Revolutionary Organization Today: Part One

Dandelion Salad

by Paul Le Blanc
Socialist Voice
June 25, 2008

Part One of this special feature contains Paul Le Blanc’s talk “Lenin and the Revolutionary Party Today.”

Part Two is an exchange of emails between John Riddell and Paul Le Blanc about that article.

We encourage feedback: Please post comments at the end of Part Two.


Anyone familiar with the socialist movement in the industrialized countries today must be struck by the huge gap between what’s needed — mass socialist parties with deep roots in the working class — and the reality — small groups of socialists with little influence. Socialist Voice is pleased to publish a two-part special feature on this critical question.

Part One, by noted Marxist scholar Paul Le Blanc, examines Lenin’s views on revolutionary organization and their implications for the left in North America today. One key lesson, he says, is that individual socialists cannot be effective on their own — they must join with other socialists to act on, share and preserve the knowledge needed to change the world.

“Genuine revolutionary and class-struggle knowledge, and the awareness of the people and the struggles through which such knowledge was accumulated, will surely evaporate unless some people draw together to preserve such things, and use them, and pass them on. …

“[Socialists must] work together in a revolutionary socialist organization that is committed to the preservation, utilization, and spread throughout the working class of the perspectives, the knowledge, and the skills associated with the traditions of revolutionary Marxism. Without organization, their efforts will be too diffuse, too amateur, too isolated.”

But, Le Blanc writes, organization by itself is not enough.

“Attempts by small numbers of people to construct a revolutionary party – even the so-called ‘nucleus of the revolutionary party’ – outside the context of a broad labor-radical subculture generally tends to result in the construction of a political sect.”

To avoid that trap, the revolutionary left must learn to “learn from people, to listen to them, in order to be able to share knowledge with them” — and through this process “begin, once more, to permeate broader sectors of the working class, and become a greater force among its activist layers in the labor movement and the other social movements.”

After reading Le Blanc’s pathbreaking article, Socialist Voice co-editor John Riddell emailed him a series of questions and comments, to which Le Blanc responded. Because this exchange provided important additional insights into the subject, we are publishing it as Part Two of this special feature.

We hope that others will join this discussion, by publicizing these articles and by commenting on the issues they raise in the “Feedback” feature that follows Part Two.

Le Blanc’s article is below. Part Two, the exchange between Riddell and Le Blanc, is posted here.

About the authors

Lenin and the Revolutionary Party Today

By Paul Le Blanc

Paul Le Blanc was a guest speaker at the “Socialism 2008″ conference of the International Socialist Organization in Chicago, June 20, 2008. This article is based on his talk.

We are focusing here on someone generally acknowledged to have been one of the greatest revolutionary theorists and organizers in human history: Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, whose intimates knew him affectionately as “Ilyich,” but whom the world knew by his underground pseudonym — Lenin. He was the leader of the Bolshevik wing of the Russian socialist movement, and this revolutionary socialist wing later became the Russian Communist Party after coming to power in the 1917 workers and peasants revolution.

For millions Lenin was seen as a liberator. Appropriated after his death by bureaucrats and functionaries in order to legitimate their tyranny in countries labeled “Communist,” he was at the same time denounced for being a wicked and cruel fanatic by defenders of power and privilege in capitalist countries — and with Communism’s collapse at the close of the Cold War it is their powerful voices that have achieved global domination. But the ideas of Lenin, if properly utilized, can be vital resources for challenging the exploitation of humanity and degradation of our planet.

There are Marxist-influenced democratic socialists who would argue that “whoever wants to reach socialism by any other path than that of political democracy will inevitably arrive at conclusions that are absurd and reactionary both in the economic and political sense.” In fact, these are the words of Lenin himself. Many critics of Lenin have pointed to his repressive policies of 1918-1922, when the early Soviet republic was engulfed and overwhelmed by multiple crises, accusing him of being the architect of the Stalinist totalitarianism of later decades. Much of my recent book Marx, Lenin, and the Revolutionary Experience (Routledge 2006) is devoted to disproving this grotesque distortion. Contrary to the claims of his detractors, Lenin’s writings reveal a commitment to freedom and democracy that runs through his political thought from beginning to end. They also reveal an incredibly coherent analytical, strategic, and tactical orientation that has relevance for our own age of “globalization.”[1]

In my remarks today I would like to do three things. First, I want to touch briefly on what I think are essentials of Lenin’s thought. Second, I want to touch on a couple of major problems that have cropped up in efforts to build organizations aspiring to be Leninist. Third, I want to talk about the necessity of building such an organization.

Essentials of Lenin’s Thought

As we can see from some of his earliest writings, Lenin’s starting-point is a belief in the necessary interconnection of socialist ideas with the working class and labor movement. The working class cannot adequately defend its actual interests and overcome its oppression, in his view, without embracing the goal of socialism — an economic system in which the economy is socially owned and democratically controlled in order to meet the needs of all people. Inseparable from this is a basic understanding of the working class as it is, which involves a grasp of the diversity and unevenness of working-class experience and consciousness.

This calls for the development of a practical revolutionary approach seeking to connect, in serious ways, with the various sectors and layers of the working class. It involves the understanding that different approaches and goals are required to reach and engage one or another worker, or group or sector or layer of workers. This means thoughtfully utilizing various forms of educational and agitational literature, and developing different kinds of speeches and discussions, in order to connect the varieties of working-class experience, and, most important, to help initiate or support various kinds of practical struggles. The more “advanced” or vanguard layers of the working class must be rallied not to narrow and limited goals (in the spirit of “economism” and “pure and simple trade unionism”), but to an expansive sense of solidarity and common cause which has the potential for drawing the class as a whole into the struggle for its collective interests.

This fundamental orientation is the basis for most of what Lenin has to say. And as I was preparing the selection of Lenin’s writings on revolution, democracy, and socialism that Pluto Press is about to publish, (Revolution, Democracy, Socialism) I was struck once again by the intellectual and practical seriousness (the lack of dogmatism or sectarianism) in the way Lenin utilized Marxist theory.

This came through in many different ways — such as his understanding of the necessity for socialist and working-class support for struggles of all who suffer oppression, and in his way of integrating reform struggles with revolutionary strategy. We see it in his insistence on the necessity of working-class political independence, and on the need for working-class supremacy (or hegemony) if democratic and reform struggles are to triumph. It came through in his approach to social alliances (such as the worker-peasant alliance) as a key aspect of the revolutionary struggle, and also in his development of the united front tactic, in which diverse political forces can work together for common goals, without revolutionary organizations undermining their ability to pose effective alternatives to the capitalist status quo.

We can see it in his profound analyses of capitalist development, and of imperialism and of nationalism. It shines forth in his vibrantly revolutionary internationalist orientation that embraces the laborers and oppressed peoples of the entire world. We see it and learn from it in his remarkable understanding of the manner in which democratic struggles flow into socialist revolution. It certainly came through in his analysis of the nature of the state in history and class society, and in his conceptualization of triumphant working-class struggles generating a deepening and expanding democracy that would ultimately cause the state to wither away. Interwoven with the analyses and theorizations about the oppressions of today, and about a possible future of the free and the equal, we find a tough-minded practical orientation of struggle involving strategy, tactics, education, slogans, and — of course — organization.[2]

And precisely here — James P. Cannon once argued — was “the greatest contribution to the arsenal of Marxism since the death of Engels in 1895.” That was the development of Lenin’s Bolshevik organization as a revolutionary vanguard party which (in Cannon’s words) “stands out as the prototype of what a democratic and centralized leadership of the workers, true to Marxist principles and applying them with courage and skill, can be and do.”[3]

Elsewhere I have summarized Lenin’s conception of organization in this way:

“It is … a serious “organization of real revolutionaries,” a “body of comrades in which complete, mutual confidence prevails” and in which all “have a lively sense of their responsibility.” For Lenin, the preconditions for this phenomenon are a commitment to a revolutionary Marxist political program and — flowing from that — an effectively, centrally organized party that encourages critical thinking and local initiative; the integration of such thinking and experience into a partywide process of development; and, inseparable from all of this, a deeply ingrained democratic sensibility that manifests itself even when unusual conditions preclude the formal observance of democratic procedures. A democratically centralized organization based on a revolutionary program — this was … the essence of the Leninist conception of organization.”[4]

Generations of revolutionary activists, in regions throughout the world, have found much of value in all this. Coming out of such a quintessentially American radical formation as the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), Jim Cannon later recalled the powerful impact of “the ideas of the Russian Bolsheviks” among U.S. left-wing activists in the wake of World War I and the 1917 Revolution. He cited IWW leader “Big Bill” Haywood, who commented in an interview with Max Eastman that the Leninist party was consistent with key insights of American radicalism:

“You remember I used to say that all we needed was fifty thousand real IWW’s, and then about a million members to back them up? Well, isn’t that a similar idea? At least I always realized that the essential thing was to have an organization of those who know.”[5]

There have been, since the Russian Revolution of 1917, many efforts — inspired by Lenin’s ideas and example — to create such revolutionary organizations of “those who know.” Some of these efforts have given us inspiring pages in the history of the labor movements and working-class struggles in various countries, although many have also been undermined and fatally compromised by the later impact of Stalinism in the world Communist movement. Parties organized according to the revolutionary ideas of Lenin are qualitatively different from those organized according to the authoritarian forgery of Leninism developed under the Stalin dictatorship.

But even anti-Stalinist versions of Leninism often amount to what Tariq Ali once called “toy Bolshevik parties.” They have often shown themselves to be quite different from, and inferior to, the revolutionary-democratic Bolsheviks of 1917. That’s certainly been the case in the United States during my lifetime. I think there are two problems that help make this so. Both have to do with a failure to connect socialism with the actual working class.

The Problem of Texts and Contexts

First of all, there is a profound difference between “the Leninism of Lenin” and the immediate possibilities that we face in a context that is, in some ways, qualitatively different from his. To transpose the texts that come from Lenin and his time into our very different reality can lead to serious political confusion.

Lenin’s Bolsheviks came into being within a very specific context. They were part of a broad global working-class formation, part of a developing labor movement, and part of an evolving labor-radical subculture. To try to duplicate Lenin’s party today, outside of such a context, will create something that cannot function as the Bolsheviks functioned in Russia, nor can it function in the way the early U.S. Communists functioned in the 1920s or in the 1930s.

The existence of a class-conscious layer of the working class is a necessary precondition for creating a genuinely revolutionary party. Workers’ class consciousness — that involves more than whatever notions happen to be in the minds of various members of the working class at any particular moment. It involves an understanding of the insight that was contained in the preamble of the American Federation of Labor from 1886 to 1955:

“A struggle is going on in all the nations of the civilized world, between the oppressors and the oppressed of all countries, a struggle between the capitalist and the laborer, which grows in intensity from year to year, and will work disastrous results to the toiling millions, if they are not combined for mutual protection and benefit.”[6]

Not all workers have absorbed this insight into their consciousness, but those who have done so can be said to have at least an elementary class consciousness.

Such consciousness does not exist automatically in one’s brain simply because we happen to sell our labor-power (our ability to work) for wages or a salary. But in the United States, from the period spanning the end of the Civil War in 1865 down through the Depression decade of the 1930s, a vibrant working-class subculture had developed throughout much of the United States. Often this “subculture” was more like a network of subcultures having very distinctive ethnic attributes, but these different ethnic currents were at various times connected by left-wing political structures (such as the old Knights of Labor, Socialist Party, IWW, Communist Party, etc.) and also, to an extent, by trade union frameworks. Within this context flourished the class-consciousness that is essential to the creation of a revolutionary party.

Those who founded the Trotskyist movement in the United States (which sought to build a revolutionary Marxist party — the Socialist Workers Party, the SWP) were a product of this radical workers’ subculture. And they sought to make their own revolutionary contributions to it, and to help it become a revolutionary socialist force capable of transforming society.[7]

After 1945, there was a dramatic break in the continuity of this labor-radical tradition due to the realities that resulted from the Second World War, and the transformation of the social, economic, political, and cultural realities in the United States during the 1950s and 1960s. Essential specifics of workers’ occupations and workday experience underwent fundamental changes. The organizations associated with the labor movement were similarly transformed — impacted by a complex combination of assaults, co-optations, corruptions, and erosions. The communities, culture, and consciousness of the working class became so different from the mid-1940s to the 1960s that only faded shreds of the old labor-radical subculture remained.[8]

It is not the case that the working class was eliminated. The working class is bigger than ever. But there has been a combined decomposition and recomposition of the working class, and the old labor-radical subculture is long gone. It, too, needs to be recomposed, and within a very different reality than once existed.

Because of this, there was a significant disconnect between the actual working class and the organized Left (including the SWP) that sought to represent the best interests of that class. This had grave implications. Back in the 1950s, after decades of Leninist and Trotskyist experience in the United States, James P. Cannon commented:

“The conscious socialists should act as a ‘leaven’ in the instinctive and spontaneous movement of the working class. … The leaven can help the dough to rise and eventually become a loaf of bread, but it can never be a loaf of bread itself. … Every tendency, direct or indirect, of a small revolutionary party to construct a world of its own, outside and apart from the real movement of the workers in the class struggle, is sectarian.”[9]

The experience of many activists influenced by Lenin from the 1950s down to the present demonstrates that efforts to create Leninist parties all-too-often degenerate into the construction of sects, with well-meaning activists penned up in a world of their own, separate and apart from the working class.[10]

My generation of young 1960s and 1970s activists can hardly be said to have started out in a sectarian mode. We helped to fundamentally change the political, social, and cultural landscape of the United States. But we saw the real social struggles of our time as involving opposition to such things as racism and poverty and war and sexism, but definitely not as the central expression of an organized labor movement The unions had had become highly bureaucratized and relatively conservative, largely inclined to hold back from — or even oppose — the radicalization and social struggles of the time.

Little of this had changed when — as our experiences and growing awareness further radicalized us — many of us went in a Marxist direction. Although the writings of Lenin, Trotsky, and Cannon were avidly read, discussed, and internalized by young SWP activists such as myself, the context in which the revolutionary “teachers” from earlier decades had lived and the context in which the avid students of the 1960s lived were qualitatively different. The relationship of the new radicals to the rest of the working class, not to mention the culture and consciousness of both the actual proletariat and its would-be “vanguard” in the 1970s, were far different from what was true in the early 1900s or the 1930s.[11]

A failure to comprehend the meaning of this ruptured continuity contributed to the rise of a fatal disorientation that accelerated within the SWP as the 1970s flowed into the 1980s, culminating in fragmentation and implosion. This happened especially as we sought to — once again — fuse socialism with the working class. This did not come naturally to my generation, and many of us really didn’t know how to do it (though we were afraid to admit that).[12]

This failure, however, more or less afflicted all Marxist-oriented organizations in the U.S. from the late 1970s through the late 1980s. Ironically, this occurred as influences from the 1960s radicalization permeated much of the U.S. population, and as negative impacts from the early manifestations of “globalization” created remarkable new openings for left-wing developments within the working class. At the same time, much of the basis for the organized power of the working class — in the highly-unionized industries — was wiped out with the so-called “de-industrialization” of the U.S. economy. The labor movement’s ability to mount effective struggles went into sharp decline.

The Problem of Fusing Socialism with the Workers’ Movement

Sometimes clarity can be achieved if we shift from our own context to consider the experiences of comrades elsewhere. There is a working-class South African “township” activist, a revolutionary who has been on the cutting edge of the global justice movement that has challenged the imperialist thrust of modern-day “globalization.” His name is Trevor Ngwane, and he says this:

“Some in the anti-globalization movement say that the working-class is finished, that the social movements or even ‘civil society’ itself are now the leading force for change. But if we’re honest, some of these [so-called] social movements consist of nothing more than an office and a big grant from somewhere or other. They can call a workshop, pay people to attend, give them a nice meal and then write up a good report. They build nothing on the ground.”

Ngwane finds the abstraction of “civil society” even more problematical, a class-jumbled hodge-podge “expanding to the business sector,” mixed in with “NGOs [non-governmental organizations that deal with social issues] tendering for contracts for private government services.”[13]

Ngwane embraces aspects of the global justice movement (such as the World Social Forum) that involve dialogue, information-sharing, and coordinated efforts between activists like himself from various countries — but he stresses that “the working class … remains a key component of any alternative left strategy.” A majority of workers are not in trade unions, and problems faced by workers extend well beyond the workplace. This requires seeing the class struggle as something larger than union struggles. He adds that

“the high level of unemployment is a real problem here. It does make workers more cautious. We need to organize both the employed and the unemployed, to overcome capital’s divide-and-conquer tactics.”

As a township activist, he emphasizes,

“in the end we had to get down to the most basic questions: what are the problems facing people on the ground that unite us most? In Soweto, it’s electricity. In another area, it is water. We’ve learned that you have to actually organize — to talk to people, door to door; to connect with the masses.”

For Ngwane, however, this is necessarily linked with “the issue of political power,” and ultimately “targeting state power.” He concludes his discussion of local grassroots organizing with the comment that

“you have to build with a vision. From Day One we argued that electricity cuts are the result of privatization. Privatization … reflects the demands of global capital… We cannot finally win this immediate struggle unless we win that greater one.”

He then comes back to the essential point:

“But still, connecting with what touches people on a daily basis, in a direct fashion, is the way to move history forward.”[14]

The points that Ngwane makes are consistent with the points made by Lenin’s companion Nadezhda Krupskaya many years before, when she described how some ultra-left Bolshevik comrades asserted that the revolutionary goal precluded the struggle for “mere reforms.” Such a view, she insisted, was “fallacious,” because “it would mean giving up all practical work, standing aside from the masses instead of organizing them on real-life issues.” Referring to the actual history of the Bolsheviks, she insisted on the very same connections we find in the comments of Ngwane:

“The Bolsheviks showed themselves capable of making good use of every legal possibility, of forging ahead and rallying the masses behind them under the most adverse conditions. Step by step, beginning with the campaign for tea service and ventilation, they had led the masses up to the national armed insurrection.”

The blend of the practical and the principled, the interplay of the real struggles of the workers and oppressed with the revolutionary goal are here at the heart of Bolshevism:

“The ability to adjust oneself to the most adverse [non-revolutionary] conditions and at the same time to stand out and maintain one’s high-principled positions — such were the traditions of Leninism.”[15]

There is another point that was made some years ago by my mentor and comrade George Breitman of the Socialist Workers Party. In examining the mass radicalization that swept the United States during the 1960s and 1970s, Breitman identified the mighty social movements and the early beginnings of what some have labeled “identity politics” in this illuminating manner: “It is idiotic and insulting to think that the worker responds only to economic issues. He can be radicalized in various ways, over various issues, and he is.” Breitman developed this point:

“The radicalization of the worker can begin off the job as well as on. It can begin from the fact that the worker is a woman as well as a man; that the worker is Black or Chicano or a member of some other oppressed minority as well as white; that the worker is a father or mother whose son can be drafted; that the worker is young as well as middle-aged or about to retire. If we grasp the fact that the working class is stratified and divided in many ways — the capitalists prefer it that way — then we will be better able to understand how the radicalization will develop among workers and how to intervene more effectively. Those who haven’t already learned important lessons from the radicalization of oppressed minorities, youth and women had better hurry up and learn them, because most of the people involved in these radicalizations are workers or come from working-class families.”[16]

This perception was entirely consistent with the perspectives of Lenin, of course, who told us that a revolutionary socialist’s ideal should be “the tribune of the people, who is able to react to every manifestation of tyranny and oppression, no matter where it appears, no matter what stratum or class of people it affects; who … is able to take advantage of every event, however small, in order to set forth before all his socialist convictions and democratic demands, in order to clarify for all and everyone the world-historic significance of the struggle for the emancipation of the proletariat.”[17]

It seems to me that it is not a simple thing to meet this challenge of fusing socialism with the struggles, the movements, and the consciousness of the working class. I think a problem for many revolutionary socialists has been a trend toward sectarianism and what could be called “propagandism.” Their focus is discussing socialism and Marxist ideas in their own organizational universe, and from that universe sending out revolutionary socialist messages to the workers on planet Earth.

I think a problem for other revolutionaries has been a trend toward what Lenin criticized as “economism” — immersing themselves in the immediate struggles of one or another sector of the working class in a way that avoids efforts to spread socialist consciousness, in hopes that this consciousness will somehow spontaneously crystallize in workers’ minds through “pure and simple” economic struggles for higher wages or better conditions or more democratic unions (or other reform efforts).

It is not a simple thing for revolutionaries to find the right balance between, or the right blend of, talking about revolutionary theory and being involved in actual day-to-day workers’ struggles.

In the Socialist Workers Party of the late 1970s, large numbers of us went into the factories, shipyards, mines, garment shops, and other industrial workplaces of this country with the explicit intention to — as we put it — “talk socialism to workers.” I think that by the early 1980s, for the most part, we were getting it wrong. Despite the sometimes incredibly good work of individual comrades, the SWP as a whole tended to talk socialism at workers. Too many of us didn’t really listen to the people around us, didn’t really engage with their actual lives and struggles, and so we were incapable of making our socialist ideas relevant to their struggles and to their lives.[18]

But there are wonderful examples, including from our very own tradition of American Trotskyism, of those who got it right. Back in the 1930s, in his classic book American City, reporter Charles Rumford Walker described the role of Vincent Raymond Dunne in organizing the 1934 Minneapolis teamsters strike, one of the turning-points in the history of the U.S. labor movement. “Probably four or five hundred workers in Minneapolis knew ‘Ray’ personally,” according to Walker.

“They formed their own opinions — that he was honest, intelligent, and selfless, and a damn good organizer for the truck drivers’ union to have. They had always known him to be a Red; that was no news.”

Dunne explained what he was doing in this way:

“Our policy was to organize and build strong unions so workers could have something to say about their own lives and assist in changing the present order into a socialist society.”[19]

I think that’s the kind of involvement in the life and struggles of the working class, and the kind of balance, that a revolutionary socialist organization should strive for.

The Need to Share Knowledge and Skills to Change the World

I want to conclude with some additional thoughts on the need for the revolutionary organization that — so far — we do not have, and on the possibilities of developing it. I want to do this first by summarizing some of the points I have already made, and then reach for a new thought.

Most people in our country are oppressed, exploited, damaged, and made indignant — in many different ways — by the capitalist system. In order to overcome such things, they would greatly benefit from the contributions developed by previous generations of revolutionaries. In most cases, these are things of which they have no knowledge.

How will the experiences and invaluable lessons, the skills and the knowledge, of our revolutionary brothers and sisters of previous generations (and of our generation) be passed on to the rest of the working class today and tomorrow?

This will not happen automatically. It is certainly not in the interest of those forces that dominate the informational and educational and cultural media and institutions of our society to ensure that this knowledge is communicated to people — especially if those people are part of the diverse working-class majority.

The powerful elites secure their amazing privileges and vast wealth through their control and exploitation of the world’s laboring majorities. They prefer that the history of revolution and protest be consigned to what George Orwell called “the memory hole,” or to glorifications that distort everything, or to commemorative postage stamps. Everything emanating from the institutions of the status quo (with relatively few subversive exceptions) encourages people to do other things than engage with, emulate, and advance the efforts of past revolutionaries.

Genuine revolutionary and class-struggle knowledge, and the awareness of the people and the struggles through which such knowledge was accumulated, will surely evaporate unless some people draw together to preserve such things, and use them, and pass them on.

The skills and knowledge necessary to build effective protests, to advance life-giving reform efforts, and to create revolutionary possibilities, will only be passed on through the work of those who are dedicated to helping change the world — to challenge, undermine, push back, and overturn the powerful elites, to open the way for rule by the people, for the free development of each and all, in harmony with the life-nurturing environment of our planet.

But to be effective in doing this — now as before — it is necessary for at least a significant number of such conscious revolutionaries to concentrate and coordinate their efforts, to work together in a revolutionary socialist organization that is committed to the preservation, utilization, and spread throughout the working class of the perspectives, the knowledge, and the skills associated with the traditions of revolutionary Marxism. Without organization, their efforts will be too diffuse, too amateur, too isolated.

This runs into the problem already identified: Attempts by small numbers of people to construct a revolutionary party — even the so-called “nucleus of the revolutionary party” — outside the context of a broad labor-radical subculture generally tends to result in the construction of a political sect. The members of such a political sect by definition cut themselves off from the possibility, the actual work, of helping to create a broad labor-radical subculture capable of sustaining a revolutionary class-consciousness and class-struggle. A critic of my recent book Marx, Lenin, and the Revolutionary Experience has put it this way:

“A mass labour movement underpinned the emergence of the Bolsheviks as a mass party in the years 1912-17 in Russia and formed the world in which US Communism operated in the 1930s. Today all this is gone, argues Le Blanc, therefore Leninism must be a fish out of water, doomed to shrivel into marginal sects that fruitlessly try to impose models from classical Marxism without recognizing that the context that allowed it to emerge as a serious force has changed.”[20]

As the young bad guy says near the end of the film Cold Mountain: “That’s what they call a conundrum!”

It seems to me that the puzzle has a solution. The high risk, or even general tendency, of sectarianism is not the same as an “iron law” of sectarianism. It is possible and necessary for “those who know” something of the ideas and skills associated with the revolutionary Left to interact with those who don’t. But we have to do this in a systematically interactive way. We have to be able to learn from people, to listen to them, in order to be able to share knowledge with them.

Only in this way can left-wing knowledge and skills become relevant to their lives (to the lives of all who are engaged in this double-sided teaching process). Only in this way can socialism begin, once more, to permeate broader sectors of the working class, and become a greater force among its activist layers in the labor movement and the other social movements.

That is the challenge for us today and tomorrow.


Socialist Voice is a forum for discussion of today’s struggles of the workers and oppressed from the standpoint of revolutionary Marxism. Readers are encouraged to distribute Socialist Voice as widely as possible.


Revolutionary Organization Today: Part Two

Countdown: Wexler & The Terror Card + Energy Policy + Bushed

Dandelion Salad

June 25, 2008


Congressman Wexler *We need to be looking into Impeachment!


Krugman on Energy Policy

Keith reports on McCain’s new energy proposals he rolled out in Las Vegas this week. Paul Krugman weighs in.


Tonight’s: Afahanistan-Gate, Gitmo-Gate and Rove-Gate.

Worst Person

And the winner is…Rupert Murdoch. Runners up Gretchen Carlson and Bill O’Reilly.

Climate Chaos Is Inevitable. We Can Only Avert Oblivion

Dandelion Salad

By Mark Lynas
The Guardian
June 17, 2008

Sometimes we need to think the unthinkable, particularly when dealing with a problem as dangerous as climate change – there is no room for dogma when considering the future habitability of our planet. It was in this spirit that I and a panel of other specialists in climate, economics and policy-making met under the aegis of the Stockholm Network thinktank to map out future scenarios for how international policy might evolve – and what the eventual impact might be on the earth’s climate. We came up with three alternative visions of the future, and asked experts at the Met Office Hadley Centre to run them through its climate models to give each a projected temperature rise. The results were both surprising, and profoundly disturbing.

We gave each scenario a name. The most pessimistic was labelled “agree and ignore” – a world where governments meet to make commitments on climate change, but then backtrack or fail to comply with them. Sound familiar? It should: this scenario most closely resembles the past 10 years, and it projects emissions on an upward trend until 2045. A more optimistic scenario was termed “Kyoto plus”: here governments make a strong agreement in Copenhagen in 2009, binding industrialised countries into a new round of Kyoto-style targets, with developing countries joining successively as they achieve “first world” status. This scenario represents the best outcome that can plausibly result from the current process – but ominously, it still sees emissions rising until 2030.


The Subprime Trump Card: Standing up to the Banks

Dandelion Salad

by Dr. Ellen Brown
Global Research
June 25, 2008

“If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs.”

– Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Treasury Secretary Albert Gallatin (1802)

Jefferson had it right. More than 1.5 million homeowners are expected to enter foreclosure this year, and about half of them are expected to have their homes repossessed. If the dire consequences Jefferson warned of 200 years ago have been slow in coming, it is because they have been concealed by what Jerome a Paris calls the Anglo Disease – “the highly unequal economy whereby the rich and the financial sector . . . capture most of the income but hide it by providing cheap debt to the middle classes so that they can continue to spend.” He calls “finance” the “cannibalistic” sector in today’s economy. Writing in The European Tribune this month, he states:

“[O]ne of the more attractive features of the financial world, for its promoters, is its ability to concentrate huge fortunes in a small number of hands, and promote this as a good thing (these people are said to be creating wealth, rather than capturing it). . . . [O]f course, the reality is that such wealth concentration is created by squeezing the rest, as is obvious in the stagnation of incomes for most in the middle and lower rungs of society. This is not so much wealth creation as wealth redistribution, from the many to the few. But what has made this unequality . . . tolerable is that the financial world itself was able to provide a convenient smokescreen, in the form of cheap debt, provided in abundance to all. The wealthy used it to grab real assets in funny money, and the rest were kindly allowed to keep on spending by tapping their future income rather than their insufficient current one; in a nutshell, the debt bubble hid the class warfare waged by the rich against everybody else . . . .”1

Now the debt bubble is bursting, with the anticipated real estate crash, banking crisis, foreclosures, and inevitable recession. “The income capture mechanisms set up during the bubble have not been reversed, so the pain is falling disproportionately on the poorest,” writes Jerome a Paris. Meanwhile, finance is being bailed out. What’s to be done? “[T]he financiers . . . will say that more ‘reform’ and ‘deregulation’ and tax cuts are needed,” he says, but “maybe it’s time to stop listening to what is highly self-interested drivel, and take back what they grabbed: it’s not theirs.”

Good idea, but how? The financiers own the media, and their massively funded lobbies control Congress. How can we the people get enough clout to take on the giant financial and corporate giants? What can we do that will make politicians sit up and take notice, before the economic Titanic sinks into the sea?

How about swarming the courts? New case law indicates that a majority of the 750,000 homeowners expected to lose their homes this year could have a valid defense to foreclosure. As much as $2 trillion in real estate may be vulnerable to this defense, providing a very big stick for a lobby of motivated debtors. Mobilizing that group, in turn, could light a fire under the investors in mortgage-backed securities — the pension funds, money market funds and insurance companies left holding these “orphan” mortgages. These investors also wield a very big stick, in the form of major law firms on retainer. When the embattled banks demand a bailout because they are “too big to fail,” the taxpayers can respond, “You have already failed. It is time to try something new.”

The Legal Trump Card: Make Them Produce the Note

A basic principle of contract law is that a plaintiff suing on a written contract must produce the signed contract proving he is entitled to relief. If there is no signed mortgage note or recorded assignment, foreclosure is barred. The defendant must normally raise this defense, and most defaulting homeowners, being unable to afford attorneys, just let their homes go uncontested. But when the plaintiffs bringing subprime foreclosure actions have been challenged, in most cases they haven’t been able to produce the notes.

Why not? It appears to be more than just sloppy paperwork. The banks that originally entered into these risky subprime arrangements generally did so because they had no intention of holding the loans on their books. The mortgages were immediately sliced and diced, bundled up as mortgage-backed securities (MBS), and sold off to investors. Loan originators sold the mortgages to financial institutions or other banks, which then sold the rights to the monthly mortgage payment income to investors, while transferring the responsibility to collect these payments to specialized mortgage servicing companies. The result has been to slice up the mortgage contract, with no party really having ownership of the original paperwork. When foreclosure has been initiated, the servicer or trustee acting as plaintiff now has trouble proving that it originated the mortgage or owned the loan. In order for a second bank or financial institution to have standing to bring a foreclosure lawsuit in court, it must have been assigned the mortgage; and with the collapse of the housing market, many of the subprime lenders have gone out of business, making it impossible to contact the originating mortgage company. Other paperwork has just been lost in the shuffle.2

Why weren’t the mortgage notes assigned to the MBS holders when they were first sold? Apparently because the investors aren’t even matched up with specific properties until after default. Here is how the MBS scheme works: when the mortgages are first bundled by the banks, all of the subprime mortgages go into the same pool. The bundled mortgages are chopped into “securities” that are sold to many investors, with different “tranches” or levels of risk – banks, hedge funds, money market funds, pension funds. The first mortgages to default are then assigned to the high-risk “BBB-” tranche of investors. As defaults increase, later defaulting mortgages are assigned down the chain of risk to the supposedly more secure tranches.3 That means the investors get the mortgages only after the defendants breached the agreement to pay.

It also means the investors weren’t a party to the agreement when it was breached, making it hard to prove they were injured by the breach.

The investors have another problem: the delay in assigning particular mortgages to particular investors means there was no “true sale” of the security (the home) at the time of securitization. A true sale of the collateral is a legal requirement for forming a valid security (a secured interest in the property as opposed to simply a debt obligation backed by collateral). As a result, the investors may have trouble proving they have any interest in the property, secured or unsecured.4

The Dog-Ate-My-Note Defense

When the securitizing banks acting as trustees for the investors are unable to present written proof of ownership at a time that would entitle them to foreclose, they typically file what’s called a lost-note affidavit. April Charney is a Florida legal aid attorney well versed in these issues, having gotten foreclosure proceedings dismissed or postponed for 300 clients in the past year. In a February 2008 Bloomberg article, she was quoted as saying that about 80 percent of these cases involved lost-note affidavits. “Lost-note affidavits are pattern and practice in the industry,” she said. “They are not exceptions. They are the rule.”3

In the past, judges have let these foreclosures proceed; but in October 2007, an intrepid federal judge in Cleveland put a halt to the practice. U.S. District Court Judge Christopher Boyko ruled that Deutsche Bank had not filed the proper paperwork to establish its right to foreclose on fourteen homes it was suing to repossess.4 That started the ball rolling, and by February 2008, judges in at least five states had followed suit. In Los Angeles in January, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Samuel L. Bufford issued a notice warning plaintiffs in foreclosure cases to bring the mortgage notes to court and not submit copies. In Ohio, where foreclosures were up by a reported 88 percent in 2007, Attorney General Marc Dann was reported to be challenging ownership of mortgage notes in forty foreclosure cases.5

Few defendants, however, are lucky enough to have such a committed advocate in their corner, and most defaulting debtors just let their homes go. A simple answer can be filed to the complaint even without an attorney, and some subprime borrowers have successfully defended their own foreclosure actions; but a word of caution to do-it-yourselfers: retaining an attorney is strongly recommended. People representing themselves are often not taken seriously, and they are likely to miss local rule requirements. With that proviso, here is some general information on challenging standing to foreclose:

Some states are judicial foreclosure states and some are non-judicial foreclosure states. In a judicial foreclosure state (meaning the matter is heard before a judge), if a promissory note or recorded assignment naming the plaintiff is not attached to the complaint, the defendant can file a response stating the plaintiff has failed to state a claim. This can be followed with a motion called a demurrer to the complaint. Different forms of demurrers can be found in legal form books in most law libraries. In essence the demurrer states that even if everything in the complaint were true, the complaint would lack substance because it fails to set out a copy of the note, and it should therefore be dismissed. Ordinarily there is no need to cite much in the way of statutes or case law other than the authority reciting the necessity of showing the note proving the plaintiff is entitled to relief.

In a non-judicial foreclosure state such as California, foreclosure is done by a trustee without a court hearing, so the procedure is a bit trickier; but standing to foreclose can still be challenged. If the homeowner has filed for bankruptcy, the proceedings are automatically stayed, requiring the lender to bring a motion for relief from stay before going forward. The debtor can then challenge the lender’s right to the security (the house) by demanding proof of a legal or equitable interest in it.6 A homeowner facing foreclosure can also get the matter before a court without filing for bankruptcy by filing a complaint and preliminary injunction staying the proceedings pending proof of standing to foreclose. A judge would then have to rule on the merits. A complaint for declaratory relief might also be brought against the trustee, seeking to have its rights declared invalid.7

Salvaging the Whole Economic Titanic

These defenses can be a lifeboat for the subprime class below deck, but there is another class of passengers in need of a lifeboat, the investors in the supposedly first class cabins. The investors include the pension funds and 401Ks depended on by the beleaguered middle class for retirement. If the trustees representing the investors cannot foreclose, does that mean the defaulting borrowers can stay in their homes indefinitely without paying, leaving the investors holding the bag? And if the investors manage to shift liability back to the banks, won’t the banks go down and take the economy with them? How can the whole ship be saved from the massive debt iceberg now looming from the deep? Those are complex questions, weighty enough to warrant a separate article. Stay tuned.

Ellen Brown, J.D., developed her research skills as an attorney practicing civil litigation in Los Angeles. In Web of Debt, her latest book, she turns those skills to an analysis of the Federal Reserve and “the money trust.” She shows how this private cartel has usurped the power to create money from the people themselves and how we the people can get it back. Her websites are and

© Copyright Ellen Brown,, 2008

The url address of this article is:

GOP: The Only Thing We Have To Fear Is The Lack Of Fear Itself



by R J Shulman
Dandelion Salad
featured writer
Robert’s blog post
June 25, 2008

WASHINGTON – Facing the possibility of losing the White House and more seats in the House and Senate this fall, Republican leaders have blamed a lack of focus for their erosion of power.

“We have spent too much time on war mongering and not enough on fear mongering,” said Newt Gingrich, “and our whole rise to power has been based upon fear.” Gingrich cited the gains made in the past by the GOP when they were able to sway voters into their camp based upon fear of Communists, gays, terrorists, and brown-skinned illegals speaking Spanish in the workplace.

“The only way we can lose the war on terror,” said John Boehner of Ohio, “is to not be terrified enough.”

“Thanks to Barack Obama, we still have fear of the black man to exploit,” said Karl Rove, “but we sure have a lot of work to do on building fear back up to level red.” President Bush has pledged to aid his ailing party.

“The least that I can do,” Bush said, “is to put my stamp of veto on any bill not scary enough to make people remember that we are in a war where we are the good guys who are willing to torture, kill and distructify for peace, justice and the American way of corporate life.”

GOP party leaders have pledged to do what they can to activate their base with their tried and true base tactics in time for the fall elections.


Countdown: The Terror Card + No Country Club for Obama + US Attys

Court Rewards Exxon for Valdez Oil Spill by Greg Palast

Dandelion Salad

by Greg Palast
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Chicago Tribune (revised)

An earlier version of this report originally appeared in the Chicago Tribune. Photos by James Macalpine (1993)

Twenty years after Exxon Valdez slimed over one thousand miles of Alaskan beaches, the company has yet to pay the $5 billion in punitive damages awarded by the jury. And now they won’t have to. The Supreme Court today cut Exxon’s liability by 90% to half a billion. It’s so cheap, it’s like a permit to spill.

Exxon knew this would happen. Right after the spill, I was brought to Alaska by the Natives whose Prince William Sound islands, livelihoods, and their food source was contaminated by Exxon crude. My assignment: to investigate oil company frauds that led to to the disaster. There were plenty.

But before we brought charges, the Natives hoped to settle with the oil company, to receive just enough compensation to buy some boats and rebuild their island villages to withstand what would be a decade of trying to survive in a polluted ecological death zone.

In San Diego, I met with Exxon’s US production chief, Otto Harrison, who said, “Admit it; the oil spill’s the best thing to happen” to the Natives.

His company offered the Natives pennies on the dollar. The oil men added a cruel threat: take it or leave it   and wait twenty years to get even the pennies. Exxon is immortal – but Natives die.


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Supreme Court slashes punitive award in Exxon Valdez oil spill

The Political Economy of Media by Stephen Lendman (McChesney)

Dandelion Salad

by Stephen Lendman
Global Research
June 25, 2008

Review of Robert McChesney’s book (Part I)

Robert McChesney is a leading media scholar, critic, activist, and the nation’s most prominent researcher and writer on US media history, its policy and practice. He’s also University of Illinois Research Professor in the Institute of Communications Research and the Graduate School of Library and Information Science. UI is lucky to have him, and he says there’s “no better university in the United States to do critical communication research.”

McChesney also co-founded the Illinois Initiative on Global Information and Communication Policy in 2002. He hosts a popular weekly radio program called Media Matters on WILL-AM radio (available online), and is the 2002 co-founder and president of the growing Free Press media reform advocacy group –

McChesney and Free Press want to democratize the media and increase public participation in it. Doing it involves challenging media concentration, protecting Net Neutrality, and supporting the kinds of reforms highlighted at the annual National Conference for Media Reform.

McChesney’s work is devoted to it. He also “concentrates on the history and political economy of communication (by) emphasizing the role media play in democratic and capitalist societies” where the primary goal is profits, not the public interest.

McChesney speaks frequently on these issues, and has authored or edited 17 books on them. They include Rich Media, Poor Democracy, the award-winning Telecommunications, Mass Media and Democracy, and his newest book and subject of this review, The Political Economy of Media: enduring issues, emerging dilemmas. He calls it “the companion volume” to his 2007 book, Communication Revolution: Critical Junctures and the Future of Media.

McChesney is today’s most notable media scholar and critic. Whatever he writes merits reading. This book is a compilation of his best political economy of media work in the past two decades. It contains 23 separate offerings under three topic headings – Journalism, Critical Studies, and Politics and Media Reform. Issues discussed include:

— the problem of journalism;

— a century of radical US media criticism;

— telling the truth at a moment of truth about the invasion and occupation of Iraq;

— journalism – a look back and ahead;

— battling for the US airwaves early on;

— media sports coverage;

— public broadcasting in the digital age;

— the commercial tidal wave;

— the new economy – myth and reality;

— the political economy of international communication;

— the Internet

— US left and media politics;

— rich media, poor democracy;

— the escalating war against corporate media;

— US media reform going forward, and more.

Most content was previously published in journals or as book chapters in anthologies. Most have never appeared in book form before, so may be largely unknown to readers. Three offerings are new and were written specifically for this book. Combined, the material is timeless, cutting-edge and must read on the most vital issue of this or any other time – the state of the media and its importance as a vital information source and fundamental prerequisite for democracy. McChesney quotes James Madison saying:

“A popular government, without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives.”

Today, its mostly from the media, mainly television, and therein lies the problem. Democracy requires a free, open and vibrant media. It, in turn, needs democracy. The “central question” McChesney poses is whether “the media system….promote(s) or undermine(s) democratic institutions and practices. Are media a force for social justice or oligarchy?”

The political economy of the media is committed to enhancing democracy. It first arose in the 1930s and 1940s, blossomed again in the 1960s and 1970s, is often associated with the political left, and that’s a key reason for its decline in the past few decades. Today, the media is in utter disrepair, totally corrupted, controlled by big money, and unconditionally backed by Democrats and Republicans to serve state and capital interests. “We the people” are nowhere in sight, and that has to change.

Scholar/activists like McChesney aim to do it. The Political Economy of Media is his latest effort, and in it he highlights 13 “enduring issues:”

— journalism and its relationship to democracy;

— understanding political, commercial and private propaganda;

— commercial media and politicalization of society;

— media’s relationship to inequality – economic, racial, gender, and so forth;

— media’s relationship to US foreign policy, militarism and the imperial state;

— the importance and role of advertising;

— the communication policy making process;

— telecommunication policies, regulations or lack of them;

— communication’s relationship to global and contemporary capitalism and its predatory nature;

— commercialism’s impact on culture and society;

— public radio and broadcasting; how they’ve been co-opted and corrupted; and the emergence and importance of alternative media institutions and systems;

— the relationship of technology to media, politics and society and importance of the digital revolution; and

— the relationship of media to popular social movements, including a growing force for real media reform.

Along with “enduring issues,” McChesney covers “emerging dilemmas” in the wake of neoliberalism’s 1980s emergence, its 1990s dominance, the growth of a global economy, and the blossoming digital communication revolution.

At a time government partners with business, profits are the be all and end all, markets we’re told work best so let them, taxing the rich is sinful, big government bad, giveaways to the people unacceptable, inequality good, competition better, and best of all is socialism for the wealthy and free market capitalism for the rest of us – aka, the law of the jungle.

By the new millennium, the “bankruptcy and contradictions” of neoliberal dogma lay exposed. Global justice eruptions occurred, became quiescent after 9/11, but still bubble below the surface and may explode anywhere any time. Moreover, given the state of things, “the political economy of media has been rejuvenated.” There’s a growing media reform movement. In it are scholars, activists, students, and ordinary people comprising “one of the striking developments of our time.”

Neoliberalism is discredited. It violates essential human desires and needs. It’s beyond repair, and it inspired “the idea of imagining a more humane and democratic social order.” It’s showing up in places like Venezuela. Political economists of media have a role in spreading it. Communication systems are vital to do it, and digital age technology potentially can make it explode. Assuring Net Neutrality is key, but alone not enough.

Giant telecommunications and cable companies want to prevent it. They aim to privatize the Internet, charge big for everything, and control its content. The issue remains unresolved, but the public can’t afford to lose this one because real democracy depends on a free and open media.

More policy battles remain as well and will become “more pronounced in the digital era.” McChesney cites three:

— what passes today for journalism; it’s “in a deep and prolonged crisis (because of) corporate cutbacks and erosion of standards;”

— hyper-commercialism is getting more hyper; it’s all-pervasive; derailing it is crucial; the public’s role vital; and

— digital revolution technology cuts both ways; it empowers people, yet entraps them as well; it makes everyone vulnerable to surveillance; increasingly, there’s nowhere left to hide.

Key is making digital technology work for, not against us and keeping private for-profit interests from controlling it. The “most important work of the political economy of media” is thus: “understanding and navigating the central relationship of communication to the broader economy and political system.” Ours is based on markets uber alles. It’s a failed ideology, yet no fit topic for open and public discussion. That has to change, and barriers have to come down to show how predatory capitalism really is, how harmful it is to the greater good, and what humane alternatives exist. It can only be through a free and open mass media. Communication is essential, and “political economists of media (are) at the heart” of using it constructively and justly.

McChesney’s book is long, detailed, crystal clear in its message, essential to read in total, and kept as a key reference guide to the media’s problems and how to fix them. This review covers a sampling of the book’s contents, selective offerings in it. It’s to energize readers to get the book and discover it all.

The Problem of Journalism

Real democracy needs superior journalism to “comfort the afflicted, afflict the comfortable,” and function as a “rigorous watchdog (over) those in power.” Today in the mainstream, not a shred of it exists, but it wasn’t always that way.

Politically neutral, nonpartisan, professional or objective journalism was unthinkable in the republic’s first few generations. Journalism’s job was to inform, persuade, and, yet be highly partisan by providing a wide range of opinions. At the same time, newspaper publishing changed “from being primarily political to being primarily commercial” because of growing advertising revenues. Competition flourished, cities like St. Louis had at least 10 dailies until the late 19th century, and they represented their owners’ politics.

The post-Restruction Gilded Age changed things. Concentrated wealth was its hallmark, the press became less competitive, commercialism flourished, and corruption followed along with yellow journalistic sensationalism to generate sales. At the same time, socialists, feminists, abolitionists, trade unionists and various radical types avoided the mainstream and established their own media to advance their interests.

From the Gilded Age’s onset through the early 20th century Progressive Era, “an institutional sea change transpired in US media.” Newspapers consolidated into fewer chains in fewer hands, and most communities ended up with one or two dailies. At the same time, the “dissident press” lost much of its following and influence. It created a crisis in early 20th century journalism.

Yet, during the Progressive Era, muckraking journalism proliferated to a degree never again equalled. Reformers like Robert LaFollete called the commercial press destructive to democracy, and historian Henry Adams (grandson and great grandson of two former presidents) was unsparing in his criticism. He said “The press is the hired agent of a moneyed system, set up for no other reason than to tell lies where the interests are concerned.”

The era produced and inspired critics like Upton Sinclair. He produced cutting-edge works like The Jungle taking on meatpacking plant abuses and The Brass Check that was “the first great systematic critique of….capitalist journalism.” Other great figures were George Seldes who produced scathing media critiques, IF Stone, Lincoln Steffens, and a host of notables mostly unknown and unread today.

Professional journalism came of age at this time with schools established to “train a cadre professional editors and reporters.” They were taught to “sublimate their own values,” produce “neutral and unbiased copy,” and (likely) greater revenues for publishers.

In fact, “neutral” content was a non-starter. As journalism evolved in the country, publishers wanted their values expressed. It’s all about business and profits, and journalists had to internalize these ideas to stay employed. As a result, “three deep-seated biases” are in the “professional code,” and they’re more prominent than ever today:

— professional journalists regard whatever government, business, or other prominent figures say or do as legitimate news;

— conflicting sources are ignored so power figures set the agenda and are uncontested; journalists become stenographers to them, and a free press is “guaranteed only to those who own one;”

— most important, journalism reflects the views and aims of the ruing class; “we the people” are nowhere in sight.

It means fiction substitutes for fact, news is carefully “filtered,” dissent marginalized, and supporting the powerful substitutes for full and accurate reporting. As a result, aggressive wars are called liberating ones, civil liberties are suppressed for our own good, patriotism means going along with crimes of state, and vast corporate malfeasance becomes just a few bad apples.

Professional journalism in the US, “hit its high-water mark….from the 1950s into the 1970s, but it was lots different from today. We had Cronkite then. Now it’s Couric, and that’s one part of a greater problem. But even in its “golden age,” owners’ interests came first. A “virtual Sicilian code of silence” protected the wealthy and powerful. Even so, a few good journalists stood out and still do, but they don’t show up often and never on the New York Times’ front page or any other major broadsheet. As for television, media giants no longer even pretend to provide real journalism. We’ve sunk that low in an age of technological wonders, but none used for the greater good. The more channels we get, the less there is to watch – less of any worth, that is.

In the 20th century’s early decades, media owners and journalists vied to shape what content was permitted. By mid-century, however, the battle was over. Media giants prevailed. They consolidated and grew more dominant, and the idea of giving news divisions more autonomy made increasingly less sense. Bottom line considerations took over, and journalism, or what passes for it, “became subjected to (increasing) commercial regimentation.”

New technologies emerged. Cable and satellite TV arrived, and with them the proliferation of channels. A handful carry round-the-clock news. The hours have to be filled, but what passes for information is sensationalist pseudo-journalism and fluff. Truth is distorted or omitted. Juiced-up reports on murder, mayhem, mishaps, and celebrity gossip predominate, and entertainers and low-paid teleprompter readers impersonate news people.

Target audiences are middle and upper class earners. In contrast, workers and the poor are left out. Little or no reporting shows up on their issues, but business programming has proliferated. Regrettably, it hasn’t subjected commercial interests to hard scrutiny. Instead, reporters are paid touts, and their work is “rah-rah capitalism,” and it “teem(s) with reverence for the accumulation of wealth.” It let 2001 and 2002 corporate scandals go unreported until they got too big to ignore. They bilked investors of multi-billions. Many thousands lost jobs, pensions and benefits, but a mere handful of fraudsters were held to account. The media “missed the developing story in toto.”

The alternative press and Ralph Nader spotted trouble in the mid-1990s. It developed into a major news story and an enormous political scandal with the president and vice-president linked by their association with Enron. Teapot Dome and Watergate made heads roll. This one didn’t lay a glove on politicians because Democrats were as tainted as Republicans so they laid low.

The media happily obliged. They’re giant businesses and members in good standing in the corporate community with interlocking interests and shared political values. In addition, a number of their executives were investigated for fraud. They included Disney’s Michael Eisner, News Corporation’s Rupert Murdoch, Charter Communications, Vivendi Universal, AOL Time Warner for cooking its books, and Adelphi Communications for “orchestrating one of the largest frauds to take place at a US public company.” At the end of an epic scandal, corporations got off with “bloodied noses and sullied reputations, but little more.”

Consider a “broader political-economic pressure….to market news to target audiences.” In a largely depoliticized society, there’s less demand for political journalism and every incentive for professional journalists to avoid controversy. Real reporting is dumbed down. Trivia substitutes for hard news, and local TV stations have been discontinuing news programming altogether. Walter Cronkite wonders if democracy can “even survive.”

It’s in this climate that editorial budgets are lowballed. Everything has to be profit-justified, and surveys show journalists are “a grumpy lot” because of bottom line pressures delivering low pay, no raises, job insecurity, and pretty grim expectations for their future prospects. The growth of media giants makes it worse. Consolidation lets companies spread their editorial budgets across different media so one reporter can do the same job for a newspaper, web site, TV and radio station or wherever else owners’ directives demand.

A striking development is the rise of the PR industry. It’s a cheap substitute for real news. All of it is hype and fake. Its content for a corporate and government clientele, and it comes in the form of “slick press releases, paid-for experts….bogus citizens groups, canned new events,” and surveys show this amounts to from 40 to 70% of what passes for “news.” But the public thinks it’s real.

Except in times of war, international coverage also disappears. So has investigative journalism. It was once the “hallmark of feisty ‘Fourth Estate’ journalism in a free society.” Now it’s almost extinct and for the same reason overseas reporting is gone – it’s expensive, and bottom-line considerations won’t tolerate it.

With real journalism absent and a culture committed to commercialism, truth is out the window. Officials can lie with impunity. So can business fraudsters, and McChesney calls it “a scoundrel’s paradise.” Professional standards are relaxed, and it forces journalists to shape stories for their owners and advertisers. Today, news departments “cooperate with advertisers to co-promote events and use advertisers as experts in stories.” It comes in two forms:

— direct commercial penetration of news; it corrupts its integrity; is in the form of bribes to write stories, host commercial events, and overall act as a proxy for an advertiser and be well paid for it; and

— journalists reporting favorably on their owners’ commercial operations, such as ABC News promoting a Disney film or NBC News selling the Winter Olympics; this proliferates; it’s called “synergy; for journalists with integrity it’s “poison.”

Consider another issue – the so-called “liberal media” bias. It’s bogus but resonates because hard right flacks push it. Their critique is fourfold and largely bogus:

— journalists have “decisive power;” owners and advertisers are marginalized;

— journalists (by their nature) are political liberals;

— journalists use their position to advance liberal ideas; and

— objective journalism would report conservative views.

The first and last points especially are rubbish. Successful journalists internalize their owners’ values. Bosses have power, journalists don’t. On issues where journalists lean left, it’s where bottom-line considerations aren’t affected – women’s, gay, lesbian and abortion rights, civil liberties, affirmative action, and so forth. Overall, journalists are pro-business, and why not. Successful ones get good salaries and benefits, and enjoy the fruits of their celebrity.

So how can the bashing go on? Because it resonates and has “tremendous emotional power….” It began in the 1970s. It was an effort to tilt news rightward. It aimed to foster conservative values, train a cadre of appararatchiks, establish conservative think tanks, and hammer all anti-conservative coverage as “liberal” bias.

It’s works and makes news reporting more sympathetic to business and right wing politics. Republicans got more powerful. Democrats partnered with them. Journalists play ball with their bosses, and those most pro-business are held in highest regard. The combination of “conservative ideology and commercialized, depoliticized journalism” defines the problem of the media today.

How to Think About Journalism: Looking Backward, Going Forward

American journalism has been sinking for decades. Now it’s in crisis. The stakes couldn’t be higher. Without viable journalism, democracy is impossible, tyranny takes over and when full-blown needs revolutionary disruption to uproot. Constructive action is needed now, and “the political economy of media is uniquely positioned to provide” it.

The starting point – democratic journalism to hold those in power (and wannabes) accountable. It must separate truth from lies and provide a wide range of informed opinions on the cutting-edge issues of our times. By this standard, today’s dominant media fails, and that’s putting it mildly.

Journalism is co-opted and corrupted. Commercialism gutted it. Investigative journalism is a memory. Political and international reporting no longer exist. The same is true for local reporting, and all that’s left is “the absurd horse race” campaign coverage of endless polls and he said, she said along with pseudo-journalistic celebrity features and the rest. For the most part, it’s impossible getting real news and information in the mainstream.

The media keeps sinking lower. We’ve been heading there for decades, but things came to a head post-9/11. The “war on terror” began. Wars without end followed, and the dominant media hyped them. They were hawkish and giddy championing aggressive wars, international law violations, repressive legislation, and at the same time silencing dissent.

Anti-war became anti-American, and nowhere was the trumpeting greater or with more effect than on The New Times front page. Its star reporter Judith Miller led the charge. She’ll forever be remembered as lead stenographer to power. Without her headlined coverage (little more than Pentagon and administration handouts), there might not have been an Iraq war, even though she had plenty of help selling it.

“For a press system, (war reporting) is its moment of truth.” In 2002, 2003 to the present, it was nowhere in sight. In reporting on the war, its run-up and current occupation, the major media sunk to its lowest ever depth. They flacked the pro-war line, still support it unconditionally, and tout the idea that America is benevolent and our intentions honorable.

The notion is preposterous, indefensible and disastrous. And professional journalism is to blame. It’s in crisis, and it’s important to ask why. The industry cites the Internet, its liberating power, unleashing of new competition, and taking away advertisers. Their solution – cut budgets, report less, and consolidate for even greater size and dominance. Rubbish.

Journalistic standards were in disrepair long before the Internet and for reasons discussed above – internalizing media owners’ commercial values, or else. It means a little autonomy is allowed but increasingly less as the giants got bigger. They got a huge boost with the passage of the monstrous 1996 Telecommunications Act. It was grand theft media, a colossal giveaway, and a major piece of anti-consumer legislation hugely detrimental to the public interest. It let broadcast giants own twice as many local TV stations as before. It was ever sweeter for radio with all national limits on station ownership removed and greater local market penetration also allowed. Current TV station owners were handed new digital television broadcast spectrum, and cable companies got the right to increase their monopoly positions. Media and telecom giants were winners. Consumers and working journalists lost out.

Professional journalism’s “core problem” became more pronounced – relying on “official sources” as legitimate news, blocking out dissent, leaving out the public altogether, and relying more than ever on fake PR releases without checking their truth.

Given the state of crisis, alternatives are needed, and critics “whose analysis (have) been on the mark the longest” are the ones to look to for answers. They’ve deconstructed the current system, understand how it’s broken, and know what’s needed to fix it. For starters, structure matters. So do institutions. They shape media content everywhere. They transmit values that become internalized and a requirement to rise to the top, or even stay employed.

From political economy of media research, McChesney cites four “propositions to guide understanding, scholarship, and action:”

— media systems aren’t “natural” or “inevitable;” they result from explicit policies and subsidies; no mandate says only for-profit ones are allowed; a professional journalism “core principle” is for a public service “safe house….in the swamp of commercialism;”

— the First Amendment isn’t to grant special favors to communication sector investors alone; a strong argument can be made for government to structure the media; Supreme Court decisions don’t equate a free press with commercialism; they support the state’s right and duty to make a viable free press possible; without it, “the entire constitutional process” fails;

— the dominant US media system is for-profit, but it’s not a free market system; the media giants get enormous direct and indirect subsidies amounting to many hundreds of billions of dollars; they cut both ways; they can be beneficial when they serve the greater good; for decades, rarely have any been directed that way;

— structuring the media should be over subsidy and policy choices, what institutions they’ll support, and what values they’ll encourage and promote; over time, the process grew more undemocratic; the public is completely left out; the FCC is the industry’s handmaiden; and the idea that free markets give people what they want is rubbish.

Consider the evidence. Communication and technology firms spend more on lobbying than any other sector or group. The largest firms assign a lobbyist to each important congressional committee member. They also spend millions in campaign contributions and for PR. Combine this with the “golden revolving door.” Key government officials, aides and FCC members move on to lucrative private sector jobs as reward for their considerations while in government.

Here’s more evidence:

— the indefensible “immaculate conception” notion that the US media system arose “naturally;” in fact, powerful figures created it for commercial interests; and

— the amount of public subsidies debunks the “free market” myth; consider the term “deregulation” as well; in communications, it’s pure propaganda for an industry with less, not more competition; under it, great journalism is impossible; the system has to be overhauled, and doing it will take enlightened government policies in a much different operating environment.

What’s needed is a “range of structures that can provide for the information needs of the people (with) as much openness, freedom, and diversity as possible. That is freedom of the press.”

More than ever today, US history is clear. We need a journalism-producing sector “walled off from corporate and commercial pressures.” Government has to be involved. It’s most important for the Internet and digital revolution. Left to market forces, they’ll be co-opted for profit. Communication giants will control it, charge to the max, censor it, invade our privacy, spy on us, and carpet bomb us with commercialized everything. McChesney is bluntly realistic. Unless we take proactive steps and stop this, “we may come to regret the day the computer was invented.”

Consider other policy considerations as well. For the Internet to provide free speech and a free press, “it has to be ubiquitous, high speed, and inexpensive.” Much like other essentials, we need broadband access “as a civil right” for everyone – for political, cultural and economic reasons. Other developed countries are way ahead of us. It’s shameful and must change. Telecom giants won’t do it. Government has to. It has to quash industry efforts to privatize the Internet, preserve Network Neutrality, keep the Internet open and free, and McChesney puts it this way. “The future of a free press (depends on) ubiquitous, inexpensive, and super-fast Internet access as well as Network Neutrality.”

But that alone won’t solve journalism’s crisis. It’ll take resources and institutional support. The Internet is wondrous, but not magic. It won’t make communication giants amenable to change or transform bad journalism to what serves the public interest. Even so, the blogosphere has potential. Citizen journalism is flourishing. Over time it can increase, and with public support can flourish. But it won’t replace full-time professional journalists and the vast audiences they reach. And it’s equally important to have competing newsrooms, far more than now operate. The problems are great. No magic bullet will solve them, but McChesney offers suggestions. Besides what’s above, he lists:

— policies that “more aggressively shape the media system” – antitrust and communication laws for more diverse ownership; 19th century-style postal subsidies to encourage a broader range of publications; and most important a viable nonprofit, noncommercial real public and community access broadcasting, not the government and corporate-controlled kind from NPR and PBS;

— the problem of the Internet allowing Americans “to construct a personalized media world;” it leads to “group polarization” – sharing common experiences selectively, becoming less informed, respectful and more distrusting of outsiders; journalism is key for Americans for a viable democracy; public media provide it best, and they may influence commercial areas;

— a more radical solution – policies that encourage local and employee ownership, and/or community daily newspaper ownership; within a generation, they’ll be largely digital and indistinguishable from other media forms.

McChesney cites an imperative – to “conduct research on alternative policies and structures (to) generate journalism and quality media content.” Over a decade ago, a $100 tax rebate idea was proposed. It would let people donate it to any nonprofit news medium choice and could potentially raise hundreds of billions of dollars. It was considered radical then, but no longer. It could launch a real alternative media with public benefits not now available. It would also be an antidote to what McChesney calls “a steady diet of (mainstream) crap” that’s dulled the public appetite for great journalism.

His criticism doesn’t repudiate the political economy of media. It completes it and its analysis of journalism. On one side are the firms, owners, labor practices, market structures, policies, occupational codes, and subsidies. Its opposite examines journalism as a whole, the media system as well, and how they interact with broad social and economic relations in society. Where inequality exists, depoliticization is encouraged by those on top.

The political economy of media requires enhancing participatory democracy. In turn, it needs great journalism and media systems. An informed and engaged citizenry as well. Journalism needs democracy, and the reverse is true. They also depend on “media reform and broader movements for social justice (that will) rise and fall together.”

More on The Political Economy of Media follows in Part II. Watch for it soon on this web site.

Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at

Also visit his blog site at and listen to The Global Research News Hour on Mondays from 11AM to 1PM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests. All programs are archived for easy listening.

© Copyright Stephen Lendman, Global Research, 2008

The url address of this article is:

State-Sponsored Terror: British and American Black Ops in Iraq

by Andrew G. Marshall
featured writer
Dandelion Salad
June 25, 2008

Shining Light on the “Black World”

In January of 2002, the Washington Post ran a story detailing a CIA plan put forward to President Bush shortly after 9/11 by CIA Director George Tenet titled, “Worldwide Attack Matrix,” which was “outlining a clandestine anti-terror campaign in 80 countries around the world. What he was ready to propose represented a striking and risky departure for U.S. policy and would give the CIA the broadest and most lethal authority in its history.” The plan entailed CIA and Special Forces “covert operations across the globe,” and at “the heart of the proposal was a recommendation that the president give the CIA what Tenet labeled “exceptional authorities” to attack and destroy al Qaeda in Afghanistan and the rest of the world.” Tenet cited the need for such authority “to allow the agency to operate without restraint — and he wanted encouragement from the president to take risks.” Among the many authorities recommended was the use of “deadly force.”

Further, “Another proposal was that the CIA increase liaison work with key foreign intelligence services,” as “Using such intelligence services as surrogates could triple or quadruple the CIA’s effectiveness.” The Worldwide Attack Matrix “described covert operations in 80 countries that were either underway or that he was now recommending. The actions ranged from routine propaganda to lethal covert action in preparation for military attacks,” as well as “In some countries, CIA teams would break into facilities to obtain information.”[1]

P2OG: “Commit terror, to incite terror… in order to react to terror”

In 2002, the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board (DSB) conducted a “Summer Study on Special Operations and Joint Forces in Support of Countering Terrorism,” portions of which were leaked to the Federation of American Scientists. According to the document, the “War on Terror” constitutes a “committed, resourceful and globally dispersed adversary with strategic reach,” which will require the US to engage in a “long, at times violent, and borderless war.” As the Asia Times described it, this document lays out a blueprint for the US to “fight fire with fire.” Many of the “proposals appear to push the military into territory that traditionally has been the domain of the CIA, raising questions about whether such missions would be subject to the same legal restraints imposed on CIA activities.” According to the Chairman of the DSB, “The CIA executes the plans but they use Department of Defense assets.”

Specifically, the plan “recommends the creation of a super-Intelligence Support Activity, an organization it dubs the Proactive, Preemptive Operations Group (P2OG), to bring together CIA and military covert action, information warfare, intelligence and cover and deception. For example, the Pentagon and CIA would work together to increase human intelligence (HUMINT) forward/operational presence and to deploy new clandestine technical capabilities.” The purpose of P2OG would be in “‘stimulating reactions’ among terrorists and states possessing weapons of mass destruction, meaning it would prod terrorist cells into action, thus exposing them to ‘quick-response’ attacks by US forces.”[2] In other words, commit terror to incite terror, in order to react to terror.

The Los Angeles Times reported in 2002 that, “The Defense Department is building up an elite secret army with resources stretching across the full spectrum of covert capabilities. New organizations are being created. The missions of existing units are being revised,” and quoted then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as saying, “Prevention and preemption are … the only defense against terrorism.”[3] Chris Floyd bluntly described P2OG in CounterPunch, saying, “the United States government is planning to use “cover and deception” and secret military operations to provoke murderous terrorist attacks on innocent people. Let’s say it again: Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush and the other members of the unelected regime in Washington plan to deliberately foment the murder of innocent people–your family, your friends, your lovers, you–in order to further their geopolitical ambitions.”[4]

“The Troubles” with Iraq

On February 5, 2007, the Telegraph reported that, “Deep inside the heart of the “Green Zone” [in Iraq], the heavily fortified administrative compound in Baghdad, lies one of the most carefully guarded secrets of the war in Iraq. It is a cell from a small and anonymous British Army unit that goes by the deliberately meaningless name of the Joint Support Group (JSG).” The members of the JSG “are trained to turn hardened terrorists into coalition spies using methods developed on the mean streets of Ulster during the Troubles, when the Army managed to infiltrate the IRA at almost every level. Since war broke out in Iraq in 2003, they have been responsible for running dozens of Iraqi double agents.” They have been “[w]orking alongside the Special Air Service [SAS] and the American Delta Force as part of the Baghdad-based counter-terrorist unit known as Task Force Black.”

It was reported that, “During the Troubles [in Northern Ireland], the JSG operated under the cover name of the Force Research Unit (FRU), which between the early 1980s and the late 1990s managed to penetrate the very heart of the IRA. By targeting and then “turning” members of the paramilitary organisation with a variety of “inducements” ranging from blackmail to bribes, the FRU operators developed agents at virtually every command level within the IRA.” Further, “The unit was renamed following the Stevens Inquiry into allegations of collusion between the security forces and protestant paramilitary groups, and, until relatively recently continued to work exclusively in Northern Ireland.”[5]

Considering that this group had been renamed after revelations of collusion with terrorists, perhaps it is important to take a look at what exactly this “collusion” consisted of. The Stevens Inquiry’s report “contains devastating confirmation that intelligence officers of the British police and the military actively helped Protestant guerillas to identify and kill Catholic activists in Northern Ireland during the 1980s.” It was, “a state policy sanctioned at the highest level.” The Inquiry, “highlighted collusion, the willful failure to keep records, the absence of accountability, the withholding of intelligence, and the extreme of agents being involved in murder,” and acknowledged “that innocent people had died because of the collusion.” These particular “charges relate to activities of a British Army intelligence outfit known as the Force Research Unit (FRU) and former Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) police officers.”[6]

In 2002, the Sunday Herald reported on the allegations made by a former British intelligence agent, Kevin Fulton, who stated that, “he was told by his military handlers that his collusion with paramilitaries was sanctioned by Margaret Thatcher herself.” Fulton worked for the Force Research Unit (FRU), and had infiltrated the IRA, always while on the pay roll of the military. Fulton tells of how in 1992, he told his FRU and MI5 intelligence handlers that his IRA superior was planning to launch a mortar attack on the police, yet his handlers did nothing and the attack went forward, killing a policewoman. Fulton stated, “I broke the law seven days a week and my handlers knew that. They knew that I was making bombs and giving them to other members of the IRA and they did nothing about it. If everything I touched turned to shit then I would have been dead. The idea was that the only way to beat the enemy was to penetrate the enemy and be the enemy.”[7]

In 1998, Northern Ireland experienced its “worst single terrorist atrocity,” as described by the BBC, in which a car bomb went off, killing 29 people and injuring 300.[8] According to a Sunday Herald piece in 2001, “Security forces didn’t intercept the Real IRA’s Omagh bombing team because one of the terrorists was a British double-agent whose cover would have been blown as an informer if the operation was uncovered.” Kevin Fulton had even “phoned a warning to his RUC handlers 48 hours before the Omagh bombing that the Real IRA was planning an attack and gave details of one of the bombing team and his car registration.” Further, “The man thought to be the agent is a senior member of the [IRA] organization.”[9]

In 2002, it was revealed that, “one of the most feared men inside the Provisional IRA,” John Joe Magee, head of the IRA’s “internal security unit,” commonly known as the IRA’s “torturer- in-chief,” was actually “one of the UK’s most elite soldiers,” who “was trained as a member of Britain’s special forces.” The Sunday Herald stated that, “Magee led the IRA’s internal security unit for more than a decade up to the mid-90s – most of those he investigated were usually executed,” and that, “Magee’s unit was tasked to hunt down, interrogate and execute suspected British agents within the IRA.”[10]

In 2006, the Guardian reported that, “two British agents were central to the bombings of three army border installations in 1990.” The claims included tactics known as the ‘human bomb’, which “involved forcing civilians to drive vehicles laden with explosives into army checkpoints.” This tactic “was the brainchild of British intelligence.”[11]

In 2006, it was also revealed that, “A former British Army mole in the IRA has claimed that MI5 arranged a weapons-buying trip to America in which he obtained detonators, later used by terrorists to murder soldiers and police officers,” and “British intelligence co-operated with the FBI to ensure his trip to New York in the 1990s went ahead without incident so that his cover would not be blown.” Further, “the technology he obtained has been used in Northern Ireland and copied by terrorists in Iraq in roadside bombs that have killed British troops.”[12]

Considering all these revelations of British collusion with IRA terrorists and complicity in terrorist acts in Northern Ireland through the FRU, what evidence is there that these same tactics are not being deployed in Iraq under the renamed Joint Support Group (JSG)? The recruits to the JSG in Iraq are trained extensively and those “who eventually pass the course can expect to be posted to Baghdad, Basra and Afghanistan.”[13]

P2OG in Action

In September of 2003, months after the initial invasion of Iraq in March 2003, Iraq’s most sacred Shiite mosque was blown up, killing between 80 and 120 people, including a popular Shiite cleric, and the event was blamed by Iraqis on the American forces.[14]

On April 20, 2004, American journalist in Iraq, Dahr Jamail, reported in the New Standard that, “The word on the street in Baghdad is that the cessation of suicide car bombings is proof that the CIA was behind them.” Jamail interviewed a doctor who stated that, “The U.S. induces aggression. If you don’t attack me, I will never attack you. The U.S. is stimulating the aggression of the Iraqi people!” This description goes very much in line with the aims outlined in the Pentagon’s P2OG document about “inciting terror,” or “preempting terror attacks.”[15]

Weeks after the initial incident involving the British SAS soldiers in Basra, in October of 2005, it was reported that Americans were “captured in the act of setting off a car bomb in Baghdad,” as, “A number of Iraqis apprehended two Americans disguised in Arab dress as they tried to blow up a booby-trapped car in the middle of a residential area in western Baghdad on Tuesday. … Residents of western Baghdad’s al-Ghazaliyah district [said] the people had apprehended the Americans as they left their Caprice car near a residential neighborhood in al-Ghazaliyah on Tuesday afternoon. Local people found they looked suspicious so they detained the men before they could get away. That was when they discovered that they were Americans and called the … police.” However, “the Iraq police arrived at approximately the same time as allied military forces – and the two men were removed from Iraq custody and whisked away before any questioning could take place.”[16]

It was reported that in May of 2005, an Iraqi man was arrested after witnessing a car bombing that took place in front of his home, as it was said he shot an Iraqi National Guardsman. However, “People from the area claim that the man was taken away not because he shot anyone, but because he knew too much about the bomb. Rumor has it that he saw an American patrol passing through the area and pausing at the bomb site minutes before the explosion. Soon after they drove away, the bomb went off and chaos ensued. He ran out of his house screaming to the neighbors and bystanders that the Americans had either planted the bomb or seen the bomb and done nothing about it. He was promptly taken away.”

Further, another story was reported in the same month that took place in Baghdad when an Iraqi driver had his license and car confiscated at a checkpoint, after which he was instructed “to report to an American military camp near Baghdad airport for interrogation and in order to retrieve his license.” After being questioned for a short while, he was told to drive his car to an Iraqi police station, where his license had been forwarded, and that he should go quickly. “The driver did leave in a hurry, but was soon alarmed with a feeling that his car was driving as if carrying a heavy load, and he also became suspicious of a low flying helicopter that kept hovering overhead, as if trailing him. He stopped the car and inspected it carefully. He found nearly 100 kilograms of explosives hidden in the back seat and along the two back doors. The only feasible explanation for this incident is that the car was indeed booby trapped by the Americans and intended for the al-Khadimiya Shiite district of Baghdad. The helicopter was monitoring his movement and witnessing the anticipated ‘hideous attack by foreign elements.”[17]

On October 4, 2005, it was reported by the Sydney Morning Herald that, “The FBI’s counterterrorism unit has launched a broad investigation of US-based theft rings after discovering some vehicles used in deadly car bombings in Iraq, including attacks that killed US troops and Iraqi civilians, were probably stolen in the United States, according to senior US Government officials.” Further, “The inquiry began after coalition troops raided a Falluja bomb factory last November and found a Texas-registered four-wheel-drive being prepared for a bombing mission. Investigators said there were several other cases where vehicles evidently stolen in the US wound up in Syria or other Middle Eastern countries and ultimately in the hands of Iraqi insurgent groups, including al-Qaeda in Iraq.”[18]

In 2006, the Al-Askariya mosque in the city of Samarra was bombed and destroyed. It was built in 944, was over 1,000 years old, and was one of the most important Shi’ite mosques in the world. The great golden dome that covered it, which was built in 1904, was destroyed in the 2006 bombing, which was set off by men dressed as Iraqi Special Forces.[19] Former 27-year CIA analyst who gave several presidents their daily CIA briefings, Ray McGovern, stated that he “does not rule out Western involvement in this week’s Askariya mosque bombing.” He was quoted as saying, “The main question is Qui Bono? Who benefits from this kind of thing? You don’t have to be very conspiratorial or even paranoid to suggest that there are a whole bunch of likely suspects out there and not only the Sunnis. You know, the British officers were arrested, dressed up in Arab garb, riding around in a car, so this stuff goes on.”[20]

Death Squads for “Freedom”

In January of 2005, Newsweek reported on a Pentagon program termed the “Salvador Option” being discussed to be deployed in Iraq. This strategy “dates back to a still-secret strategy in the Reagan administration’s battle against the leftist guerrilla insurgency in El Salvador in the early 1980s. Then, faced with a losing war against Salvadoran rebels, the U.S. government funded or supported “nationalist” forces that allegedly included so-called death squads directed to hunt down and kill rebel leaders and sympathizers.” Updating the strategy to Iraq, “one Pentagon proposal would send Special Forces teams to advise, support and possibly train Iraqi squads, most likely hand-picked Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and Shiite militiamen, to target Sunni insurgents and their sympathizers, even across the border into Syria, according to military insiders familiar with the discussions.”[21]

The Times reported that, “the Pentagon is considering forming hit squads of Kurdish and Shia fighters to target leaders of the Iraqi insurgency in a strategic shift borrowed from the American struggle against left-wing guerrillas in Central America 20 years ago. Under the so-called ‘El Salvador option’, Iraqi and American forces would be sent to kill or kidnap insurgency leaders.” It further stated, “Hit squads would be controversial and would probably be kept secret,” as “The experience of the so-called “death squads” in Central America remains raw for many even now and helped to sully the image of the United States in the region.” Further, “John Negroponte, the US Ambassador in Baghdad, had a front-row seat at the time as Ambassador to Honduras from 1981-85.”[22]

By June of 2005, mass executions were taking place in Iraq in the six months since January, and, “What is particularly striking is that many of those killings have taken place since the Police Commandos became operationally active and often correspond with areas where they have been deployed.”[23]

In May of 2007, an Iraqi who formerly collaborated with US forces in Iraq for two and a half years stated that, “I was a soldier in the Iraqi army in the war of 1991 and during the withdrawal from Kuwait I decided to seek asylum in Saudi Arabia along with dozens of others like me. That was how began the process whereby I was recruited into the American forces, for there were US military committees that chose a number of Iraqis who were willing to volunteer to join them and be transported to America. I was one of those.” He spoke out about how after the 2003 invasion, he was returned to Iraq to “carry out specific tasks assigned him by the US agencies.” Among those tasks, he was put “in charge of a group of a unit that carried out assassinations in the streets of Baghdad.”

He was quoted as saying, “Our task was to carry out assassinations of individuals. The US occupation army would supply us with their names, pictures, and maps of their daily movements to and from their place of residence and we were supposed to kill the Shi’i, for example, in the al-A’zamiyah, and kill the Sunni in the of ‘Madinat as-Sadr’, and so on.” Further, “Anyone in the unit who made a mistake was killed. Three members of my team were killed by US occupation forces after they failed to assassinate Sunni political figures in Baghdad.” He revealed that this “dirty jobs” unit of Iraqis, Americans and other foreigners, “doesn’t only carry out assassinations, but some of them specialize in planting bombs and car bombs in neighborhoods and markets.”

He elaborated in saying that “operations of planting car bombs and blowing up explosives in markets are carried out in various ways, the best-known and most famous among the US troops is placing a bomb inside cars as they are being searched at checkpoints. Another way is to put bombs in the cars during interrogations. After the desired person is summoned to one of the US bases, a bomb is place in his car and he is asked to drive to a police station or a market for some purpose and there his car blows up.”[24]

Divide and Conquer?

Craig Murray, former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, wrote in October of 2006, that, “The evidence that the US directly contributed to the creation of the current civil war in Iraq by its own secretive security strategy is compelling. Historically of course this is nothing new – divide and rule is a strategy for colonial powers that has stood the test of time. Indeed, it was used in the previous British occupation of Iraq around 85 years ago. However, maybe in the current scenario the US just over did it a bit, creating an unstoppable momentum that, while stalling the insurgency, has actually led to new problems of control and sustainability for Washington and London.”[25]

Andrew G. Marshall contributed to breaking the Climate Change consensus in a celebrated 2006 article entitled Global Warming A Convenient Lie, in which he challenged the findings underlying Al Gore’s documentary.  According to Marshall, ‘as soon as people start to state that “the debate is over”, beware, because the fundamental basis of all sciences is that debate is never over’. Andrew Marshall has also written on the militarization of Central Africa, national security issues and the process of integration of North America. He is also a contributor to
He is currently a researcher at the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG) in Montreal and is studying political science and history at Simon Fraser University, British Columbia.


[1] Bob Woodward and Dan Balz, At Camp David, Advise and Dissent. The Washington Post: January 31, 2002:

[2] David Isenberg, ‘P2OG’ Allows the Pentagon to Fight Dirty. Asia Times Online: November 5, 2002:

[3] William M. Arkin, The Secret War. The Los Angeles Times: October 27, 2002:,0,7355676.story

[4] Chris Floyd, Into the Dark: The Pentagon Plan to Provoke Terrorist Attacks. Counter Punch: November 1, 2002:

[5] Sean Rayment, Top Secret Army Cell Breaks Terrorists. The Telegraph: February 5, 2007:

[6] Michael S. Rose, Britain’s “Dirty War” with the IRA. Catholic World News: July 2003:

[7] Home Affairs, The army asked me to make bombs for the IRA, told me I had the Prime Minister’s Blessing. The Sunday Herald: June 23, 2002:

[8] BBC, UK: Northern Ireland Bravery awards for bomb helpers. BBC News: November 17, 1999:

[9] Neil Mackay, British double-agent was in Real IRA’s Omagh bomb team. The Sunday Herald: August 19, 2001:

[10] Neil Mackay, IRA torturer was in the Royal Marines; Top republican terrorist. The Sunday Herald: December 15, 2002:

[11] Henry McDonald, UK agents ‘did have role in IRA bomb atrocities’. The Guardian: September 10, 2006:

[12] Enda Leahy, MI5 ‘helped IRA buy bomb parts in US’. Sunday Times: March 19, 2006:

[13] Sean Rayment, Top Secret Army Cell Breaks Terrorists. The Telegraph: February 5, 2007:

[14] AP, U.S. Blamed For Mosque Attack. CBS News: September 2, 2003:

[15] Dahr Jamail, Dahr Jamail Blog From Baghdad. The New Standard: April 20, 2004:

[16] FMNN, UNITED STATES CAUGHT IN IRAQ CAR-BOMBING. Free Market News Network: October 14, 2005:

[17] Michael Keefer, Were British Special Forces Soldiers Planting Bombs in Basra? Global Research: September 25, 2005:

[18] Bryan Bender, Cars stolen in US used in suicide attacks. The Sydney Morning Herald: October 4, 2005:

[19] Sam Knight, Bombing of Shia shrine sparks wave of retaliation. The Times Online: February 22, 2006:

[20] Prison Planet, Former CIA Analyst: Western Intelligence May Be Behind Mosque Bombing. Prison Planet: February 26, 2006:

[21] Michael Hirsh and John Barry, “The Salvador Option”. Newsweek: January 14, 2005:

[22] Roland Watson, El Salvador-style ‘death squads’ to be deployed by US against Iraq militants. The Times Online: January 10, 2005:

[23] Max Fuller, For Iraq, “The Salvador Option” Becomes Reality. Global Research: June 2, 2005:

[24] AMSII, Ordered Assassinations, Sectarian Bomb Attacks Targeting Iraqi Civilians. Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq: May 12, 2007:

[25] Craig Murray, Civil War in Iraq: The Salvador Option and US/UK Policy. October 18, 2006:

Mosaic News – 06/24/08: World News From The Middle East

Dandelion Salad



This video may contain images depicting the reality and horror of war/violence and should only be viewed by a mature audience.


For more:
“Ceasefire in Gaza, War in the West Bank,” Dubai TV, UAE
“IDF Might Consider Missing Soldiers in Lebanon Dead,” IBA TV, Israel
“Lebanese Conflict Flares Up in the North,” Abu Dhabi TV, UAE
“Al Qaeda at Nahr Al Bared,” Al Jazeera English, Qatar
“Iraqi Refugees Face Deportation in Europe,” Al Arabiya TV, UAE
“Symposuim on Guantanamo Prison,” Sudan TV, Sudan
“40 Million Threatened With Famine in Africa,” Al-Alam TV, Iran
Produced for Link TV by Jamal Dajani.

Cindy Sheehan Support Democracy Concert + STRATA: The New National Anthem

The Real Cindy Sheehan

by Cindy Sheehan
Dandelion Salad
featured writer
Cindy Sheehan for Congress

June 25, 2008

Cindy Sheehan for Congress

Cindy Sheehan show flyer

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting



This video may contain images depicting the reality and horror of war/violence and should only be viewed by a mature audience.

STRATA Presents: The New National Anthem


August 08, 2007

Iraq war footage with “The New National Anthem” by Strata playing in the background….

The stuff you are about to see is 100% real.

WARNING: some of the footage in the following video may be graphic and disturbing, but it’s happening every day and we can’t ignore that.


DISCLAIMER: I made this video. It isn’t affiliated with STRATA.


Cynthia McKinney Joins Cindy For Congress! (+ video)

Riding the Rails by Ralph Nader

Dandelion Salad

by Ralph Nader
June 24. 2008

With the rapid expansion of federal spending responding to the perceived national security requirements after 9/11, passenger railroad supporters looked forward to a tripleheader.

First passenger railroad service would have to be upgraded and expanded to facilitate mass population evacuations from cities during attack emergencies. Second, by embarking on a “national defense” passenger rail program, there would be less consumption of gasoline and less gridlock on congested highways.

Third, the energy efficiency of transporting people by intercity rail and commuter rail would diminish some of the buildup of greenhouse gases.

Right after 9/11, the airlines descended on Washington, D.C. and got a package of loans, guarantees and other federal assistance amounting to $15 billion.

AMTRAK got just about nothing. But then for this vast nation with large pockets of consistently clogged highways, AMTRAK has been getting very little federal aid since its creation in 1971 as a public service corporation. President Bush wants to cut what little (just over $1 billion a year) AMTRAK receives.

Consider this: according to the Government Accountability Office, AMTRAK has received a total of $30 billion during the last thirty-six years in federal aid for its intercity train service over the entire country. A few weeks ago, the Federal Reserve bailed out Bear Stearns, a large, reckless investment banking firm on Wall Street for just under $30 billion.

Japan and Western European countries have modern, fast rail services, with modern equipment and solid rail beds coursing throughout their territories with governmental assistance. They are a public service, not meant to make a profit, anymore than public libraries or public schools, although the rail passengers do pay for their tickets.

In our country, AMTRAK has been starved by the federal government which lavishes taxpayer money on the airlines in a variety of ways.

As a result, AMTRAK has aging equipment, has to use the freight railroad beds and has very little money for rolling stock and track capacity, especially at critical “chokepoints” where delays occur with freight trains.

With soaring gasoline and airfare prices, more Americans are taking mass transit and AMTRAK to get to their destinations. AMTRAK is on the way to a record year, transporting over 27 million passengers in 2008, with ridership up over 12 percent from last year.

AMTRAK and its equipment suppliers, constrained by money, have been shrinking. Routes have been abandoned. Manufacturers of rail cars and locomotives have also diminished. So, expansion to meet the growing demand will be difficult and take some time. This passenger railroad carries less than 5 percent of the domestic passengers carried by the airlines.

Losing about $1 billion a year, AMTRAK’s financial needs are trivial compared to large for-profit corporations who feed from the public trough in Washington, D.C. Some Congressional help is finally on the way.

The House and the Senate have passed the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act with veto-proof margins to over-ride a threatened veto by George W. Bush.

Assuming no major changes in the House-Senate conference on the bill, AMTRAK will receive annual appropriations closer to $2 billion a year, compared to the current level of $1.2 billion. This includes money for capital investment, for reducing debt and expanding operating budgets for more passengers. There is also a matching-grant program for the states to expand service, similar to the program long in place for highway construction.

The large freight railroads are pressing Congress for public money and tax credits to upgrade railroad beds and pay for track expansion, which could redound to the benefit of passenger rail service as well.

The American people have to ask themselves how robust and convenient a modern passenger rail system they want. As good as the one in Canada? As good as the systems in France and Germany?

Given the way the federal government wastes money, there are many ways to justify a first-class, high-speed passenger rail system that will save more than it costs—especially in a security emergency, a national disaster like Katrina and the delays, fuel and pollution avoided.

All in all, a worthy topic for public debate during this political year.
FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Glenn Greenwald On Antiwar Radio

Dandelion Salad


June 24, 2008

Glenn Greenwald, blogger at and author of Great American Hypocrites, discusses the particulars of the congressional Democrats’ sellout of the 4th Amendment and complete capitulation to the Bush administrations’ lawless wiretapping program and the new realignment for liberty.

Glenn Greenwald was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times bestselling books How Would a Patriot Act? and A Tragic Legacy. His brand new one is Great American Hypocrites.

Vodpod videos no longer available.


Confronting Foreign Intelligence and Information Gaps + Feingold on the 4th Amendment

HR 6304 – A Bill to Abolish the 4th Amendment

The Hedonists of Power By Chris Hedges

Venezuela and the change of eras by Trent Hawkins

Dandelion Salad

Posted with permission by Green Left Weekly (note: if you want to repost, you’ll have to get permission from them.)

by Trent Hawkins
Green Left Weekly
20 June 2008

Fred Fuentes, who has spent a year working in Venezuela, will be a special guest speaker at the Resistance National Conference in Sydney, June 27-29. Green Left Weekly’s Trent Hawkins caught up with Fuentes just before he left Caracas for Australia.

What is the political situation in Latin America?

Throughout Latin America, the winds of change are blowing. As the president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, said: “We’re not just living through an era of change, we are living through a change of eras”.

In the eye of this revolutionary storm is the Bolivarian revolution led by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. In the decade since Chavez was first elected president, Venezuela has been undergoing profound and radical changes based on the simple idea that to get rid of poverty you have to give power to the people. This has led a majority of people to the conclusion that it is not enough to just reform the system, it is necessary to create a new one — socialism.

Across the country, communities, workers, small farmers, students and women are organising to begin to change their daily lives. The Chavez government has been crucial in stimulating this by providingeconomic and political support to struggle against the rich elites.

The simple idea of power to the people goes to the heart of everything that is wrong with capitalist society. It’s so powerful that the US would like nothing better than to destroy this revolution. I hope to be able to give people a taste of this exciting struggle to change the world in the face of US aggression.

@question = Why is the Bolivarian revolution relevant to Australian activists?

The simple fact is that the Bolivarian revolution has raised the banner of socialism as a real and viable alternative to imperialism and capitalism. For socialists, this is an extremely important development.

Building solidarity with the Venezuelan government and its people fighting for a better world, not just a better country, is crucial for all those who agree that capitalism is not only an irrational and unsustainable system, but is a threat to life and humanity.

The US empire is in trouble economically, politically and militarily: it is bogged down in unwinnable wars in the Middle East — the other pole of opposition to imperialism that has emerged in recent years.

Throughout the 1980s and ’90s the US was, in large part, able to contain the problems it faced because no serious alternative existed. However, the world today is witness to the fact that not only is an alternative system possible, it is taking shape right now and its name is socialism.

Today, the struggle of millions of Venezuelans is being joined by new mass contingents of social movements and youth across Latin America.

Venezuela is turning the tide of history and as such it is a beacon of inspiration to activists across the world, including in Australia. One only has to look at the numbers of people joining the solidarity brigades to Venezuela, organised by the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network, to see this.

@question = You’ve been studying the struggles in Bolivia, where an indigenous revolution is taking place. What’s been the impact of the struggle in Bolivia on the rest of Latin America and internationally?

Across the continent the spirit of anti-imperialism and Latin American unity is growing. Within this, there is an important force — that of the indigenous people of the Americas. Since the early ’90s, they have been waging a militant campaign in defence of their rights.

That struggle, particularly over the last eight years in which two governments were toppled in Bolivia, is expressed today in Evo Morales being elected the president of Bolivia.

Evo is the first indigenous president in a country where the indigenous majority have been oppressed and exploited for more than 500 years. His election has deepened the convictions of the indigenous people of the Americas to push forward in their campaign, initiated in 1992, to move from resistance to power.

The impact of the Morales government is inspiring indigenous peoples across the world. Today, Evo is central to an international indigenous movement that is at the cutting edge of the struggle to defend the environment. Indigenous people, who for centuries have struggled against their lands being destroyed by capital, are today rising up to tell the world that capitalism is killing Mother Earth and it’s time for a change.

@question = Do you think revolutionary struggle, like what we’re seeing in Venezuela and Bolivia, is possible in a rich country like Australia?

It is not only possible, it’s absolutely necessary! Today, anyone who is interested in saving the planet should join those already fighting back. We need to join up with our indigenous brothers and sisters across Latin America, the Middle East, Australia and elsewhere who are resisting the corporate profits-first agenda of big capital.

We need to convince more people that, like the Venezuelans, we too can change the world. That’s the critical role young people can play in the struggle: we’re more open to the ideas that change is not only possible, but necessary. Right now, the global petrol, food and climate crises have opened up the discussions about system change among a lot more people. We should be saying “No to global warming, we want to change the system”.

What happens today in Venezuela is crucial because we in Australia are fighting the same enemy — capitalism. Each blow struck against this enemy, no matter where in the world, is a victory for all progressive fighters.

This is why imperialism is trying to isolate Venezuela: they want to crush the revolution. Therefore, building solidarity with this struggle is extremely relevant to our discussions about deepening and broadening the struggle in Australia.

[Fred Fuentes is working as an aide to an advisor of the Venezuelan government. He will address the topic “Socialism in the 21st Century — the Venezuelan Revolution” on June 28 at 4.30pm at the Guthrie Theatre, University of Technology, Sydney. He will also be presenting a workshop titled “The indigenous revolution in Bolivia today”. For the full agenda visit]

From: Comment & Analysis, Green Left Weekly issue #756 25 June 2008.

All articles appearing in Green Left Weekly are copyright by their authors. However, most regular contributors have granted permission for their work to be republished by non-profit green, left, human rights or generally progressive publications.

We like to know what audiences we are reaching, and would therefore appreciate being informed of any republication (in print or electronically).


Venezuela: What a pro-worker government looks like by Trent Hawkins

Gas Could Fall To $2 If Congress Acts, Analysts Say

Dandelion Salad

By Rex Nutting & Michael Kitchen
June 24, 2008

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch)

Limiting speculation would push prices to fundamental level, lawmakers told

The price of retail gasoline could fall by half, to around $2 a gallon, within 30 days of passage of a law to limit speculation in energy-futures markets, four energy analysts told Congress on Monday.

Testifying to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Michael Masters of Masters Capital Management said that the price of oil would quickly drop closer to its marginal cost of around $65 to $75 a barrel, about half the current $135.

Fadel Gheit of Oppenheimer & Co., Edward Krapels of Energy Security Analysis and Roger Diwan of PFC Energy Consultants agreed with Masters’ assessment at a hearing on proposed legislation to limit speculation in futures markets.

Krapels said that it wouldn’t even take 30 days to drive prices lower, as fund managers quickly liquidated their positions in futures markets.

“Record oil prices are inflated by speculation and not justified by market fundamentals,” according to Gheit. “Based on supply and demand fundamentals, crude-oil prices should not be above $60 per barrel.”


FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


Gas-Pump Gouging; Just Don’t Blame The Saudis By Mike Whitney