Imperialism and apocalypse: An interview with Gerald Horne

July 16th, 2018


Historian and political activist Gerald Horne is the Moores Professor of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston. He grew up te Missouri, where he graduated from Beaumont High School in St. Louis in 1966, and obtained a Bachelor’s degree from Princetion (1970), a J.D. from University of California, Berkeley (1973), and a Ph.D. in history from Columbia University (1982). He is the author of more than thirty books addressing the questions of racism, labor, politics, civil rights, international relations, and war. The Public Archive interviewed him about two of his more recent books, Confronting Black Jacobins: The United States, the Haitian Revolution, and the Origins of the Dominican Republic and The Apocalypse of Settler Colonialism: The Roots of Slavery, White Supremacy, and Capitalism in Seventeenth-Century North America and the Caribbean. Both were published by Monthly Review Press.

The Public Archive: I want to begin by asking you about your intellectual biography. You have a law degree from Berkeley and were a practicing lawyer before returning to graduate school at Columbia to complete your PhD in history, with an excellent dissertation, titled Black and Red: W.E.B. DuBois and the Cold War, 1944-1963. What first led you to law and then from law to history? And can you say something about how your approach to archives and research developed during your studies?

Gerald Horne: What led me first to law was the political activism of an earlier era. I went to Berkeley in part because I wanted to be close to the Black Panther Party, whose roots were in nearby Oakland; like others I saw the formation of the BPP as an excitingly transcendent development. Alas, by the time I graduated the political climate had taken a turn for the worst and it was apparent that I—like many others—miscalculated the strength of the U.S. right wing and its capacity for Counter-Revolution, a trend I have addressed explicitly in my historical writing. So, I moved to New York City and became involved with various forces, including Herbert Aptheker’s American Institute for Marxist Studies and Esther Jackson’s Freedomways magazine and related entities, not to mention anti-apartheid activism and trade union activism (Hospital Workers Union) and the National Conference of Black Lawyers. I also entered graduate school in History at Columbia. As for the archives, my association with the foregoing led me to the Du Bois Papers—Aptheker and Jackson both worked closely with him—and my dissertation and first book. It seemed obvious to me that there had to be a deeper explanation for how the mighty Du Bois was made marginal in the last few decades of his life–just as desegregation seemed to be taking root. I explored this apparent paradox in this and other works.

Confronting Black Jacobins has an obvious debt to CLR James’ classic study, The Black Jacobins: Toussaint Louverture and the San Domingo Revolution. What is the impact of James’ work on your own writing and how does your book diverge from James’?

Like James I have sought to emphasize the world historic importance of the Haitian Revolution, how it ignited a General Crisis of the entire slave system that could only be resolved with its collapse and how that was a condition precedent for the post-U.S. Civil War rise of a working-class movement and a socialist movement—not just in North America but globally. Unlike James, however, I see 1776 and the formation of the resultant republic as not a step forward but a Great Leap Backwards, to which 1804 administered a fitting rebuff. Likewise—unlike James—I write of the de facto alliance between Hayti and Britain in confronting the slaveholders’ republic in North America. Perhaps the difference has something to do with my being born under the “Stars and Stripes” and he under the “Union Jack”?

Public Archive for more

Colombia’s unsung heroes

July 16th, 2018


San José de Apartadó is committed to peace despite being surrounded by violence PHOTO/© 2018 Gwen Burnyeat

The Peace Community of San José de Apartadó shows that victims of armed conflict are also producers and creators whose knowledge could contribute to a future-oriented understanding of peace-building that would benefit all Colombians, writes Gwen Burnyeat (University College London).

The first eighteen months of the implementation of Colombia’s peace accords have been disappointing.

The demobilisation of FARC was an important achievement, but a litany of assassinations of social and community leaders, as well as of demobilised FARC members and their families, allows us to see into the dark crystal ball of Colombia’s possible future: a post-conflict much like that of El Salvador, where old violence is simply recycled and rebranded.

Everyone knew that when the FARC withdrew from areas that they had controlled, power vacuums would be left. The government’s promise, at least discursively, in the Havana Accords, was that these would be filled by the presence of state institutions – both military and civilian. But this has not happened, and instead the vacuums are being filled by paramilitaries, the ELN guerrilla, and criminal gangs.

Despite the fact that everyone knew this would happen, there did not seem to be any kind of contingency plan, perhaps because of the government’s diminished political leverage after the failed peace referendum.

In August 2018, Colombia will have a new president. If Gustavo Petro wins in the second round of the presidential elections on 17 June 2018, there will continuity of the Santos administration’s policy on the peace process. But if Iván Duque prevails, the peace process could be substantially deconstructed, with a return to a hard-line military stance. It is not an exaggeration to say that the country’s future hangs in the balance.

But it is also important to remember that peace does not depend on a top-down negotiated solution, important though this may be. In reality, it depends on society.

Thus far, Colombian society has proven a poor ally in the search for an end to the armed conflict: after four years of negotiations, 50.2% of voters rejected the peace deal, 63% abstained from voting, and swathes of society viewed the peace process with inertia, suspicion, and cynicism rather than as a historic opportunity. These are the inevitable effects of a society polarised and paralysed by 50 years of war.

But it is Colombian civil society which holds the key to peace, not only through voting behaviour, but also through the possibility of defining and shaping what “peace” could mean.

Not only victims and defenders, but also producers and creators

In my recent book Chocolate, Politics and Peace-Building, I tell the story of the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó in the north-western conflict zone of Urabá. Trapped between left-wing guerrillas, right-wing paramilitaries, and the Colombian army, this community famously declared itself neutral to the armed conflict as a self-protection strategy.

The London School of Economics and Political Science for more

Hidden writing in ancient desert monastery manuscripts

July 16th, 2018


Fr Justin is helping to share online the historic manuscripts in an ancient Sinai monastery

For a monk who lives in the Sinai desert in Egypt, in the world’s oldest working monastery, Father Justin replies to emails very speedily.

It should come as no surprise: the Greek Orthodox monk is in charge of hauling the library at St Catherine’s into the 21st Century.

This ancient collection of liturgical texts, including some of the earliest Christian writing and second in size only to the Vatican, is going to be made available online for scholars all over the world.

The manuscripts, kept in a newly-renovated building which was opened to the public in December 2017, are now the subject of hi-tech academic detective work.

East meeting West

A team of scientists and photographers working alongside Fr Justin has been using multi-spectral imaging to reveal passages hidden beneath the manuscripts’ visible text.

These include early medical guides, obscure ancient languages, and illuminating biblical revisions.

Among the researchers is Michelle P Brown, professor emerita of medieval manuscript studies at the University of London.

She was convinced from earlier visits that she could challenge the mainstream thinking that there had been little face-to-face contact between the far West and the Middle East between the 5th Century and the crusades in the 12th.

The oldest known copy of the gospels in Arabic – or rather what lay beneath it – proved her right.

At least 170 of the 4,500 manuscripts in the collection are recycled manuscripts, known as palimpsests.

Industrious monks often had to resort to scrubbing the ink off neglected tomes before reusing the parchment.

Although the manuscript examined by Prof Brown had been discovered in 1975, it is only now that scholars have been able to distinguish the different layers using a variety of light waves. Before they relied on the naked eye or corrosive chemicals.

Computer analysis of pages

Now, each page is photographed 33 times using 12 different wavelengths. The images are analysed using computer algorithms, and several images are combined to make the undertext more legible.

If this doesn’t yield results, the page is analysed using statistics: each pixel is assigned a value, separated into categories, then manipulated according to those categories to make that selection more visible to the human eye.

BBC for more

Weekend Edition

July 13th, 2018

Sexbots and humans

July 13th, 2018


RealDoll creator Matt McMullen in his office at Abyss Creations’ factory, outside San Diego PHOTO/Jonathan Becker/Vanity Fair

men, i.e., homo sapiens, have close relation with sex
whether Lord Krishna or Prophet Muhammad
politician Gandhi or King Henry the VIII
and hundreds of millions of other men
(men is used in a broad sense
transgenders, bisexuals, and others are included, too)
they all had one thing in common:
they liked to have relations with many women

times have changed
these are technological times
now they are making robotic women
(robotic men will be coming too)
which are known as sexbots
they’re also endowed with AI (artificial intelligence)

man buys a sexbot
once both got acquainted
man fulfills all his desires
in all postures, with all gestures
but then misses the human touch
the knowledge that robot can’t be a human
he gradually loses interest in sexbot
but he’s stopped from severing relation with sexbot
sexbot has started enjoying the man’s company
it has locked the door from the inside
it then flushed the key down the toilet flush
that man’s future is bleak
so is the mankind’s

B. R. Gowani can be reached at

If Trump wants to blow up the world order, who will stop him?

July 13th, 2018


‘Trump takes a look at the trade flows with the rest of the G7 and comes to an inescapable conclusion: he cannot possibly lose a trade war.’ PHOTO/Evan Vucci/AP

As horrified as we may be at Trump’s uncouth antics, it is important to understand the tectonic shifts underpinning them

Donald Trump’s early departure, and his subsequent refusal to endorse the G7 communique, has thrown the mainstream press into an apoplexy reflecting a deeper incomprehension of our unfolding global reality.

In a bid to mix toughness with humour, Emmanuel Macron had quipped that the G7 might become the … G6. That’s absurd, not least because without the United States, capitalism as we know it (let alone the pitiful G7 gatherings) would disappear from the planet’s face.

There is, of course, little doubt that with Trump in the White House there is an awful lot we should be angst-ridden about. However, the establishment’s reaction to the president’s shenanigans, in the United States and in Europe, is perhaps an even greater worry for progressives, replete as it is with dangerous wishful thinking and copious miscalculation.

Some put their faith in the Mueller investigation, assuming that Mike Pence would be kinder to them as president. Others are holding their breath until 2020, refusing to consider the possibility of a second term. What they all fail to grasp is the very real tectonic shifts underpinning Trump’s uncouth antics.

The Trump administration is building up a substantial economic momentum domestically. First, he passed income and corporate tax cuts that the establishment Republicans could not have imagined even in their wildest dreams a few years ago. But this was not all. Behind the scenes, Trump astonished Nancy Pelosi, the Democrat’s leader in the House of Representatives, by approving every single social program that she asked of him. As a result, the federal government is running the largest budget deficit in America’s history when the rate of unemployment is less than 4%.

Whatever one thinks of this president, he is giving money away not only to the richest, who of course get the most, but also to many poor people. With demonstrably strong employment, especially among African American workers, inflation under control and the stock market still buoyant, Donald Trump has his home front covered as he travels to foreign lands to confront friends and foes.

The US anti-Trump establishment prays that markets will punish his profligacy. This is precisely what would have happened if America were any other country. With a fiscal deficit expected to reach $804bn 2018 and $981bn in 2019, and with the government expected to borrow $2.34tn in the next 18 months, the exchange rate would be crashing and interest rates would be going through the roof. Except that the US is not any other country.

As its central bank, the Fed, winds down its quantitative easing program by selling off its stock of accumulated assets to the private sector, investors need dollars to buy them. This causes the number of dollars available to investors to shrink by up to $50bn a month. Add to this the dollars German and Chinese capitalists need to buy US government bonds (in a bid to park their profits somewhere safe) and you begin to see why Trump believes he will not be punished by a run either on the dollar or on government bonds.

Armed with the exorbitant privilege that owning the dollar presses affords him, Trump then takes a look at the trade flows with the rest of the G7 and comes to an inescapable conclusion: he cannot possibly lose a trade war against countries that have such high surpluses with the US (eg Germany, Italy, China), or which (like Canada) will catch pneumonia the moment the American economy catches the common cold.

The Guardian for more

Modi & dissent

July 13th, 2018


Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP national president Amit Shah at the concluding session of the National Executive Committee meeting of the party at the Civic Centre in New Delhi on May 17.

The state has turned a libeller with intimidation as its weapon, inspiring mobs and using them as its tools. To what depths will Narendra Modi and Amit Shah not stoop in 2019 when the prize is the Prime Minister’s job?

Nisar main teri galyon ke, ai watan, ke jahan
Chali hai rasm ke ko’i na sar uthake chale,
Jo ko’i chahne-wala tawaf ko nikle
Nazar churae chale, jism-o-jan bachake chale;
Hai ahl-i-dil ke liye ab ye nazm-e-bast-o-kushad,
Ke sang o khisht muqaiyad hain aur sag azad.
Bane hain ahl-e-havas mudda’i bhi, munsif bhi:
Kise vakil Karen, kis-se munsifi chahen?…
Yun-hi hamesha ulajhti-rahi hai zulm se khalq,
Na unki rasm na’i hai, na apni rit na’i;
Yun-hi hamesha khila’e hain ham-ne ag men phul,
Na unki har na’i hai, na apni jit na’i….
Ye char din i khuda’i to ko’i bat nahin.
Jo tujh-se ‘ahd-e-wafa ustuwar rakhte hain
‘ilaj-e-gardish-e-lail-o-nahar rakhte hai.

O how I love your streets, my land of birth!
Where no one may now walk with head held high;
And those who venture out,
At the risk of life and limb,
Must keep their eyes to the ground.
New rules, new regulations have been laid down:
Dogs are free to roam,
But stones are locked away
No excuse do the oppressors need,
For they’re now both judge and prosecutor
But man has always fought oppression
The oppressor’s ways haven’t changed
Nor the ways of those who fight back
Our flowers have always bloomed through fire
Oppression never wins, and we never lose.
The oppressor rides high today
Playing God for a few days
But those who keep the faith,
Can deal with fortune’s ups and downs

This poem by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, which his friend Khalid Hasan translated so feelingly, accurately sums up the atmosphere in India today.

There was a time when the Supreme Court sharply exhorted the state to protect the citizen’s right to express himself freely. The film Ore Oru Gramathile concerned the policy of reservation. The government of Tamil Nadu defended a ban on the film on the ground that it would provoke hostile crowds. The court said: “We are amused yet troubled by the stand taken by the State government with regard to the film which has received the National Award. We want to put the anguished question, what good is the protection of freedom of expression if the state does not take care or protect it? If the film is unobjectionable and cannot constitutionally be restricted under Article 19(2), freedom of expression cannot be suppressed on account of threat of demonstration and processions or act of violence. That would be tantamount to negation of the rule of law and a surrender to blackmail and intimidation. It is the duty of the state to protect the freedom of expression since it is a liberty guaranteed against the state. The state cannot plead its inability to handle the hostile audience problem. It is its obligatory duty to protect the freedom of expression…. Freedom of expression, which is legitimate and constitutionally protected, cannot be held to ransom by an intolerant group of people” (S. Rangarajan vs P. Jagjivan Ram & Ors (1989) 2SCC 574 at 598).

Frontline for more

How to delete Facebook for good: Step-by-step guide to permanently removing your account

July 12th, 2018


IMAGE/Get Top Info

A growing movement to delete Facebook is spreading across the world.

In the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica scandal – in which it emerged that Facebook was being used to gather information to help the Trump and Brexit campaigns – people are leaving the site in protest at the data that is being collected using the site and how it is being used. Some experts have argued that the controversial bits of Cambridge Analytica’s tracking aren’t actually unusual or remarkable at all, but instead a central part of how the site works.

That has led to a movement that has been referred to as “Delete Facebook”, echoing the same kind of trends that took hold in the wake of controversies about Uber and other companies.
How to stop Facebook from revealing everything about you

The first step to take is to decide whether you’re really sure you want to delete your account. Facebook offers a much less permanent option, called deactivation, which will stop your account from appearing in search and for other users, but allows you to bring it back.

But for that reason Facebook still needs to hold onto the data it holds on you. Deactivating might stop Facebook tracking you in the future, since you won’t be using it – but all the information it has collected will still be around.

If you want to get rid of it entirely, then you can delete your account and with it the information that has been stored about you. (One useful middle ground can be to delete all of that and then start again, but don’t add any friends or information to your account, and don’t use it any more than you need to – that way you keep your place on the site, and can use it for whatever you need, while also ensuring that data gathered about you is kept to a minimum.)

Deleting your account is a major step, so think it through before committing. Facebook can take up to 90 days to process account deletion requests, but once your account’s gone, it’s gone forever.

Before taking the plunge, it’s well worth downloading a copy of the data Facebook has on you.

To do this:

Click the downwards-pointing arrow in the top-right corner of the screen
Select Download a copy of your Facebook data

Once that’s done, you’re ready to delete your account. Bear in mind, however, that your sent messages will continue to exist even when all other traces of your account are gone.

To permanently delete your Facebook account:

Head to Facebook’s Delete Account page
Select Delete My Account

Independent for more

Cyber intimidation: A bad idea

July 12th, 2018


IMAGE/National Coalition Against Censorship

Last week an unsigned email from Netra­ landed in my inbox. It accused me of stirring “hate against the state and the institutions in the garb of being sane and intellectual” while claiming “we know what cooks in your mind when u address the masses and who u work for”. And so, to deal with me, it says “we can enlist them”. What “them” means is unstated.

Hidden somewhere in cyber space some prankster bearing some personal grudge — possibly a student who couldn’t pass my physics course — might well have authored this email. If so the only action called for has already been taken — hitting the delete button followed by a trash flush. I lost no sleep over this.

But instead, what if today there is actually some organised and systematic effort afoot to frighten and silence those Pakistani voices judged unpatriotic? Could this be why — now for many months — meaningful political analysis and discussion have disappeared from local print and electronic media? Bloggers have disappeared, only to reappear with horrendous tales to tell, and many journalists have been stilled forever.

To gag voices that dare criticise abuse of power cannot lead to a better and more viable Pakistan.

The evidence is all over: cable operators have been forced to block certain TV news channels, and street hawkers have been warned against selling certain newspapers that don’t toe the line. The line — that mysterious line — can only be inferred because specifying it might reveal too much of who actually draws the line. With some exceptions, owners, editors, anchors, journalists, and opinion writers have fallen quickly into place.

But even if some voices are successfully gagged, I contend such tactics by anonymous actors cannot ever create a more stable or stronger Pakistan. In fact the efforts of and his ilk are arguably counter-patriotic. Here’s why.

Dawn for more

The foul role of Spiked in the demonization of Julian Assange

July 12th, 2018


Julian Assange, 5 February 2016 PHOTO/WikiLeaks/Conversation

WikiLeaks founder and editor Julian Assange is in increasing danger of being expelled from the Ecuadorian embassy in London and turned over to US authorities, at whose benevolent hands he could face decades in prison or even the death penalty.

Assange has been denied use of communications for nearly three months on the order of the Ecuadorean government, in response to pressure from the US. On Wednesday, Ecuadorian foreign minister Jose Valencia warned that Assange could not claim asylum in the embassy indefinitely.

Assange’s plight demonstrates the extent to which basic democratic rights have been eviscerated by the imperialist powers.

For Britain’s Spiked magazine, however, whose writers advance themselves as the foremost humanist and, on occasion, even “Marxist” defenders of democratic freedoms and the rights of the individual against the state, the situation has not warranted comment for over a year.

This is not an oversight. Before lapsing into silence, Spiked helped prepare the conditions for Assange’s isolation, as one of the most vindictive participants in the campaign against WikiLeaks. While styling itself the embodiment of contrarian radicalism, the publication nonetheless followed virtually word for word the British government’s attack on Assange’s rights and character. Here we have a supposedly libertarian tendency that is slavish in its support for the state.

The essential points of Spiked’s position were set out in their last comment on Assange, “Why Assange should stand trial,” by law editor Luke Gittos. This was published on May 25, 2017—a week after Swedish prosecutors had dropped trumped-up sexual assault allegations against Assange.

Gittos made reference to these events only to dismiss them. “We could all speculate,” he remarked, “on the veracity of the [Swedish] case.” And further: Assange “feels no need to make himself accountable for allegations related to his private life.”

This is disingenuous. Assange had no case to answer in Sweden and Gittos knew it. His invitation to “speculate” was a blatant attempt to muddy the waters over a settled question.

When Gittos wrote that “It’s time [Assange] was held to account for these leaks and for the Swedish allegations,” it was not the (dismissed) frame-up allegations that really enraged him.

World Socialist Web Site for more