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22 August 2009

John Pilger - Obama and Empire

Or why Obama cannot legitimately be described as any sort of 'socialist'.
Author, journalist, film maker John Pilger speaks at Socialism 2009 www.socialistworker.org; www.haymarketbooks.org. Filmed by Paul Hubbard at the Womens Building in San Francisco 7-4-09.


McGonagall said...

Awesome - I'm going to steal this for my blog. With a hat tip of course.


Anonymous said...

Hold on a minute, it was the left that celebrated Obama, purely on the basis of his skin colour. I remember even the most hard-line Marxist of my university lecturers believing it was the beginning of a new era.

It's no surprise to hear, once again, that white people (now including Obama), Europeans, Americans, Israelis, the West, are to blame for all the world's ills. And it's even less of a surprise to hear it from the secretary of the Hugo Chavez Fan Club. (Because it's OK to be a dictator only if you're on the left!).

The usual omissions come as no surprise, like the fact that virtually every country in the world that has tried socialism has rejected it, normally after the the oppression, propaganda, and brutality became too much for the poor ordinary folk to suffer any longer. NKVD, KGB, Gestapo, Stasi - what wonderful state services are created to help people liberate themselves from dangerous thoughts about freedom! But that's alright, because in the whacky world of the radical left, socialism isn't wrong, it just hasn't been implemented in the right way yet!

But the biggest non-surprise of all is that Pilger, like so many of his ilk, thinks of himself as dangerously subversive, like an agonising thorn in the side of the establishment, too much for the 'mainstream' to handle. He is rather like his little loon followers in this regard, although he does it better:

"The censorship is such on television in the U.S. that films like mine don't stand a chance."

"Secretive power loathes journalists who do their job, who push back screens, peer behind façades, lift rocks. Opprobrium from on high is their badge of honour."

The trouble is that Pilger has written for a whole string of 'mainstream' media publications, appeared on countless 'mainstream' TV and Radio Shows, and is therefore a fully paid-up member of the 'mainstream'. If the brainwashed masses haven't come round to his way of thinking, then it must be a conspiracy on the part of the corporate media, despite the fact that we can read about his opinions in the Independent, Guardian, New Statesman, and other such publications of the 'mainstream', corporate media.

Pilger is a mainstream journalist in denial, albeit a very special one. If you read him, then you read it in the mainstream media. But if you dare to disagree with him, then remember that you are the victim of corporate media propaganda and indoctrination.

This is how the left deals with its political failure- everything becomes a conspiracy (and this is just one aspect of what is meant by lunity, paul).

Don't forget to buy his latest book, by the way.

Numeral said...


It might help you to know that Chavez is the elected president of Venezuala.

Poor show.

Anonymous said...

Intimidation of the media, stocking the legislature with one's chums, extension of office, nepotism, use of the military against protesters, electoral fraud... in fact, all the sorts of things a chap like Pilger ought to detest.

Maybe not a fully-fledged dictatorship, but certainly a work in progress. Never forget how Hitler got into power, it's the most useful thing they teach you at school.

According to one of my favourite websites, Dictator of the Month:

"The National Guard or state police force in Venezuela has been accused of intimidation and bullying tactics of opposition, reminiscent of the Mussolini brownshirts in the 1930's. It is also troubling that nationalism and xenophobia are seemingly fostered by the government, combined with a push to have the population loyal to Chávez and not to the country. He has created a cult of personality about himself, creating the illusion to the masses that he is infallible; as a speaker Chávez has a bombastic style, literally working his audience up into a frenzy."

[socialist revolutionaries turning into fascists, again? Surely not Stef.]

It doesn't matter whether it's Viscount Benn lauding Mao ("the greatest man of the 20th Century"), Pilger or Livingstone plugging Chavez, Gnome Chomsky reminiscing the erstwhile Soviet Union, or the whole lot of them having a big Stalinist collective fuck fest about what a lovely little paradise Cuba is to the point that you wish they'd all fuck off and live there, it is perfectly acceptable, even fashionable, to express solidarity with communist dictatorships. Certainly a conspiracy worth investigating.

Bridget said...

@ Anonymous
I was going to bother to answer many of your spurious and blatantly erroneous contentions, then I remembered Woody Allen's words as quoted by Pilger:

"I felt better when I abandoned hope".

There's obviously no hope that you could be dragged away from your, presumably comforting, right-wing world view. Enjoy it while it lasts as I suspect the forces of history will prove you wrong. To quote Marx:

"The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles."

I know which side I'm on, and I'm happy to say, it's the opposite one to you.

Anonymous said...

Great to have you back Bridget, sometimes I feel a bit lonely around here.

Instead of aimlessly quoting Woody Allen (I heard that one on the radio twice this morning already), perhaps you would like to detail my "spurious and blatantly erroneous contentions" for the benefit of our educated middle-class readership?

And before clinging on to Marx, remember that his observations of social history were made "hitherto" 1867, and an awful lot has happened since then. Even within the limitations of his scope, I would be cautious about swallowing such a sweeping trans-historical generalization as that.

I do not have a "right-wing world view", whatever that means, but I do know which side I'm on, that of rationality, which is anathema to the radical left because it gives rise to the freedom of the individual, and inequality is inherent in that freedom. However much state control we suffer from now, it would soon pale into insignificance with the kind that would have to be imposed on us in the enforced egalitarian utopia you envision... and the rest, as they say, is gulags and mass-murder.

As I have tried to make clear in previous posts, but with no apparent success, we have a wide variety of Marxist-Leninist political parties in this country which can be voted for at general elections. The fact that fuck all of these parties gets any votes is not only testament to the reality that very few of the poor exploited proleteriat wants a revolution, it also raises the intriguing question of why it is the masses would not choose to end the capitalist 'system' that supposedly exploits them, even though they can do so on a ballot paper posted through their front doors. Marx certainly didn't anticipate it being as easy as that. I'll certainly be enjoying it while it lasts, Bridget.

Bridget said...

Well, anonymous, as no doubt you'd expect me to say: If voting ever changed anything they'd make it illegal.

Unless you happen to be a member of the aristocracy, which I doubt, all the 'individual freedoms' you so cherish have been won through class struggle.

anymouse said...

Why is 'anonymous' studying? Surely it's evident from his boring, whining, right wing dross posts he knows everything already.

Fabian society forum too safe for you?

The Antagonist said...

Anymouse - Perhaps Anonymous is studying How to Win Friends and Influence People.

D- must try harder.

Anonymous said...

Bridget, self-interested groups would be a more accurate description than class struggle, as people go into politics to further their own interests. You're welcome to try and prove otherwise, but I anticipate you will have some difficulty as you have managed to respond to very few of my points so far.

As for them making voting illegal, I don't know who 'they' are, but you can't predict something happening as a result of something that hasn't happened yet, can you? Some day you'll need to get over the fact that you hold a very small minority view.

Bridget said...

@ Anonymous:

Uh, Chile, Allende on that other September 11th?

I was reading this article yesterday and it occurred to me that the 'upside down world' described by the writer is precisely what the world looks like for you, be careful of the blood rushing to your head.

Anonymous said...

Uh, Allende? I'm glad you chose that one. To borrow a favourite Loon catch phrase, The World is not Black and White™.

"Historian Christopher Andrew argued that help from the KGB was a decisive factor, because Allende won by a narrow margin of 39,000 votes of a total of the 3 million cast. After the elections, the KGB director Yuri Andropov obtained permission for additional money and other resources from the Central Committee of the CPSU to ensure an Allende victory in Congress."

Not entirely democratic then. More Soviet involvement:

"According to Allende's KGB file, he "was made to understand the necessity of reorganizing Chile's army and intelligence services, and of setting up a relationship between Chile's and the USSR's intelligence services". Allende was said to react positively."

"According to Andrew's account of the Mitrokhin archives, "In the KGB's view, Allende's fundamental error was his unwillingness to use force against his opponents. Without establishing complete control over all the machinery of the State, his hold on power could not be secure"."

Hardly surprising, then, that with such provocation, and in the context of the Cold War, America sought to intervene (although the extent of that intervention is debated). Allende was a pawn in the pocket of the USSR, whose aim was to establish subordinate allies in the Americas.

And some more on socialists turning into fascists for you:

"On 22 August 1973 the Christian Democrats and the National Party members of the Chamber of Deputies voted 81 to 47, a resolution that asked the authorities[43] to put an immediate end to breach[es of] the Constitution . . . with the goal of redirecting government activity toward the path of Law and ensuring the Constitutional order of our Nation, and the essential underpinnings of democratic co-existence among Chileans.

The resolution declared that the Allende Government sought . . . to conquer absolute power with the obvious purpose of subjecting all citizens to the strictest political and economic control by the State . . . [with] the goal of establishing a totalitarian system, claiming it had made violations of the Constitution . . . a permanent system of conduct. Essentially, most of the accusations were about the Socialist Government disregarding the separation of powers, and arrogating legislative and judicial prerogatives to the executive branch of government.

Specifically, the Socialist Government of President Allende was accused of:

* ruling by decree, thwarting the normal legislative system
* refusing to enforce judicial decisions against its partisans; not carrying out sentences and judicial resolutions that contravene its objectives
* ignoring the decrees of the independent General Comptroller's Office
* sundry media offenses; usurping control of the National Television Network and applying ... economic pressure against those media organizations that are not unconditional supporters of the government...
* allowing its socialist supporters to assemble armed, preventing the same by its right wing opponents
* . . . supporting more than 1,500 illegal ‘takings’ of farms...
* illegal repression of the El Teniente miners’ strike
* illegally limiting emigration

Seeing as the history has not supported your claims, perhaps we could leave it to Ant to pen an article on the symbolic links between the two September 11ths?

There were 28 years between the two events:

28 divided by 2 = 14,
14 divided by 2 = 7 and 7 ....

7/7! Hey presto!

P.S. Bridget, I'm still waiting for details of my "spurious and blatantly erroneous contentions". Your erroneous contentions about Chile do nothing to undermine my contention that it is not illegal to vote for Marxist parties in the UK. It's just that very few people do.

furep said...

the gospel according to wikipedia. well done.

which bit of the word 'accused' don't you understand?

paul said...

And in no way does it prove the socialist = fascist theory

man gets elected
man's government works against vested interests
man scolded by allies for not using enough force
man denounced by opposition
man dies during armed coup
fascist takes over to vested interests' liking
presides over long reign of terror

Anonymous said...

No Wikipedia is not the gospel, furup, St. paul writes that. I was using Wikipedia because Bridget linked to it in her post.

Of course, when debating with a conspiratard, any source you use is biased. The source is only plausible if it conforms with the loon minority view. Otherwise, it's part of some wide-ranging conspiracy to suppress the truth, with the creepy and ever-present 'vested interests' lurking in the background.

Anonymous said...

man gets elected (on a slim majority aided by KGB funding)
man's government works against vested interests (eg, judiciary, constitution, media, farm owners, those who wish to leave.)
man scolded by allies for not using enough force (then don't rely on their money to get you into power)
man denounced by opposition (fair enough)
man dies during armed coup
(another) fascist takes over to vested interests' liking
presides over long reign of terror

The contention, paul, was that "if voting ever changed anything they'd make it illegal". This displays Bridget's complete ignorance of the number of changes brought about by voting in this country. Her evidence was Allende, a poor example and not from this country, but nevertheless the best she could come up with.

paul said...

Allende's elected government was a good example of that contention.
It was changing things and was violently replaced by a dictatorship that did get rid of those troublesome elections where people vote.

In this country, if a vote might change something, they just don't bother with it. E.g. The European constitution referendum.

In your facile equivalence between socialist and fascist, an elected president who is accused of violating the constitution and proposes resolution by popular vote, is the same as an unelected dictator who seizes power by force,suspends the constituion,bans opposition parties and murders opponents.

Anonymous said...

"In this country, if a vote might change something, they just don't bother with it. E.g. The European constitution referendum."

No paul, the Labour Party didn't bother with it, reneging on a manifesto commitment. Please be accurate in your posts, instead of always referring to this ubiquitous 'they'.

The Referendum Party was formed for the 1997 general election on the single issue of British membership of the European Union, taking nearly a million votes, mostly from the Conservatives.

UKIP, which came second in the 2009 European Elections with 13 seats, stands on a platform of withdrawal from EU integration.

The Conservative Party, long divided over Europe and in my view not to be trusted on past form, seems at last to be taking a more Euro-sceptic stance.

Also, most of the various far-left parties advocate withdrawal from the EU, as does the BNP.

I make no equivalence betwen socialist and fasicst, I only wish to show that socialist regimes very often take on the authoritarian characteristics of fascist regimes. This is because both far-left and far-right ideologies necessitate totalitarianism.

I did not claim that Allende and Pinochet were "the same", I pointed to the authoritarian tendencies which developed during Allende's short presidency and the fact that his slim majority was aided and by KGB funding. This brought him into the Soviet sphere of influence and on to an inevitable path of confrontation with the United States in the context of the Cold War. I fail to see how any of this supports an argument that 'they' would make voting illegal if it ever changed anything, even if you wish to take the debate to other parts of the world.

The Antagonist said...

No paul, the Labour Party didn't bother with it, reneging on a manifesto commitment.

That's democracy for you! Gotta love it. Vote for a party on the basis of something 'they' say and 'they' will do as they please all the same.

The Referendum Party was formed for the 1997 general election on the single issue of British membership of the European Union, taking nearly a million votes, mostly from the Conservatives.

That's single issue politics. Gotta love and vote that too. That'll sort everything out, as long as it revolves around the single issue.

The Conservative Party, long divided over Europe and in my view not to be trusted on past form

In the grand old Labour/Tory 'democracy' governance scheme of things that, by your own admission, is half-ish (feel free to argue the toss about the proportionality of 'half-ish') of the representatives of democracy done away with.

I defer to the late George Carlin who said:

I don't really, honestly, deep down believe in political action. I think the system contracts and expands as it wants to. I think it accommodates these changes.

I think the civil rights movement was an accommodation on the part of those who own the country. I think they see where their self-interests lie; they see a certain amount of freedom seems good. An illusion of liberty.

"Give these people a voting day every year so that they'll have the illusion of meaningless choice".

Meaningless choice that we go like slaves and say "I voted". They -- the limits of debate in this country are established before the debate even begins.

And everyone else is marginalised and made to seem like they're communists, or some sort of a disloyal person; a kook - there's a word - and now its conspiracy, see.

They've made that something that is-- that should not be even entertained for a minute! That powerful people might get together and have a plan! "Doesn't happen! You're a kook. You're a conspiracy buff."

paul said...

(another) fascist takes over to vested interests' liking
Looks like equivalence to me

Young Conserva-tard said...

Stochastics buff, democracy kook, paradigm theorist, student of hard-line-ism, non-admirer of Tommy Sheridan.

Left=right-ism, moral equivocation, coinci-tardery, student naivete, chip-on-shoulder syndrome, Glenn Beck-worship. Promotion of ad hominem-sexuality.

This teamed with all the debating skill and rapport-building, self-deprecating ease of the Bee Gees in a foul huff.

If you recognise this description, you could have what it takes to be the next Daniel Hannan or John Redwood.

Bridget said...

Was Capitalism 'elected' to be the system we toil under Anon?

The Antagonist said...

Pilger in the New Statesman: New Statesman - Megrahi was framed

Can't help but wonder if there's an unwritten 20 year rule on the writing of dissenting articles about acts of terror for which the blame is easily, conveniently and politically expediently ascribed.

Anonymous said...

"That's democracy for you! Gotta love it. Vote for a party on the basis of something 'they' say and 'they' will do as they please all the same."

Then don't vote for the Labour Party, which is mostly made up of pro-European MPs, and especially not 'New' Labour, which has a proven track-record of lying. Seeing as you are inclined to scoff at democracy, can I take it you are antagonistic to democracy? I think it's time that you informed readers of your alternative Ant, I for one am just dying to hear it!

"That's single issue politics. Gotta love and vote that too. That'll sort everything out, as long as it revolves around the single issue."

So you are antagonistic towards both wingnut politics and single issue politics, in addition to democracy? The purpose of the Referendum Party was to take votes from the Conservative Party, thereby forcing it to realign with its broadly Euro-sceptic support. They knew that they stood no chance of getting into power on a single issue that most people couldn't care less about. UKIP indirectly performs the same function today, with the result that the Tories are now aligned with a Euro-sceptic and reformist coalition within the EP.

"In the grand old Labour/Tory 'democracy' governance scheme of things that, by your own admission, is half-ish (feel free to argue the toss about the proportionality of 'half-ish') of the representatives of democracy done away with."

That's democracy for you Ant! The trouble is that people tend to disagree with each other (take the infighting at Socialist [dis]Unity for example). Some Tories, for instance, believe European integration is a good thing for this country, others do not. There is a genuine ideological difference of opinion and it splits both the party and its support. I would rather have the diluted politics of parliamentary democracy than be subject to the personal whim of a dictator, benign or otherwise. Your problem with democracy appears to be that you can't get your way. I'm afraid that isn't a problem with democracy Ant, it just means very few people agree with you.

Bridget- people elect capitalism every time they do not vote it out.

Young Conserva-tard- sorry, but I really don't know what you're blathering on about. Please construct sentences next time.

paul- I don't want to get into another interminable stoat/weasel-type debate with you, but at pain of repeating myself: I do not claim that all socialists are fascists, only that the socialist revolutionary very often behaves like a fascist once he is in power. When Ant finally informs us off his alternative theory of government, you will very quickly see where it is going.

Bridget said...

Anon said: "Bridget- people elect capitalism every time they do not vote it out".

You failed to answer me, when was it 'elected' in?

Anonymous said...

I do not think you are in a position to lecture me on answering questions Bridget, but here goes.

While researching my answer, I came across this, which sums up my argument nicely so I don't have to bother typing it out:

Capitalism is Not a System

"One of the common misperceptions about capitalism is that it's a system. To wit (via King):
"The capitalist economy is on the verge of collapse. Capitalism as a system has failed," Ahmadinejad said in a speech at the opening of the Economic Cooperation Organization summit in Tehran.

As an old boss of mine used to quip: consider the source. Source considered.

More to the point, though. To be a system, something has to be created and controlled from above. Capitalism, on the other hand, is what emerges when people are given the liberty to contract with whom and how they see fit. In other words, capitalism is not something that is created nor imposed, as folks like Naomi Kline and her ilk may feel. Capitalism is that thing we see when we give people economic freedom. It is, therefore, not a system.

Communism and socialism, on the other hand, are things that must be imposed from above. They involve commanding and controlling the ownership of resources and output and, therefore, involve imposition by government bureaucrats. Both involve forcibly taking from some to give to others. In short, both communism and socialism are systems, systems that have failed miserably to improve human society."

So in answer to your question, it wasn't elected in and it's about as old as when man first realised that farming was more efficient than running around spearing things. And that was a long time before we could vote.

Next, please.

Bridget said...

I agree with Ahmadinejad, Capitalism is a system, an economic system, a system of production based on private ownership. Source? The dictionary.

As for voting, working-class men of the non-property owning masses could go and die for 'King & country' in the great Imperialist slaughter of 1914 - 1918, yet couldn't vote. That 'right' wasn't granted until 1918 and then only to men over 21 and certain property-owning women over 30.

All is change, all is process, Capitalism, now in crisis, has not been and will not be here forever.

Tom said...

"Both involve forcibly taking from some to give to others."

Is that like Thatcher proclaiming that the North can have a dole cheque while Southerners are entitled to a job with a wage?

Next.... said...


The Antagonist said...

"Capitalism is not a system", by an Academic Economist on the Power of Markets.

Next week: "Why the bible is great", by The Pope, leader of the worldwide Catholic Church; "Hitler was misunderstood", by Josef Goebbels, Minister of Propaganda, etc, etc.

Consider the source.

Source considered, except not by Anonymous James.

The Antagonist said...

Next - Thanks for the video link, will endeavour to check out the series.

Anonymous said...

There is no such thing as an impartial source Ant, did you not study history? What you have failed to do is read the source and make an argument for why it is wrong. In any case, why shouldn't an "academic economist" comment on the subject of economics? Oh, I remember, because the source is only acceptable if it conforms with the loon minority view. Otherwise... yep, you guessed it... it's a conspiracy!

Both Bridget and you appear to have missed the point about "considering the source". I have a sneaking suspicion that the author means to convey that it's a bit fucking rich for Ahmadinejad to go about lecturing to the West on the failure of Capitalism considering that:

a) He is perilously close to fucking up the economy of his own country. In fact, if it weren't for all that black gold under the ground then Iran would be a basket-case by now.

b) He hides the above failure by provoking America and whipping up the kind of nationalist fervour that ought to make a loon cry 'fascist!' (But then he's neither white nor Western, so I suppose in your eyes he can't be that.)

c) He rigs elections. (I suppose that's OK because you don't have much time for democracy either Ant.)

"They have invented a myth that Jews were massacred and place this above God, religions and the prophets."

-Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (aspiring Conspiraloon)

Consider the source. In this case the source is clealy one or two sandwiches short of a picnic.

The Antagonist said...

Consider the source. In this case the source is clealy one or two sandwiches short of a picnic.

I'm reminded of that with each and every one of your obtuse comments.