Category Archives: Vietnam War

Something Conservatives Will Never Understand: Armed Leftwing Revolutions Only Happen in Horrible Countries

I will grant that Colombia is more rightwing than the US, but at least they have a great Left. Hell, the Left down there is actually armed for Chrissake! They have guns, bombs, RPG’s full battle uniforms, you name it, and they use their weapons all the time to kill the conservative police and army, who very much deserve it.

This shows what happens when your society goes too rightwing or when your rightwing goes too rightwing. Not only do you get a monstrous, fascist, usually murderous Right, but, just as sure as night follows day, you end up with a very radical Left that in many cases arms itself against the murderous Right.

Extremes beget extremes. Do you really need to read Marx to figure that out? Hell, I bet I could explain that to a 5th grader and they would nod their head in agreement.

But show me an American conservative anywhere who agrees with that statement. Nope, according to the US Establishment, the radical Left rises out of ether for no apparent reason at all other than sheer fanatical evil to overthrow the capitalism that their ideology orders them to blindly hate.

While the USSR was still around, it was a convenient White Whale for any stirrings of the radical Left.

Why is the Left armed to the teeth down there, killing people left and right? Well, Number One is just because they are evil. Idiots, but evil idiots.

Are they taking up arms for any reason? Of course not, there is never an indigenous reason for any Left revolution. Well, what’s the cause of it? Cuba! And the USSR! The Cubans and the Russians put them up to it! Oh God, what crap this is. But this is the ideology of the entire US political establishment and the entire US media for decades now. And it is the lunatic ideology of the vast majority of the American people since 1946.

We lie like this because the truth is hard to swallow.

The Communists were not stupid. The individual CP’s in various countries generally felt that only when the capitalist conditions in the country approached a truly horrorshow of a Hell would there be reason for revolution. Otherwise they would always try to take power by peaceful means. Many a CP ruled many, many times that the country was not in a revolutionary situation and hence taking up arms was not justified. I can’t tell you how many documents I have read that said X country was not in a revolutionary situation right now so taking up arms was illegitimate.

Taking up arms was always an extreme last resort for any CP in any country. And when people did take up arms in what was seen as a non-revolutionary situation, as with the Shining Path in Peru, the vast majority of the Left lined up with the state against the Marxist rebels. Nevertheless, even in those cases there were variables. Towards the end the situation in Peru had gotten so horrific with the war and the monstrous turn of the state into a murderous charnelhouse that a number of parties around 1992 declared that the country was now in a revolutionary situation and it was acceptable to take up arms. That is why a number of other groups took up arms in 1992 at the peak of the war.

In many cases, CP’s even cruelly denied help to local CP’s on the grounds that they were not in a revolutionary situation.

Every American hates North Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh, but he was a rational man and North Vietnam was a reasonable state.

After the cancelled elections of 1954 which were ruined by the US (the UN ordered elections in the country, and the US ordered South Vietnam not to participate), the South Vietnamese Communist Party (really the Viet Cong) tried to obtain power by peaceful means. They were not armed with a single bullet. Nevertheless, with strong US support, the South Vietnamese government murdered 80,000 unarmed South Vietnamese Communist civilians between 1954-1960.

All this time, the South Vietnamese Communists were asking for permission from North Vietnam to take up arms. The North consistently refused armed support, so 80,000 Communists died. This shows you how grave most CP’s thought the decision to take up arms was. Finally in 1960, the North gave the South permission to take up arms, and the war was on. As you can see, South Vietnam started the Vietnam War by killing 80,000 unarmed civilians with the enthusiastic help of the US. The Viet Cong actually took up arms in self-defense. They simply got tired of sitting in their villages and waiting for the government to come murder them. They decided that if the state was going to try to kill them anyway, they might as well pick up a gun and defend themselves against the killers.

If you study most Communist revolutions in the 20th Century, this was the case in almost every single one of them. The decision to take up arms was only a last resort when conditions in the country deteriorated drastically and in particular when all peaceful methods of change were blocked. In the 20th Century, Communists almost always took up arms grudgingly, as a last resort and typically in self defense.

If you had a decent country, you never had to worry about an armed Left rebellion. If you had a shithole, well, a Left revolution was definitely something to worry about. The conclusion here is that every country that had an armed Left revolution in the 20th Century basically asked for it and got what they deserved. It was the fault of the leaders of every one of those countries for making conditions so horrible that the Left took up arms in the first place.

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Filed under Asia, Capitalism, Cold War, Colombia, Conservatism, Economics, Fascism, History, Journalism, Latin America, Latin American Right, Left, Marxism, Modern, Peru, Political Science, Politics, Regional, Revolution, SE Asia, South America, US, US Politics, USSR, Vietnam, Vietnam War, War

The US Government Always Tells Massive Lies about the Military Capabilities and Deeds of “Enemy States”

You must understand that the government always lies to us about the capabilities of the states it deems enemies.

They lied and vastly exaggerated the USSR’s military strength through much of the Cold War. They knew they were lying too. The project was led by Jews such as Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz. They deliberately exaggerated the danger posed by the Soviet military to keep Cold War panic levels high and keep US military spending high. Many people knew that they were exaggerating but the entire US media and multiple administrations winked and treated it like the Truth.

We lied about Saddam’s capabilities in order to justify a war of aggression to take him out. We lied about an upcoming genocide in the eastern Libya town of Benghazi in order to justify a war of aggression against Ghaddafi. We lied about Assad’s use of chemical weapons many times. In fact, Assad has apparently never used chemical weapons even one time in this entire war and he has certainly never used Sarin. All of the Assad chemical attacks the West has been screaming about were false flags designed by Al Qaeda, Turkey, the US (the DIA), the UK and France. The Syrian Civil War has sometimes seemed like one endless false flag. The US and its allies are using false flag attacks so often now that we are getting to the point where false flags are almost normal in war.

The war in Eastern Ukraine also saw many false flag attacks. Every atrocity committed by Ukrainian artillery was immediately blamed on the Novorussians. The M-17 passenger jet was actually shot down by a Ukrainian Air Force jet and it appears that the DIA was directly involved. That was one of many false flag attacks in that war. Every single one of them was uncritically reported by every news outlet in the West, none of which even bothered to do the slightest examination of the truth. The OECD, associated with the EU (currently occupied by the NATO military regime) send observers and the observers committed deliberate fraud in every investigation they undertook, always blaming the Novorussians and Russians in every false flag attack they looked at.

The war in Grenada was started by a deliberate lie that US medical students at a university there were under immediate threat. They were never under any threat at all. The invasion of Panama was preceded by countless fake reports of Noriega’s troops firing on US bases in Panama. Few if any of these reports were true.

The Vietnam War was started by a fake attack at the Gulf of Tonkin when North Vietnamese forces were said to have fired on a US ship. Actually the attack never even happened! They made up the whole thing.

Every time America goes to war for any reason, the buildup is preceded by a nearly unfathomable level of lying by the government and the controlled media. The American people, gullible suckers and fools that they are, fall for it every single time. Americans must be the dumbest people on Earth.

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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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Filed under Democrats, Europe, European, Germany, History, Imperialism, Jews, Liberalism, Modern, Political Science, Politics, Race/Ethnicity, Regional, US Politics, USA, Vietnam War, War, World War 1, World War 2

Something Wrong with America? or Why Is America Hated? By A. J. Harvey-Hall

An interesting piece from a reader and financial supporter (thank you!) of this website. Hope you enjoy it.

Something Wrong With America? or Why is America hated?

By A. J. Harvey-Hall, Australia

Where do I start?

I originally wrote this in 2013 when I was mad as hell, and here we are in 2015, and I am still mad as hell at you guys. Most of what I have written has come true.

Don’t believe me – ask your Remote Viewing (Project Stargate) people to drop in and check me out. It works both ways in case you are unaware.

Coming from Australia I can tell you a hell of a lot of where America “went wrong”. I am not saying Australia is/was perfect – it’s just a fact we were the last large island/continent settled by the so-called enlightened Westerners – due to distance we saw where everyone else stuffed up and decided as a whole not to do that (Commonwealth knowledge?).

Canada is very similar to Australia, so look to them as well. One thing’s for certain – everyone gets a fair go in this country. We are multicultural and tolerant. Early Western settlers did not treat the Aboriginals appropriately, but in summary, it was probably no different to any superior culture that overtook another at some time in history. It’s easy to look back and say what the Westerners did to Aboriginals was disgraceful.

I have a right to tell you how it is because Australia is the only country that has fought every war alongside America all through WW1 and WW2 and several “police” actions.

Let’s revisit some words spoken by one of your greatest presidents in the course of the America’s Cup back in 1962 when Australia was still a country of 10 million:

Quoting Kennedy –

Ambassador, Lady Beale, Ambassador and Mrs. Berckmeyer, Ambassador and Lady Ormsby Gore, the Ambassador from Portugal, our distinguished Ministers from Australia, Ladies and Gentlemen:

I know that all of us take the greatest pleasure in being here, first of all because whether we are Australian or American, we are all joined by a common interest, a common devotion and love for the sea.

And I am particularly glad to be here because this Cup is being challenged by our friends from Australia, this extraordinary group of men and women numbering some 10 million, who have demonstrated on many occasions, on many fields, in many countries, that they are the most extraordinarily athletic group in the world today, and that this extraordinary demonstration of physical vigor and skill has come not by the dictates of the state because the Australians are among the freest citizens in the world, but because of their choice…

Australia became committed to physical fitness, and it has been disastrous for the rest of us. We have the highest regard for Australia, Ambassador. As you said, we regard them as very satisfactory friends in peace and the best of friends in war. And I know there are a good many Americans of my generation who have the greatest possible reason to be grateful to the Australians who wrote a most distinguished record all the way from the desert of North Africa, and most particularly in the islands of the South Pacific, where their particular courage and gallantry I think met the strongest response in all of us in this country.

But I really don’t look to the past. I look to the present. The United States and Australia are most intimately bound together today, and I think that — and I speak as one who has had some experience in friendship and some experience in those who are not our friends — we value very much the fact that on the other side of the Pacific, the Australians inhabit a very key and crucial area and that the United States is most intimately associated with them. So beyond this race, beyond the result, rests this happy relationship between two great people.

– President John F. Kennedy, Newport, Rhode Island, September 14, 1962

Let’s go back to the (your) War of Independence:

The English were wrong in what they were doing – hence independence – not a problem. In gaining independence however you put in place the building blocks that as of today are not crumbling – they have already crumbled.

Every builder in the world knows that unless your foundations are spot on and repaired when cracks appear, a structure cannot live for hundreds of years. You must update and repair as you go to ensure the building is viable for hundreds of years ongoing – not just paper over it.

The building I am referring to is the “United States of America”. It has now crumbled as a result of a demarcation dispute between your two political parties that act worse than our Australian Parliament. Each party is only out to make a name for itself and has lost the understanding of “serving the people”.

Let’s talk about your constitution – ohhh – am I upsetting you already? Remember I am an outsider who is looking in giving you an unbiased opinion.

When your Constitution was framed it was OK, for the day!

It is now the oldest ‘out of date’ Constitution in the world. Don’t stand behind your outdated constitution. Start again. Be bold.

Yes – you have made amendments, but those amendments are just papering over extensions – you need to go back and look at the foundations and do the work there.

Take one example – a right to bear arms.

It was OK 200 years ago when things were a bit rough – it is not acceptable in the 20th or 21st Centuries, but you will not remove that right. How many people have died in your country as a result of that one so called right?

Your gun culture is one of the bases (not basis) that has crumbled. This is ultimately why you have numerous police forces that are happy to shoot first and ask questions later.

Your children and work colleagues will continue to die in massacres as a result of this “right“. They will continue to die in soft target areas such as schools, mass transport, malls, parades (early days – wait for it).

Hang on – maybe the British, Russians or Communists are still coming to invade. Pity you don’t update your Constitution the same way you enforce updates to laws you force upon people who want to trade with you.

You allow gun lobbyists to “set the course” with government officials, senators and the public.

Since when did lobbyists of any ilk run the government? Since when did they represent “the people”?

You continue to think of arms as a gun – they are no longer guns – instead are bombs, viruses or maybe even the Internet itself. But it’s OK because you have a right” to bear arms.

Let’s talk about your medical care.

Actually let’s save time and refer to Michael Moore. He is spot on. How can you allow your own citizens suffer and even die on the streets because they don’t have medical insurance? And some of your citizens applaud this stance.

How about your returned veterans – even wounded veterans have to fight to get medical assistance upon return – why – because you outsourced the process and someone applied expiry dates that wounded veterans were not aware of. It then requires an act of Congress or a law to be passed to allowed them back into the system.

More veterans have committed suicide upon return that you lost in actual combat. That is an absolute disgrace.

Even that poor, small country across from Florida – Cuba – does it better than you. A pissant island makes you look like a disgrace. Ohhh that’s right…you won’t interact with them because they put one over you in the Cuban Missile crisis. Get over it – you eventually did with Vietnam. And that leads me to another chapter – Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia…or shouldn’t I mention all the “minor” illegal wars you waged?

You lost LOST the Vietnam War – admit it. You will also lose the Afghanistan and Iraqi Wars. The Middle Eastern wars are also bankrupting your country – why can’t day to day Americans see this? No one (starting with Alexander the Great) has ever conquered Afghanistan – get real or get out.

If you think those wars are over, and as G. W. Bush said, “Mission completed”…think again. You have effectively put people in charge who are far worse than the dictators that were already there in Egypt, Iraq, Tunisia, Afghanistan etc. and now you are trying to do the same in Crimea via the Ukraine. You are responsible for the extremists that are now running around the Middle East, and I don’t mean Al Qaeda. You are responsible for the creation of ISIS.

Let’s look at all those African refugees (including Syrians, Lebanese etc.) who are risking their lives to cross the Mediterranean Sea to get to Europe. The USA is totally responsible for all these simply because of WMD lies that resulted in the invasion of Iraq. All Middle East actions from thereon are his fault. He is a war criminal – oopps did I break one of your laws saying he is a war criminal in the land of the free and home of the brave? The land of free speech?

Fact – history is written by the victors.

The USA is trying to run the Middle East like a corporation – all the top executives from the G. W. Bush era on are criminals lining their own pockets.

Starting wars in the 21st century will no longer get a country out of a recession. It’s simply profit-making. Why don’t you take Saudi Arabia to task for 9/11? Ohhh that’s right, they control the oil flow. Don’t upset them – why don’t you find an alternative to Middle East oil?

Are you getting a message here?

The entire world dislikes and even hates you. You have acted the bully for many years after The Korean War, effectively destroying the good will you established in the early 20th century. You are hated across all lines – economic, religious, social, political and otherwise.

What is your obsession with Israel?

Fact – Israel was founded by Jewish terrorists. They set off bombs, killed people and destroyed property to achieve their aims. Because the world had ‘sympathy’ for Jews after WW2, it happened and a blind eye was turned. Today Middle America strongly believes in the Bible literally and as such wants to see Israel succeed in order the “Second Coming” results.

People – the Bible is a guide. It is not Gospel.

Why? In the early centuries, the Roman Catholic Church held conferences and decided which books, writings and teachings ended up in “The Bible”. God did not decide which early Christian books ended up in The Bible – so it is absolute rubbish for someone to state that the Bible guides what the United States should do. Too many real accounts of Jesus’ workings were excluded. The Roman Catholic Church is responsible for closing our eyes to the real Christ.

Hopefully Pope Francis can arrest this BS.

There are numerous United Nations resolutions that Israel has refused to comply with. By the way – are you (USA) financially paid up with the UN, or do you still refuse to pay in a timely manner in order to attempt to remind them that you rule over them?

How about the Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq that lead to invasion? Colin Powell held up a drawing and said – here is the proof. You never found proof and never admitted you were wrong. Yes – Saddam Hussein was a bastard but he had the warring clans under control. It was all ALL about oil and nothing else. When the mud got too deep, you changed tact and said it was all about democracy. How far is Greece from Iraq? – damn closer that the USA. If the Greeks could not influence them – you sure in Hell can’t.

You can resolve the Palestinian problem in a matter of weeks, but you won’t due to that “minority” in the Middle East. This bullshit has been going on for 60 years.

Everyone knows (sorry – obviously you don’t) – the longer a problem festers, the harder and more costly it is to resolve.

I worked in the finance industry for many years and can only say that the number of times “we” (non-Americans) had to change our processes and rules etc. because the USA had set ‘”new standards” makes me sick. The standards set were not improvements – they were changed to line your pockets.

Look at Sarbanes Oxley for example – the world spent hundreds of billions of $’s attempting to comply because the USA would not do business with another country unless they did so only to see the USA itself found it too costly to implement itself! What a joke!

We now have many European countries in dire straits as a direct result of the exporting of American ways.

You destroyed the financial industry with your Subprime rubbish.

What about changes to financial models and makes etc. of any product or service that demand that people buy the “updated” version to reline your pockets. This is simply to keep the money wheel turning. You are desperately trying to ensure it keeps turning long enough for your problems to be passed to some other country or the next generation.

Ever thought about how much you spend on items such as defense, spying, war, inventing, manufacturing and using machines of war? Just imagine if only half of that was diverted to your health programs, science or to the benefit of other countries less fortunate? What about converting the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines into an international force for peace and relief of local and international disasters?

How can you allow a company to have a patent on the human breast cancer gene? You have to be kidding the world – but then again that’s your Constitution at work. No one owns human genes!

What happened to the “United States” that I remember as a child? That far-off country whose technology was so far advanced we could never dream of equaling.

What happened to that country that every county – even Russia in the old days – feared  -a form of respect?

Oh – and how long before I get the FBI, CIA, and all your other bullshit muscle agencies to frame me for some rubbish and shut me down…

A parting true story:

In late 1978/early 1979 my family traveled to Washington state where my father was working on behalf of a company in Australia. Unfortunately, departing Auckland NZ they had an emergency which meant we had to go back, dumping fuel on the way. 24 hours later we took off again after repairs and finally landed in Honolulu. My mother was pretty savvy and said get to the front of the Customs line so we can get to the connecting flight to LA.

Well – I was at the front of the queue, 18 years old, looking at an overweight female Customs officer wearing a gun strutting back and forwards. Her welcoming words to the Australians and New Zealanders were, “If you step over that yellow line, I will shoot you!” What a fucking joke – in 1978! No wonder you have a gun problem.

Welcome to America!

Congratulations to the NRA who lobby the most congressman/women on both sides.

Fact – I was born in July 1960, and in November 1963 I still vividly recall my parents being very upset when they heard of the news of Kennedy’s death despite my being three years old. All the more remarkable is the fact that we lived in Papua New Guinea – a protectorate of Australia at the time – literally a colonial backwater. I was too young to understand but remembered the words Kennedy and death and vaguely remembered the Cuba Crisis. We cried in the backwaters of the Pacific!

I fully understand that the Kennedys had their dalliances. Small beer in the scheme of things.

He and his brother are the standard you must return to.

Did Kennedy not say “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country?”

And in closing, written on the base of the Statue of Liberty…

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Emma Lazurus

My country totally lacks world-shaking oratory ,but I think we more than make up with it in our actions.

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John Lennon and Yoko Ono – Happy Xmas (War Is Over)

So many Christmas songs, but this is always one of my most favorite of them all. Harlem Community Choir in the background! 1971! Of course it was about the Vietnam War, but this song is surely timeless as long as man is killing his fellow man in war, which is sure to go on until I die and quite clearly long after that.

There is something truly joyous about this song. I am not sure quite it is, but that’s the “can’t put a finger on it” quality that all great art has. With songs like this, you are thinking, “If there’s a Heaven, you know they must play this song up there.” And how could they not?

And of course, wishing all of my readers, lovers and haters, the right, the wrong and the indifferent, the good, the bad and the ugly, all of you tired sailors splashing in from the rain, in your gilded, ragged humanity, from one gleaming eye to another uplifted chin, all of you, every one, a very Merry Christmas, and as we stumble forward, half-blind but singing in the wind anyway because Oh Hell why not, a Happy New Year.

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Filed under Music, Rock, Vietnam War, War

Vietnamese IQ’s in the US and Vietnam

Vietnamese are just as smart as Whites while in SE Asia and they nearly seem to outperform Whites here in the US from what I can tell.

There have been no IQ studies in Viets in US, either born here or otherwise.

A recent excellent study by the Vietnamese government found an IQ of 99.9, 109.9 (!) for the urban people and 89.9 for the rural areas. Check out that urban-rural gap! And that urban IQ makes urban Viets some of the smartest people on Earth.

They are not stupid.

Remember we couldn’t even beat them in the Vietnam War no matter how much ordinance we threw at them. And a lot of their war strategy was based on sheer cunning, trickery, deception, cleverness, etc.

I remember there was a conversation between Henry Kissinger and General Giap (leader of the Vietnamese Army), and Kissinger said, “You know, you guys never won that war. Hell, you never even won one battle!”

Giap smiled one of those thin Oriental smiles and said, “That’s ok. We didn’t have to win. All we had to do was not lose.”

Exactly. That’s one smart fucker.

There’s a lot to be said for Oriental wisdom. White nationalists like to put them down and say they lack creativity and whatnot, but those people are smart as Hell, and if you spend time around them, they are pretty damn wise too. They’ve got life pretty well figured out, and that’s all that matters at the end of the day for most of us anyway.

I have a lot of respect for those people.

Vietnamese IQ in Vietnam 99.9
White US IQ              100
Vietnamese US IQ         ?

Viets are smart as Hell. Even in Little Saigon in Orange Country where most of the people were poorly educated refugees, often peasants or urban poor with little or no English skills, you got the general impression that these people were not stupid at all. I taught Viets in Santa Ana and the kids are quite inteligent. My brother married a smart Viet and the Amerasian kid is smart as Hell. They are heavily present at UC Irvine in Orange County; in fact, they may be overrepresented. The general impression I get is that they may even be outperforming Whites in the US.

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Filed under Asia, Asians, Intelligence, Psychology, Race/Ethnicity, Regional, SE Asia, SE Asians, Sociology, USA, Vietnam, Vietnam War, Vietnamese, War, Whites

The Hell with the Pentagon

As the agency which enforces US foreign policy at gunpoint, the Pentagon has always blown.

First of all, there is no such thing as the Defense Department. When has the Pentagon ever defended the country? Pearl Harbor? They did a fine job there, huh?

Obviously the task of the Pentagon is not to defend the US mainland, which is all it ever ought to do anyway.

Its task is to running around the world starting wars and killing people in other countries. Leaving aside whether that is sometimes a good idea (and I think it is,) what’s so defensive about that?

The real name of the Pentagon is the War Department.That’s what it was always called until World War 2, which the War Department won. After that in a spate of Orwellian frenzy, we named an army of aggression an army of self-defense and comically renamed its branch the Defense Department.

It’s like calling cops peace officers. You see anything peaceful about what a cop does in a typical day? Neither do I?

There was a brief glimmer of hope there in WW2 when we finally starting killing fascists and rightwingers instead of sleeping with them, but the ink was barely dry on the agreements before we were setting up the Gladio fascists, overthrowing Greek elections and slaughtering Greek peasants like ants.

Meanwhile it was scarcely a year after 1945 when the US once again started a torrid love affair with fascism and rightwing dictators like we have always done. We were smooching it up right quick with Europe’s fascists, in this case the former Nazis of Germany (who became the West German elite), Greek killer colonels, Mussolini’s heirs, actual Nazis in Ukraine, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, Jew-Nazis in Palestine, Franco (who we never stopped sleeping with anyway), Salazar, the malign Mr. Churchill, the true repulsive Dutch royalty and disgusting European colonists the world over, who we showered with guns and bombs to massacre the colonized.

In 1945, a war against fascism, reaction, Nazism and malign colonialism had ended, and for some reason America had fought against these things instead of supporting them as usual.

1946, and we were back in old style again, hiring Nazis by the busload for the CIA, overthrowing democratic governments and putting in genocidal dictatorships, becoming butt buddies with fascist swine everywhere.

So you see we have always pretty much sucked. World War 1 was fought amidst one of the most dishonest propaganda campaigns the world had ever seen, the Korean War was a Godawful mess where we turned North Korea to flaming rubble with the population cowering in caves while slaughtering 3 million North Koreans.

The horrific catastrophe called the Indochinese Wars, such as the Vietnam War, the Secret War in Laos and the Cambodian Massacre, where we genocided 500,000 Cambodians with bombs, driving the whole place crazy and creating the Khmer Rogue.

Panama and Grenada were pitiful jokes, malign, raw, naked imperialism at its worst.

The Gulf War was a brief return to sanity but turkey shoots are sickening.

Of course that followed on with the most evil war in US history, the Nazi-like war on aggression called The War on the Iraqi People (usually called the Iraq War), the Afghan rabbit hole which started out sensibly enough but turned into another Vietnam style Great Big Mess.

I suppose it is ok that we are killing Al Qaeda guys and I give a shout out to our boys over there fighting ISIS or the Taliban and Al Qaeda in South-Central Asia, Somalia and Yemen. Some people need killing.

But I sure don’t feel that way about their superiors, the US officers who fund and direct ISIS, Al Qaeda, etc. out of an Operations Center in Jordan with Jordanian, Israeli (!), Saudi, UAE, and Qatari officers.

And it was very thoughtful of the Pentagon to cover up the Ukrainian Air Force shootdown of the jetliner which we saw on the radar of our ships in Black Sea.

And it was nice of the US to relay the flight path of the Russian jet to the Turks 24 hours in advance so they could shoot down that Russian jet and kill that pilot.

One hand giveth and the other taketh away. For every good thing we do in Syria and Iraq, we do 10 or 20 bad things. Pretty much the story of the Pentagon.

Sure if you fought in WW2 or one of the few other decent wars, you have something to be proud of, and I can even say, “Thank you for your service,” but the main thing is that you signed up for the rightwing army of the rich that is dead set against the people and popular rule everywhere on Earth. Sure, it’s a great army, professional, super-competent and deadly, but it’s generally tasked with doing lousy things. Why anyone would sign up for that reactionary nightmare of an institution is beyond me. America needs to level the Pentagon and put in a true People’s Army instead. Like that would ever happen.

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Was Joseph Conrad a Neoliberal? Are We? A Contemporary Reading of Victory

I participated in a session with this fellow on Academia.edu. I believe the author is a professor at a university somewhere in the UK. I really liked this paper a lot. It’s a bit hard to understand, but if you concentrate, you should be able to understand. If I can understand it, at least some of you guys can too. It is an excellent overview of what exactly neoliberalism is and the effects it has on all of us all the way down to the anthropological, sociological and psychological.

Was Joseph Conrad a Neoliberal? Are We? A Contemporary Reading of Victory

by Simon During

Over the past decade or so “neoliberalism” has become a word to conjure with. It is easy to have reservations about its popularity since it seems to name both a general object — roughly, capitalist governmentality as we know it today — and a particular set of ideas that now have a well-researched intellectual history.

It also implies a judgment: few use the term except pejoratively. I myself do not share these worries however, since I think that using the word performs sterling analytic work on its own account even as it probably accentuates its concept’s rather blob-like qualities. Nonetheless in this talk I want somewhat to accede to those who resist neoliberalism’s analytic appeal by thinking about it quite narrowly — that is to say, in literary and intellectual historical terms.

I begin from the position, first, that neoliberalism is an offshoot of liberalism thought more generally; and second, that we in the academic humanities are ourselves inhabited by an occluded or displaced neoliberalism to which we need critically to adjust.1 Thus, writing as a
literary critic in particular, I want to follow one of my own discipline’s original protocols, namely to be sensitive to the ways in which the literary “tradition” changes as the present changes, in this case, as it is reshaped under that neoliberalism which abuts and inhabits us.2

To this end I want to present a reading of Joseph Conrad’s Victory (1916). To do this is not just to help preserve the received literary canon, and as such is, I like to think, a tiny act of resistance to neoliberalism on the grounds that neoliberalism is diminishing our capacity to affirm a canon at all. By maintaining a canon in the act of locating neoliberalism where it is not usually found, I’m trying to operate both inside and outside capitalism’s latest form.

***

1 Daniel Stedman-Jones, Masters of the Universe: Hayek, Friedman, and the Birth of Neoliberal Politics, Princeton: Princeton University Press 2014, p. 17.
2 This argument is made of course in T.S. Eliot’s seminal essay, “Tradition and the Individual Talent” (1921).
Let me begin with a brief and sweeping overview of liberalism’s longue durée.3 For our purposes we can fix on liberalism by noting that it has two central struts, one theoretical, the other historical. As generations of theorists have noted, the first strut is methodological individualism: liberal analysis begins with, and is addressed to, the autonomous individual rather than communities or histories.4

Methodological individualism of this kind is, for instance, what allowed Leo Strauss and J.P Macpherson to call even Thomas Hobbes a founder of liberalism.5 Liberalism’s second strut is the emphasis on freedom as the right to express and enact private beliefs with a minimum of state intervention. This view of freedom emerged in the seventeenth century among those who recommended that the sovereign state “tolerate” religious differences.

It marked a conceptual break in freedom’s history since freedom was now conceived of as an individual possession and right rather than as a condition proper to “civil associations” and bound to obligations.6 We need to remember, however, that methodological individualism does not imply liberal freedom, or vice versa. Indeed neoliberalism exposes the weakness of that association.

Early in the nineteenth century, liberalism became a progressivist political movement linked to enlightened values. But after about 1850, non-progressive or conservative liberalisms also appeared. Thus, as Jeffrey Church has argued, Arthur Schopenhauer, the post-Kantian
philosopher who arguably broke most spectacularly with enlightened humanist progressivism,

3 Among the library of works on liberalism’s history I have found two to be particularly useful for my purposes here: Domenico Losurdo’s Liberalism: a Counter-History, trans. Gregory Elliot. London: Verso 2014, and Amanda Anderson’s forthcoming Bleak Liberalism, Chicago, University of Chicago Press 2016.
4 Milan Zafirovski, Liberal Modernity and Its Adversaries: Freedom, Liberalism and Anti-Liberalism in the 21st Century, Amsterdam: Brill 2007, p. 116.
5 Van Mobley, “Two Liberalisms: the Contrasting Visions of Hobbes and Locke,” Humanitas, IX 1997: 6-34.
6 Quentin Skinner, Liberty before Liberalism, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1998, p. 23.

can be associated with liberalism.7

Likewise Schopenhauer’s sometime disciple, Friedrich Nietzsche, no progressivist, was, as Hugo Drochon has recently argued, also an antistatist who prophesied that in the future “private companies” will take over state business so as to protect private persons from one another.8 Liberalism’s conservative turn was, however, largely a result of socialism’s emergence as a political force after 1848, which enabled some left liberal fractions to dilute their individualism by accepting that “a thoroughly consistent individualism can work in harmony with socialism,” as Leonard Hobhouse put it.9

Conrad himself belonged to this moment. As a young man, for instance, he was appalled by the results of the 1885 election, the first in which both the British working class and the socialists participated.10 That election was contested not just by the Marxist Socialist Democratic Federation, but by radical Liberals who had allied themselves to the emergent socialist movement (not least Joseph Chamberlain who, as mayor of Birmingham, was developing so-called “municipal socialism” and who haunts Conrad’s work).11

The election went well for the Liberals who prevented the Tories from securing a clear Parliamentary majority. After learning this, Conrad, himself the son of a famous Polish liberal revolutionary, wrote to a friend, “the International Socialist Association are triumphant, and every
disreputable ragamuffin in Europe, feels that the day of universal brotherhood, despoliation and disorder is coming apace…Socialism must inevitably end in Caesarism.”12 That prophecy will resonate politically for the next century, splitting liberalism in two. As I say: on the one side, a

7 Jeffrey Church, Nietzsche’s Culture of Humanity: Beyond Aristocracy and Democracy in the Early Period, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2015, p. 226.
8 Hugo Drochon, Nietzsche’s Great Politics, Princeton: Princeton University Press 2016, p. 9.
9 L. T. Hobhouse, Liberalism, London: Williams and Norgate, 1911, p. 99.
10 It was at this point that one of neoliberalism’s almost forgotten ur-texts was written,Herbert Spencer’s Man against the State (1884).
11 For instance, he plays an important role in Conrad and Ford Madox Ford’s The Inheritors.
12 Joseph Conrad, The Collected Letters of Joseph Conrad, vol 1., ed. Frederick Karl and Laurence Davis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1983, p. 16.

 

progressivist, collectivist liberalism. On the other, an individualist liberalism of which neoliberalism is a continuation.

By around 1900, liberalism’s fusion with socialism was often (although not quite accurately) associated with Bismark’s Germany, which gave anti-socialist liberalism a geographical inflection. Against this, individualistic liberalism was associated with Britain. But this received British liberalism looked back less to Locke’s religiously tolerant Britain than to Richard Cobden’s Britain of maritime/imperial dominance and free trade.

Which is to say that liberalism’s fusion with socialism pushed socialism’s liberal enemies increasingly to think of freedom economically rather than politically — as in Ludwig von Mises influential 1922 book on socialism, which can be understood as a neoliberal urtext.13 By that point, too, individuals were already being positioned to become what Foucault calls “consumers of freedom.” 14

They were now less understood less as possessing a fundamental claim to freedom than as creating and participating in those institutions which enabled freedom in practice. Crucially after the first world war, in the work of von Mises and the so-called “Austrian school”, freedom was increasingly assigned to individual relations with an efficient market as equilibrium theory viewed markets. This turn to the market as freedom’s basis marked another significant historical departure: it is the condition of contemporary neoliberalism’s emergence.

Neoliberalism organized itself internationally as a movement only after world war two, and did so against both Keynesian economics and the welfare state. 15 It was still mainly ideologically motivated by a refusal to discriminate between welfarism and totalitarianism — a line of thought already apparent in Conrad’s equation of socialism with Caesarism of course. As
13 See Ludwig von Mises, Socialism: an Economic and Sociological Analysis, trans. J. Kahane. New Haven: Yale University Press 1951.
14 Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics, p. 63. One key sign of this spread of this new freedom is Oliver Wendell Holmes’s famous appeal to the “free trade in ideas” in his 1919 dissent in Abrams v. the US, a judgment which joins together the market, intellectual expression and the juridical.
15 See Philip Mirowski and Dieter Plehwe (eds.), The Road from Mont Pèlerin, Cambridge: Harvard University Press 2009.

 

Friedrich Hayek urged: once states begin to intervene on free markets totalitarianism looms because the people’s psychological character changes: they become dependent.16 For thirty years (in part as confined by this argument), neoliberalism remained a minority movement, but
in the 1970s it began its quick ascent to ideological and economic dominance.

Cutting across a complex and unsettled debate, let me suggest that neoliberalism became powerful then because it provided implementable policy settings for Keynesianism’s (perceived) impasse in view the stagnation and instability of post-war, first-world welfarist, full-employment economies after 1) the Vietnam War, 2) the collapse of the Bretton Woods agreement; 3) OPEC’s cartelization, and 4) the postcolonial or “globalizing” opening up of world markets on the back of new transportation and computing technologies.17

In the global north neoliberalism was first implemented governmentally by parties on the left, led by James Callaghan in the UK, Jimmy Carter in the US, Bob Hawke and Paul Keating in Australia, and leading the way, David Lange and Roger Douglas in New Zealand.18 At this time, at the level of policy, it was urged more by economists than by ideologues insofar as these can be separated (and Hayek and Mises were both of course).

As we know, neoliberals then introduced policies to implement competition, deregulation, monetarism, privatization, tax reduction, a relative high level of unemployment, the winding back of the state’s participation in the economy and so on. This agenda quickly became captured by private

 

16 Hayek, The Road to Serfdom, p. 48.
17 This history is open to lively differences of opinion. The major books in the literature are: Michel Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the College de France 1978-1979, London: Picador 2010; Philip Mirowski, Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown, London: Verso 2014; Stedman-Jones, Masters of the Universe; Joseph Vogl, The Spectre of Capital, Stanford: Stanford University Press 2014; David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism, Oxford: Oxford University Press 2007. My own understanding of this moment is informed by Stedman-Jones’s account in particular.
18 It is worth noting in this context that the left had itself long been a hatchery of neoliberal economic ideas just because liberalism’s absorption of socialism was matched by socialism’s absorption of liberalism. See Johanna Brockman, Markets in the name of Socialism: the Left-wing Origins of Neoliberalism, Stanford: Stanford University Press 2011 on the intellectual-historical side of this connection.

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interests, and from the eighties on, it was woven into new, highly surveilled and privatized, computing and media ecologies, indeed into what some optimists today call “cognitive capitalism”.19

In this situation, more or less unintended consequences proliferated, most obviously a rapid increase in economic inequality and the enforced insertion of internal markets and corporate structures in non-commercial institutions from hospitals to universities. Indeed, in winding back the welfare state, renouncing Keynesian and redistributionist economic policies, it lost its classical liberal flavor and was firmly absorbed into conservatism — a transformation which had been prepared for by Schopenhauer and Nietzsche.20

But two more concrete conceptual shifts also helped animate this particular fusion of conservatism and liberalism. First, postwar neoliberalism was aimed more at the enterprise than at the individual.21

Largely on the basis of van Mises’s Human Action (1940) as popularized by Gary Becker, the free, independent individual was refigured as “human capital” and thereby exposed instead to management and “leadership.” At the same time, via Peter Drucker’s concept of “knowledge worker,” which emphasized the importance of conceptual and communication skills to
economic production, postsecular management theories for which corporations were hierarchical but organic communities also gained entry into many neoliberal mindsets.22 At that

 

19 Yann Moulier Boutang, Cognitive Capitalism, trans. Ed Emery. Cambridge: Polity Press 2012.
20 Nietzsche and Schopenhauer’s influence is no doubt part of why neoliberalism emerged in Austria. Indeed the Austrian context in which contemporary neoliberalism emerged is worth understanding in more detail. In their early work, Hayek and Mises in particular were responding to “red Vienna” not just in relation to Otto Bauer’s Austromarxism but also in relation to its version of guild socialism associated with Hungarians like Karl Polanyi, with whom both Hayek and Mises entered into debate. See Lee Congdon, “The Sovereignty of Society: Karl Polanyi in Vienna,” in The Life and Work of Karl Polanyi, ed. Kari Polanyi-Levitt. Montreal: Black Rose Books 1990, 78-85.
21 Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics, p. 225.
22 Drucker was another Austrian refugee who turned to capitalism against totalitarianism in the late thirties and his profoundly influential work on corporate management shadows neoliberal theory up until the 1970s.

 

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point, neoliberalism also became a quest to reshape as many institutions as possible as corporations.

At this point too Foucault’s consumers of freedom were becoming consumers full stop. To state this more carefully: at the level of ideology, to be free was now first and foremost deemed to be capable of enacting one’s preferences in consumer and labour markets. It would seem that preferences of this kind increasingly determined social status too, and, more invasively, they now increasingly shaped personalities just because practices of self were bound less and less to filiations and affiliations than to acts of choice.

This helped the market to subsume older gradated social and cultural structures of identity-formation, class difference and cultural capital. At this juncture, we encounter another significant unexpected consequence
within liberalism’s longue durée: i.e. the sixties cultural revolution’s reinforcement of neoliberalism.

This is a complex and controversial topic so let me just say here that, from the late seventies, neoliberal subjects who were individualized via their entrepreneurial disposition and economic and labour choices, encounters the subject of post-68 identity politics who had been emancipated from received social hierarchies and prejudices, and was now attached to a particular ethnicity, gender or sexuality as chosen or embraced by themselves as individuals. These two subject formations animated each other to the degree that both had, in their different ways, sloughed off older communal forms, hierarchies and values.

Governing this ménage of hedonism, productivity, insecurity and corporatization, neoliberalism today seems to have become insurmountable, and is, as I say, blob-like, merging out into institutions and practices generally, including those of our discipline. And it has done
this as a turn within liberal modernity’s longer political, intellectual and social genealogies and structures rather than as a break from them.

Nonetheless, three core, somewhat technical, propositions distinguish neoliberalism from liberalism more generally:

  1. First the claim, which belongs to the sociology of knowledge, that no individual or group can know the true value of anything at all.23 For neoliberals, that value — true or not — can only be assessed, where it can be assessed at all, under particular conditions: namely when it is available in a competitive and free market open to all individuals in a society based on private property. This is an argument against all elite and expert claims to superior knowledge and judgment: without prices, all assessments of value are mere opinion. In that way, market justice (i.e. the effects of competing in the market) can trump social justice. And in that way, for instance, neoliberalism finds an echo not just in negations of cultural authority and canonicity but in the idea that literary and aesthetic judgments are matters of private choice and opinion. In short, neoliberalism inhabits cultural democracy and vice versa. By the same stroke, it posits an absence — a mere structure of exchange—at society’s normative center.
  2. There is a direct relationship between the competitive market and freedom. Any attempt to limit free markets reduces freedom because it imposes upon all individuals a partial opinion about what is valuable. This particular understanding of freedom rests on the notion of the market as a spontaneous order — its being resistant to control and planning, its being embedded in a society which “no individual can completely survey” as Hayek put it.24 Not that this notion is itself original to neoliberalism: Foucault’s historiography of liberalism shows that, in the mid eighteenth century, this property of markets was thought of as “natural” and therefore needed to be protected
    from sovereign authority’s interference.25 But as Foucault and others have argued, neoliberalism emerges after World War 2 when the spontaneous market conditions of freedom are no longer viewed as natural (even if they remain immanently lawbound) but as governmentally produced.26
  3. Neoliberalism has specific ethical dimensions too. While it generally insists that individuals should be free to “follow their own values and preferences” (as Hayek put it) at least within the limits set by those rules and institutions which secure market stability, in fact individuals’ independence as well as their relation to market risk, provides the necessary condition for specific virtues and capacities. Most notably, in Hayek’s formulation, a neoliberal regime secures individuals’ self-sufficiency, honor and dignity and does so by the willingness of some to accept “material sacrifice,” or to “live dangerously” as Foucault put it, in a phrase he declared to be liberalism’s “motto”.27 This mix of risk-seeking existentialism and civic republicanism not only rebukes and prevents the kind of de-individualization supposedly associated with socialisms of the left and right, it is where neoliberalism and an older “Nietzschean” liberalism meet—with Michael Oakeshott’s work bearing special weight in this context.28 But as soon as neoliberalism itself becomes hegemonic in part by fusing with the spirit of 1968, this original ascetic, masculinist neoliberal ethic of freedom and risk comes to be supplemented and displaced by one based more on creativity, consumerist hedonism and entrepreneurialism aimed at augmenting choice.29

***

23 See Mirowski, Never Let a Serious Crisis, p. 55.
24 Friedrich von Hayek, The Road to Serfdom: Texts and Documents. The Definitive Edition, ed. Bruce Caldwell. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007, p. 212.

25 Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics, p. 19.
26 This is argued in Pierre Dardot and Christian Laval’s The New Way of the World: on Neoliberal Society, London: Verso 2014. For the immanent lawboundedness in Hayek, see Miguel Vatter, The Republic of the Living: Biopolitics and the Critique of Civil Society, New York: Fordham University Press 2014: pps. 195-220. Vatter’s chapter “Free Markets and Republican
Constitutions in Hayek and Foucault” is excellent on how law is treated in neoliberal thought.
27 Hayek, The Road to Serfdom, p. 130. Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics, p. 66.
28 See Andrew Norris’s forthcoming essay in Political Theory, “Michael Oakeshott’s Postulates of Individuality” for this. We might recall, too, that Foucault argues for similarities between the Frankfurt school and the early neoliberals on the grounds of their resistance to standardization, spectacle and so on. See The Birth of Biopolitics, p. 105.

 

I have indicated that Conrad belongs to the moment when socialist parties first contested democratic elections and which thus split liberalism, allowing one, then beleaguered, liberal fraction to begin to attach to conservatism. In this way then, he belongs to neoliberalism’s deep past (which is not to say, of course, that he should be understand as a proto-neoliberal himself). Let us now think about his novel Victory in this light.

The novel is set in late nineteenth-century Indonesia mainly among European settlers and entrepreneurs. Indonesia was then a Dutch colony itself undergoing a formal economic deregulation program, which would increase not just Dutch imperial profits but, among indigenous peoples, also trigger what was arguably human history’s most explosive population growth to date.30

Victory belongs to this world where imperialism encountered vibrant commercial activity driven by entrepreneurial interests, competition and risk. Thus, for instance, its central character, the nomadic, cosmopolitan, aristocratic Swedish intellectual, Axel Heyst, establishes a business— a coal mine — along with a ship-owning partner, while other characters manage hotels, orchestras and trading vessels. Victory is a novel about enterprises as well as about individuals.

But Conrad’s Indonesia is other to Europe as a realm of freedom. Importantly, however, its freedom is not quite liberal or neoliberal: it is also the freedom of a particular space. More precisely, it is the freedom of the sea: here, in effect Indonesia is oceanic. This formulation draws on Carl Schmitt’s post-war work on international law, which was implicitly

 

29 The history of that displacement is explored in Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello’s The New Spirit of Capitalism, trans. Gregory Elliott. London: Verso 2005.
30 Bram Peper, “Population Growth in Java in the 19th Century”, Population Studies, 24/1 (1970): 71-84.

 

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positioned against liberal and neoliberal theory. In his monograph The Nomos of the Earth (1950), Schmitt drew attention to the sea as a space of freedom just because national sovereignties and laws did not hold there.

But Schmitt’s implicit point was that liberal freedom needs to be thought about not just in terms of tolerance, recognition, rights or markets, but
geographically and historically inside the long history of violent sovereign appropriation of the globe’s land masses so that elemental freedom was enacted on the oceans where law and sovereignty had no reach. From this perspective, piracy, for instance, plays an important role in freedom’s history. And from this perspective the claim to reconcile radical freedom to the lawbound state is false: such freedom exists only where laws do not.

The sea, thought Schmitt’s way, is key to Conrad’s work. But, for him, the sea is also the home of economic liberalism, free-trade and the merchant marines by whom he had, of course, once been employed, and whose values he admired.31 Victory is a maritime tale set on waters which harbor such free trade at the same time as they form a Schmittean realm of freedom — and violence and risk — which effectively remains beyond the reach of sovereign law.

Let me step back at this point to sketch the novel’s plot. Victory’s central character Heyst is the son of an intellectual who late in life was converted from progressivism to a mode of weak Schopenhauerianism or what was then call pessimism.32 Heyst lives his father’s pessimism out: he is a disabused conservative liberal: “he claimed for mankind that right to
absolute moral and intellectual liberty of which he no longer believed them worthy.”33

Believing this, Heyst leaves Europe to “drift”— circulating through Burma, New Guinea, Timor and the Indonesian archipelagoes, simply gathering facts and observing. But, on an

 

31 For Conrad and trade in this region, see Andrew Francis, Culture and Commerce in Conrad’s Asian Fiction, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2015. For Conrad’s affiliations to free trade proper see my unpublished paper, “Democracy, Empire and the Politics of the Future in
Conrad’s Heart of Darkness”. This is available on this url.
32 Joseph Conrad, Victory, London: Methuen 1916, p. 197.
33 Conrad, Victory, pps. 92-93

 

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impulse, while drifting through Timor he rescues a shipowner, Morrison, whose ship has been impounded by unscrupulous Portuguese authorities, and through that act of spontaneous generosity, becomes obligated to Morrison.

The two men end up establishing a coalmine in the remote Indonesian island of Samburan, backed by local Chinese as well as by European capital. The company soon collapses. Morison dies. And, living out his Schopenhauerian renunciation of the world, Heyst, the detached man, decides to stay on at the island alone except for one Chinese servant.

He does, however, sometimes visit the nearest Indonesian town, Surabaya, and it is while staying there in a hotel owned by Schomberg, a malicious, gossipy German, that he makes another spontaneous rescue. This time he saves a young woman, Lena, a member of a traveling “ladies orchestra,” who is being bullied by her bosses and in danger of abduction by Schomberg himself.

Heyst and Lena secretly escape back to his island, causing Schomberg to harbor a venomous resentment against Heyst. At this point Schomberg’s hotel is visited by a trio of sinister criminals: Jones, Ricardo and their servant Pedro. Taking advantage of Schomberg’s rage, they establish an illegal casino in his hotel. To rid himself of this risky enterprise, Schomberg advises them to go after Heyst in his island, falsely telling them that Heyst has hidden a fortune there. Jones and his gang take Schomberg’s advice but disaster awaits them.

The novel ends with Jones, Ricardo, Heyst, Lena all dead on Heyst’s island.
The novel, which hovers between commercial adventure romance and experimental modernism, is bound to neoliberalism’s trajectory in two main ways. First, it adheres to neoliberalism’s sociology of knowledge: here too there is no knowing center, no hierarchy of expertise, no possibility of detached holistic survey and calculation through which truth might command action. Heyst’s drifting, inconsequential fact-gathering, itself appears to illustrate that absence. As do the gossip and rumors which circulate in the place of informed knowledge, and which lead to disaster. Individuals and enterprises are, as it were, on their
13
own, beyond any centralized and delimited social body that might secure stability and grounded understandings. They are bound, rather, to self-interest and spontaneity.

This matters formally not simply because, in an approximately Jamesian mode, the narrative involves a series of points of view in which various characters’ perceptions, moods and interests intersect, but because the narration itself is told in a first person voice without being enunciated by a diegetical character.

That first person, then, functions as the shadow representative of a decentered community, largely focused on money, that is barely able to confer identity at all, a community, too, without known geographical or ideological limits just because the narrator, its implicit representative, has no location or substance. This narratorial indeterminacy can be understood as an index of liberalism at this globalizing historical juncture: a liberalism divesting itself of its own progressive histories, emancipatory hopes and institutions. A bare liberalism about to become neoliberalism, as we can proleptically say.

More importantly, the novel speaks to contemporary neoliberalism because it is about freedom. As we have begun to see, Heyst is committed to a freedom which is both the freedom of the sea, and a metaphysical condition which has detached itself, as far as is possible, from connections, obligations, determinations. This structures the remarkable formal
relationship around which the novel turns — i.e. Heyst’s being positioned as Jones’s double.

The generous Schopenhauerian is not just the demonic criminal’s opposite: he is also his twin. Both men are wandering, residual “gentlemen” detached from the European order, and thrown into, or committed to, a radical freedom which, on the one side, is a function of free trade, on the other, a condition of life lived beyond the legal and political institutions that order European societies, but also, importantly, are philosophical and ethical — a renunciation of the established ideological order for independence, courage and nomadism.

To put this rather differently: Heyst and Jones’s efforts to live in freedom — to comport themselves as free individuals — combines economic freedom — a freedom of exchange, competition and

 

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entrepreneurial possibilities— with a state of nature as a line of flight (or emancipation) from received continental laws, values and social structures. Freedom, that is, which combines that which Carl Schmitt and the early neoliberals imagined, each in their own way.

The novel’s main point is that there is, in fact, nothing in this freedom to sustain true ethical substance. It is as if Schmittean freedom has smashed both liberal freedom and pessimistic asceticism, along with their ethical groundings. Or to come at the novel’s basic point from another direction: it is as if the absence at the heart of a free society has transmigrated into these characters’ selves. It is at that level that individual freedom cannot be separated from violence and risk and good from evil.

Without an instituted social structure, Heyst cannot stay true to himself: his commitment to freedom and renunciation is compromised because of his spontaneous acts of generosity and sympathy which lead to his and Lena’s death. On the other side, Jones, a homosexual shunned by respectable society, is afflicted by those key nineteenth-century affects, resentment and boredom as well as a quasi-Nietzschean contempt for “tameness”, which drive him towards living outside of society, at contigency’s mercy, and towards reckless, malevolent violence.

Heyst and Jones die together almost by accident, in deaths that reveal them not just as entangled with one another at existence’s threshold, but as both attuned to death, even in life. It now look as if while they lived they wanted to die. In that way, the novel makes it clear that the risk, disorder and emptiness which inhabit their striving for a radically liberal practice of life corrode distinctions not just between violence and renunciation, not just between good and evil, but also between life and death.

We can put it like this: the freedom that these characters claim and the risks that it entails and which bind them together are inclined more towards death than towards life, just on account of freedom’s own conditions of possibility, namely radical autonomy, absence of sovereign power, and maximum choice.

***

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As I say, this is a reading of the novel which, at least in principle, helps to canonize Victory just because it claims that its form, plot and characters address versions of our current neoliberal social condition, and does so in metaphysically ambitious terms. Victory is a critique of freedom, I think.

Conrad is insisting that even in a liberal society devoted to free trade,
enterprises and markets, the law — and the sovereign state — comes first. It is, if one likes, beginning the work of detaching liberalism from freedom. To say this, however, is to ignore the most pressing question that this reading raises: to what degree should we today actually accede to Conrad’s ambivalent, pessimistic and conservative imagination of radical freedom?

How to judge that freedom’s renunciation of established hierarchies, collectivities and values whether for adventure, risk and spontaneity or for violence and death? It is a condition of the discipline’s neoliberal state that the only answer we can give to that question is that we can, each of us, answer that question any way that we choose.

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Hillary Clinton, Neoconservative Dream Candidate

Here.

Good God, she’s a nightmare. This election is going to be about who we despise least. I hate Trump, but I definitely despise Killary/Hitlery Clinton, neocon warmonger maniac.

Trump is truly catastrophic and must be stopped by all means. But Hillary is a nightmare. Hillary’s a turd, and Trump is 24 hour diarrhea. I really hate both of them, but I hate Hillary less. But that ain’t saying much, because there are few humans I hate more than Donald Trump.

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“Western Moral Decline or Capitalist Decadence?,” by John Kovas

This is a good piece. You can find it at Kofas’ website, or I got it off of Academia.edu. Looking at his website, it appears that the rest of his stuff is pretty good too. I need to read this guy more.

I actually think he is onto something here, and you need to be hip to this argument because the Right is always trotting out this “moral decline” argument that I think needs to be countered.

Western Moral Decline or Capitalist Decadence?

by John Kofas

Historically, during periods of economic contraction, the intelligentsia, politicians, business, academic, community and church leaders invariably try to steer the debate away from what has gone wrong with the political economy to the subject of values.

This was certainly the case during the 19th century when the depressions of the 1840’s, 1870’s and 1890’s took place. Well-meaning individuals as well as opportunistic propagandists questioned society’s values, despite the fact that structural causes in the political economy accounted for the economic contraction and social ills.

A somewhat similar situation existed during the Great Depression of the 1930’s when novelists, philosophers, politicians and others decried the values of the 1920’s. There are similarities between those historical periods and the economic contraction and diminishing of the Western middle class that started during the Reagan-Thatcher era and continues to the present.

The universal topic of values served its purpose when the Industrial Revolution was causing socioeconomic problems, and it serves its purpose today when Western Civilization is captive to banks and corporate capital that are concentrating capital while weakening the social fabric and democratic institutions.

The very elites suggesting to the masses redirection toward reexamination of values are the same ones that:

1. do not practice the values that they preach;

2. are responsible for the widening socioeconomic gap and sociopolitical instability that ensues;

3. benefit by deflecting the focus of the masses from the essential problem in the systemic flaws of the political economy to values.

Naturally, there is the salient question of the vast differences in value systems between societies and individuals; differences between religious and secular values within a pluralistic society, or the differences/nuances of values within a community whether it is predominantly religious or secular.

That scholars, politicians, businesspeople, priests, and the laity have been concerned about western civilization’s decline is a story as old as Oswald Spengler who wrote about the topic after the German Empire lost the First World War, and Europe as the world’s global power center began to give ground to the US and USSR.

But are the values of Bismarck and his generation of imperialist politicians and business titans the ones that Spengler’s generation lamented against the background of the Bolshevik Revolution and its global impact? Is it the Western values of imperialism, nationalism and militarism that led to global war in 1914 that were lost along with the decline of Western Europe?

Spengler focused on Western decadence, but the question is one of the underlying assumptions of what constituted decadence and what constituted ascendancy, the degree to which humane and communitarian principles rested behind assumptions. Was it dreadful that imperialist Europe of the old elites began to decline as a result of militarist confrontation, or was it tragic that millions of people died, injured, displaced, impoverished as a result? If one values power, then one laments the decline of Europe’s power. But what if the value system is human-centered, instead of power-based?

When the Great Depression erupted to cripple societies across most of the planet, why was there a sharp turn to a discussion of values, whether by US President Roosevelt who favored a quasi-communitarian orientation that mirrored the New Deal or ultra-nationalist one that Hitler advocated who was interested in ethnic cleansing as a means of restoring the purity of the mythological Aryan race as Alfred Rosenberg conceived it and the NAZI party practiced it.

In a very strange way, the NAZI regime’s populist ethnic collectivist approach intended to achieve the same goal as that of FDR and for that matter Josef Stalin who advocated superimposed collectivism.

The Third Reich manufactured a value system that a large percentage of Germans and Austrians, accepted and lived under with the hope that it would propel them to greatness as the NAZI party defined the concept. Why did millions of people accept an utterly barbaric and inhumane and racist value system under Hitler, and why did they not retain humane principles based on the wider philosophical framework of the Enlightenment that revolutionized European culture in the 18th century?

Is it merely a question of brainwashing – no matter how good German propaganda was – or one that a large segment of the population actually embraced values because they perceived benefits accruing to them – everything from keeping their jobs to feeling great that the ruling party told them they were ‘superior’ to other races.

From the end of World War II that marked the end of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and militarist-imperial Japan until the end of the Vietnam War, Western and non-Western (Communist regime) societies operated on broader values – in theory and certainly not in practice – of communitarian principles as part of an ideological mix.

Certainly in Western societies, led by the US, the value system of individualism, business progress, consumerism, commercialism of culture, and hedonism were prevalent, but the existence of the welfare state entailed tangible evidence that communitarian values mattered. The beginning of the breakdown of that value system comes when the US and the West in general begin to gradually eliminate the communitarian aspect in the societal mix because it interferes with finance capitalism and the neoliberal model of capital accumulation.

More than political trends, material conditions influence evolving value systems, something that is evident in the consumerist values (to which we must add hedonist and atomistic) of much of the world in the last fifty years. After all, values too are class-based. The relative decline of compassion for humanity, and a rise of alienation which many try to cure by going to therapy and with legal and illegal drugs, has been sharply on the increase in the last half century to the degree that we now have a Western culture of therapism thriving.

Ethical ambiguity naturally translates into ambiguity of values, thus reflecting cultural relativism. In a recent public opinion poll, the vast majority of the people in Finland agreed that if their close friend committed murder, they would notify the authorities. In the same poll, the vast majority of Greeks agreed they would not turn in their friend. Not surprisingly, Greek elites, including academics, praised the virtue of honoring friendship, while the people of Finland stressed the virtue of social conscience.

What accounts for the absence of convergence in the values of the two societies? History, tradition, religion, culture, etc., and what does this example teach us about the values of ambiguity? How could any human being with an once of moral fiber not report a case of murder? How could someone betray their friend, even in case of murder?

Beyond values of ambiguity, there is a much clearer case regarding basic values that are time-tested and transcend time and place.

1. Lying is clearly immoral. Not the kind of lying involving little lies that cause no harm but big lies that bring about great harm to a great many people. Yet, lying is at the core of both business and politics, but it is passed on as public relations. Lying to an entire nation about the reason for going to war is acceptable because it is a matter of national security. Lying to consumers about a product is acceptable because it is in the name of peddling a product or service.

2. Stealing is clearly immoral. I was hardly surprised to read stories about people across southern Europe actually stealing food because of the current hard times. However, stealing in the framework of institutionalized ‘appropriation’ of government subsidies to make banks stronger, is morally acceptable. Yet this is a process that forces people to steal food. Are we back in the era of Victor Hugo’s Jean Val Jean?

3. Killing is clearly immoral. However, mass killings of collateral damage victims in time of war is just fine. Why do human beings categorically reject the individual who kills her husband that abuses her but accept mass killings in wars? What does this tell us about our values and how they are molded?

How does a politician, a journalist, an academic, or much less a leading businessperson tell the masses to reexamine their values against the background of austerity economics that benefit those preaching reexamination of values?

For more than half a century, the same elites now preaching reexamination of values were advocating consumerism, commercialization of culture, hedonism, and atomistic proclivities, all in the name of an open society when in reality the only interest was the thriving of the market economy.

Having conditioned citizens as consumers steeped in that frame of mind and value system, how do elites now try to tell them that embracing everything from nature to God, everything from family values to community values, filter down, and even if it did, what exactly does that do for the high structural unemployment and underemployment, low wage structure, lack of opportunities for college graduates, and lack of job security?

When Ronald Reagan was beginning to dismantle the welfare state and strengthen the corporate welfare state, his administration, various think tanks, journalists, academics, clergy and business leaders began to speak of values, namely ‘family values’.

One odd thing about many of the people advocating ‘family values’ is that they themselves were not practicing them. Another odd thing was that these values advocates were interested in pushing society in the direction of conformity to the changing status quo, so value discussion was one tool they used.

Of course, there was a contradiction between ‘family values’ rhetoric and policies – government and business – that were contributing to undermining the family by forcing both parents to work, in some cases at second jobs to make ends meet.

At the same time, reorientation to values discussion did not mean that workers must stop shopping, given that the population remained under the spell of increasingly intrusive advertising that helped shape consumerist and atomistic values. Are we witnessing a Western moral decline or merely a decline of the capitalist system and its apologists trying desperately to distract the masses by shifting the focus to values?

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