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Zunes’ Compromising with Capitalism’s Sad Reality

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By Stephen Gowans

Stephen Zunes has written a reply to my article criticizing his connections to US government- and ruling class-funded “peace” organizations, but far from rebutting my criticisms, he helps make my point.

He writes, “The unfortunate reality in capitalist societies is that most non-profit organizations – from universities to social justice organizations to art galleries to peace groups (and ICNC as well) – depend at least in part on donations from wealthy individuals and from foundations which get their money from wealthy individuals.”

On this we agree: The capitalist class, through its money power, dominates capitalist societies, including its universities, social justice organizations, peace groups and scholars of non-violence (at least those willing to feed at the trough.) Is it any surprise, then, that handsomely-funded social justice organizations, peace groups, progressive media and scholars of nonviolence might be understood to be agents of capitalism and imperialism within the left community?

But Zunes continues: “Just because the ultimate source of funding for various non-profit groups is from members of the ruling class, however, does not mean that ruling class interests therefore set the agenda for every such non-profit group; they certainly do in some cases, but not in many other cases, including that of ICNC.”

There’s an obvious exceptionalism in Zunes’ argument. Maybe others are bought, but not me. Lay that aside. The ruling class doesn’t need to set the agenda for all organizations and individuals; it only needs to fund individuals and groups who promote its interests. This is the same argument Chomsky and Herman have made in connection with the mainstream press propagating elite narratives. Media outlets don’t need to set the agenda for journalists; they simply need to hire journalists who say the right things, and fire those who don’t. The New York Times won’t hire Chomksy or Herman to write a regular column, but it will hire Thomas Friedman, because he can be relied on to stay within a narrow band of opinion acceptable to ruling class interests. No one sets an agenda for Friedman. But, then, no one has to. As Humbert Wolfe once said, “You cannot hope to bribe and twist, thank God, the British journalist. But seeing what the man will do unbribed, there’s no occasion to.”

So what does Zunes do, unbribed, that obviates his funders setting an agenda for him? For one, he promotes a peaceful activism at home that is useful to the ruling class in channeling inchoate militancy into ritualistic, symbolic, forms of protest, whose effect in countering the ruling class is approximately zero. He says he “has even been arrested on a number of occasions protesting US imperialism” (doubtlessly in a ritualistic way that minimizes inconvenience for all concerned) but his being arrested has accomplished nothing, except to bulk up his credentials as an activist. And all those who have followed his lead had the same effect. The Washington Consensus is in no danger of falling apart and US war-making hasn’t been set back a millimeter in its relentless advance.

By contrast, non-violent activists in Belarus, Zimbabwe, Iran and formerly in Serbia can be much more effective; they have the US ruling class on their side. They’re helped immensely by the sanctions Washington deploys against their governments, by the threats of war the US uses to intimidate governments it wants to overthrow, by US bombing campaigns, by US assistance to the political opposition, and by the wads of money from the NED, USAID, and their equivalents in Britain, Germany and so on. Non-violent regime change in foreign countries is only possible as a result of contextual violence related to economic and conventional warfare. The contextual violence is absent in the case of peaceful protest in the US, which is why non-violent activism plus sanctions plus threats of war plus funding of subversion plus establishing media to broadcast anti-government propaganda works abroad and non-violent activism plus none of these other things doesn’t work at home.

Another reason the ruling class foundations on which Zunes relies do not have to set his agenda is that Zunes is an absolutely reliable amplifier within the progressive community of the arguments the State Department uses as the basis for its human rights imperialism. He assures us, without adducing the tiniest jot of evidence, that Belarus, Iran, and Zimbabwe are dictatorships and that Yugoslavia was in 1999. That’s helpful to the imperialist class in dampening interest among those politically conscious enough to be inclined to get in the way of imperialist designs being carried out against target countries. Who’s going to spring to the aid of foreign governments and anti-imperialist movements that are widely portrayed in the mass media, and seconded by foundation-supported “independent” progressive scholars, as oppressive and dictatorial?

Indeed, there are three ways Zunes promotes the ruling class agenda within the progressive community which makes the setting of an agenda for him by the wealthy individuals and foundations who furnish him with money completely unnecessary. He (1) lionizes ritualistic and symbolic forms of non-violent protest at home which have no effect in impeding the ruling class in pursuing its interests, and which, therefore it seeks to promote as an alternative to potentially more effective opposition (and if this safe outlet of opposition can be promoted by someone with activist credentials, all the better); by (2) amplifying ruling class justifications for its meddling in the affairs of other countries and thereby turning progressives against ruling class foreign policy targets; and (3) by burnishing US government regime change operations, portraying them as legitimate home-grown operations against oppressive governments.

The only way we cannot accept that Zunes is an agent of imperialism, is if we accept that the ruling class is incredibly stupid and funds the activities of those who are against its interests and fail to promote its agenda. Since this is highly unlikely, it is also highly unlikely that he is not a grassroots lieutenant of imperialism, along with all the other left scholars who have made their compromise with “the unfortunate reality” that in capitalist societies peace groups and social justice organizations are funded by wealthy individuals and their foundations.

4 Responses

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  1. “The only way we cannot accept that Zunes is an agent of imperialism, is if we accept that the ruling class is incredibly stupid and funds the activities of those who are against its interests and fail to promote its agenda.”
    Who is really stupid is this Zunes. He would better not reply to his critics because his so-called objections are absolutely meaningless. It also makes him a good target for rejoinders by John Foster and Steve Gowans. So, Zunes, please shut up. It would be better for you if you stop self-exposure and for us all if you leave progressive politics forever.

    Yuriy Dergunov

    February 25, 2008 at 11:40 pm

  2. Fact is, the state IS behind information warfare via major unions, most major newspapers/’journalists’, and many academics, setting the agenda.

    “Strategic non-violence”operates massively through NGOs. Follow George Soros for fuller picture, but for starters:

    WHY IT’S CALLED THE AFL-CIA
    How American Unions Helps Solidarity Win
    By Arch Puddington
    http://www.aft.org/pubs-reports/american_educator/issues/summer2005/puddington.htm

    From the state’s mouth:
    U.S. Human Rights and Democracy Strategy
    http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/shrd/2006/80584.htm
    Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs > Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Guiding Principles on Non-Governmental Organizations
    http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/77771.htm

    US “Strategic Non-Violence” & George Soros: Iraq, Africa, Eastern Europe, China, Nepal, Latin America, Indonesia, Myanmar …
    ‘Strategic nonviolent struggle is all about political power.’ And I thought, ‘Boy is this guy speaking my language,’ that is what armed struggle is about.”
    Col. Robert Helvey

    Washington’s New World Order “Democratization” Template
    by Jonathan Mowat
    http://globalresearch.ca/articles/MOW502A.html
    Dr. Peter Ackerman, the author of “Strategic Nonviolent Conflict” in the “National Catholic Reporter” on April 26, 2002: “It is not true that the only way to ‘take out’ such regimes is through U.S. military action.”…Speaking at the “Secretary’s Open Forum” at the State Department on June 29, 2004, in a speech entitled, “Between Hard and Soft Power: The Rise of Civilian-Based Struggle and Democratic Change, ” Ackerman elaborated on the concept involved. He proposed that youth movements, such as those used to bring down Serbia, could bring down Iran and North Korea, and could have been used to bring down Iraq… And he reported that he has been working with the top US weapons designer, Lawrence Livermore Laboratories, on developing new communications technologies that could be used in other youth movement insurgencies. “There is no question that these technologies are democratizing,” he stressed, in reference to their potential use in bringing down China, “they enable decentralized activity. They create, if you will, a digital concept of the right of assembly.”

    Dr. Ackerman is the founding chairman of International Center on Nonviolent Conflicts in Washington D.C, of which former US Air Force officer Jack DuVall is President. Together with former CIA director James Woolsey, DuVall also directs the Arlington Institute of Washington D.C., which was created by former Chief of Naval Operations advisor John L. Peterson in 1989 ” to help redefine the concept of national security in much larger, comprehensive terms” it reports, through introducing “social value shifts into the traditional national defense equation.”…

    The Democratic party’s National Democratic Institute, the Republican party’s International Republican Institute, the US State Department and USAID are the main agencies involved in these grassroots campaigns as well as the Freedom House NGO and billionaire George Soros’s Open Society Institute […] (emphasis added)

    …Col. Helvey’s long experience in Myanmar in training insurgent ethnic minorities in a region that is the center of world opium production raises another question of great bearing on “post modern coups.” That is: what is the role of narcotic mafias in facilitating “regime change?” Law enforcement agencies from many nations, including the United States, have long reported that the Balkans is the major narcotics pipeline into Western Europe. Ukraine is said to be a top conduit, as is Georgia. Kyrghyzstan, now at the top of the hit list, is another opium conduit. And George Soros “the Daddy Warbucks of drug legalization,” has been the top “private” funder of all the Eastern European and Central Asian insurgent groups, as well as those in Myamar. The spread of such mafias, is, of course, one of the most efficient ways of infiltrating and corrupting government agencies of targeted states….
    http://globalresearch.ca/articles/MOW502A.html

    When NGOs Attack: Implications of the Coup in Georgia
    By Jacob Levich
    http://www.counterpunch.org/levich12062003.html
    Nongovernmental organizations–the notionally independent, reputedly
    humanitarian groups known as NGOs–are now being openly integrated into
    Washington’s overall strategy for consolidating global supremacy[..].

    Kremlin leaves 40 NGOs in legal limbo
    Nick Paton Walsh in Moscow
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/russia/article/0,,1809087,00.html
    Russian authorities have refused to grant legal status to 40 foreign non-governmental organisations. The groups, who have not been identified, submitted their paperwork to the justice ministry to comply with new stringent legislation that requires them to register again by October 18. Some western NGOs have said the new law will force their closure. The bill was criticised by the European Union and US….

    Who is behind Human Rights Watch?
    Freedom House led by… Zbigniew Brzezinski, Richard Mellon Scaife, James Woolsey, Dan Quayle, Tony Lake and Jeanne Kirkpatrick.
    Both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are fronts for George Soros. The so-called Human Rights Watch is a pro-intervention group stocked with members of the Council on Foreign Relations and other elites….Ruthless Billionaire financier George Soros, for one…control dialogue on “human rights” used to justify US intervention… http://www.questionsquestions.net/topics/gatekeeper_recent.html

    SOROS Falls from Grace in Central Asia
    nCa Commentary Central Asia Speaks:
    http://www.newscentralasia.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=1122

    After Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan has also voiced concerns about the activities of SOROS Foundation. This completes the quorum.
    In rapid sequence, Uzbekistan kicked out SOROS, Kazakhstan issued a back-taxes notice that is likely to lead to closure of SOROS offices, President Askar Akayev of Kyrgzstan whipped SOROS for interfering in the society and President Imomali Rakhmanov of Tajikistan told his cabinet of ministers that he considered SOROS a destructive presence for the society. Why has the entire Central Asian region united against SOROS, a supposedly philanthropic organization engaged in grand and noble projects of absolutely the greatest possible value to the primitive and barbarian societies of Central Asia? […]

    George Soros: Prophet of an “Open Society”
    Karen Talbot
    The URL of this article is: http://globalresearch.ca/articles/TAL307A.html

    George Soros — a profile by Neil Clark New Statesman (UK)
    http://www.agitprop.org.au/nowar/20030602_clark_george_soros.php

    The NED, NGOs and the Imperial Uses of Philanthropy: Why They Hate Our Kind Hearts, Too
    By JOAN ROELOFS
    http://www.counterpunch.org/
    In recent years, nations have challenged the activities and very existence of non-governmental organizations. Russia, Zimbabwe, and Eritrea have enacted new measures requiring registration; “Open Society Institute” affiliates have been shut down in Eastern Europe; and Venezuela has charged the Súmate NGO leaders with treason. In Iraq and Afghanistan, staff of Western charitable NGOs (CARE and Doctors Without Borders) have been assassinated.

    What are these organizations, and who or what is behind them?
    {…]

    Soft and Undercover Coups d’État The Albert Einstein Institution:
    Strategic non-violence according to the CIA
    by Thierry Meyssan*
    VoltaireNet, 4 January
    2005 http://www.voltairenet.org/article30032.html

    Beware the ‘heroes’ of the left

    By Scott Loughrey
    Online Journal Guest Writer
    http://onlinejournal.com/Commentary/061404Loughrey/061404loughrey.html

    June 14, 2004—What do Amy Goodman, Scott Ritter, Ray McGovern, Richard Clarke and Michael Moore each have in common? In their own ways all are lately working for the Bush Regime.

    The last time that Amy Goodman had Sibel Edmonds on her show Democracy Now! it was a friendly (and extended) chat between the two women in DN’s curmudgeonly firehouse studio. Goodman and many others have consistently identified Edmonds as a 911 “whistle-blower.” Edmonds is a former FBI translator who claims to have seen documents warning that al Qaeda would attack the World Trade Center using hijacked airplanes. Notice that her position directly corresponds with the Bush Regime’s official story that they were merely negligent over the events of 911. It is the sign of a very dark era that a person whose story is actually repeating the propaganda of the state is widely being given the stature of a legitimate whistle-blower like Daniel Ellsberg.

    A particularly surreal part of the segment between Goodman and Edmonds comes at the end. Goodman gently asks Edmonds whether she is “afraid.” Edmonds pauses and one can feel Goodman’s sycophantic question hanging in the air. It is moments like this that make many wonder about Goodman’s persistent defense of the official story of 911. Goodman has had at least five advocates of the official story on her program for lengthy interviews featuring softball questions. Meanwhile, the one person so far permitted to dispute the official story on Democracy Now was treated with obvious contempt.

    Another person besides Edmonds whose views on 911 are being given significant exposure by the neoliberal media is Scott Ritter. Regard his recent commentary about the CIA. Ritter tells us that the CIA has a reputation that could be damaged if the top guy suddenly left. More crucially, Ritter also informs us that 911 was an “intelligence failure[s]” for the CIA.

    It seems curious that this very tough ex-marine is defending the CIA’s reputation so vigorously. After all, in the last few years Ritter has earned a reputation for being the Bush Regime’s most formidable opponent to their unlawful invasion of Iraq, garnering a lot of exposure from the established left media in the process. Ritter has already enthralled anti-war audiences everywhere with his opposition to the idea of the Bush Regime manufacturing evidence about Iraq’s weapons capabilities in order to start an unnecessary war. It seems very inconsistent that the year following this campaign he is now vociferously defending the CIA’s reputation. Also, as a leading opposition figure of the Bush Regime he might act like he was somewhat concerned about the suspicious circumstances of Paul Wellstone’s plane crash. Instead, Ritter’s tone of voice reflects very strong solidarity with the Agency.

    In books written by fiction writers Graham Greene and John Le Carre spies can never leave their business once inside. In contrast, notice Ritter’s statement that he “was an intelligence officer for many years . . .”

    What could Greene or Le Carre write after reading a sentence like that? They might write a story where a charismatic, tough-talking ex-marine infiltrated a large anti-war movement by posing as a leading opposition figure to a criminal invasion of a sovereign nation. With the anti-war movement successfully infiltrated he proceeds to betray his new friends by echoing the state’s propaganda over its true role with the day of terrorism which directly led to aggression by the Empire.

    Greene and Le Carre also come to my mind every time that Ray McGovern is heard from. McGovern is represented as an ex-CIA man (with 27 years of experience) by the established left media. Like Ritter, McGovern also earned his connection with the anti-war movement by opposing the criminal Iraq war. Naturally, Democracy Now invites McGovern on regularly. McGovern certainly is immediately likable on the radio. With his soothing, paternal voice he freely mentions that he used to provide intelligence briefings to the first President Bush in person. Yet, with each appearance on Democracy Now and with every new article he writes, McGovern makes sure to confirm some aspect of the Bush Regime’s official story of 911. Like Ritter, he’s also functioning to promote the CIA as a respectable institution to the anti-war movement.

    Richard Clarke is another figure with a questionable identity. Clarke is described as a “defector” from the White House. Like everyone else mentioned so far Clarke’s view is the Bush Regime is only negligent over 911. Clarke’s book about his experiences in the White House was curiously timed for publication only a few months before the 911 Commission was reaching a climax. When the latter hearings were underway Amy Goodman hosted Clarke twice for easy, extended interviews. While members of the 911 Truth Movement were begging her to invite a 911 skeptic on her show Amy icily maintained Clarke as the outer limit of permissible dialogue during the height of the 911 Commission hearings.

    Then there is Michael Moore. Moore has endorsed the Presidential campaign of war criminal General Wesley Clark. In addition, Moore’s new film, “Fareinheit 911,” reiterates the propaganda that there were 19 hijackers on 9/11/01 and 15 of them were Saudis. However, what is really revealing about Moore is his amazing claim to have met and videotaped recent decapitation-victim Nick Berg. One would think there are a few degrees of separation between them. Moore is one of this country’s most famous filmmakers. At the same time the Berg video has been declared a fraud around the world. It seems incredible that Moore managed to videotape the one guy in this country who would later be seen being killed in a clearly fraudulent video that many suspect was a botched PsyOps campaign by the Regime. Personally, I don’t believe Moore for a minute.

    If Michael Moore, Richard Clarke, Ray McGovern, Scott Ritter, Sibel Edmonds and Amy Goodman were to meet at a tea-party what would they discuss? Each is working in some capacity to uphold the propaganda of the State.[…]

    Media control is increasingly centalized — and internet2 is underway – “The internet needs to be dealt with as if it were an enemy ‘weapons system'”
    Information Operation Roadmap –for more on this see:
    http://www.burbankdigest.com/node/69

    Major papers have long been owned and controlled by ruling class:
    “Think of the press as a great keyboard on which the government can play.”
    Joseph Goebbels

    “The CIA owns everyone of any significance in the major media.”
    former CIA Director William Colby, 1977 Oct. Rolling Stone interview with Carl Bernstein

    liz burbank

    February 26, 2008 at 1:02 am

  3. Gowans writes:

    “he promotes a peaceful activism at home that is useful to the ruling class in channeling inchoate militancy into ritualistic, symbolic, forms of protest, whose effect in countering the ruling class is approximately zero. He says he “has even been arrested on a number of occasions protesting US imperialism” (doubtlessly in a ritualistic way that minimizes inconvenience for all concerned) but his being arrested has accomplished nothing, except to bulk up his credentials as an activist. And all those who have followed his lead had the same effect. The Washington Consensus is in no danger of falling apart and US war-making hasn’t been set back a millimeter in its relentless advance.”

    Zorin: In fact, this is a rather merciful description of how Zunes’s type of the imperialist left politics enhances the rulers of this world. The “symbolic” acts of protest not only fail to influence the behavior of the ruling class, but also strengthen the regime of “repressive tolerance,” as Marcuse called it, by justifying the central ideological claim of Trans-Atlantic imperialism that it represents the beacon of freedom against the “dictatorial” and “totalitarian” regimes of the Second and Third Worlds that defend the last vestiges of their sovereignty and the right to decide their destiny. In short, the imperialist left serves both as the left boot of their imperialists helping them to install their puppet regimes around the world, and for window-dressing the “democratic” facade of the imperialist metropoly.

    Valentin Zorin

    February 26, 2008 at 1:53 pm

  4. I’m always amazed by so called “progressive” lefties in the U.S. continue to perpetuate the idea that Iran and Venezuela are dictatorships. Hillary Clinton is the biggest offender of this propaganda, which obviously is exactly what you’ve described in this post.

    Om

    February 26, 2008 at 11:50 pm


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