LOS ANGELES — The Robey Theatre Company is inspired by Paul Robeson, the Black social activist, humanitarian, actor, singer and athlete, born in 1898. On Sun., April 9, from 1:00 to 7:00 p.m., The Robey will celebrate the man, his accomplishments, and his legacy on the occasion—to the day!—of Paul Robeson’s 125th birthday.
This birthday is being celebrated internationally by member organizations of the Paul Robeson Alliance, of which The Robey is a part. The honorary chairs of the Robeson birthday celebration are Harry Belafonte and Danny Glover.
The Robey’s birthday festivities for Paul Robeson will take place at the Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., Los Angeles 90013.
The afternoon will kick off with welcoming remarks by Robey co-founder Danny Glover.
Ben Guillory, the Producing Artistic Director of The Robey Theatre Company and Robey co-founder, will perform a dramatic monologue as Paul Robeson.
There will be a conversation with Danny Glover and Ben Guillory on Robeson’s legacy.
Two films will be presented:
The Tallest Tree in Our Forest, a documentary biography, written and directed by Gil Noble, produced by Noble and Samuel Murray. From Phoenix Learning Group. (Black-and-white, 1977, USA, 86 minutes, not rated.) Featuring Paul Robeson, Harry Belafonte, Dizzy Gillespie, Paul Robeson Jr., Douglas Turner Ward, Lloyd Brown. Detailed biography of famed singer, actor, athlete and activist Paul Robeson. Complete with several interviews and footage of concerts and film clips.
The Proud Valley, drama/music, directed by Pen Tennyson, written by Pen Tennyson, Jack Jones, Louis Golding, based on a story by Herbert Marshall and Alfredda Brilliant, produced by Michael Balcon. From Supreme Distributing Company. (Black-and-white, 1940, U.K., 76 minutes, not rated.) Starring Paul Robeson, Edward Chapman, Edward Rigby, Simon Lack, Rachel Thomas, Dilys Thomas. In a Welsh coal mining valley, a young man with a beautiful singing voice is called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice when a pit disaster threatens.
The afternoon party will also feature musical recordings, as well as performances of original scenes depicting episodes in the life of Paul Robeson. These scenes are written by members of The Robey Playwrights Lab and will be performed by the actors of The Robey Theatre Company.
Light refreshments (birthday cake, charcuterie) will be served.
Attendees are free to come and go during the six hours of events—it is not necessary to attend the entire six hours.
While the celebration is nominally free, The Robey Theatre Company is a non-profit organization, and there are expenses to be covered, so a voluntary donation of $10 is suggested.
For more information about The Robey Theatre Company, go here. For more information about the Paul Robeson Alliance, go here. That’s the site to check out for further Robeson events in other cities.
People’s Worldis a voice for progressive change and socialism in the United States. It provides news and analysis of, by, and for the labor and democratic movements to our readers across the country and around the world. People’s World traces its lineage to the Daily Worker newspaper, founded by communists, socialists, union members, and other activists in Chicago in 1924.
Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois, left, and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. | Public Domain
Below is one of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s least-known speeches. It is one of those, along with his Vietnam speech, that the capitalist ruling class does not want anybody to remember. What follows is the text of his Carnegie Hall Tribute to Dr. W.E.B Du Bois, delivered on Feb. 23, 1968, the the 100th anniversary of Du Bois’ birth. King gave the address only weeks before being assassinated in Memphis. The Du Bois tribute event was sponsored by Freedomways magazine, which J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI had denounced and harassed as a “Communist front” publication. With great eloquence, King tells the story of Du Bois and his importance to all people, and he also answers the anti-communist redbaiters of the day.
Honoring Dr. DuBois
Tonight, we assemble here to pay tribute to one of the most remarkable men of our time. Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois was not only an intellectual giant exploring the frontiers of knowledge, he was in the first place a teacher. He would have wanted his life to teach us something about our tasks of emancipation.
One idea he insistently taught was that Black people have been kept in oppression and deprivation by a poisonous fog of lies that depicted them as inferior, born deficient, and deservedly doomed to servitude to the grave. So assiduously has this poison been injected into the mind of America that its disease has infected not only whites but many Negroes.
So long as the lie was believed, the brutality and criminality of conduct toward the Negro was easy for the conscience to bear. The twisted logic ran if the Black man was inferior then he was not oppressed—his place in society was appropriate to his meager talent and intellect.
Dr. Du Bois recognized that the keystone in the arch of oppression was the myth of inferiority, and he dedicated his brilliant talents to demolish it. There could scarcely be a more suitable person for such a monumental task. First of all, he was himself unsurpassed as an intellect, and he was a Negro. But beyond this, he was passionately proud to be Black, and finally he had not only genius and pride, but he had the indomitable fighting spirit of the valiant.
To pursue his mission, Dr. Du Bois gave up the substantial privileges a highly educated Negro enjoyed living in the North. Though he held degrees from Harvard and the University of Berlin, though he had more academic credentials than most Americans, Black or white, he moved South, where a majority of Negroes then lived. He deliberately chose to share their daily abuse and humiliation.
He could have offered himself to the white rulers and exacted substantial tribute for selling his genius. There were few like him, Negro or white. He could have amassed riches and honors and lived in material splendor and applause from the powerful and important men of his time. Instead, he lived part of his creative life in the South—most of it in modest means and some of it in poverty, and he died in exile, praised sparingly and in many circles ignored.
But he was an exile only to the land of his birth. He died at home in Africa among his cherished ancestors, and he was ignored by a pathetically ignorant America but not by history.
History cannot ignore W.E.B. Du Bois—because history has to reflect truth, and Dr. Du Bois was a tireless explorer and a gifted discoverer of social truths. His singular greatness lay in his quest for truth about his own people. There were very few scholars who concerned themselves with honest study of the Black man, and he sought to fill this immense void. The degree to which he succeeded discloses the great dimensions of the man.
Yet he had more than a void to fill. He had to deal with the army of white propagandists—the myth-makers of Negro history. Dr. Du Bois took them all on in battle. It would be impossible to sketch the whole range of his intellectual contributions. Back in the 19th century, he laid out a program of 100 years of study of problems affecting American Negroes and worked tirelessly to implement it.
Long before sociology was a science, he was pioneering in the field of social study of Negro life and completed works on health, education, employment, urban conditions, and religion. This was at a time when scientific inquiry of Negro life was so unbelievably neglected that only a single university in the entire nation had such a program, and it was funded with $5,000 for a year’s work.
Against such odds, Dr. Du Bois produced two enduring classics before the 20th century. His Suppression of the African Slave-Trade, written in 1896, is Volume I in the Harvard Historical Studies. His study The Philadelphia Negro, completed in 1899, is still used today. Illustrating the painstaking quality of his scientific method, to do this work Dr. Du Bois personally visited and interviewed 5,000 people.
He soon realized that studies would never adequately be pursued nor changes realized without the mass involvement of Negroes. The scholar then became an organizer and, together with others, founded the NAACP. At the same time, he became aware that the expansion of imperialism was a threat to the emergence of Africa. He recognized the importance of the bonds between American Negroes and the land of their ancestors, and he extended his activities to African affairs. After World War I, he called Pan-African Congresses in 1919, 1921, and 1923, alarming imperialists in all countries and disconcerting Negro moderates in America who were afraid of this restless, militant, Black genius.
Returning to the United States from abroad, he found his pioneering agitation for Negro studies was bearing fruit, and a beginning was made to broaden Negro higher education. He threw himself into the task of raising the intellectual level of this work. Much later, in 1940, he participated in the establishment of the first Negro scholarly publication, Phylon. At the same time, he stimulated Negro colleges to collaborate through annual conferences to increase their effectiveness and elevate the quality of their academic studies.
But these activities, enough to be the life work for ten men, were far from the sum of his achievements. In the six years between 1935 and 1941, he produced the monumental 700-page volume on Black Reconstruction in America, at the same time writing many articles and essays.
Black Reconstruction was six years in writing but was 33 years in preparation. On its publication, one critic said: “It crowns the long, unselfish, and brilliant career of Dr. Du Bois. It is comparable in clarity, originality, and importance to Charles Beard’s Rise of American Civilization.” The New York Times said, “It is beyond question the most painstaking and thorough study ever made of the Negroes’ part in Reconstruction,” and the New York Herald Tribune proclaimed it “a solid history of the period, an economic treatise, a philosophical discussion, a poem, a work of art all rolled into one.”
To understand why his study of the Reconstruction was a monumental achievement, it is necessary to see it in context. White historians had for a century crudely distorted the Negro’s role in the Reconstruction years. It was a conscious and deliberate manipulation of history, and the stakes were high. The Reconstruction was a period in which Black men had a small measure of freedom of action. If, as white historians tell it, Negroes wallowed in corruption, opportunism, displayed spectacular stupidity, were wanton, evil, and ignorant, their case was made. They would have proved that freedom was dangerous in the hands of inferior beings.
One generation after another of Americans were assiduously taught these falsehoods, and the collective mind of America became poisoned with racism and stunted with myths.
History taught him it is not enough for people to be angry—the supreme task is to organize and unite people so that their anger becomes a transforming force.
Dr. DuBois confronted this powerful structure of historical distortion and dismantled it. He virtually, before anyone else and more than anyone else, demolished the lies about Negroes in their most important and creative period of history. The truths he revealed are not yet the property of all Americans, but they have been recorded and arm us for our contemporary battles.
In Black Reconstruction, Dr. DuBois dealt with the almost universally accepted concept that civilization virtually collapsed in the South during Reconstruction because Negroes had a measure of political power. Dr. DuBois marshalled irrefutable evidence that, far from collapsing, the Southern economy was recovering in these years. Within five years, the cotton crop had been restored, and in the succeeding five years had exceeded pre-war levels. At the same time, other economic activity had ascended so rapidly that the rebirth of the South was almost completed.
Beyond this, he restored to light the most luminous achievement of the Reconstruction—it brought free public education into existence not only for the benefit of the Negro, but it opened school doors to the poor whites. He documented the substantial body of legislation that was socially so useful it was retained into the 20th century even though the Negroes who helped to write it were brutally disenfranchised and driven from political life.
He revealed that, far from being the tragic era white historians described, it was the only period in which democracy existed in the South. This stunning fact was the reason the history books had to lie because to tell the truth would have acknowledged the Negroes’ capacity to govern and fitness to build a finer nation in a creative relationship with poor whites.
With the completion of his book Black Reconstruction, despite its towering contributions, despite his advanced age, Dr. DuBois was still not ready to accept a deserved rest in peaceful retirement. His dedication to freedom drove him on as relentlessly in his seventies as it did in his twenties. He had already encompassed three careers. Beginning as a pioneer sociologist, he had become an activist to further mass organization. The activist had then transformed himself into an historian.
By the middle of the 20th century, when imperialism and war arose once more to imperil humanity, he became a peace leader. He served as chairman of the Peace Information Bureau and, like the Rev. William Sloane Coffin and Dr. Benjamin Spock of today, he found himself indicted by the government and harried by reactionaries. Undaunted by obstacles and repression, with his characteristic fortitude he fought on.
Finally, in 1961, with Ghana’s independence established, an opportunity opened to begin the writing of an African Encyclopedia, and in his 93rd year, he emigrated to Ghana to begin new intellectual labors. In 1963, death finally came to this most remarkable man.
Dr. Du Bois saw that Negroes were robbed of so many things decisive to their existence that the theft of their history seemed only a small part of their losses. But Dr. he knew that to lose one’s history is to lose one’s self-understanding and, with it, the roots for pride.
It is axiomatic that he will be remembered for his scholarly contributions and organizational attainments. These monuments are imperishable. But there were human qualities less immediately visible that are no less imperishable.
Dr. DuBois was a man possessed of priceless dedication to his people. The vast accumulation of achievement and public recognition were not for him pathways to personal affluence and a diffusion of identity. Whatever else he was, with his multitude of careers and professional titles, he was first and always a Black man.
He used his richness of talent as a trust for his people. He saw that Negroes were robbed of so many things decisive to their existence that the theft of their history seemed only a small part of their losses. But Dr. DuBois knew that to lose one’s history is to lose one’s self-understanding and, with it, the roots for pride. This drove him to become a historian of Negro life, and the combination of his unique zeal and intellect rescued for all of us a heritage whose loss would have profoundly impoverished us.
Dr. DuBois the man needs to be remembered today when despair is all too prevalent. In the years he lived and fought, there was far more justification for frustration and hopelessness, and yet his faith in his people never wavered. His love and faith in Negroes permeate every sentence of his writings and every act of his life. Without these deeply rooted emotions his work would have been arid and abstract. With them, his deeds were a passionate storm that swept the filth of falsehood from the pages of established history.
He symbolized in his being his pride in the Black man. He did not apologize for being Black and, because of it, handicapped. Instead, he attacked the oppressor for the crime of stunting Black men. He confronted the establishment as a model of militant manhood and integrity. He defied them, and, though they heaped venom and scorn on him, his powerful voice was never stilled.
And yet, with all his pride and spirit he did not make a mystique out of Blackness. He was proud of his people, not because their color endowed them with some vague greatness but because their concrete achievements in struggle had advanced humanity, and he saw and loved progressive humanity in all its hues, Black, white, yellow, red, and brown.
Above all he, did not content himself with hurling invectives for emotional release and then retire into smug, passive satisfaction. History had taught him it is not enough for people to be angry—the supreme task is to organize and unite people so that their anger becomes a transforming force.
It was never possible to know where the scholar Du Bois ended and the organizer DuBois began. The two qualities in him were a single, unified force. This lifestyle of Dr. DuBois is the most important quality this generation of Negroes needs to emulate.
The educated Negro who is not really part of us and the angry militant who fails to organize us have nothing in common with Dr. DuBois. He exemplified Black power in achievement, and he organized Black power in action. It was no abstract slogan to him.
We cannot talk of Dr. DuBois without recognizing that he was a radical all of his life. Some people would like to ignore the fact that he was a Communist in his later years. It is worth noting that Abraham Lincoln warmly welcomed the support of Karl Marx during the Civil War and corresponded with him freely.
In contemporary life, the English-speaking world has no difficulty with the fact that Sean O’Casey was a literary giant of the 20th century and a Communist, or that Pablo Neruda is generally considered the greatest living poet though he also served in the Chilean Senate as a Communist. It is time to cease muting the fact that Dr. DuBois was a genius and chose to be a Communist. Our irrational, obsessive anti-communism has led us into too many quagmires to be retained as if it were a mode of scientific thinking.
In closing, it would be well to remind white America of its debt to Dr. DuBois. When they corrupted Negro history, they distorted American history, because Negroes are too big a part of the building of this nation to be written out of it without destroying scientific history. White America, drenched with lies about Negroes, has lived too long in a fog of ignorance. Dr. DuBois gave them a gift of truth for which they should eternally be indebted to him.
We cannot talk of Dr. DuBois without recognizing that he was a radical all of his life. Some people would like to ignore the fact that he was a Communist in his later years.
Negroes have heavy tasks today. We were partially liberated and then re-enslaved. We have to fight again on old battlefields, but our confidence is greater, our vision is clearer, and our ultimate victory surer because of the contributions a militant, passionate Black giant left behind him.
Dr. DuBois has left us, but he has not died. The spirit of freedom is not buried in the grave of the valiant. He will be with us when we go to Washington in April to demand our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
We have to go to Washington because they have declared an armistice in the war on poverty while squandering billions to expand a senseless, cruel, unjust war in Vietnam. We will go there, we will demand to be heard, and we will stay until the administration responds.
If this means forcible repression of our movement, we will confront it, for we have done this before. If this means scorn or ridicule, we will embrace it, for that is what America’s poor now receive. If it means jail, we accept it willingly, for the millions of poor already are imprisoned by exploitation and discrimination.
Dr. DuBois would be in the front ranks of the peace movement today. He would readily see the parallel between American support of the corrupt and despised Thieu-Ky regime and Northern support to the Southern slave masters in 1876. The CIA scarcely exaggerates, indeed it is surprisingly honest, when it calculates for Congress that the war in Vietnam can persist for one hundred years. People deprived of their freedom do not give up—Negroes have been fighting more than a hundred years, and even if the date of full emancipation is uncertain, what is explicitly certain is that the struggle for it will endure.
In conclusion, let me say that Dr. DuBois’ greatest virtue was his committed empathy with all the oppressed and his divine dissatisfaction with all forms of injustice. Today, we are still challenged to be dissatisfied.
Let us be dissatisfied until every man can have food and material necessities for his body, culture and education for his mind, freedom and human dignity for his spirit. Let us be dissatisfied until rat-infested, vermin-filled slums will be a thing of a dark past and every family will have a decent, sanitary house in which to live.
Let us be dissatisfied until the empty stomachs of Mississippi are filled and the idle industries of Appalachia are revitalized. Let us be dissatisfied until brotherhood is no longer a meaningless word at the end of a prayer but the first order of business on every legislative agenda.
Let us be dissatisfied until our brothers of the Third World—Asia, Africa, and Latin America—will no longer be the victim of imperialist exploitation, but will be lifted from the long night of poverty, illiteracy, and disease.
Let us be dissatisfied until this pending cosmic elegy will be transformed into a creative psalm of peace and “justice will roll down like waters from a mighty stream.”
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Martin Luther King Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) was an American Baptist minister and activist who became the most visible spokesperson and leader in the civil rights movement from 1954 through 1968. King led the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott and helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957, serving as its first president. With the SCLC, he helped organize the nonviolent 1963 protests in Birmingham, Alabama. He also helped to organize the 1963 March on Washington, where he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. On October 14, 1964, King received the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolent resistance. In 1965, he helped to organize the Selma to Montgomery marches, and the following year he and the SCLC took the movement north to Chicago to work on segregated housing. In the final years of his life, he expanded his focus to include opposition to poverty and the Vietnam War. On March 29, 1968, King went to Memphis, Tennessee, in support of the black sanitary public works employees, who were represented by AFSCME Local 1733. He was assassinated in Memphis on April 4, 1968.
The Memorial of Red Army Soldiers is scaffolded ahead being dismantled at the Antakalnis Cemetery in Vilnius on December 6, 2022. (Petras Malukas / AFP via Getty Images)
Originally published in Jacobin on January 27, 2023
Across Eastern Europe, the war in Ukraine has reinvigorated narratives that present life under Soviet rule as akin to Nazi genocide. It’s bad history — and it indulges the nationalist groups who collaborated with Adolf Hitler.
Just months before the bulldozers came, there was one last sea of flowers. They could not actually be laid at Riga’s monument to Victory in World War II, which was doomed to destruction in May 2022. Rather, they appeared along a rigid no-gap fence, constructed by police dozens of feet from the actual memorial. First the bulldozers came for the flowers, then after a decree a month later, they came for the memorial itself.
The destruction date was kept secret, but when the 260-foot futurist spire came crashing down into the reflecting pool, applause broke out, and congratulatory videos of the event were tweeted by leading Latvian officials. Now, the children and grandchildren of some of the ten million Red Army casualties — maimed or, more often than not, resting in unmarked graves — no longer have a site of memory to carry the last photos of their heroic loved ones.
The disinformation wars around the fight in Ukraine have spread well beyond the present, unsettling even the dead of the past — namely, those who fell in the global anti-fascist struggle against Nazism. Like Big Oil’s bonanza profits, this has brought a windfall for World War II revisionists and even Nazi apologists, undermining any shared narrative and understanding of the globally unifying struggle against fascism, which once formed the moral arc of the postwar order. What one might call the “Baltic narrative” of “double genocide,” or twinned “red-brown” totalitarianisms, has moved from the margins into the center, along with white supremacism, conspiracism, antisemitism, and the demonization of “antifa.” Where once it distorted public debate, now it carries out material destruction in deeds.
Soviet and Red Army memorials are falling throughout Europe, from Kiev to Riga and beyond. Estonia is planning the removal of no less than four hundred monuments, and Latvia recently passed a law to remove sixty-nine of them. The goal is to vilify and expunge that last trace of the Soviet era, once widely accepted as its redeeming feature — its indubitable status as the vanquisher of Nazism. Whereas once Eastern European nationalists had to swallow their pride and accept this, they no longer feel bound to. With the Ukraine crisis, not only can Nazi collaborators be celebrated, but the last material evidence of the Soviet victory can now be erased, removing a crucial signpost of stability in Europe’s collective memory.
Replacing the anti-fascist, “popular-front” narrative of World War II is a highly problematic false equivalency of the Soviet Union with Nazi Germany. It tells us that two genocidally criminal dictatorships joined in alliance, and is even framed in a racialized manner, as German- and Russian-ethnic variants on the same minority-targeting rule of terror. The putative “Russian national character” is now indicted as perennially predisposed to invasion and looting. In Vilnius, the site made out of the old KGB headquarters has since 1992 been pointedly labeled a “museum of genocide victims,” as if Soviet terror had a racialized character, aimed at the destruction of children and the aged, rather than just political opponents, as Nazism clearly did.
Here, the Cold War rubric of “totalitarianism” is certainly not weaponized to raise awareness of Nazi crimes, but rather to demonize the Soviet project as equivalent to it. This means jumbling up the self-declared destroyer of the legacy of the French Revolution with that of its heir. Conveniently for the liberal West, left outside this frame are crimes of colonialism by a half-dozen supposed “liberal, democratic” countries, but also crimes of fascist movements and governments in a dozen more lands outside Germany and Italy. Like an undead ghoul that refuses to stay buried, this is a tune heard long before, during the Historikerstreit (historians’ dispute) in 1980s West Germany. Back then, revisionists like Ernst Nolte proposed a “European Civil War” narrative based in imitative competition between communism and fascism. Infamously, Auschwitz was held to be only a “copy” of the Russian original.
The great difference now, is not only are refugee and Holocaust-survivor historians mostly not around to defend against such revisionism, but the most outspoken propagator of historical confusion is an American, and an Ivy League professor-slash-zealous self-appointed oracle on tyranny, fascism, and democracy, Timothy Snyder. From the World Economic Forum to virtually every major media outlet, he has morphed into a policy-pundit panic-peddler, projecting fascism and genocide onto contemporary Russia, while infamously trying to frame Hitler’s consistent and uncompromising genocidal assault against the Jews as a result of “ecological panic,” as if the Jewish minority threatened the precious little fertile land Europe had at its disposal. With an impudent acceleration of mainstream rhetoric into war-party maximalism, nuance is sacrificed for zealotry. Snyder is a case of a clear link between a stage one of rewriting history followed by a stage two that legitimizes foreign-policy directives and civic law of virulent ultranationalist orthodoxy.
Snyder’s “century of blood,” with its “twinned totalitarianisms,” has become a new “common-sense,” liberal talking point — “Nolte with an NPR tote bag,” as a colleague put it. His Bloodlands is just a more sophisticated rendering of suggestive correlation between Nazism and the Soviet Union, legitimizing formerly fringe-nationalist dogmatic talking points, while hiding behind extremely problematic chains of citation. He has proved repeatedly willing to connect Nazi atrocities to Soviet crimes. Even Wehrmacht-veteran historians like Joachim Fest, who minimized the Holocaust, made clear that it was Hitler, not Stalin, who was “devoid of any civilizing ideas.”
In his narratives, Snyder engages in a style of suggestive justificatory thinking that even the Nazis themselves did not engage in: there is, indeed, no major basis of evidence that Nazis linked the Holocaust, or the genocide of the Roma and disabled, to anything perpetrated by the Soviet regime. Elite consecration of “double genocide,” now embraced as the American diplomatic norm, tacitly legitimizes Polish, Hungarian, and Baltic-state efforts to banish by judicial means any dissent from this dogma. In two recent laws in 2018 and 2022, Poland criminalized accusing Poles of committing crimes against Jews, and moreover prohibited any property restitution from the Holocaust. There is even a Polish Anti-Defamation League that finances cases that prosecute historians that investigate Polish complicity with the Holocaust. (Notably, in Turkey/Armenia and Rwanda, “double genocide,” stands in for a deliberate attempt to vandalize understanding of genocide by recasting it as a “civil war.”)
The Snyder narrative empowers and gives license to the memory destruction of all things Soviet, and diverts attention away from the even more widespread landscape of fascist-collaborator memory and monuments. If such a line is successfully enshrined, the label “communist,” sufficiently demonized, can be weaponized against any and all dissent, silencing system alternatives, and crushing all faculties for understanding the ongoing crimes of capitalism. The rehabilitation of Nazi-collaborator legacies beyond the Baltic cannot but be a consequence, as witness the rise of far-right parties in Sweden and Italy, which grew out of these circles. The yearly fascist “pilgrimage” to Mussolini’s tomb in Predappio, celebrating the March on Rome, mobilizes growing numbers who can today see blessing from their government. Meanwhile in the United States, House Republicans are pursuing legislation of “teaching acts” to enforce vilification of communism.
The ground zero for these narratives are the well-funded and centrally established Museums of Occupation in Baltic countries. Founded in the early 1990s, in addition to state budget largesse, the lavish support is owed to some undisclosed private foundations with small boards of a dozen private individuals who heavily fundraise in the United States. Inarguably, these are complex exercises in Holocaust minimization, with 90 percent-plus of permanent exhibition space devoted to crimes of Communism with less than 5 percent (usually in harder-to-reach corners) devoted to the Holocaust.
Entirely left out are the other Nazi genocidal campaigns against the Sinti and Roma and those broadly deemed to be “disabled.” This deliberate disproportionality may be both despite and because of the fact that the Baltic had the highest local participation in the murder of the Jews, among all the Nazi-occupied. In fact, this was one of the only regions of Europe where killers were volunteers and recruited from the general population. Also unique was that these mass murderers of the defenseless were then exported to other countries to kill Jews, not just their own compatriots. The line in these museums to outright Holocaust denial is perilously thin. For instance, the Riga museum, founded in 1993, suppresses evidence that the Nazis operated a death camp with experiments on children on Latvian territory.
The narrative of these museums enshrines the “Molotov-Ribbentrop pact” as a Nazi-Soviet alliance to destroy the small peoples of Central and East Europe. Regularly and inaccurately framed as an “alliance,” this distressing “nonaggression” pact with its secret clauses only emerged out of a fraught and desperate chain of events. In brief, countries in West and East had already signed such agreements with Nazi Germany before — a naval arms agreement with Britain in 1934, and a nonaggression pact with Poland that same year. Two years later, it was almost only the Soviet Union that confronted the fascist regimes on the battlefields of the Spanish Civil War, where no other powers came to the aid of a democratically elected republican government fighting off a fascist coup.
Finally the infamous Munich agreement of 1938, where Britain and France agreed to the dismemberment of the last democratic and multinational state in Central and East Europe, Czechoslovakia, occurred without any consultation with the Soviets. In fact, Nazi occupation of Baltic lands began without Soviet cooperation or involvement with the March 1939 seizure of Klaipėda. Establishment circles in the late 1930s clearly saw Hitler and Mussolini as the lesser evil, as the occidentalist line of defense between “Western civilization” and “Eastern barbarism,” a viewpoint incredibly returning now to widespread acceptance. Collective security agreements that included the Soviets were by too many deemed as unthinkable, a view that made the war inevitable and unthinkably worse than it almost certainly otherwise would have been, a burden of horrors carried mostly by the peoples of the USSR.
The permanent exhibits in these “occupation museums” draw a direct equivalence between experience under Nazi occupation and that as a Soviet republic, and are a mandatory part of all childhood education in each of the Baltic countries. From the very entryway and throughout the halls, portraits of Hitler and Stalin are everywhere paired, to form an indelible association of the two. Particularly ironic, and left unmentioned, is that the Baltic Soviet Republics were explicitly an experiment in a reversal of the traditional imperial flow of resources away from the periphery and onto the metropole. Instead, they were “showcase republics,” whose industry catapulted fifteen times over their own past levels, and that of other Soviet republics, in the postwar era. These countries were also spared from cultural repression, with banned books and exiled writers freely available as resources denied elsewhere in the USSR.
These memorials these Baltic states are determined to destroy largely served as yearly pilgrimage points for the Russian community, paying tribute on Victory Day to family members’ sacrifices in the anti-fascist cause. The destruction of these monuments has been increasingly spectacular, greeted by adoring crowds, applauding as they crash to the ground. These acts of historical negationism hearken back to the damnatio memoriae of ancient times to posthumously condemn and remove unpopular elites and emperors from the public record. Yet these were an essentially incomplete practice; for instance, the carved out absences on statues and mosaics were left visible to preserve a “negative memory” of the act of damnation itself.
This recent wave reflects a deeper desire and perhaps a more completist agenda of entirely eradicating historical evidence. In Ukraine, for instance, already in 2015, all fifteen hundred–odd statues of Lenin were entirely removed. (Neither is the distant past safe as almost a dozen monuments to the nineteenth-century Afro-Russian literary genius Alexander Pushkin have been demolished in Ukraine, with even the eighteenth-century Catherine the Great having similarly followed into oblivion.)
Beyond communist icons, now whatever solemnity still retained for war dead in the anti-Nazi fight seems to fall by the wayside. Lithuania has moved to retain only instances where actual names of soldiers appear on such monuments — a distinction without a difference, as such names are rarely included. And in a sign that once a purge begins its momentum radicalizes, even statues and monuments of Lithuanian artists and writers believed to have communist sympathies have been set for the chopping block. In Helsinki, even a 1989 Soviet monument to world peace has been dismantled, a decade after some in Finland had tried to blow it up.
Germany is a special case, uniquely bound by treaty to care for and protect Soviet-era monuments and it is perhaps the only European country where a statue to Lenin has recently gone up — a Communist statement to raise awareness to the widespread razing elsewhere. Yet on a less obvious level, Germany, as Europe’s hegemonic power, may well have set the stage for this purge of the public sphere with its 2006–8 demolition of Berlin’s GDR-era Palast der Republik and its replacement by the resurrected imperial Stadtschloss palace. East Germany’s Palast der Republik, a 1970s late-space-age construction, was unconnected to any communist-era human rights abuses. If anything, it was a showplace for at the least the potential of a socialist society to prioritize shared investment in a common good.
Adjacent to the parliament, were several restaurants, event halls with rock concerts and fashion shows, and even an underground bowling alley. Its destruction and replacement by the near-billion-dollar former house of the Kaiser in Europe’s financially leading state, sets a tone of imperial capitalist prosperity as the ultimate value, while indulging in some not so clandestine far-right nostalgia; here is Europe’s “leading” country with nowhere to look but backward. (Even if the destruction may have been impelled by the presence of asbestos, would that necessitate the rebuilding of the Imperial Palace?) The underlying message, of an outright memory purge, as graffiti near the site had it: Die DDR hats nie gegeben (The German Democratic Republic never existed).
The wish to erase all signs of communism comes from a deep wellspring of obsessive emotionalism, an almost Oedipal style conflict with the “bad parent” (already in May of 1945, General Georgy Zhukov was said to have uttered to General Konstantin Rokossovsky that “we liberated them and they will never forgive us for this.”) It is remarkable, in the Baltic case, that the moniker “occupation” is only applied to the Soviet period, not to the almost two-and-a-half centuries of Russian rule during the autocratic tsarist empire, during which Baltic peoples were barely allowed physical access to their current capitals that house these occupation museums.
A further irony is that since accession to the European Union, very little of major industry or real estate remains in the hands of Baltic peoples, not mostly owned by Germans, Swedes, and even some Irish. The spate of memorial destruction is posthumous vengeance, deeply antidemocratic despite supposedly celebrating democratic values. A performative contradiction, the recent demolition in Riga, occurred against the explicit desires of most of the Russian-speaking community, which makes up close to 40 percent of the total population. Much of its older generation have, moreover, been denied basic citizenship rights, as well as cultural and educational autonomy, since independence via an arcane set of requirements and surveillance that resembles a repression of those deemed second-class.
The destruction of memorials is also a profound symptom of the poverty of imagination, and an undermining of cultural heritage and the necessity and discipline of history. It simply negates historical sources and evidence, and purges the public sphere. As many have suggested, the power of these figures could be symbolically diverted, e.g., turned upside down or half dug in the ground, or even colorfully paper-macheed as with the Bismarck statue recently in Berlin’s Tiergarten.
Today’s revisionist damnatio memoriae is now riding the wave, not coincidentally, of far-right “occidentalist” ultranationalism supplanting traditional conservatism. What was earlier a steady hum has since roared into overdrive: this intellectual casualty of the Ukraine war is a collectively binding narrative of World War II that set anti-fascism front and center. This rising drumbeat of obsessive revisionism might well be the new neoliberal orthodoxy, as well as a desperate revival of opportunistic anti-communism. The zombie-like struggle against communism, bizarrely waged some three decades after the collapse of the USSR is more than a back door for ultranationalism. It is a cultural cannibal, consuming memory and history. After all, just behind “double genocide,” are the specters of “white Genocide,” “Weimar 2.0,” and “race war.”
Adam J Sacks holds an MA and PhD in history from Brown University and an MS in education from the City College of the City University of New York.
Portrait of composers and producers Bob Cole, James Weldon Johnson, and J. Rosamond Johnson, Jan. 1, 1900, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division, New York Public Library (public domain)
On Feb. 12, 1900, the students of the segregated Stanton School in Jacksonville, Fla., where James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938)—the poet and novelist who would go on to become the executive secretary of the NAACP—was the principal, gave the first ever performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the song that would become known as the Black national anthem, as part of a celebration of President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.
“My brother, J. Rosamond Johnson, and I decided to write a song to be sung at the exercise,” Johnson wrote in 1935.
“I wrote the words and he wrote the music. Our New York publisher, Edward B. Marks, made mimeographed copies for us, and the song was taught to and sung by a chorus of five hundred colored schoolchildren.
“Shortly afterwards my brother and I moved from Jacksonville to New York, and the song passed out of our minds. But the school children of Jacksonville kept singing it, they went off to other schools and sang it, and they became teachers and taught it to other children. Within twenty years it was being sung over the South and in some other parts of the country. Today, the song, popularly known as the Negro National Hymn, is quite generally used.
“The lines of this song repay me in an elation, almost of exquisite anguish, whenever I hear them sung by Negro children.”
As Johnson intimates, the song quickly spread after its original performance. It was endorsed by Booker T. Washington in 1905 and became the official song of the NAACP in 1919. Since then, it has remained a beloved cultural touchstone, sung in schools, stadiums, and churches across the country, and performed by everyone from Kim Weston to Gladys Knight to Beyoncé.
“What are we to do with the ugliness that comes with loving a country with soil rich from the bloodshed of those who shoulder the trauma of its creation—from the pillaging of the land to the enslaved bodies that toiled atop it?” wrote Gerrick Kennedy in Didn’t We Almost Have It All. “The answer for Black people was to make their own anthem, and that’s why for the last century ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ has been our rallying cry for liberation and a lasting symbol of Black pride.”
Lift every voice and sing Till earth and heaven ring Ring with the harmonies of Liberty Let our rejoicing rise High as the listening skies Let it resound loud as the rolling sea Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us Facing the rising sun of our new day begun Let us march on till victory is won.
Stony the road we trod, Bitter the chastening rod, Felt in the days when hope unborn had died; Yet with a steady beat, Have not our weary feet Come to the place for which our fathers sighed? We have come over a way that with tears has been watered, We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered, Out from the gloomy past, Till now we stand at last Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.
God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way; Thou who hast by Thy might Led us into the light, Keep us forever in the path, we pray. Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee, Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee; Shadowed beneath Thy hand, May we forever stand. True to our God, True to our native land.
People’s World is a voice for progressive change and socialism in the United States. It provides news and analysis of, by, and for the labor and democratic movements to our readers across the country and around the world. People’s World traces its lineage to the Daily Worker newspaper, founded by communists, socialists, union members, and other activists in Chicago in 1924.
Excerpted from Lenin’s The Collapse of the Second International, Part II (1915) Find the the full text at marxists.org
“To the Marxist it is indisputable that a revolution is impossible without a revolutionary situation; furthermore, it is not every revolutionary situation that leads to revolution. What, generally speaking, are the symptoms of a revolutionary situation? We shall certainly not be mistaken if we indicate the following three major symptoms: (1) when it is impossible for the ruling classes to maintain their rule without any change; when there is a crisis, in one form or another, among the “upper classes”, a crisis in the policy of the ruling class, leading to a fissure through which the discontent and indignation of the oppressed classes burst forth.
For a revolution to take place, it is usually insufficient for “the lower classes not to want” to live in the old way; it is also necessary that “the upper classes should be unable” to live in the old way; (2) when the suffering and want of the oppressed classes have grown more acute than usual; (3) when, as a consequence of the above causes, there is a considerable increase in the activity of the masses, who uncomplainingly allow themselves to be robbed in “peace time”, but, in turbulent times, are drawn both by all the circumstances of the crisis and by the “upper classes” themselves into independent historical action.
Without these objective changes, which are independent of the will, not only of individual groups and parties but even of individual classes, a revolution, as a general rule, is impossible. The totality of all these objective changes is called a revolutionary situation. Such a situation existed in 1905 in Russia, and in all revolutionary periods in the West; it also existed in Germany in the sixties of the last century, and in Russia in 1859-61 and 1879-80, although no revolution occurred in these instances.
Why was that? It was because it is not every revolutionary situation that gives rise to a revolution; revolution arises only out of a situation in which the above-mentioned objective changes are accompanied by a subjective change, namely, the ability of the revolutionary class to take revolutionary mass action strong enough to break (or dislocate) the old government, which never, not even in a period of crisis, “falls”, if it is not toppled over.”
Ministry of Education justified the move as “exploring the foundation of the Republic of Korea based on liberal democracy.”
After he was elected president in March, Yoon Suk-yeol 윤석열 was praised for being the first conservative president or president-elect to attend the memorial for the Jeju Massacre, also known as the April 3 Incident 4.3 사건. But just a few months later, the Yoon administration is on its way to removing discussion of the massacre from high school history books.
The Jeju Massacre is one of the most horrific acts of state violence in South Korean history. From 1947 to 1949, the Syngman Rhee 이승만 regime slaughtered as many as 30k civilians on the southern island of Jeju-do 제주도 at the behest of the United States. Under the pretext of rooting out communist insurrectionists, the Rhee dictatorship destroyed nearly 60% of Jeju’s villages and wiped out 10% of the entire island’s population. (See previous coverage, “Remembering the Jeju Massacre.”)
In 2015, the Ministry of Education 교육부 added the Jeju Massacre as one of the modern historical events that must be included in history textbooks. But in the “2022 Revised Educational Program 2022 개정교육과정” proposed by the Ministry, the Jeju Massacre was taken out as a mandatory element of learning. The Ministry said the revised guidelines were intended to “explore the foundation of the Republic of Korea based on liberal democracy,” and to simplify history education.
The Blue Roof is the first English language site dedicated solely to news and analysis of South Korean politics
The destruction of the Roehampton Estate in January 1832. (Adolphe Duperly / Wikimedia Commons)
Originally Published in Jacobin on December 25, 2022
On Christmas Day in 1831, 60,000 enslaved Africans carried out the largest uprising in British West Indies history. Their uprising would prove a milestone on the road to emancipation only a few years later.
In late December 1831, white Jamaican planters slept restlessly in their beds. Rumors had long been circulating of disquiet among the enslaved Africans residing in plantations across the island. Before they knew it, the island would be set ablaze as tens of thousands armed themselves to fight for their freedom.
As it became known, the Christmas Rebellion (or Baptist War, named so after the faith of many of its key conspirators) was the largest uprising of enslaved Africans in the history of the British West Indies, and directly influenced the abolition of slavery in 1833 and full emancipation in 1838.
To understand the dynamics at play during the uprising, it’s vital to understand the social structure of nineteenth-century colonial Jamaica. Jamaica, like much of the West Indies, was what was known as a plantocracy. In this arrangement, a minority of white European settlers, human traffickers, and plantation owners dominated the enslaved African majority on the island.
Conscious of their minority (Africans outnumbered whites twelve to one), planters deployed ferocious violence to discipline their slaves at home, and used their substantial wealth and influence to lobby against abolitionists in Parliament and the press. But despite their efforts, the sun was setting on slavery in the British Empire, and hopes of emancipation around the corner emboldened the enslaved population to take matters into their own hands.
Samuel “Daddy” Sharpe, a black Baptist deacon, organized enslaved Africans to participate in a peaceful general strike on December 25, 1831, demanding wages and increased freedoms. While nonviolence was intended, Sharpe was under no illusions that the infamously violent planter class would respond in kind.
Aside from providing an insight into mass resistance against slavery, the Christmas Rebellion also provides a valuable case study into the complexities of governing a plantocracy and the contradictions of slave resistance. Seeking assistance to put down the rebellion, the colonial authorities enlisted the help of the Accompong and Windward Maroons — both disparate, militant guerrilla organizations of escaped former slaves.
The Maroons had gained a degree of independence following their own Maroon Wars in the eighteenth century. As a result of treaties signed with the colonial authorities following the First Maroon War of 1728–1739, signatory Maroon factions were granted small parcels of land that soon became known as Maroon towns.
The caveat to this treaty was that these Maroon towns would be assigned a white superintendent, and that Maroon fighters would be required to assist colonial authorities in putting down future uprisings by their enslaved brethren and catching runaway slaves. This arrangement was resisted by many Maroon factions, but they would later find themselves fighting opposite their fellow oppressed Africans.
The uprising led to the deaths of fourteen planters and two hundred enslaved Africans, with property damage worth an estimated £124 million today. African rebels burned hundreds of buildings across the island, including Roehampton Estate, the blazing scene of which was later recreated by French lithographer Adolphe Duperly. But it was the aftermath of the uprising that saw some of the most sadistic violence take place.
Enlisted to be his military commanders were fellow literate enslaved Africans spanning several different estates, illustrating the effectiveness of the vast communication network known colloquially as the slave “grapevine.” Also crucial was the limited degree of freedom given to Sharpe: as a deacon, he had the ability to move around the island and secretly organize after prayer meetings.
The initially peaceful demonstration soon became a violent uprising, and out of a population of 600,000, an estimated 60,000 took up arms to resist their oppression. Any pretense of a peaceful demonstration was lost when Kensington Estate was set ablaze by enslaved rebels, with the rebellion taking place in earnest soon after.
The white Jamaican plantocracy responded to the Rebellion in the only language it knew: unspeakable brutality. The reprisals of the Jamaican planter class in response to such an affront to their authority was merciless and indiscriminate. Immediately after the rebellion, approximately 340 Africans were executed using a cruel and gruesome variety of methods. The majority were hanged, their heads displayed in plantations across the island to serve as a warning against future uprisings.
Beyond the pale for Parliament, though, was the tarring and feathering of a white missionary suspected of fanning the flames of rebellion. It’s difficult to find a clearer example of the racialized priorities of the British Empire: rather than the brutal murder of thousands of black Africans (perceived as nothing more than chattel), it was the punishment of a white missionary by white planters that drew significant protest. The missionary’s filthy neckerchief was paraded around Britain to the horror of those who saw it, bolstering the cause of white abolitionists.
Today, it wouldn’t be too far off the mark to call Sharpe an advocate of a form of liberation theology. Sat in jail following his failed uprising, Sharpe proclaimed that he learned from the Bible that “whites had no more right to hold black people in slavery than black people had to make white people slaves. . . . I would rather die on yonder gallows than live in slavery.” Sharpe was executed on those gallows on May 23, 1832. He’s remembered as a national hero in Jamaica, with his likeness printed on the $50 Jamaican banknote.
An Ongoing Struggle
The popular narrative would have us believe that the British Empire chose to fully emancipate the thousands of African slaves in Jamaica in 1838 out of moral duty. But the truth is quite the opposite. Despite its failure, the sheer scale of the Christmas Rebellion, coupled with the constant resistance of enslaved Africans, demonstrated that the centuries-old practice of slavery had become untenable.
The Christmas Rebellion directly precipitated the 1833 Slavery Abolition Act, which on its surface abolished slavery, but also stipulated that formerly enslaved Africans would have to undergo a period of “apprenticeship” under their old masters before they could be freed. It was not until 1838 that full emancipation was granted by Britain.
In addition, slave owners, the Jamaican planter class among them, were awarded a handsome £20 million in compensation — a sum comprising 40 percent of the Treasury’s national budget at the time, and worth more than £17 billion today. This monumental debt was only paid off in 2015, meaning that the tax revenue generated by living British citizens, potentially among them, the descendants of enslaved Africans, has been used to contribute to recompense for human traffickers. The formerly enslaved Africans, subject to untold brutality for generations, got nothing.
This year, the Jamaican government was unsuccessful in its petition for £7 billion in reparations from the British government. The latter dismissed Jamaica’s claims due to questions of practicality. Who would pay for it? And to whom?
No such questions were asked when the British government compensated slaveowners for the loss of their “property.” As we remember the Christmas Rebellion and the bravery of those Africans who struggled against near insurmountable odds, we must also remember that the long fight for justice remains incomplete.
Perry Blankson is a Tribune columnist and a project coordinator at the Young Historians Project. He is a member of the Editorial Working Group for the History Matters Journal.
Late on Christmas Eve 1914, during World War I, British soldiers heard German troops in the trenches opposite them singing carols and saw lanterns and small fir trees along their trenches. Messages began to be shouted between the two sides. The following day, on Christmas, British and German soldiers met in ‘no man’s land’ and exchanged gifts, took photographs, and played impromptu games of football. They also buried casualties and repaired trenches and dugouts. After the short truce, fighting unfortunately carried on. Today, U.S. faith and peace leaders are calling for a Christmas ceasefire in Ukraine and demanding negotiations to end the war. | Imperial War Museum
Activists and faith leaders in the United States are calling for an immediate Christmas season truce, a ceasefire, and talks to end the Ukraine-Russia conflict. They issued their call in the wake of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s address to the Congress on Wednesday.
Zelensky called for continued flows of U.S. arms into his country to fight the Russians and promised that the weapons would be put to use. “We are alive and kicking and will never surrender,” he declared. He said that U.S. military aid to Ukraine was not charity but an investment in security for the future.
At a meeting with Zelensky just prior to the Capitol speech, President Joe Biden vowed to back Ukraine with arms “for as long as it takes.” He also pledged to send new Patriot missiles, the most advanced in the U.S. military arsenal, to Ukraine.
This was coupled with approval in the Senate on Thursday of an unprecedented $850-billion military budget, swollen to historic levels by billions more for the Ukraine war and multi-billion-dollar guarantees to the U.S. armaments makers that if any decision they make to increase armament production causes them to lose money, the U.S. treasury will jump in with “socialism for the rich” and cover their losses.
Completely under the radar is this week’s call by more than 1,000 faith leaders demanding the Christmas season truce in Ukraine. Almost all of those leaders have, since the war began, strongly condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the resulting death and suffering of the Ukrainian people. They are also concerned, however, about U.S. culpability in the war and the refusal thus far in Washington to push for a ceasefire and negotiations to end the fighting.
Led by the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Bishop William Barber, who leads the Poor People’s Campaign, they recalled the Christmas truce in 1914 during the First World War. They declared: “We urge our government to take a leadership role in bringing the war in Ukraine to an end through supporting calls for a ceasefire and negotiated settlement, before the conflict results in a nuclear war that could devastate the world’s ecosystems and annihilate all of God’s creation.”
Co-founder of Code Pink Medea Benjamin, one of the signers, said: “There is nothing glorious about the Ukraine war. It is a lose-lose for everyone except weapons makers. Zelensky should be calling for peace. So should Putin. And Biden. And everyone else. #ChristmasTruceNow.”
Benjamin said the war “must move from the battlefield to the negotiating table—no more dollars for war! Peace talks instead!” Supplies of more advanced weaponry would “only bring us closer to a direct war with Russia…and nuclear armageddon,” she added.
Zelensky essentially told the Congress this week, however, that no peace would be possible and no ceasefire was possible until Russia pulls out of Ukraine altogether. He said he has a 10-point peace plan that he discussed with Biden but gave no details. Biden has also not disclosed any specifics of the supposed plan.
A Biden administration spokesperson, retired Admiral John Kirby, said on MSNBC that the Zelensky plan was “not really a peace plan but rather a framework within which discussion between Ukraine and the U.S. can be held.”
The huge military budget is causing enormous problems in the U.S. already. First is the obvious diversion of funds away from programs to address social needs. In addition, existing critical funds are under threat. The trillion-dollar omnibus bill approved in the Senate this week does not specify what part of it can be used to provide more than $1.7 billion needed, for example, to keep Medicaid benefits flowing to those in need.
Federal money for states that have opted into Obamacare could be endangered if there are not adequate funds allocated for that in the federal budget. Millions who rely on these benefits could be harmed.
The conflict is increasingly looks like the proxy war between the U.S. and Russia that many peace activists say it is. They have been saying that Ukraine is caught in the middle of a long-term battle that the U.S. is waging against Russia.
While the U.S. announced billions in new weapons for the Ukraine war this week, Russia responded by announcing plans on Wednesday to increase the size of its army from one million to 1.5 million members, and government officials rolled out plans to create entirely new, “better trained” units.
Meanwhile, NATO which is under the control of Washington, continues its plans to expand—an expansion that is seen as a major cause of the war in the first place. Two countries are slated to soon become new members.
Russia’s Defense Minister, Sergei Shoigu, said his country needed to safeguard its security because of those NATO plans, which involve the incorporation of Finland and Sweden into the alliance.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov also responded this week to U.S. plans for sending more weapons into the conflict. He declared that the move would not “bode well” for Ukraine, as Russian bombardments continued to pound the country’s energy infrastructure.
This news analysis published here reflects the views of the authors.
John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of 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.
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.
Friedrich Engels directing the construction of a barricade in the streets of Elberfeld during the riots of May 1849 in Prussia. (Universal History Archive / Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Originally published in Jacobin on November 28, 2022
In 1845, Friedrich Engels wrote a scathing condemnation of English capitalism, The Condition of the Working Class in England. In it, he accused the bosses of carrying out “social murder” against workers and the poor.
The following is an edited extract from Friedrich Engels’s The Condition of the Working Class in England, first published in 1845.You can read the full text here.
Atown, such as London, where a man may wander for hours together without reaching the beginning of the end, without meeting the slightest hint which could lead to the inference that there is open country within reach, is a strange thing. This colossal centralization, this heaping together of two and a half millions of human beings at one point, has multiplied the power of this two and a half millions a hundredfold; has raised London to the commercial capital of the world, created the giant docks and assembled the thousand vessels that continually cover the Thames.
I know nothing more imposing than the view which the Thames offers during the ascent from the sea to London Bridge. The masses of buildings, the wharves on both sides, especially from Woolwich upwards, the countless ships along both shores, crowding ever closer and closer together, until, at last, only a narrow passage remains in the middle of the river, a passage through which hundreds of steamers shoot by one another; all this is so vast, so impressive, that a man cannot collect himself, but is lost in the marvel of England’s greatness before he sets foot upon English soil.
But the sacrifices which all this has cost become apparent later. After roaming the streets of the capital a day or two, making headway with difficulty through the human turmoil and the endless lines of vehicles, after visiting the slums of the metropolis, one realizes for the first time that these Londoners have been forced to sacrifice the best qualities of their human nature, to bring to pass all the marvels of civilization which crowd their city; that a hundred powers which slumbered within them have remained inactive, have been suppressed in order that a few might be developed more fully and multiply through union with those of others. The very turmoil of the streets has something repulsive, something against which human nature rebels. The hundreds of thousands of all classes and ranks crowding past each other, are they not all human beings with the same qualities and powers, and with the same interest in being happy? And have they not, in the end, to seek happiness in the same way, by the same means?
And still they crowd by one another as though they had nothing in common, nothing to do with one another, and their only agreement is the tacit one, that each keep to his own side of the pavement, so as not to delay the opposing streams of the crowd, while it occurs to no man to honor another with so much as a glance. The brutal indifference, the unfeeling isolation of each in his private interest, becomes the more repellent and offensive, the more these individuals are crowded together, within a limited space.
And, however much one may be aware that this isolation of the individual, this narrow selfseeking, is the fundamental principle of our society everywhere, it is nowhere so shamelessly barefaced, so self-conscious as just here in the crowding of the great city. The dissolution of mankind into monads, of which each one has a separate principle, the world of atoms, is here carried out to its utmost extreme.
Hence it comes, too, that the social war, the war of each against all, is here openly declared. Just as in Stirner’s recent book [The Ego and Its Own], people regard each other only as useful objects; each exploits the other, and the end of it all is that the stronger treads the weaker under foot; and that the powerful few, the capitalists, seize everything for themselves, while to the weak many, the poor, scarcely a bare existence remains.
What is true of London, is true of Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, is true of all great towns. Everywhere barbarous indifference, hard egotism on one hand, and nameless misery on the other, everywhere social warfare, every man’s house in a state of siege, everywhere reciprocal plundering under the protection of the law, and all so shameless, so openly avowed that one shrinks before the consequences of our social state as they manifest themselves here undisguised, and can only wonder that the whole crazy fabric still hangs together.
Since capital, the direct or indirect control of the means of subsistence and production, is the weapon with which this social warfare is carried on, it is clear that all the disadvantages of such a state must fall upon the poor. For him no man has the slightest concern. Cast into the whirlpool, he must struggle through as well as he can. If he is so happy as to find work, i.e., if the bourgeoisie does him the favor to enrich itself by means of him, wages await him which scarcely suffice to keep body and soul together; if he can get no work he may steal, if he is not afraid of the police, or starve, in which case the police will take care that he does so in a quiet and inoffensive manner.
During my residence in England, at least twenty or thirty persons have died of simple starvation under the most revolting circumstances, and a jury has rarely been found possessed of the courage to speak the plain truth in the matter. Let the testimony of the witnesses be never so clear and unequivocal, the bourgeoisie, from which the jury is selected, always finds some backdoor through which to escape the frightful verdict, death from starvation. The bourgeoisie dare not speak the truth in these cases, for it would speak its own condemnation. But indirectly, far more than directly, many have died of starvation, where long-continued want of proper nourishment has called forth fatal illness, when it has produced such debility that causes which might otherwise have remained inoperative brought on severe illness and death. The English workingmen call this “social murder,” and accuse our whole society of perpetrating this crime perpetually. Are they wrong?
True, it is only individuals who starve, but what security has the workingman that it may not be his turn tomorrow? Who assures him employment, who vouches for it that, if for any reason or no reason his lord and master discharges him tomorrow, he can struggle along with those dependent upon him, until he may find someone else “to give him bread”? Who guarantees that willingness to work shall suffice to obtain work, that uprightness, industry, thrift, and the rest of the virtues recommended by the bourgeoisie, are really his road to happiness?
No one. He knows that he has something today and that it does not depend upon himself whether he shall have something tomorrow. He knows that every breeze that blows, every whim of his employer, every bad turn of trade may hurl him back into the fierce whirlpool from which he has temporarily saved himself, and in which it is hard and often impossible to keep his head above water. He knows that, though he may have the means of living today, it is very uncertain whether he shall tomorrow . . .
Friedrich Engels was a German socialist instrumental to the development of Marxism
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park | photo credit: nippon.com
Originally published in Monthly Review
In 1980, the great English historian and Marxist theorist E. P. Thompson, author of The Making of the English Working Class and leader of the European Nuclear Disarmament movement, wrote the pathbreaking essay “Notes on Exterminism, the Last Stage of Civilization.”1 Although the world has undergone a number of significant changes since, Thompson’s essay remains a useful starting point in approaching the central contradictions of our times, characterized by the planetary ecological crisis, COVID-19 pandemic, New Cold War, and current “empire of chaos”—all arising from features deeply embedded in the contemporary capitalist political economy.2
For Thompson, the term exterminism referred not to the extinction of life itself, since some life would remain even in the face of a global thermonuclear exchange, but rather to the tendency toward the “extermination of our [contemporary] civilization,” understood in its most universal sense. Nevertheless, exterminism pointed to mass annihilation and was defined as consisting of those “characteristics of society—expressed, in differing degrees, within its economy, its polity, and its ideology—which thrust it in a direction whose outcome must be the extermination of multitudes.”3 “Notes on Exterminism” was written eight years before climatologist James Hansen’s famous 1988 testimony on global warming to the U.S. Congress and the formation that same year of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Hence, Thompson’s treatment of exterminism focused squarely on nuclear war and did not directly address the other emerging exterminist tendency of contemporary society: the planetary ecological crisis. Yet, his perspective was a deeply socioecological one. The tendency toward exterminism in modern society was thus seen as directly opposed to “the imperatives of human ecological survival,” demanding a worldwide struggle for a socially egalitarian and ecologically sustainable world.4
With the demise of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War in 1991, the nuclear threat that had loomed over the post-Second World War world seemed to subside. Consequently, most subsequent considerations of Thompson’s exterminism thesis have considered it primarily in the context of the planetary ecological crisis, itself a source of “the extermination of multitudes.”5 But the advent over the last decade of the New Cold War has brought the threat of nuclear holocaust back into the center of world concerns. The 2022 Ukraine War, the origins of which date back to the 2014 U.S.-engineered Maidan coup and the resulting Ukrainian Civil War fought between Kyiv and the breakaway republics of the Russian-speaking Donbass region in Ukraine, has now evolved into a full-scale war between Moscow and Kyiv. This took on an ominous worldwide significance on February 27, 2022, with Russia, three days into its military offensive in Ukraine, placing its nuclear forces on high alert as a warning against a direct NATO intervention in the war, non-nuclear or nuclear.6 The potential for a global thermonuclear war between the leading nuclear powers is now greater than at any time in the post-Cold War world.
It is necessary therefore to address these dual exterminist tendencies: both the planetary ecological crisis (including not only climate change but also the crossing of other key planetary boundaries defining the earth as a safe home for humanity) and the growing threat of global nuclear annihilation. But in approaching the dialectical interconnections between these two global existential threats, emphasis must be placed today on updating the historical understanding of the thrust toward nuclear exterminism as it metamorphosed in the decades of U.S. unipolar power, while the world’s attention was directed elsewhere. How is it that the threat of global thermonuclear war is once again hanging over the globe, three decades after the end of the Cold War and at a time when the risk of irreversible climate change looms on the horizon? What approaches need to be adopted within the peace and environmental movements to counter these interrelated global existential threats? To answer these questions, it is important to address such issues as the nuclear winter controversy, the counterforce doctrine, and the U.S. quest for global nuclear supremacy. Only then can we perceive the full dimensions of the global existential threats imposed by today’s catastrophe capitalism.
In 1983, in the midst of the nuclear buildup of the Ronald Reagan administration, associated with the Strategic Defense Initiative (better known as Star Wars) and the growing threat of nuclear Armageddon, teams of atmospheric scientists in both the United States and the Soviet Union produced models, appearing in the major scientific journals, predicting that a nuclear war would lead to a “nuclear winter.” The outcome of a global thermonuclear exchange resulting in megafires in a hundred or more cities, it was discovered, could enormously reduce the average temperature of the earth by pushing soot and smoke into the atmosphere and blocking solar radiation. The climate would be altered much more abruptly and in the opposite direction from global warming, introducing a rapid global cooling causing global (or at least hemispheric) temperatures to drop by several degrees or even “several tens of degrees” Celsius in a matter of a month, with horrific consequences for life on Earth. Thus, although hundreds of millions, perhaps even a billion or more people, would be killed by the direct effects of a global thermonuclear exchange, the indirect effects would be far worse, annihilating most people on the planet, even those not caught up in the direct effects of nuclear firebombs, via starvation. The nuclear winter thesis had a powerful effect on the nuclear arms race that was then occurring and played a role in getting the U.S. and Soviet governments to pull back from the brink.7
The nuclear winter model, however, was seen within the power elite in the United States as a direct attack on the nuclear armaments industry and the Pentagon, aimed at the Star Wars program in particular. It therefore led to one of the biggest scientific controversies of all time, although the controversy was more political than scientific, since the scientific results were never really in doubt. Although claims were made that the initial nuclear winter models from NASA scientists were too simple, and studies were produced pointing to effects less extreme than originally envisioned—“nuclear autumn” rather than nuclear winter—the nuclear winter thesis was validated again and again by scientific models.8
Nevertheless, if the initial response of the public and political leaders to the nuclear winter studies helped to create a powerful movement to dismantle nuclear weapons, contributing to nuclear arms control and the end of the Cold War, this was soon countered by powerful military, political, and economic interests behind the U.S. nuclear war machine. Thus, the corporate media together with political forces launched various campaigns meant to discredit the nuclear winter thesis.9 In 2000, the popular science magazine Discover went so far as to list nuclear winter as one of its “Twenty Greatest Scientific Blunders in the Last 20 Years.” Yet, the most that Discover could claim in this respect was that the key scientists behind the most influential nuclear winter study in the 1980s had pulled back by 1990, claiming that the average temperature reduction as a result of a global nuclear exchange was estimated to be somewhat smaller than originally conceived and would at most constitute a 36°F (20°C) drop in average temperature in the Northern Hemisphere. This, however, remained apocalyptic on a planetary level.10
In one of the greatest instances of denialism in the history of science, surpassing even the denial of climate change, these scientific findings on nuclear winter were widely rejected out of hand within the public sphere and within the military, based on the charge that the original estimate had somehow been “exaggerated.” The exaggeration charge was then used in ruling circles for decades down to the present to downplay the full effects of nuclear war. In the case of Pentagon capitalism, such denial was clearly motivated by the reality that, if the scientific results on nuclear winter were allowed to stand, the strategic planning aimed at fighting a “winnable” nuclear war, or at least one in which one’s own side would “prevail,” would be senseless. Once the atmospheric effects were considered, the global devastation could not be confined to a particular nuclear theater, but the devastating effects would, within several years of the global thermonuclear exchange, destroy all but a tiny fraction of the population of the earth, going beyond what was even envisioned by mutual assured destruction (MAD).
In some ways, the devastating effects of nuclear war had always been downplayed by the nuclear planners. As Daniel Ellsberg points out in The Doomsday Machine, the “estimates of fatalities” from all-out nuclear warfare provided by U.S. strategic analysts were a “fantastic underestimate” from the start, “even before the discovery of nuclear winter,” since they deliberately omitted the firestorms in cities resulting from nuclear blasts, the largest impact on the overall urban population, on the questionable grounds that the level of devastation was too difficult to estimate.11 As Ellsberg writes:
Yet even in the sixties the firestorms caused by thermonuclear weapons were known to be predictably thelargestproduction of fatalities in a nuclear war. Moreover, what no one would recognize…[until the first nuclear winter studies emerged some twenty-one years after the Cuban Missile Crisis] were the indirect effects of our planned first strike that gravely threatened the other two thirds of humanity. These effects arose from another neglected consequence of our attacks on cities: smoke. In effect, in ignoring fire the [Joint] Chiefs [of Staff] and their planners ignored that where there’s fire there’s smoke. But what is dangerous to our survival is not the smoke from ordinary fires, even very large ones—smoke that remained in the lower atmosphere and soon would be rained out—but smoke propelled into the upper atmosphere from thefirestormsthat our nuclear weapons were sure to create in the cities we targeted.
Ferocious updrafts from these multiple firestorms would loft millions of tons of smoke and soot into the stratosphere, which would not be rained out and would quickly encircle the globe, forming a blanket blocking most sunlight around the earth for a decade or more. This would reduce sunlight and lower temperatures worldwide to a point that it would eliminate all harvests and starve to death—not all but nearly all—humans (and other animals that depend on vegetation for food). The population of the southern hemisphere—spared nearly all direct effects from nuclear explosions, even from fallout—would be nearly annihilated, as would that of Eurasia (which the Joint Chiefs already foresaw, from direct effects), Africa and North America.12
Worse than the original pushback against the nuclear winter thesis, according to Ellsberg, writing in 2017, was the fact that, over the decades that followed, nuclear planners in the United States and Russia have “continued to include ‘options’ for detonating hundreds of nuclear explosions near cities, which would loft enough soot and smoke into the upper stratosphere to lead [via nuclear winter] to death by starvation of nearly everyone on earth, including, after all, ourselves.”13
This denialism built into the Doomsday Machine—or the thrust to exterminism entrenched in Pentagon capitalism—is all the more significant given that not only were the original nuclear winter studies never disproven, but twenty-first-century nuclear winter studies, based on computer models more sophisticated than those of the early 1980s, have gone on to show that nuclear winter can be set off at lower levels of nuclear exchange than envisioned in the original models.14 The importance of these new studies is symbolized by Discover magazine, which in 2007, only seven years after it had included nuclear winter in its list of the twenty “greatest scientific blunders” of the previous two decades, carried an article on “The Return of Nuclear Winter,” essentially repudiating its earlier piece.15
The most recent studies, motivated in part by nuclear proliferation, demonstrated that a hypothetical nuclear war between India and Pakistan fought with one hundred fifteen kiloton (Hiroshima-sized) atomic bombs could produce direct fatalities comparable to all deaths in the Second World War. However, the long-term effect would be global famine. The atomic explosions would immediately ignite firestorms of three to five square miles. Burning cities would release some five million tons of smoke into the stratosphere, circling the earth within two weeks, which could not be removed by rainfall and might remain for more than a decade. By blocking sunlight, it would decrease food production globally by 20 to 40 percent. The stratospheric smoke layer would absorb warming sunlight, heating the smoke to temperatures near water’s boiling point, resulting in an ozone layer reduction of 20 to 50 percent near populated areas and generating UV-B increases unprecedented in human history, such that fair-skinned individuals could get severe sunburns in around six minutes and levels of skin cancer would go off the charts. Meanwhile, it is estimated that up to 2 billion people would die of famine.16
The new series of nuclear winter studies, published in major peer-reviewed scientific journals, beginning in 2007 and continuing to the present, however, did not stop there. They also looked at what would happen if there were a global thermonuclear exchange involving the five leading nuclear powers: the United States, Russia, China, France, and United Kingdom. The United States and Russia alone, accounting for most of the world’s nuclear arsenal, have thousands of strategic nuclear weapons with an explosive power ranging from seven to eighty times that of the Hiroshima bomb (although some thermonuclear weapons developed in the 1950s and ’60s were a thousand times as powerful as the atom bomb). A single strategic nuclear weapon hitting a city will ignite a firestorm covering a surface area of 90 to 152 square miles. Scientists calculated that the fires from a full-scale global thermonuclear exchange would propel into the stratosphere 150 to 180 million tons of black carbon soot and smoke that would remain for twenty to thirty years and would prevent up to 70 percent of solar energy from reaching the Northern Hemisphere and up to 35 percent with respect to the Southern Hemisphere. The noonday sun would end up looking like a full moon at midnight. Global average temperatures would fall below freezing every day for one or two years, or even longer, in the main agricultural regions of the Northern Hemisphere. Average temperatures would dip below those experienced in the last Ice Age. The growing seasons of agricultural areas would disappear for more than a decade, while rainfall would decrease by up to 90 percent. Most of the human population would die of starvation.17
In his 1960 book On Thermonuclear War, RAND Corporation physicist Herman Kahn presented the notion of the “doomsday machine” that would, in the event of a nuclear war, kill everyone on Earth.18 Kahn did not actually advocate building such a machine, nor did he contend that either the United States or the Soviet Union had done so or were then seeking to do so. He merely suggested that a mechanism that would ensure no survivability from nuclear war would be a cheap alternative with which to achieve complete and irrevocable deterrence on all sides and take nuclear warfare off the table. Set against Kahn’s analysis, as Ellsberg, himself a former nuclear strategist, has remarked—in line with scientists Carl Sagan and Richard Turco who helped develop the nuclear winter model—today’s strategic arsenals in the hands of the dominant nuclear powers constitute an actual doomsday machine. Once set in motion, the doomsday machine would almost certainly annihilate directly or indirectly most of the population on the planet.19
Counterforce and the U.S. Drive to Nuclear Primacy
From the 1960s, when Moscow achieved rough nuclear parity with Washington, until the demise of the Soviet Union, the dominant nuclear strategy during the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union was based on the notion of MAD. Nuclear parity translates into MAD, usually seen as utter devastation on both sides, including the deaths of hundreds of millions of people. However, as nuclear winter studies indicate, the consequences of an all-out nuclear war would go far beyond even this, extending to the destruction of almost all human life (as well as most other species) on the entire planet. Still, ignoring the nuclear winter warnings, the United States, with far more resources than the Soviet Union, sought to transcend MAD in the direction of U.S. “nuclear primacy,” so as to restore the level of U.S. nuclear preeminence of the early Cold War years. Nuclear primacy, as opposed to nuclear parity, means “eliminating the possibility of a retaliatory strike,” and thus is also referred to as “first strike capability.”20 In this respect, it is significant that Washington’s official defense posture has consistently included the possibility of the United States carrying out a first strike nuclear attack on nuclear or non-nuclear states.
In addition to introducing the doomsday machine concept, Kahn, as one of the leading U.S. strategic planners, also coined the key terms countervalue and counterforce.21Countervalue refers to the targeting of enemy’s cities, civilian population, and economy, aimed at complete annihilation, thus leading to MAD. Counterforce, in contrast, refers to the targeting of the enemy’s nuclear weapons facilities to prevent retaliation.
When the counterforce strategy was originally introduced by U.S. defense secretary Robert McNamara in the John F. Kennedy administration, it was seen as a “no cities” strategy that would attack the opponent’s nuclear weapons rather than civilian populations, and it has sometimes been fallaciously justified in those terms since. McNamara, however, soon realized the flaws in the counterforce strategy, namely that it provokes a nuclear arms race directed at achieving (or denying) nuclear primacy. Moreover, the notion that a “preemptive” counterforce strike did not involve attacks on cities was incorrect from that start, as targets included nuclear command centers in cities. He therefore abandoned the effort shortly after, in favor of a nuclear strategy based on MAD, which he saw as the only true approach to nuclear deterrence.22
This U.S. nuclear strategy for most of the 1960s and ’70s was characterized by the acceptance of rough nuclear parity with the Soviet Union and thus of MAD. This broke down in the final year of the Jimmy Carter administration. In 1979, Washington strong-armed NATO into allowing the siting in Europe of nuclear-armed cruise and Pershing II missiles, both counterforce weapons aimed at the Soviet nuclear arsenal, a decision that ignited the European antinuclear movement.23 In the subsequent U.S. administration under Ronald Reagan, Washington adopted the counterforce strategy in full force.24 The Reagan administration introduced Star Wars, aimed at the development of a comprehensive antiballistic missile system capable of defending the U.S. homeland, subsequently abandoned as impractical, but leading to other antiballistic missile systems in later administrations.25 In addition, the United States in the Reagan administration pushed the MX (later Peacemaker) missile, viewed as a counterforce weapon able to destroy the Soviet missiles before they were launched. All of these weapons threatened the “decapitation” of Soviet forces in a first attack and the ability through antiballistic missile systems to intercept what few Soviet missiles survived.26 Counterforce weapons required greater accuracy since they were no longer conceived as city-busters as in “countervalue” attacks, but rather as precision targeting of hardened missile silos, mobile land-based missiles, nuclear submarines, and command-and-control centers. It was here, in counterforce weapons, that the United States had a technological advantage.
It was this major nuclear arms buildup beginning in 1979, with the planned deployment in Europe of missile delivery systems carrying nuclear warheads, that generated the great nuclear war protests of the 1980s in Europe and North America and Thompson’s critique of exterminism, as well as the scientific research into nuclear winter. Nevertheless, today, more than four decades later, in the words of Janne Nolan of the Arms Control Association, “counterforce remains the sacrosanct principle of American nuclear strategy,” aimed at nuclear primacy.27
With the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the end of the Cold War, Washington immediately commenced, beginning with the February 1992 Defense Policy Guidance issued by undersecretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz in 1992, the process of translating its new unipolar position into a vision of permanent U.S. supremacy over the entire globe.28 This was to be enacted through a geopolitical expansion of the areas of Western dominance to areas formerly part of the Soviet Union or within its sphere of influence, in order to thwart the reemergence of Russia as a great power. At the same time, in a climate of nuclear disarmament and with the deterioration of the Russian nuclear force under Boris Yeltsin, the United States sought to “modernize” its nuclear weapons, replacing existing weapons with more technologically advanced strategic weaponry, with the object not of enhancing deterrence, but rather of achieving nuclear primacy.29
The U.S. pursuit of nuclear primacy in the post-Cold War world by continuing to promote counterforce weapons was known as the “maximalist” strategy in the debates over nuclear policy at the time, and was opposed by those who advocated a “minimalist” strategy simply relying on MAD. In the end, the maximalists won, and the New World Order came to be defined by both the enlargement of NATO, with Ukraine seen as the ultimate geopolitical and strategic pivot, and by the U.S. pursuit of a maximalist goal of absolute nuclear dominance and first strike capability.30
In 2006, Keir A. Lieber and Daryl G. Press published a landmark article, “The Rise of U.S. Nuclear Primacy,” in Foreign Affairs, the flagship journal of the Council of Foreign Relations. In their article, Lieber and Press argued that the United States was “on the verge of attaining nuclear primacy,” or first strike capability, and that this had been its aim since at least the end of the Cold War. As they put it, “the weight of evidence suggests that Washington is, in fact, deliberately seeking nuclear primacy.”31
What placed such first strike capability seemingly within Washington’s reach was the new nuclear weaponry, associated with nuclear modernization, which, if anything, accelerated after the Cold War. Weapons such as nuclear-armed cruise missiles, nuclear submarines able to fire their missiles near the shore, and low-flying B-52 stealth bombers carrying both nuclear armed cruise missiles and nuclear gravity bombs could more effectively penetrate Russian or Chinese defenses. More accurate intercontinental ballistic missiles could fully eliminate hardened missile silos. Improved surveillance could allow for the tracking and destruction of mobile-land based missiles and nuclear submarines. Meanwhile, the more accurate Trident II D-5 missiles being introduced on U.S. nuclear submarines carried larger-yield warheads to use on hardened silos. More advanced remote sensing technology in which the United States has had the lead has greatly enhanced its ability to detect mobile land-based missiles and nuclear submarines. The ability to target the satellites of other nuclear powers could weaken or eliminate their nuclear missile delivery capacity.32 The siting of strategic weapons in countries recently admitted to NATO and near or on Russian borders—the Aegis ballistic missile defense facilities that the United States established in Poland and Romania are also potential offensive weapons capable of launching nuclear-armed tomahawk cruise missiles—would serve to enhance the speed with which nuclear weapons could strike Moscow and other Russian targets, giving the Kremlin no time to react.33 Nuclear missile defense facilities, mainly useful in the case of countering retaliation to a first strike by the United States, could shoot down the limited number of missiles that had survived on the other side. (Such “missile defense systems” would be ineffective in the face of a first attack by the other side since they would be overwhelmed by the sheer number of missiles and decoys.) In recent decades, the United States has developed large numbers of high-precision, non-nuclear aerospace weapons to be used in a counterforce strike aimed at enemy missiles or command-and-control facilities that, due to precision targeting based on satellites, are comparable to nuclear weapons in their counterforce effects.34
According to Lieber and Press, writing in 2006, “the odds that Beijing will acquire a survivable nuclear deterrent in the next decade are slim,” while the survivability of the Russian deterrent was in question. “What our analysis suggests is profound: Russia’s leaders can no longer count on a survivable nuclear deterrent.” As they wrote, the United States is “seeking primacy in every dimension of modern military technology, both in its conventional arsenal and its nuclear forces,” something known as “escalation dominance.”35
The signing of the New START Treaty between the United States and Russia in 2010, while limiting nuclear weapons, did not prevent a race toward modernization of counterforce weapons to destroy the other side’s weapons. In fact, the limits on numbers made a counterforce strategy, in which the United States had the upper hand, more feasible, since one of the three primary bases for survivability of a nuclear retaliatory arsenal (along with hardening of land-based missile sites and concealment) is the sheer number and thus redundancy of such weapons.36 With nuclear primacy as the goal set in Washington, the United States began unilaterally to withdraw from some of the main nuclear treaties established in the Cold War. In 2002, under the George W. Bush administration, the United States unilaterally withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. In 2019, under the Donald Trump administration, Washington withdrew from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, claiming that Russia had violated the treaty. In 2020, again under Trump, the United States withdrew from the Open Skies Treaty (which placed limits on reconnaissance flights over other countries), followed by Russia’s withdrawal the following year. There is little doubt that withdrawal from these treaties was favorable to Washington in expanding its counterforce options in its quest for nuclear primacy.
Given U.S. pursuit of overall nuclear dominance, Russia has attempted to modernize its nuclear weapon systems over the last two decades, but it is at a distinct disadvantage when compared to the United States with respect to counterforce capability. Its fundamental nuclear strategy is therefore determined by fears of a U.S. first strike that could effectively eliminate its nuclear deterrent and its ability to retaliate. Thus, it has strived to reestablish a credible deterrent. As Cynthia Roberts of the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace at Columbia wrote in “Revelations About Russia’s Nuclear Deterrence Strategy” in 2020, Russians perceive further U.S. improvements to strategic forces, both conventional and nuclear, as part of a continuous effort to “stalk Russia’s nuclear deterrent” and deny Moscow a viable second-strike option, effectively eliminating its nuclear deterrent altogether, through “decapitation.”37 While the United States has adopted a maximum nuclear “defense” posture of threatening “nuclear first use and phased escalation” in which it retains dominance at every level of escalation, this compares to Russia’s approach of “all-out war once deterrence fails” through which it continues to rely primarily on MAD.38
However, in recent years, Russia and China have leaped ahead in strategic weapons technology and systems. In order to counter Washington’s attempts to develop first strike capability, neutralizing their nuclear deterrents, both Moscow and Beijing have turned to asymmetrical strategic weapons systems designed to neutralize U.S. superiority in missile defense and high-precision targeting. Intercontinental ballistic missiles are vulnerable because, while they reach hypersonic speeds—usually defined as Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound or greater—when they reenter the atmosphere, they follow an arc that constitutes a predictable ballistic path, like a bullet. They thus lack surprise; their targets are predictable, and they can theoretically be intercepted by antiballistic missiles. Hardened missile silos housing intercontinental ballistic missiles are also distinct targets, and today are far more vulnerable given U.S. high-precision, satellite-guided missiles, nuclear and non-nuclear. Confronted with these counterforce threats to their basic deterrents, Russia and China have pushed ahead of the United States in developing hypersonic missiles that can maneuver aerodynamically in order to dodge missile defenses and prevent the adversary from knowing the ultimate intended target. Russia has developed a hypersonic missile called the Kinzhal that is reputed to reach Mach 10 or more on its own, and another hypersonic weapon, Avangard, that, boosted by a rocket, can reach the astounding speed of Mach 27. China has a “waverider” hypersonic cruise missile that reaches Mach 6. Borrowing from Chinese folklore, it is referred to as an “assassin’s mace,” a weapon effective against a much better-armed adversary.39 Russia and China, meanwhile, have been developing antisatellite “counterspace” weapons designed to remove the U.S. advantage of high-precision nuclear and non-nuclear weapons.40
Though Washington has sought so-called nuclear primacy, it has remained just beyond its grasp, given the technological prowess of the other leading nuclear powers. Moreover, a nuclear arms race spurred by a counterforce strategy is fundamentally irrational, threatening a global thermonuclear conflagration with consequences far greater than even those envisioned by the MAD scenario, with its hundreds of millions of deaths on both sides. Nuclear winter means that, in a global nuclear exchange, the entire planet would be engulfed by the smoke and soot circling the stratosphere, killing off almost all of humanity.
Given this reality, the U.S. nuclear posture, which is based on the notion of prevailing in an all-out nuclear war, is particularly dangerous, since it denies the role of firestorms in cities and thereby the effects of smoke lofted up into the upper atmosphere and blotting out most of the rays of the sun. The search for nuclear primacy, therefore, leads from MAD to madness.41 As Ellsberg writes, “The hope,” entertained by U.S. strategic planners—who alone, in their denialism and sense of approaching nuclear primacy, could envision such a possibility—of “successfully avoiding mutual annihilation by a decapitating attack has always been as ill-founded as any other. The realistic conclusion would be that a nuclear exchange between the United States and the Soviets[/Russians] was—and is—virtually certain to be an unmitigated catastrophe, not only for the two parties but for the world,” triggering nuclear winter and “global omnicide.”42
The New Cold War and the European Theater
In “Notes on Exterminism” and his general stance as a leader of European Nuclear Disarmament in the 1980s, Thompson presented the nuclear arms buildup in Europe then occurring as the product of military machines and technological imperatives largely acting on their own. This was part of a strategy of uniting the peace movements of the West and East against their respective establishments, based on the premise that nuclear buildup was equally a product of both sides. However, in this regard, he belied his own evidence, which pointed to Washington’s aggressive nuclear buildup of counterforce weapons and the placement of strategic weapons in Europe targeting the Soviet Union. In an article on “Nuclear Chicken” in the September 1982 issue of Monthly Review, Harry Magdoff and Paul M. Sweezy challenged this part of Thompson’s argument, pointing not only to the strategic expansions of NATO under the United States, but also to the fact that the U.S. imperial order was heavily dependent on credible threats of nuclear first strikes directed at other countries, both nuclear and non-nuclear.43
In a 1981 introduction to the U.S. edition of Protest and Survive edited by Thompson and Dan Cohen, Ellsberg listed a long series of documented instances where the United States used threats of nuclear first strikes, beginning in 1949, to pressure other countries to back down and achieve its imperial ends.44 Today, the list of such documented cases has risen to twenty-five.45 In this sense, the use of nuclear warfare as a threat is built into U.S. strategy. Development of nuclear primacy through counterforce weapons held out the possibility that such threats could once again be credibly directed even at major nuclear powers such as Russia and China. Magdoff and Sweezy called this whole approach a game of “nuclear chicken,” in which the United States was the most aggressive player.
Nuclear chicken did not end with the end of the Cold War. The U.S. national security state, influenced by key figures such as Zbigniew Brzezinski, Carter’s national security advisor and one of the principal architects of the post-Cold War NATO expansion, continued to seek ultimate U.S. geopolitical hegemony over Eurasia, referring to this as the “grand chessboard.” Checkmate, according to Brzezinski, would constitute bringing Ukraine into NATO as a strategic-nuclear alliance (though Brzezinski carefully excluded the nuclear aspect in presenting his geopolitical strategy), spelling the end of Russia as a great power and possibly leading to its breakup into various states.46 This would mark U.S. supremacy over the entire globe. This attempt to turn U.S. unipolar power after the Cold War into a permanent global empire required the expansion of NATO to the east, which commenced in 1997 during the Bill Clinton administration, gradually annexing to the Atlantic Alliance all the countries between Western Europe and Ukraine, with the latter as the ultimate prize and a dagger at Russia’s heart.47 Here there was a kind of oneness exhibited between the U.S.-directed strategy of NATO expansion and Washington’s drive for nuclear primacy, which proceeded in almost lockstep.
The fact that Russia was compelled to consider the question of its own national security in the face of NATO’s attempt to expand militarily into Ukraine should hardly surprise anyone. A decade into the NATO expansion, which already encompassed eleven nations formerly either in the Warsaw Pact or previously part of the Soviet Union, and only a year after near U.S. nuclear primacy was highlighted in Foreign Affairs, Russian president Vladimir Putin startled the world by unequivocally declaring at the Munich Security Conference that “the unipolar world was not only unacceptable but impossible in today’s world.”48 Nevertheless, consistent with its long-term strategy to extend into what Brzezinski had called the “geopolitical pivot” of Eurasia, thereby fatally weakening Russia, NATO in 2008 declared outright at its Bucharest Summit that it intended to bring Ukraine into the military-strategic (nuclear) alliance.
In 2014, the Maidan coup in Ukraine, engineered by Washington, deposed the democratically elected president of Ukraine and imposed in his place a leader chosen by the White House, putting Ukraine in the hands of right-wing, ultra-nationalist forces. Russia’s response was to incorporate Crimea into its territory, after a popular referendum that gave the predominantly Russian-speaking Crimean population, who regarded themselves as independent and not part of Ukraine, a choice as to whether to remain in Ukraine or join with Russia. The coup (or “color revolution”) led to the violent repression by Kyiv of the populations in the Russian-speaking Donbass region of Ukraine, resulting in the Ukrainian Civil War between Kyiv (supported by Washington) and the breakaway Russian-speaking Donbass republics of Donetsk and Luhansk (supported by Moscow). The Ukrainian Civil War, which initially resulted in more than 14,000 deaths, continued at a low ebb over the following eight years despite the signing of the Minsk peace agreements in 2014, which were meant to end the conflict and give autonomy to the Donbass republics within Ukraine. In February 2022, Kyiv had massed 130,000 troops on the borders of Donbass in eastern Ukraine firing on Donetsk and Luhansk.49
As the Ukrainian crisis worsened, Putin insisted on a number of “red lines” for Russia, referring to its essential security needs, consisting of: (1) adherence to the previous Minsk agreement (worked out by Russia, Ukraine, France, and Germany, and supported by the UN Security Council) guaranteeing the autonomy and security of Donetsk and Luhansk, (2) an end to NATO’s militarization of Ukraine, and (3) an agreement that Ukraine will remain outside NATO.50 All of these red lines continued to be crossed with NATO, urged on by the United States, providing increased military aid to Kyiv in its war on the Donbass republics, in what Russia interpreted as a de facto attempt to incorporate Ukraine into NATO.
On February 24, 2022, Russia intervened in the Ukrainian Civil War on the side of Donbass, attacking the military forces of the Kyiv government. On February 27, Moscow put its nuclear forces on high alert for the first time since the end of the Cold War, confronting the world with the possibility of global nuclear holocaust, this time between competing capitalist great powers. Figures in Washington, such as Senator Joe Manchin III (Democrat, West Virginia), have backed the idea of U.S. imposition of a no-fly zone in Ukraine, which would mean shooting down Russian planes, in all probability escalating into a Third World War.51
Exterminism in Two Directions
It is common today to recognize that climate change represents a “global existential threat” that places in jeopardy the very survival of humanity. Today we are faced with a situation in which the continual expansion of capitalism based on the burning of ever larger amounts of fossil fuels points to the possibility—even probability, if the system of production is not altered radically in a matter of decades—of the downfall of industrial civilization, placing the survival of humanity in question. This is the meaning of environmental exterminism in our time. According to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), net zero carbon dioxide emissions must be reached by 2050 if the world is to have a reasonable hope of keeping global average temperatures below a 1.5°C, or even a 2°C, increase over preindustrial levels. Not to accomplish this is to invite the devastation of the earth as a safe home for humanity and innumerable other species.
Climate change is part of a more general planetary ecological crisis associated with the crossing of planetary boundaries in general, including those—beyond climate change itself—related to species extinction, stratospheric ozone depletion, ocean acidification, disruption of the nitrogen and phosphorous cycles, loss of ground cover/forests, declining fresh water sources associated with desertification, atmospheric aerosol loading, and the introduction of novel entities (new synthetic chemicals and new genetic forms).52 To this should be added the emergence of new zoonoses, as in the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting principally from the agribusiness transformation of the human relation to the environment.53
Yet, there is no doubt that climate change is at the center of the current global ecological crisis. Like nuclear winter, it poses a threat to civilization and the continuation of the human species itself. Even now, the IPCC tells us in its most recent reports (2021–22) on the physical science of climate change and its impacts that the most optimistic scenario, though warding off irreversible climate change, is still one of growing global catastrophe in the decades ahead, and requires immediate action to protect the lives and living conditions of hundreds of millions, and perhaps billions, of people who will be exposed to extreme weather events of a kind that global civilization has never seen before.54 To counter this requires the greatest movement of workers and peoples the world has ever seen in order to restore the conditions of their existence, which have been usurped by the regime of capital, and to reestablish an ecologically sustainable world rooted in substantive equality.55
Ironically, the latest IPCC report, which was meant to draw world attention to the catastrophic nature of today’s climate crisis and the rapidly worsening prospects for humanity if revolutionary-scale changes are not made, was published on February 28, 2022, four days after the Russian entry into the Ukrainian Civil War in defiance of NATO, resulting in growing concern over the possibility of a global thermonuclear exchange. Hence, the world’s attention was drawn away from considering one global existential threat, endangering all of humanity, namely carbon omnicide, by the sudden reemergence of another, nuclear omnicide.
Still, even as the world turned its attention to the possibility of war between the leading nuclear powers, the full planetary scale of the nuclear threat, as understood by science in terms of nuclear winter, was absent from the picture. Global warming and nuclear winter, though arising in different ways, are closely connected in climate terms, demonstrating that the world is on the brink of destroying most of the inhabitants of the earth, in one direction or another: global warming over decades leading to a point of no return for humanity, or the death of hundreds of millions by nuclear fire, followed by global cooling in days and months, exterminating most of the rest of the world’s population through starvation. Just as the full destructive implications of climate change threatening the very existence of humanity are in large part denied by the powers that be, so are the full planetary effects of nuclear war, which scientific research into nuclear winter tells us will effectively annihilate the population of every continent on Earth.56
Today we are confronted with a choice between exterminism and the human ecological imperative.57 The causal agent in the two global existential crises now threatening the human species is capitalism and its irrational quest for exponentially increasing capital accumulation and imperial power in a limited global environment. The only possible response to this unlimited threat is a universal revolutionary movement rooted in both ecology and peace, turning away from the current systematic destruction of the earth and its inhabitants, and providing as its alternative a world of substantive equality and ecological sustainability, namely socialism.
↩ P. Thompson, “Notes on Exterminism, the Last Stage of Civilization,” New Left Review 121 (1980): 3–31. Citations to this essay in the present article are taken from the slightly revised version in E. P. Thompson, Beyond the Cold War (New York: Pantheon, 1982), 41–79. See also Edward Thompson et al., Exterminism and the Cold War (London: Verso, 1982); E. P. Thompson and Dan Smith, ed., Protest and Survive (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1981).
↩ Thompson, Beyond the Cold War, 55; Samir Amin, Empire of Chaos (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1992).
↩ Rudolf Bahro, Avoiding Social and Ecological Disaster (Bath: Gateway Books, 1994), 19–20; John Bellamy Foster, Ecological Revolution (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2009), 27–28; Ian Angus, Facing the Anthropocene (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2016), 178–81.
↩ For a brief discussion of the events leading up the present Ukraine War, see The Editors, “Notes from the Editors,” Monthly Review 73, no. 11 (April 2022).
↩ Stephen Schneider, “Whatever Happened to Nuclear Winter?,” Climatic Change 12 (1988): 215; Matthew R. Francis, “When Carl Sagan Warned About Nuclear Winter,” Smithsonian Magazine, November 15, 2017; Carl Sagan and Richard Turco, A Path Where No Man Thought: Nuclear Winter and the End of the Arms Race (New York: Random House, 1990), 19–44.
↩ Malcolm W. Browne, “Nuclear Winter Theorists Pull Back,” New York Times, January 23, 1990.
↩ Steven Starr, “Turning a Blind Eye Towards Armageddon—U.S. Leaders Reject Nuclear Winter Studies,” Public Interest Report (Federation of American Scientists) 69, no. 2 (2016–17): 24.
↩ Daniel Ellsberg, The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner (New York: Bloomsbury, 2017), 140. The failure to include the foremost cause of death from thermonuclear weapons directed at cities in the form of firestorms is deeply ingrained in the Pentagon. Thus, the declassified practical guide on nuclear weapons stockpile and management published by the U.S. Department of Defense for 2008 includes more than twenty pages on the effects of a nuclear weapons explosion in a city, without a single mention of firestorms. See U.S. Department of Defense, Nuclear Matters: A Practical Guide (Washington: Pentagon, 2008), 135–58.
↩ Owen B. Toon, Allan Robock, and Richard P. Turco, “Environmental Consequences of Nuclear War,” Physics Today (2008): 37–42; Alan Robock and Owen Brian Toon, Local Nuclear War, Global Suffering (New York: Scientific American, 2009).
↩ Emily Saarman, “The Return of Nuclear Winter,” Discover, May 2, 2007.
↩ Starr, “Turning a Blind Eye Toward Armageddon,” 4–5; Alan Robock, Luke Oman, and Geeorgiy L. Stenchikov, “Nuclear Winter Revisited with a Modern Climate Model and Current Nuclear Arsenals: Still Catastrophic Consequences,” Journal of Geophysical Research 112 (2007) (D13107): 1–14.
↩ Starr, “Turning a Blind Eye Toward Armageddon,” 5–6; Robock, Oman, and Stenchikov, “Nuclear Winter Revisited”; Joshua Coupe, Charles G. Bardeen, Alan Robock, and Owen B. Toon, “Nuclear Winter Responses to Nuclear War Between the United States and Russia in the Whole Atmosphere Community Climate Model Version 4 and the Goddard Institute for Space Studies ModelE,” Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres (2019): 8522–43; Alan Robock and Owen B. Toon, “Self-Assured Destruction: The Climate Impacts of Nuclear War,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 68, no. 5 (2012): 66–74; Steven Starr, “Nuclear War, Nuclear Winter, and Human Extinction,” Federation of American Scientists, October 14, 2015.
↩ Herman Kahn, On Thermonuclear War (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2007), 145–51.
↩ Ellsberg, The Doomsday Machine, 18–19; Sagan and Turco, A Path Where No Man Thought, 213–19. Here, the doomsday machine is not to be confused with the version of the doomsday machine in Stanley Kubrick’s film Strangelove. Yet, Kubrick’s film drew on Kahn’s notion and retains a concrete significance in the context of contemporary nuclear reality. See Ellsberg, The Doomsday Machine, 18–19.
↩ Keir A. Lieber and Daryl G. Press, “The Rise of U.S. Nuclear Primacy,” Foreign Affairs (2006), 44.
↩ Sagan and Turco, A Path Where No Man Thought, 215.
↩ John T. Correll, “The Ups and Downs of Counterforce,” Air Force Magazine, October 1, 2005; Ellsberg, The Doomsday Machine, 120–23, 178–79.
↩ Harry Magdoff and Paul M. Sweezy, “Nuclear Chicken,” Monthly Review 34, no. 4 (September 1981): 4; Richard J. Barnet, “Why Trust the Soviets?,” World Policy Journal 1, no. 3 (1984): 461–62.
↩ Steven Pifer, “The Limits of U.S. Missile Defense,” Brookings Institution, March 30, 2015.
↩ Cynthia Roberts, “Revelations About Russia’s Nuclear Deterrence Policy,” War on the Rocks (Texas National Security Review), June 19, 2020; Correll, “The Ups and Downs of Counterforce.”
↩ Janne Nolan, quoted in Correll, “The Ups and Downs of Counterforce.”
↩ “Excerpts from Pentagon’s Plan: Preventing the Re-emergence of a New Rival,” New York Times, March 8, 1992.
↩ Lieber and Press, “The Rise of U.S. Nuclear Primacy,” 45–48.
↩ Richard A. Paulsen, The Role of U.S. Nuclear Weapons in the Post-Cold War Era (Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama: Air University Press, 1994), 84; Michael J. Mazarr, “Nuclear Weapons After the Cold War,” Washington Quarterly 15, no. 3 (1992): 185, 190–94; Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard (New York: Basic Books, 1997), 46.
↩ Lieber and Press, “The Rise of U.S. Nuclear Primacy,” 43, 50.
↩ Lieber and Press, “The Rise of U.S. Nuclear Primacy,” 45.
↩ Jack Detsch, “Putin’s Fixation with an Old-School U.S. Missile Launcher,” Foreign Policy, January 12, 2022; Jacques Baud (interview), “The Policy of USA Has Always Been to Prevent Germany and Russia from Cooperating More Closely,” Swiss Standpoint, March 15, 2022; Starr, “Turning a Blind Eye Toward Armageddon.” Estonia has cruise missiles supplied by Israel: David Axe, “Estonia’s Getting a Powerful Cruise Missile. Now It Needs to Find Targets,” Forbes, October 12, 2021. Russia is also concerned with the possible reintroduction of Pershing II intermediate ballistic missiles in Europe.
↩ Jaganath Sankaran, “Russia’s Anti-Satellite Weapons: An Asymmetrical Response to U.S. Aerospace Superiority,” Arms Control Association, March 2022.
↩ Lieber and Press, “The Rise of U.S. Nuclear Primacy,” 48–49, 52–53; Karl A. Lieber and Daryl G. Press, “The New Era of Counterforce: Technological Change and the Future of Nuclear Deterrence,” International Security 41, no. 4 (2017). A key element of Beijing’s nuclear deterrent is reducing the acoustic signature or noise level of its nuclear submarines. In 2011, it was believed that it would take China decades to reduce the acoustic signature of its submarines enough to survive a U.S. first strike. However, in less than a decade, China made significant advances toward that goal. Lieber and Press, “The New Era of Counterforce,” 47; Caleb Larson, “Chinese Submarines Are Becoming Quieter,” National Interest, September 10, 2020; Wu Riqiang, “Survivability of China’s Sea-Based Nuclear Forces,” Science and Global Security 19, no. 2 (2011): 91–120.
↩ Lieber and Mann, “The New Era of Counterforce,” 16–17.
↩ Alexey Arbatove, “The Hidden Side of the U.S.-Russian Strategic Confrontation,” Arms Control Association, September 2016; Brad Roberts, The Case for Nuclear Weapons in the 21st Century (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2015).
↩ Richard Stone, “National Pride Is at Stake: Russia, China, United States Race to Build Hypersonic Weapons,” Science, January 8, 2020, 176–96; Dagobert L. Brito, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, Michael D. Intriligator, “The Case for Submarine Launched Non-Nuclear Ballistic Missiles,” Baker Institute, January 2002.
↩ Sankaran, “Russia’s Anti-Satellite Weapons.” The development of “countermeasure” strategies and technologies to elude counterforce attack on a nation’s nuclear deterrence is emphasized by Russia and China, given the U.S. lead in counterforce. See Lieber and Mann, “The New Era of Counterforce,” 46–48.
↩ See Diane Johnstone, “Doomsday Postponed?,” in Paul Johnston, From Mad to Madness: Inside Pentagon Nuclear Planning (Atlanta, GA: Clarity, 2017), 272–86.
↩ Ellsberg, The Doomsday Machine, 307. Today, there is once again increased discussion in U.S. strategic circles of a “low-casualty” or “decapitation” first-strike capability on the part of the United States, which would seem to make nuclear firestorms less likely. See Lieber and Man, “The New Era of Counterforce,” 27–32.
↩ Editors, “Notes from the Editors”; Diane Johnstone, “For Washington, War Never Ends,” Consortium News 27, no. 76 (2022); John Mearsheimer, “On Why the West Is Principally Responsible for the Ukrainian Crisis,” Economist, March 19, 2022.
↩ Mark Episkopos, “Putin Warns the West to Heed Russia’s Redlines in Donbass,” National Interest, December 21, 2021; “Russia Publishes ‘Red Line’ Demands of US and NATO Amid Heightened Tension Over Kremlin Threat to Ukraine,” Marketwatch, December 18, 2021.
↩ “U.S. Lawmakers Say They Are Largely Opposed to a No-Fly Zone Over Ukraine,” New York Times, March 6, 2022.
↩ Will Steffen et al., “Planetary Boundaries: Guiding Human Development on a Changing Planet,” Science 347 no. 6223 (2015): 736–46.
↩ UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, “Summary for Policymakers,” Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaption and Vulnerability (Geneva: IPCC, 2022). See also “Summary for Policymakers,” Climate Change 2021.
↩ This conclusion is in fact consistent with the third part of the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report, in the form of the mitigation report to be published in March but leaked by scientists in advance. See the “Summary for Policy Makers” of Part III of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Sixth Assessment Report on Climate Change.
↩ Ellsberg, The Doomsday Machine, 18. Global warming and nuclear winter are related in another respect. If global warming increases to the extent that global civilization is destabilized, something that natural scientists predict could happen if global average temperatures increase by 4°C, competition between capitalist nation states will increase, thereby enhancing the risk of a nuclear conflagration and thus nuclear winter.
John Bellamy Foster, is an American professor of sociology at the University of Oregon and editor of the Monthly Review. He writes about political economy of capitalism and economic crisis, ecology and ecological crisis, and Marxist theory.