Losing Military Supremacy: The Continued Relevancy of Andrei Martyanov

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By The Saker

[This article was written for the Unz Review]

Carriers are quintessentially power projection platforms, not designed nor suitable for home defence. Now advanced missiles in Russia and China have made them into exorbitantly expensive sitting ducks. The destruction of the US Navy is no longer a matter of an opponent's capability. It is a question of whether that opponent is ready to trigger a world-ending nuclear war. US military world posture, therefore, from a strategic standpoint, is partially based on nuclear blackmail.

The fact that the USA is facing a profound crisis, possibly the worst one in its history, is accepted by most observers, except maybe the most delusional ones. Most Americans definitely know that. In fact, if there is one thing upon which both those who supported Trump and those who hate him with a passion can agree on, it would be that his election is a clear proof of a profound crisis (I would argue that the election of Obama before also had, as one of its main causes, the very same systemic crisis). When speaking of this crisis, most people will mention the deindustrialization, the drop in real income, the lack of well-paid jobs, healthcare, crime, immigration, pollution, education, and a myriad of other contributing factors. But of all the aspects of the “American dream”, the single most resilient one has been the myth of the US military as “the finest fighting force in history”. In this new book, Andrei Martianov not only comprehensively debunks this myth, he explains step by step how this myth was created and why it is collapsing now. This is no small feat, especially in a relatively short book (225 pages) which is very well written and accessible to everyone, not just military specialists.

Martyanov takes a systematic and step-by-step approach: first, he defines military power, then he explains where the myth of US military superiority came from and how the US rewriting of the history of WWII resulted in a complete misunderstanding, especially at the top political levels, of the nature of modern warfare. He then discusses the role ideology and the Cold War played in further exacerbating the detachment of US leaders from reality. Finally, he demonstrates how a combination of delusional narcissism and outright corruption resulted in a US military capable of wasting truly phenomenal sums of money on “defense” while at the same time resulting in an actual force unable to win a war against anything but a weak and defenseless enemy.

That is not to say that the US military has not fought in many wars and won. It did, but in the words of Martyanov:

Surely when America fought against a third-rate adversary it was possible to rain death from the skies, and then roll over its forces, if any remained by that time, with very little difficulty and casualties. That will work in the future too against that type of adversary—similar in size and flimsiness of Iraqi Forces circa 2003. But Ledeen’s Doctrine had one major flaw—one adult cannot continue to go around the sandbox constantly fighting children and pretend to be good at fighting adults.

The main problem for the USA today is that there are very few of those third-rate adversaries left out there and that those who the USA is trying to bring to submission now are either near-peer or even peer adversaries. Martyanov specifically lists the factors which make that kind of adversary so different from those the USA fought in the past:

  1. Modern adversaries have command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities equal to or better than the US ones.
  2. Modern adversaries have electronic warfare capabilities equal to or better than the US ones
  3. Modern adversaries have weapon systems equal to or better than the US ones.
  4. Modern adversaries have air defenses which greatly limit the effectiveness of US airpower.
  5. Modern adversaries have long-range subsonic, supersonic and hypersonic cruise missiles which present a huge threat to the USN, bases, staging areas and even the entire US mainland.

In the book, all these points are substantiated with numerous and specific examples which I am not repeating here for the sake of brevity.

One could be forgiven for not being aware of any of these facts, at least if one considers the kind of nonsense written by the US corporate media or, for that matter, by the so-called “experts” (another interesting topic Martyanov discusses in some detail). Still, one can live in an imaginary world only as long as reality does not come crashing in, be it in the form of criminally overpriced and useless weapon systems or in the form of painful military defeats. The current hysteria about Russia as the Evil Mordor which is the culprit for everything and anything bad (real or imaginary) happening to the USA is mostly due to the fact that Russia, in total contradiction to all the “expert” opinions, not only did not crash or turn into a “gas station masquerading as a country” with her economy “in tatters”, but succeeded in developing a military which, for a small fraction of the US military budget, successfully developed armed forces which are in reality far more capable than the US forces. I realize that this last statement is quite literally “unthinkable” for many Americans and I submit that the very fact that this is so literally unthinkable greatly contributed to making this possible in the first place: when you are so damn sure that by some kind of miracle of history, or God’s will, or Manifest Destiny or any other supernatural reason, you are inherently and by definition superior and generally “better” than everybody else you are putting yourself in great danger of being defeated. This is as true for Israel as it is for the USA. I would also add that in the course of the West’s history this “crashing in of reality” in the comfy world of narcissistic delusion often came in the form of a Russian soldier defeating the putatively much superior master race of the day (from the Crusaders to the Nazis). Hence the loathing which western ruling elites always had for everything Russian.

Martyanov’s book will deeply irritate and even outrage those for whom the US narcissistic culture of axiomatic superiority has become an integral part of their identity. But for everybody else this book is an absolute must-have because the future of our entire planet is at stake here: the question is not whether the US Empire is collapsing, but what the consequences of this collapse will be for our planet...

In this book, Martyanov explains why, in spite of the absolutely catastrophic 1990s, the Russians succeeded in developing a modern and highly capable combat force in a record time. There are two main reasons for this: first, unlike their US counterparts, Russian weapons are designed to kill, not to make money and, second, Russians understand warfare because they understand what war really is. This latest argument might look circular, but it is not: Russians are all acutely aware of what war really means and, crucially, they are actually willing to make personal sacrifices to either avoid or, at least, win wars. In contrast, US Americans have no experience of real warfare (that is warfare in defense of their own land, family and friends) at all. For US Americans warfare is killing the other guy in his own country, preferably from afar or above, while making a ton of money in the process. For Russians, warfare is simply about surviving at any and all cost. The difference couldn’t be greater.

The difference in weapons systems acquisition is also simple: since US wars never really put the people of the USA at risk, the consequences of developing under-performing weapons systems were never catastrophic. The profits made, however, were immense. Hence the kind of criminally overpriced and useless weapons system like the F-35, the Littoral Combat Ship or, of course, the fantastically expensive and no less fantastically vulnerable aircraft carriers. The Russian force planners had very different priorities: not only did they fully realize that the failure to produce an excellently performing weapons system could result in their country being devastated and occupied (not to mention their families and themselves either enslaved or killed), they also realized that they could never match the Pentagon in terms of spending. So what they did was to design comparatively much cheaper weapons systems which could destroy or render useless the output of the multi-trillion dollar US military-industrial complex. This is how Russian missiles made the entire US ABM program and the US carrier-centric Navy pretty much obsolete as well as how Russian air defenses turned putatively “invisible” US aircraft into targets or how Russian diesel-electric submarines are threatening US nuclear attack subs. All that at a tiny fraction of what the US taxpayer spends on “defense”. Here again, Martyanov gives plenty of detailed examples.

Martyanov’s book will deeply irritate and even outrage those for whom the US narcissistic culture of axiomatic superiority has become an integral part of their identity. But for everybody else this book is an absolute must-have because the future of our entire planet is at stake here: the question is not whether the US Empire is collapsing, but what the consequences of this collapse will be for our planet. Right now, the US military has turned into a “hollow force” which simply cannot perform its mission, especially since that mission is, as defined by US politicians, the control of the entire planet. There is a huge discrepancy between the perceived and the actual capabilities of the US military and the only way to bridge this gap are, of course, nuclear weapons. This is why the last chapter in the book is entitled “The Threat of a Massive American Military Miscalculation”. In this chapter, Martyanov names the real enemy of both the Russian and the American people – the US political elites and, especially, the Neocons: they are destroying the USA as a country and they are putting all of mankind at risk of nuclear annihilation.

The above summary does not do justice to Martyanov’s truly seminal book. I can only say that I consider this book as an absolutely indispensable “must read” for every person in the USA who loves his/her country and for every person who believes that wars, especially nuclear ones, must be avoided at all costs. Just like many others (I think of Paul Craig Roberts), Martyanov is warning us that “the day of reckoning is upon us” and that the risks of war are very real, even if for most of us such an event is also unthinkable. Those in the USA who consider themselves patriots should read this book with special attention, not only because it correctly identifies the main threat to the USA, but also because it explains in detail what circumstances have resulted in the current crisis. Waving (mostly Chinese made) US flags is simply not an option anymore, neither is looking away and pretending that none of this is real. Martynov’s book will also be especially interesting to those in the US armed forces who are observing the tremendous decline of US military power from inside. Who better than a former Soviet officer could not only explain, but also understand the mechanisms which have made such a decline possible?

You can also get both versions of the book (paper & electronic) here: http://claritypress.com/Martyanov.html

The book is also available on Amazon as a pre-order here: https://www.amazon.com/Losing-Military-Supremacy-American-Strategic/dp/0998694754/

It is scheduled to become available on September 1st.

Get at least one copy and give more to your friends!

—The Saker





Excerpt from the book's description—

While exceptionalism is not unique to America, the intensity of this conviction and its global ramifications are. This has led the US to grossly misinterpret―sometimes deliberately―the causative factors of key events of the past two centuries, reaching the wrong conclusions and learning very wrong lessons.

Nowhere has this been more manifest than in American military thought and its actual application of military power. Time after time the American military has failed to match lofty declarations about its superiority, producing instead a mediocre record of military accomplishments. Starting from the Korean War the United States hasn’t won a single war against a technologically inferior, but mentally tough enemy.  




Published on Aug 12, 2014

A large US navy formation. The United States Navy (USN) is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. It was estimated to be larger than the next 13 largest navies combined in terms of battle fleet tonnage in 2009.[5][6] The U.S. Navy also has the world's largest aircraft carrier fleet, with ten in service, two under construction,[7] eight more planned, and two in active reserve. The service has 317,054 personnel on active duty and 109,671 in the Navy Reserve. It operates 290 ships in active service and more than 3,700 aircraft.


J Matson Heininger

The above looks impressive, dominant, and powerful. But after finishing Andrei Martyanov's Losing Military Supremacy, here are some thoughts gleaned from the book.

In this book, Martyanov explains how the United States military today is more show than substance, how we have not won a war in 70 years and how we are living in a fantasy land from the perspective of real power. He compares the United States today to the Russia of the 1990s, when all Russia had to defend itself was nukes. Martyanov praises the US nuclear submarines, but says the US navy is vulnerable, and that our money spent on carriers was a waste as aircraft carrier groups represent WW2 thinking and are no longer efficacious, as they can be destroyed by hypersonics before the carrier battle group gets close enough to threaten. He adds that Russia's new, less costly and quieter, diesel submarines (they have nuclear too) are a threat to US nuclear subs. Adding that our weapons are so complicated that they are not effective, are woefully high maintenance and not user-friendly without an immense amount of training. And that in cases, like stealth, we have chosen the wrong technologies, as stealth is no longer stealthy or applicable.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Incurable capitalist values like short-term thinking, corruption, and endless greed cannot serve as a foundation for true national defence, suggests Andrei Martyanov. A private defence industry ruled by a boardroom culture is a recipe for disaster, where profits, again, are put ahead of actual quality weapons and armies. And, of course, the US military must abandon its criminal imperialist mission and dedicate itself to protecting the American people, its only really legitimate role.

Martyanov notes that we remain a leading and powerful nation, but one that is trending to paper tiger… a house of cards that would lose a war with Russia or China (let alone combined!) unless we used our nuclear weapons.

After WW1 and WW2, the United States created a fable that our manufacturing won the war, more than fighting on the battlefield. We lost 500,000… the Russians lost soldier and civilian (if anyone can be called civilian in places like Stalingrad) over 27 million. 500,000 is a horror show lot, but nothing compared to 27 million. China suffered in WW2. Russia suffered in WW2. The United States experienced overseas soldier death and rationing. From this perspective, the American psyche is, by comparison, insufficient when applied to [the prospect of]  war.

Meanwhile, even if the US fable were true, today we have destroyed our manufacturing base. We cannot make enough fast enough to fight a real war against a real [peer] enemy. Martyanov explains a long sad list of money spent and money wasted, attributing this to bad choices, a lack of understanding of war and history, and to scams, and greed, and a ruling class of poorly educated elites with no science backgrounds, and a defense industry more about getting rich than defending the nation. There is much more… For knowledge and thought, I recommend the book!

J. Matson Heininger is a member of The Greanville Post's Facebook group. He also maintains a substack column HERE  ••

THE SAKER (Andrei Raevsky)  is the nom de guerre of a former Russo-Dutch military and geopolitical analyst,  working at one point for the West. He has described his former career as that of "the proverbial 'armchair strategist', with all the flaws which derive from that situation.  Explaining his transformation, he states: "Before the war in Bosnia I had heard the phrase "truth is the first casualty of war" but I had never imagined that this could be quite so literally true. Frankly, this war changed my entire life and resulted in a process of soul-searching which ended up pretty much changing my politics 180 degrees. This is a long and very painful story that I do not want to discuss here, but I just want to say that this difference between what I was reading in the press and in the UNPROFOR reports ended up making a huge difference in my entire life. Again, NOT A SINGLE ASPECT OF THE OFFICIAL NARRATIVE WAS TRUE, not one. You would get much closer to the truth if you basically did a 'negative' of the official narrative.”  Like The Greanville Post, with which it is now allied in his war against official disinformation, the Saker's site, VINEYARD OF THE SAKER, is the hub of an international network of sites devoted to fighting the "billion-dollar deception machinery" supporting the empire's wars against Russia, China, Iran, Syria, Venezuela and any other independent nation opposing or standing in the way of Washington's drive for global hegemony.  The Saker is published in more than half a dozen languages. A Saker is a very large falcon, native to Europe and Asia.


Up to You.

^3000US citizens have no real political representation.

We don't live in a democracy. And our freedom is disappearing fast.

I don't want to be ruled by hypocrites, whores, and war criminals.

What about you? Time to push back against the corporate oligarchy.

And its multitude of minions and lackeys.




How to conceive of the two-party system

Lesser of two evils

Among liberals and various varieties of socialists, when the subject of the Democratic Party comes up, there are at least two variations. One is the familiar liberal argument that the Democratic Party is the “lesser of two evils”. For them, the Republican Party is the source of most, if not all problems while the Democratic Party is presented as shortsighted, weak and or incompetent bumblers. Among some of the more compromising members of the Green Party, the lesser of two evils manifests itself when it implores its voters to “vote in safe states”.

There are a number of reasons why I will claim that the Democratic Party is not the lesser of two evils. But for now, I want to point out that the lesser of two evils has at its foundation a political spectrum which is organized linearly with conservatives and fascists on the right. Along the left there are liberals, followed by social democrats, state socialists, and anarchists on the extreme left. All the forces moving from liberals leftward is broadly categorized as “progressive.” What this implies is that there are only quantitative differences between being a liberal and being any kind of socialist. In this scenario, being a liberal is somehow closer to being a socialist than being a liberal is to a being a conservative. However, there is an elephant in the room, and the elephant is capitalism. What unites all (true) socialists – social democrats, Maoists, Trotskyists, council communists and anarchists – is opposition to capitalism. What divides us from liberals, whether they are inside or outside the Democratic Party, is that liberals are for capitalism. In relation to the economic system, liberals are closer to conservatives than they are to socialists of any kind. So, the “lesser of two evils “argument is based on the expectation that socialists will ignore the capitalist economic system and make believe that capitalism is somehow progressive. It might have been possible to argue this case 60 years ago, but today capitalism makes its profits on war, slave prison labor and fictitious capital. [Finance capitalism stage, the most degenerate. Ed] Characterizing this as “progress” is ludicrous.

The parties are interchangeable

Most anarchists and various varieties of Leninists claim there is no difference between the parties. They say that capitalists control both parties and it is fruitless to make any distinctions. I agree they are both capitalist parties, but what most socialists fail to do is point out that, in addition to protecting the interests of capitalists as Republicans do, the Democratic Party: a) presents itself as representing the middle and lower classes; and

  1. b) stands in the way of the formation of a real opposition to the elites.

The second reason I disagree with the idea that the two parties are simply interchangeable is that it fails to make a distinction between the interests of the ruling and upper classes (Republicans) on the one hand, and the upper middle class (mostly Democrats) on the other. There are real class differences between elites that should not dissolved.

The Democrats are the greater of two evils

The argument I will make in this article is that the Democratic Party is worse than the Republican Party for about 85% of the population. I make this argument as a Council Communist, and my argument in no way implies voting for Republicans, Greens or even voting at all. Before giving you my reasons for why the Democratic Party is worse for most people I want to give you a sense of how I came up with the figure of 85% .

Old money vs new money and the class composition in the United States

Sociologists have some disagreements over how many classes there are in the United States and what occupations cover what social classes. While some might have a bone to pick about my percentages, I am confident that I am at least in the ballpark. The ruling class constitutes the 1% (or less) of the population and the upper class another 5%. What these classes have in common is that they all live off finance capital and do not have to work. This is what has been called “old money”. This old money had its investments in extractive industries like oil, mining and the war industry. This is the stronghold of the Republican Party.

The upper middle classes consist of doctors, lawyers, architects, and senior managers who make a lot of money, but have to work long hours. It also includes scientists, engineers as well as media professionals such as news commentators, magazine and newspaper editors, college administrators and religious authorities Yet there are tensions between the elites and the upper middle class. The upper middle class represents “new money” and makes their profits from scientific innovation, the electronics industry, including computers and the Internet, among other avenues. This class constitutes roughly 10% of the population. The upper middle class is the stronghold of the Democratic Party.

A number of economists from Thomas Piketty to Richard Wolff have argued that for these social classes there has been an “economic recovery” since the crash of 2008. For all other classes there has been decline. The role of the Democratic Party is

  1. To represent the actual interests of the upper middle class
  2. To make believe it is a spokesperson for the other 85%

Far be it for me to say that the Republicans and Democrats represent the same thing. There is real class struggle between the interests of the ruling class and the upper class on the one hand and the upper middle class on the other. My point is that for 85% of the population these differences between elites are irrelevant. What the top three classes have in common is a life and death commitment to capitalism – and this commitment is vastly more important than where the sources of their profits come from.

Who are these remaining 85%? Poor people, whether they are employed or not constitute about 20% of the population. When they are working this includes unskilled work which simply means no previous training is required. Working class people – blue and white collar – represent about 40% of the population. This includes carpenters, welders, electricians, technical workers, secretaries, computer programmers, and X-ray technicians. Middle class people – high school, grammar school teachers, registered nurses, librarians, corporate middle management, and small mom-and-pop storeowners – are about 25% of the population. Most poor people don’t vote and in a way, they are smart because they understand that the Democratic Party can do nothing for them. While many working-class people don’t vote, highly skilled working class people do vote, and many will vote Democrat. Middle classes are also more likely to vote Democrat with the exception of small business owners. In fact, research by labor theorist Kim Moody into the voting patterns of the last election showed that a high percentage of this petty bourgeois voted for Trump. [Historically in almost all societies where the ultra-right has taken hold, the petty bourgeois, small business owners, storeowners, etc., are historically one of the mainstays of fascism.—Eds.]

The Democratic Party, which did nothing for feminism while it was attacked and marginalized by the right wing since the 1980’s, has suddenly “discovered” feminism in the Pink Pussy cats. This is an upper middle class party that sings “We Shall Overcome” fifty years too late.

The Democratic Party has nothing to offer the middle class

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hen I was growing up in the 1950’s and 1960’s, my father worked as a free-lance commercial artist about 40 hours per week. My mother stayed home and raised my sister and I. One income could cover all of us. My parents sent me to Catholic grammar schools and high schools, which were not very expensive, but they had to save their money to do it. They helped pay for part of my college education after I dropped out and then came back. They helped my partner and I with a down payment on a house in Oakland, CA. Today both parents in a middle-class family need to work and the work-week for middle class workers is at least 10 hours longer. As for savings, if a middle-class family buys a home, it is much more difficult to save for their children’s education.

In 1970 I was living in Denver, Colorado and had my own studio apartment for $70/month. I worked 20 hours a week at the library as a page and could afford to go to community college part-time. Twenty years later I tried to communicate this to my stepdaughter who was 20 years old and then compared it to her experience. She was working full-time as a waitress, had to live with two other people and could only afford to take a couple of classes without going into debt. Reluctantly and seemingly defeated she had to return home to live if she were to ever graduate from a community college. The Democrats did nothing to stem the tide of the decline of the middle class. Working class and middle class people may continue to vote for Democrats, but that doesn’t mean Democrats are delivering the goods. It just means these classes don’t want to face that:

  1. a) They have no representation;
  2. b) There is no alternative party and they do not live in a democracy.

Now on to why I believe the Democratic Party is worse that the Republican party for this 85% of the population.

The Democratic Party has nothing to do with being liberal

Most people who support the Democratic Party don’t really consider the party as it actually is, but how they imagine is should be according either to political science classes they’ve picked up in high school or college or from what they have picked up unconsciously through conversations. They have also gotten this from Democratic Party members themselves who talk about liberal values while in practice acting like conservatives. These voters think the Democratic Party is liberal. What do I mean by liberal? The term liberal has a long political history which I have traced elsewhere (Counterpunch, Left Liberals Have No Party) but let’s limit the term to what I call “New Deal Liberals”.

These New Deal liberals think that the state should provide essential services like pensions, food stamps, natural disaster relief as well as road and bridge construction. They also think the state should intervene to minimize some of the worst aspects of capitalism such as child wage work or sex slavery. These liberals think that Democrats should support the development of unions to protect the working class. This class deserves an adequate wage and decent working conditions. They also think – as it is in the American dream – that in order to justify their existence, capitalists should make profit from the production of real goods and services. These liberals think that the Democratic Party should support the development of science and research to create an easier life so that the standard of living for the American population should go up from generation to generation. These are the values of New Deal liberals. If the Democratic Party acted as if it supported these things, I could understand why liberals would say voting for the Democratic Party is the lesser of two evils. The problem is that these New Deal liberals are trapped in a 50-year time warp when the last real liberal Democratic president was Lyndon Johnson. The Democratic Party hasn’t been liberal in 50 years. This is one reason why the program of New Deal liberal Bernie Sanders had been so popular.

It does not take a Marxist to argue that the United States has been in economic decline since the mid 1970’s. It won’t do to blame the Republicans alone for this 50-year degeneration. The Democratic Party has had presidents between 1976 and 1980, in addition to eight years of Clinton, as well as eight years of Obama. They have had twenty years’ worth of chances to put into practice liberal values and they have failed miserably. Under the Democratic Party:

  • The standard of living is considerably below the standard of living 50 years ago.
  • The minimum wage bought more in 1967 than it does today.
  • The standard of living for all racial minorities has declined since the 1970’s.
  • Unions, which protected the working class, have dwindled to barely 10%.
  • With the possible exception of Dennis Kucinich, no Democrat is prepared to commit to building infrastructure as a foundation for a modern civilization.
  • The proportion of wealth claimed by finance capital has dwarfed investment in industrial capital compared to fifty years ago.
  • The Democrats have signed off on all imperialist wars for the last 50 years.
  • Science has lost respectably in the United States as it fights a battle against fundamentalism. Do Democrats come out unapologetically for science and challenge the fundamentalists and the New Agers? There are more people in the US who believe in astrology than they did in the Middle Ages. Does the Democratic Party, in the name of its claimed roots in the Enlightenment, rescue the public from these follies? Hardly.

Please tell me in what sense is this party liberal?

The Democratic Party is not an oppositional party: the Republicans play hardball; the Democrats play badminton

It is right about this time that a liberal defending the Democratic Party would chime in and say something about the Supreme Court. The line is “If we don’t get so and so elected, then the evil right-wing judge will get appointed and Roe vs Wade will be threatened.” This line has been trotted out for the last 45 years. What it conveniently ignores is that the Democratic Party has been in power for at least 40% of the time, whether in the executive or any other branch. It has had forty years to load the Supreme Court with rabid liberals so as to bury the right-to-lifers when they had the chance. An oppositional party would have done this. The Democratic Party has not.

Trump has been on a tear destroying what was left of US international diplomatic relations put into place by Kissinger and Brzezinski. His “policies” are consistently right wing “interventions”, whether they succeed or not. At the same time, domestically Trump has been consistently right wing on every issue from public schools, to immigrants to social programs. What he has done has destabilized international and domestic relations. Conservatives have been doing this kind of thing for 50 years, but with more diplomacy. If the Democratic Party were really an oppositional party, I would expect to find liberal interventions that are roughly the reverse of what Trump and the conservatives have done. There have been no such interventions.

Examples of what an oppositional party would look like

Under an oppositional Democratic regime we would have found a normalization of trade relations with Cuba. There would be scientists and engineers sent to Haiti to build and repair roads and bridges destroyed by natural disasters. There would be normalization of relations with Venezuela and bonds built with the social democratic parties of the Latin American left. Domestically the minimum wage would be restored to at least the standard of 50 years ago. After all, statistics show “productivity” has gone up in the late 50 years. Why wouldn’t the standard of living improve? Social Security and pensions would be regularly upgraded to keep up with the cost of inflation. Bridge and road repair would have been undertaken and low-cost housing would be built. A real liberal president might be so bold as to deploy US soldiers to build them since most of them would no longer be employed overseas. They might also have put forward bills implementing a mass transit system, one that is as good as those of Europe or Japan. Has the Democratic Party done any of these things?

This is “opposition”?

Internationally the Democratic Party’s policies have been indistinguishable from the Republicans. Obama did try to normalize relations with Cuba but that was in the service of the potential for foreign investment, not out of any respect for the social project of building the socialism Cuba was engaged in. The US Democratic regimes have done nothing for Haiti. Its attitude towards the Latin American “pink tide” has been hostile while supporting neo-liberal restoration whenever and wherever possible.

Domestic Democratic regimes have done nothing to stem the tide of longer work hours and marginalization of workers as well the temporary and part-time nature of work. Social Security and pensions have not kept up with the cost of inflation. The Democratic Party has had 20 years to repair the bridges, the roads and the sewer systems and what has it done? The Democrats had 20 years to build low-cost housing and get most, if not all, the homeless off the streets. What have Democrats done? Like the Republicans, the Democrats have professed to have no money for infrastructure, low cost housing or improving mass transit. Like the Republicans they have gone along in blocking Universal Health Care that virtually every other industrialized country possesses. But just like the Republicans they suddenly have plenty of money when it comes to funding seven wars and building the prison industrial complex. Time and again Democratic politicians have ratified increasing the military budget despite the fact that it has no state enemies like the Soviet Union.

In 2008 capitalism had another one of its crisis moments. Marxists and non-Marxist economists agree that the banks were the problem. The Democrats, with that classy “first African American president” did not implement a single Keynesian intervention to reign in the banks. No banker has even gone to jail. What a real Democratic opposition would have done is to tell the banks something like, “look, the public has bailed you out this time, but in return for this collective generosity, we require that you make your profits from undertaking all the infrastructural work that needs to be done, like building a 21st century mass transit system and investing some of your profits in low cost housing.” This is what an oppositional party would do. Notice none of this has anything to do with socialism. It’s straight New Deal liberalism.

In sum, the last 45 years have you ever seen a consistent left liberal intervention by Democrats that would be the equivalent of what Trump is doing now or any conservative regime has done in the last 50 years in any of these areas? Has Carter, Clinton I or Obama done anything equivalent in their 20 years of formal power that Republicans have done in their 30 years? No, because if they ever dreamed of doing such a thing the Republicans would have them driven from office as communists. When was the last time a Democratic candidate drove a Republican from office by calling them a fascist? The truth of the matter is that the Republicans play hardball while the Democrats play badminton.

The second reason the Democratic Party is not an oppositional party is because “opposition” is a relative term. The lesser of two evils scenario works with the assumption that parties are partisan: all Republicans vote in block and all Democrats vote in block. This, however, is more the exception than the rule. Most times some Republicans support Democratic policies and most times some Democrats support Republican measures. Many Republican policies would not have been passed had the Democrats really been an oppositional party. In 2004, when Ralph Nader ran for president, he was raked over the coals for “spoiling” the elections. Yet as later research proves, more people who were registered Democrat voted for Republicans than the total number of people who voted for the Green Party.

 The Democratic Party is a party of the elites

Those politicians and media critics who inhabit the nether worlds between left liberal and social democracy such as Robert Reich, Bernie Sanders, Cornell West are tenacious in their search for the “soul” of the Democratic Party. They insist on dividing Democrats into conservative and liberals. The latest version is to call right-wing Democrats “corporate” Democrats as compared to some other kind of Democrat labelled “progressive”. The implication is that it is possible not to be bought hook line and sinker by corporations if you are in the Democratic Party. I am skeptical that any person can run as a Democrat candidate, win an election and not make some compromises with corporations even at a local level, I am cynical this can be done at a state or national level. Corporations are ruling class organizations and they own both parties. There is a reason why Martin Luther King, Malcolm X never joined the Democratic Party.

If the last Democratic primaries in which Clinton II was handed the nomination over Bernie Sanders was not enough to make you leave the party, the World Socialist Website published two major articles on how the CIA is running its own candidates as Democrats this year. When a world terrorist organization runs candidates under a liberal banner, isn’t that enough to convince you that the Democratic Party is a party of the elites?

Earlier I stated that the upper middle class represents the Democratic Party and the upper class and the ruling class represent the Republican Party. While each may have interclass differences it is essential for all three social classes that their struggle be seen by the 85% as something this 85% has a stake in. It is important for the ruling class and the upper class that there is a party that appears to represent the unwashed masses (the Democrats). The ruling class and the upper class need the Democratic Party even if they have differences with the upper middle class, whom the Democrats represent. They need the Democratic Party to help create the illusion that voting is an expression of democracy. But the Democratic Party has as much to do with democracy as the Republican Party has to do with republicanism.

The Democratic Party’s presence is an obstacle to building a real opposition to elites

[dropcap]B[/dropcap]y far the greatest reason the Democratic Party is worse than the Republican Party is the way in which the presence of the Democratic Party drains energy from developing a real opposition to the elites and the upper middle class.

The Democratic Party attacks the Green Party far more than it attacks Republicans

While the Democratic Party plays badminton with Republicans, it plays hardball with third parties, specifically the Green Party. It does everything it can to keep the Greens off the stage during the debates and makes things difficult when the Greens try to get on the ballot. After the last election, Jill Stein was accused of conspiring with the Russians to undermine the Democrats.

If the Democratic Party was a real liberal party, if it was a real opposition party, if it was a party of the “working people” rather than the elites, it would welcome the Green Party into the debates. With magnanimously liberal self-confidence it would say “the more the merrier. May all parties of the left debate.” It would welcome the Greens or any other left party to register in all 50 states and simply prove its program superior.

The wasted time, energy and loss of collective creativity of non-elites

About 10% of the 40% of working class people are in unions. Think of how much in the way of union dues, energy and time was lost over the last 50 years trying to elect Democratic candidates who did little or nothing for those same unions. All that money, energy and time could have been spent in either deepening the militancy of existing unions or organizing the other 30% of workers into unions.

Think of all untapped creative political activity of working class people who are not in unions that was wasted in being enthusiastic and fanatical about sports teams because they see no hope or interest in being part of a political community. Instead of being on talk show discussion groups on Monday morning talking about what the Broncos should have done or could have done on Sunday, think of the power they could have if instead they spent their time strategizing about how to coordinate their strike efforts.

Think of all the immigrants and refugees in this country working at skilled and semi-skilled jobs that have wasted what little time they had standing in line trying to get Democratic Party politicians elected. That time could have been spent on more “May Days Without An Immigrant” as happened thirteen years ago

Think of all the middle class African Americans whose standards of living has declined over the last 45 years who wasted their vote on Democrats and put their faith in the Black Caucus. Think of the wasted time, effort and energy of all middle class people who often actively campaign and contribute money to the Democratic Party that could have been spent on either building a real liberal party or better yet, a mass socialist party.

For many years, the false promise that the Democratic Party just might be a party of the working people has stood in the way of the largest socialist organization in the United States from building a mass working class party. Social Democrats in the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) who should have known better continue to blur the line between a real socialist like Eugene Debs and left liberals like Bernie Sanders. With 33,000 members there are still factions of DSA that will not break with the Democrats.

Are there real differences between the neo-liberal Democrats and the neo-conservative Republicans? Are there differences between Soros and the Koch brothers? Yes, but these differences are not, as Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Claire have said, “a dimes worth of difference”, especially compared to what the presence of the Democratic party has done for 50 years to 85% of the population. Their fake opposition has stood in the way of building a mass left political party.

The Democratic Party is a parasite on social movements

Can you remember a time when the Democratic Party had an innovative program of their own that was clearly separate from the Republicans yet distinct from any left wing social movements?

I can’t. What I have seen is a Democratic party that does nothing but sniff out the flesh and blood of social movements and vampirize them. I have no use for identity politics, but I can remember a time when the Democratic Party wanted nothing to do with it. Now it runs candidates based on identity politics. Black Lives Matter is now part of the Ford Foundation, a Democratic Party think tank. The Occupy Movement term “occupy” was taken as a name for a Facebook page sympathetic to the Democrats, Occupy Democrats, as if the Democratic Party could be occupied. The Democratic Party, which did nothing for feminism while it was attacked and marginalized by the right wing since the 1980’s, has suddenly “discovered” feminism in the Pink Pussy cats. This is an upper middle class party that sings “We Shall Overcome” fifty years too late.

What should be done?

Rather than focusing on the evil Republican Party, which makes the Democrats seem merely wishy- washy or inept, the policies of the Democratic Party should be attacked relentlessly while paying little attention to Republicans. In the election years, the Green Party should abandon its strategy of soliciting votes in “safe states”. Instead, the Greens should challenge those who claim to be “left-wing” Democrats to get out of the party as a condition for being voted for. In my opinion, there needs to be an all-out war on the Democratic Party as a necessary step to building a mass party. The goal of such a party should not be to win elections, but to use public opportunities as a platform for deepening, spreading and coordinating the commonalities of the interests of the poor, working class and middle class people.



 Bruce Lerro has taught for over 25 years as an adjunct Professor of Psychology at Golden Gate University, Dominican University and Diablo Valley College in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has applied a Vygotskian socio-historical perspective to the three books he’s written, found on Amazon. Read more of his articles and get involved at Planning Beyond Capitalism Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. He can be reached at mailto:goethe48@pacbell.net • Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gave it to humanity - but that's not all he took. • For better and for worse the psychological foundations of western civilization can be understood through the turbulent myth of Prometheus.

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black-horizontalThings to ponder

While our media prostitutes, many Hollywood celebs, and politicians and opinion shapers make so much noise about the still to be demonstrated damage done by the Russkies to our nonexistent democracy, this is what the sanctimonious US government has done overseas just since the close of World War 2. And this is what we know about. Many other misdeeds are yet to be revealed or documented.

Parting shot—a word from the editors
The Best Definition of Donald Trump We Have Found

In his zeal to prove to his antagonists in the War Party that he is as bloodthirsty as their champion, Hillary Clinton, and more manly than Barack Obama, Trump seems to have gone “play-crazy” — acting like an unpredictable maniac in order to terrorize the Russians into forcing some kind of dramatic concessions from their Syrian allies, or risk Armageddon.However, the “play-crazy” gambit can only work when the leader is, in real life, a disciplined and intelligent actor, who knows precisely what actual boundaries must not be crossed. That ain’t Donald Trump — a pitifully shallow and ill-disciplined man, emotionally handicapped by obscene privilege and cognitively crippled by white American chauvinism. By pushing Trump into a corner and demanding that he display his most bellicose self, or be ceaselessly mocked as a “puppet” and minion of Russia, a lesser power, the War Party and its media and clandestine services have created a perfect storm of mayhem that may consume us all. Glen Ford, Editor in Chief, Black Agenda Report

Up to You.

^3000US citizens have no real political representation.

We don't live in a democracy. And our freedom is disappearing fast.

I don't want to be ruled by hypocrites, whores, and war criminals.

What about you? Time to push back against the corporate oligarchy.

And its multitude of minions and lackeys.

The Elite World Order in Jitters



For those who never heard of or read Marx out of acquired aversion through class propaganda, this book by Peter Phillips may be something of a rude eyeopener. For Marxists, who have seen this for over 100 years, it is simply further confirmation of their vision and prescription for society. Fact is, Capitalism cannot be reformed. It can only be overthrown and destroyed. The time for tinkering is over. 

Lynching crowds effecting swift "people's justice" during the social upheavals of the French Revolution.

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]ccording to a brand new book by Peter Phillips, the world is now controlled by a handful (actually several handfuls) of powerful/rich elites via interlocking capital exchanges spanning the globe.

This ultra small coterie dictates world events and expects results. However, they are painfully aware that forces from down below are growling, growing restless, very restless indeed!

Thus, Phillips’ riveting story of world domination by elites, a thoroughly researched analysis from A-to-Z: Giants – The Global Power Elite (Seven Stories Press, 2018)

Phillips forewarns on behalf of ninety-nine percenters (99%):

“There is growing concern among reformist elements of the transnational elite that unchecked inequality threatens the stability of global capitalism and that there must be some sort of redistribution. These elites have been scrambling to find ways to reform the system in order to save capitalism from itself and to undercut more radical challenges from below.” (p. 18)

Meantime, and along the way according to Phillips, wealth concentration has gone ballistic like a moonshot! In January 2016 only 62 people held as much wealth as one-half of the entire world, but within one year, by 2018, that figure narrowed to 8 people with as much wealth as one-half of the entire world. Stop and think about the implications. Is something about that awry, amiss, or maybe nonsensical?

“Wealth concentration is happening so rapidly that it is feasible that someday soon one man will hold more wealth than half the humans in the world.” (p. 21) Wow-Wow!

Is capitalism starting to “stink up the place” with wealth cumulation madness? Can the world community live with this or will there be an uprising as the elite’s bold rapaciousness increasingly turns into a public image of the Wicked Witch of the East?

Early on, Phillips explains the raison d’ê·tre for his wonderful beautifully written tome. It’s all about a discovery process to promote “greater democracy and equality” by explaining the vast wealth differences and the mechanisms of power behind the giants of capitalism. That is the crux of his work.

In his words:

“Understanding how power and inequality is sustained can perhaps offer us opportunities to fight for and win democracy and equality in today’s world.” (p. 22)

The harsh reality, however, is that Phillips’ greatest wishes may not materialize, meaning forget about the great democracy revival, no equality, nada, as the world turns, wiping-out all of the vestiges of democracy and equality. In point of fact, the loss of the effectiveness of democratic institutions (already) brings in its wake ironclad statism leading to purest of fascism, thus playing directly into the hands of the powerful elite, as their wildest dreams come true.

What are those wildest dreams?

Their brand of roughshod capitalism plays tough and requires strict subordination as jobs are shifted to low labor costs, fewer regulatory, lower environmental control regions of the world so that profit margins remain robust. This has been ongoing for over a generation. In order to maintain “roughshod capitalism” militantly strong statism is an absolute requirement.

Along the way, the rug is pulled out from under livelihood for labor, loss of decent pay, stripped benefits, bringing in its wake guaranteed loss of self worth plus degradation of dignity, which in turn spirals downwards into extremely deep fits of anger, elect Trump, “hate others,” tough language, glorify the strong man/nation/state as the only apparent pathway to retrieve loss of dignity.

By default, as surely as night follows day:

“It has become clear that the Global Power Elite uses NATO and the US military empire for its worldwide security” as countries shift from the “social welfare state to the social control (police) state.” (p. 226)

This conversion to strict statism is happening worldwide zip zip zip with lightening speed. Unfortunately if it continues on pace, it does not leave much room for Phillips hoped for reform of the global elite, meaning a return to a semblance of democracy and equality and good-paying jobs.

Phillips describes an elite world order, similar to observing an iceberg. Only the top 10-15% is visible. In the US, for example, there are two governments, one that’s visible that citizens are familiar with and a parallel top-secret org “visible to only a carefully vetted cadre” combined with global intelligence agencies working together as Deep State Networks. (p. 231)

The principals of this leviathan cadre are all interrelated as they literally control the world order, inclusive of everything from advertising for consumer goods to outer space missions.

Here’s one example, among many, demonstrative of how the sealed-tight world order network came into being, as explained by Phillips: In the mid 1970s at a time when the CIA was still subject to restrictions imposed by Congress and enforced by the president, intelligence officers of several major countries, including France, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and others, met at the Safari Club in Kenya with former CIA Director George H.W. Bush “to overcome constraints imposed by Washington, D.C.”

The outgrowth of that meeting was establishment of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) as the depository for funds for “off the books,” secretive covert operations, thus forming a Supranational Deep State that works willy-nilly outside of the bounds of nation/state control. (p. 232)

That’s but one example of several that delves into the how, where, and why today’s elite global power structure evolved into a covetous rapacious all-powerful behemoth.

This book skillfully weaves together all of the variant pieces of the elite world order, including names and positions, which leads one to question the validity of Phillips’ concept of a “top-secret elite global force,” as his book clearly outlines its entirety for all to see, full Monty!

Yes, of course, identifying the elite core is one thing, but carrying out policy is quite another, presumably the “top-secret” part.

Phillips does a remarkable job of pulling together all of the pieces into one webbed fabric of ironclad control over the mind, spirit, behavior, and livelihood of the world’s 99% via an elite core smaller than the quintessential, iconic 1%. (Suspiciously, a perfect depiction of George Orwell’s 1984)

Giants – The Global Power Elite (2018) is a mysteriously alarming formidable story.

Interestingly, Phillips’ book ends with “A Letter to The Global Power Elite,” asking them to change the ways of the world socio-economic system: “We absolutely believe that continued capital concentration and neoliberal austerity policies only bring greater human misery…. Wars, covert actions, externally-induced regime changes, propaganda media, and technological surveillance, all in the name of protecting the freedom to do business, is hurting humankind and will be stopped.” (p.320) That’s heavy stuff!

And this: “The change that needs to come to insure trickle-down becomes a river that is real and adequate for all human needs is not billionaire philanthropy, where the power elite handpick their beneficiaries, but rather the restructuring of capitalism itself.” (p.306) That’s heavier stuff!

And, of course, there’s always the fallback position, assuming people get pissed off enough, the old fashioned 18th Century French way.

Postscript: “People do not judge in the same way as courts of law; they do not hand down sentences, they throw thunderbolts; they do not condemn kings, they drop them back into the void; and this justice is worth just as much as that of the courts.”

(Maximilien Robespierre, 1758-94, beheaded 28th July, major figurehead of French Revolution & Reign of Terror (17,000 executions) member of the Estates-General, the Constituent Assembly, and the Jacobin Club and outspoken advocate for the poor and for democratic institutions and campaigned for universal male suffrage in France, price controls on basic food commodities and the abolition of slavery in the French colonies and an ardent opponent of the death penalty, but played an important role in arranging the execution (beheading) of King Louis XVI (1793) which led to the establishment of the French Republic.)


Robert Hunziker lives in Los Angeles and can be reached at rlhunziker@gmail.com.

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^0America's Goal...

Make every homeless tranny

gender comfortable!

Things to ponder

While our media prostitutes, many Hollywood celebs, and politicians and opinion shapers make so much noise about the still to be demonstrated damage done by the Russkies to our nonexistent democracy, this is what the sanctimonious US government has done overseas just since the close of World War 2. And this is what we know about. Many other misdeeds are yet to be revealed or documented.

Up to You.

^3000US citizens have no real political representation.

We don't live in a democracy. And our freedom is disappearing fast.

I don't want to be ruled by hypocrites, whores, and war criminals.

What about you? Time to push back against the corporate oligarchy.

And its multitude of minions and lackeys.

A leftist analysis of Iran’s Basij…likely the first in the West



In the World Socialist Web Site’s 3-part response to my critique of their Iran coverage and their accusation that "Islamic socialism is a sham” (not just Iranian Islamic Socialism), one thing surprised me: Why was there not one mention of the Basij?  After all, it is a 10+ million person (low estimate) organisation mainly drawn from the working class - surely the WSWS would at least mention it?   

Instead, the bulk of the WSWS’s series was recounting the history of the Tudeh Communist Party, which in 1979 was not primarily drawn from the working class, nor even had .01% the membership numbers of the Basij today. That’s when I was forcefully reminded: The West knows absolutely nothing about the Basij. 

Basij members in Isfahan, 2008

Perhaps older readers think of them as being cannon-fodder and mine-clearers from the Iran-Iraq war; younger readers may solely associate them with the political street battles during the historic 2009 unrest following the re-election of Ahmadinejad. Both of these views stem mainly from Western propaganda and essentially tell us nothing about what the Basij really is.

From A to Z the West literally knows nothing tangible about this all-important group in Iran: about its start, its motivations, its support, its successes, its problems, its structure, etc. And so, this is the third in a four-part sub-series on the Basij (in an 11-part series on modern Iran) which gives a complete, rounded picture of them.

The Basij can be controversial in Iran and, given my status as a government worker, I should stay out of these conflicts. That is why I am presenting a completely objective & analytical view of the Basij in order to inform, not to promote nor denigrate.

I think Western readers will find an objective analysis of the Basij useful. They can decide if Iranians are right to support, or not support, the Basij…not that their opinion really matters inside Iran.

But I think that Westerners will certainly see that not only are the Basij too powerful to be stopped, but that they are a force which cannot be ignored in any serious discussion of Iran. 

I would imagine that Chavista Venezuelan readers will be very interested to learn about the structure of the pro-government & government-sponsored Basij - it is obviously similar to what Chavistas aspire to given how they engaged in political street battles in 2017 to defend the government. Those battles were three times as deadly and far bloodier than Iran’s in 2009. Chavistas supporting Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution clearly would like the kind of governmental, legal and economic support the Basij get for supporting the Iranian Islamic Revolution. But the two countries are fundamentally different in that Iran has had a sweeping revolution, while Venezuela keeps playing (almost excessively honorably) by the rules of West European (bourgeois) politics; the former was a hard & emphatic revolution, the latter is a soft, unfinished and quite precarious one.

Cuba has something very similar to the Basij - their Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, but they do not have the economic clout and economic involvement of the Basij. This is why the 4th part of this series made an in-depth comparison with the Chinese Communist Party, as it is the best comparison I can think of.

I got a visit from the CDR one time while doing journalism in Cuba:

They visited where I was staying to have a chat about journalism - somehow they had heard that a journalist was there. Perhaps from the government itself, as I follow all the rules when doing journalism in Cuba, unlike many other journalists…who are then confined to the shadows and thus cannot really show the positives of the country nor its people.

It was one older military man, and two neighbourhood members of the CDR. They took notes, asked political questions and were polite, open and serious. I quoted Fidel, they quoted deeper Fidel, and after 45 minutes they left more confirmed in an analysis they held upon first meeting me: Iran is Cuba’s hermano!

And when they left I thought: “Hmmm, so that’s the Cuban Basij? Nice guys.”

Of course, we are on the same political page; I was not there to undermine Cuba with my journalism, but quite the opposite. But knowing that el barrio tiene ojos - the neighbourhood has eyes…and that this neighbourhood was located in a country under constant Western cold war - was not a foreign concept to me, and thus no problem at all.

However, many are not comfortable with this idea within Iran, and it’s an idea which is often associated with the Basij. However, the Basij is so big that it really is associated with anything and everything in Iran….

What exactly are we dealing with when we talk about the Basij? Let’s dig deeper

Much, but not all, of my statistics on the Basij comes from the book Captive Society: The Basij Militia and Social Control in Iran, by Saeid Golkar. It is the only book on the Basij a Westerner can find; it is also, as the title indicates, a book which is against the Basij. I give a review of the book in the previous part of this series, Iran's Basij: The reason why land or civil war inside Iran is impossible.

The fundamental unit of the Basij is a "resistance base", and these appear in every social area: mosques, neighbourhoods, factories, offices, schools - anywhere people gather. Undoubtedly, this is the most important level of the Basij because this is where people interact; this is the root of society.

There are probably 60,000 - 80,000 such bases in the country (keeping in mind that there are 72,000 mosques), and about 75% of them are in urban areas because Iran is an 75% urban country. The Basij does not create any urban-rural divide; rural Basij are said to be more ideologically-committed to Basij ideals, and there is probably a grain of truth in this stereotype.  

Each of these groups has two resistance teams of at least 4-5 people apiece (so "resistance teams" are technically the smallest subset of the Basij). Each Basij base has roughly dozens to 100 people, all cooperating ideologically. There is essentially only one requirement to join the Basij: one must support the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the Iranian Constitution and the unique political system of Iran.

What are these bases concerned with?

All aspects of society. They must have at least seven specialised groups to form a base: security/defense, rescue & relief, culture & propaganda, social services, construction, educational groups and morality police. And then they can expand as they are able to in fields their members are interested in, such as: telecommunications, ideological/ political groups, physical education, culture and art, intelligence & counterintelligence, security, relief & rescue, social services, educational groups, political propaganda, etc.  

Where are these bases found?

In more than 20 branches in every sector of society. There is the Workers' Basij, the Employees' Basij and the Guilds' Basij, with career specific branches for doctors, lawyers, artists, clerics, journalists, etc. There is the Women's Society Basij (the main one for women), the Students' Basij, the University Students' Basij, the Teachers' Basij, the University Professors' Basij, the Urban and Rural Basij, the Tribal Basij, and the Mosques & Neighbourhood Basij. Of course the biggest, like any union (my novel but inelegant definition for the Basij of “an apolitical Islamic socialist union NGO“, is explained in the previous part of this series) is the Pubic Servants' Basij. But the bases are generally found according to residence - the Basij is primarily a neighbourhood institution, after all.

The Workers’ Basij has 1 million members, or 1/7th of the working class. Each workplace with more than 30 workers has been required by law since 2011 to have a Basij base - this obviously can provide the workers with the benefits of increased solidarity and chances for socio-political involvement.

Thus the Basij appears to be a rather clear indication of increased political empowerment of the working class. 

Western leftists may object that all worker organisations must be totally independent of the government and, in consequence, also have a generally adversarial relationship with the government: this is not the opinion in working socialist countries like China, Cuba or Iran. I note that Western unions appear to be allied more with their [ruling] political class than with their members (and certainly not allied with society as a whole) despite their greater perceived independence. It certainly appears logical that in socialist-inspired nations workers and government are intertwined, where as in capitalist-inspired nations they are separate and adversarial. I think these are objective observations and statements.

  • The Construction Basij often gives its projects to the Engineers’ Basij, in a carbon copy of two related unions working together in the West. 
  • The Artists’ Basij, like any socialist counterpart, is supposed to make art which promotes revolutionary ideals, the government & which confronts Western propaganda. 
  • The Journalists' Basij was one of the last ones created, probably because we journalists are notoriously unwilling to join anything. I am not a member. 
  • The Religious Minorities’ Basij is for Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians and others.

The list goes on and on. 

And for Golkar, "...the Basij has successfully destroyed independent civil society in Iran.

That's an exceptionally strong condemnation, but is it accurate? Is it necessarily a bad thing?

The ultimate backer of “civil society” in 2018 is France: Emmanuel Macron became president, and the two mainstream parties were shunted aside (the Socialists perhaps fatally), partially due to his call that “civil society” should govern instead of the entrenched politicians. A French people, who - per global polls - could not be more alienated or cynical about their domestic politics, clearly saw Macron as a better option than careerist capitalist politicians or the far-right’s Marine Le Pen.

West European (bourgeois) government - and especially in its modern, pro-globalist form - is, according to many, essentially a way for the richest parts of civil society to independently dominate the government: Their lobbies, their lawyers, their contacts to political leaders, their campaign financing, the better trajectories of their privileged children…all this serves to make civil society not truly “independent” at all, but tools of the 1% to impose their will on society and the nation. Given that “liberal strongmen” like Macron are governing via executive order, or that the democratic votes of nation-members in the European Union are routinely ignored by Brussels, it is clear that the individual citizen is losing a significant amount of power and quality of life in this system despite all the talk of “independence”, “freedom” and “rights”.

Socialist democracy has a clearly different ideal - government under strict control of the not-1% and the not-bourgeois classes; group independence & personal freedoms take a backseat. There are, however, leftist ideas which demand total independence from the state - these are “anarchist”, and have yet to be implemented in any nation of any size; it is generally thought that anarchism is the final stage of leftism, and it seems like one cannot skip stages without major problems.

Having read his book, I contend that for Golkar the Basij has “destroyed…civil society” simply because it reflects it in such an obviously full manner. The Basij is clearly a method of social organisation in Iran, and because its only unifying political goal is to protect and promote the 1979 popular revolution, the rather obviously anti-government Golkar cannot support their flourishing.

However, we can all see the Basij are clearly divided into numerous interests, and by doing so there is bound to eventually be not just cooperation but also competition between these interests - that is called “politics”. As this part will emphatically prove, by being a mass membership organization the Basij is not a unified voting bloc in the slightest; by being drawn from all levels of society it is impossible to prevent the appearance of many competing ideologies and ideas about how to protect and advance modern Iran.

Furthermore, Golkar repeatedly indicates that because all these groups and unions are protected and promoted by the government, they are somehow not independent but under total government control: Basij as a form of social control is essentially a paraphrase to the corollary of his title “Captive Society: The Basij Militia and Social Control in Iran”. Certainly, not everyone in Iran views it the same as Golkar.

Golkar’s view is less interesting than the point I am trying to make: Clearly, the Basij is far, far more than just a “militia”, as is commonly reported; it is clearly present in every social organization and every neighborhood, and is open to all save those who want an entirely new political system. Thus it should be considered grassroots, democratically representative, and authentic.

What exactly does a Basij member do inside a Basij?

“Ok, so we’re all organised - now…what the heck are we”?

So this is what the Basij essentially is: a bunch of relatively like-minded people getting together, debating, and then occasionally doing social actions together which they deem positive for the community. I would say the Basij is mainly a “hobby” which takes up a few hours each week from active members.

Certainly, this is is not a "militia" who spends their time bayonet-stabbing dummies with Netanyahu's picture and whipping themselves bloody in the name of God. 

First, what must be answered is the question: “What are we?” And that requires training, study and discussion - this is like any serious organisation: the Basij must be mentally organised.

So what do they study? If you join the Basij you are obviously interested in and want to talk about politics, religion, ethics, history, society & contemporary global events. Therefore, they are mostly just like you - because why else are you reading this type of an article? Just like a Basiji, you have volunteered for this. (And I thank you and hope you like it!)

Introductory training has courses like "Basij Ethics & Etiquette" and "Koran fluency", but Active-level members (the members who can honestly say they are involved a few hours a week) and Basij Team leaders must know contemporary Iranian politics, the history of the Iranian Revolution, the situation in Palestine and have contemporary social-political knowledge. To get a job in the Basij bureaucracy full-time means they must have all the above, and also take courses such as "Leadership Ethics", "Islamic Ethics, Discipline & Education", "Islamic Commandments", etc. Of course, in an Islamic Republic the Quran and Islamic ideology are prioritised.

I believe that only people who are totally unfamiliar with the Quran or who are rabid secularists view this as an a priori negative influence. Such a view is certainly anti-democratic, and should be considered in 2018 to be uncultured due to its intolerance. Regardless, it is fundamentally invalid to say that religion and politics cannot intersect, or that leftism and religion cannot intersect; certainly, leftists have no problem with saying that rightism and religion intersect! Where the Basij ideological training falls on the global political spectrum is up to the reader; I only say that Iran, being unique (revolutionary), it is rather difficult to pinpoint and that case-by-case analysis always yields more precise answers than generalisations.  As this is the first leftist analysis of the Basij in the West, I think an honest reader will have to rethink the Basij’s placement on the spectrum after finishing this series.

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]here are 4 main ideological training sessions each year which are offered to Active members. Golkar discusses the Basij's “Awareness" session, which was a 3-day, 40-hour program that was taken by 1.4 million members in 2003. This was conducted like a basic university lecture course. What's more interesting is their "Righteousness" plan, because it is more similar to the culture of a Basij base, as there is give-and-take discussion. 

"Students form a training circle of 15 to 20 people, and sessions are participatory and conducted like seminars. A high-ranking Basiji or clergyman is chosen by a Basij commander as the educator and is responsible for encouraging students to participate in discussions and to ask any questions they may have about Islam, ideology, or current political issues. The educator, in turn, is expected to provide them with convincing answers....The seminars themselves are devoted to an analysis of current political and social issues; book-reading sessions focusing on ideological books; courses on Islamic culture with the focus on jihad (the perpetual war against sin, not waging terrorism, FYI) and holy defense; and Quranic sessions...the most important textbooks in this program...come from the writings of the late IRI theoretician Ayatollah Morteza Motahhari.""

Motahhari, along with Ali Shariati (who is the only Iranian Revolution-era name Westerners can drop but whom they rarely actually read), were perhaps the two main thinkers of the Iranian Revolution, with Motahhari focusing more on ethics but also Islamic democracy (how silly of Motahhari to focus on something which many Westerners are convinced cannot even exist, LOL!)

Because of Motahhari and Shariati, they also study something else which will sound revolutionary to many - Occidentology, or the study of the West.

LOL, I bet the reader has heard of “Orientalism” - how does it feel to know Iran has been putting you, your family and your culture under the political science lab microscope?

Fortunately for you Iran is not guided by 19th century racist “ideals”. What is certain is that Iranian Occidentology is far more politically advanced and sympathetic than Orientialism, which Western Europe began with the Napoleonic invasion of Egypt and which colours - in a reactionary, racist and Islamophobic (though I would say “Islam-ignorant”) fashion - their thoughts on the Muslim world today. 

"Thus, Occidentology for university students and professors in the Insight plan is about ‘the critique of modernity; crises of modernity (ethical, identity, environmental, economic, and philosophical); the principles of the modern West (humanism, technology, nationalism and capitalism, tolerance and democracy); the Islamic revolution and the West (conflict or compromise); and secular science and religious science."

(I’m sure it covers Marxism and socialism as well, but these are two terms and philosophical lenses which are totally absent from Golkar’s book, which lends much credence to the idea that his book is a right-wing, anti-Basij tract masquerading as a objective scholarship produced by New York City’s Columbia University.)

Pres. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with commanders from the Basij militia in Tehran in 2006. Ahmadinejad was vilified in the West for supposed genocidal comments on Israel, but this proved to be a deliberate deception.

The only thing from that passage which should alarm or shock Westerners is that Westerners certainly have no similar comprehensive study of Iran or the Muslim world. Occidentology is a way for Iran to learn about and even from the West - not to swallow it fully, and not to be content with lazy Western stereotyping. If this is what the Basij are studying - the West should and could only reap what it has sown, no?

To be in the Basij as a full-time worker - to work in the Basij’s bureaucracy - is to commit to lifelong political learning, discussion, commitment and involvement as yearly seminars are required. In this sense it is no different from any political party anywhere. However, it is not a party and more similar to a typical worker's union because, again, there are different political views among Basiji which they subjugate to the idea of a greater common good / need / ideology.

The office of the Supreme Leader is charged with developing the ideological-political training of the Basij - writing the textbooks & pamphlets, preparing the course syllabi, training the instructors, etc. To Golkar, such control is evidence that mass brainwashing for the conservative so-called “hard-liners" is taking place...and yet I am about to show that Basij voting patterns defy categorisation despite Golkar’s overarching thesis that the Basiji are socially-controlled.

The Basij are clearly political - so what are their politics?

Khamenei has paternalistically fostered the Basij's growth and stability - nobody champions them more. Golkar and Basij detractors say this is for Khamenei’s selfish reasons of political manipulation; Khamenei says it is because they are (in his words) the ideological guarantee of the success, moral worth and essence of the Iranian Revolution. I am remaining neutral because nobody has ever examined the Basij in the West from an objective perspective.

The irony - or perhaps the beauty - of the Basij is this: Even though the Supreme Leader "controls" the Basij by picking its leader and authorising its ideological directions, Basiji are not being controlled politically.

In 1996 the Basiji helped the Principlist (conservative) party win a majority in Parliament. People were perhaps tired of the “privatisation” policies of Rafsanjani which proved to be no Western-style privatisation at all, as the third part of this series emphatically demonstrated. This was the first time the Basij became openly involved politics. The Revolutionary Guards, who sit atop the Basij in the Iranian government’s hierarchy, and the Supreme Leader were no doubt quite pleased. 

But just one year later, in 1997, 73% of Basiji members voted for the Reformist Khatami for president.

The Basij then reverted to “form” to help the Principlist (conservative) Ahmadinejad win two terms.

But then they obviously aided Rouhani, a Reformist, to win an outright first round victory in both 2013 and 2017. The two camps have also swung back and forth in controlling Parliament over the last 3 decades.

Well, if the Basij are all political humanoids, Khamenei’s robot-designing skills leave much to be desired!

This shows the truth: the Basiji are not guaranteed right-wingers - they are regular citizens who can swing either direction like so many modern, 21st century voters. A Frenchman who would have never even uttered a word of support in public for the National Front in 2007 often voted Socialist Francois Hollande in 2012, and then the National Front’s Marine Le Pen in 2017, and then may vote “far” leftist in 2022. 

Above all, because the 10- to 25-million member Basij are so clearly drawn from all members of society, the pluralistic political structure of modern Iran seems to ensure that a group as massive as the Basij can never all vote in one way. Therefore, the idea that the Basij are used as "an arm of conservative politics" appears to be rather directly contradicted by their voting records. The Basij - and this is my personal experience - are obviously not conservative, nor reformist, necessarily. Categorisation politically would be, in fact, wrong...except if we classify them as both patriotic (pro-Iran) and pro-Islamic; however, being pro- or anti-patriotic is rather cut-and-dry, but being “pro-Islamic” is certainly much harder to define in Iran as it is all a question of degrees.

Economically, Basiji seem to strongly lean towards socialist principles - being mostly drawn from the lower classes, as everyone in Iran already knows and which I will emphatically prove in my next part, Iran's Basij: Restructuring society and/or class warfare.

In foreign policy they seem to favour isolation when Iranian Islamic Revolutionary principles cannot be implemented.

While some are staunch backers of Ahmadinejad, most refuse to follow anyone but the Supreme Leader, whether Khomeini, Khamenei or his successor. (Indeed, I would say that the most important question in Iran is if the Basiji will remain so intensely loyal to the next Supreme Leader - if he is not sufficiently popular…that spells major problems for the stability of the Iranian system.)

Certainly, this debate was quite public and quite emphatically decided in favor of the post of the Leader when Ahmadinejad floated the idea of running for president in 2016. Almost universally, Basiji openly proclaimed that their political loyalty is with the Supreme Leader. Their argument boiled down to: Presidents come and go, but the Supreme Leader is permanent; there is no doubt about what he stands for, and no doubt that he works with either Party controlling the Parliament or the presidency. Whether Khomeini, Khamenei or the next one, they back the post. I would add that the Supreme Leader represents the “soul” in the structure of the government of the Iranian Islamic Republic, and that his main role is that of unifier of the different political camps and their ideas.

In the West, identity politics prevails and people often vote for "personalities" and not party, and this has culminated (or perhaps not even yet) with the elections of Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron. Certainly in the West, ”respect for the office" has clearly dropped dramatically, and with fair reason - does anyone imagine Trump or Macron to be very “soulful” people? This allegiance to a post which incarnates a mix of modern revolution, religious morals & patriotism may be viewed as an anachronism, as bizarre, or with envy - that is your call. 

But the inability to see Iran as a modern electorate with a modern pluralistic democracy is why the West cannot understand the Basij: they incorrectly see Khamenei as a “faction”…as if he is trying to create obstacles for the Reformists when he is really just trying to mediate. That’s what Khomeini did so well - his political genius was not intellectual, but personal: he was so effective in charismatically bringing different groups together by making it crystal-clear where he stood, by relating it in a manner which anyone could understand, and by clearly living his principles.

The people in arms. Women stand next to assault rifles after a parade in northeastern Tehran, November 25, 2008. A mobilised people ready to defend their revolution with weapons in hand is a concept alien to most Westerners but commonplace in nations like China, Cuba, Iran, Vietnam, Venezuela and North Korea.

The West does not realise that, just like their nations, the two mainstream political parties have some, but not total, support among the people; they have some, but not total, access to state resources; they have some, but not all, political levers to get their way politically.

I reiterate this reality repeatedly, but we should not expect Western mainstream media to begin reporting on Iran in the balanced manner informed reporting requires.

Calling the Basij or Khamenei or the Reformists a "faction" is like calling the American Democratic Party or France's Les Republicans a “faction” - you could, but you'd be accused of trying to mislead people. No such sensible restraint exists for Iran; no blow is too below the belt; all political parties are trying to selfishly "consolidate power”; the Basij is just a “militia”. Sure - great reporting, pal.…

Lastly - and for good reason lastly - the military role of the Basij

Anyone who has read this far realises that the idea that Basij is a “militia” or “paramilitary” or “armed thugs” is totally, totally wrong. The vast majority of Basiji are not involved in security operations; when they are involved, all they do is mostly guard buildings and act as security details at events.

The wartime sacrifices are what make the Basij so often venerated in Iran. It is very easy for Westerners to ignore this: in America wars are only held on other people’s property and thus are viewed from a distance (although they are no longer permitted to actually view them in journalism); in Europe, wars and holocausts are only things which happen on European soil - those they committed elsewhere are less important.

Prior to 2009, the main connotations Westerners had with the Basij were the stories of teenage soldiers being used to clear mines; it is often forgotten that Iran was in no way militarily capable of fighting the far superior Iraqi army.

The Shah, in probably his most fatal of blunders (he was even lousy at being a dictator), kept the army totally divided and weak so they could not threaten his absolute economic & sociopolitical control. So not only were they actually incapable of suppressing the People's revolution, the national forces - which also saw a major post-1979 Revolutionary purge, of course - were not at all capable of resisting the Iraqi invasion. This is why child soldiers were used - they had to be.

The complaints of Iraqi soldiers were the same as Americans in Korea: a barefoot farmer or teenager attacking with a garden rake still requires the use of a bullet, and eventually you run out of bullets, or you are so totally disgusted by the piled-up bodies that life and military victory no longer hold any meaning. That, tragically, is the defense of a poor nation, which Iran certainly was in 1980. This is the Basij's birth, and the legacy they would certainly draw on in case of another invasion.

The US invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan caused an increase in state and domestic support for Basij. For all the post-2009 denigration of the Basij, in case of an invasion any objective analysis would have millions - not all - of Basiji preparing to defend even those who domestically opposed them in peacetime.

However, the history of the Islamic Republic of Iran shows that in times of threat the Basij’s role becomes militarised; but in times of peace, the Basij returns to a cultural role of societal and political involvement. The fact that the Basij did not end its duties after 1988 shows that it is primarily a domestic & cultural institution, and not a security one.

Again, the overwhelming majority of Basiji are not involved in security operations, but the Basiji which are armed are a key part in Iran’s decentralized battle plan in case of foreign invasion, which is evidenced by its name: the "Mosaic Doctrine".

Such decentralisation means the presence of armed forces and command centers nationwide. This is only acceptable in a country which embraces their military and its doctrines. It is certainly the opposite of a capitalist-imperialist force: a garrison or fort separated from the People, and despised. Golkar quotes a top Iranian military member to describe the Basij’s security role in case of invasion:

“'Basij paramilitary volunteer troops are playing a decisive role in the country's asymmetric warfare strategies.... What makes up for asymmetries in wars against countries which enjoy technological superiority and hi-tech military tools and equipment, are faithful and highly motivated troops...(the Basij are) a faithful and motivating force playing a decisive, fundamental and pivotal role in asymmetric battles.’"

What this really means is: Basiji in speedboats in the thin areas of the Persian Gulf swarming big US navy boats, and it certainly will work…though it does rely on “faithful and highly motivated troops” who will likely have high casualty rates.

I would be quite pleased to see the faces of invading troops when they see how forbidding the mountains are in Iran, which they would have to fight upwards and in: these mountains are the entire northern and western borders. Just as Rome only prospered because it had the Alps to its back and the sea to its front, Iran only prospered because it is similarly protected and hemmed in by mountains, seas and desert. I clearly ascribe more to the concept of geographic determinism than the idea of Roman or Persian cultural superiority.

However, to me this is not the main reason why the Basij should discourage invaders: Essentially, the Basij are the “last line of defense” - if you get through the Iranian military and the elite Revolutionary Guards (who command the Basij), then you will also have to fight millions of Basjii.

They are not professional military, but they have some training…and a lot of ideological training, which is far, far, far harder to inculcate than military training. They will also have tremendous local support and…all this means the Basij will not make it easy, to put it mildly. They will be a Vietcong of the 21st century, knowing every house, every street, every cave, every cactus; this group, which is dedicated to preserving the modern & popular 1979 revolution & the government & the nation, will be fighting for decades from ideology alone…and then we must also realise that like all invaded nations - they have nowhere else to go.

Not all 25 million Basiji will be effective “terrorists”, as they are sure to be described in Western media, but a few million will be rather a lot to deal with, right, military analysts?

So I hope Washington and Tel Aviv are listening - if a few thousand armed ISIL members can’t be taken care of easily, how can millions of ideologically-politically- militarily-trained citizens be easily defeated?

They can’t. It’s not the army, nor their superior weapons - victory in war depends on the People. The Iranian People have been more than adequately organised to be prepared in case of attack.

Were Paris to be attacked, however, I'm sure it would be total chaos - you’d have the police, and that’s it. Were Havana to be attacked, there’d at least be those three dudes from the CDR who came to my apartment to question me…at least 3 dudes in every neighbourhood and village, that is. Were America to be attacked there would be no domestic organisation for their resistance other than “How many guns do you have?” (Which is indeed a lot of resistance.)

This is why an “invasion of Iran” is so absurd to me. Lots of bombs, fine, but what do the aggressors do when the bombs stop? No country has yet been bombed into complete annihilation if a huge percentage of the People resist, and the Basij resistance bases are set up exactly for that. When the boots go toe to toe, the Basij is a tremendously solid third line to protect the goal, no? 

This article has discussed the structure, the ideology-politics, and the security aspects of the Basij - all things of interest to non-Iranians.

However, the next article is the more crucial one for those who really want to understand Iran, as it discusses how the Basij is drastically reordering the class structures of the nation.

In essence, it answers the questions: beyond ideology, why do people join the Basij? Why do women support the Basij more than men? What is the Basij doing with the money, factories and jobs which have been transferred ("privatised") to them? Why is there strong internal opposition to the Basij? What are the economic and social benefits people get from being a Basiji?

The answer to these questions are all essentially “class”…and while I remain objective in the next part as well, I must concede that I am predisposed to answering most social questions with the answer of “class”.

Maybe I overemphasise its importance, but I don’t think so. While many leftists refuse to discuss religion, we all agree that the class lens is perhaps the paramount way to examine a society. When I examine the Basij what I see is expressed in the title of the next part: Iran's Basij: Restructuring society via class warfare & Islamic socialism.


This is the 6th article in an 11-part series which explains the economics, history, religion and culture of Iran’s Revolutionary Shi’ism, which produced modern Iranian Islamic Socialism.

Here is the list of articles slated to be published, and I hope you will find them useful in your leftist struggle!

The WSWS, Iran’s economy, the Basij & Revolutionary Shi’ism: an 11-part series

How Iran Got Economically Socialist, and then Islamic Socialist

What privatisation in Iran? or Definitely not THAT privatisation

Parallels between Iran’s Basij and the Chinese Communist Party

Iran’s Basij: The reason why land or civil war inside Iran is impossible

A leftist analysis of Iran’s Basij – likely the first ever in the West

Iran’s Basij: Restructuring society and/or class warfare

Cultural’ & ‘Permanent Revolution’ in Revolutionary Shi’ism & Iranian Islamic Socialism

‘Martyrdom and Martyrdom’ & martyrdom, and the Basij

‘The Death of Yazdgerd’: The greatest political movie ever explains Iran’s revolution (available with English subtitles for free on Youtube here)

Iran détente after Trump’s JCPOA pull out? We can wait 2 more years, or 6, or… 

About the author
RAMIN MAZAHERI, Senior Correspondent & Contributing Editor, Dispatch from Paris •  Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. His work has appeared in various journals, magazines and websites, as well as on radio and television.

• Buy it at Amazon and other leading booksellers.

 Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

horiz-long grey

Up to You.

^3000US citizens have no real political representation.

We don't live in a democracy. And our freedom is disappearing fast.

I don't want to be ruled by hypocrites, whores, and war criminals.

What about you? Time to push back against the corporate oligarchy.

And its multitude of minions and lackeys.


When China Leads the World

horiz-long grey


By using force and pretending to benevolence the hegemon will certainly have a large state. By using virtue and practicing benevolence the wise ruler will achieve humane authority.

China's modern cities have sprung up in less than a generation, announcing the arrival of a far more rational and just socioeconomic system.

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n the course of his study of the Peloponnesian War Thucydides, the fifth century BC Greek historian, claimed that interstate relations are based on might, not right, and that states’ strategic interactions follow a recurrent pattern: while a change in the hierarchy of weaker states does not ultimately affect a given system, disturbances in the order of stronger states upset its stability. He said that lesser states strive to gain power at the expense of others because stronger states, hegemons, ‘do as they please while the weak suffer what they must.’

Modern thinkers theorize[1] that hegemony has three components: material power, an accepted image of world order and institutions that legitimize the use of military force, and observe that the United States used all three to institutionalize its hegemony after World War II, in what became known as the Washington Consensus. The US insisted that Athenian democracy is the only legitimate form of government and enforced its claim through its military, the United Nations, the US dollar, the World Bank, the media and numerous political, technical and scientific bodies. It rewarded conforming states and punished or excluded those, like China, that judged government legitimacy on performance rather than ideology. Lesser states could revise their native ideology–as Sweden did by abandoning pacifist socialism–or attempt to universalize their own cultural values and replace the hegemon’s norms–as China, based on its long history of world leadership, is currently doing.

An early Chinese thinker, Xunzi[2], proposed that, though hegemons know how to win wars, “The ruler who makes his own state act correctly will attain international primacy.” The domestic determines the international and since humane authority–based on morality rather than power–is superior to hegemony it is more important to win over people than territory. States wishing to exercise humane authority must be the first to respect the norms they advocate and leaders of high ethical reputation and great administrative ability will attract other states. “To be compassionate in great matters and overlook the small makes one fit to become lord of the covenants. Loving friends, being friendly with the great, rewarding your allies and punishing those who oppose you, the lord of the covenants has a definite duty and his moral standing should match it.” Presiding over the meetings of other states grants international recognition of humane authority. Two centuries later, Confucius expressed the principle thus, “Superiors and inferiors relate to each other like wind and grass: grass must bend when the wind blows over it”.

Mao was right in insisting on a cultural revolution to keep the masses on the socialist track and avoiding bureaucratism.

China’s bid to re-establish its leadership after a two century hiatus has been a national goal since Mao[3] warned colleagues, “To overtake the United States is not only possible but absolutely necessary and obligatory. If we don't, the Chinese nation will be letting the world down and we won’t be making much of a contribution to humanity. If we fail we will be wiped from the face of the earth.”

Fifty years after his warning China founded the world's most powerful military and security partnership, the Shanghai Cooperative Organization, the SCO. With a regional anti-terrorism center in Uzbekistan, a business council in Moscow and a permanent secretariat in Beijing, four nuclear states among its members, three major economies, most of the world’s energy resources, half of the world's population and one-fourth of global GDP, the SCO unites Russia, India, and Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan (Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Turkey are in varying stages of participation).

Four years later President Hu[4] asked the UN General Assembly for “new ways to solve conflicts in international society featuring mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and coordination–distinct from the law of the jungle and power politics–to create peaceful, mutual, win-win benefits and development across the world.” In 2013 his successor, President Xi, proposed the Belt and Road Initiative, BRI, based Hu’s principles. Focusing on policy coordination, infrastructure connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration and closer people-to-people ties, the BRI integrates four billion people in one-hundred thirty countries and thirty international organizations across Eurasia, Africa, Latin America and the South Pacific. The BRI is changing economies, trade, logistics, communications, international relations and even geography by building power plants in Pakistan, train lines in Hungary and ports from Africa to Greece. The new alliance is exporting China’s development model, replacing Western institutions and refashioning the global economic order by forging new ties, creating new markets, deepening economic connections and strengthening diplomatic ties with one trillion dollars in annual infrastructure spending. The European Union is considering joining the BRI.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi[5] explained the model, “Throughout its five-thousand year history the Chinese nation has developed the humanistic-oriented concept of loving all creatures as if they were of our species and all people as if they were our brothers, the political philosophy of valuing virtue and balance, the peaceful approach of love, non-aggression and good-neighborliness, the idea of peace as of paramount importance and harmony without uniformity, as well as the personal conduct of treating others in a way that you would like to be treated, and helping others succeed in the same spirit as you would want to succeed yourself. These traditional values, with their unique oriental flavor, provide an endless source of invaluable cultural asset for China’s diplomacy.”

Thousands of miles of roads, rail lines, pipelines and fiberoptic cables have slashed communications costs across Eurasia and put the region at the forefront of 5G deployment: oil and gas pipelines from Pakistan’s new port of Gwadar, on the Persian Gulf, to Kunming, China bypass the Malacca Straits; the Pan-Asia Railway Network is linking Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and Cambodia and North Korea–proposed as the development hub for Northeast Asia. Meanwhile, work continues on six rail lines and inland rail terminals, thirty cross-border transmission and communications projects and four deep ocean ports that will create Africa’s first transcontinental railway. BRI trade has grown seventeen percent annually since 2013 and preparations for the official BRI launch in 2021 include scholarships for thousands of students from BRI countries.

In 2018, Xi signed another one-hundred billion dollar trade and economic agreement, this time with the Eastern Europe Economic Union, EEEU–Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan. Russia has begun work on the Western end of a high speed rail line designed to run from Moscow to Beijing and, in 2019, added a new dimension: the Polar Sea Route, ‘connecting northeastern, eastern and southeastern Asia with Europe.’ Russia’s President Putin proposes to create a single, integrated market from the Pacific to the Atlantic with the EEEU, the BRI, the SCO and ASEAN (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam).

Then there’s the massive Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, RCEP, a free trade agreement between ASEAN and Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand: 3.4 billion people with a total GDP of fifty trillion dollars, forty percent of world GDP. The RCEP is the world's largest economic bloc, covering nearly half of the global economy and accounting firm PwC estimates its GDP will reach $250 trillion, half of global GDP, in 2050 and increase global real incomes by $286 billion per year. By 2045 the entire Eurasian continent will be bound by treaties, roads, railways, ports, fiberoptic cables, electrical grids and pipelines: a new world order under China’s humane authority.

To knit these alliances more permanently, in 2016 Beijing launched the Global Electric Interconnect, GEIDCO, a grid of ultra-high voltage lines transmitting clean energy around the globe continually, with the sun. By 2019 GEIDCO had seven regional offices, forty global offices, six-hundred regional and national members and invested $1.6 trillion invested in eighty generation and transmission projects across Latin America, Africa, Europe and North America.

To finance this massive development China funded[6] the Silk Road International Bank[7] to mobilize local savings and is developing a new reserve currency. After the Global Financial Crisis Zhou Xiaochuan, Governor of the Bank of China announced, “The world needs an international reserve currency that is disconnected from individual nations and able to remain stable in the long run, removing the inherent deficiencies caused by using credit-based national currencies.” He proposed Special Drawing Rights, SDRs, that derive their value from a basket of world currencies. Nobelists C. Fred Bergsten, Robert Mundell and Joseph Stieglitz, were supportive, “The creation of a global currency would restore a needed coherence to the international monetary system, give the IMF a function that would help it to promote stability and be a catalyst for international harmony.” To demonstrate the scheme’s stability China began valuing its own currency, the RMB, against a basket of dollars, euros, yen and pounds sterling and, almost immediately complaints about RMB valuation ceased. The IMF made its first SDR loan in 2014, the World Bank issued the first SDR bond in 2016, Standard Chartered Bank issued the first commercial SDR notes in 2017 and the world’s central banks began stating reserves in SDRs in 2019.

While few noticed the advent of SDRs, the creation of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, AIIB, in 2015 was a sensation. Former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers called it, “The moment the United States lost its role as the underwriter of the global economic system. I can think of no event since Bretton Woods⁠ comparable to the combination of China’s effort to establish a major new institution–and the failure of the US to persuade dozens of its traditional allies, starting with Britain–to stay out of it.” The AIIB guarantees a trillion dollars annually in long term, low interest loans for regional infrastructure, poverty reduction, growth and climate change mitigation and allows Eurasia’s four billion savers to mobilize local savings that previously had few safe or creative outlets.

China–which contributes a full brigade of eight thousand soldiers to UN peacekeeping–is integrating the United Nations into its plans. The UN unanimously adopted Xi’s[8] Xi’s Resolution to settle disputes through dialogue and resolve differences through discussion by coordinating responses to traditional and non-traditional threats and opposing all forms of terrorism. A UN Committee is considering his proposal to include two new rights, to food and shelter, in its Declaration of Universal Human Rights.

Humane authority seems closer every day.


If the people and the nobility are not devoted then even a Sage King could not guarantee victory. The man who is skilled at obtaining the support of the people is the man who is skilled in using military force. Skillfully gaining the support of the people is essence of military undertaking-that is all. —Xunzi

At their present rates of increase, Chinese and American military budgets will reach parity in 2028 and, given that Chinese missiles in every weight class already outrange their American counterparts, the world security scene will change irrevocably.

In 1949 Mao warned[9] that the country would remain ‘insecure, unconsolidated and delegitimized’ until it transformed both the old imperial world order and the old China. The following year the US bombed coastal Dandong and strafed civilians in several cities, its warplanes buzzed coastal Shantou and Winston Churchill told the world, “I believe in the ultimate partition of China–and I mean ultimate.” The insults continued for decades.

In 1992, after the US Defense Department[10] announced its mission to prevent a rival superpower emerging in Asia the Navy held a Chinese cargo ship, the Yinhe, at gunpoint in international waters for three weeks, claiming she was carrying contraband (she wasn’t). Two years later President Clinton sent the most powerful fleet ever assembled through the Taiwan Strait. In 1998 the US dropped five precision bombs on China’s embassy in Belgrade, killing three diplomats and seriously wounding twenty and CIA director George Tenet told Congress, “It was the only target we nominated.” In 2014 a US Navy article[11] proposed laying offensive underwater mines along China’s coast and destroying her maritime lines of communication while sending special forces to arm minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet. In 2017 the Air Force reaffirmed its willingness to launch a nuclear attack on China and in 2018 the Navy practiced blocking China’s access to oil through the Malacca Strait though, says defense analyst Michael Thim, “The PLAN, China’s Navy, had sufficient capabilities in place in 1996 such that sending Carrier Strike Groups into the Taiwan Strait would be suicidal. The situation has only become more challenging for the Navy in recent years, not because the PLAN has acquired an aircraft carrier of its own, but because China has greatly enhanced and modernized its existing anti-access/area-denial capabilities.”

It has indeed. Strategically, China applies Mao's ‘peoples war’ strategies in the South China Sea and Western navies are struggling to respond. When the Japanese or KMT armies arrived, the local guerillas would retreat but the invading forces couldn't stay forever and, when they left, the PLA was still there. When British or American fleets arrive the coast guard and naval militia disappear and when the fleets go, the boats reappear. The goal is to push the Philippines and Vietnam to the negotiating table, at which point it has won the conflict. In such a situation conventional weapons become symbolic: whoever shoots first loses. Since an F-35 can’t actually shoot anything the PLAN can neutralize it with a fishing boat. The US cannot raise its incursions to a political level that could freeze strategy while China can coordinate military, legal, diplomatic, and economic aspects simultaneously[12]. “The power of the nation-state by no means consists only in its armed forces, but also in its economic and technological resources; in the dexterity, foresight and resolution with which its foreign policy is conducted; in the efficiency of its social and political organization. It consists most of all in the nation itself, the people, their skills, energy, ambition, discipline, initiative, beliefs, myths and illusions. And it consists, further, in the way all these factors are related to one another.”

By 2015, said the Rand Corporation, China could endanger the US Navy’s surface fleet a thousand miles from its coast and the Chief of its Indo-Pacific Command told the Senate, “There is no guarantee that the United States would win a future conflict with China.” By 2019 the Navy’s Seventh Fleet of seventy ships, charged with projecting US power to the Indo-Pacific, faced three hundred PLAN warships, two hundred missile- and gun-boats defending its coast and the Navy[13] expects the PLAN to deploy 342 warships by 2021. The PLAN’s mastery of naval logistics is unparalleled: in 2018 alone it launched fifteen new warships and began simultaneous construction of four nuclear submarines. Even the US Navy, shopping for a floating dock, visited its shipyards.

The first line of China’s naval defense, the Maritime Militia, has 180,000 ocean-going fishing boats and four thousand merchant marine[14] freighters–some towing sonar detectors–crewed by a million sailors transmitting detailed information about every warship on the world’s oceans twenty-four hours a day. Shore bases fuse their reports with automated transmissions from Beidou positioning, navigation and timing satellites and provide real time data to reporting specialists, xinxiyuan, trained in target information collection and identification, operating ‘vessel management platforms’ that collate, format and forward actionable information up the PLAN command chain. Shoreside, eight million coastal reservists train constantly in seamanship, emergency ship repairs, anti-air missile defense, light weapons and naval sabotage.

Commander Yang Yi, a woman and the youngest Chief Designer in naval history, created the PLAN’s front line defense fleet of three-hundred Type 022 Houbei Class fast attack missile boats. They carry eight C-802 anti-ship missiles with 500lb. warheads that travel at 650 mph, fifteen feet above the surface to targets a hundred miles away (a single C-802 disabled an Israeli warship in 2006). Four of her boats, she says, are sufficient to cover the Taiwan Strait while sheltering behind China’s coastal islands. Thirty Type 056 frigates with a range of 2,500 miles armed with YJ-83 anti-ship missiles, eight SAM launchers and six torpedo tubes back up the patrol boats.

Behind them are twenty Type 052D Arleigh Burke class destroyers. With sixty-four missile tubes, their arsenals includes unique Yu-8s anti-submarine missiles that fly for twenty miles then release their torpedoes into the sea: naval analysts claim they are virtually undetectable until they plunge into the water near the target. Six Type 055 heavy missile cruisers, the world’s most powerful surface combatants, each with one-hundred twenty-eight tubes, carry surface-to-air, anti-ship, land-attack and anti-submarine missiles while, below the surface, seventy nuclear and conventional submarines carry YJ-12 anti-ship cruise missiles and wake-homing torpedoes that deliver five hundred pound warheads at sixty mph from fifteen miles away.

The DF-26 land-to-ship missile, aptly nicknamed the "Carrier Killer". The Americans may no longer have overwhelming superiority.

The greatest threat, however, was born when the Navy invited a Chinese admiral on a courtesy visit to the USS Nimitz. Upon his return the officer told colleagues, “I’ve just seen the world’s biggest target. If we can’t hit an aircraft carrier we can’t hit anything.” Thrifty engineers attached a new guidance system to an existing land based missile and created a new class of weapon, the million-dollar DF-21D anti-ship ballistic carrier killer. It carries a half-ton warhead one thousand miles then drops it vertically, at 7,500 mph, onto $12 billion aircraft carriers. The USNI says it can destroy a carrier in one strike and that there is currently no defense against it. (Its sibling, the DF-26D, has a range of two thousand miles.) In 2019 Robert Haddick[15] warned, “China’s anti-ship missile capability exceeds that of the United States in terms of range, speed and sensor performance.” Captain James Fanell[16], a senior naval intelligence officer added, “We know that China has the most advanced ballistic missile force in the world. They have the capacity to overwhelm the defensive systems we are pursuing.”

On the ballistic front line, the CM-401, is a high supersonic ballistic missile designed for rapid precision strikes against medium-size ships, naval task forces and offshore facilities within two hundred miles but to destroy military bases in the region the PLAN relies on the larger CJ-10, a subsonic missile with a two-thousand mile range and a half ton payload that uses inertial and satellite navigation, Terrain Contour Matching and digital scene-mapping area correlation for terminal guidance, with a CEP[17] of forty feet. A longer-ranged anti-ship version, the YJ-100, can be air-launched or fired from Type 055 vertical launch tubes.

A Chengdu J-20

For conflicts close to the mainland or Taiwan, says The Rand Corporation, China achieved full parity in 2017 and, by 2021, will deploy more fifth generation fighters in the area than the US. J-20 fighter-bombers have an operational range of a thousand miles, carry bigger payloads faster, higher and further than America’s F-22 Raptor and release YJ-12 anti-ship cruise missiles that travel two hundred miles then deliver a thousand pound warhead in a corkscrew trajectory at supersonic speed. The Navy says that even against alerted warships, thirty-two percent of missiles score hits and a single strike will render any vessel inoperable.


The J-20 also carries the specialized PLA-15. Propelled by novel dual pulse rocket motors on a semi-ballistic trajectory, they home on AWACS and airborne tankers loitering behind battle lines. In 2015 USAF General Herbert Carlisle told Congress that he can field two hundred F-22 Raptors carrying six missiles while China’s more numerous fighters each carry twelve longer ranged weapons, “Look at the PLA-15, at the range of that weapon. How do we counter that?” Following his testimony the Air Force canceled its E-8C AWACS recapitalization, explaining that they would be easy prey for the PLA-15. The PLA-15’s smaller sibling, PLA-10, is no less deadly, says ISIS airpower specialist Douglas Barrie, “For the notional Western combat aircraft pilot, there is no obvious respite to be found in attempting to avoid within visual range threat of the PLA-10[18] by keeping beyond visual range. In this environment also the PLAAF will be able to mount an increasingly credible challenge and at engagement ranges against some targets that would previously have been considered safe. As one former US Air Force tanker pilot drily noted to this author, ‘“That’s aimed right at me.’”

Chinese ICBMs on parade (2015). For obvious reasons, knowing the nature of her main adversary, the Chinese have accelerated the development of deterrent weapons.

From space, hyperspectral detection satellites peer at submerged submarines while the enormous Divine Eagle High Altitude Stealth-Hunting Drone reads aircraft electronic signals long before they approach their targets. Below them AWACS, whose solid-state detectors have twice the range of USAF’s rotating domes, track hundreds of targets and integrate information from the West Pacific Surveillance and Targeting satellite and twelve positioning satellites with ten centimeter accuracy. On the ground, passive and quantum radars emit no detectable signals while tracking objects for Russia’s S-400 antiaircraft/antimissile batteries.

China’s heavyweight ICBM, the road-mobile DF-41, is a three-stage, solid-fueled device with a twelve to fifteen thousand mile range and a top speed of twenty-thousand mph or Mach 25 that carries ten independently targetable nuclear warheads and launches on four minutes’ warning. While the DF-41 is approaching the limits of ICBM potential, the Hypersonic Glide Vehicle, the DF-ZF (which Russian Defense Minister Dmitry Rogozin compared to the first atom bombs in strategic significance) is just beginning its life cycle. Launched sixty miles above the earth from missiles traveling sixteen-thousand mph, HGVs surf the stratosphere on their supersonic shockwaves and glide to their targets. RAND says.  This would make the DF-41 the world's longest range missile, surpassing the range of the US LGM-30 Minuteman which has a reported range of 13,000 km.[5][6]

Maneuverability can potentially provide HGVs the ability to use in-flight updates to attack a different target than originally planned..With the ability to fly at unpredictable trajectories, these missiles will hold extremely large areas at risk throughout much of their flights” and Congressional report concluded, “The very high speeds of these weapons combined with their maneuverability and ability to travel at lower, radar-evading altitudes would make them far less vulnerable to current missile defenses than existing missiles.” (After the PLAN’s successful HGV tests Xiamen University’s engineering department, launched and recovered its own HGV in northwest China's desert.)

In real wars, boots on the ground determine final outcomes and the People’s Liberation Army is as unconventional as its weapons. Combat forces elect their NCOs and PLAN soldiers receive more political education than the rest of the world’s armies combined. Xiaoming Zhang[19] explained the thinking behind this, “Under the influence of Confucian philosophy the concept of the just or righteous war was prevalent throughout Chinese society so, unlike Western militaries which depend on professional ethics and training to ensure that soldiers’ perform their duties in war, the PLA opted for political indoctrination and attempted to make troops understand why a war must be fought and how it would matter to them.” Historian William Hinton says, “From its inception the Army has been led by the Party and has never played a purely military role. On the contrary, Army cadres have always played a leading political role. In 1927 Mao wrote, ‘The Red Army fights not merely for the sake of fighting but in order to conduct xuānchuán among the people, organize, arm and help them establish revolutionary political power. Without these objectives, fighting loses its meaning and the Red Army loses its reason for existence.’”

No matter how well armed or valorous an army is, to win wars it needs the support of the citizens who pay for it–and here China has an advantage. China’s leaders often invoke the feelings of the Chinese people in international disputes and surveys[20] reveal that their attitudes are more hawkish than dovish and younger Chinese much more inclined to call on the government to invest in and have recourse to military strength. In 2015, Gallup posed the question, “If there were a war involving [your country], would you be willing to fight for [your country]?”

[1] Hegemonic Stability Theory: An Empirical Assessment. Michael C. Webb and Stephen D. Krasner. Review of International Studies

Vol. 15, No. 2, Special Issue on the Balance of Power (Apr., 1989), pp. 183-198. Cambridge University Press

[2] Ancient Chinese Thought, Modern Chinese Power. By Yan Xuetong

[3] “Strengthen Party Unity and Carry Forward Party Traditions” (1956) China’s economy overtook America’s fifty-eight years later.

[4] Build a Harmonious World of Lasting Peace and Common Prosperity. Speech by Hu Jintao at the UN Summit, New York, September 15, 2005

[5] Wang Yi, ‘Exploring the Path of Major-Country Diplomacy with Chinese Characteristics’, Foreign Affairs Journal, No. 10 (2013), p. 14.

[6] China launches $11 billion fund for Central, Eastern Europe. Reuters, November 6, 2016

[7] Behind China’s $1 Trillion Plan to Shake Up the Economic Order.By Jane Perlez and Yufan Huang. New York Times, May 13, 2017

[8] ‘Work Together to Build a Community with Shared Future for Mankind’ . January 2017. Later incorporated in a UN resolution by the 55th UN Commission for Social Development

[9] Zhai, Qiang (2005-10-20T22:58:59). China and the Vietnam Wars, 1950-1975 (The New Cold War History) (Kindle Locations 227-231). The University of North Carolina Press. Kindle Edition.


[11] US Naval Institute Proceedings, Deterring the Dragon

[12] Power in International Politics. Michael Barnett and Raymond Duvall. International Organization, Vol. 59, No. 1

[13] Chinese Naval Expansion Hits High Gear: China’s Navy Acquires 15 Warships in 7 Months


[14] China's Maritime Militia, by ndrew S. Erickson and Conor M. Kennedy

[15] New missile gap leaves U.S. scrambling to counter China. Reuters. April 25, 2019

[16] New missile gap leaves U.S. scrambling to counter China. Reuters. Apr 25, 2019

[17] CEP, circular error probable is defined as the radius of a circle, centered on the mean, whose boundary is expected to include the landing points of 50% of a missile’s rounds.

[18] The PLA-10, an air-to-air missile, has a more advanced guidance system and twice the range, speed and payload of the USAF AIM-9.

[19] Zhang, Xiaoming. Deng Xiaoping's Long War: The Military Conflict between China and Vietnam, 1979-1991 (The New Cold War History). The University of North Carolina Press.

[20] How Hawkish Is the Chinese Public? Another Look at “Rising Nationalism” and Chinese Foreign Policy Jessica Chen Weiss To cite this article: Jessica Chen Weiss (2019): How Hawkish Is the Chinese Public? Another Look at “Rising Nationalism” and Chinese Foreign Policy, Journal of Contemporary China, DOI: 10.1080/10670564.2019.1580427


About the Author
SPECIAL EDITOR for Asian Affairs Godfree Roberts (Ed.D. Education & Geopolitics, University of Massachusetts, Amherst (1973)), currently resides in Chiang Mai, Thailand. His expertise covers many areas, from history, politics and economics of Asian countries, chiefly China, to questions relating to technology and even retirement in Thailand, a topic of special interests for many would-be Western expats interested in relocating to places where a modest income can still assure a decent standard of living and medical care

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.