August 30, 2013

The Right Way to Look at Syrian Intervention

Filed under: Corporatism, Global War On Terror — Tags: — Russ @ 4:57 am


There’s lots of anguish and recriminations among radicals and radical chicists about what the “right” position is on US aggression in Syria, just as there was with Libya. It seems to me that much of this is on account of an epistomological mistake.
Now, if one is personally committed to the Syrian civil war for whatever reason, that’s one thing. You’d have to figure out what you think is best from that point of view. But that’s not the case for the vast majority of Americans who have taken an interest in this. We come to it primarily from the point of view of opposing US imperialism.
The mistake many people make is that if there’s a tangible enemy involved, they think that opposing US aggression means or implies support for this enemy. Since this enemy is often itself a malign actor – the Saddam regime, the Qaddaffi regime, the Assad regime, etc. – the implication that opposing imperialism has to mean support for all of its target causes these people to hesitate and split among themselves.
But to me this makes no sense. I oppose the US system in every kind of case, and I don’t see why this particular kind of case is different from any other. Given any weapons system like the F-22, I say cancel it. I say that in opposition to the Pentagon. But it’s not clear to me who I’m “siding with” in that case.
Similarly, given a project like the Libyan assault, I oppose it. I do that in opposition to the Pentagon and the rest of the system, same as with a weapons contract. I see no reason why in that case I need to be “siding with” anyone, any more than with the weapons contract. The fact that there was a specific target of the project doesn’t change that.
So it is today with Syria. While we can expect that eventually US overextension will help speed up US collapse, this is speculative in any particular case, and therefore my default is to oppose every prospective act of imperialism. I oppose these acts because as an American citizen my job is to oppose every aspect of Western corporate aggression. It’s emphatically not my job to take sides in every conflict outside the West. The notion that it is, so beloved of liberals and radical chicists, and even some radicals, is of course part of the pathology of Western aggression. Such alleged radicals simply reveal themselves as old-style authoritarians who still want the corporate state and hierarchical domination, but somehow in a “better” form. But a true anti-corporatist knows that the only non-evil thing the West can do, is capable of doing, for anyone, anywhere, is to GET OUT. And stay out.



  1. Excellent analysis, Russ. I think this stance of taking sides must originate in American Exceptionalism. We’re the good guys and we know what is best. A classic case of imperial thinking. But I’d add conservatives to your list of “liberals and radical chicists, and even some radicals” – it is across the board. I wonder if this “pathology of Western aggression” is not rooted in capitalism, which got its start in agricultural improvements in the 15th century in England.

    Comment by Paul — August 30, 2013 @ 9:46 am

    • I didn’t mention conservatives because I expect them to be unabashedly pro-war. Of course more and more liberals are equally overtly bloodthirsty. (Just one of the many ways in which the alleged difference between liberals and conservatives, always narrow at best, has shrunk almost to nothing.) But there’s still lots of liberals who at least shed some crocodile tears and pretend to feel angst over war, and go through the motions of questioning whether to support a war or not. It’s a fraud – as long as the Democrat team is in nominal power, the liberals will support any war of aggression.

      The aggression certainly is rooted in capitalism, or more accurately in economic domination. (“Capitalism”, as in what the textbooks say about it, is also a fraud. Who even makes a legitimate profit anymore, as opposed to being dependent on corporate welfare and con jobs? And in the end money itself won’t matter either, just power.)

      Comment by Russ — August 30, 2013 @ 2:34 pm

      • Some years ago, I ran across the writings of Chet Bowers – he has some interesting things to say about liberals and conservatives in this article. As for capitalism, I don’t believe anyone explains better how it works than Marx, in Capital, volume 1. There is so much misinformation, promoted by capital, of course, about who and what Marx accomplished. A reading of what he actually wrote is quite illuminating.

        Comment by Paul — August 30, 2013 @ 3:12 pm

      • Marx was one of the best analysts of the industrial era of capitalism, but “capitalism” itself turns out to have been a bogus category. I wrote about how capitalism was really the same ancient/feudal economic structure, just temporarily modified for the Oil Age and its extreme, aberrational level of energy consumption.


        We now know that capitalism never really wanted to eradicate feudal vestiges, but to conserve as many as possible, and that it never wanted to rationalize economies or render them more efficient (it’s telling how conservative and Marxist rhetoric are at one on this), except to the extent it was forced to by material conditions. Nor did capitalism ever want competition. On the contrary, the “competitor” switches to oligopoly gangsterism and becoming a government ward the second he can.

        Now that the fossil fuel age is ending, and history shall revert to its normal level of energy consumption, the systems of economic domination shall attempt to revert to ancient/feudal modes. This will be true regardless of how long the elites are able to maintain some modern technologies.

        So instead of Marx’s essentially progressive notion of economic modes, we have a constant attempt at economic domination, by whatever means available. Corporatism, the economic mode of fascism, is the mode through which the elites will attempt the transition from “capitalism” to a fully restored ancient/feudal structure.


        I’m glad to talk about this because this blog proposes to reject all the sham categories which plague modern political and economic discourse. “Capitalism”, as a unique mode of economic organization, is one of these sham categories. It gets us arguing about something which isn’t real, and at best mires us in endless distinctions between what capitalism is supposed to be according to the econ texts, as opposed to how it is in practice, a capitalist/feudal/gangster/welfare hybrid. Well, the answer is that this real-world hybrid is the one and only “capitalism” which actually exists or ever could exist. So why bother with the term and concept? Let’s just denote it as it is – corporatism, a command economy ruled by the organizations we call corporations, for the sake of enclosure, wealth extraction and accumulation, and domination by these corporations. This empirical approach frees us of all the tedious theoretical argumentation which plagues “leftists” (another sham category).


        (Thanks for the Bowers piece. It too wants to prop up obsolete and unconstructive categories. I don’t see how flipping the terms “liberal” and “conservative” is a better procedure than recognizing them both as shams, and both groups as essentially identical criminals.)

        If we just recognize the enemy as corporatism, and set the goal of the total abolition of corporations, then we’re left with no questions other than organizational and strategic/tactical ones. That’s the point I’m at, and I propose to go forward from there. For many reasons, I’ve settled on GMO abolition as the best place to start, so I propose to form such an organization.

        Comment by Russ — August 31, 2013 @ 4:53 am

  2. Marx had a lot to say about enclosure, wealth extraction and accumulation, as has every Marxist before he died and ever since. You missed the subtleties of Bowers’ argument: he says that what are now called “conservatives” are really market liberals, while what are now called “liberals” are social justice liberals. They’re both liberals, in other words. Not conservatives. Conservatives, to Bowers, are people like Wendell Berry, Vandana Shiver, and Aldo Leopold. GMOs are only one of hundreds of thousands of ways that capitalism manifests itself. Best of luck in your campaign.

    Comment by Paul — August 31, 2013 @ 8:59 pm

    • There’s lots of ways corporatism manifests itself, but I’d say the most virulent is the direct poisoning of our food. That’s why I fight food corporatism directly. This focus has two other big advantages.

      1. Building a community food movement involves lots of things we can actually DO right now: Grow our own food, take control of our own food, shun corporate food, resist system attempts to force corporate food upon us and prevent us from controlling our food. By contrast, where it comes to so many other fights, it’s difficult to see what we can actually do.

      2. Unlike with many other aspects of corporatism, where the people happily support it, the people are increasingly ambivalent about industrial food, and have always been hostile to GMOs. (There’s zero natural demand for GMOs, among farmers or eaters. They exist solely on account of the government’s aggressive command economy support.) So a GMO abolition movement can be a potent political wedge cutting through all the sham dichotomies – left/right, liberal/conservative, public/private. Breaking up these political logjams is in itself a necessity.

      I’d say that rather than conservatives being a kind of liberal, it’s the other way around. Liberals have always supported capitalism, war, and the police state, albeit with some crocodile tears. And today they’re increasingly brazen and shameless about it. More importantly, the liberal temperament is increasingly fearful and pessimistic. As I put it here:


      While it’s true that to hold a faith, any faith, is normally a source of strength, progressivism is by now not in fact a faith in the future, but another kind of conservatism. A strong proof of the political progressives’ lack of faith in the future is their characteristic desperation to grab any crumb they can get right now, their inability to ever gamble the possibilities of the moment in expectation of a much bigger payoff down the road, and their delusions which turn the most empty words and the simulation of “access” into actual achievements. In all this, the progressives are even more focused on short-term gain than the banksters. (Of course the actual gains made in that short term are rather different between the two.)

      So there’s one piece of evidence, from the political world, that the faith in progress itself is dying, even as so many still profess a superficial attachment to it. So what’s the nature of this continued attachment? I’ve already said it – it’s another kind of conservatism. “Progress” is another form of the ideology of clinging to what little one has and trying to prevent any change at all. Thus progressivism joins conservatism as a clod in the way of change, and also joins it in the paradoxical consent to the destructive rampage of capitalism which as part of its totalitarian wave of change shall submerge them both.

      I know what you mean about Berry, Shiva, and other being conservative in a true sense of the word. But I don’t think it’s worth trying to redeem that term. Indeed, I think the desire to do so indicates a desire to still find some accommodation with corporatism, rather than to fight it to the death. By now the only direction to look is forward. There’s little of modernity which can endure or would be worth conserving. Only two things:

      1. The great advances in agroecological knowledge, which will be critical for producing food in the post-oil era. This knowledge proves that decentralized organic agriculture can produce enough food for everyone on Earth without massive fossil fuel inputs. But it will require an agricultural revolution on a democratic basis.

      2. The heritage of democracy, and the realization that we must grow up, take responsibility for ourselves as true citizens, and move on to full positive democracy. Affirmatively, the only things worth doing are those on the vector toward council democracy, just as, negatively, the only things worth doing are those on the vector toward abolition of corporations.

      So humanity needs a true democracy movement, and a true abolition movement.

      Comment by Russ — September 1, 2013 @ 6:58 am

      • I liked your comment that “[u]nlike with many other aspects of corporatism, where the people happily support it …”. That gets to the heart of the matter, I think. And that is where Chet Bowers fits in. You disagree that the misuse of political language matters. I think it matters a lot, because you persist in thinking that conservatives are “a kind of liberal”. No, they are not. They are two sides of the same coin. Democrats and Republicans both believe that capitalism can be made to work. Democrats by regulating; Republicans by de-regulating. The fact that neither “conservatives” nor “liberals” can understand what a true conservative is makes a huge difference. If people knew what a true conservative was, they’d be much more likely to reject all aspects of corporatism (a.k.a. capitalism). Once upon a time, I was a “liberal”. Then, I was a “progressive”. Now, I’m a radical.

        The problem with a GMO campaign or an anti-fracking campaign or a name-your-campaign is that people, by focusing on just one issue, cannot see how all of the issues are connected. It’s all about use-value vs. exchange value. GMO is about exchange-value; organic agriculture is about use-value. Until people see the difference, it is just going to be one battle after another until we go extinct, fighting for our right to make a profit all the way to the end.

        Comment by Paul — September 1, 2013 @ 11:49 pm

      • Democrats by regulating; Republicans by de-regulating.

        Both Dems and Reps want aggressive regulation as well as deregulation, depending on which is more beneficial for the corporations. Just like both want big, aggressive government where it comes to corporate welfare, the war machine, and the police state, while also wanting to “shrink government” where it comes to anything which could actually help people.

        I don’t envision an anti-GMO “campaign”. I want to get a permanent organization and movement going, toward the goal of total corporate abolition. GMOs are just the first incident for this abolition movement. I regard anti-GMO writing and action as the best starting point for building a more general anti-corporate consciousness, and doing so in an active way.

        Comment by Russ — September 2, 2013 @ 3:34 am

  3. I’m sure the military-industrial complex is selling the proposed war on Syria to Obama as a jobs program. I’m also sure Obama understands that war does not spur the American economy in an era when corporations are transnational. Just one more example of the vampire squid at work . . .

    These guys have a vision of a “brighter” future where the fictions of nationality and citizenship are eliminated in preference of a model in which all human beings are fungible and exploitable.

    So, yeah, anybody with half a brain ought to oppose any intervention in Syria. The power elite have no sense of virtue or ethics, only a will to power that they mask with stunning feats of prestidigitation.

    Comment by Tao Jonesing — September 3, 2013 @ 1:37 am

    • This war would be such a pointless indulgence of the savage system id that even the British parliament voted against it, while some US officers have publicly expressed doubts. I can’t imagine what the US rationale could be, other than that the system is always looking for the next opportunity to unleash aggression, simply for aggression’s own sake. There’s no invasion being contemplated, just meaningless (but murderous) cruise missile and drone strikes. There’s no economic rationale, and little prospect of any “global war on terror” propaganda angle. The whole thing highlights the basic insanity of the US system.

      Also that of the authoritarian “leftists” I started out mentioning in this post. They’re the same types who in 1916 were shrieking for the US to go to war. Read anything they write, substituting “the Kaiser” for Assad, and making any other appropriate substitutions. I find that this completely clears up the matter.

      Comment by Russ — September 3, 2013 @ 3:30 am

      • Speaking of “authoritarian” leftists

        Comment by Paul — September 3, 2013 @ 8:08 am

      • Thanks for the link, Paul. I think Zizek reveals himself as a typical neoliberal, whether from the left or right. The left v. right distinction is illusory at this point. The only reason to still use it is to attack the smugness of the self-proclaimed liberals and progressives who embrace their inner-dictator without realizing it.

        Interesting, though. I have a few books by Zizek, although I have yet to read them. Is Zizek just another neoliberal plant? If so, the neoliberals have truly perfected the practical application of political philosophy. Amazing. No wonder Foucault became enamored of neoliberalism in his waning days.

        Comment by Tao Jonesing — September 5, 2013 @ 12:59 am

      • I’ve mostly steered clear of the squabbling among academic radicals/radical-chicists. (Though I have gotten sucked into reading about the travails of North Star, since I’ve been wanting to start a similar site, though not Marxist, of course.) So I’ve only read a few Zizek pieces, and have felt no need to read more. This link pegs him well, a typically sclerotic holdover and Leader without a following. There’s no longer any constituency whatsoever for authoritarian communism. It’s typical that those who still laud Stalin would also cross over to laud Thatcher (who, I agree, was a strong Leader) and even Obama (a pathetic twerp; but our authoritarians have to lick the boots of the Fuhrers they have, not the ones they’d want).

        The example of Spain highlights this best: The liberals and communists (and of course the Western governments as well) preferred to see Franco win rather than see anarchism continue to work. That’s because, as authoritarian ideologies, liberalism, communism, fascism, and Franco-type systems have far more in common with one another than any do with anarchism, the philosophy of real practical democracy.

        Similarly, the likes of Zizek want some kind of “socialist” neoliberalism, which would be largely the same as what we have now. But if they can’t have that, they’d prefer the status quo to any kind of victory for the horizontal movements. It’s not because they’re convinced these can’t work. On the contrary, it’s because they fear these can work.

        That’s why so many of them can so easily support neoliberal interventions (of all sorts – economic as well as military) around the world, and try to make anti-imperialism, one of the most consistently successful tactical doctrines, into a bad word. It’s because they already identify with the US government, NATO, and big corporations.

        Comment by Russ — September 5, 2013 @ 4:59 am

  4. Russ, you mean you don’t like ParEcon??? I’m teasing … god, I hate those people!! They are nothing more than a cult, insulated from reality, with all of the answers. Tao, I never thought of Zizek being a “neoliberal plant” – that’s an intriguing idea, for sure. We’re all so embedded in capitalism that we can’t even begin to comprehend. TINA takes on a new meaning when we start to look inside ourselves, doesn’t it? How many do, though? It’s enough to drive anyone to despair …

    Comment by Paul — September 5, 2013 @ 2:34 pm

    • I never read anything about it. It looks like some kind of attempt to give a brand name to something that’s ostensibly decentralized and democratic? In theory, that’s actually not all that different from my idea for an organization which would have a “centralized” name, statement of principles, and general strategic guidelines, while finance and tactical decisions would be completely at the level of local/regional branches.

      Embedded in capitalism, for sure. Though where it comes to industrial communism it simply is capitalism, with the state as monopoly capitalist. The real dividing line is between an economy which is organized to provide what people need and want, as opposed to an economy organized to maximize production for production’s sake, in order for those who control it to hoard the surplus, and therefore hoard wealth and power.

      Comment by Russ — September 6, 2013 @ 3:45 am

      • Russ,

        When you get a chance, please drop me an email. Neither one of us blog that much any more, and I’d like to know what is going on with you.

        taojonesing at gmail dot com

        Thanks. Hope all is well.

        Comment by Tao Jonesing — September 11, 2013 @ 12:14 am

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