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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Last Liberal

The year 1989 marked the death of the independent journalist, Isidor Feinstein (I.F.) Stone, the last twentieth century US liberal. Liberalism in the last century combined the liberties of the original Bill of Rights with Roosevelt’s proposed Second Bill of Rights. By mid-century, US liberalism reached its greatest heights, supplementing the historic bourgeois rights that dismantled feudalism and enshrined the right to property with the promise of an entirely new set of economic rights-- rights to employment, housing, medical care, social security, education, among others. The economic rights sought to codify the social democratic gains made in the New Deal era.
By the time of I.F. Stone’s death in 1989, liberalism had nearly shed all of its commitment to the Rooseveltian social justice rights. The bearer of the liberal legacy, the Democratic Party, swiftly retreated from New Deal values in the face of the Reagan attack on social welfare programs. Consequently, the Democratic Party of Bill Clinton, the “third way,” market-obsessed Democrats, eschewed the term “liberal” and appropriated the once-meaningful term “progressive” in its place. Stone would have been appalled.
But the thinness of the US liberal commitment to its own principles were well known to Stone. He well knew of the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 that affronted the Bill of Rights before even a decade had past.
He knew of the betrayal of the rights of Blacks granted by the 14th and 15th amendments that closed the Reconstruction era.
He was, of course, familiar with the shameful, tepid response of liberals to the Palmer Raids of 1919-1920, the government repression and deportation of political dissidents.
But Stone was most familiar with the sell-out of classical liberal values by Republicans, Democrats, and nearly all self-described liberals in the late 1940s and 1950s, a repressive time commonly called the McCarthy era.
Stone denounced the “two decades of carefully nurtured nightmare” that began with the Smith Act of 1940, an “era in which the mere allegation of leftist sympathy or affiliation was enough to put a man outside the pale.”
From ACLU secret collaboration with the witch hunt to the establishment of the Americans for Democratic Action as a haven for untainted, anti-Communist liberals, liberalism fared poorly in the Cold War era. The liberals who didn’t think that associating with Communists was necessarily traitorous were banished with the Communists. The liberals who were enthusiastic about anti-Communism saw no contradiction between abrogating the rights of Communists and fervently defending the sanctity and universality of those rights.
Stone could not understand this posture of Cold War liberals. He truly believed that the rights granted in the Bill of rights were absolutely universal and beyond abrogation, just as the celebrated Founding Fathers proclaimed. He didn’t think that they only applied in good times or when it was convenient.
Stone believed the contradiction of Cold War liberalism could be summed up with one example of a Cold War security case. With respect to a specific “security” firing, Stone cites the comment of the era’s arch-liberal, Walter Lippmann, who advocated “to have the charge tried by due process,” a seeming appeal to fairness. But Stone responded with exasperation: “How do you try the ‘charge’ that a man once worked for Armtorg or has two sisters in Russia?”
Stone recognized that it was innuendo and association that propelled a country supposedly built on liberal foundations to qualify, obfuscate, and relinquish those values.
After the 1950s hysteria diminished, Stone continued to serve as a vigilant watchdog over liberalism and its hypocrisies. At the same time, he fervently defended liberal values, especially freedom of speech, the value of an independent press, and freedom of association.
One wonders what he would have thought of liberalism in our era?
Unlike in the McCarthy era, when liberals felt compelled to show their loyalty by following the Republicans on the anti-Communist crusade, today’s liberals have mounted their own, unprompted campaign of innuendo, guilt by association, and fear-mongering.
Where the security services fed the Red scare through reliable media contacts and opinion-makers, the 2017 security services play the same role, feeding some of the same media outlets and many others unsubstantiated, politically charged, and unattributed charges against capitalist Russia. In the latter case, the catalyst for the new hysteria is US liberals.
Portrayed by Democratic Party nobles and liberal-leading lights as a defense of our treasured democratic process, the campaign is, in reality, a stealth mission to solidify an aggressive, dominating US foreign policy. Just as the Red scare really targeted left unity, militant trade unionism, and the more committed New Dealers, the current Russia-baiting targets foreign policy dissidents, anti-imperialists, and the rejection of post-Soviet triumphalism. Under the guise of meeting Trump perfidy, liberals are wittingly or unwittingly shaping an aggressive, imperialist foreign policy consensus.
As for the news media, media conglomerates have used the interminable leaks from the security services as the candy to coax subscribers in the rating wars. So far, several have outmaneuvered the Fox News empire which is trapped in defense of right-wing interests aligned behind the unsavory Donald Trump (MSNBC has narrowed a nearly 46% gap in prime time viewers favoring FOX News at the beginning of the year to 17.5% six months later, an unprecedented gain).
I. F. Stone understood the rank opportunism of the media and its challenge to liberal values decades ago. He warned of the use of anonymous sources as early as 1955: “…[one] cannot come into court and ask for conviction on undisclosed evidence by undisclosed persons on the grounds that to reveal them would endanger its source of information.” But this is precisely what liberals and the media are doing today in the Court of Public Opinion with the so-called Russia-gate.
Though Stone could not have anticipated its further corruption, he fully recognized the deteriorating function of the news media. He wrote in 1963:
...most American newspapers carry very little news. Their main concern is advertising [based on circulation and media ratings]... All the so-called communications industries are primarily concerned not with communications, but with selling. This is obvious on TV and radio but it is only a little less obvious in the newspapers. Most owners of newspapers are businessmen, not newspapermen. The news is something which fills the space left over by the advertisers. The average publisher is not only hostile to dissenting opinion, he is suspicious of any opinion likely to antagonize any reader or consumer.
And today’s handful of giant monopoly, multimedia corporations have far surpassed the commercial imperative identified by Stone. As the uncritical transmission belt of security services’ leaks, the US media have totally abdicated their mission as news sources. They have not only failed to deliver news, but have packaged rumor as news and presented it as entertainment.
Stone was aware of the dynamics of news “management” long before journalists were “embedded.” Writing in 1955:
... it is easy to see why the average Washington correspondent is content to write what he is spoon-fed by the government’s press officers… Why dig up a story which the desk back home will spike?... The private dinner, the special briefing, are all devices for “managing” the news, as are the special organizations of privileged citizens gathered in by State and Defense Departments for those sessions at which highly confidential (and one sided) information is ladled out to a flattered “elite.”
And the reporters and media news readers are not likely to reject the government feeding tube and will, instead, stick with the consensus: “Most of my colleagues agree with the Government and write the accepted thing because that is what they believe; they are indeed-- with honorable exceptions-- as suspicious of the non-conformist as any group in Kiwanis.” Unfortunately, there are few exceptions today, honorable or otherwise.
Stone knew how the media failed to provide the necessary condition for a truly informed, democratic citizenry. Nonetheless, he had an abiding confidence that liberal values would prevail and find a way to reverse, or at least correct, the course of US democracy. He had a faith-like confidence that independent journalists like himself would prevail somehow against the media behemoths. He believed that freedom of speech, freedom of association, and an independent and diverse press would protect citizens from the manipulation of the rich and powerful. Subsequent history shows he was wrong.
In our time, liberals are the key players in the Russian-under-every-bed witch hunts that are boiling over in the media. At all the past critical junctures when liberal values were tested by duress, liberals failed to defend those values. They are failing now.
Perhaps liberalism is philosophically incoherent. Perhaps it’s theoretically flawed and that is what accounts for its failure at critical moments. That’s an argument for another time. But clearly liberals have shown little spine when liberal values would be most useful, times when deliberation and measure should confront mob hysteria and waves of duplicity. Instead they stand knee-deep in hypocrisy.
You know your friends in times of crisis; liberals consistently fail the test.

Zoltan Zigedy

Sunday, June 25, 2017

US Imperialism: Changing Direction?

Developments over the last few weeks further remove the fog obscuring the foreign policy objectives of the US ruling class. A series of seemingly unrelated events casts light on the goals of US policy makers in an era of intensifying international rivalries. Further, it is becoming clear that President Trump is now largely deferring to the ruling-class consensus on foreign affairs; his straying from the fold has been substantially checked.
In February, I wrote of the implications of the widely ignored shift in the status of the United States from an energy-seeking, petroleum-importing country to a net exporter, a trader in all energy resources.
The US still has a significant but shrinking position in the international export of coal. Of course, coal use is both third in importance among hydrocarbons and shrinking in use (coal production internationally fell by the largest percentage on record in 2016). But petroleum imports became essential to fuel the critical transportation needs of the US as well as the massive military machine in the mid-twentieth century. 

After the oil crisis of the 1970s, dependence on petroleum imports became even more acute and an even more vital factor in setting US foreign policy. Often, and for good reason, the left was quick to associate the thirst for energy resources with war-mongering and neo-colonial intrigue.
But matters are changing rapidly, even if many seek to obscure or ignore the new reality. As I argued in February:
Matters began to change in the last decade, with US domestic oil production nearly doubling between 2010 and 2014. In the last few years, US oil production has reached levels in line with the world’s largest producers, Saudi Arabia and Russia. For the first time in decades, the US is again exporting extracted energy products. In fact, many experts expect the US to become a net energy exporter in the next decade.
The evidence has only mounted since the February posting. Despite low prices of oil, US drillers are producing like there is no tomorrow. From its low in mid-year 2016, the rig count has nearly doubled in North Dakota. As the Wall Street Journal reported on June 19, the big companies, Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell, and Exxon Mobil are investing tens of billions in the Permian region of the Southwestern US. The giant multinational, monopoly-capital producers are stepping in where smaller producers have failed because of costs and limited capital. They are projecting Permian production at 4 million barrels a day within a decade, about the production of modern-day Iraq. Chevron, alone, anticipates a four-fold increase of Permian production within a decade. Exxon is projected to spend half or more of its massive investments in the next three years on North American oil production.
Where will this oil go?
In a June 8 article, Wall Street Journal writer Lynn Cook stated bluntly: “American [US] oil exports are emerging as a disruptive new force in global markets.” From January to April, US suppliers shipped 110 million barrels to foreign destinations, chiefly India, Hong Kong, and Denmark. Asian buyers account for 39% of purchases, with China showing, by far, the greatest growth. With massive production increases coming online, is there any doubt that US producers will be competing furiously with OPEC and other traditional exporters for existing and new markets? Should we not expect the foreign policy and the covert and overt military strategies to reflect this intensifying competition?
Similarly, the US is becoming an increasingly important exporter of natural gas. As new technologies of liquefying and shipping natural gas are implemented, the competition for markets is becoming ever more ruthless. Seaborne liquid natural gas accounts for 40% of the market today. As the world leader in natural gas production, along with Russia, the US has a strong interest in exporting natural gas and acquiring new markets. Among the exporters of liquid natural gas (LNG), Qatar is the world leader, with every intention of maintaining its position, recently opening its North field, believed to be the largest gas reservoir in the world.
Geopolitical Implications
The long fostered model that views US imperial interests as served by the US securing and protecting its access to energy sources, by guaranteeing energy for its Cold War allies, is in need of a new look. Today, US interests lie in acquiring markets within the global economy, competing with other energy suppliers, and creating political and economic conditions favorable to US suppliers. Oil, gas, and energy remain central to the imperialist enterprise, but the roles are shifting in important ways, with important implications.
I sought to define that role more clearly in February, when I wrote:
It should be clear, then, that the approaching oil independence of the US, the changing role of the US from consumer to producer, and the attention to markets-for-oil over sources-for-oil profoundly influences US strategic policies, including the weakening or souring relations with other major oil-producing nations like Saudi Arabia and Russia.
Events have only strengthened that observation. The rabid, crude intensification of hostility toward Russia, the renewed demonization of Iran, the sudden and bizarre isolation of Qatar, and the heightened aggression in the numerous destabilizing wars throughout the Middle East underline the evolution of an emerging foreign policy consistent with securing new energy markets.
The introduction and expansion of US military forces to hot spots like Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan promise little resolution of the conflicts, but guarantee further instability of energy sources and the flow of hydrocarbons. The sale of a vast cache of military weaponry assures the deepening and lengthening of the Saudi incursion into Yemen.
The unexpected hostility toward Qatar shown by the other Gulf States in the wake of Trump’s recent vulgar performance in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia is likely directed against Qatari global leadership in the exporting of Liquid Natural Gas, the market that the US hopes to further penetrate. It is no accident that the Qatari gas fields are jointly owned with Iran and both countries have cooperated in the exploitation of the fields and the production of LNG. At the same time, the Saudis have surrendered in the price war with US shale drillers. With sovereign wealth shrinking from a costly war and low oil prices, the Saudis are more interested in finding the best moment to take ARAMCO public, to sell off portions of the national oil company and refresh the kingdom’s coffers. The king and his retinue are content to loyally serve the US in its global mission to command energy markets. Saudi leadership of OPEC in its fight for market share with US petroleum producers proved disastrous. The Saudi/OPEC output cut “has been deemed an OPEC failure and a US production win,” according to Tony Hendrick of CHS Hedging, as quoted in the WSJ (6-21-17).
The latest US anti-Russia (6-15-17) sanctions are clearly directed at markets for Russian natural gas. The Senate voted 98-2 to “broaden sanctions on Russia’s energy sector,” as reported by The Wall Street journal. While the message might have been lost on the mainstream media, wallowing in neo-McCarthyism, and while it might have been missed by a distracted left, it was not lost on Europeans. They immediately saw it as an attack on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project that would bring Russian gas to Germany, Austria and other European countries. And they saw it for what it was; Germany and Austria immediately lashed out with a joint statement: “We cannot accept a threat of extraterritorial sanctions, illegal under international law, against European companies that participate in developing European energy supplies.”
They added sharply: “Europe’s energy supply is Europe’s business, not that of the United States of America.” and “The actual goal [of such sanctions] is to provide jobs for the US gas and oil industry...
And there it is-- naked recognition that US anti-Russian acts are thinly concealed covers for US imperial goals. The US wants the European gas business currently done with Russia.
Lest anyone pretend that US imperialism-with-a-new-twist is strictly a product of Trump, it should be noted that the 98-2 Senate vote was no aberration. Writing in the Washington Post (6-8-17), David Gordon and Michael O’Hanlon-- two solidly connected Washington insiders-- pointed to “several hopeful signs” with Trump’s foreign policy. They lauded the President’s national security team and his stance in the Middle East. They were especially enthusiastic about his continued belligerence toward Russia.
The reckless foreign policy of the Trump administration still deviates occasionally from the ruling class consensus expressed in the editorial pages of The New York Times or The Washington Post. But more and more it is reckless because it conforms to that consensus. The endless wars and the escalation of those endless wars are not met with ruling class impatience, but appear to be more the new global norm.
The destabilization of countries and the promotion of sectarianism appear less as unintended consequences and more as those resulting from the deliberate, calculated tactics of an imperialist power benefiting from chaos.
As in the classic pre-World War I era of reckless imperialist competition, US imperialism is aggressively advancing its economic agenda against rivals, including recent “allies.” The dangers posed by these intensifying rivalries threaten to spark even more devastating clashes and widening wars.

Zoltan Zigedy

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Toward a Socialist Ireland

Irish history shows one what a misfortune it is for a nation to have subjugated another nation. All the abominations of the English have their origin in the Irish Pale. F. Engels to Marx, 10-24-1869
If Britain was the template for colonial imperialism, then Ireland was, along with aboriginal inhabitants of the New World, its first victims and, assuredly, its longest suffering. When British elites once proudly proclaimed that the sun never set on the British Empire, they neglected to mention that it first cast the ugly shadow of colonial oppression over Ireland.

But there, once things are in the hands of the Irish people itself, once it is made its own legislator and ruler, once it becomes autonomous, the abolition of the landed aristocracy… will be infinitely easier… It is not only a simple economic question, but at the same time a national question, since the landlords there... [are]... the mortally hated oppressors of the nation… K. Marx to L. Kugelmann 11-29-1869

Thanks to an invitation to participate in the annual James Connolly Festival (May 8-14) in Dublin, Ireland, my MLT colleague Joe Jamison and I had the pleasure of the better part of a week of education and comradeship with a number of friends of Marxism-Leninism Today. The annual festival is seven days of music, art, film, theater, poetry, and politics, concluding with a ceremonial wreath-laying at the Arbour Hill Cemetery in honor of James Connolly and the other martyrs of the 1916 Easter Uprising. Organized by the Communist Party of Ireland and its friends, the annual festival welds culture with politics in a way that is both entertaining and educational.

The festival stresses the long history of Irish struggle against imperialism, a struggle that continues today against British colonial influence over the northern six counties, against the supranational reign of the European Union, and against the economic exploitation of US multinational corporations that, for example, use Ireland as a tax haven.

Understandably, James Connolly occupies a central place of honor and inspiration for Irish Communists and their allies. Connolly’s grasp of the dialectics of national liberation and socialism was unparalleled for his time. As few others did, he saw the struggle for an independent Irish state as organically linked to the emancipation of Irish workers. As he wrote with great eloquence in 1897:
If you remove the English army tomorrow and hoist the green flag over Dublin Castle, unless you set about the organization of the Socialist Republic your efforts would be in vain. England would still rule you. She would rule you through her capitalists, through her landlords, through her financiers, through the whole array of commercial and individualist institutions she has planted in this country and watered with the tears of our mothers and the blood of our martyrs.

The clarity of Connolly’s understanding of imperialism and his prescient grasp of neo-colonialism anticipates Lenin and the Bolsheviks in many respects.

Our comrades and friends advised us of the Communist and left support for the demands of the Right2water campaign for free and clear public ownership and use of Ireland’s water resources by all of its citizens, a campaign that included a national demonstration in Dublin in April.

We learned of the role of Irish Communist leaders and allied militants in support of striking employees of the national bus service, Bus √Čireann. Irish Communists are militantly active in the country’s trade union movement.

We met comrades who physically shut down Shannon International Airport in order to deter US imperialism’s affront to Irish sovereignty. When US planes land with troops, supplies or captives, to deliver torture, death, and destruction to other parts of the world, these dedicated militants attempt to block runways and accept arrest as a result.

On the ideological front, the Communist Party offers a fine monthly paper-- Socialist Voice, maintains an excellent bookstore in the heart of Dublin-- Connolly Books, publishes numerous books and pamphlets, and operates a multimedia operation, Connolly Media Group.

The bookstore regularly hosts a series of public discussions and debates on questions relevant to socialism and the working-class movement, a series dubbed Connolly Conversations.

In addition, the Communist Party has sparked a fruitful conversation with the left wing of the Irish Republican movement, a conversation that seeks to restore socialism to its place in the tradition of radical Republican thought. Organized as the Peadar O’Donnell Socialist Republican Forum, it pays tribute to a man who was a socialist, union organizer, IRA leader, editor, author, and internationalist-- once described as “the greatest agitator of his generation.” Forums are held throughout Ireland.

One of the leaders of the Forum, Tommy McKearney, spoke passionately on May 14 at the solemn ceremony held in the courtyard of Kilmainham Gaol where James Connolly was executed on May 12, 1916. The event was sponsored by the Dublin Council of Trade Unions. In his address, McKearney stressed the unity of Republicanism and socialism. Having spent 16 years in prison as a leader of the struggle against British imperialism and participating in the 1980 prison hunger strike, he is a most suitable spokesperson for the Republican cause. McKearney is one of Ireland’s leading Marxists as well. His book, The Provisional IRA: From Insurrection to Parliament is an indispensable analysis of the dynamics of the late-twentieth-century struggles against injustice in the six counties.

We concluded our visit that afternoon by participating in the Communist Party’s commemoration of James Connolly’s execution at Arbour Hill Cemetery, where the martyrs of the 1916 rebellion are buried. Jimmy Doran, Dublin District Chairperson of the Communist Party, gave an inspirational oration:
Lots of political parties and groups claim James Connolly as their inspiration. James Connolly was a socialist—a Marxist, an anti-imperialist, an internationalist, and a trade union organiser. James Connolly would have had no hand, act or part in the 1990 Industrial Relations Act, or “social partnership.” He certainly would have nothing to do with the prosecution of children for peaceful protest. Connolly was always on the side of the oppressed, not the oppressor.
He would be down on the runway in Shannon with the anti-war movement, defending our neutrality and stopping the American war machine turning Shannon into an aircraft carrier for their genocidal wars.
He would have no truck with the imperialism of the European Union, and he would laugh at the deluded suggestion of using Brexit and membership of the European Union as a means of uniting the country by surrendering our national sovereignty and democracy to the imperialism of the European Union.
James Connolly fought and died for a socialist republic, not for the gombeen [a gombeen is a small-time wheeler dealer, a con man] partitioned country with a divided people that the counter-revolution installed.

Doran concluded:
What would James Connolly say? James Connolly would say that if humanity is to survive in Ireland and the world, there is no alternative to the common good. There is no alternative to public housing. There is no alternative to public health care. There is no alternative to peace. There is no alternative to ending world poverty. There is no alternative to this environment. There is no alternative to decency and dignity for our people.
Comrades, there is no alternative.
It’s socialism or barbarism.
We only want the earth!

We thank Eugene McCartan, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Ireland, for inviting us to share the warm, generous hospitality of the Irish comrades.
Greg Godels (Zoltan Zigedy)

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Sun Setting on the Empire

“History is full of examples of politico-economic elites who equate any challenge to their privileged social order as a challenge to all social order, an invitation to chaos and perdition…” The Assassination of Julius Caesar, Michael Parenti
For Donald Trump, Parenti’s insight is emphatically and relentlessly demonstrated. The months since Trump’s inauguration have brought a ceaseless attack from his political adversaries. More significantly, a broad section of the ruling class has unleashed the barking dogs of the media and pressed the military and the security services to guide Trump back to the aptly named ‘swamp,’ the morass of mainstream politics. The rulers saw “chaos and perdition” in the Trump electoral campaign and the first period of his administration.

Trump constituted a challenge for two reasons: first, he threatened to engage a neo-isolationist foreign policy that violates a broad consensus established since the demise of the Soviet Union, a consensus that unites US triumphalism (Reagan, the Bushes) with the “humanitarian” interventionism of the New Democrats (Clinton, Obama). Differences apart, both doctrines spring from the idea that, in the absence of a counterforce like the Soviet Union, the US claims the right or the duty to construct the world in its own image. Each political doctrine may draw upon a different set of guiding principles, but both come to the same conclusion. Both embrace the notion that the US is and must be the dominant and decisive global power. When the humbuggery is sheared away, both are committed to continuing the US position as the top imperialist power -- by force, if necessary.

Trump presents a problem because he brings a businessman’s disposition to outwit an opponent with his cleverness and bluff. Lacking political experience and any abiding principles, President Trump saw foreign military entanglements and military alliances (NATO) as costly impediments to business arrangements. Capitalist Russia, for example, offers numerous business opportunities, especially in the energy sector. His Secretary of State, Tillerson, was desirous of these arrangements while leading Exxon. From a real estate developer’s perspective, the carefully constructed ideological apparatus of human rights, civil society, and US-approved democracy is simply unnecessary baggage. Instead, Trump saw every world leader, every government as a potential bargaining agent.

Of course, monopoly capital does not share the perspective of the petty bourgeois businessman, the boisterous, glad-handing developer. Corporate internationalism is the mindset of monopoly capital; isolation is the mindset of the small businessman.

Trump found himself on the wrong side of that fence.

Second, the US ruling class cares deeply for the image of the chief executive of the state. Protecting and preserving the mythology of the Presidency is a very high order of business. And tarnishing that image is not soon forgiven. Trump’s vulgarity and his utter contempt for long established patterns of acceptable behavior have brought forth a hailstorm of scorn and ridicule. Newsreaders and entertainers across the narrow political spectrum deride the haircut, the physical features, the body language, and all other conduct of President Trump. Trump, the celebrity, could be as tawdry as he liked; but Trump, the President, is, hypocritically, held to higher standards.

When Nixon went off the rails and discredited the Presidency, the same hailstorm befell him. After Gerald Ford bungled through Nixon’s post-resignation years, the ruling class found a gee-whiz peanut farmer, a born-again Southerner to whitewash the stained Presidency. Avuncular Jimmy Carter was the perfect answer to the Nixon criminality.

Similarly, the bungled wars and economic collapse plaguing the George W Bush administration required a fix. That fix was the youth, the vigor, the clean-image, and the originality of the first African American President, Barack Obama. The burnishing of the Presidential image was so successful that Barack Obama astonishingly received the Nobel Peace Prize less than ten months after his inauguration.

Trump threatens that image once again.
                                   Outfoxing Fox  

The media campaign against Trump has reached hysterical proportions. With Fox News on the ropes from the loss or damaging of prominent hosts and with their leading lights caught in a cesspool of sexual harassment, their media competitors leaped at the chance to exploit Fox’s vulnerability. As the voice of the right, Fox News was compelled to mount a reluctant defense of the Trump Administration.

Virtually every competing monopoly media corporation saw an opportunity to gain in influence from Fox’s weakness, launching virulent and relentless attacks on Trump. Moreover, the security services fed the media appetizing and suggestive leaks which the media hungrily and uncritically passed on to the public. Daily stories-- multiple stories-- recounted Trumpian flaws, from etiquette to criminal plotting with Russians. Every day brings new innuendo, new sensationalism. Given that the media and the security services are speaking nearly entirely with one voice, given that little or no real evidence has been produced in support of any but the most trivial charge, many have characterized the campaign as a witch hunt.

Thanks to the anti-Trump blitz, Fox News has been put in its place. The mainstream or “liberal” media has enjoyed a ratings surge. MSNBC and its leading witch hunter, Rachel Maddow, have leaped forward dramatically. Lest someone believe that the corporate entertainment/news monopolies are trouncing Trump out of public service, he or she should be reminded of the revealing statement that CBS CEO Leslie Moonves said during the primary campaign: "It May Not Be Good for America, but It's Damn Good for CBS." It’s still about the money.

It’s a fascinating irony that Fox News is now being hoisted by its own petard. The competitive monopoly media are now engaging in the same scurrilous innuendo, sensationalism, and abuse of truth that enabled Fox News to arrive at the top of the media ladder. It was a President-- Bill Clinton-- whose peccadilloes served as the fodder for the rise of Fox News; it is still another President-- Donald Trump-- whose vulnerabilities are bringing it down. Whitewater, Vince Foster, Kenyan birth certificates, and now Russian infamy: no boundary exists between news and entertainment.

And the security services are feeding the frenzy, from the unconvincingly self-righteous FBI director Comey to the devious ex-CIA director Brennan. Once, during the era of the infamous J. Edgar Hoover and his CIA counterparts, leaks and political meddling were selective and surreptitious in order to maintain the shiny image of agencies free of politics and dedicated to collecting facts. Today’s security agencies leak like sieves and brazenly intervene in political life. Comey’s schizophrenia-- vindicating Clinton, then accusing Clinton, and then stalking Trump-- can only be interpreted as the moves of a consummate political opportunist seeking a prosecutorial home run. But the liberal pundits have elevated him to the level of a civil rights icon.

Should anyone think that the recent rebuff of the US security agencies by the UK government was simply over leaking details of the Manchester tragedy, think again. The UK government is registering its alarm over the promiscuous intelligence leakage in the US and its future threat to all aspects of confidentiality.

In some circles, the growth of interventions by the security agencies in political life has suggested the existence of a “deep state.” While this makes for a catchy, popular expression for their machinations, it is somewhat misleading, suggesting a group of renegade or rogue bureaucrats operating independently of entrenched power or wealth. In fact, the security agencies work in full agreement with the historic centers of power, the ruling class. They are, as they always have been, the vital arms of the ruling class. Certainly, there are no alarms coming from corporate centers, monopoly capital, or their hired intellectuals rejecting the meddling of the security agencies. The assault on Trump is an assault on Trump’s policies fully authorized by the ruling class and aimed at bringing him back onto the reservation.

                     La Trahison des Clercs Lib√©rals

Ninety years ago, Julien Benda wrote a book, La Trahison des Clercs, excoriating the intellectuals of his day for their hypocrisy, their venality, and their spinelessness. Today’s liberal intellectuals fall below the low bar set by Benda. Russia-baiting and Putin-hating have become a national pastime with little or no reason to justify their toxic spread. With a few notable exceptions, no public intellectual with any important influence has challenged the relentless charges and rumors piling up. With a few notable exceptions, no public intellectual has acknowledged that most of the “suspicious” interactions or political interventions alleged of Russia are common with most of the US allies such as Israel, Saudi Arabia, or the UK; influence is the bourgeois lubricant for diplomacy. With a few notable exceptions, no public intellectual has noted that the US has, on numerous occasions, exercised massive, decisive influence over the political processes of other countries, from the first days of the CIA (the Italian elections of 1948) to the CIA intervention in the 2012 French elections or its role in the 2014 coup in Ukraine.

The silence of liberals in the midst of unsubstantiated allegations, rumors, and leaks attacking their political adversaries shatters their self-righteous embrace of fair play. The liberal virtues of suspended judgement and deliberate procedure apparently only apply when it is convenient. By failing to challenge the rampant leaks, liberals also fail to challenge the ubiquitous surveillance that could alone serve as the source for the information passed on by unnamed officials.

Reviewing books on Bill Clinton for The New York Review of Books (6-8-17), liberal professor Christopher Lehmann recalls the regrettable time when “Whitewater and what it led to was perfectly suited to several aspects of Washington culture, including Congress’s love of showy investigations, the rise of cable news, and conservative institutions’ need for a target…” It’s a pity that he and his liberal colleagues can’t see the parallel of endless Congressional fishing expeditions, a brutal cable television war, and the Democratic Party’s need for an easy target.

As in the Cold War, the spinelessness of the liberals opens the door to a new McCarthyism that distracts most US citizens from their real and worsening problems. Finding imaginary enemies, whether they are Reds under beds or inquisitive Russian diplomats, is an old, but trustworthy tactic to deflect attention from real and ominous issues.

“They have yet to consider that republicanism might largely be a cloak for oligarchic privilege… worn grudgingly by the elites as long as it proved serviceable to their interests.”
The Assassination of Julius Caesar, Michael Parenti

The Trump legitimacy crisis signals the continuing deterioration of the US political system. With every election, voter dissatisfaction expresses itself more dramatically and more desperately. Oligarchs try ardently to channel public anger and discontent toward acceptable targets. They seek to contrive diversionary issues; they manufacture fears; and they unveil fresh faces.

Obama was thrust into the breach precisely to contain the aftermath of an ineffective, inept Bush administration and dissipate the anger from endless wars and economic collapse.

In 2016, voters turned their backs on ruling class electoral machinations. They rejected the unappetizing Republican primary candidates preferred by the oligarchs and choose the renegade Trump. They also rejected the anointed Democratic Party candidate Clinton for social democrat Bernie Sanders, but the undemocratic leaders of the Democratic Party refused to accept that outcome. Nevertheless, candidate Clinton was defeated in the general election by Trump. Now the ruling class is trying to discipline Trump.

The “cloak” of US republicanism is now transparently a garment serving the interest of the ruling class. As the media and the security services scramble to legitimize the political system, more and more people are looking for new answers, answers that are outside of the usual two-party circus.

The capitalist US, like the Roman Empire chronicled by Michael Parenti, is entering its twilight phase, wracked by unwinnable wars, chronic economic crisis, and prosperity as a mere memory for many. The search for a new road has become urgent.

Zoltan Zigedy