Thursday, November 29, 2007


MAO: A LIFE by Philip Short, New York, Henry Holt and Company, 2000. 782pp. [Part 16-finis]
Reviewed by Thomas Riggins

This is an important work. Over the next few weeks I will be making entries one chapter at a time (there are sixteen). Comments are invited, especially from anyone who has read the book and wants to critique my take on a chapter, but anyone is welcome to comment.


Short's epilog is a mixed bag. It was written around eight years ago in 1998 or 1999 so some his ideas about "capitalism" in China may be dated. But to the point.

About a month after Mao's death Hua Guofeng arranged to have the Gang of Four arrested and removed from power. Within two years Deng had been both rehabilitated and had ousted Hua from power.

Short says Mao was correct in his view of Deng Xiaoping. Deng "was a 'capitalist-roader all along -- and the moment he was in a position to do so, he began dismantling the socialist system Mao had built and putting a bourgeois dictatorship in its place. There was indeed a bourgeois class within the Communist Party and the country did indeed 'change its political colour.'

The problem with this assessment is that at the time of Mao's death and Deng's rise to power, there was no bourgeoisie in China capable of coming to power. Neither Deng nor any other CPC leaders or functionaries owned the means of production in China-- which were basically state owned or owned by communes. In terms of a Marxist understanding a bourgeois dictatorship in China would have been impossible. Even today, while a bourgeois class has come to exist in China, it is far from having control of the state apparatus.

Deng and the CPC embarked on a program to modernize China simply because the anarchy of he Cultural Revolution (and the general backwardness of the country) had left the economy in shambles. Socialism requires an advanced modern economy to have any chance of ultimate success. The CPC under Deng made a quite orthodox decision to open up China and use the market (ultimately controlled and directed by the state) to overcome feudal backwardness. This was a process initiated by Mao himself when he invited Nixon to visit.

In 1981 the CPC rendered a verdict on Mao's role. It was the same verdict he himself had rendered on Stalin-- i.e., he was 70% correct and 30% wrong in what he had done. Short spends a lot of time going over the question of how many people died as a result of Mao's policies. The numbers who died under Hitler, Stalin, and Mao are compared.

These numbers are all contentious and ultimately meaningless and unverifiable. Great historical transformations are not the result of this or that individual. Revolutions and wars are like hurricanes and earthquakes. They break out as a result of forces and pressures that build up over time and are ultimately independent of the human will. Is Lincoln responsible for all the deaths of the Civil War? Is President Johnson, this one foolish individual, the cause of all the deaths from the Vietnam War?

Neither Stalin, Mao nor Hitler ever personally killed anyone.[It is actually obscene to compare Hitler with Mao or Stalin]. Would their policies have been possible without the mindset of the people who followed their leadership and shared their values: a mindset created by the previous history of Russia, China and Germany and the development of capitalism and imperialism. Is Adam Smith responsible for all the deaths due to the transformations brought about by the wars over markets and resources waged by the invisible hand?

These two sentences from Short point up the confusions. Mao's "rule brought about the deaths of more of his own people than any other leader in history." "The overwhelming majority of those whom Mao's policies killed were unintended casualties of famine." The fact they were unintended, Short says, "puts him in a different category from other twentieth-century tyrants."

Individual leaders must of course accept responsibility for their actions. But the contexts that they are forced to confront cannot be ignored. That is why when all is said and done, Short is correct to conclude that, "A final
verdict on Mao's place in the annals of his country's past is still a very long way off."

This view is the view of most of the Chinese themselves. It is echoed in the special issue of Beijing Review of October 5, 2006 on the 30th anniversary of Mao's death ["Mao Today: How does his legacy still influence China?"]

His legacy is really "in flux." One article tells us how "the little red book" is used by the new Chinese capitalists for inspiration! One was able to get market share from foreign capitalists "by adopting Mao's military tactic of 'using the countryside to encircle cities.'" It seems many Chinese companies urge their workers to study Mao for his "spirit of rebellion" and innovative thought. This information comes from a section entitled "Mao as business guru." If US corporations want to remain competitive, I suggest their CEO's start reading Mao at once!

Elsewhere the article says the poor read him because they want to regain the social benefits lost in recent years. A university professor is quoted: "Mao is still the most popular among the farmers, many of whom face growing hardship 'Through holding memorial activities for Mao, the farmers hope the gap between urban and rural areas will narrow.'" Mao as a god!

I will conclude with a quote from Gao Hua of Nanjing University: "Mao's phenomenon is the outcome of China in a transitional period, from an imperial country to a republic . At the turn of the new century, China is facing new challenges , which requires new thinking and new systems. So all the reflections on Mao should be future-oriented."

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Thomas Riggins

"GREECE : STRIKES AGAINST PENSION CHANGE BEGIN" so begins a World Briefing entry by Anthee Carassava in today's New York Times International section (11/27/07).

The capitalist neoliberal assault on worker's rights in the EU is not confined to France. There is a general trend, since the fall of the USSR and the Eastern European worker's states, to roll back the gains of the European working class since the end of WW2.

The reasons are the same in Greece as in France. "Striking teachers marched through Athens streets, part of a planned wave of strikes against what unions describe as government plans to raise retirement ages and cut benefits to millions of future retirees."

It's not just the teachers. The journalists union was supposed to to go on strike today for 24 hours, and a GENERAL STRIKE [why don't we have those here?] is "scheduled for Dec. 12."

In the same World Briefing, the AP reports that doctors in Italy have walked off the job across the country. "Unions representing 135,000 medical workers called the walkout to protest stalled negotiations over contracts."

More strikes are planned by other unions, AP reports. A "series of strikes on Friday... are expected to idle many trains, ferries and planes, as well as buses and subway trains."

The most effective fight back would be an EU wide coordinated GENERAL STRIKE committee as more attacks on the workers in other EU countries are being planned by the corporations and capitalist elites and their governments.

from PAEditorsBlog


Thomas Riggins

These comments are based on Adam Tooze's review of the Davies book [Europe at War] in the TLS of 11-16-2007. Tooze has a low opinion of both the book and of Davies' scholarship. This is why.

Davies has a right wing revisionist view of the history of WW2 and uses his book as the basis for an attack on the USSR wherein he argues for the moral equivalency of the USSR and Nazi Germany. "The war in Europe was dominated by two evil monsters, not by one. Each of the monsters consumed the best people in its territory before embarking on a fight to the death for supremacy."

Tooze says Davies' "unrelenting revisionism" needs "a disciplined presentation of reasoning and evidence." Davies book fails this test. Some of the statistics and casualty figures he uses, especially concerning loss of life caused by the allies in the air war, to bolster his arguments are BOGUS. He mentions a nonexistent air raid on Berlin, for example and cites some figures "preferred only by propagandists of the extreme right."

Tooze says it "is hard to take seriously" some of Davies' assertions. It appears that Tooze rejects "moral equivalence" but points out that Davies' is really beating a dead horse. The consensus of Western historians for the last generation is that "Stalin's Soviet Union was an oppressive regime of extreme brutality."

A second major point Davies wants to make is that the Eastern Front was more important than the Western. This too has been settled for a long time. It "was Stalin's forces," Tooze writes, "that played the main part in the battlefield defeat of Hitler's Wehrmacht."

Davies book is also notable for "imprecision about sources and methods." In general, "Davies fails to make good on his polemical intent." But Davies does put forth some information that Western readers in general are probably unaware of. We tend to think that D Day was the greatest military operation of WW2. But D Day was not as important as Operation Bagration on the Eastern Front. Launched by the Soviet Union on 6-22-1944, "This assault," Tooze points out, "which resulted in the destruction of an entire German army group in a matter of weeks, is widely regarded as the single most dramatic operation conducted by any Allied army in the entire war."

However, since the Red Army can do no good, Davies attributes the victory of Operation Bagration mostly to Lend Lease and Soviet numbers, "the familiar excuse of the Wehrmark."

For those of us who have read Michael Parenti's work on the exaggerated numbers of people killed by Stalin [Blackshirts & Reds: Rational Fascism and the Overthrow of Communism, City Lights Books, San Francisco, 1997], Davies bogus numbers will be all too familiar, especially his use of "Robert Conquest's discredited numbers for the famine of the 1930s...." In any event, Davies' attempt to find a "moral equivalence" between the Nazis and the Soviets doesn't hold water and is just an example of right wing JUNK HISTORY being passed off as scholarship. Tooze is no friend of Stalin, but he concludes we can't really understand the complexities of WW2 and the Eastern Front "if we adopt Davies 's moralistic lens."

You can read more about Norman Davies in Wikipedia, from which this tidbit comes: "Davies’ historical treatment of the Holocaust was cited as a factor in a controversy at Stanford University in which Davies was denied a tenured faculty position for alleged 'scientific flaws'." Stanford!

from PAEditorsBlog

Monday, November 26, 2007


MAO: A LIFE by Philip Short, New York, Henry Holt and Company, 2000. 782pp. [Part 15]
Reviewed by Thomas Riggins

This is an important work. Over the next few weeks I will be making entries one chapter at a time (there are sixteen). Comments are invited, especially from anyone who has read the book and wants to critique my take on a chapter, but anyone is welcome to comment.

CHAPTER 16 "Things Fall Apart"

We are now coming to the end game. The minor pieces have been swept from the board and the major pieces remain be to carefully paced around the King. After the Ninth Congress (1969), Short tells us, that in the PB there were two antagonistic players with about equal support-- namely Lin Biao and Jiang Qing.

They had basically the same politics, so their struggle was over raw power, "to win the Chairman's favour." Mao thought he could control the situation, but, as Short will explain, the rivalry between Lin and Jiang "would blow apart all Mao's carefully laid plans to ensure that his policies survived him."

Short now tells us how Lin Biao fell from power. After Liu Shaoqi was removed from the scene there was no one who was "Head of State. "Lin tried to get Mao to take that post. Mao got it into his head that Lin was trying "to kick him upstairs" into a ceremonial post and trying to take the actual ruling of China himself.

In August 1970 at a CC plenum, Lin gave a speech praising Mao as a "genius." The next day Chen Boda, an ally of Lin, attacked Zhang Chunqiao, an ally of Jiang Qing for being covertly against "Mao Zedung Thought." Chen then proposed Mao for Head of State with Lin as deputy Head of State.

This however backfired, as Mao considered Zhang as one of his allies, not simply the ally of his wife. He denounced Chen (who was soon purged) and definitely refused to become "Head of State." In fact the post was abolished. "In formal terms," Short writes, "Lin himself emerged unscathed." But, Short says, he made a big mistake not to have "made a groveling self-criticism" to Mao about how his allies, led by Chen, could have acted the way they did.

Mao became suspicious of Lin and decided to reduce some of his power as Defense Minister. By August of 1971 Mao was ready to act. He took a special train to Wuhan and stopped along the way to talk to political and military leaders about the Chen Boda affair of the previous year. He suggested that Lin Biao was also partially responsible for the factional fight
Chen had tried to start.

Word of these meetings got back to Lin and his followers in September. Lin's son Lin Liguo was active in convincing his father that they should flee to the Soviet Union before he ended up like Liu Shaoqi! So Lin and some of his family fled in a military aircraft which was only partially fueled!

The flight was reported to Mao but he ordered the air force to do nothing. "The skies will rain;" he said, "widows will remarry; these things are unstoppable. Let them go."

They got as far as Mongolia before the fuel ran out, then the plane crashed and everyone was killed, Lin, his son and wife, his driver and another five people. Sic transit.

Short is a little hard on Mao in the aftermath of all this. He tries to read Mao's mind, a risky procedure for any biographer. All we know is that Mao became very depressed and was bed ridden for two months "with high blood pressure and a lung infection." Short says this was "psychosomatic." and he was really just unable to handle the fact that Lin and fled instead making obeisance to him. Short himself, later makes remarks that indicate that Mao's illness was far from self induced. He says for instance that Mao was suffering from "congestive heart failure" and a few months later when he passed out it was due to his still infected lungs. Neither of these are "psychosomatic."

Mao was, however, in a funk. First Liu and now Lin. It seemed to be bad news for anyone Mao chose to succeed him. Throughout the Party and in the country, except for zealous Red Guard youth, Short says the fall of Lin produced a "general cynicism." What changed the situation was the announcement that President Nixon was going to visit China-- this "after" as Short says, "twenty years of unblinking hostility."

I'm not going to go over all the backdoor dealings that led up to this meeting. It began, as some of you might remember, with Ping Pong Diplomacy, when a US Ping Pong team was invited to China (a thaw) and culminated with Nixon's trip in February 1972.

The trip resulted in two major changes in the world configuration of forces. It signaled that China had come of age as a world power and was going to be integrated into the world system (it eventually replaced Taiwan on the UN Security Council, veto and all) and it meant the end of Mao's phantasy that China would be a beacon unto the nations as the new world revolutionary center.

Nixon, who knew what he was doing, wanted to be open with China because he knew the US was going down in Vietnam and he hoped friendship with China would slow down or prevent other dominoes from falling! Short quotes from an article Nixon wrote a year earlier where he said the US should deal with China "as a great and progressing nation, not as the epicentre of world revolution." And this is what has come to pass.

A telling moment in the meeting between Mao and Nixon is recounted by Short. Mao said to Nixon, "People like me sound like a lot of big cannons. For example, things like 'the whole world should unite and defeat imperialism..." -- after this comment both Zhou Enlai and Mao "laughed uproariously." The giant Red Star over China was becoming a white dwarf.

Mao was also thinking of a new successor. Past experience would indicate this was not an enviable job. He decided on Wang Hongwen (who ended up in the Gang of Four), a 39 year old CC member from Shanghai "whose General Headquarters had engineered the Cultural Revolutions first 'seizure of power' almost six years before."

Mao also realized that he had better start "rehabilitating" the "old guard" if he wanted to have stability and experienced people handling the country after he was gone. So he brought back "the number two Party person taking the capitalist road"-- Deng Xiaoping -- as a vice-premier.

In 1973 the 10th Party Congress took place. This Congress put into motion Mao's plan for a "mix of radicals and veteran cadres to rule China" when he departed. Wang Hongwen was ranked #3 after Mao and Zhou Enlai. Later he put Deng in charge of the PLA. His grand plan was to have Deng run the government and Wang the Party with Wang having ultimate authority. Short says that Mao's plan was finally in place by the summer of 1974 but "again it would turn out to be a house of cards."

Now another bout of factional struggle broke out. Mao, Short says, was trying to do the impossible by melding together the radicals and the veterans. The symbolic union of this plan was the partnership between Wang and Deng. "The fatal flaw in the logic of Mao's arrangements," Short writes, "came from the tension inspired by his contradictory impulses towards radicalism and reason."

To use a crude dialectical analogy, the opposite trends symbolized by Wang and Deng were not really transcended in the new synthesis represented by the Tenth Congress. The synthesis was really held together by the force of Mao's authority so it was artificial, and exterior rather than an immanent synthetic growth and reconciliation from within the Party. Now Mao's health was failing, he was to be in a bad way for the last two years left to him. Whenever his hand was relaxed due to his ailments the two groups represented by Wang and Deng "grew into warring factions."

A month before the opening of the Tenth Congress, Mao had opened an initiative for a big campaign to attack Confucius. Ostensibly this was really to attack the remaining followers of Lin Biao. It was claimed that Lin Biao was an admirer of Confucius and, Short says, "of the feudal landlord system that the sage extolled in his writings." [Historical note: Confucius did not leave behind any writings nor did he "extol feudalism. What we actually know about his thought comes from the Analects, a work compiled by his followers-- Cf. my "Confucius: A Marxist Dialogue" archived on my blog or at PAEditors Blog.].

Short thinks that Zhou Enlai was the real target and that Mao was following the Chinese precept of "pointing at the locust tree in order to revile the mulberry." Confucius was not really the problem, nor was Lin. It appears that the real instigator of this movement was Jiang Qing and her manipulating of Mao.

Jiang Qing accused Zhou of "being impatient" to replace Mao. Mao thought this ridiculous and, Short says, told Zhou and Wang Hongwen that it was Jiang Qing who was impatient to be rid of him. Zhou was very sick with cancer and was beyond plotting against Mao. Since the 30s he had been loyal to Mao in any case. Probably due to his illness Zhou gave up his foreign minister role to Deng Xiaoping. Meanwhile, the struggle against Confucius "became a full-fledged national movement."

But Jiang Qing used this movement for her own factional purposes, which were to undermine Zhou and keep Deng from getting too much influence so that she might assume the real power after Mao was gone. Mao figured this out and struck back.

Short recounts that at the PB meeting of 17 July 1974 he stated that Jiang Qing "does not represent me, she only represents herself." He also attacked his nominal successor Wang Hongwen, who was a weak reed and instead of staying above the factional struggles had joined with Jiang Qing. Mao denounced Wang for being "in a small faction of four people." This was the origin of the famous "Gang of Four" [Wang Hongwen, Jiang Qing, Zhang Chunqiao and Yao Wenyuan.]

After this meeting, the Gang of Four, instead of learning from Mao's rebuke, redoubled its efforts to undermine Zhou and Deng. Mao began to think of Wang, his number 2, as a fool. As a result he promoted Deng and gave him more authority, saying he was "a person of extraordinary ability with a firm ideological standpoint." After January 1975, the CC meetings were no longer chaired by Zhou [too sick] or Wang [Mao was going to dump him] but by Deng [but not for long!].

Nevertheless,Mao still dreamed of a unified leadership. So he wanted one of the radicals to have power too, as "a counterweight to Deng." Wang was a fool, so he was out. Jiang Qing "was the kiss of death" as too many of the rank and file were against her. Yao was too inexperienced. That left Zhang Chunqiao, so he "was appointed Second Vice -Premier [Deng was First] and head of the PLA General Political Department.

Since it was obvious Zhou was very sick and on his way out, the anti-Confucius movement tapered off. Instead the Gang of Four concentrated on Deng. Mao, however, wanted a united party and a program to modernize China to prepare for the 21th Century. He and Zhou, Short writes, drew up a program "for modernising agriculture, industry, defense and science and technology before the end of the century, so that our national economy will be ... in the world's front rank."

Deng and his allies went to work to get this new program off the ground and up and running. His work was attacked by the Gang of Four as "empiricism" -- "a code-word for Deng's emphasis on solving practical problems rather than giving attention to politics and ideology."

Mao, who wanted unity in the Party now, attacked the anti-empiricists as "dogmatists" and stated that both sides were examples of Revisionism. He also soon realized that Zhang would not be a good sucessor so he decided on a more neutral figure, Hua Guofeng.

Meanwhile, the Gang of Four kept up its anti-Deng struggle. At this time, Deng made a slip. The message Mao was getting was that once he was gone Deng would renounce the Cultural Revolution.

So Mao asked Deng to give a report and judgment of the CR. Deng thought it was 70% correct and 30% wrong (Short says this was his usual formula in evaluating things [very mechanical it seems]). He "politely declined' the assignment. Mao surmised that Deng did not want to go on record saying anything really positive about the CR.

This led to Mao's opinion that "the capitalist-roaders are still on the capitalist road." By the end of 1975 Deng had not lost his positions, but "for all practical purposes ... had been stripped of his responsibilities."

[It is interesting to note that Deng did eventually come to power, reject the Cultural Revolution and, many think, firmly put China on the capitalist road. Yet the road he took fulfilled Mao's program to put China in the front ranks of the world's powers. What road China is on is a matter of dispute.]

In early January 1976 Zhou Enlai died. There was a spontaneous out pouring of grief from the Chinese people that took Mao and the Gang of Four leadership by surprise. A low key funeral had been planned but the people staged unofficial demonstrations of grief. On Jan. 15 Deng gave the official eulogy "but it was to be his last public appearance."

In April, Hua Guofeng became First Vice-Chairman of the CPC and the Premier of China. It was obvious that Mao was failing (he died five months later) and the Gang of Four was not happy with the idea of the chairmanship going to Hua. Short says, however, that it was the "arrogance and stupidity" of Jiang Qing which would ultimately lead to the downfall of the Gang.

Mao died on September 9, 1976. The journey of a thousand li that had begun on December 26, 1893 was over. It had lasted 83 years, 8 months and 14 days.

[The final installment of this review is coming up]

Monday, November 19, 2007


Marx’s Revenge: The Resurgence of Capitalism and the Death of Statist Socialism by Meghnad Desai, Verso, pp. 372.

Reviewed by Thomas Riggins

Meghnad Desai is the Director of the Centre for the study of Global Governance at the London School of Economics, and Marx’s Revenge is his screed to the glories of globalization, free trade, and the everlastingness of capitalism. This is the on-line version of the review, slightly revised, from the print version.

Desai's thesis is not only that globalization is good for us, but if Marx were around today he would give it his blessing and reject as reactionary the anti-globalization movement that arose out of the demonstrations in Seattle. Marx’s “Revenge” is thus, while it may seem as if Marxism got a kick in the teeth with the collapse of Eastern European socialism and the U.S.S.R. and with the untrammeled rise of globalization, actually this is all happening in accord with Marx’s theory of the development of capitalism. It is a proof, not a refutation of Marxism. (But not your grandmother’s Marxism).

Briefly put, Desai’s argument goes like this. Marx saw capitalism expanding over the whole surface of the globe and it would not be replaced until it was no longer able to grow and develop. The attempt to build socialism in under developed areas resulted in the creation of distorted and backwards regimes which were actually forms of a primitive kind of state capitalism unable to successfully compete, over the long haul, with “free market” forms of advanced Western style capitalism. “[T]he USSR was a Third World country.”

Globilization is the historically necessary development of world wide capitalist integration and must be completed before “socialism” is even on the agenda. Globilization is thus progressive and humane in so far as it is the most advanced type of economic system for the foreseeable future. “Capitalism provides the means for eliminating poverty.” (War, famine, and AIDS will eliminate the poor, you can’t have poverty without them.)

In fact, socialism may never be on the agenda since capitalism will eventually collapse only if it has unsolvable internal contradictions which will make it break down and necessitate its replacement. But we have today a better understanding of the internal dynamics of capitalism than in Marx’s day, and ways have been found to eliminate or resolve such contradictions so that capitalism can hang around forever.

This interpretation is based on Desai’s understanding of Marxism and just what capitalism is and what socialism is (and isn’t). If he has a confused and screwed up understanding of these subjects his theory can be dismissed as just so much hot air and capitalist apologetics.

The following doesn’t bode well for him. Early on he tells us there were two main types of socialism in the 20th Century. They were communism (USSR) a “variant of social democracy” and fascism (Germany) “the other variant of socialism” [which] “for many, held out real promise.” It seems that all you have to do to qualify as a “socialist” for Desai is use the word in your party name “National Socialists”. This does not show a high level of analytical understanding.

Desai realizes that the future of capitalism depends upon the law of the declining rate of profit. It is this law which eventually dooms the system. For capitalism to survive it must suspend the operation of this law not merely, as Marx thought, retard it. The solution, according to Desai, is provided by Keynes. Demand can be stimulated by government spending which will allow for profitability and thus escape from the law. Governments have learned how to construct capitalism with a human face it seems.

We are further informed that. “By the late twentieth century, the imperialist episode in world history had passed.” As for Lenin’s Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism, we are informed that it begins with “muddled thinking” and is “not by any means Lenin’s most cogent work.” Desai knows very well that if Lenin’s views in Imperialism are still relevant his own theory is off course. But who today, looking at US foreign policy and the continuing economic exploitation by both Europe and the US of the Third World (Desai says “alleged” exploitation), with any understanding of how capitalism works could believe that the era of imperialism has passed?

What else can we “learn” from Desai? That America’s “only imperial experience” in the nineteenth century “was the Spanish-American War.” But then how did two-thirds of Mexico end up American? Genocide against Native Americans doesn’t seem to rate as “imperial” behavior. We are also told that Black Americans have become “a full part of civil society.” Finally, the struggle is over!

More importantly, Desai often misreads Marx. An example from page 141 of his text where he completely misses the meaning Marx intends in the following passage from Capital. He quotes Marx as saying, “the degree of exploitation of [the] wage labourer remains indecently low” in America.

Desai makes much of this quote and wonders how American capitalists can make profits with “indecently low” rates of exploitation. But Marx’s comment is meant to be satirical not literal. He is making fun of the views expressed by E.G. Wakefield in his work "England and America" and its portrayal of “the abstemious capitalist.”

Desai gives Trotsky credit for the theory that revolution might break out in a country that is the “weakest link” in the capitalist system (which had already been put forth by Marx and Engels long before Trotsky).

I could go on, the book is replete with historical errors, misunderstandings of Marx’s writings, and perverse readings of contemporary history. Such as insinuating that the violence at the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago was caused by student protesters (it was a police riot), or maintaining that the IMF can’t see to it that their economic policies don’t hurt the poor in developing countries because it has “to respect the sovereignty of these countries.”

Finally, the Great Depression is blamed on Stalin [there is no end to the evil of this man]! It was brought about by agricultural oversupply “thanks to Soviet collectivization and dumping by Russian farmers.”

In summary, Marx’s Revenge lacks credibility as a theoretical contribution to the understanding of the nature of the present day processes of globalization.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


by Thomas Riggins

Slavoj Zizek begins his new article in the London Review of Books (11-15-07) with the words, “One of the clearest lessons of the last few decades is that capitalism is indestructible.” He thus joins a crowd of commentators who confuse historically temporary configurations of power with permanent, almost metaphysically substantive economic relations of necessity.

Nevertheless, the name of his article, “Resistance Is Surrender,” is an indication that he does not agree, as we shall see from his musings, with the new ideas on how to invigorate the Left based on this assumption-- yet his recommendations turn out to be a species of that pauper's broth both Marx and Engels said was served up by their erstwhile critics

But, first things first. Zizek lists eight ways in which the “Left” reacts to “the hegemony of global capitalism and its political supplement, liberal democracy.” His “Left” is very broad and seems to include everyone from the “US Democrats” to “Hugo Chavez.”

Of the eight responses to capitalist hegemony one is political and the other seven are either redundant or abstract responses of European and American intellectuals or third world utopians. The working class is barely mentioned. Here are the eight responses:

1. Classical Social Democracy, the Third Way, the “fight for reform” within the the rules of the capitalist system. This is just an acceptance of the TINA doctrine [There Is No Alternative].

2. Capitalism is “here to stay” but can fought “from its ‘interstices.’” Whatever this means, it is still a form of TINA.

3. Resistance is futile. The Left has to wait “for an outburst of ‘divine violence”-- “a revolutionary version of Heidegger’s ‘only God can save us.’” Heidegger!? If this is supposed to mean we should sit around until capitalism falls apart due to its internal contradictions, this is just a version of the old mechanical view that since socialism is inevitable we don’t have to do anything but wait for it to happen. This is functionally a TINA position in practice.

4. This view is really a repeat of the previous view (3): we defend what we have already got in the way of reform “till the revolutionary spirit of the global working class is renewed.” We do this by making unrealistic demands that can’t be granted and retire “into cultural studies” to “pursue the work of criticism.” This is intellectual social activism? This is definitely a TINA view.

5. The Left concludes that capitalism is the result of technology AKA “instrumental reason.” Well, what can be done about technology. We are not about to abolish it. TINA again.

6. We build alternative practices to those of the state-- a new world-- until the the state is undermined until, some time in the future, it just collapses.
This sounds pretty utopian. Zizek cites the Zapatistas as an example. Zizek doesn’t seem to think this a viable alternative. It at least has the advantage of not being a species of TINA.

7. This position Zizek calls "the 'postmodern' route." He calls it a multisided struggle against capitalism based on "discursive rearticulation." I'm not quite sure what this is, but since most "postmodern" discourse is meaningless intellectual abstraction is doesn't look very promising Perhaps Zizek will rearticulate what it means in another article.

8. Another "postmodern" move is based on the work of Hardt and Negri. Well, their book "Empire" was pretty unimpressive so I don't think their attempts, according to Zizek, to bring about "the 'determinate negation' of capitalism" through "today's rise of 'cognitive work'" leading to "absolute democracy" has much promise (or meaning for that matter.)

Zizek tells us that the defeat of the Left has brought about these eight positions not to avoid a "true" Left outlook, but to supply one. Except for number 6 they all appear as Euro-American schemes isolated from the working class and union movements (not including number 1 as social democracy has strong connections with the labor movement.)

What the postmodernist Left is trying to do, according to Zizek, is to offer a better way of becoming Left than., for example, what the Chinese Communists are doing (developing capitalism). That, by the way, is all he has to say about the complex situation going on in China. Or what European Social Democrats are doing. New Labour, for instance, in the UK under Blair (and now Brown) is really the perfection of Thatcherism.
The reckless imperial alignment with the neocon Bush administration and its aggressive wars of conquest give some support to this view.

In response to those who represent the old left, as well as the waffling Social Democrats, the new postmodern critics say "the task today ... is to resist state power by withdrawing from its terrain and creating new spaces outside of its control."

A prime example of this way of thinking is to be found in the book INFINITELY DEMANDING by Simon Critchley and which Zizek pans (hence the title of his article.) This is what Critchley thinks the Left should do in a nutshell (according to Zizek). Since the liberal capitalist state is here to stay, the Left should stay far from it and its institutions. The Left, in its never ending search for truth justice (and the Leninist way) should make demands from the state which it knows the state can never grant. Zizek and Critchley are not so open about this as a Marxist would like.

In our terms, I would say, since we can't get rid of monopoly capitalism and imperialism we should refuse to participate in any state agencies, we attack the state from the outside with impossible demands (universal guaranteed employment, fair housing, a non-interventionist foreign policy, etc.). Since the monopoly capitalist state exists to maximize the profits of its ruling capitalist class it can't really grant any of the demands of the Left (i.e., the real Marxist Left). This makes the state look bad and educates the working people, environmentalists, civil rights people, etc., as to the limitations of the state. It forces the state to make some slight cosmetic changes, but that's the best we can hope for. If this sounds to you suspiciously similar to what Lenin called economism, or perhaps like making maximal demands in hope of minimal reforms, I don't think you would be wrong on either count.

Zizek will concentrate his fire on the following passage from Critchley"s book: "Of course, history is habitually written by the people with the guns and sticks and one cannot expect to defeat them with mocking satire and feather dusters. Yet, as the history of ultra-leftist active nihilism eloquently shows, one is lost the moment one picks up the guns and sticks. Anarchic
political resistance should not seek to mimic and mirror the archic violent sovereignty it opposes."

Zizek rejects this. He asks if the US Democrats should "stop competing for state power" leaving it for the Republicans. But the Democrats and Republicans are so rapped up in each other, they are both ruling class parties after all, that it seems that the Democrats hardly qualify as a viable Left alternative. Better is his question about the Third Way social democratic alternative.

If capitalism can't be abolished,"Why not," he asks, "accept the basic premise of the Third Way?" That is, why not abandon the notion of abolishing the capitalist state and work as social democrats to reform it? Zizek thinks that Critchley's idea of standing outside the state and exposing it actually aids it by forming a "symbiotic relationship" between the protesters and the the state. He thinks the big anti-war demonstrations exemplify this. The protesters "saved their beautiful souls" [a snide reference to Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit] and Bush says this is an example of democracy, just what we want for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan to be able to do (but perhaps not at present those of Pakistan.)

Zizek seems impressed with Hugo Chavez's Boliverian Revolution. Surely we would not tell someone like Chavez to renounce state power and retreat to the side lines. Zizek could also have mentioned Evo Morales in Bolivia, or the still living example of the Cuban Revolution. So, on this issue of so-called "post modern" Left philosophy, at least anything similar to his explication of Critchley's thought, I find myself in agreement with him.

Zizek concludes that standing outside the state and making infinite and impossible demands is no threat at all to capitalism. The capitalists merely reply that, "Unfortunately, we live in the real world, where we have to make do with what is possible." But this is also the response of the Third Way and the US Democrats.

So, when Zizek concludes that, "The thing to do is ... to bombard those in power with strategically well-selected, precise, finite demands," which cannot be ignored by an appeal to the "real world", I can only wonder what types of demands he has in mind.

I am certainly for engagement. Right now the French transport workers are out on strike, as are the Broadway stagehands here in the US. The Marxist Left still advocates working class unity and a struggle to build up alliances with other progressive forces to support strikes and also to struggle in the realm of politics to directly influence the state and its policies. It would be a great achievement if the left forces in the USA could amalgamate on the Venezuelan model. I fear Third Way social democracy is no real alternative to monopoly capitalism.

Thomas Riggins is the book review editor of Political Affairs and can be reached at pabooks

Thursday, November 08, 2007


By Thomas Riggins

The liberal economist and New York Times op ed columnist Paul Krugman has just published a new book, THE CONSCIENCE OF A LIBERAL. It got a big write-up in The New York Review of Books by Michael Tomasky (11-22-07). Some of Krugman’s ideas will appeal to most reality based progressives. Here is a quote from his book, cited by Tomasky.

“The central fact of modern American political life is the control of the Republican Party by movement conservatives, whose vision of what American should be is completely antithetical to that of the progressive movement. Because of that control, the notion, beloved of political pundits, that we can make progress through bipartisan consensus is simply foolish.... “to be a progressive, then, means being a partisan --- at least for now. The only way a progressive agenda can be enacted is if Democrats have both the presidency and a large enough majority in Congress to overcome Republican opposition.”

The recent defection of two top Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee to the Republican side on the Mukasey confirmation vote is a case in point. The Bush administration’s use of torture could have been decisively rejected rather than rewarded had the Democratic majority been greater than just a few votes.

Right now, the Democrats and Republicans are basically in different ideological camps over war, torture, health insurance, environmental issues, and a host of other major issues. The Schumer-Boxer defection over Mukasey was not just some bipartisan deal to get the Justice Department functioning again. It was a real betrayal of the progressive direction the American voters elected this Congress to advance. After all, the Democrats had the votes to stop Bush’s man and his equivocations on torture, yet he was approved anyway.

So, the question is, can the Democrats really push forward a progressive agenda even if they have both the presidency and a bigger majority? What will keep them from still failing to solidly push a progressive people’s agenda instead of caving in to pressures from the corporate plutocracy and the military-industrial complex [MIC]"

Krugman tries to answer this question in an article in Monday’s New York Times (11-5-07).. Krugman thinks the long right wing control of national politics is about to end. He seems to envision a big Democratic sweep in 2008.

He is on tour now, promoting his book, and he says a good question that often comes up is, “How can you be so optimistic about the prospects for progressive change, when big money has so much influence on politics?”

Citing the research of recent polls, Krugman says that Americans have never, in recent history, been so fed up with how the government is being run and that two of the main reason’s are the failure of the misadventure in Iraq, and the growth of a new economic populism. There is widespread resentment against the abuses of the big corporations and the declining share of wealth available to the middle class.

“Longer-term studies of public opinion,” Krugman writes, “suggest a substantial leftward shift.” Well, the Democrats have controlled Congress for a year now and Bush’s agenda is still popping along with hardly any real challenges. Why hasn’t the “leftward shift” manifested itself more vigorously in the halls of Congress? One of the main reasons, according to Krugman, that “the Democrats are having trouble finding their voice is the influence of big money.”

Krugman cites some examples. First, the failure to get rid of tax loopholes that favor the very rich, at our expense, such as hedge fund managers who only have to pay a 15% tax rate on the millions (and billions) they rake in. Industry lobbyists have so far gotten the Democrats to drag their feet and delay taking any action. Another thing worries people who think the Democrats may sell out, and that is the closeness of Hillary Clinton to the MIC and its allies.

Krugman quotes an article from the Nation magazine: “Not only is Hillary more reliant on large donations and corporate money than her Democratic rivals, but advisors in her inner circle are closely affiliated with unionbusters, G.O.P. operatives, conservative media and other Democratic Party antagonists.” Hmmmm! It doesn’t seem as if we can expect too much from her.

Nevertheless, Krugman doesn’t think the cause is lost. The Democrats and Republicans are very different, he says. He mentions the fight for children’s health insurance and the fact that all the Democratic front-runners have new and progressive policies that they are pushing, as compared to the same old reactionary agenda pushed by the Republicans.

Nevertheless, he is worried about how things will turn out. He tells us about Al Smith, a great Democratic progressive, who ended economically right-wing and a critic of FDR and his policies. Krugman quotes H.L. Mencken’s explanation for the turnabout: “His association with the rich has apparently wobbled him and changed him. He has become a golf player.”

I see now where Krugman got the title for his NYT article: “Wobbled by Wealth?” I guess I’m not as optimistic as Krugman. I expect the worst from any capitalist party when it comes to fighting the MIC, et al. Krugman has a wait and see attitude. He ends his article thusly: “So, how wobbled are today’s Democrats? I guess we’ll find out.” Well, if the first year of the new Democratic Congress is any indication, progressives are going to have to push harder.

Monday, November 05, 2007


MAO: A LIFE by Philip Short, New York, Henry Holt and Company, 2000. 782pp. [Part 14]
Reviewed by Thomas Riggins

This is an important work. Over the next few weeks I will be making entries one chapter at a time (there are sixteen). Comments are invited, especially from anyone who has read the book and wants to critique my take on a chapter, but anyone is welcome to comment.

Chapter 15 "Cataclysm"

Having decided that a new rectification movement was necessary, Mao sent his wife, Jiang Qing, to Shanghai to lay the ground work for the new struggle. This is a truly Byzantine plot as it unfolds in Short's book and I will only go over the highlights.

The target of Mao's plot was Liu Shaoqi, the head of state and the putative successor of Mao himself. To remove him from the scene will take a complicated plan.

Peng Zhen was First Secretary of the Beijing Party and "deputy head of the Central Committee Secretariat, the core of the [CPC's] national machine." One step above Peng was Liu. One step below him was Wu Han an historian and Beijing deputy mayor. He was also a playwright and wrote "The Dismissal of Hai Rui." Hai was an official under the Ming Dynasty who defended the peasants against the imperial system.

Jiang Quing went to Shanghai [February, 1965] to get the literary critic Yao Wenyuan [later along with Jiang one of The Gang of Four] to attack the play as a secret attack on Mao by a cabal of capitalist roaders. The article was published in the paper Wenhuibao in Shanghai [November, 1965]-- the first shot of The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR).

Meanwhile, throughout 1965 and early 1966 Mao had been arranging his forces and little by little isolating his targets. Peng Zhen sensed that he might be the real target behind the critique of Wu Han and had, since he was the head of a "cultural revolution group" formed by the CC to fight revisionism in the arts, helped formulate what came to be called the "February Outline" [1966]. This stated that there was a great battle going on between "Mao Zedong Thought" and bourgeois views but that the battle was to be fought by the clash of ideas and not by "political means" [i.e., purges].

However, by April Peng had become isolated and Mao decided to purge him since he was judged to be really too bourgeois for his position due to the way he had conducted himself concerning Wu Han's play. Peng and a few of his top associates were removed from power for "taking the capitalist road."

By the middle of May Peng et al were out, the "cultural revolution group" he headed was dissolved and a new one created by the CC was led by Chen Boda [1904-89, in1969 became #4 in the leadership, purged 1970) (how brief is glory).

So, by Spring 1966, Mao had set up the mechanism to begin a great purge of capitalist roaders (the Cultural Revolution) "put in place a headquarters to direct it " [the new group headed by Chen] which bypassed "the Politburo and mainstream Party chain of command."

Since Liu and Deng were the real targets, as well as their allies on the CC and PB, it was necessary to mobilize forces outside of their control if they were to be brought down. The students, from the mid-level through the university level, had many complaints. Mao turned to them for support [as well to millions in the countryside] against the "party bureaucrats." "In retrospect," Short writes, "it is hard to understand how Liu and Deng could have misjudged so fundamentally Mao's intentions."

The reason Liu, Deng and others were caught, not off guard, but by being blindsided was that the idea Mao "had decided to unleash the masses against the Party itself was too far-fetched for any in the Politburo to believe."

Now the plot thickens. The students having been stirred up began their own revolutionary movement (encouraged by Chen Boda) against authority. They began taking over universities all over China, but especially in the Capital. Liu, the Head of State, consulted with Mao, and he and Deng then sent in Party "work teams" to restore order and dampen down the student protests.

For those of you who were around and politically active in July 1966, who can forget the great picture, in all the papers, of Mao's heading bobbing up and down as he swam around, near Wuhan, in the Yangtse River. This was to show that, at 72, the Chairman was still fit. A "metaphor," as Short says, "for throwing himself back into the fray."

In August, Mao called a plenum of the CC to lay down the basis for carrying out the GPCR. He criticized the "work teams' being sent to the universities which he called "an act of suppression and terror." Liu was getting attacked for doing what he thought Mao had approved. He made a self criticism.

By the time the plenum ended there was a new PB reflecting Mao's wishes. Liu had been replaced in second place by Lin Biao as "Mao's sole deputy, with the title Vice-Chairman." The Premier, Zhou Enlai, remained # 3 but the Head of State, formerly ranked # 2 , Liu Shaoqi was now # 8, behind his aide, Deng at # 6.

At the end of the plenum there was a rally for over a million Red Guards (the youth of China) who had come to Beijing. When Mao appeared the crowd went wild, his mere presence triggered "scenes of delirium among the young people" reminiscent of old newsreels from Germany in the 30s. Right cat, Left cat it makes no difference if it catches the mice.

The Red Guard them pledged to eliminate all Mao's enemies and destroy all manifestations of the nine "black categories"-- i.e., landlords, rich peasants, counter-revolutionaries, bad elements [rather broad], Rightists, traitors, spies, capitalists, and "stinking intellectuals." Young people all over China went on rampages of violence. murder, and torture killing old people and young. In some places the victims ranged "from a six-week old baby (the child of a 'reactionary family') to an old man in his eighties."

There is nothing one can really say. The GPCR was one of those great outbursts of human cruelty and violence that transcends religion, cultures or politics and reveals a side to the species that can only lead to despair. It's a black spot on Mao's reputation and that of his followers that can never be washed away. Mao even condemned people who had potted plants in their homes, or who kept birds, dogs or cats as pets: "legacies of feudalism."

Like some others in history, the Red Guards particularly disliked books.As a young man Mao had said "all the anthologies of prose and poetry published since the Tang and Song dynasties [should] be burned. Now was the time. Here is an eye witness account of what happened in the city of Amoy (one of many such incidents) in September of 1966:
"All the books that had been removed from the city libraries ...
were there -- the yellow, the black, and poisonous books. Most
of them were old hand-sewn volumes. 'The Golden Lotus' ... 'The
Romance of the Three Kingdoms', 'Strange Tales from a Chinese
Studio'-- all awaited burning. Shortly after 6 p.m., 50 kilograms of
kerosene were poured on the piles, which were then set afire.
The flames leapt three stories high ... [They] burned for three days
and nights."

Short says that later, "old books were sent to be pulped. In this way, many unique copies of Song and Ming dynasty texts were lost for ever." And this can't be blamed on the Japanese-- it was self inflicted. Its lucky for the great heritage of Chinese art that Chiang took the national art museum's collection to Taiwan with him when he fled.

As the movement grew, the Chinese press began to laud the miracle working power of Mao's "Little Red Book" [which no one dreamed of burning]. Reports were published of "how medical workers armed with it had cured the blind and the deaf; how a paralytic, relying on Mao Zedong Thought, had recovered the use of his limbs; how , on another occasion, Mao Zedong Thought had raised a man from the dead." This last one even tops Oral Roberts! Too bad they didn't send a copy to the Lenin mausoleum.

But was this really getting rid of the Old to bring forth the New. This was not something Mao just thought up. It was an exaggerated form of Emperor worship which had a long history in China. The GPCL was in reality a recidivist revival of the worst aspects of the very feudal and exploitative culture the revolution was supposed to have overthrown. The author of "On Contradiction" was now unmindful of the unity of opposites. The dead hand of the past was truly weighing heavily on the present.

Zhou Enlai put it succinctly: "Whatever accords with Mao Zedong Thought is right, while whatever does not accord with Mao Zedong Thought is wrong." That's the thesis. We know what the antithesis is. Today we see the synthesis working itself out.

Nevertheless, Short points out that both in the CC and the Party, radical supporters of the GPCR were in the minority. The radical students who made up the Red Guards were used to attack provincial party leaders and as they increased in numbers began to replace the party with Red Guard organizations.

This culminated with the Shanghai party committee being replaced by the Red Guards who wanted to rule Shanghai as a commune based on the model of the Paris Commune. Short says this was the logical outcome of the whole GPCR, which was to give power directly to the masses. But Mao was not willing, when push came to shove, to actually get rid of the Party and let the masses rule through direct democracy "with free elections and unrestricted political activity."

"There must be a Party somehow," Mao said. "There must be a nucleus, no matter what we call it." The Shanghai Commune was not to be, the model of the Paris Commune was given up [February, 1967]. This was the high tide of the movement. Since the Commune was the logical end point of the ideology of the GPCR and it had been rejected, the GPCR could only retrogress. Short says Mao was in "ideological retreat" and the movement now was one of "raw power" between Mao and the moderates of the Party grouped around Liu and Deng.

Meanwhile, different factions of the Red Guards began fighting one another, and the GPCR committees started to attack some of the old cadres in the PLA. Mao could no longer (after Feb. 1967) trust the PB and it became defunct. Instead he ruled through an enlarged Standing Committee of the PB and through the Cultural Revolution Group now run by Zhou Enlai.

In August of 1967 the Red Guards decided it was time purge the PLA of capitalist roaders. No emperor in his right mind attacks the Praetorian Guard. As he had in February with respect to the Shanghai Commune, Mao again put his foot down. The PLA would not be drawn into the political struggle. By this time too, ultra-left units in the Red Guards were attacking other Red Guards and had also burned down the British Legation and attacked other foreign missions. Mao was angry about this because it looked like China could not "meet its international obligations."
He thus wanted to keep the PLA as a "disciplined force".

While all of the above was going on, the movement to get rid of Liu Shaoqi was also intensifying. In May, 1967 Liu's book "How to be a Good Communist" was attacked in the press as "a big anti-Marxist-Leninist and anti-Mao-Zedong Thought poisonous weed." Short quotes Mao himself as saying it was "a deceitful work, a form of idealism opposed to Marxism-Leninism." It, is of course, a perfectly orthodox Marxist work, and shows how low Mao could stoop in his efforts to defame one of his comrades who had the temerity to differ with him over how to best execute agreed upon goals to establish socialism.

By August, Liu was forced to resign as Head of State and he was placed under house arrest. The Central Case Examination Group was building up a case against Liu (completely fabricated.) This group was under the control of Mao but was formally chaired by Zhou Enlai (the Tallyrand of the CPC) but actually run by Kang Sheng.

Kang Sheng (1898-1975) was a Beria type who had been on the PB since 1935 and served as, Short says, Mao's "hatchet man" both in Yan'an and during the GPCR.. He was posthumously expelled from the CPC for "political crimes." But this time he was trumping up charges against comrades close to Liu in order to discredit him. Charges that "Mao, Zhou Enlai, Kang himself and the rest of the leadership" knew were false, but were expedient.

It should be noted that the majority of Chinese communists were not GPCR enthusiasts and that Kang was able to carry out Mao's wishes only because, in the last analysis, he had the PLA behind him. In order to get "evidence" Kang relied on torture to force comrades to denounce others.

Some statistics of what went on:
Hebei- 84,000 arrested, 2955 "executed, tortured to death, or committed suicide."
Guangdong- 7200 arrested, 85 beaten to death.
Yunnan- 14,000 party members (cadres) executed.
Inner Mongolia- 350,000 arrested, 80,000 beaten and maimed for life, 16,000 killed.

All this, and much more is described in the book, to build cases against Liu and people who might support him. "None of these cases," as Short points out, "had any basis in fact." This by the way, is an important fact for progressives today to be aware of. Most importantly so that they can avoid involvement with groups that praise and the support the GPCR as some sort of principled Marxist revolutionary struggle.

You can be sure Marx, Engels and Lenin would have been disgusted to think that this movement was carried out in their names. Perhaps Mao's rating should be 30/70 instead of 70/30. Terror and torture, not against class enemies, but against your own people and class were the hallmarks of the GPCR.

Towards the middle of 1968 Mao decided to restore some order. By this time, Lin Biao was his heir and China was basically under the control of the PLA (i.e., a military dictatorship). The army was used to put down warring factions of the GPCR throughout China. By September the core of the old CPC had been "smashed" and it was time to consolidate the Red Guard bands and committees together with what was left of it into larger groups (the better to control them).

Short quotes Zhou Enlai: "We have finally smashed the plot of the handful of Party persons in power, taking the capitalist road." It was time to begin winding down the more extreme elements in the GPCR.

In October of 1968 the 12th Plenum of the CC was held in preparation for the next Party Congress. There were not enough CC members left after all the purges to make a quorum so Mao just added extra delegates, PLA officers and Red Guard leaders as necessary. Liu was definitely gone by now.

Mao was a moderating influence at this Plenum. He protected what was left of the old guard from the more radical faction and even prevented any attacks on Deng Xiaoping (whom he had always liked). Short points out that Deng had never been personally attacked (i.e., by name) during the height of the GPCR. Mao had once said that Deng "has a great future ahead of him." Although he was later arrested, as we shall see.

The Ninth Congress was held in April 1969. Only 20% of the delegates were party veterans from the old CPC. The Congress was held to ratify the new leadership and officially end the GPCR. "Officially," Short writes, " the Cultural Revolution had been an outstanding success. Mao was credited with raising Marxism-Leninism 'to higher and completely new stage' [new, yes-- I don't know about 'higher'-- tr], creating a guiding philosophy for 'the era when imperialism is heading for total collapse and socialism towards worldwide victory.' I remember reading Peking Review in those days, compare it to the Beijing Review of today to see how accurate this assessment may be.

Liu Shaoqi died towards the end of 1969 as a result of being denied proper medical care after contracting pneumonia (he was kept in a cold unheated room and not allowed to be hospitalized). After Mao died Liu was rehabilitated for being the good communist that he was.

Sunday, November 04, 2007


It seems we will never know. SCIENCE magazine [Sept. 28, 2007] reports that in 1995 "the United States lagged behind most of the world on a test of advanced mathematics and physics taken by graduating high school students from 16 countries." Our low score made us look pretty uneducated.

The Bush administration is taking steps to make sure this doesn't happen again. The US will not take part in the next international test to be given in 2008. It's nobody's business how backward we are so now they won't know. What's really good is that we won't know either so we won't have to do anything about it.

No Child Left Behind because they are all behind. That's equality.

from PAEditors Blog


Well, I just watched CBS News on toys! It seems that in the USA, under Bush and his agencies, you cannot buy a toy for your child without a real risk of making the child ill, or even killing it. Parents are buying special kits, at $15 a pop, to take to toy stores to see if there are deadly chemicals in the toys. Merry Christmas. Maybe that lump of coal that Santa sometimes leaves is the safest thing in the stocking-- as long as you don't burn it and release greenhouse gases.
from PAEditors Blog Friday 11-2-07

Friday, November 02, 2007


Thomas Riggins

Recent press reports have highlighted a growing resistance movement by employees at the US State Department. It seems that the Dept. is having trouble finding enough red blooded pork chop eating real American patriots to serve their country by working out of the super sized new American Embassy in Baghdad. It seems like the diplomatic corps is turning down assignments to Iraq in droves, so the Dept. has issued a ukase to serve in Iraq or be fired.

The State Department insiders know what's what in Iraq, not to be at all fooled by the testimony of Tin Pot generals lying to Congress, and they would rather stay safe and sound then go there.

The New York Times (11/1/07) reported, in an article by Helene Cooper, that "Career Foreign Service officers at the State Department reacted angrily at a town hall meeting on Wednesday to the possibility that they may be forced to go to Iraq, putting senior Bush administration officials on the defensive."

If they are forced to go they demanded to only be sent to the Green Zone (such is their faith in the careerist Gen. Betrayus's "surge" and the security improvement.) As the Times says, Iraq is a place where " the lack of security on the ground outside the Green Zone makes it one of the last places people, particularly those with families [they have to leave them behind in the US], want to go."

Despite all the BS in the right-wing press and the statements of neocon politicians, and Bush groupies, the people at State who know the real deal had their concerns summed up nicely by Jack Croddy, one of the potential victims of the new policy, who expressed everyone's opinion at the meeting with the Bush officials when he told his bosses that it is one thing for someone "who believes in what's going on over there and volunteers" [few and far between it seems] but quite another to force people to serve in Bush's hell hole. "I'm sorry," he said, "but basically that's a potential death sentence and you know it."

It's comforting to know that the people who lie to us all the time about what's going on over there at least know the truth themselves. Nothing concentrates the mind like having your own butt put on the line.
from PAEditorsBlog