The Power of Black History / by Beatrice Lumpkin

Dancer Prescylia Mae, of Houston, performs during a dedication ceremony for the massive mural Absolute Equality’ in downtown Galveston, Texas, June 19, 2021. The dedication of the mural, which chronicles the history and legacy of Black people in the United States, was part of Juneteenth celebrations. | Stuart Villanueva, The Galveston County Daily News via AP

Black History has the power to uncover the truth and expose the lies about the key contributions Black people have made to winning democratic rights for all. This is especially true of the Civil War and Reconstruction. That was a crucial time in American history that has been “falsified,” as W.E.B. DuBois said. In his 1935 groundbreaking book, Black Reconstruction, DuBois sets the record straight. The North “had to call in the black men to save the Union, abolish slavery, and establish democracy.”

Juneteenth: The First General Strike

On “Juneteenth” 1863, when Lincoln announced his decision to issue the EmancipationProclamation, he was only recognizing the facts on the ground. Hundreds of thousands of enslaved people had already freed themselves and run away, depriving the slaveowners of their workforce. Of those who remained on the plantations, the owners complained that many were refusing to work. DuBois called it “the first General Strike.”

Over 180,000 of the self-freed men joined the Union Army. Their families often joined the men and worked for the Union Army. That turned the tide of the Civil War that the North had been losing.

The question could be asked, “Why was the North losing the Civil War although they had superior resources and over three times the population?” That was partly due to the ongoing, almost permanent military nature of the Southern states, already mobilized to keep 3.5 million people enslaved. Also, the morale of the poor white farmers and workers who were drafted into the Union Army was not always high.

It was true that working people were strongly anti-slavery. Whole union locals had dissolved to volunteer for the Union Army at the start of the war. But the rich never enlisted. For $300, they could buy their way out of serving. That was not an option for workers, many of whom made less than $500 a year. Meanwhile, the war was enriching the bankers, the new monopoly capitalists, and the expanding railroad companies. Growing inequality was undermining Union morale.

Black soldiers turn the tide

The massive influx of dedicated Black freedom fighters, who joined the Union Army in regiment-size contingents, led to a resounding victory. The Civil War could not have been won without them. Still, in the early days of the Civil War, the Union Army had the shameful policy of returning escaped, enslaved people to their masters! But General Frémont, in the border state of Missouri, recruited officers who rejected this outrageous practice.

Black soldiers turn the tide of the war: Members of the Guard of the 107th Infantry Regiment at Fort Corcoran, Washington, D.C. | Library of Congress

Generals Joseph Weydemeyer, Franz Sigel, and August Willich—immigrant German Communists and friends of Karl Marx—emancipated the enslaved wherever they marched. Lincoln disapproved and reassigned Frémont elsewhere. But the die had already been cast. The decision had been made by the hundreds of thousands of Black people escaping the plantations to fight for freedom.

The Union victory unleashed the creative energies of 3.5 million freed men, women, and children, who rushed into the newly opened political arena. Freedmen joined already-free Black people to organize state conventions. Attendance at Black political events was so massive that employers complained nobody worked on meeting days. What was at stake included ownership of the plantations that had been confiscated from the rebel owners, and political rights—especially the right to vote. What kind of new South would Reconstruction create?

The tragic assassination of Lincoln was a huge setback. Pro-slavery Andrew Johnson became president. He pardoned 7,000 Confederate leaders and allowed Southern state legislatures that enacted “Black Codes” to force Freedmen and women back to plantations. But Johnson was stopped in his tracks. The veto-proof Radical Republican majority of Congress rose up and impeached him. Johnson was saved from removal by just one Senate vote.

With Congress in charge, real Reconstruction began, and new state legislatures were elected with substantial Black composition. Black men won the right to vote in state elections and run for office well before the 15th Amendment established that right nationally.

Reconstruction and new democratic rights

A lasting achievement of Reconstruction was the creation of a public school system in the South. As Eric Foner said in a recent interview with Chicago’s PBS network WTTW: “At the end of the Civil War, even while the war’s still going on in some areas, and then immediately after, there’s this explosion of energy in Black communities to create schools. Northern aid societies come down to help create schools. The Freedmen’s Bureau puts money into creating schools. But most of the schools that spring up are actually created by Blacks themselves.”

Other lasting achievements were the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. They laid the basis for the democratic rights that we are working to defend and extend today. The 13th Amendment, for abolition of slavery throughout the U.S., passed in 1865. The 14th Amendment, for birthright citizenship and equal rights under the law, passed in 1866. By 1869, the 15th Amendment passed Congress, extending the freedmen’s right to vote nationally. That amendment did not include women’s suffrage, although Black leaders had fought for voting rights for all, women as well as men.

Members of the first South Carolina legislature after the Civil War. Thousands of Black men were elected to office during the post-war Reconstruction period, which briefly provided political and social power to formerly enslaved people before a backlash ushered in an era of segregation. | Library of Congress

For the first time ever, in both North and South, significant numbers of Black men were elected or appointed to public office. Over 4,000 Black men became public officials, counting federal, state, and local public offices. That was a most important achievement, but it could not outlast the return of political power to ex-Confederate plantation owners. The crucial issue of survival of democratic rights was tied to land reform. Who should own the plantations that were either abandoned or confiscated from Confederate traitors?

Reconstruction, an “Unfinished Revolution

There was a successful land reform model that could have established a huge economic base for democracy in the South. Gen. Sherman’s “Special Field Order 15” gave 14,000 Black families in South Carolina 40 acres each along the Charleston rice coast and the Sea Islands. Sherman also offered to lend mules.

Instead, most of the confiscated plantations were “returned” to the former slaveowners who had fought to destroy the Union. That left most freedmen and freed women with no way to make a living except to go back to the plantation under semi-serf conditions. In that basic economic and political sense, the Reconstruction Revolution remained unfinished.

Withdrawal of the Union Army from the South in 1877 ended Reconstruction and returned full power to the former slaveowners and their Ku Klux Klan. Then salt was added to these mortal wounds to the body of Democracy. The very same Union Army regiments that had protected Reconstruction were withdrawn to smash the National Railroad Strike of 1877 and to fight genocidal wars against Native Americans.

Meanwhile, vast economic and political changes had been taking place in the North and West. Banks and corporate monopolies began to dominate the economy. By May 10, 1869, railroads crossed the continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific. They were subsidized with huge land grants of Native American land. Having already forced Native Americans off their lands east of the Mississippi, the U.S. was waging genocidal wars to seize Native American lands in the West. In the cities and towns, wage workers were rising up and joining unions to cut the 12-hour work days and to fight for an 8-hour day.

The growing dominance of monopoly capital and imperialist changes in the North, and the failure to complete Reconstruction in the South, set our country on its present dangerous path. It’s a path of racism and oppression at home and eternal war and imperialism abroad. Many have called the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and ’70s, “the Second Reconstruction.” It is time for a “Third Reconstruction” to finish the Reconstruction Revolution left unfinished in 1877.

Thousands of heroes

Black Reconstruction brought forward thousands of heroes. To begin with, the thousands of Black public officials were all heroes. They served despite frequent terrorist attacks that also targeted their families. There were many more thousands of heroes whose names we don’t know.

Fortunately, a whole corps of historians, Black and white, are now doing research in the spirit of W.E.B. DuBois. They are bringing more heroes’ names to light, such as Sergeant Fred Brown and State Legislator Abraham Calloway. Joseph T. Glatthar has written about Brown in Forged in Battle, the Civil War Alliance of Black Soldiers and White Officers. The Regiment Commander had been alerted to a plot to destroy the 33rd U.S. Colored Infantry when they relocated by train. The commander ordered Brown to take four privates, ride on the engine, and shoot the engineer if anything went wrong.

On a trestle bridge, 100 feet above the water, someone pulled a pin, uncoupling the engine. The engine sped on, leaving the regiment trapped aboard the cars, up in the air. Just then, volleys of musket fire poured into the cars. It was night time, so the soldiers could not see to return effective fire. Nor could they abandon the cars. It seemed hopeless.

Just then they heard the engine backing up, returning. When the two sections were reconnected, the commander noticed that Sgt. Brown had his pistol cocked, snug against the back of the engineer’s head. Evidently, Brown had threatened to blow the man’s brains out unless he backed up his engine immediately. Brown’s quick thinking had saved the whole regiment.

Abraham Calloway

Born enslaved in 1837, Abraham Galloway escaped to freedom when only 20-years-old. But he returned to North Carolina to rescue his mother, and again to help the North win the Civil War. Only 26Galloway and his men held a gun to the head of the Union Army recruiter until they won the promise they needed. The recruiter promised equal pay for the new Black recruits, schools for their children, jobs for women, and provisions for their families.

Sketch of Abraham Galloway. | North Carolina Museum of History

Above all, was the demand that the Union Army would force the Confederacy to treat captured soldiers as prisoners of war and not re-enslave or execute them. Within six days, Galloway returned with 6,000 recruits, enough for a brigade.

The very next year, Galloway led a delegation of self-freed men to present President Lincoln with a petition calling on him to “…finish the noble work you have begun, and grant to your petitioners that greatest of privileges, when the State is reconstructed, to exercise the right of suffrage.”

One of only 13 Black delegates among the 120 men elected to the State Constitutional Convention, Galloway declared, “I came here to help the poor white man, as well as the colored man, and to do justice to all men.”

Elected twice to the State Senate, Galloway voted to ratify the 14th and 15th Amendments to the U. S. Constitution. He introduced a bill to limit the workday to ten hours. Galloway also sponsored bills for women’s suffrage and against domestic violence. But these bills did not pass. Galloway was especially eloquent on the subject of public education: “They hunger for the ‘forbidden fruit’ of knowledge with a zest of appetite which imparts marvelous powers of acquisition.”

Abraham Galloway died, cause unknown, at 33. He had just escaped two assassination attempts. Although he died broke, 7,000 people came to his funeral in Wilmington, N.C. His unrelenting fight for freedom, just as the even less known bravery of Sgt. Brown, continues to inspire us today.

Beatrice Lumpkin is a long time labor activist with laundry workers, steelworkers, and teachers. As a math professor at Malcolm X College in Chicago, she fought to restore the contributions of people of color to the educational curriculum. She has served as a multicultural consultant to textbook publishers and to public schools in Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, and Portland, Ore. She is the author of “Always Bring a Crowd, the story of Frank Lumpkin Steelworker” and “Joy in the Struggle, My Life and Love.” Beatrice Lumpkin is an active member of the Teachers Union and SOAR.

People’s World, February 23, 2022,

Opinion: Russia invades, but there are no good guys in the Ukraine war / by C.J. Atkins

Russian President Vladimir Putin has launched what he calls a ‘special military operation’ against targets in Ukraine. Multiple actors helped push the world to this point, including Zelensky and the fascist battalion, as well as Biden and the war profiteers | AP photos

Despite the slanted propaganda that passes for “news” in the mainstream Western media right now, the truth of the matter is that there are no good guys when it comes to the conflict in Ukraine. But depending on the day, some of the bad guys outdo the rest.

In Moscow, President Vladimir Putin has said for months that he wanted only to stop NATO expansion into Ukraine and deter attacks against ethnic Russians in the Donbass, dismissing claims that Russia was planning an attack on its neighbor. The precision air strikes and border incursions now underway as part of his “special military operation” put the lie to that. Clearly, the Russian leader was preparing for what the old expert George W. Bush might have called “preemptive self-defense.”

Putin sits at the head of a parasitical capitalist and gangster class that rules over the stolen wealth and resources that generations of Soviet workers and farmers built up during 70 years of socialism. He trashes the idea that peoples and nations have the right to determine their own future, questions the legitimacy of Ukraine’s existence, and longs for the days of the old Russian Empire. As a political figure, this modern-day would-be czar certainly deserves no sympathy from progressives and leftists in the West.

Smoke rises from an air defense base in the aftermath of an apparent Russian strike in Mariupol, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. | Evgeniy Maloletka / AP

But to simply portray Putin as the latest incarnation of Hitler, a territory-hungry madman, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi does, is to intentionally ignore the legitimate security complaints that Russia has been making for years. (It’s also a case of finding Nazis on the wrong side of the Russia-Ukraine border, but more on that in a moment.)

The current crisis is underpinned by issues stretching back over 30 years—from the end of the Cold War to the present. Way back in 1991, President Bush the First made a pledge to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that when the USSR withdrew from Eastern Europe, NATO would not seek to add countries there to its ranks.

If the West had truly been interested in creating the conditions for lasting peace for Europe, it would have dissolved NATO completely in that moment. Instead, barely a minute was wasted in proving Bush’s promise was empty; the alliance not only expanded into former Warsaw Pact countries like Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Romania, but actually gobbled up nations that were formerly part of the USSR itself, like Latvia and Lithuania.

With the excuse of being a “defensive” alliance against the Soviet Union gone, NATO was openly refashioned into a direct instrument of U.S. military policy. NATO helped tear the country of Yugoslavia to pieces, bombarded Afghanistan after Sept. 11th, and pushed Libya into a civil war.

Russian rocket launchers fire during the Belarusian and Russian joint military drills at Brestsky firing range, Belarus, in early February. | Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP

Given this history, Russia’s fear of NATO pulling Ukraine into its sphere and creeping directly up to the Russian border is far from absurd. It is little wonder that Putin has been demanding the U.S. and NATO remove all weapons from Ukraine, that a guarantee be issued Ukraine will not join the alliance, and that all former Soviet nuclear weapons on Ukrainian territory be secured. Any Russian leader—left, right, or center—would ask the same.

On this side of the Atlantic, President Joe Biden has endlessly talked for months of “defending Ukrainian democracy” and of peaceful intentions, all the while deploying increasing numbers of U.S. missiles and troops closer to the Russian border—to not only Ukraine, but Poland, the Czech Republic, and other countries. Fully aware of Russia’s security worries, Biden and NATO pushed the envelope anyway, acting as intentional provocateurs. A peacemaker the U.S. president is not.

Although too few have paid attention, Biden has also pulled back the curtain on the U.S. economic interests pushing for a Russia-Ukraine war—the ones who stand to profit here at home from fighting in eastern Europe. There are the usual suspects, of course, the missile makers and plane producers, but the other big winners in this war are the big oil and gas companies.

Wall Street is not letting the opportunity of war pass it by, as this recent headline from Yahoo Finance demonstrates. | via Yahoo! Finance

Repeatedly at points throughout the current crisis, Biden has threatened Germany and Russia’s Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline and pushed Berlin to squash the project. All the pipeline talk didn’t come out of nowhere.

Companies like Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Shell, along with the hundreds of drilling and shipping contractors that work with them, want to massively step up exports to a Europe starving for gas, but standing in the way has been Russia and its state-owned Gazprom company. Currently, Russian natural gas accounts for over 30% of all imports into the European Union. Leading EU powers Germany and France get 40% of their gas from Russia, while some other countries, like the Czech Republic and Romania, use only Russian gas.

In order to dislodge the competition and grab market share, the Western multinationals need to slow the flow of gas from the east. Completed late last year and due to become operational in 2022, Nord Stream 2 would permanently cap U.S. sales, which arrive via expensive shipping terminals.

The government of Ukraine, which benefits from transit fees for existing overland pipelines, lobbied Washington all summer last year to impose sanctions on Nord Stream 2 and the German and Russian companies behind it. With Putin’s invasion, Ukraine’s rulers and the Western gas companies got what they asked for. Nord Stream 2 is postponed, indefinitely; Germany has revived plans for more terminals to ship in U.S. gas; and world energy prices have soared as a result of the war.

Now, as for the talk of Nazis—well, the real fascists in this situation are the ones who rule the roost in Kiev and have command over the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Though he’s playing a starring role at the moment, President Volodymyr Zelensky—a Russian-speaking comedian turned nationalist politician—is just the latest in a string of rotating faces at the top of the right-wing Ukrainian state.

The current government came to power in the wake of the 2014 “Euromaidan” protests that overthrew the corrupt albeit democratically-elected administration of President Viktor Yanukovych. Trying to play Russia and the EU off one another to get the best economic deal for Ukraine when he was in charge, Yanukovych became the target of Western-backed business interests in Ukraine and ultra-nationalist neo-Nazi groups. The latter joined together, with U.S. support, to carry out a coup and send Yanukovych running for Moscow.

In the wake of that coup, labor unions and left-wing parties were severely repressed in Ukraine. In Odessa, dozens of union members were burned alive in one case of mass murder, while activists of the Ukrainian Communist Party and other groups have been forced underground.

Across the country, a campaign of ethnic erasure was launched against Russian-speaking Ukrainians, with the Russian language being banned from public life. In the mostly Russian regions of eastern Ukraine, a violent war ensued that has so far taken over 15,000 lives. Commanders from openly neo-Nazi and fascist groups like the Azov Battalion were put in charge of the official Ukrainian Armed Forces and given free reign in the Donbass.

To this day, Western media interview these “Ukrainian patriots” with no mention made to American viewers that those being hailed as heroes are literal Nazis. All the while, the U.S. government doesn’t bat an eye. The 2015 Minsk Agreement, which was supposed to end the fighting and protect the people who lived in the Donbass, has been largely ignored by Kiev. It’s little wonder then that the newly-declared Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics have sought their independence and asked Russia for protection.

From the beginning of the current crisis, the Zelensky government has waffled. At one moment, it presses for confrontation because it thinks it might be able to extract more military and economic aid from NATO while protecting its own pipeline profits as the handler of Russian gas. Then, at another moment, it cautions against war panic when it starts to look like the situation might actually engulf them in a real war.

Damaged radar, a vehicle, and equipment are seen at a Ukrainian military facility outside Mariupol, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. | Sergei Grits, AP

Zelensky openly announced his desire last week to execute a war “with foreign military support” against Russia and the breakaway regions its east. Then, when Russian missiles start to rain down and troops cross the border, he suddenly casts his country as a poor victim in a “war of aggression.” Having perhaps convinced himself Russia would never actually ever respond with a full-scale military assault, Zelensky may now be waking up to the realization he made a bad gamble.

Does all of the foregoing justify the “special military operation” now being carried out in Ukraine by Putin’s forces though? His claim that Ukraine needs to be “demilitarized” and “de-Nazified” is certainly a laudable goal, given the clique that holds power in Kiev and the developments in that country since 2014. But the actions taken by the Russian military—which so far involve strikes on Ukrainian military infrastructure, air defense sites, airfields and military aircraft—constitute a major escalation of the conflict and must be condemned. Putin said he wanted no invasion but launched one anyway.

But there’s more than enough blame to go around. The U.S., NATO, and Ukraine said they wanted peace but provoked a war anyway. The U.S.-led imperialist encirclement of Russia after the Cold War and the brutal actions of the fascist-backed government in Kiev conspired together to bring us to this moment.

In this war, the Ukrainian people will lose. The Russian people will lose. The people of Europe will lose. And the American people will lose. In all these places, money will be redirected toward wasteful military spending or the energy monopolies and away from people’s needs. In Ukraine and Russia, hundreds or perhaps thousands more lives will be lost.

To avert further catastrophe and upset the plans of the war profiteers, all the governments and forces involved must be pressured to pull back and return to the negotiating table.

Author: C.J. Atkins is the managing editor at People’s World. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from York University in Toronto and has a research and teaching background in political economy and the politics and ideas of the American left. In addition to his work at People’s World, C.J. currently serves as the Deputy Executive Director of ProudPolitics.

Source: People’s World, February 24, 2022,

Socialism and not Russian nationalism is the antidote to NATO expansionism

Communist Party of Turkey: “Now is the time for socialism!” | Photo Credit, Liberation News

Statement by the Communist Party of Turkey

In a statement about the recognition of independence of the so-called “People’s Republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk by the Russian government, as well as the anti-communist, nationalist remarks of President Putin, the Communist Party of Turkey (TKP) points out:

“Imperialism is an order of destruction and war. For every bourgeois government that tries to get an upper hand for itself in this rotten order and to expand its sphere of influence, it also means that it aims at the oppression of other peoples. The crutches of expansionist policies are nationalism, racism, and chauvinism. This is the meaning of Putin’s statements made yesterday on the recognition of the independence of the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics.

The words of Putin, who slandered Lenin, the leader of the Bolshevik Revolution, and the Soviet Union, in which the most egalitarian and peaceful nations policy has ever existed, with unfounded judgments, are unacceptable. His arguments lack historical basis and are completely demagogic. We cannot ignore the system of exploitation and warmongering/nationalist delusions that condemn the working people in Russia to poverty, just because Putin wishes to express his twenty-first century monarchic “fantasies”.

We will not allow the competition of distorting historical facts to pass, in which Russian Federation, which embarked on “great power” shows by building on the economic, political, military and cultural heritage of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, is not behind the USA and its allies. We will not allow the history of the 20th century, written by all the oppressed of the world, the proletarians, the 1917 October Revolution, the revolutions in China, Vietnam, Cuba and other countries, the wars of independence, the great victory of the Soviet peoples against fascism, to be distorted by the US and European imperialists, NATO gangs, neo-fascists in Ukraine and Poland, but also not by Russian nationalism.

This statement of Putin has also been an indisputable proof of how he abused the prestige of the Soviet Union, especially the victory of the Second World War, in a hypocritical way for his own demonstration of strength. These demonstrations, which lack any credibility and sincerity, are a reflection of his tsarist aspirations, moreover, they are an exploitation of the legacy of the USSR. Putin can only be right about the following: Today’s Russia, which has imperial ambitions, has nothing to do with the Soviet Union, which has been the advocate of peace, equality and progress for seventy years on behalf of the working peoples of the world.

The main reason for the suffering of the working people of Russia, Ukraine and other ex-Soviet countries today is the absence of socialism. The protests launched by oil and energy workers in Kazakhstan just a few weeks ago to express their demands which spread throughout the country, as well as the unresolved border problems revealed by the war in Karabakh last year are mere indicators of this. The peoples of the former Soviet Union republics are trying to live under the threat of unemployment, poverty, reaction, discrimination and war. As a result of the villain attempts of those who built today’s capitalist Russia over the dissolution of the Soviet Union, a large part of the world has turned into a region always prone to provocations.

Of course, the USA’s provocations for years in order to restore its declining hegemony, to revive the Western alliance aiming to impose its own interests have played a decisive role in these developments. The desires of the USA and NATO, which have been people’s enemies for more than seventy years and have been the leading actors in the disintegration of countries, the destruction of precious assets of people and cities, to encircle Russia have paved the way for today’s conflicts. Those who fabricated hostile nations and puppet states from the ruins of former Yugoslavia can have no right to say a word about the territorial integrity, sovereignty, and diplomacy rights of Eastern European peoples, let alone being their protectors.

Moreover, this process has made the internal contradictions of the Western alliance more visible, and it has clearly revealed that there is no principle or trust between these actors. The absence of a socialist axis and the dissolution of the Soviet Union have an absolute role in “lack of principles” becoming the norm in international relations.

The contradictions or bargains between the imperialists and the acts they call as the “balance of power politics” can in no way serve for the benefit of peoples. This is also true for the position of the Erdogan government, which is trying to make use of the situation, raising nationalism at home, and looking for a new economic and political route abroad, and the bourgeois opposition of Turkey that expects democracy from NATO.

The prospect of an extremely dangerous and devastating war for all peoples in the region is extremely high and concerning. All communists and peace lovers have a burning duty to prevent this possibility from realization.

Communists do not speak the language of nationalism, racism and militarism, but the language of the demands of the working people for equality, freedom and fraternity!”

Communist Party of Turkey,

Source: In Defense of Communism, February 22, 2022,

What You Should Really Know About Ukraine / by Bryce Greene

Maidan protests in 2014 in Kiev. GENYA SAVILOV / AFP – Getty Images

The history of U.S. involvement in Ukraine is rarely analyzed by corporate media. The desire to open Ukraine to finance capital, the 2014 U.S. backed coup, and the drive to expand NATO all played a role in creating the current crisis.

As tensions began to rise over Ukraine, US media produced a stream of articles attempting to explain the situation with headlines like “Ukraine Explained” (New York Times12/8/21 ) and “What You Need to Know About Tensions Between Ukraine and Russia” (Washington Post11/26/21 ). Sidebars would have notes that tried to provide context for the current headlines. But to truly understand this crisis, you would need to know much more than what these articles offered.

These “explainer” pieces are emblematic of Ukraine coverage in the rest of corporate media, which almost universally gave a pro-Western view of US/Russia relations and the history behind them. Media echoed the point of view of those who believe the US should have an active role in Ukrainian politics and enforce its perspective through military threats.

The official line goes something like this: Russia is challenging NATO and the “international rules-based order” by threatening to invade Ukraine, and the Biden administration needed to deter Russia by providing more security guarantees to the Zelensky government. The official account seizes on Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula as a starting point for US/Russian relations, and as evidence of Putin’s goals of rebuilding Russia’s long-lost empire.

Russia’s demand that NATO cease its expansion to Russia’s borders is viewed as such an obviously impossible demand that it can only be understood as a pretext to invade Ukraine. Therefore, the US should send weapons and troops to Ukraine, and guarantee its security with military threats to Russia (FAIR.org1/15/22 ).

The Washington Post asked: “Why is there tension between Russia and Ukraine?” Its answer:

In March 2014, Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine. A month later, war erupted between Russian-allied separatists and Ukraine’s military in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas. The United Nations human rights office estimates that more than 13,000 people have been killed.

But that account is highly misleading, because it leaves out the crucial role the US has played in escalating tensions in the region. In nearly every case we looked at, the reports omitted the US’s extensive role in the 2014 coup that preceded Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Focusing on the latter part only serves to manufacture consent for US intervention abroad.

The West Wants Investor-Friendly Policies in Ukraine

The backdrop to the 2014 coup and annexation cannot be understood without looking at the US strategy to open Ukrainian markets  to foreign investors and give control of its economy to giant multinational corporations.

A key tool for this has been the International Monetary Fund, which leverages aid loans to push governments to adopt policies friendly to foreign investors. The IMF is funded by and represents Western financial capital and governments and has been at the forefront of efforts to reshape economies around the world for decades, often with disastrous results. The civil war in Yemen  and the coup in Bolivia  both followed a rejection of IMF terms.

In Ukraine, the IMF had long planned to implement a series of economic reforms  to make the country more attractive to investors. These included cutting wage controls (i.e., lowering wages), “reform[ing] and reduc[ing]” health and education sectors (which made up the bulk of employment in Ukraine), and cutting natural gas subsidies to Ukrainian citizens that made energy affordable to the general public. Coup plotters like US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland  repeatedly stressed  the need for the Ukrainian government to enact the “necessary” reforms.

In 2013, after early steps to integrate with the West, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych turned against these changes and ended  trade integration talks with the European Union. Months before his overthrow, he restarted economic negotiations with Russia, in a major snub to the Western economic sphere. By then, the nationalist protests were heating up that would go on to topple his government.

After the 2014 coup, the new government quickly restarted  the EU deal. After cutting heating subsidies in half, it secured  a $27 billion commitment from the IMF. The IMF’s goals still  include “reducing the role of the state and vested interests in the economy” in order to attract more foreign capital.

The IMF is one of the many global institutions whose role in maintaining global inequities often goes unreported and unnoticed by the general public. The US economic quest to open global markets to capital is a key driver of international affairs, but if the press chooses to ignore it, the public debate is incomplete and shallow.

The US Helped Overthrow Ukraine’s Elected President

During the tug of war between the US and Russia, the Americans were engaged in a destabilization campaign against the Yanukovych government. The campaign culminated with the overthrow of the elected president in the Maidan Revolution—also known as the Maidan Coup—named for the Kiev square that hosted the bulk of the protests.

As political turmoil engulfed the country in the leadup to 2014, the US was fueling anti-government sentiment through mechanisms like USAID and National Endowment for Democracy (NED), just as they had done in 2004 . In December 2013, Nuland, assistant secretary of state for European affairs and a long-time regime change advocate , said that the US government had spent $5 billion  promoting “democracy” in Ukraine since 1991. The money went toward supporting “senior officials in the Ukraine government…[members of] the business community as well as opposition civil society” who agree with US goals.

The NED is a key organization in the network of American soft power that pours  $170 million a year into organizations dedicated to defending or installing US-friendly regimes. The Washington Post‘s David Ignatius (9/22/91 ) once wrote that the organization functions by “doing in public what the CIA used to do in private.” The NED targets governments who oppose US military or economic policy, stirring up anti-government opposition.

The NED board of directors includes Elliott Abrams , whose sordid record runs from the Iran/Contra affair  in the ’80s to the Trump administration’s effort to overthrow  the Venezuelan government. In 2013, NED president Carl Gershman wrote a piece in the Washington Post (9/26/13 ) that described Ukraine as the “biggest prize” in the East/West rivalry.  After the Obama administration, Nuland joined the NED board of directors before returning to the State Department in the Biden administration as undersecretary of state for political affairs.

One of the many recipients of NED money for projects in Ukraine was the International Republican Institute. The IRI, once chaired by Sen. John McCain, has long  had a hand in US regime change operations. During the protests that eventually brought down the government, McCain  and other US officials personally flew into Ukraine to encourage  protesters.

US Officials Were Caught Picking the New Government

On February 6, 2014, as the anti-government protests were intensifying, an anonymous party (assumed  by many to be Russia) leaked a call  between Assistant Secretary of State Nuland and US ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt. The two officials discussed which opposition officials would staff a prospective new government, agreeing that Arseniy Yatsenyuk—Nuland referred to him by the nickname “Yats”—should be in charge. It was also agreed that someone “high profile” be brought in to push things along. That someone was Joe Biden.

Weeks later, on February 22, after a massacre by suspicious snipers  brought tensions to a head, the Ukrainian parliament quickly removed Yanukovych from office in a constitutionally questionable  maneuver. Yanukovych then fled the country, calling the overthrow a coup. On February 27, Yatsenyuk became prime minister.

At the time the call leaked, media were quick to pounce on Nuland’s saying “Fuck the EU.” The comment dominated the headlines (Daily Beast 2/6/14 BuzzFeed2/6/14 Atlantic2/6/14 Guardian2/6/14 ), while the evidence of US regime change efforts was downplayed. With the headline “Russia Claims US Is Meddling Over Ukraine,” the New York Times (2/6/14 ) put the facts of US involvement in the mouth of an official enemy, blunting their impact on the audience. The Times (2/6/14 ) later described the two officials as benignly “talking about the political crisis in Kiev” and sharing “their views of how it might be resolved.”

The Washington Post (2/6/14 ) acknowledged that the call showed “a deep degree of US involvement in affairs that Washington officially says are Ukraine’s to resolve,” but that fact rarely factored into future coverage of the US/Ukraine/Russia relationship.

Washington Used Nazis to Help Overthrow the Government

The Washington-backed opposition that toppled the government was fueled  by far-right and openly Nazi  elements like the Right Sector. One far-right group that grew out of the protests was the Azov Battalion, a paramilitary militia of neo-Nazi extremists . Their leaders made up the vanguard of the anti-Yanukovych protests, and even spoke at opposition events in the Maidan alongside US regime change advocates like McCain and Nuland.

After the violent coup, these groups were later incorporated  into the Ukrainian armed forces—the same armed forces that the US has now given  $2.5 billion. Though Congress technically  restricted money from flowing to the Azov Battalion in 2018, trainers on the ground say there’s no mechanism  to actually enforce the provision.  Since the coup, the Ukrainian nationalist forces have been responsible for a wide variety of atrocities  in the counterinsurgency war.

Far-right influence has increased across Ukraine as a result of Washington’s actions. A recent UN Human Rights council has noted  that “fundamental freedoms in Ukraine have been squeezed” since 2014, further weakening the argument that the US is involved in the country on behalf of liberal values.

Among American neo-Nazis, there’s even a movement  aimed at encouraging right-wing extremists to join the Battalion in order to “gain actual combat experience” in preparation for a potential civil war in the US.

In a recent UN vote on “combating glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fueling contemporary forms of racism,” the US and Ukraine were the only two countries  to vote no.

As FAIR (1/15/22 ) has reported, between December 6, 2021, and January 6, 2022, the New York Times ran 228 articles that refer to Ukraine, but none of them reference the pro-Nazi elements in Ukraine’s politics or government. The same can be said of the Washington Post’s 201 articles on the topic.

There’s a Lot More to the Crimean Annexation

The facts above give more context to Russian actions following the coup, and ought to counter the caricature of a Russian Empire bent on expansion. From Russia’s point of view, a longtime adversary had successfully overthrown a neighboring government using violent far-right extremists.

The Crimean peninsula, which was part of Russia until it was transferred to the Ukrainian Soviet Republic in 1954, is home to one of two Russian naval bases  with access to the Black and Mediterranean seas, one of history’s most important maritime theaters. A Crimea controlled by a US-backed Ukrainian government was a major threat to Russian naval access.

The peninsula—82% of whose households speak Russian , and only 2% mainly Ukrainian—held a plebiscite in March 2014 on whether or not they should join Russia, or remain under the new Ukrainian government. The Pro-Russia camp won with 95% of the vote. The UN General Assembly, led by the US, voted to ignore the referendum results  on the grounds that it was contrary to Ukraine’s constitution. This same constitution had been set aside to oust President Yanukovych a month earlier.

All of this is dropped from Western coverage.

The US Wants to Expand NATO

In addition to integrating Ukraine into the US-dominated economic sphere, Western planners also want to integrate Ukraine militarily. For years, the US has sought the expansion of NATO , an explicitly anti-Russian military alliance. NATO was originally billed as a counterforce to the Warsaw Pact during the Cold War, but after the demise of the Soviet Union, the US promised  the new Russia that it would not expand NATO east of Germany. Despite this agreement, the US continued building out its military alliance,growing closer and closer to Russia’s borders and ignoring Russia’s objections.

This history is sometimes admitted but usually downplayed in corporate media. In an interview with the Washington Post (12/1/21 ), professor Mary Sarotte, author of Not One Inch: America, Russia and the Making of Post-Cold War Stalemate, recounted that after the Soviet collapse, “Washington realized that it could not only win big, but win bigger. Not one inch of territory needed to be off-limits to full NATO membership.” The US “all-or-nothing approach to expansionism…maximized conflict with Moscow,” she noted. Unfortunately, one interview does little to cut through the drumbeat of pro-NATO talking points.

In 2008, NATO members pledged to extend membership to Ukraine. The removal of the pro-Russian government in 2014 was a giant leap towards the pledge becoming a reality. Recently, NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg announced that the alliance stands by  plans to integrate Ukraine into the alliance.

Bret Stephens  in the New York Times (1/11/21 ) maintained that if Ukraine wasn’t allowed to join the organization, it would “break the spine of NATO” and “end the Western alliance as we have known it since the Atlantic Charter.”

The US Wouldn’t Tolerate What Russia Is Expected to Accept

Much has been written about the Russian buildup on the Ukraine border. Reports of the buildup have been intensified by US intelligence officials’ warnings of an attack. Media often echo the claim of an inevitable invasion. The Washington Post editorial board (1/24/22)  wrote that “Putin can—and will—use any measures the United States and its NATO allies either take or refrain from taking as a pretext for aggression.”

But Putin has been clear about a path to de-escalation. His main demand has been for direct negotiations to end the expansion of the hostile military alliance to his borders. He announced , “We have made it clear that NATO’s move to the east is unacceptable,” and that “the United States is standing with missiles on our doorstep.” Putin asked, “How would the Americans react if missiles were placed at the border with Canada or Mexico?”

In corporate media coverage, no one bothers to ask this important question. Instead, the assumption is that Putin ought to tolerate a hostile military alliance directly across its border. The US, it seems, is the only country allowed to have a sphere of influence.

The New York Times (1/26/22 ) asked: “Can the West Stop Russia From Invading Ukraine?” but shrugs at the US dismissal of Putin’s terms as “nonstarters.” The Washington Post (12/10/21 ) reported: “Some analysts have expressed worry that the Russian leader is making demands that he knows Washington will reject, possibly as a pretext for military action once he is spurned.” The Post quoted one analyst, “I don’t see us giving them anything that would suffice relative to their demands, and what troubles me is they know that.”

Audiences have also been assured that Putin’s reaction to Western expansionism is actually a prelude to more aggressive actions.  “Ukraine Is Only One Small Part of Putin’s Plans,” warned the New York Times (1/7/22 ). The Times (1/26/22 ) later described Putin’s Ukraine policy as an attempt at “restoring what he views as Russia’s rightful place among the world’s great powers,” rather than an attempt to avoid having the US military directly on its border. USA Today (1/18/22 ) warned readers that “Putin ‘Won’t Stop’ with Ukraine.”

But taking this view is diplomatic malpractice. Anatol Lieven (Responsible Statecraft1/3/22 ), an analyst at the Quincy Institute, wrote that US acquiescence to a neutral Ukraine would be a “golden bridge” that, in addition to reducing US/Russia tensions, could enable a political solution to Ukraine’s civil war. This restraint-oriented policy is considered fringe thinking in the Washington foreign policy establishment.

The Memory Hole

All of this missing context allows hawks to promote disastrous escalation of tensions. The Wall Street Journal (12/22/21 ) published an opinion piece trying to convince readers there was a “Strategic Advantage to Risking War In Ukraine.” The piece, by John Deni of the US Army War College, summarized the familiar hawkish talking points, and claimed that a neutral Ukraine is “anathema to Western values of national self-determination and sovereignty.”

In a modern rendition of Zbigniew Brzezinski’s Afghan Trap , Deni asserted that war in Ukraine could actually serve US interests by weakening Russia: Such a war, however disastrous, would ​​“forge an even stronger anti-Russian consensus across Europe,” refocusing NATO against the main enemy, result in “economic sanctions that would further weaken Russia’s economy” and “sap the strength and morale of Russia’s military while undercutting Mr. Putin’s domestic popularity.” Thus escalating tensions is a win/win for Washington.

Few of the recent wave of Ukraine pieces recount the crucial history given above. Including the truth about US foreign policy goals in the post-Cold War era makes the current picture look a lot less one-sided. Imagine  for one second how the US would behave if Putin began trying to add a US neighbor to a hostile military alliance after helping to overthrow its government.

The economic imperative for opening foreign markets, the NATO drive to push up against Russia, US support for the 2014 coup and the direct hand in shaping the new government all need to be pushed down the memory hole if the official line is to have any credibility. Absent all of that, it is easy to accept the fiction that Ukraine is a battleground between a “rules-based order” and Russian autocracy.

Indeed, the Washington Post editorial board (12/8/21 ) recently compared negotiating with Putin to appeasing Hitler at Munich. It called on Biden to “resist Putin’s trumped-up demands on Ukraine,” “lest he destabilize all of Europe to autocratic Russia’s advantage.” This wasn’t the only time the paper has made the Munich analogy;  the Post (12/10/21 ) ran a piece by former George W. Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen  headlined “On Ukraine, Biden Is Channeling His Inner Neville Chamberlain.”

In the New York Times (12/10/21 ), Trump NSC aide Alexander Vindman told readers “How the United States Can Break Putin’s Hold on Ukraine,” and urged the Biden administration to send active US troops to the country. A “free and sovereign Ukraine,” he said, is vital in “advancing US interests against those of Russia and China.” Times reporter Michael Crowley  (12/16/21 ) also framed the Ukraine standoff as another “Test of US Credibility Abroad,” after that credibility was supposedly damaged after ending the war in Afghanistan.

In a New York Times major feature (1/16/21 ) on Ukraine, the US role in bringing tensions to this point was completely omitted, in favor of exclusively blaming “Russian Belligerence.”

As a result of this coverage, the interventionist mentality has trickled down to the public. One poll found that, should Russia actually invade Ukraine, 50% of Americans  support embroiling the US in yet another quagmire, up from just 30% in 2014. Biden, however, has said that no US troops will be sent to Ukraine. Instead, the US and EU have threatened sanctions or support  for a rebel insurgency should Russia invade.

The past few weeks have seen several failed talks between the US and Russians, as the US refuses to alter its plans for Ukraine. The US Congress is rushing   a “lethal aid” package to send more weapons to the troubled border. Perhaps if the public were better informed, there would be more domestic pressure on Biden to end the brinkmanship and seek a genuine solution to the problem.

Author: Bryce Greene is a student at Indiana University/Bloomington.

Source: Black Agenda Report, February 23, 2022,

This article originally appeared in FAIR 

The Communist Manifesto Shows Why Capitalism Won’t Last Forever / by Nadia Urbinati

A propaganda poster by Ivan Simakov marking the fifth anniversary of the revolution | Getty Images

Published this day in 1848, The Communist Manifesto didn’t offer blueprints for a communist future. But in showing that capitalism is not eternal or natural, Marx and Engels explained how the crises of the present prepare the way for our future liberation.

The Communist Manifesto, first published on this day in 1848, doesn’t suggest that we should imagine the future. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels tell us that the future is harbored within things themselves, and that is why it is rational to desire it. So it makes no sense to establish a dualism between the present and the future; if we reasoned according to this dichotomy, then we would be condemned either to desire the impossible or else to suffer the curse of Adam and accept suffering and poverty as divine punishments. The Manifesto instead tells us to take up the tasks we are capable of resolving — and by “us,” Marx and Engels mean not individuals or an aggregate of individuals but a class determined by economic processes.

The Manifesto is an extraordinary document of political activism, both urgent and enthusiastic — and it was received as such by both admirers and critics: “The memorable date of publication of The Communist Manifesto (February 1848) reminds us of our first and definitive entry into history,” wrote the materialist philosopher Antonio Labriola in 1895. “It is against this date that the course of the new era can be measured, rising and blossoming. This is how this new era escaped from and developed out of the present, through intimate and immanent development, in a necessary and ineluctable fashion.”

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For Labriola, the scansion of the temporality of communism was clear: it was blossoming in a present determined by the past and pregnant with the future. History did not make jumps; it was determined, and thus capable of providing certainty to political action — that is, the confidence that the sacrifices, struggles, and repressions will not be in vain, as Carlo Rosselli put it in his 1930 work Liberal Socialism.

Marx and Engels wrote the Manifesto in December 1847, when the former was twenty-nine years old and the latter twenty-seven. Europe (and through it, the world) was their horizon, a theater of multiple revolutions against empires, monarchical domination, and timidly liberal governments unabashedly in service of a specific social class — the bourgeoisie. Between 1847 and 1849, revolutionary hope was animated by republicans, socialists, democrats, anarchists, and communists, all mobilized with the objective of sparking a popular uprising against social, political, and economic oppression. Giuseppe Mazzini and Louis Blanc, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and Mikhail Bakunin were central protagonists in these two years of democratic struggle, which finished in bloody repression, in the Roman Republic (1849) and eventually with the dictatorship of Napoleon III (1851). This epilogue changed Marx’s attitude toward the role of political action.

Becoming Communists

How had Marx and Engels come to communism? Engels already called himself “communist” at the end of 1842, and Marx followed suit a few months later. They were not the first to do so, even in the Germany where they lived at the time. The eighteenth-century Enlightenment had seeded the idea of progress across countries and cultural worlds. The utilitarianism of Jeremy Bentham (which was certainly not socialist) had provided a bridge between French materialism (from Holbach and Helvetius to Morelly and Mably) and English utopianism — and indeed, the ideas of William Godwin, Robert Owen, and William Thompson were extremely well-known among radicals and socialists when Marx emigrated to London in 1849.

Credit: Facebook

Notable influences of this age included the theories of eighteenth-century materialist anthropologists (Bernard de Mandeville) and economists (Adam Smith). Especially crucial was Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who, while not socialist, had contributed heavily to awareness of the symbiotic link between the social and political orders. Among those who took inspiration from Rousseau were Francois-Noël Babeuf and Filippo Buonarroti, protagonists of the failed Conspiracy of Equals in 1796 that inspired the revolutionary conspiring of Louis-Auguste Blanqui against the reign of Louis Philippe (1830–1848) and the League of the Just, founded in the 1830s, of which the German exiles in Paris (including Marx) were a part. It was from the latter that the Communist League was born in London in 1847, the fruit of several years of coordination between English and continental revolutionary movements (including the Democratic Association of Brussels that Marx had been a part of).

The Communist League commissioned a manifesto from Marx and Engels, who at the time considered themselves radical democrats and supported all movements for political emancipation (including movements like the Chartists’). Democratic radicalism had in fact been the chief accusation leveled against Marx by the Prussian government in 1843 for his work with the Rheinische Zeitung; his “ultrademocratic opinions [we]re in complete contradiction with the principles of the Prussian state,” the indictment against him claimed.

Articles by Karl Marx in Rheinische Zeitung, 1842-43 |

However, in the Manifesto, the ideas of the eighteenth-century revolutionaries belong to a chapter of the past, including their preferred method of conspiracy. The “party” of which they write points to political activity carried out in the open, founded on themes capable of agitating and arousing the passions of public opinion. The Hegelian dialectic that Marx adds to the materialistic interpretation of history turns communism into an unavoidable destination. The “specter” is indicative of a reality that can neither be denied nor escaped — a future that will torment capitalism to the end of its days.

The Manifesto connects the scientific interpretation of the history of society with politically revolutionary objectives, and includes suggestions on the measures to adopt should the revolutionary movement succeed — many of them essentially liberal and democratic. This is all undergirded by faith in a collective direction of political action towards a medium-term goal (the dictatorship of the proletariat) and a long-term goal (the withering away of the state and communist self-government). The party has a class of reference, the proletariat, but also an emancipatory end goal that transcends any class: the realization of the individual. Marx and Engels describe the unique and revolutionary conditions of this class with engaging style and cadence.

The arguments are proven through the materialistic conception of history, which demonstrates why this proletariat is the only fundamentally revolutionary class. The antagonistic class, the bourgeoisie (which created the economic model of capitalism), is also revolutionary and has created a new culture, technology, and the civil and political relations to accompany them — thereby revolutionizing society and uprooting atavistic traditions, religious beliefs, and caste hierarchies, changing the mode of the state and immersing humanity in a globalized and unified world. But the bourgeoisie is only revolutionary in order to satisfy its own interests, which are to subjugate in economic and social practice those whom it declares free and equal by law. The proletariat is generated by the bourgeois revolution, unified through its condition of absolute subordination, which comes about not due to the will of any particular capitalist or industry but through the capitalist system of production that imposes its logic on all without distinction, bosses and proletarians alike.

Capitalism cannot be judged from a moral perspective, or according to the principles of impartiality and justice. It is a coherent system according to its own logic of accumulation and exploitation, and thus cannot be made just. The salaried condition — the necessity of working without directing one’s own work — makes the proletariat the only class with a universal function of emancipation and justice, upon which the entire capitalist system rests. It is a class with nothing to lose and nothing to protect, and will ultimately liberate everyone, including the bourgeoisie, from the yoke of the iron law of capitalist accumulation.

Two Futures

The Manifesto gives us two futures: The first chapter, on the struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, denotes the capitalist period. In the second chapter, we see the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat for communism. Of these two futures, the first corresponds to our present, a present long enough to have undermined the very idea of the second future and of transformation. We are living in an eternal present that repeats itself with increasing velocity. And this is what is implicitly referred to when we speak today of a “pensée unique,” “presentism,” and “the end of history.” What we have from the Manifesto today is this dilation of the capitalist present: a chapter in the global transformation of the system that seems to have devoured the future.

Triumphant global capitalism gives the world a single language, a single aesthetic and moral culture, that destroys the significance of borders, traditions, and political sovereignty with the movement of people, leaving us at a crossroads between Mandeville and Marx. For both authors, civil society is waylaid from progress and enrichment by inequality; according to both, the culture of rights in essence only has the function of opening up enormous pastures free from civic life, where private vices can flourish. In Mandeville’s Fable of the Bees (1723), wealth is inevitably born from poverty, prosperity from salaried labor, and a nation’s health is thus measured by the mass of the impoverished who exhaust themselves without thought of engaging in beauty and culture — luxury goods that cannot be had at their price. Civilization through exploitation (much like religion) does nothing except reinforce the sense that there is nothing beyond one’s own misery. This is a cynical civilization, which takes away all respite for the soul, which tears away the veil of divinity and leaves millions of Sisyphuses in perennial and fatal submission to an immutable Prometheus — science and technology — that is, the destructive forces that preclude the possibilities of civic life through the oppression of the many.

In fact, without the certainty of a future contained within the belly of the present, the present becomes our damnation, because capitalism gives us one sole hope: to end up on the right side through luck, lottery, or fortune. The Manifesto disdainfully casts away this reliance on fortune, proposing an alternative to Mandeville in the form of a granite certainty: that we will have a human future. But through which path, in what manner, and with what instruments?

The defeat of the revolutions for which the Manifesto was written left Marx with doubts as to the efficacy of political struggle and mobilization, but not as to the direction of history. After this defeat (and the subsequent defeat of the Paris Commune in 1871), the certainty of the future followed a different path and carried a high price: the future, in Marx’s subsequent writings, would not be dispensed by a class organized into a revolutionary political party. This is the perspective which our seemingly eternal present gives us; no political virtue is able to open the gates of the future, and yet we must convince ourselves not to lose hope, for history is full of “turns and reversals,” as Giambattista Vico pointed out. And it is history that will decide: this present already pregnant, despite everything, with the future.

In our time, in this eternal present of the first chapter of the Manifesto, we have two options: Mandeville or Marx. That is, either a story of exploitation and wealth that repeats itself without end because human nature does not change, or else a story of exploitation and accumulation that will not simply keep repeating itself. For as Rousseau wrote, humans cannot help perfecting themselves, and in so doing, they disrupt their own nature and the course of things — thereby creating chinks in the system, without premeditation. So, even without an abstract political design to determine the course of this second future, it is true that the devil is in the details. Scattered sparks can produce many great fires, we read in De rerum natura — a text well-known and beloved by Marx.

This article, translated by Xavier Flory, is a chapter of Nadia Urbinati’s, Il futuro: Storia di un’idea (Laterza, Rome-Bari, 2021).

Source: Jacobin, February 21, 2022,

Anticolonialism / by Samir Amin

Anti-colonial protest: statue of King Lepold II in Brussels (Photo: Mihai Surdu / unsplash)

The ideology and political stance of A is based on recognition of the right of all peoples to dispose of an independent state that participates in the state system with other states on the basis of legal equality. This right is new: as a universal right, it was not declared until 1945, on the occasion of the United Nations being founded. Its recognition implies that various types of units–designated as nations, ethnic groups, peoples etc.–are recognised as numbering among those historical actors who are capable of expressing a common will. Thus the debate requires stipulating the criteria according to which collective units are accorded the right to self-determination; it also requires specifying the conditions a people needs to meet in order to be able to respect the rules of the international state system.

Oppression of ethnic, linguistic or religious groups goes back to the earliest times of antiquity, regardless of whether the group in question constitutes the totality of a people or a minority within a people. Rome provides a familiar example. While oppression is often closely linked to one or another form of labour exploitation, it nevertheless represents a phenomenon in its own right, which at times can even exist independently of exploitation. Yet by comparison to economic theory and the theory of labour exploitation, the theory of oppression is still in its early stages of development–as is the theory of politics, and of power in general.

The development of the capitalist world system has been based, since its mercantilist origins in the 17th cent., on a massive expansion of the fact of colonialism, which assumes five different forms, each with its own specific functions: 1. The colonies based on European resettlement–be it in unpopulated or scarcely populated areas, be it by means of the extermination of the local population (New England and Canada, and later South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand)–are the product of an immense migratory movement, caused by capitalist development in Europe, which drives poor peasants off the land. The emigrants recreate a system of simple commodity production that is free of all feudal fetters. Animated by an anticolonialist ideology, of which the American Revolution represents the finest example, the colonists quickly take up the struggle for independence and against the metropoles. 2. In certain areas of Latin America, the decimated, but not fully exterminated populations are subjected, by Atlantic mercantilism, to a form of exploitation that targets first natural resources, and then agriculture. In such cases (e.g. Brazil), the anticolonialist independence movement emerging at the beginning of the 19th cent. is associated with the local ruling classes, which are of Iberian origin (Creoles). The movement, which opposes the monopolies of the declining metropoles, is supported by Great Britain, the ascending power within the capitalist system. 3. A third form of colonisation is represented by the actual colonies of this period, whose significance derives from the extraction of surplus value via the exploitation of slaves (the Antilles, the U.S. South, northeastern Brazil). Here, A assumes the form of a violent slave uprising, Haiti during the French Revolution being the most prominent example. 4. The colonisation of Asia’s large populated territories (India, Indonesia, and the Philippines) only integrates with the new capitalist system following the industrial revolution, becoming, in the 19th cent., both a source of agricultural resources and a sales market for the manufacturing industries of the metropoles. 5. Finally, control of the seas allows England (and, in a subordinate position, France) to establish a global web of maritime commercial centres. The General Act of the Berlin Conference (1884/85) is the prelude to a new wave of colonial conquest, leading, after a number of years, to the division of Africa. At the same time, the Asian states (China, Persia, the Ottoman Empire) are reduced, de facto, to the status of >semi-colonies<. This is when the modern colonialist ideology emerges, attempting to justify itself by reference to the West’s >civilising mission<.

The counterattack by the victims of the imperial system is not long in coming. As early as the end of the 19th cent., we see the development of national liberation movements that act as the anti-imperialist and domestic agents of social and political reform. This movement provides the link to modern A, which leads, after the Second World War, first to recognition of the law of nations and then, following the Bandung Conference (1955), to an acceleration of general decolonisation, particularly in Africa.

It has been observed that the colonial phenomenon was specific to the phases of intensified competition between various metropoles vying for world hegemony: specific, that is, to the period of the 17th and 18th cent.s, characterised by the confrontation between England and France, and to the period of 1880–1945, characterised by the conflict between the imperialisms analysed by Lenin. By contrast, the brief periods during which the hegemonic power genuinely exercises its power (England between 1815 and 1870, the USA after the Second World War) see this power defending the principle of opening the world to all competitors (the free trade of the 19th cent., the corporate freedom of today)–a principle that is very much compatible with the formal recognition of independent statehood.

Thus colonialism is distinct from the more essential phenomenon of inequality within capitalism’s worldwide expansion, a phenomenon characterised by the polarisation of centre and periphery. This polarisation can by no means be reduced to the imperialist-colonialist form it assumed between 1880 and 1945. It is an immanent feature of the capitalist system and accompanies each of that system’s developmental stages, from the system’s origins until today.

While the colonial form may appear archaic, it persisted into the 1990s in two cases: that of Palestine, a territory claimed for colonisation by Zionist settlers, and that of South Africa, where the apartheid regime denied the African majority the rights of a people. These forms were only able to survive thanks to their integration into imperialism’s global strategies.

Enlightenment philosophy gave rise to a first anticolonialist ideology, which even extended, at the moment of the French Revolution’s radicalisation, to solidarity with the insurrectionaries of Haiti. Later, the European liberal left and even the dominant currents of the European labour movement (Second International) renounced A. The latter even went as far as justifying the >objectively progressive< effects of colonisation. In this respect as in others, the break enacted by Lenin laid the foundations for a new internationalism, capable of linking workers in the developed capitalist world to the oppressed and exploited peoples of the periphery. To this day, this goal remains an unfinished task.

Confronted with the problem of the unequal development of capitalism, Marxism consistently assumed positions that were in principle anti-imperialist, anticolonialist and anti-neocolonialist. Marx and Engels criticised the corrupting effect of England’s colonisation of Ireland and Russia’s colonisation of Poland: >A people that oppresses others cannot emancipate itself< (MECW 24/11 [18/527]). While the Second International later shifted towards a pro-colonialist position, Lenin presented in 1917 a theory of imperialism as the >highest stage of capitalism< (LCW 22, 185 et sqq.) that linked the formation of monopolies in the capitalist centres at the end of the 19th cent. to the division of colonial territories, inter-imperialist conflict and the corruption of the >worker aristocracy<. Following the first Congress of the Peoples of the East (Baku, September 1920), the Third International called upon the working classes of the West to engage in practical solidarity with the peoples struggling for national liberation. It was in this spirit that Stalin claimed the Afghan emir resisting British aggression is objectively more progressive than those British workers, organised in the Labour Party, who support their imperialist masters. Following the Bandung Conference (1955), the USSR finally broke out of the isolation the Western powers had confined it to since 1917, and did so precisely by supporting the liberation movements in Asia and Africa, as well as the radically anti-imperialist and anti-neocolonialist states that national liberation had produced. The tide has now turned, due to the dissolution of the Soviet system: on the occasion of the 1991 Gulf War, the new Russia has sided with the unified camp of capitalist countries.

While colonisation in the narrow sense is a phenomenon specific to particular epochs, the opposition of centre and periphery is immanent to capitalism’s global expansion from the outset. Yet analysis of the causes and mechanisms of this global polarisation, which is associated with capitalism, and of its consequences for political action, remains incomplete. Historical Marxism may even have underestimated this polarisation, like socialist thought in its entirety. Within its optimistic vision, historical Marxism hoped the bourgeoisies would play their historical role by ensuring a development of the forces of production that homogenises the conditions of class struggle across the globe. In a departure from this view, Rosa Luxemburg formulated the hypothesis, in Accumulation, that the reproduction of capital requires its extension to pre- and non-capitalist milieus. While Lenin rejected Luxemburg‘s theoretical argument, he did take note of unequal development and suggested, in his theory of the >weakest link< (Stalin W 6, 100; cf. Lenin, LCW 33, 112 et sq. and LCW 5, 502), that the socialist world revolution could be initiated from the peripheries of the system.

The theory and practice of >socialist transition< must be reexamined and criticised in light of the proposed analyses of actually existing world capitalism’s polarisation. Confronted with the intolerable social consequences of this polarisation, it is up to the peoples of the periphery to revolt and resist subordination to the polarising logic of capitalism’s global expansion. Following the Russian revolution, the revolutions in China, Vietnam, and Cuba have developed a strategy of building socialism in the peripheries of the world system that was systematised by Mao Zedong’s theory of the >uninterrupted< revolution of the >New Democracy< (1940, SW 2, 339–84). At the opposite pole of Marxist-inspired thought, post-1955 Soviet theory oriented itself toward supporting the national bourgeois development attempts of the Bandung period (1955–1975). This practice was considered opportunist and ineffective by those who, like Che Guevara, started from the premise that the historical role of the bourgeoisies in the periphery was unable to transcend the limit of the subalternisations imposed by global capitalism (compradorisation).

Historical experience shows that the entire theory of the transition from global capitalism to communism (a transition that must also be global) needs be thought through anew. A better understanding of the nature of capitalist polarisation is a necessary prerequisite to a renewed forward movement of socialist thought and action, as well as of creative Marxism.

Bibliography: Accumulation on a World Scale: A Critique of the Theory of Underdevelopment (1970), Hassocks 1978; id., Imperialism and Unequal Development (1976), New York 1977; id., Class and Nation, Historically and in the Current Crisis (1979), New York 1998; N.I.Bukharin, Imperialism and World Economy (1915/18), New York 1973; A.Emmanuel, Échange inegal. Essai sur les antagonismes dans les rapports economiques internationaux, Paris 1969; A.G.Frank, The Development of Underdevelopment, New York 1966; id., Dependent Accumulation and Underdevelopment, New York 1978; H.Grossmann, The Law of Accumulation and Breakdown of the Capitalist System (1929), London 1992; G.Haupt, M.Löwy, C.Weill, Les marxistes et la question nationale 1848–1914. Études et textes, Paris 1974; R.Hilferding, Finance Capital: A Study in the Latest Phase of Capitalist Development (1910), London 2006; J.A.Hobson, Imperialism: A Study (1902), Nottingham 2011; V.I.Lenin, Collected Works (LCW), Moscow 1960-70; Mao Zedong, Selected Works (SW), Peking 1965; J.V.Stalin, Works (W), Moscow 1953-54; I.M.Wallerstein, The Modern World-System: Capitalist Agriculture and the Origins of the European World-Economy in the Sixteenth Century, New York 1974; id., Historical Capitalism, London 1983.

Translated by Max Henninger

Author: Samir Amin (1931-2018) was one of the world’s greatest radical thinkers. Born in Egypt, he served as director of Third World Forum in Dakar from 1980 until his death. He has written numerous articles and books for Monthly Review and Monthly Review Press, including Accumulation on a World Scale: A Critique of the Theory of Underdevelopment (1974), The Law of Worldwide Value (2010), and Samir Amin: Memoirs of an Independent Marxist (2018).

Source: MR Online, February 19, 2022,

Truths and lies about pledges made to Russia / by Guy Mettan

European Expansion of NATO |

In particular, it is necessary to correct numerous articles that claimed that the pledge made by the United States to Gorbachev in 1991, according to which NATO “would not move an inch in the East” in exchange for German reunification and the withdrawal of Red Army troops from Eastern Europe, was a “myth” forged by the Kremlin in order to neutralise or even invade Ukraine.

This thesis is based on an article published in Foreign Affairs magazine in 2014, at the time of the Ukrainian crisis, and reaffirmed in a book published last November. Its author, Mary E. Sarote, is a member of the most influential think tank in U.S. imperial politics, the Council on Foreign Relations, whose opinions are more propaganda than impartial study.

For this so-called “myth” could not be truer. It is essential to be aware of it if we want to both understand what is happening and find a negotiated solution to the conflict.

On February 9, 1990, James Baker, then U.S. Secretary of State, said exactly this: “we consider that the consultations and discussions in the framework of the 2+4 mechanism should provide a guarantee that German reunification will not lead to an expansion of the NATO military organisation to the east.” The next day, Chancellor Helmut Kohl echoed, “We consider that NATO should not expand its sphere of activity.”

In December 2017, the National Security Archive at George Washington University published memos, minutes and telegrams from that time, from which it emerges that Western assurances appear in numerous documents recorded or written during chancellery exchanges in 1990 and 1991. All the details can be found on the university’s dedicated website, under the heading “NATO Expansion: what Gorbachev Heard. Declassified documents show security assurances against NATO expansion to Soviet leaders from Baker, Bush, Genscher, Kohl, Gates, Mitterrand, Thatcher, Hurd, Major and Woerner. Slavic Studies Panel Addresses ‘Who Promised What to Whom on NATO Expansion?’”

Former American ambassador to Moscow, Jack Matlock, also confirmed these facts in his various publications. Guarantees have therefore been given, even if they are not contained in a treaty signed in due form.

But you have to be willing to take note and recognise that a word is a word.

It was only later, with the rise of the neoconservatives, that President Bill Clinton decided to ignore them and succeeded, in 1997, in expanding NATO eastwards by admitting new members in exchange for a $4 billion “bribe” to his friend Boris Yeltsin, as Yeltsin later called this gift.

At that time, the most resolute anti-Russian in the American administration, Zbigniew Brzezinski, author of the famous book “The Grand Chessboard. American Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperatives”, in which he explains why the United States should definitely grab Ukraine, foresaw what would happen today: “If Russia is dismissed or rejected, it will be filled with resentment and its vision of itself will become more anti-European and anti-Western.” And he urged Clinton to hurry: “The longer we wait, the louder Moscow’s objections will be,” he predicted in the mid-1990s, while warning against an overly abrupt expansion.

This danger was not overlooked by the father of the Soviet Union’s containment, George Kennan. In a 1997 New York Times article, he prophesized the current situation by writing that, following the breach of the given word to Gorbachev, the admission of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic into NATO would be “the biggest mistake of post-Cold War American politics and would only serve to inflame nationalistic, anti-Western and militaristic tendencies in the Russian public.”

Since then, NATO has only made things worse, admitting seven new states in 2004 and promising membership to Ukraine and Georgia in April 2008, before encouraging the latter to attack South Ossetia in August of the same year. This was barely ten months after Putin’s speech at the Munich conference, in which he had expressed the wish that NATO should stop expanding! In 25 years, NATO has doubled the number of its members, all in the East.

At the same time, it accumulated aggressions by brazenly lying and twisting international law: the Gulf War in 1991 (with the fabricated affair of the babies thrown out of Kuwaiti incubators); the dismemberment of Yugoslavia in 1992, the illegal bombing of Serbia in 1999 and secession of Kosovo (justified by the pseudo-massacre of Raçak and the so-called Operation Horseshoe imputed to Serbia); the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001; the Iraq war in 2003 (started thanks to Colin Powell’s lies to the UN); the destruction of Libya and the assassination of Gaddafi (falsely accused of slaughtering his own population) in 2011; the attempted destruction of Syria and the overthrow of its president between 2011 and 2019; the war in Yemen since 2015, carried out under Saudi flag and considered by the UN to be the most important humanitarian catastrophe of our time.

It is therefore very difficult to regard the American-led NATO as an innocent and harmless bridge club.

It should therefore come as no surprise that, after the U.S.-organised coup in February 2014 to overthrow democratically elected Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, whose mistake was to wish for Ukraine to seek a balance between Russia and Europe, Russia regained control of Crimea while the Donbass provinces rebelled against this forfeiture.

The United States and NATO are of course free to renege on their word and continue their aggressive course at the risk of starting a war. But at least the public has the right to know why and how it has come to this without being misled about who is really responsible for what would be a real mess for Europe.

Author: Guy Mettan is the author of the book “Russie-Occident: une guerre de mille ans”. Syrtes, 2015. (Russia-Occident: a thousand years war”)

Source: MR Online, Febrauary 17, 2022,

U.S. ramps up war talk as it points more missiles at Russia / by John Wojcik

At a sealed military installation in the Polish town of Redzikowo, the U.S. has stationed its Aegis missile defense system, designed to shoot down ballistic missiles. A violation of past weapons control treaties between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, the missile system is a threat to military stability in Europe. | Mark Wright / Missile Defense Agency via AP

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken went on national television Thursday morning to declare, again, that a Russian invasion of Ukraine could start at any moment. His dire prediction was yet another in the endless string of declarations by the U.S. that war could start at any moment. It followed by only a day the passing of February 16, the date the U.S. said last week would be the day of a likely Russian invasion.

Nevertheless, Blinken did say there would be further talks with the Russians. He mentioned, for the first time, that the Minsk Protocols of 2014 should be a basis for those talks. Russia has been insisting for months that those accords, agreed to by both Ukraine and Russia, be implemented. They call for autonomy for Donetsk and Lugansk, the two breakaway republics in eastern Ukraine, while leaving the government in Kiev a say on foreign policy regarding them. The U.S. interprets the agreements differently, however, so where the discussions on the Minsk Protocols lead is unknown.

Protesters march through the town of Slupsk, northern Poland, March 29, 2008. They were rallying against U.S. plans to build a missile base on the outskirts of Slupsk, in the shuttered Redzikowo airbase. The placard reads, ‘No to U.S.A. base.’ The base was built and is now operational. | AP

President Joe Biden poured oil on the fire Thursday by rejecting announcements by Russia that it was withdrawing additional troops from its border areas with Ukraine, on top of the 10,000 it said it was withdrawing earlier this week. Biden dismissed the idea there have been any Russian troop withdrawals and insisted he still expects an invasion any day.

Biden’s remarks followed apparent additional shelling of the breakaway Russian-speaking areas in eastern Ukraine by Ukrainian troops stationed along the borders of the Lugansk and Donetsk People’s Republics and by what the West says was shelling of the Ukrainian side by the separatists.

Regardless of the veracity of the conflicting reports, there can be no argument with the fact that some 18,000 Russian-speaking civilians in the breakaway republics have been killed by the Ukrainian troops stationed along their borders. So far, President Vladimir Putin has resisted votes by his own parliament that Russia recognize them as independent countries.

The media in the U.S. was obsessed more than ever Thursday with trying to “figure out the motives” of Putin as if that was the secret to achieving peace. Stopping NATO encirclement of Russia as the means to achieve peace appears to never cross the minds of the media talking heads.

In this vein, Putin is concerned with recent moves by the U.S. to step up its placement of offensive missiles with nuclear capabilities, first in Slovakia and now in Poland.

In the latter country, where the U.S. has just sent 3,000 additional troops to top off the 5,000 already there, there is now a fully-equipped U.S. missile base in Redzikowo, just 300 miles from the Russian border. Previously enforced with anti-ballistic missiles that can shoot down any kind of rocket launched from anywhere in the world, the Redzikow base has now been equipped with the capability to launch offensive nuclear missiles that can reach Moscow in minutes.

The same moves were made earlier this week at two military bases that the U.S. took over in Slovakia, which borders Ukraine. Putin condemned the U.S. for “bringing nuclear missiles right to our home, on our doorstep.”

People in the Polish and Slovak towns involved have been protesting the placement of U.S. weapons near their homes. Very few see NATO membership worth the cost of having themselves put in perhaps the most dangerous hot seats on the planet.

Speaking about the danger of war to the New York Times, Beatrice Jurysz, the mayor of Redzikowo said, “If something happens we will be the first to know, unfortunately.”

The U.S. missile placements in Slovakia and Poland, of course, give the lie to Biden and Blinken claims that NATO is not a threat to Russia.

Thanks to the placement of U.S. weapons at an abandoned airbase, the Polish village of Redzikowo is now on the frontlines of any future war. | Alik Keplicz / AP

Not left out of the plans of the U.S. militarists for years now are the Baltic States, which have hosted U.S. troops for even longer than Poland and Slovakia. People’s World covered the effects of anti-Russia U.S. deployments in Latvia already back in 2016 when it interviewed a leading member of that country’s Socialist Party. The name of the leader is withheld here because of threats against them by the Latvian government.

Latvia is a member of the EU which supposedly only admits democracies to membership. The “democratic” government of Latvia has banned numerous political parties, including the Communist Party in that country.

The Latvian Socialist Party member told People’s World that dealing with NATO and the EU, for people in her country, means dealing with profoundly undemocratic organizations.

“NATO and the EU are responsible for installing missiles on the borders of Russia,” she said. “In our country, we deal constantly with NATO military maneuvers, tanks, jeeps, and soldiers marching through the streets of Riga [the capital of Latvia].”

U.S. Army troops congregate during a NATO military exercise, in Riga, Latvia. | Oksana Dzadan / AP

She described how U.S.-backed NATO military maneuvers are kept secret from people in towns where they are about to occur. “I received a call last week from a friend in a town outside Riga. She was frightened and upset, describing how armed soldiers were running through the streets of her town, shouting and yelling and banging on doors. It went on for hours; people hid in their houses. In Riga, we would not have known about those maneuvers had it not been for word-of-mouth telling of the news.”

She scoffed at the idea that the EU or NATO provides protection for democratic rights. “In my country, they do nothing to protect democracy. The textbooks in our schools have been rewritten to remove anything positive about the Soviet Union; it is a crime to even speak publicly anything positive about the Soviet Union. The Communist Party has been banned; it is a criminal offense to be a communist.”

When the Nazis occupied Latvia in the early 1940s, they set up a network of concentration camps all over the country. “They even took the words for concentration camps out of our textbooks,” the Latvian socialist told People’s World. “They describe them instead as work camps.”

Author: John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People’s World. John Wojcik es editor en jefe de People’s World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and ’80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper’s predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.

Source: People’s World, Febrauary 17, 2022,

What tribal sovereignty means to Wabanaki people / by Evan Popp

Passamaquoddy Pleasant Point Reservation | Kylie Tompkins, Wabanaki Public Health and Wellness

The sovereignty of the Wabanaki people is inherent and must be respected. 

That’s what Indigenous advocates and other supporters talk about when they describe the need for LD 1626, a bill before the legislature that seeks to ensure Wabanaki Nations in Maine have the same rights that other tribes in the U.S. maintain over natural resources and taxation.  

Such rights have long been denied to the Wabanaki because of the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act of 1980. That jurisdictional arrangement with the state of Maine has prevented tribes from exercising their inherent sovereignty over their lands and has stifled the Nations economically, Wabanaki leaders say

Now, Indigenous advocates and a broad coalition of supporters are pushing to rectify that historic injustice through a legislative campaign years in the making that promises to make LD 1626 one of the highest profile bills this session. 

In advance of a public hearing Tuesday at 9 a.m. before the Judiciary Committee, during which hundreds will testify in favor of the bill, Beacon spoke with some Wabanaki people about what tribal sovereignty means to them and how they feel about the current legislative push. 

Here’s what they said. 

Lisa Sockabasin, Passamaquoddy citizen and co-CEO of Wabanaki Public Health and Wellness

Lisa Sockabasin | Courtesy photo

“Tribal sovereignty to me is about freedom. It is about having the opportunities to determine as a nation, as an Indigenous nation — I am a Passamaquody citizen — on our course and journey and direction within this complex landscape. Sovereignty allows us for that freedom, for that ability to self-determine our future. It’s our opportunity, I believe, for healing.” 

 “It feels different. It feels hopeful,” Sockabasin said of the current tribal sovereignty campaign. “And it feels hopeful because not only are Indigenous people at the table … it is also those non-Indigenous voices and people that are at the table with us that see this as an issue that impacts us, yes first, but also has an impact on them.”

“I will say that I’m not being naive. I remain hopeful while I understand the deep oppression within our systems. Oppression and racism is certainly alive in our system. That has not gone away.” 

“We think about Maine as having a brand. Pristine environments. And what we know is that is not true. We know forever chemicals are present everywhere. We know that our water systems are also deeply contaminated,” Sockabasin said, pointing to the consequences of not having tribal sovereignty recognized, such as the water crisis on the Passamaquody reservation at Pleasant Point. A hearing on a bill to address that issue will take place Feb. 17 at 9 a.m. in the Judiciary Committee. 

“Indigenous people need to be at the table, we need to be stewards. And if we had that from the beginning, we would not be dealing with many of the public health issues we have just in relation to water.” 

Maria Girouard, Penobscot historian

“Sovereignty is actually a foreign word or concept to Wabanaki people and I always say that what it refers to is the inherent right to self-govern and take care of our own affairs and so I guess that’s what the attempt is hoping to do.” 

“For me one of the things I find most disturbing is how, because of the Maine Indian Land Claims Settlement Act and the Maine Implementing Act, [Wabanaki] people are held distinctly different than all the other tribes in the United States, so I really wonder about its constitutionality in that regard.” 

Girouard said while the effort to reinforce tribal sovereignty is important, she also worries about the effect of the Wabanaki asking the state for recognition. 

“Sovereignty is something that is supposed to be inherent, it’s not something that can be given or taken away. It can be ignored or not recognized or chipped away at and that’s what I fear everytime we put something new in front of the legislature. I fear that we’re giving them an opportunity to chip away at our sovereignty.” 

“Almost in the act of fighting for that sovereignty, that recognition of sovereignty, it almost feels like it’s an act of being unsovereign.” 

Lokotah Sanborn, Penobscot community organizer 

“In terms of LD 1626, this really works to undue 40 years of injustice that the tribes in Maine have experienced from the hands of the state of Maine and it works to put us on equal footing to the rights and obligations the rest of the tribes across the United States have.”

“Since the Settlement Act of 1980, there have been many policies that have been passed on the federal level that impact all the other tribes but do not pertain to the Maine tribes specifically because of the Settlement Act. We saw that with the Violence Against Women Act extension, that would cover native tribes and allow for jurisdiction within our communities that was blocked by the state of Maine.” 

“This process has been very difficult for me personally and for a lot of folks in the community because there is this very heavy feeling of disillusionment that we have with the state of Maine, and I think that’s because of this long history of paternalism,” Sanborn said, noting Gov. Janet Mills’ opposition to the tribal sovereignty bill.  

“Back in February of 2020 during the Judiciary Committee hearing, Janet Mills put forward that letter that referred to [tribal sovereignty proposals] as sweeping changes. She was pretty much, it read to me at least, terrified of what the implications would be for us to have equal treatment with the other tribes, which is just absurd.” 

John Bear Mitchell, Penobscot citizen and University of Maine lecturer of Wabanaki Studies

John Bear Mitchell | Courtesy photo

“Speaking from the perspective of education, our way of life was stripped from us. In forced assimilation through boarding school and efforts to ‘educate the Indian,’ education became a weapon that was against us. It was a weapon to destroy who we were. It was a weapon to strip us of our language, to strip us of our way of knowing, to strip us of our history, and to make us repel our ancestors and become disgusted with them.”

“The boarding schools went away but the attitudes still exist to this day. So, for me, tribal sovereignty means that we have the right to explore who we want to be, without any interference from the government. We can take a stand for sovereignty in our education and use it to better who we are.” 

“The state of Maine discriminates against us economically, but if this bill passes, it would put us on a level playing field. Keeping in mind we’re never going to go back to who our ancestors were. But we could put some of those resources towards these things that make us who we are and to maintain those things that are embedded within our language and ceremony.”

Dan Neumann contributed reporting to this piece

Author: Evan Popp studied journalism at Ithaca College and interned at the Progressive magazine, ThinkProgress and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. He then worked for the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper before joining Beacon. Evan can be reached at evan(at)

Source: Maine Beacon, February 14, 2022,

The United States of Hypocrisy: Revisiting the Monroe Doctrine / by Melvin Goodman

There is no doctrinal statement in American diplomatic history that is more fundamental than the Monroe Doctrine. It was designed to draw a strategic line between the New World and the Old, and to alert the European powers that their political influence and presence was no longer welcome in the Western Hemisphere. No doctrinal statement has been enforced as often as the Monroe Doctrine, which has been used to justify U.S. intervention throughout Central America and the Caribbean. The Monroe Doctrine was cited in the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961, a perfect failure, as well as the Cuban missile crisis, a diplomatic triumph.

President Theodore Roosevelt expanded the Monroe Doctrine with the Roosevelt Corollary to justify the “exercise of an international police power” in any nation in the Western Hemisphere whose policies or actions could provoke foreign intervention. In other words, the United States would not need to wait for a foreign intervention, it could enforce a change in governments that adopted “unacceptable” policies. President Woodrow Wilson used the Roosevelt Corollary in 1913 to justify the intervention in Mexico to move its politics in a more favorable direction for U.S. interests. The United States overtly and covertly attacked Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua. Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger sponsored covert action in Chile in 1971 against a democratically elected government in order to reverse its political and economic policies. There is a reason why the nations of Latin America refer to the United States as a “great hegemon.”

In refusing to acknowledge Russia’s concerns about U.S. and Western intervention on its borders, the Biden administration is engaging in hypocrisy. The philosopher Hannah Arendt called hypocrisy the “vice of vices.” Lying to others is part of the political game, but the United States is lying to itself in denying that it committed to limit NATO’s role in East Europe. Putin is asking for written guarantees regarding NATO membership because we betrayed the verbal guarantees that President George H.W. Bush and Secretary of State James Baker gave to their counterparts, Mikhail Gorbachev and Eduard Shevardnadze, respectively. We need to recognize our role in the Ukraine crisis; Russian President Vladimir is not the sole cause of a crisis that could have horrific consequences.

This is an important part of the current crisis over Ukraine, particularly in view of Putin’s demands regarding Russian national security, which are consistent with Russian and Soviet thinking over the past 300 years. As recently as the 1980s, when the United States deployed Pershing II medium-range missiles and cruise missiles in Europe, the Kremlin reacted to address its strategic vulnerability. These missile deployments contributed to a “war scare” in the early 1980s. Fortunately, the diplomatic path ultimately led to important arms control agreements, including the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty. Putin’s deployment of forces on Ukraine’s border is designed to counter not only an expanded membership for NATO, but also the threat of the current and future deployment of strategic weaponry near Russian borders.

Again and fortunately, there is a diplomatic path for addressing Russia’s legitimate concerns. Thus far, however, the Biden administration doesn’t seem willing to deal with actual specifics regarding what could be done. Friday’s press conference with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mark Milley placed the emphasis on NATO’s military unity and the policy of deterrence, which has already hardened public opinion in this country. What is needed at this juncture is the appearance of Secretary of State Antony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan to stress the importance of diplomacy, arms control, and confidence-building measures to assuage Russian concerns and to institutionalize a substantive dialogue on a new European security architecture.

Secret diplomacy solved the Cuban missile crisis after all, although it took 30 years for the U.S. public to learn the full details of the tradeoffs in the secret agreements. The Cuban missile crisis was far more threatening than the crisis over Ukraine, but President John F. Kennedy relied on diplomatic input, and ignored the dangerous recommendations from the military leadership and his secretary of defense, Robert McNamara. I hope that we have seen the last of press conferences involving Austin and Milley, who have little experience to bring to bear on the diplomatic and political aspects of the crisis.

Putin has resorted to the deployment of excessive force on Ukraine’s borders, which will make it hard for him to backdown, but there are off-ramps that could be introduced. The Biden administration needs to concede that the United States has overplayed its hand, starting with the expansion of NATO; the deployment of missile defenses in Poland and Romania; the basing of aircraft in Romania; and the meddling in Ukraine’s politics since 2014. We have U.S. forces in many East European countries that were once part of the Warsaw Pact. This is exactly what President Bush and Secretary of State Baker said we would not do if the Soviets removed their forces from East Germany. Putin, a retired intelligence officer, is well aware of the history of U.S. meddling in the Baltics and East Europe, particularly in Poland in the 1980s as well as in Ukraine and Georgia in more recent times.

Putin will need to know that NATO will end its military expansion, including membership as well as the deployment of military infrastructure. In return, we should demand Russian troop withdrawal from eastern Ukraine and the Transnistria, formerly part of Moldova. The regional borders should be demilitarized, and military exercises should be limited and discussed in advance. The United States should not store nuclear weaponry in Europe, and the Russians need to withdraw nuclear weapons from Kaliningrad. Russia will not reverse its takeover of Crimea, but should reduce its military presence there.

We need to acknowledge that the expansion of NATO has actually weakened the alliance because there are significant differences in the perception of the threat from the members in the east and the west. The original membership of NATO shared for the most part the cultural and political values of the United States. This is no longer true, particularly with the authoritarian policies that are being introduced in Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia. The NATO countries are not nearly as unified as Austin and Milley claimed, and Putin is well aware of that fact. For all of the talk in the mainstream media about Putin overreacting, he has managed to expose the weakness of NATO as well as the fact that there is insufficient support for Ukraine as a member. A 15-25 year moratorium on NATO expansion should be declared.

A diplomatic emphasis on arms control and disarmament could bring additional dividends, particularly to the important Russian-American relationship. After all, the arms control architecture framed the Soviet-American detente in the 1970s and 1980s, and a similar architecture could bring Moscow and Washington to the negotiating table. We need a return to the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the Open Skies Treaty that George W. Bush and Donald Trump, respectively, walked away from. We need to revive the INF Treaty and the CFE Treaty, and consider demilitarized zones in East and Central Europe. The INF treaty was unprecedented because it led to the destruction of an entire class of nuclear arms, both intermediate and shorter-range missile systems. The CFE treaty moved tanks and artillery pieces away from the borders. We should not allow the issue of Ukraine to block the revival of such important initiatives.

We would do well to accept Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s efforts to get world leaders to “cool the talk of war.” “Talk” of a diplomatic variety has never been more urgent. There needs to be a revival of the NATO-Russian Founding Act from 1997 in order to create a European security framework for the 21st century on the basis of equal security.

Author: Melvin A. Goodman is a former CIA analyst and senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and a professor of government at Johns Hopkins University. Courtesy: CounterPunch.

Source: Janata Weekly, February 13, 2022,