Seeing Baghdad get bombed by the American government on national television 11 years ago forever changed my life. It was a civilian city getting razed to the ground live on TV! I was in high school, in my science class, when the American government unleashed terror from the sky on the people of Iraq. A […]
“For Marxists the concrete analysis of the concrete situation is not the opposite of ‘pure’ theory; on the contrary, it is the culmination of all genuine theory, its consummation, the point where it breaks into practice.” – György Lukács, Lenin, A Study on the Unity of His Thought
“The three grand imperatives of imperial geostrategy are to prevent collusion and maintain security dependence among the vassals, to keep tributaries pliant and protected, and to keep the barbarians from coming together.” – Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor
“So the choice is not whether the proletariat will or will not struggle, but in whose interest it should struggle: its own or that of the bourgeoisie. The question history places before the proletariat is not to choose between war and peace, but between imperialist war and war against this war: civil war. […]
“With the correct instinct of a habitual ruling class, conscious that the real social basis of its authority narrows as the extent of its rule grows and its power apparatus increases, the bourgeoisie makes the most energetic efforts both to broaden this basis (alignment of the middle class behind it, corruption of the labour aristocracy, etc.), and to defeat its chief enemies decisively before they have organised for real resistance. Thus, it is everywhere the bourgeoisie abolishes ‘peaceful’ means of conducting the class struggle, on the temporary, if highly problematic functioning of which the whole theory of Revisionism was based, and which prefers ‘more energetic’ weapons (one only needs to consider the situation in America). The bourgeoisie increasingly seizes control of the state apparatus, in identifying itself so completely with it that even demands of the working class which appear only to be economic are increasingly blocked by it. Thus, if only to prevent the deterioration of their economic condition, the workers are compelled to take up the struggle against state power (in other words, though unconsciously, the struggle for state power). This forces the proletariat into using the tactics of the mass strike, in the course of which, for fear of revolution, the opportunists are always intent on giving up positions already gained rather than on drawing the revolutionary conclusions from the situation. But the mass strike is by its very nature an objectively revolutionary weapon. Every mass strike creates a revolutionary situation in which the bourgeoisie, supported by its state apparatus, takes the necessary steps against it wherever possible. The proletariat is powerless against such measures. The weapon of the mass strike is also bound to fail against them if the proletariat, faced with the aims of the bourgeoisie, does not also take to arms. This means that it must try to equip itself, disorganise the army of the bourgeoisie – which of course consists mainly of workers and peasants – and turn the weapons of the bourgeoisie against the bourgeoisie. (The 1905 [Russian] Revolution offered many examples of correct class instinct, but only of instinct, in this respect.)
“Imperialist war means the sharpening of this situation to its utmost extremity. The bourgeoisie confronts the proletariat with the choice: either to kill its class comrades in other countries for the monopolistic interests of the bourgeoisie and die for these interests, or to overthrow the rule of the bourgeoisie by force. All other methods of struggle against this wholesale assault are powerless; all without exception would smash themselves against the military apparatus of the imperialist states. If the proletariat wants to escape this ultimate onslaught, it must therefore itself take up arms against this apparatus, undermine it from within, turn the weapons which the bourgeoisie was forced to give the people against the bourgeoisie itself, and use them to destroy imperialism.
“So here too there is nothing theoretically in the least unprecedented. On the contrary, the core of the situation lies in the class relationship between bourgeoisie and proletariat. War is, as Clausewitz defined it, only the continuation of politics; but it is so in all respects. In other words, it is not only in foreign affairs that war is merely the ultimate and most active culmination of a policy which a country has hitherto followed ‘peacefully’. For the internal class relations of a country as well (and of the whole world), it only only marks the intensification and ultimate climax of those tendencies which were already at work within society in ‘peacetime’. Therefore war by no means creates a totally new situation, either for the country or for the class within a nation. What is new about it is merely that the unprecedented quantitative intensification of all problems involves a qualitative change and for this – and only this – reason creates a new situation.” – György Lukács, “Imperialism: World War and Civil War” in Lenin: A Study on the Unity of His Thought.
“Every day that war went on they were compelled to act in contradiction to the ideals which motivated many of them. Therefore, “victory” was predestined to be a hollow farce, putting an end to killing that never should have been begun, but entrenching white imperialism as the tyrant of the Pacific, and contributing unemployment, slums, and the class hatred to the United States. The American people won half the world and lost their souls.” – Dave Dellinger
“Strike against all ordinances and laws and institutions that continue the slaughter of peace and the butcheries of war. Strike against war, for without you no battles can be fought. Strike against manufacturing shrapnel and gas bombs and all other tools of murder. Strike against preparedness that means death and misery to millions of human beings. Be not dumb, obedient slaves in an army of destruction. Be heroes in an army of construction.” – Hellen Keller, “Strike Against War”, a speech delivered to the Women’s Peace Party in New York, New York, 5 January 1916
“There are things that happen in the world that are bad, and that you want to do something about, and so you have a just cause there. But our culture is so war prone that we immediately rush and make this logical jump from ‘oh this is a good cause, therefore it deserves a war.’ No. You have to be very, very careful in making that jump from ‘oh this is a good cause’ to ‘oh therefore we have to make war to do something about it’.” – Howard Zinn
“It’s not right to respond to terrorism by terrorizing other people. And furthermore, it’s not going to help. Then you might say, ‘Yes, it’s terrorizing people, but it’s worth doing because it will end terrorism.’ But how much common sense does it take to know that you cannot end terrorism by indiscriminately dropping bombs?”
“With the indiscriminate nature of modern military technology (no such thing as a “smart bomb,” it turns out) all wars are wars against civilians, and are therefore inherently immoral. This is true even when a war is considered “just,” because it is fought against a tyrant, against an aggressor, to correct a stolen boundary.” – Howard Zinn (24 August 1922 – 27 January 2010)
“Never again will I whisper in the shadows of intimidation. I am but a symbol of my people’s struggle and a servant to their cause. And if I were to be killed for what I believe in, then let my blood be the beacon for emancipation and my words a revolutionary paradigm for generations to come.”
“Paris, spring of 1937: Pablo Picasso wakes up and reads.
He reads the newspaper while having breakfast in his studio.
His coffee grows cold in the cup.
German planes have razed the city of Guernica. For three hours the Nazi air force chased and machine-gunned people fleeing the burning city.
General Franco insists that Guernica has been set aflame by Asturian dynamiters and Basque pyromaniacs from the ranks of the Communists.
Two years later in Madrid, Wolfram von Richthofen, commander of the German forces in Spain, sits beside Franco at the victory parade: killing Spaniards was Hitler’s rehearsal for his impending world war.
Many years later in New York, Colin Powell makes a speech at the United Nations to announce the imminent annihilation of Iraq.
While he speaks, the back of the room is hidden from view, Guernica is hidden from view. The reproduction of Picasso’s painting, which hangs there, is concealed behind an enormous blue cloth.
UN officials decided it was not the most appropriate backdrop for the proclamation of a new round of butchery.” – Eduardo Galeano, from Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone
“A missile defense shield is a net, made of magic, held in place by pixies…” – David Cross
“…a recent report by the International Council on Security and Development found that 92 percent of Afghan men surveyed in Helmand and Kandahar provinces – two Taliban strongholds – were completely unaware of the September 11 attacks.
“In other word, the U.S. is bombing people who have no idea why they’ve been bombed for the past nine years. They don’t hate us for our “freedoms” as has been claimed over and over – the hate us because we’re killing them and their families” – “Obama and the Endless War”, December 2010 Socialist Worker editorial
“We do not stop organizing. We can’t. But as we keep organizing, we do also need to mourn. It keeps us human to mourn, to truly recognize the grievous loss of millions of people, to stand with their loved ones in remembrance and in defiance—to spit in the face of war. We say: no more lives, war, we will not feed you. All of us are needed, and war, we shall starve you.” – Clare Bayard, “Not One More, War“
“In the epoch of imperialist wars there must be parties steeled to resist all jingoism and patriotism, to proclaim the slogan ‘Turn the imperialist war into a civil war!’ The working class of each country had the duty of ‘revolutionary defeatism’ since the main question was one of cracking the front of imperialism.” – Cliff Slaughter, “What Is Revolutionary Leadership?” (1960)
Take a look at this picture. Do you know who it is?
Most people haven’t heard of him.
But you should have. When you see his face or hear his name you should get as sick in your stomach as when you read about Mussolini or Hitler or see one of their pictures. You see, he killed over 10 million people in the Congo.
His name is King Leopold II of Belgium.
He “owned” the Congo during his reign as the constitutional monarch of Belgium. After several failed colonial attempts in Asia and Africa, he settled on the Congo. He “bought” it and enslaved its people, turning the entire country into his own personal slave plantation. He disguised his business transactions as “philanthropic” and “scientific” efforts under the banner of the International African Society. He used their enslaved labor to extract Congolese resources and services. His reign was enforced through work camps, body mutilations, torture, executions, and his own private army.
Most of us aren’t taught about him in school. We don’t hear about him in the media. He’s not part of the widely-repeated narrative of oppression (which includes things like the Holocaust during World War II). He’s part of a long history of colonialism, imperialism, slavery, and genocide in Africa that would clash with the social construction of a white supremacist narrative in our schools. It doesn’t fit neatly into school curriculums in a capitalist society. Making overtly racist remarks is (sometimes) frowned upon in ‘polite’ society; but it’s quite fine not to talk about genocide in Africa perpetrated by European capitalist monarchs.
Mark Twain wrote a satire about Leopold called “King Leopold’s Soliloquy; A Defense of His Congo Rule”, where he mocked the King’s defense of his reign of terror, largely through Leopold’s own words. It’s an easy read at 49 pages and Mark Twain is a popular author in American public schools. But like most political authors, we will often read some of their least political writings or read them without learning why the author wrote them in the first place. Orwell’s Animal Farm, for example, serves to reinforce American anti-socialist propaganda about how egalitarian societies are doomed to turn into their dystopian opposites. But Orwell was an anti-capitalist revolutionary of a different kind—a supporter of working class democracy from below—and that is never pointed out. We can read about Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, but “King Leopold’s Soliloquy” isn’t on the reading list. This isn’t by accident. Reading lists are created by boards of education in order to prepare students to follow orders and endure boredom. From the point of view of the Department of Education, Africans have no history.
When we learn about Africa, we learn about a caricatured Egypt, about the HIV epidemic (but never its causes), about the surface level effects of the slave trade, and maybe about South African Apartheid (the effects of which, we are taught, are now long, long over). We also see lots of pictures of starving children on Christian Ministry commercials, we see safaris on animal shows, and we see pictures of deserts in films and movies. But we don’t learn about the Great African War or Leopold’s Reign of Terror during the Congolese Genocide. Nor do we learn about what the United States has done in Iraq and Afghanistan, killing millions of people through bombs, sanctions, disease, and starvation. Body counts are important. And the United States Government doesn’t count Afghan, Iraqi, or Congolese people.
Though the Congolese Genocide isn’t included on Wikipedia’s “Genocides in History” page, it does mention the Congo. What’s now called the Democratic Republic of the Congo is listed in reference to the Second Congo War (also called Africa’s World War and the Great War of Africa), where both sides of the regional conflict hunted down Bambenga people—a regional ethnic group—and enslaved and cannibalized them. Cannibalism and slavery are horrendous evils which must be entered into history for sure, but I couldn’t help thinking whose interests were served when the only mention of the Congo on the page was in reference to regional incidents where a tiny minority of people in Africa were eating each other (completely devoid of the conditions which created the conflict, and the people and institutions who are responsible for those conditions). Stories which support the white supremacist narrative about the subhumanness of people in Africa are allowed to enter the records of history. The white guy who turned the Congo into his own personal part-plantation, part-concentration camp, part-Christian ministry—and killed 10 to 15 million Congolese people in the process—doesn’t make the cut.[ref]
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You see, when you kill ten million Africans, you aren’t called ‘Hitler’. That is, your name doesn’t come to symbolize the living incarnation of evil. Your name and your picture don’t produce fear, hatred, and sorrow. Your victims aren’t talked about and your name isn’t remembered.
Leopold was just one of thousands of things that helped construct white supremacy as both an ideological narrative and material reality. I don’t pretend that he was the source of all evil in the Congo. He had generals, and foot soldiers, and managers who did his bidding and enforced his laws. He was at the head of a system. But that doesn’t negate the need to talk about the individuals who are symbolic of the system. But we don’t even get that. And since it isn’t talked about, what capitalism did to Africa, all the privileges that rich white people gained from the Congolese genocide, remain hidden. The victims of imperialism are made, like they usually are, invisible.
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For a modern day example of the callousness of Western imperialism, read my post about the famine in Somalia “20,000 billion dollars for banks, 1 billion for millions of Africans suffering from capitalist famine”, also on this website.
The moral rights of the author have been asserted.