Palestine 2018 proved the futility of anticolonial nonviolence

There is no case of nonviolent anticolonial struggle

The US struggle for civil rights, remembered as the nonviolent movement of Martin Luther King, was also the movement of the Deacons for Defense in Louisiana, the movement of the Mississipi Regional Council of Negro Leadership which could “speedily mobilize substantial and deadly firepower” including E.W. Steptoe who had “guns all over the house, under pillows, under chairs”, of Robert Williams of Monroe, North Carolina’s NAACP who said in 1959 that “we must be willing to kill if necessary”, the movement of a night-long battle with police in Albany, Georgia in 1962 and in Birmingham, Georgia in 1963, when “every day of riots was worth a year of civil rights demonstrations”. 

The Indian Freedom struggle, remembered as the nonviolent movement of MK Gandhi, was also the movement of the Hindustan Republican Army, of Chandrasekhar Azad and of Bhagat Singh, of the Telengana Uprising of 1946, of the Tamil Nadu anti-feudal struggle of 1943, of the underground guerrilla struggles after Quit India in Odisha, West Bengal, Bangalore and elsewhere, of the Toofan Sena in Maharashtra, of Indian National Army of Subhas Chandra Bose, and of the Naval Mutiny of 1946. 

The two most iconic tales of the deployment of strategic nonviolence turn out, upon historical examination, to have been armed struggles, replete with violence.

Through an analysis of the work of Gene Sharp (“Gene Sharp’s Neoliberal Nonviolence” part 1 and part 2), writer and academic Marcie Smith has revealed the existence of a sort of “nonviolence industrial complex”, a network of institutions linked to the US foreign policy establishment, dedicated to two things: 1. steering opposition to US-backed states and projects in nonviolent directions, and 2. to using methods of nonviolent insurgency as a part of a set of tactics (including covert, violent action) to destabilize US targets. 

The jewels in the narrative crown of this nonviolence network are the US civil rights movement and the Indian Freedom Struggle, which is why I devoted the two previous articles in this series to showing that these were in fact armed struggles. 

The narrators of the nonviolence network have one other weapon: quantitative analysis. But this weapon too, turns out to be a plastic replica. 

In their book Why Civil Resistance Works, Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan claim to have proven through statistical analysis that nonviolence is more effective than violence. Their analysis is worth detailed examination since it claims to have the authority of a huge dataset and logistic regression proving the chances of success are higher with nonviolence. 

But what did they actually do? They made a list of several hundred revolutions from the 20th century (nearly all of which were in fact violent), coded some struggles as violent and others not, coded some struggles as successful and others not (in fact many of the successes delivered the countries and their economies directly over for imperialist plunder), and then after a quantitative assessment which amounts to counting the number of successful cases of each type, found that their “nonviolent” coded struggles had a higher chance of success. These nonviolent-coded struggles include: 

  • the South African struggle (including its armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe); 
  • and the many East European color revolutions. 
  • the Palestinian Intifada;

A quick skim of any of these histories show that these were all violent struggles. The data reveal the conclusion the authors believed at the outset and for which they coded their data. Why Civil Resistance Works is historical falsification covered with a quantitative mystique. 

To determine the veracity of their analysis we need examine only those events coded as both nonviolent and successful. Nonviolent failures are of no interest, since they do not bolster the nonviolence narrative. Neither violent successes nor failures are of interest either, since to the nonviolence industry armed struggles are already failures. 

The database published with the book contains 57 nonviolent successes. There are two types of movements analyzed in the database: movements for regime change and movements for secession. There are no nonviolent successes for secession movements: all 57 nonviolent successes are regime change successes. There are only 4 secession successes out of 46 attempts in the database (Croatia, Tigray, Bangladesh, and Aceh from Indonesia starting in 1976-2005). All of these were violent.

Philosophers of science know that there is a complicated set of human decisions that go into the translation of things occurring in nature into statistical data. Even such decisive phenomena as birth and death can only be entered in a spreadsheet as “0” and “1” by the declaration of a doctor. Of all the types of data to translate into “0”s and “1”s on a spreadsheet, historical data is the worst. Was the French Revolution a success, a failure, or is it too early to tell? In history, some failures are necessary prerequisites for future success; some processes simply cannot be classified as one or the other (Chenoweth and Stephan include a “limited success” category to try to capture these). 

The relevant point here is that the coding of these 57 events as both “nonviolent” and “successful” ranges from deeply problematic to utterly preposterous. 

Going through them: 

In this database, the Palestinian liberation struggle apparently started in 1973, was violent, and a failure. The Intifada, 1987-1990, is considered a nonviolent partial success. The 1979 overthrow of the Shah of Iran, which I won’t dispute was successful, is coded as a nonviolent process – which would be a surprise to the guerrilla fighters and defectors who fought the Shah’s soldiers in the streets. The 2005 Cedar Revolution in Lebanon is coded as a success, but it did not change the regime and Lebanon’s political system continued as before. 

The Cedar Revolution is not the only “color revolution” (short-hand for a US-backed regime change operation in a US enemy country led by US-trained political and media cadres) coded as a nonviolent success. Indeed a good part (14 of the 57) of the nonviolent successes are East Europe color revolutions: 1989 Germany, 1981 Poland, 1989 Hungary, 1989 Czech, 1989 Slovakia, 1989 Bulgaria, 1990 Russia, 1989 Estonia, 1989 Latvia, 1989 Lithuania, 2001 Ukraine, 2003 Georgia, 1989 Kyrgystan, 2005 Kyrgistan. In the background of all of these color revolutions was the threat of US-led NATO expansion and US nuclear war, as well as the fact of US violent covert operations. Three more of these East Europe nonviolent successes – 1999 Croatia, 2000 Yugoslavia, 1989 Slovenia – are from the incredibly violent US-led dismembering of Yugoslavia in a series of civil wars (described in, e.g., Michael Parenti’s book To Kill a Nation and Diana Johnstone’s book Fool’s Crusade). 

Operation Allied Force: The NATO Bombing Of Yugoslavia
NATO bombed bridge in dismembered Yugoslavia, 1999, one of the nonviolent successes in the database.

In Africa, in addition to coding the South African anti-apartheid struggle as nonviolent (which would be news to umKhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the African National Congress), and the Ghanaian, Zambian, and Malawi Independence struggles as nonviolent (they were not), the majority of African nonviolent successes in the database were mass mobilizations to press for elections. These were: 1989 Mali, 2000 Ghana, 1993 Nigeria, 2001 Zambia, 1992 Malawi, 1991 Madagascar, 2002 Madagascar, 1985 Sudan (in active civil war at the time).

In East Asia, the 1960 April Revolution in Korea (in which 186 people were killed) is coded as a nonviolent success, as is the 1986 People Power Revolution in the Philippines (after decades of guerrilla struggle and notable defections from the military). East Timor, widely recognized to have suffered a genocide from the 1970s to the 1990s, is coded as having had a nonviolent success in 1988, despite Independence coming in 1999 after a long guerrilla war. A 1973 popular uprising in Thailand, that had bomb explosions and dozens of deaths in riots, is coded as a nonviolent success. So, too, in Thailand, a long-running political crisis in 2005 that culminated in a military coup in 2006, is coded as a nonviolent success. 

In the Americas, the database includes as nonviolent successes a 1931 naval mutiny in Chile, a 1944 armed revolution in Guatemala, 1958 Venezuela (which featured attacks on security services headquarters and resulted in the awful Punto Fijo pact), a clear failure to overthrow the system in Mexico in 1987, and struggles against dictatorships in Argentina (1977 and 1986), Uruguay (1984), and Chile (1983), all of which had prominent guerrilla movements. The database cites 2002 in Venezuela as a nonviolent success, but there were two things that happened in April 2002 in Venezuela: a violent coup against Chavez and its reversal when the army refused to endorse the coup: the coup failed, the the successful reversal of the coup involved military moves. 

In Europe, a 1974 military coup in Portugal is coded as a nonviolent success. Of the churning conflicts, revolutions, and civil wars in Germany in the 1920s that culminated in the rise of Nazism in the 1930s and the most violent events in human history so far, 1923 in Germany is coded as a nonviolent success. 

There is, however, a specific type of conflict coded as a nonviolent success in the database that recurs in different parts of the world, in which a spent dictatorship gives way, in the face of a basically nonviolent popular movement, to an election. About eight of the 57 nonviolent successes belong to this pattern: 1963 and 1974 in Greece, 1977 in Bolivia, 1984 in Brazil, 1985 in Haiti (which led to a military coup and additional years of mobilization until Aristide was elected, then violently overthrown again…), 1990 Guyana, 2000 Peru, and 2001 in the Philippines. This particular set of eight cases (five of which took place in the Americas) could be used as evidence for the argument that, under the right circumstances, largely nonviolent popular mobilization can reverse a stolen election or force a weakened government to agree to elections. It does not prove at all that nonviolent movements have a better chance of success than violent ones. But even in these cases, the threat of violence existed. 

There is value in analyzing and comparing movements of resistance in history. There may even be value in coding them and calculating probabilities. But there is no value to be had in building a model for probability of success based on violence and nonviolence by miscoding failures as successes and armed struggles as nonviolent. 

We never needed a database to tell us that under some circumstances a social and political struggle can be kept on the nonviolent plane. The key factor is the investment elites have in maintaining the policy that is being challenged. Union struggles can often succeed in winning wage and working conditions improvements nonviolently. Every election where the loser congratulates the winner and there is a peaceful transfer of power is an example of a successful nonviolent struggle. But colonialism, struggles over land, in which oppressors have racial ideas of superiority over the oppressed? In these cases, whether it succeeds or fails, armed struggle alone has a chance. Only by wielding falsified histories and models can the nonviolence storytellers argue otherwise.

Palestine 2018: the final proof of the uselessness of nonviolence in anticolonial struggle

And so we turn to Palestine, a colonial struggle over land, in which the oppressors have racial ideas of superiority over the oppressed and are, since 2023, engaging in active genocide. Palestine has been an area of focus for the nonviolence industry for decades. 

A February 2024 paper by the Center for Constitutional Rights has shown that US anti-terror legislation was “driven by anti-Palestinian agendas from the beginning.” The nonviolence industry has had a similar Palestine focus from the beginnings of Gene Sharp’s Albert Einstein Institute. The 1987-1989 Intifada was an object of fascination for Sharp and for the nonviolence industry. Sharp’s Journal of Palestine Studies article in 1989, “The Intifadah and Nonviolent Struggle”, identifies him as the author of the 1973 book The Politics of Nonviolent Action as well as the author of Almuqawama Bila Ounf (Nonviolent Resistance), published in Jerusalem by the Palestinian Center for the Study of Nonviolence in 1986. In the article, Sharp argues – quantitatively again – that 85% of the intifada has been nonviolent. He simply asserts that armed struggle and nonviolent struggle are “not easily mixed to advantage” – and so the Palestinians should go from 85% to 100% nonviolent. After the usual arguments absolving Israelis of responsibility for the violence they mete out on Palestinians and the normal nonviolence argument that the the colonial repression faced by the victims is their fault for provoking their oppressors, Sharp suggests Palestinians go on a 21-day hunger strike, followed by “whistling or wailing at night, especially in dark streets” and “having the youths standing peacefully, not fleeing, holding small Palestinian flags, their right hands outstretched in a gesture of friendship.” Sharp dangles recognition before well-behaved Palestinians: “The shift to fully nonviolent struggle would also make possible more active support for Palestinian independence in Western Europe and the United States.”

After months of genocide, starvation, and the gleeful mass murder of tens of thousands of children, all filmed and celebrated across Israeli society and by Israel’s supporters in the West, Sharp’s arguments are striking for their absurdity as well as their vulgarity. 

But Sharp was not alone. 

Pakistani activist and academic Eqbal Ahmed made the argument to Palestinians numerous times. He reported to journalist David Barsamian in 1996 (published in the 2000 book Confronting Empire) that he’d told a group of Arab students in the US after the 1967 war that “armed struggle was supremely unsuited to the Palestinian condition,” that “Israel’s fundamental contradiction was that it was founded as a symbol of the suffering of humanity at the expense of another people who were innocent of guilt,” and that “you don’t bring (the contradiction) out by armed struggle. In fact you suppress this contradiction by armed struggle.” He told them in 1968 that 

“This is a moment to fit ships in Lebanon and say, ‘we’re not going to destroy Israel. That is not our intent. We just want to go home.’ Reverse the symbols of Exodus. See if the Israelis are in a mood to sink some ships. They probably will. Let them do so. Some of us will die. Let us die.” Eqbal Ahmed imagined if Arafat were to “take on the role of a Gandhi or a Martin Luther King and announce tomorrow, ‘I must stop these settlements. They violate the spirit of Oslo. We are committed to peace. You are making war. We do not want to use violence against you. Peacefully we will march against you. We will sit in. We will clog the roads, start a full-scale movement, and discipline the Palestinians not even to throw stones, intifada-style, because Israelis will use and justify bullets against stones. They will use soldiers against children. Don’t even give them that.’ Israel will divide. It will divide as a society the way America divided. I would keep it divided until it makes peace.” 

But Eqbal Ahmed, despite being an  insightful anti-colonial strategist, was wrong about the histories he cited (Gandhi and Martin Luther King) and wrong about what would happen in the face of Palestinian non-violence, which did not divide Israel but incited Israel to ever-more intense racism. 

Norman Finkelstein wrote a whole book (What Gandhi Says) trying to assimilate lessons from Gandhi to the Palestinian struggle. His conclusions are ambivalent to say the least, since at times he writes things like “it might fairly be said that Gandhi fostered a death cult.” The book ends up being a presentation of the self-contradictory politics in Gandhi’s writing, not the practical manual of civil resistance Finkelstein may have hoped to create when he picked up Gandhi’s 100 volumes of writing as an aid for the US-based academic and activist “to think through a nonviolent strategy for ending the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands.” 

Palestinians took up these ideas in good faith for years – in better faith than the method deserves. Hundreds of Palestinians died trying to do nonviolent struggle. So too did a handful of friends of Palestine, including Rachel Corrie, Tom Hurndall, and others in the International Solidarity Movement.

Eqbal had suggested finding out “if the Israelis were in the mood to sink some ships.” They were – they already had been in 1967, if we count the USS Liberty –  but in 2010 a nonviolent flotilla tried to go to Gaza*. Israel boarded the ships, killed some of the activists, and arrested, mistreated, and deported the rest. 

'The Marmara raid wasn't a failure' -
Israelis attacked the Mavi Marmara as it tried to break the blockade on Gaza in 2010

But the culmination of the nonviolent vision, the maximum horizon of all nonviolence, the controlled scientific experiment of perfect nonviolence, occurred in the Great March of Return in Gaza in 2018. It proved that nonviolence does not work. From a scientific standpoint, the nonviolence debate ended in 2018. 

As Gene Sharp’s article on the First Intifada opened the debate on nonviolence in Palestine, Jehad Abusalim’s article, “The Great March of Return: An Organizer’s Perspective”, in the same journal, closed the debate on the topic. 

The Great March of Return started, Abusalim reports, with a facebook post by Abu Artema on January 7, 2018. Abu Artema asked, “What could the occupation bristling with arms do to a mass of human beings advancing peacefully? Kill ten, twenty, or fifty of them? And then what? What could it do in the face of an unwavering mass peacefully marching?” Abu Artema and others worked to make it happen and organized for months, calling for a date in March: 

“To the surprise of all concerned, an estimated 30,000–45,000 people showed up on the first day of the Great March of Return. And on that day, Israeli snipers shot dead 17 Palestinians and injured some 1,400 others.32 The mainstream international media instantaneously referred to the carnage as “rioting” and “clashes” but to those on the ground in Gaza, it was beyond shocking: how could nonviolent protests unleash such fury as to cause Israel to kill 17 peaceful protesters and maim or injure another 1,400? That is how, from the very first day, bloodshed came to define the protest.” 

By the end of the protest, cold-blooded Israeli snipers had killed 226 Palestinians and methodically injured 30,000. For the Israelis, it was sport. The Western media fluidly and easily lied about the march, its nature, and the murderous Israeli response. Neither Israel nor its sponsors faced any crisis or internal division about what they were doing to the Palestinians. Neither Israel nor the West paid any cost for inflicting these tens of thousands of Palestinian casualties. 

Abu Artema, the protest organizer interviewed by Abusalim in the article, seems bereft of ideas at the end – he feels that more international mobilization is needed, some tool that prevents Israel from “targeting Palestinians in such a horrific way” and to “prevent the occupation from using propaganda to prime the public for slaughtering us.” The nonviolence industry was unable to come up with any such tools: the slaughter of Palestinians at the Great March of Return was not the fault of the nonviolent protesters any more than the genocide in 2023-24 was the fault of the Palestinian armed groups. Israel is a genocidal state: then as now, it is doing what it is organized to do. 

Six years later, Palestinians are waging an armed struggle against the Israeli military in Gaza and the West Bank. The Israeli military has chosen to accept military casualties and defeats on the battlefield (including the methodical destruction of its armored vehicles and groups of soldiers) to focus entirely on conducting a genocide against Palestinian civilians, with the central goal being the destruction of all of Gaza’s hospitals and educational institutions and the murder of patients and medical personnel, while blocking food and water from reaching people. Palestinians’ allies in Lebanon, Iran, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen are all engaging militarily with Israel and its Western sponsors. In the region, for the time being, the nonviolence case is closed. 

Back in America though, in the solidarity movement, with the expansion of campus protests in April 2024, along with police repression all over the US, the nonviolence debate will rise again.

anti-genocide students face the cavalry in Texas

Anti-genocide students demand universities – which turned out, to the surprise of the students and faculty, to be investment banks that sometimes teach classes – divest from the military industry feeding the genocidal state. The pro-genocide establishment has called the police to crush the protests. What will be the outcome? Nonviolent or violent? Success or failure? 

*As I write this, another nonviolent international flotilla is planning to leave from Turkey to Gaza.

Are We Living Through a De-Dollarization?

De-dollarization is apparently here, “like it or not,” as a May 2023 video by the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, a peace-oriented think tank based in Washington, D.C., states. Quincy is not alone in discussing de-dollarization: political economists Radhika Desai and Michael Hudson outlined its mechanics across four shows between February and April 2023 in their fortnightly YouTube program, “Geopolitical Economy Hour.” Economist Richard Wolff provided a nine-minute explanation on this topic on the Democracy at Work channel. On the other side, media outlets like Business Insider have assured readers that dollar dominance isn’t going anywhere. Journalist Ben Norton reported on a two-hour, bipartisan Congressional hearing that took place on June 7—“Dollar Dominance: Preserving the U.S. Dollar’s Status as the Global Reserve Currency”—about defending the U.S. currency from de-dollarization. During the hearing, Congress members expressed both optimism and anxiety about the future of the dollar’s supreme role. But what has prompted this debate?

Until recently, the global economy accepted the U.S. dollar as the world’s reserve currency and the currency of international transactions. The central banks of Europe and Asia had an insatiable appetite for dollar-denominated U.S. Treasury securities, which in turn bestowed on Washington the ability to spend money and finance its debt at will. Should any country step out of line politically or militarily, Washington could sanction it, excluding it from the rest of the world’s dollar-denominated system of global trade.

But for how long? After a summit meeting in March between Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and China’s President Xi Jinping, Putin stated, “We are in favor of using the Chinese yuan for settlements between Russia and the countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America.” Putting that statement in perspective, CNN’s Fareed Zakaria said, “The world’s second-largest economy and its largest energy exporter are together actively trying to dent the dollar’s dominance as the anchor of the international financial system.” Already, Zakaria noted, Russia and China are holding less of their central bank reserves in dollars and settling most of their trade in yuan, while other countries sanctioned by the United States are turning to “barter trade” to avoid dependence on the dollar.

A new global monetary system, or at least one in which there is no near-universal reserve currency, would amount to a reshuffling of political, economic, and military power: a geopolitical reordering not seen since the end of the Cold War or even World War II. But as a look at its origins and evolution makes clear, the notion of a standard global system of exchange is relatively recent and no hard-and-fast rules dictate how one is to be organized. Let’s take a brief tour through the tumultuous monetary history of global trade and then consider the factors that could trigger another stage in its evolution.

Imperial Commodity Money

Before the dollarization of the world economy took place, the international system had a gold standard anchored by the naval supremacy of the British Empire. But a currency system backed by gold, a mined commodity, had an inherent flaw: deflation. As long as metal mining could keep up with the pace of economic growth, the gold standard could work. But, as Karl Polanyi noted in his 1944 book, The Great Transformation, “the amount of gold available may [only] be increased by a few percent over a year… not by as many dozen within a few weeks, as might be required to carry a sudden expansion of transactions. In the absence of token money, business would have to be either curtailed or carried on at very much lower prices, thus inducing a slump and creating unemployment.”

This deflationary spiral, borne by everyone in the economy, was what former U.S. presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan described in his famous 1896 Democratic Party convention speech, in which he declared, “You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.” For the truly wealthy, of course, the gold standard was a good thing, since it protected their assets from inflation.

The alternative to the “cross of gold” was for governments to ensure that sufficient currency circulated to keep business going. For this purpose, they could produce, instead of commodity money of gold or silver, token or “fiat” money: paper currency issued at will by the state treasury. The trouble with token money, however, was that it could not circulate on foreign soil. How, then, in a global economy, would it be possible to conduct foreign trade in commodity money and domestic business in token money?

The Spanish and Portuguese empires had one solution to keep the flow of metals going: to commit genocide against the civilizations of the Americas, steal their gold and silver, and force the Indigenous peoples to work themselves to death in the mines. The Dutch and then British empires got their hands on the same gold using a number of mechanisms, including the monopolization of the slave trade through the Assiento of 1713 and the theft of Indigenous lands in the United States and Canada. Stolen silver was used to purchase valuable trade goods in China. Britain stole that silver back from China after the Opium Wars, which China had to pay immense indemnities (in silver) for losing.

Once established as the global imperial manager, the British Empire insisted on the gold standard while putting India on a silver standard. In his 2022 PhD thesis, political economist Jayanth Jose Tharappel called this scheme “bimetallic apartheid”: Britain used the silver standard to acquire Indian commodities and the gold standard to trade with European countries. India was then used as a money pump for British control of the global economy, squeezed as needed: India ran a trade surplus with the rest of the world but was meanwhile in a trade deficit with Britain, which charged its colony “Home Charges” for the privilege of being looted. Britain also collected taxes and customs revenues in its colonies and semi-colonies, simply seizing commodity money and goods, which it resold at a profit, often to the point of famine and beyond—leading to tens of millions of deaths. The system of Council Bills was another clever scheme: paper money was sold by the British Crown to merchants for gold and silver. Those merchants used the Council Bills to purchase Indian goods for resale. The Indians who ended up with the Council Bills would cash them in and get rupees (their own tax revenues) back. The upshot of all this activity was that the Britain drained $45 trillion from India between 1765 and 1938, according to research by economist Utsa Patnaik.

From Gold to Gold-Backed Currency to the Floating Dollar

As the 19th century wore on, an indirect result of Britain’s highly profitable management of its colonies—and particularly its too-easy dumping of its exports into their markets—was that it fell behind in advanced manufacturing and technology to Germany and the United States: countries into which it had poured investment wealth drained from India and China. Germany’s superior industrial prowess and Russia’s departure from Britain’s side after the Bolshevik Revolution left the British facing a possible loss to Germany in World War I, despite Britain drawing more than 1 million people from the Indian subcontinent to serve (more than 2 million Indians would serve Britain in WWII) during the war. American financiers loaned Britain so much money that if it had lost WWI, U.S. banks would have realized an immense loss. When the war was over, to Britain’s surprise, the United States insisted on being paid back. Britain squeezed Germany for reparations to repay the U.S. loans, and the world financial system broke down into “competitive devaluations, tariff wars, and international autarchy,” as Michael Hudson relates in his 1972 book, Super imperialism, setting the stage for World War II.

After that war, Washington insisted on an end to the sterling zone; the United States would no longer allow Britain to use India as its own private money pump. But John Maynard Keynes, who had written Indian Currency and Finance (1913), The Economic Consequences of the Peace (1919), and the General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money (1936), believed he had found a new and better way to supply the commodity money needed for foreign trade and the token money required for domestic business, without crucifying anyone on a cross of gold.

At the international economic conference in 1944 at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, Keynes proposed an international bank with a new reserve currency, the bancor, that would be used to settle trade imbalances between countries. If Mexico needed to sell oil and purchase automobiles from Germany, for instance, the two countries could carry out trade in bancors. If Mexico found itself owing more bancors than it held, or Germany had a growing surplus of them, an International Clearing Union would apply pressure to both sides: currency depreciation for debtors, but also currency appreciation and punitive interest payments for creditors. Meanwhile, the central banks of both debtor and creditor nations could follow Keynes’s domestic advice and use their powers of money creation to stimulate the domestic economy as needed, within the limits of domestically available resources and labor power.

Keynes made his proposal, but the United States had a different plan. Instead of the bancor, the dollar, backed by gold held at Fort Knox, would be the new reserve currency and the medium of world trade. Having emerged from the war with its economy intact and most of the world’s gold, the United States led the Western war on communism in all its forms using weapons ranging from coups and assassinations to development aid and finance. On the economic side, U.S. tools included reconstruction lending to Europe, development loans to the Global South, and balance of payments loans to countries in trouble (the infamous International Monetary Fund (IMF) “rescue packages”). Unlike Keynes’s proposed International Clearing Union, the IMF imposed all the penalties on the debtors and gave all the rewards to the creditors.

The dollar’s unique position gave the United States what a French minister of finance called an “exorbitant privilege.” While every other country needed to export something to obtain dollars to purchase imports, the United States could simply issue currency and proceed to go shopping for the world’s assets. Gold backing remained, but the cost of world domination became considerable even for Washington during the Vietnam War. Starting in 1965, France, followed by others, began to hold the United States at its word and exchanged U.S. dollars for U.S. gold, persisting until Washington canceled gold backing and the dollar began to float free in 1971.

The Floating Dollar and the Petrodollar

The cancellation of gold backing for the currency of international trade was possible because of the United States’ exceptional position in the world as the supreme military power: it possessed full spectrum dominance and had hundreds of military bases everywhere in the world. The U.S. was also a magnet for the world’s immigrants, a holder of the soft power of Hollywood and the American lifestyle, and the leader in technology, science, and manufacturing.

The dollar also had a more tangible backing, even after the gold tether was broken. The most important commodity on the planet was petroleum, and the United States controlled the spigot through its special relationship with the oil superpower, Saudi Arabia; a meeting in 1945 between King Abdulaziz Al Saud and then-President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on an American cruiser, the USS Quincy, on Great Bitter Lake in Egypt sealed the deal. When the oil-producing countries formed an effective cartel, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), and began raising the price of oil, the oil-deficient countries of the Global South suffered, while the oil exporters exchanged their resources for vast amounts of dollars (“petrodollars”).

The United States forbade these dollar holders from acquiring strategic U.S. assets or industries but allowed them to plow their dollars back into the United States by purchasing U.S. weapons or U.S. Treasury securities: simply holding dollars in another form. Economists Jonathan Nitzan and Shimshon Bichler called this the “weapondollar-petrodollar” nexus in their 2002 book, The Global Political Economy of Israel. As documented in Michael Hudson’s 1977 book, Global Fracture (a sequel to Super Imperialism), the OPEC countries hoped to use their dollars to industrialize and catch up with the West, but U.S. coups and counterrevolutions maintained the global fracture and pushed the global economy into the era of neoliberalism.

The Saudi-U.S. relationship was the key to containing OPEC’s power as Saudi Arabia followed U.S. interests, increasing oil production at key moments to keep prices low. At least one author—James R. Norman, in his 2008 book, The Oil Card: Global Economic Warfare in the 21st Century—has argued that the relationship was key to other U.S. geopolitical priorities as well, including its effort to hasten the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1980s. A 1983 U.S. Treasury study calculated that, since each $1 drop in the per barrel oil price would reduce Russia’s hard currency revenues by up to $1 billion, a drop of $20 per barrel would put it in crisis, according to Peter Schweizer’s book, Victory.

In 1985, Norman recounted in his book that Saudi Arabia “[opened] the floodgates, [slashed] its pricing, and [pumped] more oil into the market.” While other factors contributed to the collapse of the oil price as well, “Russian academic Yegor Gaidar, acting prime minister of Russia from 1991 to 1994 and a former minister of economy, has described [the drop in oil prices] as clearly the mortal blow that wrecked the teetering Soviet Union.”

From Petrodollar to De-Dollarization

When the USSR collapsed, the United States declared a new world order and launched a series of new wars, including against Iraq. The currency of the new world order was the petrodollar-weapondollar. An initial bombing and partial occupation of Iraq in 1990 was followed by more than a decade of applying a sadistic economic weapon to a much more devastating effect than it ever had on the USSR (or other targets like Cuba): comprehensive sanctions. Forget price manipulations; Iraq was not allowed to sell its oil at all, nor to purchase needed medicines or technology. Hundreds of thousands of children died as a result. Several authors, including India’s Research Unit for Political Economy in the 2003 book Behind the Invasion of Iraq and U.S. author William Clark in a 2005 book, Petrodollar Warfare, have argued that Saddam Hussein’s final overthrow was triggered by a threat to begin trading oil in euros instead of dollars. Iraq has been under U.S. occupation since.

It seems, however, that the petro-weapondollar era is now coming to an end, and at a “‘stunning’ pace.” After the Putin-Xi summit in March 2023, CNN’s Fareed Zakaria worried publicly about the status of the dollar in the face of China’s and Russia’s efforts to de-dollarize. The dollar’s problems have only grown since. All of the pillars upholding the petrodollar-weapondollar are unstable:

But what will replace the dollar?

“A globalized economy needs a single currency,” Zakaria said on CNN after the Xi-Putin summit. “The dollar is stable. You can buy and sell at any time and it’s governed largely by the market and not the whims of a government. That’s why China’s efforts to expand the yuan’s role internationally have not worked.” But the governance of the U.S. dollar by the “whims of a government”—namely, the United States—is precisely why countries are looking for alternatives.

Zakaria took comfort in the fact that the dollar’s replacement will not be the yuan. “Ironically, if Xi Jinping wanted to cause the greatest pain to America, he would liberalize his financial sector and make the yuan a true competitor to the dollar. But that would take him in the direction of markets and openness that is the opposite of his current domestic goals.” Zakaria is wrong. China need not liberalize to internationalize the yuan. When the dollar was supreme, the United States simply excluded foreign dollar-holders from purchasing U.S. companies or assets and restricted them to holding U.S. Treasury securities instead.

But as Chinese economist Yuanzheng Cao, former chief economist of the Bank of China, argued in his 2018 book, Strategies for Internationalizing the Renminbi (the official name of the currency whose unit is the yuan), Beijing can internationalize the yuan without attempting to replace the dollar and incurring the widespread resentment that would follow. It only needs to secure the yuan’s use strategically as one of several currencies and in a wider variety of transactions, such as currency swaps.

Elsewhere, Keynes’s postwar idea for a global reserve currency is being revived on a more limited basis. A regional version of the bancor, the sur, was proposed by Brazil’s President Luis Inácio (“Lula”) da Silva. Ecuadorian economist and former presidential candidate Andrés Arauz described the sur as follows in a February interview: “The idea is not to replace each country’s national, sovereign currency, but rather to have an additional currency, a complementary currency, a supranational currency for trade among countries in the region, starting with Brazil and Argentina, which are the sort of two powerhouses in the Southern Cone, and that could then amplify to the rest of the region.” Lula followed up the sur idea with an idea of a BRICS currency; Russian economist Sergey Glazyev proposes a kind of bancor backed by a basket of commodities.

Currency systems reflect power relations in the world: they don’t change them. The Anglo gold standard and the American dollar standard reflected imperial monopoly power for centuries. In a multipolar world, however, we should expect more diverse arrangements.

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

AER 126: Multipolarity? Schmultipolarity! A debate with Sam Gindin

Sam Gindin and Justin Podur, moderated with fairness and balance by Nora Barrows-Friedman, debate the proposition that the world is becoming multipolar as US hegemony declines. We clash over capitalism, colonialism, and the history of the past few centuries; as well as over the meaning of the Russia/Ukraine war and the relative power of Chinese billionaires. If you listen through to the end, leave a review on the podcast app saying who won.

Subimperialism and multipolarity: Brazil’s dilemma

A look at sub-imperialism and multipolarity in Brazil historically and into the future.

In the Open Veins of Latin America Eduardo Galeano described an 1870 genocidal war of regime change waged on Paraguay by a Triple Alliance of its neighbors, Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil, on behalf of British imperialism. The target, nationalist president Solano Lopez, died in battle. The country lost 56,000 square miles of territory. Paraguay’s population was reduced by 83.3 percent.

By the end, Galeano wrote: “Brazil had performed the role the British had assigned it.” Before the intervention, “Paraguay had telegraphs, a railroad, and numerous factories manufacturing construction materials, textiles, linens, ponchos, paper and ink, crockery, and gunpowder… the Ibycui foundry made guns, mortars, and ammunition of all calibers… the steel industry… belonged to the state. The country had a merchant fleet… the state virtually monopolized foreign trade; it supplied yerba mate and tobacco to the southern part of the continent and exported valuable woods to Europe… With a strong and stable currency, Paraguay was wealthy enough to carry out great public works without recourse to foreign capital… Irrigation works, dams and canals, and new bridges and roads substantially helped to raise agricultural production. The native tradition of two crops a year, abandoned by the conquistadors, was revived.”

After the war: “it was not only the population and great chunks of territory that disappeared, but customs tariffs, foundries, rivers closed to free trade, and economic independence… Everything was looted and everything was sold: lands and forests, mines, yerba mate farms, school buildings.”

Summarizing all this, Galeano wrote: “Paraguay has the double burden of imperialism and subimperialism.”

“Subimperialism,” Galeano continued, “has a thousand faces.” Paraguayan soldiers joined an intervention against the Dominican Republic in 1965, under the command of a Brazilian general, Panasco Alvim. Paraguay “gave Brazil an oil concession on its territory, but the fuel distribution and petrochemical business [was] in U.S. hands.” The U.S. also controlled the university, the army, and the black market as well, of which Galeano wrote: “Through open contraband channels, Brazilian industrial products invade the Paraguayan market, but the Sao Paulo factories that produce them have belonged to U.S. corporations since the denationalizing avalanche of recent years.”

Elaborating on Brazil’s sub-imperial function since 1964, Galeano wrote: “A very influential military clique pictures the country as the great administrator of U.S. interests in the region, and calls on Brazil to become the same sort of boss over the south as the [U.S.] is over Brazil itself.”

Ruy Mauro Marini Analyzes the Phenomenon

It is perhaps no coincidence that the leading scholarly authority on sub-imperialism is the Brazilian scholar Ruy Mauro Marini. Mauro’s 1977 article was published shortly after Galeano’s book. To understand “global capitalist accumulation and subimperialism” some background on the theory of imperialism set out by Lenin is in order, and more recent books like Zak Cope’s The Wealth of Some Nations and Patnaik and Patnaik’s A Theory of Imperialism teach the theory eloquently.

The key concepts are unequal exchange and value transfer, magical processes through which the wealthy countries exchange smaller amounts of labor for larger amounts of labor from the poor countries. The mechanisms are many: patent regimes, Western corporate control of Global South resources, denomination of oil and other commodities in U.S. dollars, IMF and Western-bank loan terms and draconian rescue packages, Western arms sales and military training programs—all backed up by the threat of sanctions, coups, invasions, and “color revolutions,” which happen frequently enough to remind Global South governments to stay in line.

In Imperialism, Lenin described the pressure on wealthy countries to “go imperialist:” winners in the Western domestic market invariably consolidate and tend towards monopoly; these winners are invariably coordinated increasingly through banks and financial interests; throwing new investments in to a mature market brings lower returns than they can get in newly opened ones, so the financiers seek colonies to get high returns on their growing piles of capital; the colonies also address their interests in labor and raw materials that are cheap (or ideally, free, through theft).

Mauro shows how this dynamic can lead to sub-imperialism if the context is right. Sub-imperialism, he writes, is “the form assumed by the dependent economy when it reaches the stage of monopoly and finance capital,” and it has two basic components.

The first is a “relatively autonomous” expansionist policy that functions under the overall umbrella of U.S. hegemony.

The second is what Mauro calls a “medium” organic composition of capital. To explain this concept an example comparison will suffice: an economy with a high organic composition of capital is one where workers use advanced, costly machinery that itself required a lot of labor to produce (the word “composition” refers to how much so-called “dead labor” went into the machines on which the “living labor” is now laboring). These are the workers in the vacuum labs making nanometre-precise computing chips. An economy with a low organic composition of capital is one where workers labor with their hands or simple tools, cutting sugar cane with machetes as day laborers. Their work is called “unskilled” and their wages are proportionately lower.

In 1977, Mauro argued that in Latin America, only Brazil had both the medium organic composition and the relatively autonomous expansionist policy. But what about today? And what about in other regions?

Generalizing the Concept

Are there sub-imperialists in South Asia? Pakistan exercises its ambitions in Afghanistan under U.S. hegemony. Imran Khan was overthrown in a coup for withdrawing support for the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan; his successors have worked hard to prove their subordination to the hegemon. India meddles in the affairs of its small neighbors like Bhutanand does so under U.S. hegemony; Western corporations certainly have an immense footprint in both India and Pakistan.

In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and Turkey qualify as sub-imperialists though both showcase how each sub-imperialist is a special case. In Africa, South Africa has been analyzed as a sub-imperialist and tiny Rwanda could well qualify as a Central African version.

Who doesn’t fit? None of the U.S. Five Eyes partners (Australia, New Zealand, Canada, or UK) nor Japan, nor Israel, since all are high-income countries with higher than “medium” organic composition of capital.

Nor do China, Russia, or Iran fit the sub-imperialist mold. They may exercise hegemony—or contest it—in their regions, but they do not do so under the umbrella of U.S. hegemony.

This brings us back to Brazil and to the changes in the world since the writings of Mauro and Galeano on sub-imperialism.

Sub-Imperialism and Multipolarity

Until very recently, unilateral U.S. hegemony was the basic fact of world affairs.

No one could contest the U.S. invasions of Grenada, Panama, Iraq, or Haiti or its destruction of Yugoslavia and Libya. But Russia and Iran did contest the U.S. plan to dismantle Syria in 2015.

When Yemen voted against the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 1990, they were told that it was “the most expensive vote they ever cast” and punished economically. But by 2022 many countries remained neutral in the Russia-Ukraine War despite Western demands that they support Ukraine. India and China ignored Western demands that they refuse to buy Russian energy, expanding a series of options for trading commodities in currencies other than the U.S. dollar. African countries need not beg Western commercial banks for development finance: they can examine Western offers side-by-side with the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative. In 2023, China brokered a peace deal that restored relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

These developments reveal a historical change from a unipolar to a multipolar world order. The world has been under unipolar Anglo-American hegemony since the 1750s. There were world empires prior to that (notably the Spanish and Portuguese) but China and India each had around 25 percent of the world economy even at that time; a few centuries earlier, before the devastation of the Americas, the world was even more multipolar, if much less globalized.

If we are indeed moving away from the unipolar historical pattern, current sub-imperialists have some re-thinking to do: the U.S. umbrella is not what it once was.

Sub-Imperialism or Multipolarity? Which Way for Brazil?

With Lula (Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva) back in the president’s office in Brazil as of 2023, the country faced this precise dilemma. In his previous tenure, Lula acted as both a multipolarist and a sub-imperialist. An early proponent of multipolarity (before the moment had even arrived) through his advocacy of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) and of Latin American integration, Lula’s Brazil played the sub-imperial role as well, leading the morally compromised and disastrous UN mission to take over the U.S. occupation of Haiti. Some of the military officers who led the Haiti occupation helped overthrow Lula’s party in the coup that led to his jailing and eventually to Bolsonaro’s destructive presidency.

Bolsonaro was certainly, symbolically sub-imperialist: he saluted the U.S. flag and marched under the Israeli one. But most of his time in office was characterized by a disastrous COVID-19 response, genocidal policies against Indigenous peoples, and a general incoherence on foreign policy. Bolsonaro participated in a regime change stunt in Venezuela but tried to stay out of the Russia-Ukraine war.

Lula returned to office in a context of weaker domestic left-wing movements but a stronger multipolar context. Lula’s Brazil voted with the West in the condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but Brazil was told by Russian diplomats that Russia understood the vote.

There are economic considerations beyond the organic composition of capital that can drive Global South leaders back into the criminal arms of the U.S.—dependence on natural resource exports and foodgrain imports are tendencies that are difficult to reverse, especially in democracies like Brazil that are vulnerable to coups or regression when the right-wing returns to power.

Perhaps Brazil will be the vanguard of multipolarity in the Americas, or the sub-imperialist agent undermining BRICS from the inside. The changing world includes possibilities never contemplated by Galeano, Mauro, or Lenin.

Justin Podur is a Toronto-based writer and a writing fellow at Globetrotter. You can find him on his website at and on Twitter @justinpodur. He teaches at York University in the Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change.

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

Asking the Oppressed to Be Nonviolent Is an Impossible Standard That Ignores History

In January 2023, after five police officers killed Tyre Nichols, President Joe Biden quickly issued a statement calling on protesters to stay nonviolent. “As Americans grieve, the Department of Justice conducts its investigation, and state authorities continue their work, I join Tyre’s family in calling for peaceful protest,” said Biden. “Outrage is understandable, but violence is never acceptable. Violence is destructive and against the law. It has no place in peaceful protests seeking justice.”

In June 2022, when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Biden made the same call to protesters. “I call on everyone, no matter how deeply they care about this decision, to keep all protests peaceful. Peaceful, peaceful, peaceful,” Biden said. “No intimidation. Violence is never acceptable. Threats and intimidation are not speech. We must stand against violence in any form, regardless of your rationale.”

It is a curious spectacle to have the head of a state, with all the levers of power, not using that power to solve a problem, but instead offering advice to the powerless about how to protest against him and the broken government system. Biden, however, showed no such reluctance to use those levers of power against protesters. During the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020 after the murder of George Floyd, when Biden was a presidential candidate, he made clear what he wanted to happen to those who didn’t heed the call to nonviolence: “We should never let what’s done in a march for equal rights overcome what the reason for the march is. And that’s what these folks are doing. And they should be arrested—found, arrested, and tried.”

In the face of murderous police action, Biden called on protesters to be “peaceful, peaceful, peaceful.” In the face of non-nonviolent protesters, Biden called on police to make sure the protesters were “found, arrested, and tried.”

Are protesters in the United States (and perhaps other countries where U.S. protest culture is particularly strong, like Canada) being held to an impossible standard? In fact, other Western countries don’t seem to make these demands of their protesters—consider Christophe Dettinger, the boxer who punched a group of armored, shielded, and helmeted French riot police until they backed off from beating other protesters during the yellow vest protests in 2019. Dettinger went to jail but became a national hero to some. What would his fate have been in the United States? Most likely, he would have been manhandled on the spot, as graphic footage of U.S. police behavior toward people much smaller and weaker than Dettinger during the 2020 protests would suggest. If he survived the encounter with U.S. police, Dettinger would have faced criticism from within the movement for not using peaceful methods.

There is a paradox here. The United States, the country with nearly 800 military bases across the world, the country that dropped the nuclear bomb on civilian cities, and the country that outspends all its military rivals combined, expects its citizens to adhere to more stringent standards during protests compared to any other country. Staughton and Alice Lynd in the second edition of their book Nonviolence in America, which was released in 1995, wrote that “America has more often been the teacher than the student of the nonviolent ideal.” The Lynds are quoted disapprovingly by anarchist writer Peter Gelderloos in his book How Nonviolence Protects the State, an appeal to nonviolent protesters in the early 2000s who found themselves on the streets with anarchists who didn’t share their commitment to nonviolence. Gelderloos asked for solidarity from the nonviolent activists, begging them not to allow the state to divide the movement into “good protesters” and “bad protesters.” That so-called “antiglobalization” movement faded away in the face of the post-2001 war on terror, so the debate was never really resolved.

For the U.S., the UK, and many of their allies, the debate over political violence goes back perhaps as far as the white pacifists who assured their white brethren, terrified by the Haitian Revolution, which ended in 1804, that abolitionism did not mean encouraging enslaved people to rebel or fight back. While they dreamed of a future without slavery, 19th-century abolitionist pacifists understood, like their countrymen who were the enslavers, that the role of enslaved people was to suffer like good Christians and wait for God’s deliverance rather than to rebel. Although he gradually changed his mind, 19th-century abolitionist and pacifist William Lloyd Garrison initially insisted on nonviolence toward enslavers. Here Garrison is quoted in the late Italian communist Domenico Losurdo’s book Nonviolence: A History Beyond the Myth: “Much as I detest the oppression exercised by the Southern slaveholder, he is a man, sacred before me. He is a man, not to be harmed by my hand nor with my consent.” Besides, he added, “I do not believe that the weapons of liberty ever have been, or ever can be, the weapons of despotism.” As the crisis deepened with the Fugitive Slave Law, Losurdo argued, pacifists like Garrison found it increasingly difficult to call upon enslaved people to turn themselves back to their enslavers without resistance. By 1859, Garrison even found himself unable to condemn abolitionist John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry.

The moral complexities involved in nonviolence in the antiwar movement were acknowledged by linguist, philosopher, and political activist Noam Chomsky in a 1967 debate with political philosopher Hannah Arendt and others. Chomsky, though an advocate for nonviolence himself in the debate, concluded that nonviolence was ultimately a matter of faith:

“The easiest reaction is to say that all violence is abhorrent, that both sides are guilty, and to stand apart retaining one’s moral purity and condemn them both. This is the easiest response and in this case I think it’s also justified. But, for reasons that are pretty complex, there are real arguments also in favor of the Viet Cong terror, arguments that can’t be lightly dismissed, although I don’t think they’re correct. One argument is that this selective terror—killing certain officials and frightening others—tended to save the population from a much more extreme government terror, the continuing terror that exists when a corrupt official can do things that are within his power in the province that he controls.”

“Then there’s also the second type of argument… which I think can’t be abandoned very lightly. It’s a factual question of whether such an act of violence frees the native from his inferiority complex and permits him to enter into political life. I myself would like to believe that it’s not so. Or at the least, I’d like to believe that nonviolent reaction could achieve the same result. But it’s not very easy to present evidence for this; one can only argue for accepting this view on grounds of faith.”

Several writings have sounded the warning that nonviolence doctrine has caused harm to the oppressed. These include Pacifism as Pathology by Ward Churchill, How Nonviolence Protects the State and The Failure of Nonviolence by Peter Gelderloos, Nonviolence: A History Beyond the Myth by Domenico Losurdo, and the two-part series “Change Agent: Gene Sharp’s Neoliberal Nonviolence” by Marcie Smith.

Even the historic victories of nonviolent struggles had a behind-the-scenes armed element. Recent scholarly work has revisited the history of nonviolence in the U.S. civil rights struggle. Key texts include Lance Hill’s The Deacons for Defense, Akinyele Omowale Umoja’s We Will Shoot Back, and Charles E. Cobb Jr.’s This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed. These histories reveal continuous resistance, including armed self-defense, by Black people in the United States.

Even before these recent histories, we have Robert Williams’s remarkable and brief autobiography written in exile, Negroes With Guns. Williams was expelled from the NAACP for saying in 1959: “We must be willing to kill if necessary. We cannot take these people who do us injustice to the court. … In the future we are going to have to try and convict these people on the spot.” He bitterly noted that while “Nonviolent workshops are springing up throughout Black communities [, n]ot a single one has been established in racist white communities to curb the violence of the Ku Klux Klan.”

As they moved around the rural South for their desegregation campaigns, the nonviolent activists of the civil rights movement often found they had—without their asking—armed protection against overzealous police and racist vigilantes: grannies who sat watch on porches at night with rifles on their laps while the nonviolent activists slept; Deacons for Defense who threatened police with a gun battle if they dared turn water hoses on nonviolent students trying to desegregate a swimming pool. Meanwhile, legislative gains made by the nonviolent movement often included the threat or reality of violent riots. In May 1963 in Birmingham, Alabama, for example, after a nonviolent march was crushed, a riot of 3,000 people followed. Eventually a desegregation pact was won on May 10, 1963. One observer argued that “every day of the riots was worth a year of civil rights demonstrations.”

As Lance Hill argues in The Deacons for Defense:

“In the end, segregation yielded to force as much as it did to moral suasion. Violence in the form of street riots and armed self-defense played a fundamental role in uprooting segregation and economic and political discrimination from 1963 to 1965. Only after the threat of black violence emerged did civil rights legislation move to the forefront of the national agenda.”

Biden’s constant calls for nonviolence by protesters while condoning violence by police are asking for the impossible and the ahistorical. In the crucial moments of U.S. history, nonviolence has always yielded to violence.

This article was produced by Globetrotter. Justin Podur is a Toronto-based writer and a writing fellow at Globetrotter. You can find him on his website at and on Twitter @justinpodur. He teaches at York University in the Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change.

WWCiv 9: Imperial Resentment, Industrial Power, Inevitable Socialism: Germany before WW1

Germany’s contested rise and WW1

Of all the mysteries of the World Wars, Germany’s is perhaps the most mysterious. We discuss this country with the fastest growing industrial power, the largest and most powerful socialist movement, and (perhaps) the most arrogant imperialist at the helm. We conclude with some notes on some interesting (but not especially well liked by us) sources on German-British rivalry.

AER 114: Why Democracy (TM) Fails the Global South

Does democracy deliver development?

Democracy means “the people rule”. But do the people rule in the “democratic” systems that form governments all over the world? Are these democratic governments less repressive or authoritarian than those without the democratic certification? And does the democratic system of frequent multiparty elections deliver the developmental goods?

Talking to Vik Sohonie, former journalist who runs the grammy-award nominated Ostinato Records, about why Democracy (TM) fails the Global South.

In Real Time with Stan Cox 4: A discussion of violence and policy murder

The fourth discussion with Stan Cox about his latest dispatch, “They’ll Show Up Armed – Countering Policy Murder and the Rising Violence of the Right”. We talk about a nonviolent march Stan participated in and a few of the historic movement debates about violence and nonviolence that we’ve seen over the decades. And we conclude with the question: will it be necessary for there to be more guns out there, to get gun control back on the agenda?

Countering violence with Stan Cox

AER 105: Are your favorite academic theorists really CIA spooks? With Gabriel Rockhill

Is French Theory full of CIA spooks?

Talking to Gabriel Rockhill, professor and director of the Critical Theory Workshop. Ever wonder why the CIA thought it was worthwhile to sponsor European left-wing academic theories? We talk about Derrida, Foucault, Arendt, and why even if you think obscure academic theory isn’t important, you might be mistaken. Author or editor of nine books, Rockhill is currently working on a book tentatively titled The Intellectual World War: The CIA’s Failed Attempt to Kill the Idea of Communism.

AEP 93: Take Back the Fight with Nora Loreto

Feminism, COVID, and more with Nora Loreto

I talk to Nora Loreto – podcaster, journalist, and author of Take Back the Fight: Organizing Feminism for the Digital Age and Spin Doctors: How Media and Politicians Misdiagnosed the COVID-19 Epidemic. We talk about Nora’s journalism on COVID-19, about anti-feminist backlashes of various kinds, about contemporary feminism and the continuing relevance of organizing in the movement, and more.