Category Archives: European

“Russia in Ukraine: Enemy or Friend?” by Eric Walberg

My good friend Eric Walberg sets the record straight on the Ukraine War. Bottom line is every single thing you are being told in the Western media is propaganda of some sort. It’s either a distortion, misleading or out and out false. The number of Western media outlets offering the truth of what is going on over there is zero. This is what I mean by our controlled media and why I say that there is no dissident press in the West.

Russia in Ukraine: Enemy or Friend?

Eric Walberg

Putin is either an aggressive schemer, to be opposed and vilified at all costs, or a wise, restrained real-politician, balanced irreconcilable forces next door. Which is it?

The 2014 coup in Ukraine succeeded due to the fierce campaign led by neo-fascists, heirs to the Banderistas of 1940–50’s, now lauded as freedom fighters, but seen at the time as terrorists, murdering Ukrainians and Jews, and sabotaging a Ukraine in shambles after the war. They had almost zero support then, having collaborated with the Nazis to kill tens of thousands, but their hero, Stepan, was honored with a statue in 2011, erected by the godfather of the current anti-Russian coupmakers, the (disastrous) former President Viktor Yushchenko. Ukraine’s Soviet war veterans were outraged and the statue was torn down in 2013, just months before the coup, bringing the Bandera-lovers back to power.

The eastern Ukrainians, mostly native Russians, centered in Donetsk and Lugansk, saw the coup as a surreal rerun of WWII, this time with Banderistas triumphant. They had no real plan, but panicked at the thought of what was to come, and seized government buildings and declared themselves mini-republics, calling on Russia to come and rescue them, as was happening in Crimea.

A tall order. Putin empathized with his fellow Russians, now being bombed and boycotted by the Ukrainian forces, with a death toll of 10,000 so far. Between 22 and 25 August 2014, Russian artillery, personnel, and what Russia called a “humanitarian convoy”, crossed the border into Ukrainian territory without the permission of the Ukrainian government.

This state of stalemate led the war to be labelled by some a war of aggression against poor Ukraine, a “frozen conflict”. The area has stayed a war zone, with dozens of soldiers and civilians killed each month. Close to 4,000 rebel fighters and the same number of ‘loyalists’ have been killed, along with 3,000 civilians. 1.5 million have been internally displaced; and a million have fled abroad, mostly to Russia.

A deal to establish a ceasefire, called the Minsk Protocol, was signed on 5 September 2014 but immediately collapsed. It called for reincorporation of the rebel territories under a federal system, with full rights of the Russian-speakers and open relations with the Russian Federation. Russia stands by the principles of the protocol, calling for Ukrainian borders to stay as they are, despite the pleas of the rebels. This restraint pleases neither side. The Russians clearly will not abandon their fellow Russians, but at the same time, refuse to invade and start a war with their unpredictable, basket-case of a neighbor. Russians are surely thinking: Ukrainians — you can’t get along with them or without them.

The Russian position is clear and firm: give Russian Ukrainian their rights, make our borders porous for locals and their relatives, revive shattered economic links among common peoples with a thousand years of common history. Get on with it.

The Ukrainian position is mostly hysterical, calling for NATO and Europe to fight off the Russkies, salvage the bankrupt economy, and ignore the creepy fascists. WWIII if necessary. The coupmakers are unrepentant as Ukraine slides deeper into insolvency, and corruption is getting worse (if that’s possible). Poroshenko is as unpopular as a leader can get, and only the threat of a Ukraine shattered in pieces gives him a life preserver among his citizens.

WWII replay

The West incited the coup and quickly embraced it, ignoring its unsavory origins in nostalgia for fascism. While it feigns shock and anger at Russian actions, it certainly can’t ignore that the Russians really had no choice, that their actions were/are both necessary and measured.

It looks suspiciously like the West is sitting back and enjoying the fisticuffs, reminding one of how the West sat back and let the Russians do the dirty work in WWII, defeating the Nazis, with the ‘Allies’ joining in the last year to warrant their claims (now the official story) that the US won the war — with a little help from its friends and even the nefarious Russians.

A messy conclusion to that war, the ultimate ‘frozen conflict’, the Cold War, that spawned the current many mini-frozen conflicts (Trans-Dniester, Abkhazia, Ossetia, Kosovo, not to mention ones farther afield, like Taiwan and Somaliland — all legacies of the Cold War).

‘No Pasaran!’

The plan is evolving, depending on what the Russians do. Putin’s red line is that Ukraine cannot – will not — join NATO. The NATO creep eastward, a violation from 1991 on of the implicit understanding with Gorbachev and Yeltsin, will not be tolerated.

The Ukrainian coup created a new scenario. If Russia had moved to support the rebel territories, form a customs union with open borders, aimed at eventual incorporation in the Russian Federation, that would have given the NATOphiles their trump card, and NATO and the EU would be hard pressed not to move in and try to salvage a bankrupt dysfunctional state, with the final coup as its prize: NATO now lined up surrounding Russia, the last real holdout against US world domination.

The Baltic ministates and (almost all) the Balkan ministates are now in the NATO fold. There are a few loose ends for the EU in the Balkans, but EU hegemony economically and US hegemony militarily are the new playing fields. Then there’s Turkey as a key NATO ally.

Whether this is an actual conspiracy or not only Russian hackers can tell, but the logic is there. Putin sees this logic and is not biting the bullet. Better a tolerable federated Ukraine where Russians are left in peace or another frozen conflict than NATO breathing fire on Russia’s borders.

The West played the ‘shock and anger’ card over Crimea, ignoring the fact that Crimea has been a key part of Russia since Catherine the Great incorporated it in 1783, the heart of Russian naval power, thoughtlessly given to Ukraine when Soviet internal borders were meaningless, populated by mostly Russians and Tatars.

As Ukrainian nationalism heated up after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia still maintained its bases there, paying rent to Ukraine. But dreams by Ukrainian Russophobes to join NATO and the desire of NATO forces to occupy Crimea or that somehow Russia and NATO could share Crimean bases are nonsensical. Russia’s only option was to accede to Crimeans’ pleas.

‘Remember 1856!’

As if to taunt the Russians on Crimea, a British missile destroyer and a Turkish frigate docked at the port of Odessa in July for a joint NATO maritime exercise , several days after the US, Ukraine and 14 other nations deployed warships, combat aircraft and special operations teams for the ‘Sea Breeze 2017’ exercise off the Ukrainian coast.

It looks like a reenactment of western policy following the Crimean War in 1856, when Russia was denied its naval presence in the Black Sea, as Britain and France were preparing to take the Ottoman territories for themselves and keep Russia out in the cold. Combined with the NATO creep in the Baltics and Balkans, it also looks like a replay of the build up to WWII but without the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. To Stalin’s (sorry, Putin’s) discomfort, there is no split among the imperialists anymore. Germany et al are postmodern nations, nations without a foreign policy, beholden to the world hegemon, the US. There is only one thousand-year Reich (sorry, Pax Americana) on the table these days. History may repeat itself but in its own ways.

Frozen conflicts have a bad reputation, but peace is always better than war. Tempers cool over time, and past wrongs can be ironed out with reason and compromise. Donetsk and Lugansk will not hoist a white flag to Kiev given the bad blood. They will continue to get electricity and gas from Russia and revive their economies by reviving trade and industry with their real ally. Kiev should be careful in its game of trying to starve the rebels into submission. Russians as a people have never backed down when faced with a hostile enemy.

The longer the freeze continues, the more willy-nilly integration with the Russian economic sphere will proceed. Or rather the Eurasian Customs Union (EACU) that Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan formed in 2010, eliminating obstacles to trade and investment that went up after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Moscow stands to benefit as a natural hub for regional finance and trade, and Ukraine is welcome. Win-win. A free trade pact as an economic strategy elevates the prospects of the entire region where Russia is a natural center of gravity. In 2015 the EACU was enlarged to include Armenia and Kyrgyzstan. Russia imports labor from the ‘Stans’ and could well help Ukraine by inviting Ukrainians to work as well.

Sensible realpolitik by the West would take NATO away from Russian borders and push Ukraine to make an acceptable deal on a federal state structure to keep its own Russians and its neighbor happy. Sensible realpolitik by Ukraine would be to join the EACU, bringing ‘Little Russians’, ‘White Russians,’ and plain old Russians back together. This would be welcomed with relief by EU officials who have no military ax to grind and are not happy about the billions it would take to get Ukraine off life support.

More here and here.

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Now These Are Some Rightwingers I Could Get Behind

Supposedly this group of National Revolutionaries is referred to as part of the German “New Right.” If they’re rightwing, then so am I. And if this is what National Revolutionaries are like, I am one of them.

Assads, Saddam, Habash, Hillel, Le Pen, Ghaddafi, Saddam, Aflaq, Peron, Chavez, Morales, Ortega, Villa, Juarez, Dudayev, Ho, Fidel, Che, even the Kims, what the Hell, even Arafat, oh heck, let’s throw in Dugin, what are they all if not the ultimate nationalists?

A national economy for the people; a people’s economy for the nation. I even like some of those National Communists in Eastern Europe. If there’s anything in the toilet bowl of history, it’s internationalism. Nation comes first, the rest of you, noble as ye may be, are always second in line.

I am starting to think Michel Aflaq and the rest were onto something. And I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the great Gamel Nasser, hero of the Arabs. And as evil as Saddam was, at least he was for his people until his last day. “Long life Iraq!” he yelled before he swung from the rafters. I actually think Saddam was a better man than our traitorous nation-selling neoliberal elite which has taken over the Democratic and Republican Parties forever now.

You’re either for your people or you’re a traitor to the homeland. If you’re for  your people, you know that’s got to count for something. And traitors are why lamp-poles exist at all. Might as well make use of them.

“Outside of the Homeland, what else is there?”

– famous Iraqi Baathist.

“If I am not for myself, then who am I for?”

– Hillel.

Up with the nation! Up with the people! All power to the people!

When the National-Revolutionaries out ultra-lefted the ultra-left:

The strategy of the “basis group” demonstrated itself in the most spectacular fashion at the University of the Ruhr in Bochum. A group of neo-nationalist activists militated effectively there and founded a journal, the Ruhr-Studenten-Anzeiger. Around this militant newspaper, a Republikanischer Studentenbund (RSB ; League of Republican Students) organized in 1968 which aimed to become a counterweight to the leftist SDS.

Conflict would soon follow: the militants of the RSB criticized the SDS for organizing pointless strikes in order to consolidate their power over the student masses. In the course of a blockade organized by the leftists, the RSB took the university of Bochum by storm and proclaimed, in a populist-Marxist language, their hostility to the “exploiters” and “bonzes” of the SDS, having become stakeholders in the new establishment, where leftists had henceforth been accorded a place. The proclamations of the RSB, drafted by Singer, were stuffed with citations from Lenin, Marx, and Mao.

Singer also referred to the rhetoric of the German workers in Berlin against Ulbricht’s communist functionaries, during the June 1953 uprising. The revolting RSB students insulted the East German functionaries of the SED, calling them marionettes of the Soviets, “monkeys in glasses,” “fat cats,” and “paper-pushing reactionaries.” This appropriation of the Marxist vocabulary and style of Berlin Uprising of 1953 irritated the leftists as, ipso facto, they had lost the monopoly on militant shock-language and foresaw a possible intrusion of national-revolutionaries into their own milieus, with the evident risk of poaching and counter-attraction.

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Congressmen Push for 20 Years in Prison for Any US Citizen Who Even Supports a Boycott of Israel

Look up at that headline. I can’t even believe I wrote that. How could this even be happening in the land of the free (sic)?

Here.

Senators of both the Republican and Democratic Party incredibly are introducing a new law that would make it a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison for any US citizen to even support boycotts of Israel.

It was drafted with the assistance of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee [AIPAC].

Well of course. One of most evil PAC’s in America would obviously be behind one of the worst criminal justice bills in memory. It’s already illegal, incredibly enough, for any business in the Unites States to boycott Israel for any reason. Heavy fines are laid out on a regular basis.

Even requesting information about boycotts of Israel would carry up to $250,000 civil fines and up to 20 years in prison and $1 million in fines. Unbelievable.

If passed, this tyrannical bipartisan bill would blatantly violate the constitutional rights of every United States citizen by punishing individuals based on nothing but their political opinions and decisions as consumers.

There is no coming back from that.

No shit.

A man who has now anointed himself king named King Donald is already tearing up the Constitution and getting ready to declare himself Dictator for Life, and the 40% of America that are now open traitors (also called Republicans) are backing this project by a percentage of 85%.

This is where democracies go to die.

Not that we ever had one anyway, but we came close there for a while.

Republicans obviously all hate democracy, as democracy is the direct antithesis of the aristocratic hierarchical oligarchic rule (not much different from royalism) that they all support.

Conservatives hate democracy because conservatism itself, otherwise known as aristocratic rule, is the complete opposite of democracy. Democracy and conservatism (aristocratic rule) can only be enemies forever. Well of course the Rich hate democracy.  Democracy hates the rich. You would think the feeling would be mutual. And of course their foolish, masochistic supporters who are middle class and below are Stockholmers. They’re literally worshiping their class enemies, the very aristocrats who oppress them.  It’s nuts, like the serfs worshiping their lords. Wait, that’s what it actually is. Why not just take some broken glass and cut up your arm? At least you would be a faddist then.

As if Republicans who are currently driving a stake through the heart of democracy for good now to fulfill their lifelong dreams were not enough, we also have to deal with (((certain people))). It’s obvious (((which people))) are behind this diabolical bill. Ahem. (((Those people.))) I’ve got some news for you. (((Those people))) hate democracy too. (((The Chosen))) are literally aristocrats by dint of God’s golden touch alone. How can a (((people))) obviously superior on every level to everyone else support any sort of democracy? It’s not even possible.

These (((people))) have a naturally totalitarian style. Kevin MacDonald makes this clear in his essays and books, and that for that crime, (((certain people))) launched a years-long totalitarian campaign at my alma mater to get him fired for the profound crime of telling the truth. Totalitarian people are allergic to the truth. Truth and totalitarianism are like oil and water. They don’t mix. Hell, they won’t even be in the same room with each other.

(((These people))) have always lived under totalitarian rule the whole time, hundreds or thousands of years, when they lived under the dictatorship of the rabbis. The community would decide on a party line, and the dissenters would be fiercely pummeled over time to the point where the whole community was united on any cause they get behind. Dissenters were treated as aliens and worse as traitors to their own people.

This lasted even after the ghettos were liberated starting with Napoleon. This sort of rabbinical totalitarian rule where the community had to speak with a united voice on issues of great importance continued in the shtetls of Eastern Europe all through the 18th Century. In this sense, the people who were liberated from their ghettos promptly went and created new ghettos called shtetls. And they have now created the biggest and worst ghetto ever. It’s called Israel. The ghettos are portrayed as a bad thing, but (((these people))) often love living in the ghettos. In many cases, (((they))) built them themselves. They were very useful in preventing the worst enemy of (((their people))), assimilation.

Israel is anything but a free country. It’s as free as the Apartheid South Africa which it is modeled on. Israel can never be democratic due to the nature of the (((naturally totalitarian people))) who reside there.

We are digging our own grave. Having (((these people))) in your country is one thing, but once you let (((them))) take over like this idiot country has done, you can just kiss your nation, your country, your democracy, the whole ball of wax, goodbye. (((They’ve))) been thrown out of most countries (((they))) ever lived in. You think that was a coincidence? You know why? Because of crap like this. They kept pulling crap like this, and finally the rest of the people had it up to here with them, and they booted them out the door.

Letting (((these people))) run our country is a suicide pact of the worst order for the rest of us or for any Gentile people. It is folly of the worst order, and dangerous folly at that.

What are we are thinking?

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Possible Origin of the Black Plague

Here.

The standard view is that twelve ships from Florence docked at Messina in 1347, bringing the Plague to Europe. It would later kill 1/3 of all Europeans and an incredible 20% of all humans. It would be as if 1.6 billion people died in only seven years or as if 66 million Americans died over a seven year period. Can you imagine? In my city alone, 12,000 people would be dead. Of every five people you knew at the start of the period, one would be dead after seven years. Can you imagine? That would not have left one person unscathed.

A new view though is that the Plague, which had already been active in Asia for a while, came to Europe via a biological warfare attack by Genghis Khan’s raiders on the city of Caffa in the Crimea. The Caffans were probably Turkic speakers at this time, but it is hard to say what Turkic lect they may have spoken. Perhaps a dead language called Cuman.

Khan’s raiders besieged the city and a number of people died of the Black Plague in the conflict. Khan’s men suspected a thing or two about biological warfare, so they loaded up the bodies that had died of the plague and catapulted them over the walls of the city into the population. Can you  imagine the horror of looking out your window and see a dead, bubonic plague ridden corpse fly by in the air at rapid speed to splatter nearby. Good Lord. In due time, this biological warfare killed a lot of the people in  the city.

Khan knew nothing of the  germ theory of disease, but experience with the plague showed that those who came in contact with victims tended to sicken and die. No one knew what was causing it. One European physician posited that plague victims radiated some sort of death vapors or essence out of their very eyes. Without medical science, people had to fall back on spiritual theories.

But people caught on quickly that being around plague victims could quickly make you a victim yourself. Physicians refused to treat plague patients and patients were often abandoned wherever they sickened. Family members even fled from their own sickened members, leaving them to die in the home while countless people fled to the countryside. But even there they were not safe. Even farm animals, cows, pigs, goats and sheep, caught the plague. So many sheep died that there was an acute wool shortage all over Europe for years afterwards. There was no solace or respite anywhere. The epidemic ended almost as fast as it began in 1354, but Europe was ruined. Entire cities had been abandoned as thousands of residents fled to the false safety of the countryside.

Many people escaped from Khan”s raid on Caffa, and survivors fled all over the Mediterranean. This people soon sickened and died. It was possibly from some of this group, fled to Florence, that the ill-fated death ships docked in Messina on that warm October night. The disease was in Southern France the next year and Germany soon after that. Not long afterwards, it hit Paris. And despite the primitive conditions of the day, it was not long in  Paris before London was also hit. People did have ships in those days you know.

Despite the enticing new theory, the medical journal concludes that the entrance of the Plague to Europe was multifactorial and the infection of the Caffa population did not play an important role in the European pandemic.

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About That “Stab in the Back”

Many German Jews were very patriotic during World War 1. Quite a few fought and died for their country and its lousy cause. The problem was that the war was a lousy cause, like the Vietnam War and just about every war we ever fought after the Great War.

Germany started losing, and a dissident peace movement similar to the antiwar movement in the Vietnam era sprung up in Germany. Some of these people, but many others were just good Germans sink of junkers, kaisers and disgusting mess that was incipient German imperialism and militarism. The antiwar movement helped end the war, which was a good thing. After the war, which ended in Germany’s defeat, this protest movement began challenging many of the traditional views of the land which had dragged the nation into a stupid militaristic adventure that led to the massacre of a generation of European men. Many liberals, media people, comedians, musicians, show business types, politicians and intellectuals joined this movement.

Of course some were Jews but most were not. Keep in mind that Jews were maybe 1-2% of Germany at this point. The point here is that these Jews were not traitors at all any more than the rest of the liberals were. They were calling for a Cultural Revolution in Germany and challenging the reactionary views that led the nation to war.

This was the “stab in the back” that Hitler referred to. There was no stab in the back anymore than that the Vietnam War Protest Movement was a stab in the back.  Hitler and the Free Officers were reactionary militarists. They were not OK people. They were like McNamara and LBJ on steroids. They were a bunch of lousy killers, militarists fighting for a no good cause. And really the entire liberal intelligentsia stabbed the country in  the back, if anyone did.

But the stab in the back more than anything was self inflicted. Germany was losing a lousy war they started for no good reason. The Army and the militaristic state was stabbing its own self in the back in a form of perverse hari kari.

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Trump and Bannon Are Carrying out a Fascist Coup

Here.

And Kelly Ann Conway, a fascist herself, keeps giving it away with her comments.

That’s actually the 100% truth. The Republicans have been moving towards a form of fascism or rightwing authoritarianism ever since Reagan to be honest. It’s been a Long March through the Institutions, so to speak.

The expert quoted is an expert on Italian History and the Mussolini Era.

We are putting you fascists on notice, dammit. We are coming to get you. If not now, later. You bitches have been warned.

The only good fascist is a dead fascist!

I’m not with the Antifa at all on a lot of things, but I am with them on this all right.

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A Few Words on Language Endangerment

Carlos Lam: Congrats! However, isn’t language death a rather standard occurrence among societies?

It is, but we linguists don’t really like it. It is quite a debate going on, but the bottom line seems to be that ethnic groups and speaker groups have the right to ownership of their languages. We worry that a lot of speaker groups are being pressured into blowing up their languages prematurely. We like to study these languages and we are not real happy about seeing them vanish into the horizon. On the other hand, is cultural death a natural thing too? Both cultural death and language death are occurring at rates far beyond the normal background rates. English and some of the other major languages are like weapons of mass destruction in taking out languages. You really want a world with one language and one culture? I don’t.

The best position seems to be that speakers have the right to decide the fate of their languages. If speakers wish to continue speaking their languages, then governments and linguists should help them to preserve and continue to develop their languages. Quite a few groups do not seem to care that their languages are going are extinct or they are even driving or drove their languages extinct, and they have the full right to do so. In these cases, we will simply do salvage linguistics. There are many salvage linguistics projects going on in the world today.

You won’t get very far with linguists arguing that language death is a good thing. Most people don’t think so.

Occurring at the same time as language death is a lot of language revitalization. Even fully dead languages are being resurrected from the grave. Also in addition to language death, we are creating new languages all the time. In this piece, I created a total of net 13 new languages. And new languages are occurring on their own.

To give you an example. A group of Crimean Tatars moved from Crimea to Turkey about 200 years ago in the course of the Crimean War. They have been speaking Crimean Tatar in Turkey ever since, for 200 years now. But in that time, Crimean Tatar in Turkey and Crimean Tatar in Ukraine has diverged so much that Turkish Crimean Tatar is now, in my opinion, a fully separate tongue from the Ukrainian language. This is because in Turkey, a lot of Turkish has gone into Turkish Crimean Tatar which is not well understand in the Ukraine. And in the Ukraine, a lot of Russian has gone in which is not well understood in Turkey. Hence, Crimean Tatar speakers in Turkey and Ukraine can no longer understand each other well.

To give you another example, there are many Kazakh speakers in China. However, Kazakh speakers in China can no longer understand Standard Kazakh broadcasts from Kazakhstan because so many Russian loans have gone into Standard Kazakh that it is no longer intelligible with Chinese Kazakh speakers. I learned this too late for my paper, otherwise I would have split Chinese Kazakh off as a separate language.

There are many cases like this.

Further, many languages are being discovered. Sonqori, Western Khalaj, Todzhin, Duha, Dukha and Siberian Tatar are just a few of the new languages that I created. Khorosani Turkic was split into three different languages. Dayi was subsumed into one of the Khorosani Turkic languages. Altai was split from one into five separate languages, but the truth is that it is six languages, not five. Salar was split into Western Salara and Eastern Salar. Ili Turki was eliminated becuase it does not even exist. It is simply a form of Uighur. Kabardian and Balkar, Tatar and Bashkir, Kazakh and Kirghiz were some languages that were eliminated and subsumed into single tongues such as Tatar-Bashkir, Kazakh-Kirghiz, and Kabardian-Balkar. And on and on.

Languages and of course dialects are dying all the time, but new languages are being created by humans and by linguists as we continue our splitting projects. Many lects referred to as dialects are more properly seen as separate languages. Chinese is at least 450 separate languages, only 14 of which are recognized. German may be up to 130 separate languages, only 20 of which are recognized.

There are quite a few more languages to be created out there, but there is a lot of resistance to splitters like me from more conservative linguists and especially from linguistic nationalists. For while Chinese may well be over 1,000 languages, the Chinese government is anti-scientifically insistent that there is but one Chinese language and maybe 2,000 “dialects,” most of which are probably separate languages. The German government is quite resistant to the idea that there is more than one form of German, though I believe Bavarian and Swiss German have official status in Austria and Switzerland.

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Pio Baroja

Where’s this guy been all my life? The name sounds familiar, but I didn’t really know anything about him. Another Generation of ’98 writer who barely made it through the Spanish Civil War.

Federico Garcia Lorca, the doomed gay poet, one of the finest poets of the 20th Century, of course was assassinated in this war, but he was from the next generation of Spanish writers, the Generation of ’27. They were much more avant garde than the ’98’ers.

The Generation of ’98 were a whole new crop of Spanish writers who popped up at the turn of the century in Spain. Spain was still a monarchy back then and these were times of fervent. The monarchy was trying to balance between the desire of the people to modernize the humanize their country and the desires of the Church conservatives to keep things as static as they were.

At the same time, in 1898, Spain was reeling from its defeat in several wars around the globe. Thousands of Spaniards were dead, and Spain lost all of its colonies. This was a time of great upheaval in Spain. The ’98’ers attacked traditional culture and the monarchy which they say as conformist and undemocratic. In this sense, they were like the liberal protest movements that arose in Germany after World War 1 who attacked German culture and ways of thinking in the light of their painful defeat in the war.

These liberal movements were met with a conservative backlash or mostly demobbed soldiers who formed gangs called the Brownshirts who fought socialists and communists in the streets of Germany. These conservatives felt that the liberals had “stabbed the country in the back” and been traitorous during the war, leading to the nation’s defeat. One of these demobbed soldiers was an angry, wounded soldier named Adolf Hitler and it was from this Right vs Left firestorm in the streets that the Nazi God of Destruction arose a decade later. The Phoenix rising from the ashes, the regeneration of the illustrious nation of blood and soul, which is fascism in a nutshell. Fascism can best be seen as palingetic revolution of the Right. The word palingetic brings to mind the Phoenix rises to glory from the ashes of defeat.

Baroja was a liberal like most of that generation. He grew up in the Basque Country. He wrote a number of trilogies, including The Sea, The Cities, The Struggle for Life, The Basque Country and a few others. The Struggle for Life is a gritty, harsh trilogy about life in the slums of Madrid. John Dos Passos was very fond of this series. Probably his most famous book is The Tree of Knowledge. Baroja was a pessimist and a nihilist who soured on life at a young age.

I do not mind reading downbeat authors though, even if I am an optimist. Really the optimistic and pessimistic views of life are both true and equally valid.

Baroja was influenced by Nietzsche, but below almost looks like Heidegger. I like the elaborate, ornate, very descriptive prose of the 19th Century. I love the long, fancy sentences where the tail of the sentence almost seems to be the head. I don’t mind getting to the end of a Henry James sentence, commas and all, and then wondering what the start of the sentence was about. It’s fun to decipher fancy writing. People don’t write like this much anymore as it is considered to be too elaborate and difficult for its own sake. I believe some of the finest writing in English was done in the 19th Century though. I can’t get enough of those $64,000 sentences. They’re so good you could almost take them to the bank.

Most of Baroja has not yet been translated into English, though he has been famous in Spain for a century.  Hemingway was heavily influenced by Baroja, although this fact is little known.

Isn’t that some fine writing?

The individual is the only real thing in nature and in life. Neither the species, the genus, nor the race, actually exists; they are abstractions, terminologies, scientific devices, useful as syntheses but not entirely exact. By means of these devices we can discuss and compare; they constitute a measure for our minds to use, but have no external reality. Only the individual exists through himself and for himself. I am, I live, is the sole thing a man can affirm.

The categories and divisions arranged for classification are like the series of squares an artist places over a drawing to copy it by. The lines of the squares may cut the lines of the sketch; but they will cut them, not in reality but only in the artist’s eye. In humanity, as in all of nature, the individual is the one thing. Only individuality exists in the realm of life and in the realm of spirit.

Pio Baroja, Caesar or Nothing, 1903

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“Iran: Socialism’s Ignored Success Story,” by Ramin Mazaheri

Iran: Socialism’s Ignored Success Story

May 23, 2017

by Ramin Mazaheri

Iran just completed their presidential election, but this article will not discuss the candidates, the result or the political consequences.

I work for Iran’s Press TV, which essentially makes me a civil servant, and I think it is correct for me to not reveal who I voted for in order to preserve my independence within the government. I’m quite happy to work for “the people” instead of “a person” – as in private media – and I will support which ever candidate the people choose.

Why will I support Iran’s government, whoever is in charge? Truly, it is not for my paycheck.

I support Iran because I support socialism where ever I can find it, and Iran has socialism in abundance.

Iranian Socialism has been so successful at redistributing wealth to the average person; has safeguarded the nation’s security despite being ringed by US military bases and repeated threats; has grown the economy despite an international blockade; has produced a foreign policy motivated on political principles; and has fought against the divisive identity politics which undermine human solidarity.

I have actually seen Iran over the decades, unlike 99% of the journalists who claim to understand Iran, so you can’t dissuade me.

And I’m not even going to try to persuade you. This is not that article, either.

This article is to lay out for left-wing readers and supporters of socialism what should be crystal clear: Iran is a socialist nation. Even more than that: Iran is a socialist success story.

Iran, like all nations, has had its unique developmental history; of course we have been reading Marx just as long as anyone else, as well.

But the most convincing and simplest way I can put it to non-Iranians is this: Europe came to socialism through industrialization, theory and war, but Iran came to socialism through its religious and moral beliefs. The ends are the same, and that is all that should matter to anyone who is truly trying to promote socialism for the benefits it brings to the average person.

The Problem Is Not Us, It Is You

I repeat: The problem is not us, it is you…when it comes to looking at Iran’s contributions to socialism.

I believe that around 99% of Westerners have no idea at all what Iran is really like. Unfortunately, this total ignorance about Iran and the Muslim world is the historical norm in the West.

The greatest contribution of Middle East scholar Edward Said was that his book, “Orientalism”, definitively proved through historical scholarship that the West has never, ever, ever been favorable towards the Muslim world.

Not in the 8th century, when Muslims were occupiers of the Iberian Peninsula, not in the following centuries when Islam was an ideological competitor to Christianity; not in the 15th century, when the Ottoman Empire occupied the Balkans; not in the 19th century, when the Europeans occupied the Middle East & North Africa; not in 1916, when they redrew the borders for the West’s benefit; not in 1945, when they bombed countries like Syria which had fought on their side against the Germans and the Italians; not in the 1960’s, when their reaction to independence was neocolonialism; not in 1979, when they created the forerunner of the Taliban; not during 2 wars in Iraq, a war in Syria today, etc.

Said’s point was: Never has the West viewed or treated the Muslim world as equals, much less intellectual equals.

Given this history, why should us Iranians expect the reality of our high-achieving modernity to be accepted and admired?

LOL, believe me, I am over it! I write this to enlighten you, not me! I humbly hope that it works.

I will address the elephant in the room, and quickly: Yes, I assume that a large part of this prejudice is religious. Some Christians cannot accept that Islam promotes the most recent prophet of the monotheism which they both share.

Such religious prejudices are not my problem, and they do not blind my analysis of 2017 Iran.

No socialist believes in a “clash of civilizations” or “religious war”, anyway.

My point is not to criticize Europe for a lack of brotherhood with their fellow Abrahamic religion: My point is to criticize them in 2017 because most Westerners believe that that even the most leftist Iranian cannot even qualify as merely a “conservative social democrat”!

Can There Never Be a Muslim “Democrat” or an Iranian “Republican”?

The proof of this bias is the decades of Western support for the oppression of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Iranian Revolution and any Muslim attempt to allow their religion into their politics. This is even though Christian Democratic parties governed Europe for decades after WWII, and it is absurd to think that the Christian dogma is not upheld and promoted in European politics today.

So, if Iranians cannot even be allowed to fulfill 19th century notions, why would the West accept that 2017 Iran can be even more truly leftist than the merely centrist ideology of European social democracy?

Of course, the average European cannot accept this, and this is why Western Socialists are aghast at my idea that Iran is an “ignored Socialist success story”.

The radical left of European Socialism, which seeks to destroy organized religion, is especially aghast, but they are a tiny minority and on the way out, thankfully. They do not realize that they have already been drastically tempered, if not ousted, in the still-Socialist countries they purportedly admire: Cuba is full of Santeria and Pope pictures, yin-yangy Confucianism is being promoted in China, etc.

But these Western radicals are a minority who simply cannot accept that spirituality cannot be rubbed out, largely because they see it as a choice or a social conditioning instead of a part of many people’s intrinsic nature (if not theirs). A modern Socialist must accept that this fight has already been fought and decided. The capitalists certainly advance as we chase our tails….

Even if leftist detractors can get past religion, they immediately will talk about Iran’s human rights faults.

I respond: Yawn yawn yawn African-Americans fill US jails; Muslims fill France’s jails; this is the centenary of the British-orchestrated Persian Famine, which killed 8-10 million people and actually made Iran the biggest victim of WWI, that is just one Western/capitalist inspired famine/death/human rights violation yawn yawn yawn.

I am not here to say Iran is perfect – only God can be – I am saying that Iran is absolutely no worse than the West. It is an undeniable fact that the current Islamic Republic of Iran has far less blood on its hands than most – and Iran has not invaded a country in 300 years!

Religion, human rights – these are all classic diversions from the facts presented against socialist societies, and Iran certainly is one.

Iran Checks All the Boxes as a Socialist Nation and as Revolutionary Socialist

What are the key components of socialism? Let’s clarify our terms.

The first is leadership by an avant-garde party committed to defending the revolution: Iran certainly has this, and it crosses over Principlist/Reformist party lines.

The second is central planning of the economy: Whoever had won, they would be largely implementing the 6th Five-year plan (2016-2021). And there is also the “Resistance Economy” approach promoted by many, which is certainly anti-globalization.

The third is control over the media: This is mixed – I would say Iran does not really have this in the traditionally Socialist sense. Cuba has no private media, for example, while Iran has dozens of private newspapers and innumerable TV satellites. But Iran does have limitations, so let’s check this box.

The fourth is support for foreign liberation movements: When the history of Palestinian liberation is finally written, just as a now-free South Africa thanks Cuba for sending troops to Angola, will not Palestinians do the same for Iran’s decades of support? The same with Lebanon and now Syria, correct?

The fifth is democratically devolving as much democracy as possible in order to empower the average person: There is no doubt that Iran is the most vibrant democracy in the Middle East, and by a huge margin. The difference between Iran’s social-democratic procedures and guarantees in 2017 when compared with 1978 is obviously laughable. I write this from Paris, a nation in an 18-month state of emergency with no end in sight….

If your country has these five crucial components: Congratulations! You are in a socialist country!

A little bit more on each for the naysayers….

An Avant-Garde Party

Iran is a one-party system – that party defends the 1979 Revolution. China is a one-party system – promoting Chinese communism. Many would say that the US is a one-party system – promoting imperialist capitalism.

The difference between Iran & China and the US is that in the former their one-party systems are formalized, explicit and well-known; in the US it is informal, but just as strong, and maybe even stronger.

I don’t think this needs much further explanation but, for example, you cannot propose to end the Iranian Revolution and run for office. In France a presidential candidate in their recent election (Jean-Luc Melenchon) won 20% of the first-round vote by proposing to abolish France’s current 5th Republic.

Like all socialist countries, Iran is criticized for not having democracy but they do: it is simply within their own particular structure. Just as in the USSR, there was lively debate about how to advance their own system – should we following the right-wing model of socialism of Bukharin/Khrushchev or the left-wing model socialism of Lenin/Trotsky? – but there was no debate about deviating from their chosen national system, i.e. communism. When they did allow such debates under Gorbachev, Soviet Socialism was almost immediately subverted by capitalist reactionaries and consigned to oblivion.

Again, please examine the repression of communism in the US, South Korea, Greece, Italy, Chile, etc. for historical examples of capitalist “one-party systems”, which are definitely NOT avant-garde and promoting socialism….

The idea that Iran has no avant-garde party but is some sort of totalitarian structure governed by the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is only expressed by those who are supremely ignorant about Iran. For the second presidential election in a row Hassan Rouhani won despite not seeming to be Khamenei’s preferred candidate, after all.

Central Planning of the Economy

I think I can illustrate Iran’s state of economic socialism with this anecdote: Back in 2013 all 8 presidential candidates were pushing for more privatization…not to promote capitalism, but because everything has already been nationalized for so long, LOL!

So Iran has already done the nationalizing, and maybe they need to do more? However, socialist countries have increasingly agreed that some revenue-producing businesses are needed to meet some of the basic needs of their people: North Korea has the Kaesong Industrial area, Cuba’s Port Mariel is giving some space to completely foreign-owned businesses, Vietnam and China have plenty of state-run capitalist enterprises, etc. The reality is that even producing things as simple as soap need some expertise, and very often only capitalist corporations can have that expertise.

That’s why the Iranian government went on a spending spree in 2016, but it was decidedly not your typical capitalism. (I do not want to appear to credit only the Rouhani administration because economic policy is produced by the entire government in 5-year development plans, as already noted.)

Iran was feted like a king in places like France and Italy because they were prepared to spend dozens of billions of euros. But what pleased me was how Iran spent: They demanded equal partnerships, joint ventures and technology transfers.

These are the ways in which foreign investment can be mutually beneficial and not exploitative – this was good for France too. I am not a dogmatic person who is absolutely against all capitalism, but I am against all exploitative capitalism.

My point is: It was a socialist spending spree, not a capitalist one. Iran did not just give money away; they did not waste money on vanity projects; this was not one billionaire dealing with another for their own benefit; they invested in Iran via long-term central planning, i.e. the socialist view of economic management.

This is not like France’s ruling “Socialist Party” recently selling off national industrial jewel Alstom to the United States’ General Electric: The French people got nothing for that. That was capitalism; that was globalization

Iran is not in favor of globalization – they are not even a member of the World Trade Organization, unlike 164 other countries. Some will say this is solely due to the opposition of the United States, but it is not: As many in Iran said during the election: membership in the WTO is against Iran’s principles…and these are socialist principles regarding the economy – there is nothing about the WTO in the Koran.

Control over the Media

It’s true you can’t have Charlie Hebdo in Iran – hardly a major loss –but Iran is certainly no Cuba.

Iran’s refusal to crack down on TV satellites which permit reactionary, anti-revolutionary channels like BBC Persian and VOA Persian (UK and US government-funded respectively) appears to be a dangerous fire which Havana will not tolerate. This tolerance does give Iran “human rights” credibility with the West – well it doesn’t, but it should!

I would suggest that Iran is simply confident that foreign propaganda cannot overwhelm the obvious successes of the 1979 Revolution. I imagine that Cuba feels that they cannot take chances, being just 100 kilometers from the USA.

Of course, Cubans simply laugh at Western propaganda channels like the US government’s pathetic Radio Marti. Cubans are supremely intelligent politically and, after all, their education programs are decades older than Iran’s.

Iran, like Cuba and China, bans pornography. I note that such respect for sexuality and for women is a very basic tenet of Socialism. If your utopia includes unfettered access to porn I suggest that you are a libertarian, and not a socialist.

I remind again that the media glasnost implemented by Gorbachev was a major driver in the catastrophic implosion of the Russian Revolution. To privatize media means, necessarily, that you are giving those few people rich enough to actually start newspapers the chance to promote their obviously capitalist worldviews.

I, for one, am not about to cry over the lack of published capitalist, imperialist, sexist, racist, regressive anti-revolutionary nonsense, and neither are most Iranians. As sad as the Dutch may be about it – Iran is not Amsterdam!

Support of Foreign Liberation Movements

Some will say that Palestine is just a “distraction” from Iran’s own problems. Nonsense – this is a point of pride to all Iranians. This is a point of admiration for Iran from the entire Muslim world, just as it is a negative point for much of the Western world.

This is another way Iran is revolutionary Socialist country: they support oppressed countries on the basis of ideology. Perhaps Iran is not the “Mecca of Revolutionaries” which Algeria was in the 1960’s, but let’s agree that the rate and scope of revolutionary movements worldwide are at a much lower level today, sadly.

Russia may support Syria, for example, but it appears more for Moscow’s self-interest and the idea of national sovereignty – which is the idea of national self-interest – rather than a moral-based ideology.

Call Iran the same as Russia – no insult there – but you cannot deny that Iran supports Palestine for reasons which are clearly to the detriment of their own success, i.e., they do it out of solidarity and morality. Were Iran to recognize Israel they would surely have the international dogs called off them…but Iran is a revolutionary Socialist society, as you are hopefully agreeing with by now.

Iran is also an anti-racist society, like all modern socialist societies.

They constitutionally protect minorities, with parliamentary seats for Armenians, Assyrians, Christians and Jews, despite their small numbers. Iran may not promote them, but their tolerance of local languages like Azeri and Kurdish far exceeds that of many minorities in Western Europe. Iran accommodates the 5th-largest number of refugees in the world, while French authorities put up gates and even ‘’anti-migrant boulders’’ to deny refugees even the barest shelter.

When it comes to religion they are extremely tolerant of ancient Iranian Zoroastrianism and all of the pre-Prophet Muhammad Abrahamic religions. Any religion after Prophet Muhammad? Well…it is an “Islamic” Revolution, after all.

This is perhaps a pedantic point but an important one on a verbal, Foucauldian level: Has there been any “revolution” in the world since WWI which was not “socialist”? I can’t think of any, because without a socialism component it cannot be a revolution – it can only be a continuation of the capitalist/feudalist/bourgeois status quo, or a military coup.

Empowering People

The two fundamental tenets of socialism are redistribution of wealth and empowering the average person so that they can reach their full potential. Dismantling the social roadblocks thrown up by capitalism against the non-wealthy has clearly been a major goal of the Islamic Revolution, and I can quite easily prove it has been achieved with a tremendous amount of real-world success.

Since 1990 – when the West’s attack dog of Iraq was beaten off – no country’s Human Development Index has improved more than Iran’s, with the lone exception of South Korea.

Everyone should take notice, especially Socialists, as it is we anti-capitalists who prize human development – not economic development – above all.

That’s why I’m going to leave the Human Development Index as the only proof of success. For me, I have so many other econometrics, anecdotes and personal reflections to prove that Iran has succeeded in creating a new, better, modern society that to do so is quite boring.

Bottom line: It is obvious that I do not have to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Despite the tremendous amount of opposition, violence and propaganda, Iran has advanced the most in the past 3+ decades.

I say “the most” because, unlike South Korea, Iran has done this without 30,000 US troops currently on its soil; it was not preceded by decades of brutal dictatorship which slaughtered hundreds of thousands of people (mainly leftists); and they did not collaborate with the Americans in the division of their nation which currently causes the greatest possibility of thermonuclear war.

Iran didn’t get to #1 as many others did: by capitalism and imperialism.

Iran’s recent election had a 73% voter turnout rate, ranking it #12 in the world. Unlike many of these other 11 countries, Iran does not compel citizens to vote. There is obviously tremendous support for the Iranian system from the Iranian people because…they are not blind to success, I would say!

The hardest thing to get people to do when it comes to socialism (or Iran) is to think realistically: Nobody can achieve “perfect” socialism. No country has 100% voter turnout. No country has zero human rights violations.

But for Iran you have add on another layer of misconception: Many of the “restrictions” in Iranian society predate 1979 by centuries: women were largely wearing the hejab before then; unmarried people, especially young women, also lived at home before 1979; alcohol could send you to prison then and now.

My point is: Iran is a culturally conservative nation, and it was like that long, long before 1979. You will have to simply trust me that Iranians don’t need a government to make them want to live in a society which appears conservative to modern Western standards.

Again, Iran is not Amsterdam, LOL! Maybe you can talk about the royal court in Shiraz in the 14th century as being a hotbed of drunken poetic reveling, but this is does not reflect the reality of life for the average person.

Only an Iranian will agree quickly with this statement and move on: Take away the 1979 Revolution and you would still have many of the same rules in place – they would just be enforced informally.

I will, lastly, put it this way: Take away the mullahs, and you still have to deal with my grandmother!!!!!

But to believe that the government has not empowered people since 1979…well, back then the average woman had 7 children, was illiterate 70% of the time, and the UN was not calling its health care system “excellent”.

Today, the birthrate is 1.7 children per woman, the overall literacy rate is 93% and the right-wing Washington DC-based think-tank the Brookings Institution runs dumbfounded articles with headlines like “Are Iranian Women Overeducated?”.

All in 30+ years…and have you thought it was capitalism that did it?!

Socialists Who Ignore Iran Are Not Really Socialists At All

Do you still want to think that Iran is a country solely motivated by religious radicalism and not the ideals of socialism? Well, then I place you on the right and the left, and that is the point of this article.

It is bad enough that the right (capitalists, imperialists) not only co-opt Socialist ideas as their own (social security, Medicare, Medicaid, affirmative action programs, welfare, free schooling, free nurseries, etc.), but it is laughable when the left refuses to see the leftism in Iran because it does not fit with their preconceived, totally inflexible notions.

Any true Socialist/Communist should realize that attacking Iran is doing a capitalist’s job for them.

And how can someone who proclaims to be a “leftist” have the exact same interpretation of Iran as a right-wing capitalist does?

Again, it is simply laughable that Iran is “not” what it really is.

But this is what always happens: Chinese communism “is not really communism”…despite having 1-party rule, a state-run economy, control over the media, support for Vietnam and North Korea, and the 2nd highest HDI improvement from 1970-2010.

North Korean communism is just a “cult of personality”…despite expelling the Japanese, resisting the Americans, maintaining their independence, security and high-level of education. Cuba is just the Castro dictatorship and, again, not communism.

This is all anti-socialist propaganda – for capitalism there can never be ANY “Socialist success story”.

You remain adamant that you do not want to implement all the principles of the Iranian Islamic Revolution in your country?

Fine, it is your country to decide for as you like. Like I wrote, no worries – Iran hasn’t invaded in 300 years and it sure seems like our military is necessarily focused on defense.

But just because you disagree with some aspects of the 1979 Revolution I encourage you not to throw the baby out with the bath water. I remind you that I needed only one fact to prove that Iran has been improving at a rate which is essentially the best in the world over the last 3 decades – how far below Iran does your country rank, hmm?

I write this article because practically no media in the English language will ever pursue the links between Iran and socialism. We leftists know this not just anti-Iran bias, but a much larger anti-Socialist bias.

However, it is truly suicidal to ignore the left-wing successes in Iran because, even if you reject some of them, Iran has clearly found MANY modern solutions to our MANY modern problems: surely some of them can be of use to you, right? Is Iran ALL wrong?

Of course not – only Satan can be all wrong.

Therefore, I advise those fighting against capitalism and imperialism: Please afford Iran a bit more respect and interest than you would afford Satan!

And Now I Take Our Victory lap

I can only laugh at those who say Iran’s revolution has failed!

“Oh really? Who was the puppet that was installed? Who was the king that was restored? What is the name of the popular democratic revolution which replaced the peoples’ one of 1979, because I have not heard of it and I still see many familiar faces from 1979?”

The revolution has succeeded, and I am not sorry to say so.

Not that I care about your opinion – this is for YOUR own benefit: YOU will not win socialism, anti-capitalism or anti-imperialism in your country if you cannot learn from the successes of others.

But sadly, your inability to recognize socialism in Iran imperils all of us, because the people worldwide cannot win in the long term if even like-minded leftists cannot stick together to work against fascism, capitalism and racism.

But Iran, Cuba, China, etc. – we can win enough of these things for ourselves, at least.

We are doing just fine – steady as she goes, eh? All thanks to central planning, as the capitalists veer from crisis to crisis, with the 1% sucking up a greater percentage every time. Our election had huge participation rates, as usual, dwarfing the European cultures who probably want to claim they invented voting, along with everything else. Asia has heard it all before….

For the non-Western readers: I know that the vast majority of you already support Iran. I have talked with too many of you over my life – I know better. I also know that for us “field slaves” we have to give that impression in order to survive, sometimes, or at least to avoid annoyances.

Anyway, many Westerners appear to misunderstand Socialism completely: they don’t realize it is intrinsically a global idea; they think the Franco-German-Russian (European) variety is the only one. More Eurocentrism blinding them to reality, and necessarily limiting them….

But I look across the West and I see nothing but leftist failure after leftist failure: The fall of communism in Russia, the breakup of Yugoslavia, the obvious absorption of “left” parties into the dominant right-wing parties, the rise of austerity, the advance of globalization at the expense of national interests….

So the next time you look at Iran, you should applaud it as a rare socialist success. Iranians will certainly keep living their path of creating modern socialism, Inshallah.

Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. His work has appeared in various journals, magazines and websites, as well as on radio and television.

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“From Andalusia to Far West Texas,” by Alpha Unit

The wild ancestor of modern cattle is the aurochs. This nearly seven-foot-tall beast ranged throughout North Africa and Eurasia. Domestication occurred independently in Africa, the Near East, and the Indian subcontinent between 10,000 and 8,000 years ago. Humans have been raising cattle for their milk, meat, tallow, and hides ever since.

But the practice of raising large herds of livestock on extensive grazing lands didn’t begin until around 1000 CE, in Spain and Portugal. Cattle ranching, in particular, was unique to medieval Spain.

During the Spanish Reconquista, members of the Spanish nobility and various military orders received grants to large tracts of land that the Kingdom of Castile had conquered from the Moors. Pastoralists found that open-range breeding of sheep and cattle was most suitable for these vast areas of Castilla-La Mancha, Extremadura, and Andalusia.

It was in Andalusia that cattle ranching took hold, with cattlemen owning herds as large as 1,000 head or more. Those cattlemen oversaw the first cattle drives. Cattle could be driven overland as much as 400 miles from summer pastures in the North to winter ones in Andalusia. The vaqueros who herded the cattle were freemen hired for the year and paid in coin or in calves.

Andalusian ranchers introduced the use of horses in managing cattle – a necessity in the long overland drives to new pastures. They also established the customs of branding and ear-marking cattle to denote ownership. By the time Columbus left Spain on his first voyage, the cattle industry of Andalusia had undergone a few centuries of trial-and-error improvement. On his second voyage Columbus unloaded some stallions, mares, and cattle on the island of Hispaniola, introducing cattle to the New World.

Conquistadors who arrived in the New World in search of gold continued what Columbus began, turning Andalusian cattle loose throughout the Spanish West Indies and other parts of Spain’s colonial empire.

In 1521 Gregorio de Villalobos defied a law prohibiting cattle trading in Mexico and left Santo Domingo for Veracruz with several cows and a bull, importing the first herd of Spanish cattle to Mexico. Hernán Cortés brought horses and cattle to Mexico as well, and by 1540 Spanish cattle are permanently in North America.

Cortés had set about using enslaved Aztecs to herd cattle. Slave labor to herd cattle was overseen mostly by Spanish missions, which came to dominate ranching. Under Spanish law no Indian slave was permitted to ride horses, but this obviously impractical law was ignored. Aztec Indians became the first vaqueros of New Spain (Mexico), where conditions for raising cattle were even better than those in the West Indies.

By the 1600s there weren’t as many Native slaves, as thousands had died over time from exposure to smallpox, measles, and yellow fever, in outbreaks that began among the Spaniards and to which Natives had no immunity. As a result, the vaquero labor force came to include mission Indian converts, African slaves, and mestizos.

New Spain’s borders spread northward into what is now the US Southwest. The sparsely populated northern frontier regions of northern Mexico, Texas, and California didn’t have enough water for farming but the climate and acres of wild grass and other vegetation made them ideal for cattle ranching. Cattle and horses were now a feature of American life and were beginning to shape American identity.

Beginning in the 1820s, Anglo settlers moved to the Texas region of Mexico in search of inexpensive land. Texas was severely underpopulated, so Mexico had enacted the General Colonization Law of 1824, permitting immigration to all heads of households regardless of race, religion, or immigrant status. Anglo Texans were largely farmers and didn’t warm initially to the Spanish-Mexican concept of large-scale ranching. But ranching became popular among Anglos after immigration agents began promoting it. Texas cattle were so plentiful and cheap that most people could begin raising livestock without a large investment.

Anglo Texan cowhands and their counterparts throughout the US were the latest incarnation of the vaquero that got his start in southern Spain. The vaquero rides on, whether he’s Native, mestizo, Black, Hispano, or Anglo.

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