You are currently browsing the monthly archive for August 2008.

this is a nice article explaining the conflict in Georgia.  [for the sake of clarity, i don’t agree with everything stated here, but i found the article useful so i’m reprinting it. – alex]

Georgia’s History

One of the nations in the Russian Tzar’s prison house, Georgia was granted autonomy by the early Soviet Union. It had a Menshivik-led government friendly to Britain and Germany until that government was overthrown by a Bolshevik-supported uprising in 1921. Ultimately it was re-subsumed by the Soviet Union. Stalin, himself a Georgian but hostile to Georgian nationalism, attempted to thin out ethnic Ossetians by encouraging Russians to move into the territory.

Georgia regained independence in 1990, a year before the Soviet Union fell, and claimed Ossetia as part of its territory. The Ossetians fought this attempted subjugation, and South Ossetia became semi-autonomous in 1992 after the pro-Western Georgian government fell and Russia stepped in. Russian peacekeepers have been present in the region since then. Many if not most South Ossetians have Russian passports and consider themselves Russian citizens. In a 2006 referendum with 95% voter turnout, 99% of South Ossetians voted for full independence from Georgia.

U.S. Influence and NATO

The U.S. has been courting Georgia as an ally since 2003, when the CIA played a large part in orchestrating the so-called “Rose Revolution” which overthrew the Stalinist government of Edward Shevardnadze. The U.S. backed the election of Saakashvili in 2004. Since then, the Georgian president has been very friendly with Bush. Last summer joint war games were held in Georgia with U.S. troops from the state of Georgia. Georgia has sent 2,500 troops to Iraq, the third-largest contingent behind the U.S. and Britain. When Georgia invaded South Ossetia, the U.S. immediately provided planes to fly the Georgian troops stationed in Iraq home. Additionally, the U.S. has about 1,000 military instructors in Georgia, who directly command 2,500-3,000 mercenaries, according to Russia. Israel has also sent military advisers and material to Georgia.

The U.S. has been grooming Georgia to enter NATO, which fits with their post-Soviet policy of encircling and isolating Russia to prevent its resurgence as a competing superpower. Read the rest of this entry »

“Peak Oil and Energy Imperialism” by John Bellamy Foster in the latest issue of Monthly Review is at the tip of a growing awareness of Peak Oil among Left intellectuals. I’ve been waiting for this for a few years now, and it’s good to see that people are starting to make the connections between oil scarcity and US imperialism.

Foster is pushing a kind of “Green Marxism” – in fact the Monthly Review as a whole is beginning to focus quite a bit on energy and ecology in its critiques of US empire.

The approach is good – peak oil is examined with calm as an inevitable geological event, “alternative” energy sources like tar sands and ethanol are shown in their true nasty colors, and the reader is presented with the option of allowing the government to continue to assault those unfortunate enough to be born on top of oil reserves, or to work for a new humane world.

However, one place this critique falls short is in (explicitly or implicitly) propagating the notion that awareness of Peak Oil by neo-conservatives in the halls of power is what prompted aggression against Afghanistan, Iraq or Venezuela, and labeling this a “new energy imperialism.”

Unfortunately the capitalist system is far more complex and multi-faceted than that, and the neo-cons, like all US elites, are just tools existing to serve the interests of US corporations and the Pentagon, which they are doing quite well by continuing the same old foreign policy of trying to control the oil-rich Middle East (by force if necessary – with the added bonus of trillions of dollars of contracts for the military-industrial complex). If only it were as easy as pinning our problems on the ideas in the heads of those in power, all we’d need to do to end the crisis would be to put someone with better ideas in power! Sorry, it’s not gonna work like that.

The “energy imperialism” we see today as the US gears up for war with Iran is nothing “new” at all; it’s the exact same system that toppled Mossadegh in 1953, that provided tanks, planes and chemical weapons to both sides of the Iran-Iraq war throughout the 80s, and that has been pouring billions of dollars of military aid into Israel to act as regional policeman for 60 years.

The only thing that’s new is that the system is beginning to fail, and the US is having a much harder time maintaining its dominance over the Persian Gulf region, relying on brute force and direct occupation, and even that isn’t working for them anymore.

What we face is not a “new energy imperialism” but an old energy imperialism, newly being beaten. I see peak oil as a major catalyst in the inevitable crumbling of the US empire, and an immense opportunity for all who desire peace, justice or human rights. [alex]

Peak Oil and Energy Imperialism

by John Bellamy Foster

Originally published by Monthly Review. July/August 2008.

The rise in overt militarism and imperialism at the outset of the twenty-first century can plausibly be attributed largely to attempts by the dominant interests of the world economy to gain control over diminishing world oil supplies.1 Beginning in 1998 a series of strategic energy initiatives were launched in national security circles in the United States in response to: (1) the crossing of the 50 percent threshold in U.S. importation of foreign oil; (2) the disappearance of spare world oil production capacity; (3) concentration of an increasing percentage of all remaining conventional oil resources in the Persian Gulf; and (4) looming fears of peak oil.

The response of the vested interests to this world oil supply crisis was to construct what Michael Klare in Blood and Oil has called a global “strategy of maximum extraction.”2 This required that the United States as the hegemonic power, with the backing of the other leading capitalist states, seek to extend its control over world oil reserves with the object of boosting production. Seen in this light, the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan (the geopolitical doorway to Western access to Caspian Sea Basin oil and natural gas) following the 9/11 attacks, the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the rapid expansion of U.S. military activities in the Gulf of Guinea in Africa (where Washington sees itself as in competition with Beijing), and the increased threats now directed at Iran and Venezuela—all signal the rise of a dangerous new era of energy imperialism. Read the rest of this entry »

I’m reposting this article not because I agree with everything said in it (just feel like I need to start pointing that out so people don’t get confused), but because I think it should spark some good ideas and maybe discussion.

Sale is hitting here on some fundamental ways of seeing the actions of the current U.S. government – that they are desperate to cling to an existing imperial power structure that is deteriorating rapidly – which should help us as anti-imperialists to formulate an appropriate strategy for 1) speeding up that dismantling process so that less damage is done to us and people all over the world, as well as the planet, and 2) figuring out what should replace this system (democracy, freedom, justice, sustainability…) and how we can best usher that new world into being. [-alex]

Collapse of the American Empire

by Kirkpatrick Sale (author of SDS)

Originally published in Counterpunch, February 22, 2005.

It is quite ironic: only a decade or so after the idea of the United States as an imperial power came to be accepted by both right and left, and people were actually able to talk openly about an American empire, it is showing multiple signs of its inability to continue. And indeed it is now possible to contemplate, and openly speculate about, its collapse. Read the rest of this entry »

“I’ve Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle”

by Charles Payne
1991 by University of California Press

I’ve Got the Light of Freedom is a book about organizing, for organizers. It chronicles SNCC and the Mississippi Freedom movement from its beginnings to ends, especially highlighting the individual organizers and families that put the movement together and sustained it.

The book is great because it analyzes the movement from a variety of perspectives, including understanding the strategies, tactics, gender dynamics, class dynamics, white/black organizing dynamics, local/rural dynamics, mentorship and leadership development, state and white repression, and the rise and fall of trust and community that were the backbone of the movement.  The thread throughout is the brilliance of the Ella Baker/Septima Clark school of organizing, based on meeting people where they’re at and developing their leadership so they can lead their own fights.  It’s about valuing the day-to-day work that sustains organizations above the flashy actions or speeches, and about seeing our work as part of a long-term struggle towards freedom that will need to involve millions of people.

My criticisms Read the rest of this entry »

“Outlaws of America: The Weather Underground and the Politics of Solidarity”

by Dan Berger
2005 by AK Press

Outlaws of America is an interesting and refreshing look at a somewhat overdone subject, the Weather Underground. The use of interviews with David Gilbert, Bernardine Dohrn and many other former members of WUO, as well as an array of former members from revolutionary groups like the Black Liberation Army and Puerto Rican nationalist groups really brings the subject to life. Dan Berger also emphasizes throughout the book the relevance to today’s movements, and points particularly to the prison abolition and global justice movements as places where the legacy of Weather can be seen.

The book delves into the difficult past/present of armed struggle and state repression, and does a good job of keeping criticisms of the group grounded in the bigger picture of state violence. Some of the 70s history is unnecessary for most readers, but there’s also a lot of proactive criticism of the lack of feminist and queer analysis or practice within Weather, and even the racist mistakes which happened too often and too dramatically for comfort. These are the most important lessons I drew. Read the rest of this entry »

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