Chris Hedges interviewed by Jimmy Dore
America Has The Tinder To IGNITE Social Uprising - Chris Hedges
A critical assessment by Patrice Greanville
Another illuminating chat with the ever cogent Chris Hedges. There's no question Hedges is a powerful and valuable voice in a political landscape largely decimated of lucid and principled analysts. That said, I have always found Hedges far more of an old-fashioned left-liberal than a radical socialist, a Marxist, or a "tankie", which in my view would be a marked improvement in the clarity and power of his message. Lest someone think I'm an ingrate, especially at this moment of crisis when we desperately need superior progressive communicators like Hedges to present the political diagnosis the way it is, let me state at the outset that I am awfully glad that Jimmy invites him often, and that I apreciate a lot of the work that Hedges does on his TV and print platforms. There are things that bother me, however. Maybe it's unfair, but Hedges still strikes me as an unreliable witness to contemporary history. Let me quickly enumerate a few:
• Hedges rarely misses an oportunity to attack the Serbian side in the Yugoslav tragedy, often vocally siding with the EU/US favorites, the Bosnian muslims. The official version of the Srebrenica massacre, which he, as NYTimes correspondent, helped to disseminate, has been shown to pack more than a few fundamental errors. This version, however, continues to whitewash the ugliness of the NATO intrigues and attack on Yugoslavia. I'm not saying here that the Serbs were angels; with nationalist fervors unleashed, ALL sides in this war committed what some would call "atrocities". But that is the very nature of war, which Chris, for one, having studied the subject closely, understands very well. What we object is the pinning of "war crimes" exclusively on the Serbians, which happens to remain the least "cooperative" national group in the Manichean games played by the West to absorb the Balkans into an anti-Moscow capitalist sphere, conveniently forgetting the behaviour of the other belligerents. For a more balanced view on this topic, see the estimable Max Parry's The real ‘Butcher of the Balkans’ was NATO, and Edward S. Herman, Serb Demonization as Propaganda Coup.
• Despite his sophisticated understanding of politics and history, Hedges is sometimes reluctant to use an outright anti-capitalist framework to analyze the challenges confronting ordinary people, and while sometimes praising the Communists for their contributions to the anti-corporate struggle, he manages, like many liberals, to praise and curse at the same time. He retains a rather left-liberal attitude toward Marxism in general, and a rather simplisitic vision of actually existing socialism, beginning of course with the Soviet Union, to which these words apparently apply (bold italics mine):
"Hope in this age of bankrupt capitalism will come with the return of the language of class conflict. It does not mean we have to agree with Karl Marx, who advocated violence and whose worship of the state as a utopian mechanism led to another form of enslavement of the working class, but we have to speak in the vocabulary Marx employed. We have to grasp, as Marx did, that corporations are not concerned with the common good. They exploit, pollute, impoverish, repress, kill and lie to make money..."
This is a distortion of Marx's thought, unworthy of an honest intellectual, which Hedges certainly professes to be. Chris is certainly not a Marxist scholar, nor does he have to be to be a fair and accurate witness in quoting the great theoretican of revolution. Fact is, no Marxist or Communist advocates violence as a sine qua non method for the transition to socialism. Marx and Engels certainly did not advocate it. They did not say that violence is the way for all real revolutionaries. But while Marx did not advocate violence, he recognized that in the dialectics of class struggle the capitalist (or feudalist) state would almost always be the first to use violence—often brutal and sordid— to repress the budding revolution, a fact that would compel revolutionists to form self-defense organizations and eventually fight back.
Hedges stubborn liberalism is a bit suprising and contradictory considering his usual rhetoric. Rainer Shea, for one, has noted Hedges's tendency to paint revolutionaries as thuggish adherents to a gratuitous cult of violence. In his critique of Hedges (Chris Hedges’ counter-revolutionary advice for revolution) Shea quotes Hedges thusly:
[ON REVOLUTIONARY VIOLENCE][ON LENIN & OTHER BOLSHEVIK LEADERS] Lenin in power, like Leon Trotsky, was an opportunist who made promises, such as “all power to the soviets,” that he had no intention of keeping. He employed political terror, widespread arrests and executions to crush the autonomous, self-governing soviets and workers committees. He led a centralized, autocratic ruling elite…Stalinism was not an aberration. It was the natural heir of Leninism.-from “The Dilemma of Vladimir Lenin”
The cult of the gun was disastrous. It distorted reality…[there has been] incalculable damage caused by this cult, including the doomed attempt in 1967 by Che Guevara to form a foco in Bolivia, an effort that would cost him his life. The cult of the gun saw most third-world liberation movements, such as the National Liberation Front (FLN) in Algeria, devolve into squalid military dictatorships when they took power.-from “The Cult of Violence Always Kills the Left”
Opportunists. Traitors. Bloodthirsty tyrants. Haven't we heard this before? Yes, on Chomsky's lips, who, from his shifting, strategically useless anarcho-syndicalist perch also regards Lenin and other revolutionists as nothing more than power-hungry thugs. In the same vein, brave lifetime antifascist leaders, like Erich Honecker, head of East Germany's Communist Party, are routinely dismissed as would-be butchers. It's worth noting that Honecker resisted Gorbachev's entreaties to embrace Moscow's glasnost and prerestroika liberal reforms, so warmly celebrated in the West. Those who remember the horrid catastrophe that followed the dissolution of the USSR surely understand quite clearly why Washington and its allies were so jubilant about the collapse of the Soviet Union. Shea—who is a socialist— offers this retort, which I find apt:
During his efforts to keep the revolutionary government strong and unified, Lenin didn’t restrict the workers from having a say—he restricted the former bourgeoisie and religious institutions. Hedges’ referencing the film The Death of Stalin is a remarkably weak rhetorical move on his part; The Death of Stalin is filled with historical errors, and it uses these distortions of the truth to reinforce its highly biased retelling of the exaggerated flaws in the era’s Soviet leadership.
But these dishonest claims are no doubt all seen as truthful by Hedges, because they serve to legitimize a line of thinking that Hedges sees as undeniably truthful. Like the creative liberties that were taken to create the propagandistic Death of Stalin, these and Hedges’ other attacks on communist movements and leaders are ways of subtly nudging people towards accepting a larger worldview. In the case of The Death of Stalin, this worldview is one of basic Russophobia. In the case of Hedges’ lectures and writings, it’s one of blanket hostility towards the efforts from history’s communists to put power into the hands of the proletariat.
Hedges of course isn’t pushing a worldview that encourages hostility towards the idea of proletarian liberation in itself. The vast majority of Hedges’ work is some form of condemnation of capitalism and its consequential evils, and he frequently urges people to revolt against the system. Yet despite having stated in one essay that he believes Karl Marx was right about the nature of capitalism, he portrays all of Marxism’s biggest champions as villains and fools. Che Guevara is characterized by Hedges as an incompetent leader who was driven by irrational bloodlust; Lenin and Stalin are characterized as evil dictators; in the fashion of classic anti-communist historical revisionism, Mao is characterized as a perpetrator of “campaigns of genocide and mass extermination” who advanced “totalitarian systems” that were comparable to Nazism.
It’s unsurprising that Hedges has taken up this line of anti-communism. In a telling paragraph from his 2009 essay Liberals Are Useless, Hedges admitted that he’s a liberal, writing: “I save my anger for our bankrupt liberal intelligentsia of which, sadly, I guess I am a member.” There are countless other figures of his breed, ones who peddle reactionary myths about communism from a left-leaning perspective. However, what makes Hedges’ anti-communist screeds especially worth repudiating is the fact that Hedges doesn’t posture himself as a centrist or a reformist; his articles and talks are filled with calls for revolution and affirmations that capitalism doesn’t work.
No wonder that while castigating —quite eloquently—the corporate status quo, Hedges is a bit elusive about saying outright that humanity needs to desperately move beyond capitalism. This hesitation—quite typical of liberals— may explain why Hedges often talks about "rebuilding America" (as he does in this chat with Jimmy Dore). Fact is, there's no great America to go back to. The "great America" so many invoke with nostalgia was never that great. Despite a period of postwar affluence that lasted a few decades, and was not inherent in the dynamics of capitalism, that America was riddled with problems that have only become much worse. We need to build a new America, a socialist America, not a MAGA fantasy of the left. In sum, Hedges, journalist and prolific author, is a great mobiliser and educator for the urgent need to change the rotting political system holding much of the West in its death grip. And there is no reason to doubt Hedges' personal commitment and sincerity to the struggle. As he often states, this system, if left unchallenged, will kill us. These notable qualities, however, should not make us forget that in the long struggle to liberate the Western mind from the capitalist claptrap, liberal anticommunists may not be the most trustworthy guides.
^5000The mainstream imperialist media lie CONSTANTLY. Literally 24/7. And it's getting worse.
All of them do it: radio, tv, the newspapers, the movies. The internet. No exceptions.
The corporate Big Lie is pervasive and totalitarian. CBS does it. NBC does it. ABC does it.
CNN does it. FOX does it. NPR does it. And of course the NYTimes and WaPo do it.
Thousands of "diverse" voices telling you the same lies. Enough to convince anyone.
The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of The Greanville Post
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