of his FARC comrade Simon Trinidad, extradited on December 31, 2004. He escaped conviction on drug charges only to be sentenced to 60 years in prison on a charge of conspiring to take hostage three U.S. drug-war contractors. That he remains in a U.S. prison despite FARC demands for his repatriation suggests a lack of commitment to the peace process on the part of both nations. That’s not good news for Jesús Santrich as he faces extradition.
Santrich’s plight is explainable given the swirl of contending forces around him. The supposed authors of a prologue to The Social Thought of Jesús Santrich (Anthology) – just published in New York and available here – have ideas in this regard. Alfonsina Storni (1892 –1938), Rubén Darío (1867-1916) and Paulo Freire (1921 – 1997) ask, who is this Santrich? – “A terrorist? A narco-trafficker? Are they crazy?”
“They just imprisoned a militant revolutionary and rebel thinker. Who wants him?  Wel, it’s the Colombian state prosecutors, the ones that spent decades inventing ‘false positives’ (Read: legitimizing extrajudicial assassination in cold blood of civilians dressed up as guerrillas and buried in unmarked graves, and good money was paid for them.)
“Who’s accusing him?  In fact, the same institution that the incomparable Breaking Bad series pictures as a chorus of virgin angels and puritans right there in the midst of craziness and generalized corruption. That would be the renowned U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, always out of kilter.  Yes, sir! The same U.S government mafias of the shameful Irangate affair that financed the anti-Sandinista counter-revolution with dirty money from narco-tafficking … the very ones that even today manage “the business” in ways so cruel and ruthless as to leave Don Corleone and all those horrific Godfather personalities grinning.”

May 13, 2018

The Coming War Against Iran By John Kiriakou, May 10, 2018

We’ve been through this before: the trumped-up threat from Iraq based on false evidence in 2003 is the harrowingly similar model to what is emerging for Iran in 2018, argues John Kiriakou.
By John Kiriakou
I spent nearly 15 years in the CIA. I like to think that I learned something there. I learned how the federal bureaucracy works. I learned that cowboys in government – in the CIA and elsewhere around government – can have incredible power over the creation of policy. I learned that the CIA will push the envelope of legality until somebody in a position of authority pushes back. I learned that the CIA can wage war without any thought whatsoever as to how things will work out in the end. There’s never an exit strategy.
I learned all of that firsthand in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. In the spring of 2002, I was in Pakistan working against al-Qaeda. I returned to CIA headquarters in May of that year and was told that several months earlier a decision had been made at the White House to invade Iraq. I was dumbfounded, and when told of the war plans could only muster, “But we haven’t caught bin Laden yet.” “The decision has already been made,” my supervisor told me. He continued, “Next year, in February, we’re going to invade Iraq, overthrow Saddam Hussein, and open the world’s largest air force base in southern Iraq.” He went on, “We’re going to go to the United Nations and pretend that we want a Security Council Resolution. But the truth is that the decision has already been made.”
Next Year: Saddam
Soon after, Secretary of State Colin Powell began traveling around Europe and the Middle East to cultivate support for the invasion. Sure enough, he also went to the United Nations and argued that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, necessitating an invasion and overthrow because that country posed an imminent threat to the United States.
But the whole case was built on a lie. A decision was made and then the “facts” were created around the decision to support it. I think the same thing is happening now.
Iraq Redux
First, Donald Trump said repeatedly during the 2016 campaign that he would pull out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) (which he did on Tuesday), also known as the Iran sanctions deal. The JCPOA allows for international inspectors to examine all of Iran’s nuclear sites to ensure that the country is not enriching uranium and is not building a weapons program. In exchange, Western countries have lifted sanctions on Iran, allowing them to buy spare parts, medicines, and other things that they had been unable to acquire. Despite the protestations of conservatives in Congress and elsewhere, the JCPOA works. Indeed, the inspection regime is exactly the same one that the United Nations imposed on Iraq in the last two decades.
Trump has kept up his anti-Iran rhetoric since becoming president. More importantly, he has appointed Iran hawks to the two most important positions in foreign policy: former CIA Director Mike Pompeo as secretary of state and former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton as national security advisor. The two have made clear that their preferred policy toward Iran is “regime change,” a policy that is actually prohibited by international law.
Perhaps the most troubling development, however, is the apparent de facto alliance against Iran by Israel, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent “presentation” on what he called a clandestine Iranian nuclear weapons program was embarrassingly similar to Powell’s heavily scripted speech before the UN Security Council 15 years earlier telling the world that Iraq had a program. That, too, was a lie.
Another Hyped Threat
MBS: Hyping it.
Saudi crown prince Muhammad bin Salman, the godfather of the Saudi war in Yemen, which in turn is a proxy war against Iran, recently made a grand tour of the United States and France talking about “the Iranian threat” at every turn. The rhetoric coming out of the UAE and Bahrain is at least as hostile as what has been spewed by the Saudis.
Meanwhile, there’s silence on Capitol Hill. Just like there was in 2002.
I can tell you from firsthand experience, that I’ve seen this before. Our government is laying the groundwork for yet another war. Be on the lookout for several things. First, Trump is going to begin shouting about the “threat” from Iran. It will become a daily mantra. He’ll argue that Iran is actively hostile and poses an immediate danger to the United States. Next Pompeo will head back to the Middle East and Europe to garner support for military action. Then US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley will scream in front of the UN Security Council that the US has no choice but to protect itself and its allies from Iran. The final shoe to drop – a clear indication of war – will be if naval carrier battle groups are deployed to the eastern Mediterranean, the Arabian Sea, or the Persian Gulf. Sure, there’s always one in the region anyway. But more than one is a provocation.
We have to be diligent in opposing this run into another war of choice. We can’t be tricked or taken by surprise. Not again.
This piece originally appeared at RSN.

John Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. John became the sixth whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act – a law designed to punish spies. He served 23 months in prison as a result of his attempts to oppose the Bush administration’s torture program.

May 08, 2018

Happy Birthday, Karl Marx. You Were Right! B Jason Barker

Happy Birthday, Karl Marx. You Were Right!

CreditRalf Hirschberger/European Pressphoto Agency

SEOUL, South Korea — On May 5, 1818, in the southern German town of Trier, in the picturesque wine-growing region of the Moselle Valley, Karl Marx was born. At the time Trier was one-tenth the size it is today, with a population of around 12,000. According to one of Marx’s recent biographers, Jürgen Neffe, Trier is one of those towns where “although everyone doesn’t know everyone, many know a lot about many.”
Such provincial constraints were no match for Marx’s boundless intellectual enthusiasm. Rare were the radical thinkers of the major European capitals of his day that he either failed to meet or would fail to break with on theoretical grounds, including his German contemporaries Wilhelm Weitling and Bruno Bauer; the French “bourgeois socialist” Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, as Marx and Friedrich Engels would label him in their “Communist Manifesto”; and the Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin.
In 1837 Marx reneged on the legal career that his father, himself a lawyer, had mapped out for him and immersed himself instead in the speculative philosophy of G.W.F. Hegel at the University of Berlin. One might say that it was all downhill from there. The deeply conservative Prussian government didn’t take kindly to such revolutionary thinking (Hegel’s philosophy advocated a rational liberal state), and by the start of the next decade Marx’s chosen career path as a university professor had been blocked.
If ever there were a convincing case to be made for the dangers of philosophy, then surely it’s Marx’s discovery of Hegel, whose “grotesque craggy melody” repelled him at first but which soon had him dancing deliriously through the streets of Berlin. As Marx confessed to his father in an equally delirious letter in November 1837, “I wanted to embrace every person standing on the street-corner.”

As we reach the bicentennial of Marx’s birth, what lessons might we draw from his dangerous and delirious philosophical legacy? What precisely is Marx’s lasting contribution?

Today the legacy would appear to be alive and well. Since the turn of the millennium countless books have appeared, from scholarly works to popular biographies, broadly endorsing Marx’s reading of capitalism and its enduring relevance to our neoliberal age.
In 2002, the French philosopher Alain Badiou declared at a conference I attended in London that Marx had become the philosopher of the middle class. What did he mean? I believe he meant that educated liberal opinion is today more or less unanimous in its agreement that Marx’s basic thesis — that capitalism is driven by a deeply divisive class struggle in which the ruling-class minority appropriates the surplus labor of the working-class majority as profit — is correct. Even liberal economists such as Nouriel Roubini agree that Marx’s conviction that capitalism has an inbuilt tendency to destroy itself remains as prescient as ever.
But this is where the unanimity abruptly ends. While most are in agreement about Marx’s diagnosis of capitalism, opinion on how to treat its “disorder” is thoroughly divided. And this is where Marx’s originality and profound importance as a philosopher lies.

First, let’s be clear: Marx arrives at no magic formula for exiting the enormous social and economic contradictions that global capitalism entails (according to Oxfam, 82 percent of the global wealth generated in 2017 went to the world’s richest 1 percent). What Marx did achieve, however, through his self-styled materialist thought, were the critical weapons for undermining capitalism’s ideological claim to be the only game in town.
In the “Communist Manifesto,” Marx and Engels wrote: “The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honored and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage laborers.”
Marx was convinced that capitalism would soon make relics of them. The inroads that artificial intelligence is currently making into medical diagnosis and surgery, for instance, bears out the argument in the “Manifesto” that technology would greatly accelerate the “division of labor,” or the deskilling of such professions.
To better understand how Marx achieved his lasting global impact — an impact arguably greater and wider than any other philosopher’s before or after him — we can begin with his relationship to Hegel. What was it about Hegel’s work that so captivated Marx? As he informed his father, early encounters with Hegel’s “system,” which builds itself upon layer after layer of negations and contradictions, hadn’t entirely won him over.
Marx found that the late-18th-century idealisms of Immanuel Kant and Johann Gottlieb Fichte that so dominated philosophical thinking in the early 19th century prioritized thinking itself — so much so that reality could be inferred through intellectual reasoning. But Marx refused to endorse their reality. In an ironic Hegelian twist, it was the complete opposite: It was the material world that determined all thinking. As Marx puts it in his letter, “If previously the gods had dwelt above the earth, now they became its center.”
The idea that God — or “gods”— dwelt among the masses, or was “in” them, was of course nothing philosophically new. But Marx’s innovation was to stand idealistic deference — not just to God but to any divine authority — on its head. Whereas Hegel had stopped at advocating a rational liberal state, Marx would go one stage further: Since the gods were no longer divine, there was no need for a state at all.
The idea of the classless and stateless society would come to define both Marx’s and Engels’s idea of communism, and of course the subsequent and troubled history of the Communist “states” (ironically enough!) that materialized during the 20th century. There is still a great deal to be learned from their disasters, but their philosophical relevance remains doubtful, to say the least.

The key factor in Marx’s intellectual legacy in our present-day society is not “philosophy” but “critique,” or what he described in 1843 as “the ruthless criticism of all that exists: ruthless both in the sense of not being afraid of the results it arrives at and in the sense of being just as little afraid of conflict with the powers that be.” “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it,” he wrote in 1845.
Racial and sexual oppression have been added to the dynamic of class exploitation. Social justice movements like Black Lives Matter and #MeToo, owe something of an unspoken debt to Marx through their unapologetic targeting of the “eternal truths” of our age. Such movements recognize, as did Marx, that the ideas that rule every society are those of its ruling class and that overturning those ideas is fundamental to true revolutionary progress.
We have become used to the go-getting mantra that to effect social change we first have to change ourselves. But enlightened or rational thinking is not enough, since the norms of thinking are already skewed by the structures of male privilege and social hierarchy, even down to the language we use. Changing those norms entails changing the very foundations of society.
To cite Marx, “No social order is ever destroyed before all the productive forces for which it is sufficient have been developed, and new superior relations of production never replace older ones before the material conditions for their existence have matured within the framework of the old society.”
The transition to a new society where relations among people, rather than capital relations, finally determine an individual’s worth is arguably proving to be quite a task. Marx, as I have said, does not offer a one-size-fits-all formula for enacting social change. But he does offer a powerful intellectual acid test for that change. On that basis, we are destined to keep citing him and testing his ideas until the kind of society that he struggled to bring about, and that increasing numbers of us now desire, is finally realized.

Jason Barker is an associate professor of philosophy at Kyung Hee University in South Korea and author of the novel “Marx Returns.”

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