Category: History

Anti-Globalization, Then and Now

Black Bloc anarchists at the 1999 protest against the World Trade Organization in Seattle.

Black Bloc anarchists at the 1999 protest against the World Trade Organization in Seattle.

Anti-globalization in the 1990s and early 2000s was overwhelmingly a phenomenon of the left. But now that the mantle of anti-globalization has been taken up by the right, it will be interesting to see how many on the left do an about face, and also to see if the right can succeed where the left has consistently failed.

When the North American Free Trade Agreement was implemented in 1994, the first major movement against it was the Zapatista rebellion in southern Mexico, which called NAFTA a “death sentence” for Mexican (mostly indigenous) farmers. They chose January 1, 1994 to announce themselves to the world precisely because it was the day that NAFTA went into effect. The Zapatistas quickly became a cause célèbre for the American and European left, chiefly because of their articulate and charismatic leader, Subcomandante Marcos. (Marcos is interesting from a racialist perspective because, while the Zapatistas positioned themselves as a movement of indigenismo, their spokesman and strategist – and the only one who has ever interested anyone – was a light-skinned Mexican who was probably much more Spanish than Indian.)

The first major anti-globalization protest was against the World Trade Organization in Seattle in 1999. This was the now-famous “Battle in Seattle,” endlessly celebrated as a victory by the left because the protesters actually succeeded in shutting down the WTO meetings for a whole day, even though in the long run this accomplished absolutely nothing. It is also celebrated for its brief (very brief, as in a couple of days) alliance between union groups, which represented American manufacturing, and environmental groups like Earth First! “Teamsters and Turtles, Together At Last” read one protest sign, as union men marched side by side with leftist “street theater” kids, looking not a little uncomfortable about the juxtaposition.

At the time, President Clinton surprised everyone by making a statement in favor of the protesters, saying that the WTO attendees should “listen” to them. (Listening was then a popular theme among liberal politicians; Jonathan Bowden mocked Tony Blair for this.) It was typical Clinton doublespeak, since he has probably done more to promote globalization and destroy America’s manufacturing base than any other American leader, first by signing NAFTA into law, and then paving the way for China’s entry into the World Trade Organization by removing consideration of their human rights record from the renewal of its Most Favored Nation status. It was subsequently revealed that Chinese billionaires were making large, illegal donations to Clinton’s campaign. Anyone who lived through those times will remember that the Clinton and Bush years were the time when the flood of cheap Chinese products into America began.

The next big anti-globalization protest was less than a year after Seattle, this time in Washington D.C. against the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. It should be noted that, both in Seattle and D.C., the vast majority of leftist protesters were incapable of explaining what, precisely, was the problem with the WTO and the World Bank/IMF. Most were simply and vaguely “against the system,” which they identified variously as capitalistic, imperialistic, patriarchal, racist, or some combination of all of these. Many of the protesters, especially the younger ones, self-identified as communists or anarchists, which for most of them was little more than a temporary identity flirtation, akin to deciding that one is a punk rocker and getting a leather jacket and some hair dye from the mall. Most would go on to become rather standard and dull liberals, and I strongly suspect that an overwhelming majority of them voted for Hillary Clinton (if they voted at all) with little to no memory of having vigorously opposed the Clintons back in the 90s.

The most radical presence at the anti-globalization protests was the Black Bloc. The Black Bloc first emerged in Seattle, as a small band of anarcho-primitivists who took to vandalizing and destroying the property of companies that they felt were anti-environment and/or anti-worker. They famously targeted Starbucks in their hometown of Seattle, because they didn’t carry “fair trade” coffee. (I saw a photo of a smashed Starbucks from the recent anti-Trump protests – I suspect that the next generation of Black Bloc kids is just imitating what came before them, with little to no other reason why.)

Whereas most of the protesters were non-violent, being the usual bunch of hippies, communists, new age peaceniks, and the like, the Black Bloc not only destroyed property but sometimes fought with police. For this reason, there was active debate among the left as to whether they should support or disavow them. The general consensus was that, although many protesters did not support the tactics of the Black Bloc, those tactics helped to normalize the positions of the movement, by pushing the Overton window and making the non-violent protesters look tame in comparison.

Furthermore, a number of non-violent protesters said that they actually felt safer knowing that the Black Bloc was there, because they were like a protection squad. At the very least, the police were likely to be distracted by them, and therefore not have as much time to tear gas and pepper spray the others. It will be interesting to see if a far-right equivalent to the Black Bloc emerges. The recent attack on Richard Spencer by a Black Bloc member makes it clear that right-wing activists need to defend themselves against violence from the left.

The major turning point in the anti-globalization movement was 9/11. Some on the far left cheered the destruction of the World Trade Center towers – twin symbols of global capital – as was said at the time by rapper KRS-One. But that was hardly a position to win over the public in a time of national shock and mourning. For most Americans, globalization and its economic consequences in America (the left never cared about the cultural consequences) suddenly paled in comparison to an existential threat from the Islamic world.

The War on Terror triggered the left’s knee-jerk defense of any non-whites against whites. The response of the Bush administration to 9/11 – which was, let’s face it, monumentally stupid in so many ways – was opposed by the left as a racist, Islamophobic crusade of white supremacist Christian capitalist sexist oppressors who hate brown people and children and puppies. The identity-based issues that already co-existed beside economic issues in the confused leftist platform came to dominate. What is remarkable is how completely the left has abandoned the white working class in the last twenty years, despite the fact that the proletariat is supposed to be the leftist demographic. Couple this with conservatism’s open disdain for the white working class, and you have no small part of the reason for the rise of Trump.

The historical left dreamed of an alliance of the “workers of the world.” Perhaps realizing the futility of that dream – or perhaps not, since realization and acceptance of truth is not really the left’s forte – they have largely moved on to the new dream of an alliance between the many and disparate groups which they claim to represent the interests of, such as blacks, Latinos, Muslims, gays, transgenders, the disabled, and women. What is supposed to unite this rainbow coalition of the oppressed is, at base, hatred and resentment of successful straight white men, which the left hopes can win out over the coalition members’ various incompatibilities with, and hatreds of, each other.

The left has accepted the idea that “globalization is inevitable,” which is not surprising since their ideology has always been international/anti-national and universalist in its essence. For nearly twenty years now, the only people making any serious criticisms of globalization have been the European New Right and American paleoconservatives.

But then came Trump. Reworking much of Pat Buchanan’s rhetoric and platform from previous decades, and combining it with the grandiosity of his personal style, Trump is the first major American politician to criticize the global trade agreements that have decimated American manufacturing and facilitated the particular form of globalization that has been happening since the the mid-twentieth century. I don’t recall a Presidential candidate making any serious criticism of NAFTA since Ross Perot in 1992, before it even passed. And now, Trump is no longer a candidate, he is the President.

He has a lot on his plate. The trade deficit with Mexico is $60 billion. It is probably even higher than that if one factors in the number of illegals working in the U.S., repatriating some or all of their earnings. The trade deficit with China is a staggering $367 billion, which is also probably higher when Chinese theft of American intellectual property is factored into the equation.

But then, is it really “American” IP if the corporation that owns it has no loyalty to the United States, employing mostly foreign labor and having its headquarters in an offshore tax haven? President Trump is forcing a re-evaluation of not only the meaning of American citizenship, and its attendant responsibilities, at the individual level, but also at the corporate level. As the leftist self-caricature Michael Moore noted before the election, no one has ever stood up to “American” corporations for shipping jobs to other countries the way that Trump has.

If the left no longer cares about the white working class enough to appreciate this, the right – the real right – does. It’s too soon to praise Trump for deals and renegotiations not yet made, but all indications thus far are that he fully intends to make good on his promises to American workers.

Godspeed, God-Emperor.

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Castro, Kennedy, and the Politics of Assassination

fidel_castro_-_mats_terminal_washington_1959

Fidel Castro is dead!, as our President-elect informed us via Twitter. Since the Cuban dictator is now front page news again, I’d like to revisit the rather serious, long-standing allegations that Castro and his intelligence agency, the G2, were responsible for the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963. If regular folks in America tend to favor the theory put forward by Oliver Stone in his film, Washington insiders tend instead to favor the notion that, as Kennedy’s successor Lyndon Johnson put it, “Kennedy tried to get Castro, but Castro got him first.”

Contra Andy Nowicki, who did a podcast about this subject a few years ago, and who wrote a very good short story about Lee Harvey Oswald as the quintessential gamma male (to use Vox Day’s terminology from his socio-sexual hierarchy), I think JFK was done in by a conspiracy of some sort. I don’t have a theory as to who, how, or why, but there’s too much about the case that’s fishy, and anyone familiar with the media’s institutional policy of lying will recognize the same pattern in their coverage of the Kennedy murder.

My favorite example comes from the Washington Post and the New York Times, those twin beacons of journalistic integrity. In 1979, the House Select Committee on Assassinations issued its Final Report on the JFK assassination, after a three year investigation. They concluded that there had been a conspiracy, based mostly on acoustical evidence which was alleged to confirm that there had been a shot fired from the infamous “grassy knoll.” In response to this finding, both newspapers issued, in all seriousness and on the same day, articles saying that the Committee had erred, and that just because there was someone else shooting at the President, at the same time and place as someone else, it didn’t necessarily mean that they were working together! “‘Two maniacs instead of one’ might be more like it,” said the Times. “[A] conspiracy between Lee Harvey Oswald and … a clone of the same man,” said the Post. managing to sound even more ridiculous than Milton William Cooper’s theory that the limo driver turned around and shot Kennedy with a .45.

The acoustics evidence has since been disputed, but allegations of conspiracy, of one sort or another, are perennial, and will likely stay that way, not only because of what Richard Hofstadter called “the paranoid style in American politics,” but because the Kennedy assassination was from day one treated as a political mess to be cleaned up, rather than as a homicide case to be investigated and prosecuted.

Lyndon Johnson immediately suspected the Soviets or the Cubans. These fears were stoked by reports that Oswald had visited both the Cuban and Russian embassies in Mexico City, only months before the assassination. At the Russian embassy, Oswald was alleged to have met with one of the KGB’s assassination specialists, Valeriy Kostikov. At the Cuban embassy, Oswald begged and pleaded for a visa to Cuba, claiming to be a friend and supporter of the Cuban revolution. To prove this, he brought newspaper clippings of press coverage of his activities as a one-man Fair Play for Cuba Committee in New Orleans.

The Russians thought that Oswald was either nuts or CIA. (Mark Hackard translated the recollections of one of the officers at the Russian consulate here.) The Cubans had similar suspicions, and denied him a visa. But after the assassination, and after Oswald himself had been killed by Jack Ruby, various witnesses began coming forward with stories of Oswald and Cubans in Mexico City, plotting to kill President Kennedy.

Johnson was convinced that it was a communist conspiracy. He was also convinced that if this fact emerged, it would mean not only a war, but the end of the Democratic party, which was perceived as “soft on communism.” Johnson’s good friend J. Edgar Hoover, the head of the FBI, put out a report only weeks after the assassination stating that Oswald was a lone assassin. When rumors of conspiracy persisted, Johnson convinced Chief Justice Earl Warren to head a Presidential Commission to investigate the murder by threatening him with the specter of nuclear war and “forty million deaths.” Warren allegedly was brought to tears before agreeing. Johnson later said that he told Warren what he had learned about Oswald in Mexico, and this was what had convinced him.

The allegations against Cuba are covered in depth in two books. Philip Shenon’s A Cruel and Shocking Act is a history of the Warren Commission, written with unprecedented access to not only declassified files but also interviews of Commission staffers. Shenon establishes that there was ample reason to investigate possible Cuban connections to the assassination, but that this was not done for the reasons stated above.

Brothers in Arms by Gus Russo and Stephen Molton takes the allegations further. The book grew out of Russo’s collaboration with German filmmaker Wilfried Huismann on a 2006 documentary, Rendezvous With Death. Huismann and Russo traveled to Mexico City and interviewed numerous witnesses, putting together a theory of a Cuban plot, in which Oswald was a willing participant, and of which Fidel Castro had foreknowledge.

Rendezvous With Death has never aired on American television, and received only a very limited DVD release in Europe. A poor quality version is available to view here.

The main argument for Castro’s guilt has always been that he had ample motive. JFK and his brother Robert were indisputably involved in efforts to kill Castro and overthrow his government (hence the title of Russo’s book, which is framed in terms of John and Robert Kennedy vs. Fidel and Raul Castro). Efforts by the U.S. to remove Castro from power began almost as soon as Castro seized power, during the Eisenhower presidency, and were continued and escalated under JFK. At the very moment of Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas, a CIA representative was meeting with a Cuban double agent, Rolando Cubela, in order to give him a weapon with which he was to poison Fidel. The plan was put on hold because of Kennedy’s murder. (Russo and Molton allege that Cubela was actually a triple agent loyal to Fidel all along, and would not have carried it out anyway.)

The main argument against any plot by Castro is that it would have been suicidal to attack the United States in this way. Also, the fact that Lee Harvey Oswald was very visibly pro-Castro and pro-Communist made him a poor choice for an assassin if the Cubans had any intention of hiding their responsibility for the crime.

However, regardless of whether Cuban agents and the Castros were complicit in the murder or not, it is a fact of history that Lyndon Johnson and others thought they were, and reacted not by going to war with Cuba in retaliation, but by covering up the crime.

It should be noted that the evidence pointing towards Castro’s involvement is seen by other researchers as being a smokescreen, laid out in advance in order to provoke the cover-up that it did, indeed, provoke. Peter Dale Scott, in his book Deep Politics and the Death of JFK, says that there were two phases of the cover story. Phase one maintained that Oswald killed JFK in cooperation with the Cubans, while Phase two held that Oswald was a lone nut. In Scott’s view, the evidence pointing towards Phase one is fake, and was created in order to induce the authorities to perpetuate the Phase two story.

Thus debate rages on, with authors like Russo and Shenon arguing that Castro was behind the JFK assassination, while Scott, Oliver Stone, and most other “conspiracy buffs” hold that the conspiracy was actually anti-Castro in nature, designed to change American foreign policy and provoke an invasion of Cuba by framing both Oswald and Castro for the crime.

One’s view of the JFK assassination is often a result of one’s political orientation, with liberals tending to favor conspiratorial explanations and conservatives tending to favor the lone assassin theory. For example, Salon.com founder David Talbot has written several books accusing the CIA, while Bill O’Reilly promotes the lone gunman explanation in his Killing Kennedy. A similar division was seen during the House Select Committee on Assassinations, when all the Republicans on the committee voted for a finding of no conspiracy, while all the Democrats voted the other way.

Still, regardless of one’s politics, there can be no doubt that massive changes followed the Kennedy assassination, from the emergence of the leftist counterculture to the Vietnam war and the passage of the Hart-Celler Act (which JFK’s brother Ted had a heavy hand in), to name only a few. Many liberals like to lionize JFK, and some conspiracy theorists believe that American decline actually stems from the assassination, which they view as a coup d’etat. Oliver Stone’s film is based on this premise, and says that Americans have become “Hamlets in our time, children of a slain father-leader, whose killers still possess the throne.” It’s an effective poetic image, and one which brought about accusations of Fascism at the time.

Even Pat Buchanan, who I very much doubt was an admirer of the liberal, philandering President, wrote that November 22, 1963 was a great turning point in American history – perhaps the beginning of the end. Unfortunately for historians, professional and amateur alike, it has now become a cold case that remains unsolved, and speculations about Who Killed JFK have now taken their place beside the identity of Jack the Ripper and other historical unknowns. Whatever Fidel Castro may have known about the matter, he has now taken it with him to his grave.