The Revolution Will Not Be Televised…Nor Will It Be Brought To You By Russell Brand, Oliver Stone Or Noam Chomsky

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By Stephen Gowans


Lacking a central organizing idea and concrete vision of where they wanted to go, spontaneous movements like Occupy were too hobbled by anarchist nonsense to achieve much more than to sell a few more copies of Z Magazine and to create a decent phrase about the 1% making off with all the wealth at the expense of the 99%.

Not too many years ago, when protesters were running riot through the streets, disrupting meetings of the WTO, G7, and other international organizations, the Canadian newspaper The National Post served up a flattering and generous portrait of young people who had eschewed the streets as a terrain for political struggle and turned instead to what the newspaper considered the responsible and laudatory path of seeking nomination to run as candidates for the mildly social democratic (but in the newspaper’s view, rabidly leftwing) New Democratic Party.

This was a curious turn of events, for the National Post, a newspaper founded by the notoriously rightwing, white-collar criminal, Lord Conrad Black, was as likely in normal times to heap praise on anyone associated with the NDP as George Bush was to sing the praises of Kim Il Sung. But these were not normal times. In retrospect it’s easy to see that the protests, demonstrations, and strikes of the time, would fizzle and die, as the Occupy movement would also fizzle and die years later. Lacking a central organizing idea and concrete vision of where they wanted to go, they were too hobbled by anarchist nonsense to achieve much more than to sell a few more copies of Z Magazine and to create a decent phrase about the 1% making off with all the wealth at the expense of the 99%. But it was clear that the editors of the National Post were worried enough to recommend a path other than the streets to those who burned with the desire for political change. That they should recommend electoral politics was predictable. Young people who plowed their energies into the NDP would soon get bogged down in the harmless, ineffectual, routines of political campaigns, and be kept safely off the streets.

occupy-everythingThe wealthy are keen on electoral politics—when they go their way, as they often do. Elections in capitalist society can be dominated by money, as can the larger political process. Banks, corporations and major investors lobby politicians, fund political campaigns, bribe legislators with the promise of lucrative post-political jobs, place their representatives in key positions in the state, and shape the ideological environment through their control of the media, creation of think-tanks, hiring of PR firms, and funding of university chairs. Those without wealth can hardly compete, except, in principle, by pooling their resources and hoping to tilt the balance the other way against a formidable foe that controls infinitely more resources. The absence of organization and class consciousness, however, routinely assures this doesn’t happen. Moreover, the electoral arena channels dissent into predictable, controllable paths, keeping it off the streets, where it might become unpredictable and therefore dangerous. Additionally, the sway that corporate, banking and investor groups exercise behind the scenes is masked by the egalitarian spectacle of elections. One person, one vote. What could be more equal?

I was reminded of this after reading the Russell Brand-edited issue of The New Statesman [1], not because it was in any particular way an endorsement of capitalist democracy, but because, like the National Post, it defined legitimate political change within parameters favorable to the established order. Of course, Brand wasn’t advocating electoral politics as the National Post was. On the contrary, he spoke out against voting in an interview with the BBC’s Jeremy Paxman, and called for a revolution. But Brand’s New Statesman went further than the National Post. Where the National Post said that those who fight for political change within the established system are admirable, while those who step outside it are not, Brand, as editor, tackled the larger idea of revolution (the only way, he said, he could get interested in politics. ) Mind you, a mass-circulation magazine was not about to become a platform to rally the masses to armed insurrection to overthrow the established order. “The revolution,” observed Gil Scott-Heron, “will not be televised.” Nor will it be found in the pages of the New Statesman. Predictably, the outcome of Brand’s editing exercise was the redefining of the entire idea of revolution, or, I should say, the destroying of it altogether, turning it into something vague and difficult to put your finger on, except to say it was good, and true, and safe to bring home to mother. But not at all like what Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Kim Il sung were implicated in. According to the luminaries Brand assembled to hold forth on what revolution means, revolution isn’t the transfer of productive property from one group to another –from, say, private owners to workers, or colonial settlers to those they dispossessed, or even owners who reside outside a country to the people within. Instead, it means many things, but not what you thought it did. [2]

occupyPacifistIn Brand’s issue of The New Statesman, film-maker Judd Apatow writes that revolution is telling authority figures to fuck off…in a funny way. “Comedy itself is revolutionary,” he says, whatever that means. Deepak Chopra rejects politics altogether as “irrelevant” and writes that he puts his “trust in inner revolution,” as priests and other religious figures have done for centuries, counselling the exploited to look inward rather than outward, leaving the exploiters to carry on exploiting free from the inconvenience of anyone fighting back. Comedian Francesca Martinez seeks, not a revolution in who owns productive property, but “of our ideas.” Author Howard Marks begins on a promising note, writing that he would like to see a revolution along the lines of the “Marxist notions of transferring power from reactionary to progressive classes,” but quickly plunges into the ridiculous by expressing the hope that such a revolution will create an immediate utopia, where we can all smoke dope, love each other, and never fight. The model he would like to see realized on a grand scale is the “wine-drinking, dancing, pagan society without a written language” of the Kalash Valleys in northern Pakistan. “There are no prisons, no laws, no police and no vested interests.” Tim Street, director of UK Uncut Legal Action calls “democracy” the most revolutionary idea, and offers a vision of revolution in which the corporate ruling class remains in place (hence, no revolution at all), but where the people try to hold it in check. Street writes, “we can begin by holding corporations which put profit before people to account and fight back when they bully and threaten us. We can begin by using our voices and our bodies to protest, to take direct action against the cuts and tax dodging.” How depressingly far the idea of revolution has drifted (or has been pushed) from its moorings, when anti-capitalist revolution once meant abolition of the profit system, not pressuring corporations to put people before profits (a Quixotic project, since it is both legally and systemically impossible for capitalism to put people before profits. Street has set a rather ambitious goal for himself if he thinks he’s going to hold all the corporations that put profits before people (i.e., all of them) to account. He’ll hardly have time to keep abreast of the latest Noam Chomsky interviews on YouTube.) Newspaper owner Evgeny Lebedev offers nothing better, but at least knows what a revolution is, pointing to the American, French and Russian revolutions as revolutions. But Lebedev’s view of these revolutions is precisely what you might expect of a business owner. The American Revolution, he says, was “mostly very good”. The French is to be applauded, in part. But the Bolshevik revolution had no redeeming features whatever, expect this: It showed “that Marx’s method was incompatible with freedom and dignity.” Lebedev endorses “evolution” as “the better guide to human affairs” (now that the bourgeois revolutions have succeeded.) [3]

stone-UHposterOliver Stone and Peter Kuznick, authors of The Untold History of the United States, offer a 1960s New Left anarchist vision, where the only good revolutions are the ones that never happened and the bad ones are the ones that did. This meshes well with a brief entry by anarchist Noam Chomsky on how utopia can be brought about (about which more in a moment.) Stone and Kuznick find inspiration in former US Vice President Henry Wallace’s idea of a worldwide people’s revolution, which would “end militarism, imperialism and economic exploitation, redistribute wealth on a global scale, and spread the fruits of science and industry.” Great, but there are two problems here. For Stone and Kuznick, who, by the way, make no apologies for engaging in utopian (i.e., unrealistic) thinking, revolution is the answer to an intellectual problem: how to eliminate militarism, imperialism, and exploitation, which they regard as morally insupportable. But revolutions don’t work that way. People don’t overturn an existing political and economic order because they dislike militarism intellectually or regard exploitation as morally indefensible. They overturn existing orders when the conditions of their lives become intolerable, and revolution becomes the only way out—which is more likely to happen in the countries which are the victims of militarism and imperialism than in the ones which are the perpetrators and within whose borders lie the audience Stone’s and Kuznick’s comments are presumably directed at. Secondly, the duo seems to want to arrive at utopia without violence, conflict, hierarchy or power politics—in other words, a utopian path to utopia, where a utopia must first exist before it can be realized. We “have too often seen the use of violence unleash emotions and forces that beget more violence and new forms of tyranny and oppression,” they write. [4]

It was the New Left’s desire for the ocean without the roar of the river that led to the movement’s denunciation by its critics as comprising those who “combine the luxury of being eternally in the right without the obligation of ever actually being responsible for anything.” And indeed, the New Left, and its successors, managed to escape responsibility by never actually achieving anything that would require that they bear it. Arnold Kettle noted in 1960, that “What the New Left seems not to be able to stomach is that (the countries that actually had revolutions) should have not only principles but also a strategy, a diplomacy, a defense policy…and all the responsibilities and consequent impurities… Power politics is always used by New Left writers in a derogatory sense, as if there were some other form of politics.” As for the New Left vision of what a revolution was to achieve, “it was a reality beyond class struggle, a society which is neither capitalist nor socialist, but simply nice.” [5] Indeed, Stone and Kuznick express their vision in terms of a nice world of “creativity, kindness and generosity” where “greed and the lust for power” have no place, rather than a world of jobs for all, free heath care and education, cheap public transportation, subsidized housing, and affordable childcare, racial and gender equality, and investment of the social surplus into raising the living standards of all. If you want a nice world of kindness and charity where greed and lust for power have no place, there are plenty of religions around to take care of that. But that’s not revolution.

Stone and Kuznick reserve special scorn for” Stalin, Mao and the Kims”, who they depict as power-hungry defilers of “the noble concept of revolution” who grabbed power to aggrandize themselves. Fuck them, they write. One day someone will have to write The Untold History of 20th Century Revolutions to correct Stone’s and Kuznick’s defiling of accomplished revolutionaries. For now, suffice to say that the title of the duo’s book ought to be changed to The Untold History of the United States by Two Confused Leftists Who Have Yet to Be Told the Untold History of Russia, China and Korea.

For Stone’s and Kuznick’s benefit here’s a brief history to fill the gaps of their knowledge.


Kim Il Sung was an effective guerrilla leader who made an enormous contribution to the liberation of Korea from Japanese colonial rule, and from the form of residual rule by Japanese collaborators that took hold in the south, and has echoes today. South Korea’s current president, Park Geun-hye, is the daughter of the military dictator, Park Chung-hee, who served in the Japanese imperial army, hunting down Kim and his guerrillas. Whatever one might say about the de facto, but hardly de jure, Kim dynastic succession, the Kims trace their lineage to a leading anti-colonial guerrilla who played a lead role in building an independent state, free from domination by outside powers. The south, in contrast, is a neo-colony of the United States, where the armed forces are under the wartime command of the Pentagon, and anti-communist descendants of Japanese collaborators exercise local control. Had Kim anticipated Deepak Chopra’s path and declared politics “irrelevant” and put his “trust in inner revolution”, Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick might have lauded him, rather than blurting “Fuck…the Kims.” Yet, the price of Kim’s earning the respect of the New Left film-makers would likely have been Korea remaining a colony of Japan, or more likely, a neo-colony of the United States from the south to the north.


Before the Mao-led revolution in China, 55 to 65 percent of the land was owned by 10 percent of the population, mainly landlords–parasites who exploited the labor of peasants by virtue of claiming ownership of the land and holding it by law and force. Hundreds of millions eked out bare existences on tiny plots and forever faced the threat of famine. The country had less industrial power than Belgium. Long dominated by outside powers, the Chinese lived as untermenschen in their own country. “Everything fed the revolution. Only by revolution could China’s peasants get land, get out from under landlord control…Without revolution, China would have remained in the grip of imperialism, a semi-colony, dominated and exploited by the United States.” [6] Domenico Losurdo points out that, “It is widely known that Mao Zedong declared at the foundation of the Peoples Republic of China that the Chinese nation had risen up and nobody would tread on it again. Perhaps he was thinking about the years when a sign at the entrance to the French consulate in Shanghai forbade entrance to Chinese and dogs.” Losurdo asks: “Is the new situation in the great Asian country a result of ‘failure’?” [7] To be sure, the Chinese Revolution falls well short of Stone’s and Kuznick’s vision of a world free from militarism, imperialism, and exploitation, and where creativity, kindness, and generosity have replaced greed and lust for power, but it did improve the lives of hundreds of millions. As the privileged son of a stockbroker who has lived his life in a country that dominates others, Stone may regard Mao’s revolution as a defiling of the noble concept of revolution, but he’d find few Chinese to agree with him.


Joseph+Stalin+14546Stalin made enormous contributions to socialism, decolonization, and indirectly, to the emergence of the welfare state in the West. He played a lead role in the building of the first publicly-owned, planned, economy –one free from unemployment and the insecurities and injustices of the past. He was at the forefront of the project to lift Russia from backwardness, succeeding spectacularly in short order. His contributions to the defeat of fascism were unparalleled, exceeding those of any other individual. Under his leadership, the monarchies and military dictatorships of Eastern Europe were overthrown and, no, the socialist societies that replaced them were not simply new forms of oppression. Their economies grew rapidly and with them standards of living rose to unprecedented levels, while the insecurities, injustices, inequalities and exploitation of the past were eliminated. The national liberation movement had no greater friend than Stalin’s Soviet Union. By successfully creating an alternative to capitalism, Stalin forced Western governments to build robust programs of social welfare to maintain the allegiance of their populations. And the Soviet Union’s policy of racial equality embarrassed the United States into improving the conditions of its black citizens.

It’s instructive to consider the Soviet Union in 1936. Soviet democracy, based on the constitution Stalin played a key role in writing, was being rolled out. The constitution mandated the creation of a system of elected representatives. Stalin was elected the representative of a Moscow constituency of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. By this assembly he was elected as one of 30 members of the Presidium, which in turn elected a Council of Commissars. He did not call himself a dictator, nor was there a position of dictator to be occupied.

Soviet democracy has been derided and ridiculed in the West. But let’s consider the Soviet form of democracy in 1936 versus the Western form. At the time, Britain had an unelected House of Lords (still does), while Canada had, and continues to have, an unelected Senate. Of 500 million inhabitants of the British Empire, only 70 million, or 1/7th, lived in political democracies. South Africa denied suffrage to its black population. In Canada and Australia, aboriginal people were not allowed to vote. India had no political democracy at all, and was governed by the British civil service. The United States denied civil rights to its black citizens, who lived in a state of oppression. [8] In contrast, suffrage in the USSR was universal, hardly the tyranny by comparison with the West that Stone and Kuznick would have us believe it was.

As to the perennial charge that Stalin murdered millions, we can dismiss this as an unexamined legend that everyone believes to be true because someone (they just can’t remember who) told them it was, and about which they can provide no details, like who, how, when and why? William Blum writes:

“We’ve all heard the figures many times…10 million…20 million…40 million…60 million…died under Stalin. But what does the number mean, whichever number you choose? Of course many people died under Stalin, many people died under Roosevelt….Dying appears to be a natural phenomenon in every country. The question is how did those people die under Stalin? Did they die from the famines that plagued the USSR in the 1920s and 30s? Did the Bolsheviks deliberately create those famines? How? Why? More people certainly died in India in the 20th century from famines than in the Soviet Union, but no one accuses India of the mass murder of its own citizens. Did the millions die from disease in an age before antibiotics? In prison? From what causes? People die in prison in the United States on a regular basis. Were millions actually murdered in cold blood? If so, how? How many were criminals executed for non-political crimes? The logistics of murdering tens of millions of people is daunting.” [9]

The numbers are, in fact, estimates derived by comparing the Soviet population with projections of whatever the author making the estimate thinks the population would have been at a given point had Stalin never existed. The difference between the two figures is then said to represent the missing population, or people Stalin “murdered.” It’s obvious that this method is open to abuse and that attributing excess deaths to mass murder has no other intention than to bamboozle people into believing that Stalin ordered the cold-blooded killing of tens of millions. This isn’t to say that Stalin didn’t order executions, and lots of them. He did. But executions in times of exceptional circumstances, when the revolution was under threat from within and without—as the Soviet Union was throughout the Stalin era–are no less necessary than the killing of soldiers of an invading army. It was war. Unless action fitting to war was taken, the revolution would fail. Everywhere fifth columnists facilitated the Nazi invasions, except in the Soviet Union where there was no fifth column. Stalin had eliminated it. He may have uniquely accomplished this feat by accepting a high false-positive rate as the cost of extirpating the disease, catching the innocent and harmless in his net as well as the dangerous and guilty. But when it’s unclear whether the tissue is diseased or healthy, the surgeon who saves the patient cuts out both the clearly diseased and the surrounding suspicious (though possibly healthy) tissue. The question is: Did Stalin order executions to satisfy a personal lust for power, or to safeguard the revolution bequeathed by Lenin? Stalin’s political enemies have always favored the first explanation. And the CIA has ensured that those who favored it had a platform from which to spread it far and wide.

When Stalin came to power, the Soviet Union was in a precarious position—its agriculture backward, its industry stunted, its military feeble. What’s more, fierce and fissiparous debate within the Communist Party about the way forward had produced paralysis, infighting and intrigues. The country was going nowhere, fast. Three decades later Stalin was dead. But in those three decades, with Stalin at the helm, the country had advanced from the wooden plow to the atomic pile.

“When Stalin died in 1953, the Soviet Union was the second greatest industrial, scientific, and military power in the world and showed clear signs of moving to overtake the United States in all these areas. This was despite the devastating losses it suffered while defeating the fascist powers of Germany, Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria. The various peoples of the U.S.S.R were unified. Starvation and illiteracy were unknown throughout the country. Agriculture was completely collectivized and extremely productive. Preventive health care was the finest in the world, and medical treatment of exceptionally high quality was available free to all citizens. Education at all levels was free. More books were published in the U.S.S.R than in any other country. There was no unemployment.

“Meanwhile, in the rest of the world, not only had the main fascist powers of 1922-1945 been defeated, but the forces of revolution were on the rise everywhere. The Chinese Communist Party had just led one fourth of the world’s population to victory over foreign imperialism and domestic feudalism and capitalism. Half of Korea was socialist…In Vietnam, a strong socialist power, which had already defeated Japanese imperialism, was administering the final blows to the beaten army of the French empire. The monarchies and fascist dictatorships of Eastern Europe had been destroyed by a combination of partisan forces, led by local Communists, and the Soviet Army…The largest political party in both France and Italy was the Communist Party. The national liberation movement among the European colonies and neo-colonies was surging forward…The entire continent of Africa was stirring.” [10]

Were these the accomplishments of a “failed” revolution? Domenico Losurdo demands that critics like Stone and Kuznick,

“explain how a ‘failure’…has managed to make such an enormous contribution to the emancipation of the colonial people and, in the West, to the destruction of the old regime and the emergence of the welfare state. In 1923, when Lenin, gravely ill, is forced to release the reins of power, the state that emerged from the October Revolution, mutilated in the peace treaty of Brest-Litovsk, is leading a paltry and precarious life. In 1953, at Stalin’s death, the Soviet Union and the socialist camp are enjoying enormous growth, power, and prestige. A few more of these (‘defilers of the noble concept of revolution’) and the situation of the imperialist and capitalist world system would have become precarious and untenable indeed!” [11]

Contrary to Stone’s and Kuznick’s falsifications, Stalin did more to bring the world closer to their vision of freedom from militarism, imperialism and exploitation than anyone else. Yet the two Americans say “Fuck Stalin.” They don’t, however, say “Fuck Castro.” Why not? The Cuban revolution was guerrilla-led, like Mao’s and Kim’s, assisted by the Soviet Union, like Mao’s and Kim’s, and Cuban socialism is based largely on the “Stalinist” model. Yet, Stone, whose three documentaries on the Cuban revolutionary reveal a soft spot for Castro, doesn’t accuse the leader of the Cuban revolution of defiling the concept of revolution in the interests of power, self-aggrandizement, repression and iron-fisted control.

The inconsistencies don’t stop there. Stone, it seems, also has a soft spot for Barack Obama, who he reportedly voted for in 2008 and 2012. [12] Shouting “Fuck Stalin, Mao and the Kims” while voting for Obama calls to mind Michael Parenti’s criticism of the hypocrisy of left anti-communists who profess revulsion at the “crimes of communism” while facilitating the crimes of Democratic presidents by voting for them.

Parenti explains:

“Under one or another Democratic administration, 120,000 Japanese Americans were torn from their homes and livelihoods and thrown into detention camps; atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki with an enormous loss of innocent life; the FBI was given authority to infiltrate political groups; the Smith Act was used to imprison leaders of the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party and later on leaders of the Communist party for their political beliefs; detention camps were established to round up political dissidents in the event of a ‘national emergency’; during the late 1940s and 1950s, eight thousand federal workers were purged from government because of their political association and views, with thousands more in all walks of life witch-hunted out of their careers; the Neutrality Act was used to impose an embargo on the Spanish Republic in favor of Franco’s fascist legions; homicidal counterinsurgency programs were initiated in various Third World countries; and the Vietnam War was pursued and escalated. And for the better part of a century, the Congressional leadership of the Democratic party protected racial segregation and stymied all anti-lynching and fair employment bills. Yet all these crimes, bringing ruination and death to many, have not moved the liberals, the social democrats, and the ‘democratic socialist’ anticommunists to insist repeatedly that we issue blanket condemnation of either the Democratic party or the political system that produced it…” [13]

Stone and Kuznick may deplore these Democratic party crimes, but it’s unlikely they’d ever say “Fuck the Democrats.” It’s more likely they’d say, “Vote Democrat.” So, let’s forget about “Fuck Stalin, Mao and the Kims.” If Stone is really interested in ending militarism, imperialism, and exploitation, why isn’t he telling us to “Fuck Obama,” a major promoter of the scourges Stone says he hates, rather than running down historical figures who actually fought against imperialism and exploitation, and won?

The Stone and Kuznick view is, really, rather quite silly. They believe that Mao and Kim decided to become guerrillas, and Stalin, a Bolshevik, because these were routes to the acquisition of personal power, self-aggrandizement, and iron-fisted control. Yet, at the time, guerrilla and underground revolutionary were hardly the most promising career paths for people who lusted for power and self-aggrandizement. If Stalin really lusted after these things, why didn’t he link up with Tsarist forces, rather than the Bolsheviks, which until mid-1917 were a minor political force that no one (including many Bolsheviks) expected to take power? Chinese and Koreans who became guerrillas were more likely to find themselves dead, tortured or imprisoned, than rising to the head of a bureaucracy administering a new state. They became guerrillas because they found feudal and imperialist oppression intolerable and wanted to put an end to them. A Georgian like Stalin became a Bolshevik because he hated Tsarist oppression and wanted to replace it. Stalin lived much of his early life underground, trying to keep one step ahead of the Tsarist police, and serving long stretches in internal exile. As leader of the Soviet Union he lived a modest, almost Spartan life. He was not a Red Tsar, living in the lap of luxury, as Stone’s and Kuznick’s crude myth-making would have us believe. Stalin, Mao and Kim understood that ending oppression meant taking political power, which meant, in turn, a disciplined, organized approach to the project—one that involved leaders and hierarchy. The idea that the politically-inspired seek power for power’s sake is an anarchist confusion. As Richard Levins points out, even George W. Bush would never have promoted universal free health care, subsidized Venezuela, or renounced Jesus just to stay in power. Behind “every facade of power-hunger, there lurks a person of principles, though (as in Bush’s case) these may be noxious principles.” [14] Revolutionaries seek power to aggrandize the position of the class they represent. People in leadership positions may be in positions to exercise power, but that doesn’t mean they seek power as an end in itself. They seek power as an instrument to accomplish goals that comport with the aspirations of the class or people they represent. Stone’s and Kuznick’s cynicism tars the disciplined, organizational forms necessary for revolution. In their view, and that of anarchists generally, hierarchical, disciplined organizations are vehicles of tyranny and oppression that will inevitably be used by tyrants-in-embryo to catapult themselves to power, whereupon they will subvert the revolution’s beautiful goals to aggrandize themselves and exercise an iron-fisted control. Did Kim subvert the goal of achieving Korean independence? Did Mao not overturn centuries of feudalism and great power domination? Did Stalin fail to abolish unemployment, homelessness, national oppression, and racial inequality? The view that the leaders of successful revolutions betrayed the revolution’s goals to aggrandize themselves is not only bad history, it’s bad politics. It encourages people seeking political change to eschew any form of “Leninist” politics, in favor of “leaderless” agglomerations, which practice decentralized decision-making, and accomplish not much of anything.

Noam Chomsky is an endless source of slurs against Leninism, which he equates with “counterrevolution”, [15] a heterodox view of what revolution is, but certainly consistent with the Brand-edited New Statesman view that it’s something other than what you always thought it was, and what you always thought it was is actually quite a bad thing that should be avoided altogether. I suppose it should come as no surprise that Chomsky answers the question, “What does revolution mean to you?”, with an attack on Lenin, the leader of a revolution that succeeded, and praise for Rosa Luxemburg, a leader of an attempted socialist revolution that failed. Chomsky writes,

“I cannot improve on Rosa Luxemburg’s eloquent critique of Leninist doctrine: a true social revolution requires a ‘spiritual transformation in the masses degraded by centuries of bourgeois class rule…it is only by extirpating the habits of obedience and servility to the last root that the working class can acquire the understanding of a new form of discipline, self-discipline arising from free consent.’ And as part of this ‘spiritual transformation’, a true social revolution will, furthermore create—by the spontaneous activity of the mass of the population—the social forms that enable people to act as free creative individuals, with social bonds replacing social fetters, controlling their own destiny in freedom and solidarity.” [16]

Here’s A.J. Ryder, a historian of the German Revolution, on Luxemburg’s role in the failure to bring about a socialist revolution in Germany in 1918-1919.

“Spartacists (Karl) Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg…were conscious revolutionaries in deed as well as in word. They were bent on using the opportunity presented by the fall of the Hohenzollern regime to set in motion the socialist revolution which they believed would carry them to power in place of Ebert as Lenin had displaced Kerensky….Few (of the leaders) possessed the qualities of a successful revolutionary leader. By common consent Rosa Luxemburg was the outstanding personality of the left, but her intellectual gifts and personal fanaticism were not matched by a grasp of reality. She was at heart a romantic, a visionary appearing in the garb of ‘scientific socialism.’” [17]

Ryder sums up the failure of the revolution by reference to the failings of its key personalities. They “were amateurs compared with Lenin.” [18] Luxemburg, the romantic, emphasized spontaneity and ‘spiritual transformation.’ Lenin, the hard-headed realist, emphasized planning and organization. Luxemburg was murdered by proto-fascist thugs, her bloodied corpse tossed into a canal, as the revolution she sought to midwife, sputtered and failed. Lenin seized power to set in motion a socialist, anti-imperialist project that spanned over seven decades—one that played the key role in exterminating the fascism that, in its embryonic stage, murdered Luxemburg.

Chomsky has enormous respect for those who have failed at revolution, and enormous contempt for those who have succeeded. If we were to follow his lead and emulate the failures, while eschewing the successes, we would be sure to arrive at the same place the National Post wanted young political activists to arrive at: a political dead-end. Brand’s edition of the New Statesman follows in the same vein. Its positive statements are reserved for political action that leaves the established order in place: Chopra’s “internal revolution”; Apatow’s comedy; Lebedev’s evolution; Martinez’s new thinking; Tim Street’s “democracy.” Its negative statements are reserved for the revolutions that actually brought about the “revolutionary transformations of the deepest and most profound sort” that Stone and Kuznick say they want. So, the message is clear. Light a joint, work on your kindness and generosity, demand that corporations put people before profits, watch a Marx Brother’s movie*, and tell Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Kim to fuck off.

*I’ve watched every Marx Brothers' movie, many of them multiple times, but have yet to bring about a revolution."

Stephen Gowans is an independent political analyst and author of two acclaimed books, Washington's Long War on Syria (2017) and Patriots, Traitors, and Empires: The Story of Korea's Struggle for Freedom (2018), both published by Baraka Books.

1. New Statesman, October 24, 2013,

2. What Does Revolution Mean to You? The New Statesman, October 30, 2013, htt://
3. Ibid.
4. Ibid.
5. Arnold Kettle, “How new is the ‘NewLeft’”, Marxism Today, October, 1960,
6. Edward and Regula Boorstein. Counterrevolution: U.S. Foreign Policy. International Publishers. 1990. p. 73.
7. Domenico Losurdo, “History of the Communist Movement: Failure, Betrayal, or Learning Process?”, Nature, Society, and Thought, Vol. 16, no 1 (2003).
8. Sydney and Beatrice Webb. The Truth about Soviet Russia. Nabu Public Domain Reprints. pp. 21-22.
9. William Blum. Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire. Common Courage Press. 2005. p. 194.
10. Bruce Franklin, “An Introduction to Stalin,” excerpted from Bruce Franklin (Ed.). The Essential Stalin: Major Theoretical Writings, 1905-52 (Anchor Books, 1972).
11. Losurdo.
12. Solvej Schou, “Oliver Stone on Obama: ‘I hope he wins’”, Entertainment Weekly, November 6, 2012.
14. Richard Levins, “How to Visit a Socialist Country”, Monthly Review, 2010, Volume 61, Issue 11, (April),
15. Parenti, pp. 46-47.
16. “What Does Revolution Mean to You?”
17. A.J. Ryder. The German Revolution of 1918: A Study of German Socialism in War and Revolt. Cambridge University Press. 2008. p. 7.
18. Ibid.

FREEDOM 101 – Jason Hirthler and Jeff Brown share their stories of hope, on China Rising Radio Sinoland

The buck stops with YOU. If you don’t share this, who will?

Downloadable SoundCloud podcast (also at the bottom of this page), as well as being syndicated on iTunes and Stitcher Radio(links below):

[dropcap]P[/dropcap]ictured above is Jason Hirthler on the left, in New York and myself on the right, in China. We are twelve time zones apart, geographically halfway around the planet from each other. Yet, we have both succeeded in coming out of the anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist closet, continue to work at normal jobs and have friends and family who respect us. We empathize with you that it may seem like mission impossible. We too face the foghorn of withering Western propaganda, with its relentless societal pressure to conform and be a mindless Myrmidon in the mainstream matrix. But, it can be done.


That’s you on the left and the elites’ mainstream media on the right. There’s only one solution: quit watching, listening to and reading their brainwashing propaganda. It’s like a bad drug that makes you stupid and babble. I know, because I used to be a muttering idiot myself. Then, get smart and find your freedom elsewhere in the information world. Read on…

In today’s discussion, you can see by the long list of tag words that Jason and I covered a lot of fascinating and interesting territory. Listen to our stories about how we gained our freedom and dignity, so you too can find the will to liberate your innate intelligence and the courage to unshackle your powers of reason. Regardless of your age, it is never too late. Jason figured it out in his forties, me in my late fifties. Everyone has their own unique life experiences through which to take their journeys of discovery and enlightenment. And there is a critical bonus. It gives you the knowledge and satisfaction of not living the rest of your life as an imperial ventriloquist dummy. That in itself is priceless.

1950’s British ventriloquist Peter Bough on the right and his dummy Archie Andrews, on the left. They are playing the perfect allegory of the West’s deep state and its manipulated masses, respectively. That’s also me on the left, until I was about 58 years old, when I took my life-changing journey across China, in 44 Days ( You too can choose to not be Archie Andrews. Read on…

The French have a wonderful proverb, A clear conscience makes a soft pillow. Jason and I both took our separate paths to get there, but we can finally say we sleep soundly at night. You, us, we all deserve the sweet dreams of self-respect.

Jason’s résumé is impressive. He is a writer, media critic, and veteran of the digital communications industry. As a digital media strategist, he is familiar with the techniques and tactics commonly used by mainstream news media to shape narratives that disguise imperialism. He is interested in the false historical narratives that underpin the foreign policies of the United States and which ensure those policies are only feebly resisted. To that end, Hirthler has published more than 150 articles across a variety of progressive sites like CounterpunchDissident Voice, and The Greanville Post. He has also authored two collections of his political essays, The Sins of Empire, and most recently, Imperial Fictions. He lives in New York City and can be reached at

You can read Jason’s work here:


Dissident Voice

Greanville Post

To start debrainwashing, may I suggest replacing your four favorite mainstream media bookmarks with the three aforementioned websites, along with I promise you that overnight, your IQ will go up ten points and your self-worth will suddenly find a noble purpose.

Jason and I talked about a few things to follow up with, on your journey to freedom and dignity:

You can read the prologue to Book #2 of The China Trilogy ( here:

Jason recommended Alex Carey’s book, Taking the Risk out of Democracy

He also likes reading Paul Street, David Harvey and Anthony De Mello:

I mentioned Edward Bernays and his classic treatise, Propaganda

I also talked about socialist Upton Sinclair and his history changing investigative book, The Jungle

The book I mentioned about the US’s drive to become a global colonial power is: The War Lovers: Roosevelt, Lodge, Hearst, and the Rush to Empire, 1898

Friends and fans of China Rising Radio Sinoland, it’s time to get smart, and to gain your freedom and dignity from our parasitic elite owners. They may own the system, but they can’t control your brains, once you make the decision to cross the Rubicon and into the realm of clarity and truth.

So, just do itAnd when you are ready to celebrate leaving the matrix, send Jason and me an email (jasonhirthler@gmail.comand We’d love to hear your stories of redemption and newfound liberty.

Finally, while you are attending your own Freedom 101 class, don’t forget to read Jason’s and my books. Sharing is caring. Keep posting our work on all your social media. Your contacts will be glad you did.

SOURCE: Freedom 101 – Jason Hirthler and Jeff J. Brown share their stories of hope, on China Rising Radio Sinoland 171126

Or better yet, buy one of Jeff’s books offered below. 

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 6.19.17 PM



Punto Press released China Rising - Capitalist Roads, Socialist Destinations (2016); and for Badak Merah, Jeff authored China Is Communist, Dammit! – Dawn of the Red Dynasty (2017). As well, he published a textbook, Doctor WriteRead’s Treasure Trove to Great English (2015). He is also currently penning an historical fiction, Red Letters – The Diaries of Xi Jinping, to be published in late 2018. Jeff is a Senior Editor & China Correspondent for The Greanville Post, where he keeps a column, Dispatch from Beijing. He also writes a column for The Saker, called the Moscow-Beijing Express. Jeff interviews and podcasts on his own program, China Rising Radio Sinoland, which is also available on SoundCloud, YouTube, Stitcher Radio and iTunes.

More details about Jeff Brown's background.
 In China, he has been a speaker at TEDx, the Bookworm and Capital M Literary Festivals, the Hutong, as well as being featured in an 18-part series of interviews on Radio Beijing AM774, with former BBC journalist, Bruce Connolly. He has guest lectured at the Beijing Academy of Social Sciences and various international schools and universities.

Jeff grew up in the heartland of the United States, Oklahoma, much of it on a family farm, and graduated from Oklahoma State University. He went to Brazil while in graduate school at Purdue University, to seek his fortune, which whetted his appetite for traveling the globe. This helped inspire him to be a Peace Corps Volunteer in Tunisia in 1980 and he lived and worked in Africa, the Middle East, China and Europe for the next 21 years. All the while, he mastered Portuguese, Arabic, French and Mandarin, while traveling to over 85 countries. He then returned to America for nine years, whereupon he moved back to China in 2010. He lives in China with his wife. Jeff is a dual national French-American, being a member of the Communist Party of France (PCF) and the International Workers of the World (IWW).

Jason’s résumé is impressive. He is a writer, media critic, and veteran of the digital communications industry. As a digital media strategist, he is familiar with the techniques and tactics commonly used by mainstream news media to shape narratives that disguise imperialism. He is interested in the false historical narratives that underpin the foreign policies of the United States and which ensure those policies are only feebly resisted.

Jeff can be reached at China Rising,, Facebook, Twitter and Wechat/Whatsapp: +86-13823544196.

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Dan Kovalik: The Colombia story the American press won’t report

Peasants greet us along the highway.

Peasants greet us along the highway.

Below we present two reports by Dan Kovalik, a citizen’s journalist with the courage and commitment to cover Colombia, one of the most victimized nations in Latin America, and one of the most dangerous assignments for a working journalist. Today, as has been the case for decades, Colombia is still a badly-disguised client state of the United States dominated by a murderous landowning oligarchy.  Since the corporate media—to their eternal damnation—won’t come close to reporting truthfully on Colombia, it is people like Kovalik who has to do the job.  —PG


Dispatch From Catatumbo—

Capitalism, Genocide & Colombia


I just returned from Catatumbo, Colombia where thousands of peasants are waging a life-and-death struggle against the U.S.-backed Colombian military and its paramilitary allies.   For over 60 days, the peasants have been demonstrating against the deplorable living conditions and economic circumstances in which they live, and in support of their proposal for a Peasant Farmer Reserve Zone of 10 million hectares.


Such a zone, which is provided for under the law, would allow the peasants to engage in subsistence farming free of the threat of encroachment by extractive companies desiring to mine or drill on their land.   This demand, along with the concomitant demand of the peasants for all mining and oil exploration and extraction in their region to be suspended, is critical to the peasants who are being driven to the verge of extinction.

[pullquote] The grotesquely overpaid media celebrities do not deign to cover such important stories, especially when they reveal the true criminal nature of US foreign policy. [/pullquote]

According to the Luis Carlos Pérez Lawyers’ Collective (CALCP), 11,000 peasants have been killed in this region by state and para-state forces, most of them during the 2002-2010 term of President of Alvaro Uribe, and over 100,000 peasants, out of a total of around 300,000, have been forcibly displaced.   At least 32 mass graves containing the bodies of murdered peasant activists have been found in this region in recent years.

And, this mass murder and displacement is being carried out to make way for more oil drilling, African palm cultivation (for biodiesel) and for coal mining by North American companies.

I say that this mayhem is being carried out, in part, in order to make way for more oil drilling because, in fact, much oil drilling has been taking place there for the past 70 years.   And, the peasants of this region have nothing to show for this many years of drilling.  As we were told a few times during out trip, after 70 years of oil exploration, the rural parts of this region do not even have a paved road.    (Our delegation – led by Justice for Colombia and including participants from the USW and Unite the Union UK – found this out the hard way during our 3.5 hour drive over a dirt road from Cucuta to a village outside Tibu near the Venezuelan border).

In addition, there is no sewage system, no running water and no health services.   Indeed, peasants injured in their confrontations with the military and police during the two months of demonstrations – with the peasants defending themselves with sticks against the guns, tanks and other U.S.-supplied hardware of the military and police – have been forced to flee into Venezuela for refuge and medical services.

In short, the oil and other extractive companies, beginning with Texaco in the 1930’s, have taken and taken, and left the people with nothing.  Now, the companies want even more, and it is the very existence and presence of the peasants which stands in their way.  And so, quite logically, the companies, with the help of the U.S.-backed military and paramilitaries, are aiming to literally wipe the peasants off the map.  In other words, these forces are engaged in a calculated act of genocide.   Indeed, when a number of us remarked upon how almost everyone we saw and met with in our visit to Catatumbo were no more than teenagers, we were told that this was the result of the fact that their parents had either been murdered or displaced.   Left behind are villages populated almost entirely by children.

Young Peasants of Catatumbo In Rebellion

The calculated mass killing and displacement that is taking place in Catatumbo is a good example of the phenomenon discussed in the new book, Capitalism: A Structural Genocide by Garry Leech.   In that book, Leech argues, and quite forcefully, that capitalism, left to its own devices, will inevitably destroy (1) those who stand in the way of the exploitation of natural resources; and (2) those individuals, such as peasants and subsistent farmers, who are engaged in pursuits which neither contribute towards economic “growth” nor produce surplus value or profit.  Of course, the peasants of Catatumbo fall into both of these categories simultaneously, and are therefore a double threat.

Citing Indian physicist and philosopher Vandana Shiva, Leech explains that, under capitalism, “nothing has value until it enters the market.   Shiva points out that under capitalism ‘if you consume what you produce, you do not really produce, at least not economically speaking.  If I grow my own food, and do not sell it, then this does not contribute to GDP, and so does not contribute towards growth.’”    Rather, for such subsistence farmers, “’nature exists as a commons.’”   The commons, moreover, and those who work on it, are simply not permitted under capitalism.


Young peasants of Catatumbo in rebellion.

As Leech and Shiva explain, those working the commons must either “be incorporated – often through coercion – into the ever-widening spheres of production and circulation,” or they must be simply be destroyed.   This process, as Leech explains, is what Karl Marx termed, “primitive accumulation,” and it is quite a nasty process, wherever it is carried out.

Leech explains that, as capitalism was beginning to get into full swing in Britain in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s, the British Parliament passed a series of Enclosure Acts which privatized commonly held lands and “prevented much of the generations-old practice of grazing their animals and cultivating their crops on commonly held lands, thereby forcing them to move to the cities in search of jobs.”

More recently, as Leech astutely points out, Mexico outlawed communal land titles for indigenous peoples in order to make way for NAFTA.   As Leech explains, and as many of us have argued for years, a major raison d’être of NAFTA was in fact the primitive accumulation of the commons of millions of small farmers in Mexico.   This primitive accumulation was carried out by NAFTA’s provisions which allowed heavily-subsidized, and therefore cheap, agricultural products from North America to flood the Mexican markets tariff-free.   Meanwhile, the IMF rules governing Mexico forbid that country from subsidizing its own agricultural producers.

As Leech explains, the results for 2 million small farmers in Mexico, who could not compete with the subsidized food from the North, was devastating, with these small farmers losing their livelihood and their land and fleeing into the cities, or illegally into the U.S.   Finding themselves displaced from their land, many were left with no jobs at all, found themselves exploited in low paying jobs with poor safety and health practices, or turned to the drug trade for employment.  The result for Mexico as a whole has been the destruction of the social fabric of the nation and increased violence, with cities like Juarez suffering violence levels comparable to nations at war.

While Leech does not focus on Colombia in his book,  he does mention that Colombia itself “has become Latin America’s poster child over the past decade and its economic growth has been driven by the exploitation of the country’s natural resources, particularly oil, coal and gold, by foreign companies.”   Colombia now has the largest internally displaced population in the world at over 5 million.   As Leech explains, “[m]any have been forced from their lands by direct physical violence related to the country’s armed conflict – often by the Colombian military and right-wing paramilitary groups serving the interests of multinational corporations.  However, many others have become economic refugees due to the structural violence inherent in neoliberal policies that has dispossessed them of their lands in order to facilitate capital accumulation for foreign companies.”

Peasants Greet Us Along The Highway

The peasants of Catatumbo have long been the victims of such direct as well as structural violence, but now they are fighting back to defend their land.   For 53 days, these peasants, armed only with sticks, blocked the main highway linking the cities of Cucuta and Tibu.  Shortly after our visit, the government agreed to negotiate with them directly, and the peasants ended this blockade for now.  However, they will begin it anew if talks fail.

Young Luchador in Catatumbo.

While the Colombian Minister of Defense warned us not to travel this highway because of these protests, the peasants freely allowed us to pass.  Of course, as all of us understood, what the Colombian government was truly afraid of was that we would witness that it is in fact the peasants who are on the side of right; that it is they who are defending the land, the water and the rainforests for all of us.   And, this is why their struggle, and the struggles of others like them, must succeed.   In truth, our very lives and future depend on them.

Daniel Kovalik is a labor and human rights lawyer and teaches International Human Rights at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.



Also by Dan Kovalik——

The U.S. Empire and Modern Day Christian Martyrs

[Posted originally on: 02/25/2013]

In their landmark book, Manufacturing Consent, Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman devote a chapter to the media’s unbalanced coverage of the murder of one priest in Poland in 1984 as compared to the coverage of the 72 religious killed throughout Latin America between 1964 and 1978, the killing of 23 religious in Guatemala between 1980 and 1985, the murder of Archbishop Romero of San Salvador in 1980 and the rape and murder of the four U.S. church women in El Salvador in 1980. In short, the murder of the one Polish priest — the perpetrators of which were tried, convicted and sentenced to prison — received significantly more coverage than all of the latter killings, which almost invariably remain unsolved and unpunished, combined.

Meanwhile, there has been almost no media coverage of the killings of the “two bishops, 79 priests, eight men and women religious, as well as three seminarians” killed in Colombia alone between 1984 and 2011 — this, according to the Episcopal Conference of Colombia. The Episcopal Conference of Colombia publicly announced this grim tally in the fall of 2011 upon the murder of the sixth priest killed in 2011 alone. One of the priests killed in 2011 was Father Reynel Restrepo Idarraga, the pastor of the town of Marmato, who was murdered by presumed paramilitaries in retaliation for his vocal defense of Marmato against the attempt of the Canadian mining company, Gran Colombia Gold, which to this day is still attempting to seize the land of the entire town and convert it into a gold mine. The Colombian bishops attributed the rash of killings in 2011 to “the courageous commitment of our priests to the prophetic denunciation of injustice and the cause of the poorest in the country.”

The number of priests killed in Colombia since 1984 just climbed to 80 with the murder of Father Luis Alfredo Suarez Salazar on Feb. 2, 2013 by two unknown assailants in the northern Colombian city of Ocana.

Then, on February 13, 2013, there was an assassination attempt against another Catholic priest. The target of the attack was Father Alberto Franco, a member of the Inter-Church Commission of Justice & Peace (CIJP), an organization created in 1988 pursuant to the resolution of the Conference of Religious Superiors of Colombia which aspired “[t]o promote and encourage the Christian prophetic signs which are present in religious communities, through the creation of a Commission of Justice and Peace which will channel and disseminate information and protests throughout the country.” As Father Javier Giraldo, S.J., a founding member of the CIJP, relates in The Genocidal Democracy, while the Colombian Catholic Conference of Bishops “did not approve of this initiative and placed obstacles in its path,” 25 Catholic provincials nonetheless went ahead with the formation of the CIJP.

As Father Giraldo explains, the first and continuing project of the CIJP has been “to gather and disseminate information about the victims of human rights violations, the right to life, in particular.” Not surprisingly, this project has made the CIJP a constant target of threats and violence, particularly from the Colombian state and its paramilitary allies. Father Alberto Franco himself has been the target of threats and surveillance for some time now, culminating in the attempt upon his life on Februrary 13, in which assailants fired three shots into the windshield of Father Franco’s car. Luckily, Father Franco had not yet entered the car and therefore escaped unharmed. Meanwhile, Father Franco, along with 17 other members of the CIJP, remain, by the Colombian government’s own measures, under “extraordinary risk” of attack.

According to a statement sent in support of the CIJP signed by 130 organizations,

We consider these threats to be a direct result of CIJP’s work on land restitution and their efforts to expose state, military, and business responsibility in illegal land grabs, threats, and the violation of human rights before national and international courts. The most recent threats occurred days after Father Franco informed the press that officials of ex-President Alvaro Uribe’s government were involved in the displacement and illegal occupation of the collective territories of Curvaradó and Jiguamiandó. That same week, there was a hearing on the case of Marino López and others in Cacarica before the Inter-American Human Rights Court.

We have observed that the Afro-descendant, indigenous, and campesino communities that CIJP accompanies are also attacked for defending their land rights. In December 2012, we received first-hand information of the presence of many uniformed and armed paramilitaries in Curvaradó, in addition to the threat of an imminent massacre. On various occasions, we have expressed our concern regarding the attacks and threats against María Ligia Chavera and Enrique Petro, two emblematic leaders in the land restitution process in Curvaradó.

Of course, as I have written about at great length before, the “land grabs” which the CIJP are denouncing are only accelerating due to the free trade agreements between Colombia and the U.S. and Canada which are promoting the increased exploitation of land by multi-national mining and agricultural companies — companies which regularly use the Colombian military and paramilitaries to clear the land they covet of the residents who live there.

However, in the midst of the economic causes of the repression against individuals such as Father Franco, one also cannot forget the very real spiritual and religious convictions which motivate Father Franco and others like him to risk their lives to defend the poor, and one cannot ignore the commitment of those attacking such individuals to eradicate such convictions. Father Javier Giraldo, S.J., has indeed recently published a book (in Spanish only) which details the spiritual aspect of this struggle.

That book, The Deaths That Illuminate Life, sets forth the stories of 35 Colombians — including bishops, priests, nuns, religious laity and even a child — who Father Giraldo considers to be modern Christian martyrs. In Father Giraldo’s words, they were “witnesses of Christian values objectively: men and women who heroically endured torture and death to the save the lives of others, or for refusing to become collaborators with criminal agencies, or because they joined groups and organizations where they sought to realize in some way their militant option for justice and solidarity.”

Comparing these modern martyrs to the early martyrs of the first three centuries of the Church, Father Giraldo does not mince words about their common executioners — the prevailing empires at the time (the Roman and U.S. empires, respectively).

Thus, Father Giraldo explains that, just as in the time of the Roman Empire Christians would naturally find themselves to be “subversives” in that they were compelled to deny the Emperor as their “Lord,” so too must modern Christians in Latin America find themselves at odds with their neo-colonial oppressors. As he writes,

To confess Christ, in this context, has meaning and truth only in the margins of a historic commitment to the liberation of the oppressed which explains an inescapable confrontation with the oppressors, “some of whom are those who say they are Christians,” that is why there are today Christians tortured and killed in the name of “the democratic freedoms”, in the name of the “market economy”, in the name of “Christian western civilization”, in the name of “national security”, on behalf of the “defense of the society against atheistic ideologies”, etc. The Christian label provides no clue in revealing the roots of the conflict, which cause death; these causes can only be discerned through an in-depth review of the practice of the faith, confronted with its challenging context, and taking into account that the Christian character of this praxis, tends to be refused, systematically, by all those that are in some degree of collusion with the interests of the oppressors.Today there is no longer the idol of the Roman Emperor, in whose altars was shed the Blood of the first Christians, but there is the secular idol of the market economy, upon whose altars is sacrificed the life and dignity of millions of human beings…

To this day, I cannot get over the irony, and indeed the shock, at the realization that it is in fact the U.S. — the professed protector of democracy and indeed Christian values in the world — which is the entity so bent on destroying the roots of true Christianity in Latin America, for it is a philosophy that so profoundly calls into question the U.S.’s true values which revolve around the worship of wealth and power. And so, it is the U.S. which, since 1962, has cultivated the very death squads which haunt the Church of the poor in Latin America, and specifically in Colombia.

And indeed, the U.S. Army School of the Americas (SOA), which continues to train thousands of repressive Latin American military forces, has, as Noam Chomsky explains, gone so far as to brag about its role in destroying Liberation Theology (the Christian philosophy which advocates “the preferential treatment for the poor”) in Latin America. As Chomsky has explained, “[o]ne of its advertising points is that the U.S. Army [School of the Americas] helped defeat liberation theology, which was a dominant force, and it was an enemy for the same reason that secular nationalism in the Arab world was an enemy – it was working for the poor.” Thankfully, the SOA has not been as thoroughly successful as it has advertised in this regard, and that brave souls like Father Giraldo and Father Franco continue to risk martyrdom in order to defend the poor and dispossessed in Latin America.

In truth, I stopped being a practicing Catholic some time ago, but I continue to hold dear the philosophy of the “preferential treatment of the poor,” and I honor those in Latin America who continue to exhibit the courage — courage I have yet to find in myself — to risk their lives every day in carrying out this key tenet of Liberation Theology. I have concluded that, to be a person of decency by any measure, one must join with these Davids of the Third World who are fighting for independence and economic justice against the Goliath in which we happen to live.Follow Dan Kovalik on Twitter:

Daniel Kovalik is a human and labor rights lawyer living in Pittsburgh. He has been a peace activist throughout his life and has been deeply involved in the movement for peace and social justice in Colombia and Central America. He is an attorney for Colombian Plaintiffs in cases alleging corporate complicity in egregious human rights violations. Kovalik, a 1993 graduate of Columbia Law School, was a co-recipient of the 2003 Project Censored Award for a story he co-wrote on the murder of trade unionists in Colombia.