“A People’s History of the United States,” by Howard Zinn, is acclaimed within and without Amerikan academia and ‘left-wing’ circles as a hallmark of narrative history. It is required reading in many university History Departments and widely recommended by ‘progressives’ and ‘radicals’ of various shades and stripes. Beyond these accolades however, lies a narrative “of the American people,” not one of those perennially trampled beneath their weight. A “People’s History,” far from being subversive, is a hallmark of typical Amerikan, First World and White chauvinism in ‘leftist’ dressing. Zinn’s work serves much of the First World fake ‘left’ well precisely by obscuring the role of conquest, national oppression and imperialism in the development of the US.
One preeminent example is Zinn’s mountainous four paragraphs of “A People’s History of the United States” dedicated to the internment of Japan-descended people living on the western coast of the US during World War II:
“In one of its policies, the United States came close to direct duplication of Fascism. This was in its treatment of the Japan-Americans living on the West Coast. After the Pearl Harbor attacks, anti-Japanese hysteria spread in the government. One congressman said: ‘I’m for catching every Japanese in America, Alaska and Hawaii now and putting them in concentration camps…Damn them! Let’s get rid of them!’ Continue reading
Note on Primitive Accumulation
The word primitive is here used in the sense of “belonging to the first age, period, or stage,” i.e., of being “original rather than derivative,” and not in the sense of “simple, rude, or rough.” Marx’s original term was “ursprüngliche akkumulation,” and as Paul Sweezy suggests, it would have been better translated as “original” or “primary” accumulation. But it is too late to change current usage, and the word primitive should be interpreted in a technical sense, as in mathematics, where a primitive line or figure is a line or figure “from which some construction or reckoning begins.” In economics primitive accumulation refers to the period from which capitalist accumulation springs. It was not simple, though it was rude and rough.
The solitary and isolated figure of Robinson Crusoe is often taken as a starting point by economists, especially in their analysis of international trade. He is pictured as a rugged individual—diligent, intelligent, and above all frugal—who masters nature through reason. But the actual story of Robinson Crusoe, as told by Defoe, is also one of conquest, slavery, robbery, murder, and force. That this side of the story should be ignored is not at all surprising, “for in the tender annals of political economy the idyllic reigns from time immemorial.” The contrast between the economists’ Robinson Crusoe and the genuine one mirrors the contrast between the mythical description of international trade found in economics textbooks and the actual facts of what happens in the international economy.
The paradigm of non-Marxist international trade theory is the model of a hunter and fisherman who trade to their mutual benefit under conditions of equality, reciprocity, and freedom. But international trade (or, for that matter, interregional trade) is often based on a division between superior and subordinate rather than a division between equals; and it is anything but peaceful. It is trade between the center and the hinterland, the colonizers and the colonized, the masters and the servants. Like the relation of capital to labor, it is based on a division between higher and lower functions: one party does the thinking, planning, organizing; the other does the work. Because it is unequal in structure and reward it has to be established and maintained by force, whether it be the structural violence of poverty, the symbolic violence of socialization, or the physical violence of war and pacification.
In this essay I would like to go over the details of Crusoe’s story—how, starting as a slave trader, he uses the surplus of others to acquire a fortune—in order to illustrate Marx’s analysis of the capitalist economy, especially the period of primitive accumulation which was its starting point. Continue reading
By Terryn Asunder Octavia Butler is the first published black, female, Science Fiction writer. Her influence on the genre and fiction as a whole is immense. She explores themes such as identity, oppression, community, and power through the lens of a black feminist, and she treats these themes with the nuance they deserve. Her prose […]
Within popular bourgeois media, the social contradictions of real life are overlooked yet alluded to through allegory. This is the case with Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Rupert Wyatt, 2011). In the CGI special effects-laden movie, a chimpanzee named Caesar is born with enhanced intellectual capacity. Caesar eventually comprehends his and other captive primates’ existence as starkly oppressed by humans and leads a revolt for freedom.
Based on a true story, Rabbit Proof Fence (Phillip Noyce, 2002) chronicles the journey home of three Aboriginal children, Molly Graig, her younger sister Daisy and cousin Gracie, who escaped after being abducted by the Australian government. The girls, age 14, 10 and 8, ran away from a government residential school for ‘half-caste’ children in […]
(The End of Poverty?, Director Philippe Diaz, 2008, 106 minutes) Intro The End of Poverty? is a documentary, made by Philippe Diaz, that examines the questions around global poverty and its causes. It starts with the question, “in a world with so much wealth why is there so much poverty?” In looking at poverty from […]
This article was originally published at MIM-Prisons. Reposting here does not imply endorsement or agreement. – Nick Like many of the books reviewed in Under Lock & Key, Meditations On Frantz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth is written by someone who spent most of his adult life in a U.$. prison. That there are so […]
by Nick Brown, originally posted at peopleofcolororganize.com Feminism is a controversial topic amongst Native North Americans. Over the last quarter century, there has been a proliferation of books and essays expressing various views on feminism from Native women’s perspectives. M. Annette Jaimes’s in ‘American Indian Women: At the Center Stage of Resistance in North America’ […]
Music Video, “Illmerica,” Reviewed by Nick Brown “Illmerica” is a recent electro-house song by US dance music producer, Wolfgang Gartner. Though the song itself is absent lyrics, the video is highly critical of the United States. Unlike most Western and Western-inspired dance music videos, ‘Illmerica” combines popular aesthetics with political criticism. Many messages are presented […]
We previously wrote a review on the movies Machete and The Baader-Meinhof Complex, both movies dealing with revolutionary violence, here. A reader, J., wrote back in response, dealing with the part of the review on the Baider-Meinhof Complex film, a fictionalized account of the Red Army Faction in then-West Germany: Although I know you were […]
As this is Israel Apartheid Week, where groups are raising awareness about the apartheid state of Israel in its war on the Palestinian people, we thought it appropriate to show some resistance on the cultural front. Both videos are from D.A.M., based out of the city of Lod.
By PTT of MIMP
Jasiri X is a hip hop artist from Pittsburgh who raps the news over some dope beats produced by The Grand Architect Paradise Gray of X Clan. The two release these tracks as videos on youtube.com in a series titled “This Week with Jasiri X.” Jasiri X is popular in activist circles, frequently performing at benefits and rallies. We’ve been bobbing our heads to X’s tracks since the release of OG3 – Oscar Grant Tribute in January 2009, but in light of his most recent release, American Workers vs. Multi-Billionaires, we decided to take a closer look.
Reviewed by Nick Brown, RAIM-Denver (www.antiimperialism.wordpress.com)
The main contradiction in the world is between the Global North and the Global South. Due to super-exploitation of the Third World, the “masses” in the First World have been bought off. The main battleground for revolutionary change lies not in the imperialist cores, but in the exploited peripheries. These ideas, often expounded by the Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Movement, are not ours alone. In his recent essay, “The Trajectory of Historical Capitalism and Marxism’s Tricontinental Vocation,” Samir Amin, director of the Third World Forum and author of the recent book ‘The Law of Worldwide Value,” presents a similar series of arguments regarding what he calls the struggle for socialism and communism.
All Power to the Positive Vol. 1, Ep. 10 All Power to the Positive Vol. 1 Ep. 9
By Siglo, Monkey Smashes Heaven (www.llco.org) Mexico: The Frozen Revolution Directed by Raymundo Gleyzer, 1971 The documentary Mexico: The Frozen Revolution was directed by Raymundo Gleyzer in 1971. Gleyzer was a documentary filmmaker from Argentina who was involved with Cine de la Base, committed to bring revolutionary films to the people. In 1976 Gleyzer was […]
Machete (2010, Ethan Maniquin and Robert Rodriguez) and The Baader Meinhof Complex (2008, Uli Edel) are two recent movies set in imperialist countries, both depicting armed struggle against reactionaries. Machete garnered criticism prior to its release, including campaigns by White supremacists to have the film pulled from Amerikan theaters, ostensibly for fear its depiction of […]
Movie Review: Shutter Island (Martin Sorsese, 2010) (www.raimd.wordpress.com) [spoiler warning] Shutter Island, the cinematic thriller by director, Martin Scorsese, adapted from a novel by Dennis Lehane, presents a choice between two narratives. Reality is skewed in the movie. Tension unfolds in an purposeful, ambiguous way, forcing the audience to choose between reality and delusion, normalcy […]
A year after Barack Obama’s presidential election and with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan still raging (and spreading into Pakistan), many within anti-war circles are engaged in dialogue about which way the movement should go. A large part of the problem faced by anti-war activists is that their once relatively large movement is now […]