Category: Gerald Horne
Scandalize my Name…

Scandalize my Name…

– from Greg Godels is available at:
http://zzs-blg.blogspot.com/

For the owners, publishers, and editors of the The New York Review of Books anti-Communism is still alive. The periodical occupies a unique, indispensable role in fostering and sustaining Cold War myths and legends.

The New York Review of Books has embraced rabid anti-Communism since its opportunistic birth in the midst of a newspaper strike. Founded by a cabal of virulent anti-Communists with identifiable links to the CIA through The Paris Review and the American Committee for Cultural Freedom, NYRB maintains the posture of the popular intellectual journal for academics, high-brow book clubbers, and coffee shop leftists for over half a century. Seldom would an issue go by without an earnest petition signed by intellectual celebrities pointing to human rights concerns in some far-off land that was coincidentally (perhaps?) also in the crosshairs of the US State Department. To be sure, the NYRB would muster a measure of indignation over the most egregious US adventures, particularly when they threatened to blemish the US image as the New Jerusalem.

Even with the Cold War behind us, the NYRB maintains an active stable of virulent anti-Soviet writers, partly to hustle its back list of Cold War classics and obscure “dissident” scribblers, partly to pre-empt any serious anti-capitalist thought that might emerge shorn of Red-dread.

Paul Robeson on Trial

In a recent essay/book review (The Emperor Robeson, 2-08-18), the NYRB brought its Red-chopping hatchet to the legacy of Paul Robeson in a piece transparently ill-motivated and poisonous.

Paul Robeson was nothing if not an exceptional, courageous political figure who galvanized US racial and political affairs in mid-century. Yet NYRB assigned Simon Callow, a UK theater personality, to the writing task despite the fact that he reveals in an interview cited in Wikipedia that “I’m not really an activist, although I am aware that there are some political acts one can do that actually make a difference…” And his essay bears out this confession along with his embarrassing ignorance of US history and the dynamics of US politics.

Callow begins his essay seemingly determined to prove his inadequacy to the task: “When I was growing up in Britain in the 1950s and 1960s, Paul Robeson was much in evidence… His name was haloed with the sort of respect accorded to few performers…” He then goes on at some length, heaping praise on Robeson. Then suddenly at “some point in the 1960s, he faded from our view…”

Whether Callow’s impressions are reflective of the UK experience is irrelevant. Surely, the important truth, the relevant fact, is that in Robeson’s country– the US– he was, throughout that time, a veritable non-person, the victim of a merciless witch hunt. To fail to acknowledge the fact that Robeson and his work were virtually unknown, were erased by the thought police, underscores Callow’s unfitness to discuss Robeson’s career. Indeed, members of the crowd that sought, at that time, to put lipstick on the ugly pig of racism and anti-Communism were soon to found the NYRB.

To say, as Callow does, that before the Cold War Robeson was “…lionized on both sides of the Atlantic…” is to display an unbelievable ignorance of the racial divide in the US. Robeson’s unequalled command of and success at multiple disciplines failed to spare him the indignities and inequalities that befell all African Americans in that era of US apartheid.

As for the post-World War II Red-scare, Callow simply ignores it as if it never occurred. Never mind the harassment, the surveillance, the denied careers, the confiscated passports, and the HUAC subpoenas that Robeson, like thousands of others, suffered from a hysterical, vicious anti-Communist witch hunt. For Callow, Robeson’s problems spring from a meeting granted by then President Truman in which Robeson had the audacity to make demands on his government. “From that moment on…” Callow tells us, “…the government moved to discredit Robeson at every turn…”

What a deft, nimble way to skirt the suffocating, life-denying effects of an entire era of unbridled racism and anti-Communism.

And, from Callow’s myopic perspective, Robeson’s campaign for peace and Cold War sanity resulted in “…universal approbation turned overnight into nearly universal condemnation.” For Callow, standing for peace against the tide of mindless conformity and mass panic is not the mark of courage and integrity, but a tragic career move.

In contrast to Paul Robeson’s life-long defiance of unjust power, Callow attributes a different approach to Robeson’s father, William: “But the lesson was clear: the only way out of poverty and humiliation was hard, hard work– working harder than any white man would have to, to achieve a comparable result.” One waits futilely to read that this reality is precisely what son, Paul, was trying to correct.

Like so many of today’s belated, measured “admirers” of Paul Robeson, Callow cannot resist delving into Robeson’s sexual proclivities, an interest which bears relevance that frankly escapes me. Similarly, Callow raises the matter of Robeson’s mental health and his withdrawal from public life.

Rather than considering the toll that decades of selfless struggle and tenacious resistance might have taken on Robeson’s body and mind, as it did countless other victims of the Red Scare, Callow contrives different explanations. “Robeson, it is clear, knew that his dream was just that: that the reality was otherwise. But he had to maintain his faith, otherwise what else was there?” So, for Callow, Robeson’s bad faith was responsible for mental issues and ill health. It was not a medical condition, the emotional stress of racism, or the repression of his political views that explain his decline. Instead, it was the consequences of bad politics.

Paraphrasing the author of a book on Robeson that Callow favors, he speculates that Robeson’s physical and mental decline “may have directly stemmed from the desperate requests from Robeson’s Russian friends to help them get out of the nightmarish world they found themselves in.” We are asked to believe that a man who resisted every temptation of success, defied the racial insults of his time, and steadfastly defended his commitment to socialism was brought to his knees by anti-Soviet media rumors? Certainly, there is no evidence for this outlandish claim.

Again, using author Jeff Sparrow (No Way But This: In Search of Paul Robeson) as his mouthpiece, Callow reveals his “problem” with Robeson: “…Robeson’s endorsement of Stalin and Stalin’s successors, his refusal to acknowledge what had been done in Stalin’s name, is the tragedy of his life.” In other words, like Budd Schulberg’s fictional snitch in On the Waterfront, if Robeson had only denounced his class, ratted on his friends, and bent to authority, he could have been a “contender” for the respect of liberals and the blessings of bourgeois success. But since he didn’t, his life was “a pitiful spectacle.”

Thankfully, there are still many who draw inspiration from the “pitiful spectacle” of Paul Robeson’s extraordinary life.

One Who Does

As if misunderstanding Robeson were not enough, Callow attacks a prominent scholar who does understand Robeson’s legacy. In contrast with his fawning review of the Sparrow book (“as different as chalk and cheese”), Callow demeans the contribution of one of the most gifted and thorough chroniclers of the page in history that included the life of Robeson. As a historian, Gerald Horne’s prodigious work stretches across books on such politically engaged Robeson contemporaries as WEB DuBois, Ben Davis, Ferdinand Smith, William Patterson, Shirley Graham DuBois, and John Howard Lawson. His writings explore the blacklist and The Civil Rights Congress, both keys to understanding Robeson and his time. In most cases, they represent the definitive histories of the subject.

But Callow prefers the shallow Sparrow account that substitutes the overused literary devices of “in search of../searching for…” to mask its limited scholarly ambition.

Callow is baffled by Horne’s Paul Robeson: The Artist as Revolutionary. Horne’s insistence that Robeson was a ‘revolutionary’ makes Callow apoplectic (“…page after page…”). But if Robeson was not an authentic, modern US revolutionary, then who was?

Callow cannot find a “clear picture of Robeson’s personality” in the Horne account, a conclusion that probably should not trouble Horne who seems more interested in history rather than psychology.

Callow’s sensibilities are especially offended by Horne’s depiction of the odious Winston Churchill, the man many believe to share responsibility for the WWI blood bath at Gallipoli and the two million deaths in the Bengal famine of 1943. It seems that Horne’s words for the short, chubby, Champagne and Cognac-loving prima donna– “pudgy, cigar-chomping, alcohol-guzzling Tory” — struck Callow’s ears as “vulgar.”

But Callow spews his own venomous insults: Horne’s book lacks “…articulate analysis, his account is numbing and bewildering in equal measure, like being addressed from a dysfunctional megaphone…”

Horne’s concluding endorsement of the relevance of Marx and Engels famous slogan– Workers of the World, Unite! –really brings Callow’s rancor to a boil: “I’m sorry to break it to Mr. Horne, but he doesn’t. And it isn’t.”

We surely know which side of the barricades Simon Callow has chosen.

The Legacy

The legacy of Paul Robeson has been maintained for the four decades since his death by his comrades and allies of the left, principally the Communist left. Most of those who worked and fought alongside of him have also passed away. Yet a small, but dedicated group of a few academics and more political activists have continued to tell his story and defend his values against a torrent of hostility or a wall of silence. Through the decades, he has been forced out of the mainstream– the history books and popular culture.

Of course, he was not alone in suffering anonymity for his Communist politics. Another giant who was brought down by Cold War Lilliputians, denigrated by hollow mediocrities, was African American Communist, Claudia Jones. Until recently, her powerful thinking on race, women’s rights, and socialism could only be found by those willing to search dusty corners of used book stores.

Perhaps no one promised to live and further Robeson’s legacy than the young writer Lorraine Hansberry, celebrated before her tragic death for her popular play, A Raisin in the Sun. Her work with Robeson and WEB DuBois on the paper, Freedom, brought her politics further in line with theirs: militant anti-racist, anti-imperialist, pro-socialist, Communist.

Forgotten by those who wish to portray her as a mere cultural critic, she famously called out Robert Kennedy’s elitist, patronizing posture in a meeting with Black civil rights leaders as enthusiastically recalled by James Baldwin.

Ignored by those who would like to see her as simply another civil rights reformer, her speech at a Monthly Review fundraiser, shortly before her death, resounds with revolutionary fervor:

If the present Negro revolt is to turn into a revolution, become sophisticated in the most advanced ideas abroad in the world, a leadership which will have had exposure to the great ideas and movements of our time, a Negro leadership which can throw off the blindness of parochialism and bathe the aspirations of the Negro people in the realism of the twentieth century, a leadership which has no illusion about the nature of our oppression and will no longer hesitate to condemn, not only the results of that oppression, but also the true and inescapable cause of it—which of course is the present organization of American society.

Today, there is a renewed interest in Robeson, Claudia Jones, and Lorraine Hansberry. Articles, books, and documentaries are appearing or are in the works. Some are offering ‘new’ perspectives on the lives of these extraordinary people, exploring aspects of their lives that show that their humanity perhaps reached further than previously thought. Yes, they were Communists, but they were not just Communists. Indeed, they belong to the world.

However, it would be a great tragedy if they were denied their conviction that capitalism– the present organization of American society, in Hansberry’s words– represented the foundation of other oppressions. It would be criminally dishonest if there were no acknowledgement that they were made enemies of the state precisely because they embraced socialism. For an African American, in racist, Cold War mid-century USA, the decision to embrace Communism was not taken lightly or frivolously. Robeson, Jones, and Hansberry knew exactly what that commitment meant to the forces of repression. And they risked it. They should be looked upon as people’s champions for their courage.

New researchers are welcome to explore other dimensions of the lives of these unbending fighters for social justice. But their authentic legacies are needed now more than ever.

Greg Godels
LIVE: Historian Gerald Horne on Trump’s Decision to End DACA and Recovery After Harvey
| September 6, 2017 | 12:44 pm | Donald Trump, Gerald Horne | 1 Comment

‘$64 question: Where is US evidence Assad behind Idlib chemical attack?’
‘$64 question: Where is US evidence Assad behind Idlib chemical attack?’
Trump’s ‘Wag the dog’ gambit in Syria echoes the 1983 Reagan invasion of Grenada to distract attention from the tragedy of US marines being blown up in Lebanon. It is also a signal to China and Iran, says historian Gerald Horne.

The US says its missile strike on the Syrian airbase was in retaliation for the chemical attack in Idlib province which killed scores of civilians on Tuesday. However, Damascus firmly rejects any involvement.

America’s UN envoy Nikki Haley held up images, purporting to show child victims of the chemical incident. She said it bears all the hallmarks of the Assad regime’s use of chemicals.

The Russian Foreign Ministry stressed that no probe into Syrian government involvement in the Idlib attack had been conducted yet. Spokesperson Maria Zakharova pointed out that, despite the US calling for an investigation, the country then went on to destroy the planes they wanted to investigate, adding that it has nothing to do with establishing the truth.

The US ambassador to the UN insists though that the evidence exists.

RT: Nikki Haley referred to “classified” evidence proving that Bashar Assad was responsible for the chemical incident in Idlib province. If they really have this evidence, why do you think they are withholding it from the UN?

Gerald Horne: That is the $64 question. It reminds us that after the last chemical attack in August 2013, the highly regarded journalist in the US Seymour Hersh did an investigation which pointed to the culprits in that particular attack was not the Damascus regime or President Assad but in fact, the rebels assisted by their external allies. Then, of course, there is a legal question. That is to say, where the UN resolution that authorized this attack on Syria is? I take it that there was no imminent threat of a Syrian attack on the US. So, I am wondering what is the legal justification in international law for the US attack in Syria. Then there is the question of domestic law. That is to say the US Constitution gives Congress the right and the authority to allow the US to go to war, there is no existing credible resolution from Congress that would have authorized this attack on Syria. And then there is a political question. It is well-known Trump was facing a range of scandals, and it is also well-known that there is a history of US presidents facing difficulties at home waging war abroad. This was the plot of the widely popular movie of 1997 called Wag the Dog and certain pundits are calling this the ‘Wag the Dog’ gambit by Mr. Trump. And I also recall that in 1983, the day after US marines were blown up in Lebanon, Ronald Reagan, the US president invaded the tiny Caribbean island of Grenada to distract attention from that tragedy. This attack on Syria has echoes of 1983.

RT: Despite the bombardment, the al-Shayrat base is still functional, and planes have been taking off from there. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said it’s a “serious mistake”. What’s the logic behind that? Should Assad be getting permission from Washington to use his own base in his own country?

GH: Obviously, that is ridiculous and ludicrous, but we have to keep our eye on the ball and recognize that there is a larger game at play. Keep in mind that there had been repeated confrontations in the first few months of 2017 between Iranian speed boats and US vessels in the Persian Gulf. It is no secret Mr. Trump is hostile to the Iranian regime. It is no secret that he would like to see regime change in Tehran. And since Iran is a major supporter of the Damascus-based regime, it seems to me that these missiles aimed at Damascus were also incidentally aimed at Tehran. Likewise, I don’t find it coincidental or accidental that President Xi Jinping was in Florida at the same time that Mr. Trump authorized this attack on Syria. Not only because Mr. Trump was placing pressure on China to place pressure on its ally in North Korea…But also there is a lot of hysteria in the US about the rise of China. And this muscle-flexing on the part of Mr. Trump was also a signal to China just as in 1999 the US “accidently” attacked the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade as a way to give a signal, not so subtle, to China.

Iranian political scientist Kaveh Afrasiabi, commented on the US ambassador to the UN’s statement that the US needs to “get the Iranian influence out” of Syria: “I could only conjecture that she means the US is going to increase its creeping intervention inside Syria and throw its weight behind various rebel groups in order to roll back against what the Syrian government, with the backing of Russia and Iran, has made over the past two years.”

“This reflects the roll-backing strategy on the part of the US that is very unfortunate because it transpires at a very delicate time in the peace process when the talks between the Syrian government and opposition in Astana are proceeding as well as a parallel track in the European capitals,” he continued.

In Afrasiabi’s view, the US’ attack on the Syrian airbase “was meant to torpedo the peace process” which is part of the strategy “held by the leadership in Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.”

“They see growing Iranian influence, and they want to reverse that,” Afrasiabi told RT.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

‘Dakota pipeline is about big money, not indigenous people rights’

https://www.rt.com/op-edge/364576-protests-north-dakota-natives-pipeline/

Protesters against the Dakota Access Pipeline stand-off with police in this aerial photo of Highway 1806 and County Road 134 near the town of Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S., October 27, 2016. © Morton County Sheriff's Office
When it comes to the rights of people of color in the US, government officials often side with corporations and Wall Street, said Solomon Comissiong, founder of the Your World News’ Media Collective. The same is happening with North Dakota protests, he added.

At least 141 Native Americans and other protesters were arrested in North Dakota in a clash with heavily armed US police officers. Demonstrators were camping on private grounds in an effort to halt the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline.

The Morton County Sheriff’s Department said pepper spray and armored vehicles were used to scatter the protesters.

The demonstrations against the construction of the pipeline have been going on for months, and at times have been dealt with violently by police. However, the issue has received little media attention. RT asked analysts why that could be.

“When it comes to people’s rights, especially indigenous rights, and rights of people of color in this country, the rights of poor people, that the government – whether it’s local governments, state governments, or the national government – often times they side with corporations, with finance capital, Wall Street. So I think that is what’s going on right now. They are siding with this large company, this corporation,” said Solomon Comissiong, founder of Your World News’ Media Collective.

Authorities are “marginalizing” rights of indigenous people “whose land it is” and it was theirs in the first place before it “was ripped away from them, when this country was stolen from them.”

“It comes down to big money – it doesn’t come down to their rights. It’s par for the course when it comes to the government, government officials, and the non-action that they are taking in terms of not protecting the rights of these indigenous people in the first place,” Comissiong told RT.

Native American resistance growing stronger

The Dakota Access pipeline protest was largely ignored by the mainstream media because “it conflicts with the dominant narrative of the media, which likes to present this false allegation that Native Americans have been extinguished in this country,” said historian Gerald Horne.

However, he said, Native American resistance is growing stronger by the day.

“One of the striking characteristics of what’s happening in North Dakota is that not only has the Standing Rock Sioux nation rallied to this cause, but Native Americans from the Atlantic to the Pacific have all descended upon North Dakota in order to express solidarity. This is a very important political development that the mainstream media would prefer to ignore,” Horne added.

Police used equipment same to that in Iraq, Afghanistan

William Griffin, of the Veterans for Peace organization, visited Standing Rocks a week before the protests broke out.

“The protests have been going on more than a week, for months now. They all have been nonviolent; peaceful prayer ceremonies showing nonviolent direct action against this pipeline. I was there for 11 days; I just got back a week ago. Never did I see any weapons, never did I see any drugs; everyone called each other ‘brother’ or ‘sister’,” he told RT.

Police in riot gear used pepper spray and armored vehicles while dispersing protesters at Standing Rock.

“This is a part of the national problem we have in the US – the militarization of police forces. Me being an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran, I recognize a lot of the same equipment that I used in Iraq and Afghanistan, which is built and made for combat zones – when you’re fighting an armed enemy. Now, again these people were peaceful, nonviolent, they have no guns on them – I see MRAPs – Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles out there; I see officers with military grade body armor, rifles,” Griffin said.

The campaign headquarters of Hillary Clinton in Brooklyn, New York, was taken over Thursday by protesters against the Dakota Access pipeline who demanded the Democratic presidential candidate openly takes a position on the matter.

“There’ve been very few leaders in this country to abide and respect the wishes and lawful treaties of the Native Americans. And I would love to see Hillary Clinton and I call her out to speak about this issue; even visit and speak with the Natives. But I think we all know that it is highly doubtful that she will even mention this and anything anytime soon,” Griffin told RT.

Chance for Obama to leave a better legacy

What is needed to address the situation “is real leadership,” said Elizabeth Murray, veteran intelligence professional, writer and activist. Now that Obama is leaving office soon and is concerned about his legacy, this would be an opportunity for his administration to step up and cancel the pipeline project, she added.

“The chief of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe issued a very comprehensive media statement just today. The press release said that they continue to pray for peace; that they want the state officials to ensure that peace and justice prevail,” said Murray.

Murray said that the statement repeated its call on President Barack Obama to send observers from the Department of Justice to the Dakota Access pipeline friction areas “to make sure that people’s First Amendment rights are being respected, and to make sure that no harm is done to the people who are protecting the water for their future generations.”

“If harm comes to any of the people who have traveled from all around the world to join them in solidarity there against the Dakota Access pipeline that it would be on Obama’s watch that this happens. And that is absolutely right,” she said.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.