The end of the twentieth century, nevertheless, seemed to rehabilitate Cicero rhetorical formula… Neoliberalism invaded the stage; never, since the Reformation, had a single ideology established such a pervasive, global hegemony… Does the concept of Sattelzeit [a term coined by Reinhart Koselleck to designate a transitional or epochal threshold] help us to understand the transformations of contemporary world? We may suggest that, toutes proportions gardées, the years from the end of the 1970s to September 11, 2001, witnessed a transition whose result was a radical change of our general landmarks, of our political and intellectual landscape. In other words, the fall of the Berlin Wall symbolizes a transition in which old and new forms merged together. It was not a simple revival of the old anticommunist rhetoric. During this quarter of a century, market and competition—the cornerstones of the neoliberal lexicon—became the “natural” foundations of post-totalitarian societies… Historically, revolutions have been factories of utopias; they have forged new imaginaries and new ideas, and have aroused expectancies and hopes. But that did not occur with the so-called velvet revolutions. On the contrary, they frustrated any previous dream and paralyzed cultural production. A brilliant essayist and playwright like Vaclav Havel became a pale, sad copy of a Western statesman once elected President of the Czech Republic… More recently, the Arab revolutions of 2011 have quickly reached a similar deadlock. Before being stopped by bloody civil wars in Libya and Syria, they destroyed two hated dictatorships in Tunisia and Egypt but did not know how to replace them. Their memory was made of defeats: socialism, pan-Arabism, Third Worldism, and also Islamic fundamentalism (which did not inspire the revolutionary youth). Admirably self-organized, these revolutions showed an astonishing lack of leadership and appeared strategically disoriented, but their limits did not lie in their leaders or in their social forces: they are the limits of our epoch. Such uprisings and mass movements are burdened with the defeats of the revolutions of the twentieth century, which are an overwhelming heaviness paralyzing the utopic imagination. -Enzo Traverso, Left-Wing Melancholia [Emphasis added]
Libya, more than anyone else’s war, was Hillary Clinton’s war. Barak Obama initially opposed it. Who was the person championing it? Hillary Clinton. That’s documented throughout her emails. She had put her favoured agent, Sidney Blumenthal, on to that; there’s more than 1700 emails out of the thirty three thousand Hillary Clinton emails that we’ve published, just about Libya. -Julian Assange interviewed by John Pilger, 11/4/16
History has an odd way of playing dialectical tricks on us from time to time. The contradictions it develops in creating a triad for one to reflect upon offer the historical materialist a slew of ethical challenges and puzzles for their praxis.
Assange: It’s not that Libya has cheap oil. She perceived the removal of Gaddafi and the overthrow of the Libyan state — something that she would use in her run-up to the general election for President. So in late 2011 there is an internal document called the ‘Libya Tick Tock’ that was produced for Hillary Clinton, and it’s the chronological description of how she was the central figure in the destruction of the Libyan state, which resulted in around 40,000 deaths within Libya; jihadists moved in, ISIS moved in, leading to the European refugee and migrant crisis.
Over the past several weeks there were several anniversaries that offer such moments, particularly when combined with recent headlines. The first, most obviously, was one year since Donald Trump won the 2016 election, an event that shocked liberals and many progressives in the same way 9-11 did fifteen years prior.
Five years before that was the end of the NATO bombing campaign in Libya that had seen Gaddafi brutally murdered by an extremist militia who sodomized him with a knife before shooting him in the head. The Libyan leader had made a Faustian pact over a decade prior when in 2005 he began cooperating with the George W. Bush administration in prosecution of the wars of aggression against Afghanistan and Iraq. However, that collaboration does not offer any justification for the lynchings of Black Africans by the Libyan “rebels” that took place in the wake of Gaddafi’s downfall.
In a glowing article published by Time magazine in May 2006, Scott Macleod recorded the so-called ‘mad dog’ claiming “Bush is saying that America is fighting for the triumph of freedom… When we were supporting liberation movements in the world, we were arguing that it was for the victory of freedom. We both agree. We were fighting for the cause of freedom.”
Along with the cooperation granted to the American military regarding its illegal actions in Western Asia and Northern Africa, Libya dismantled its weapons of mass destruction program and renounced terrorism it was alleged to have sponsored during the Cold War. (Of course those terrorists were groups like the African National Congress, who were waging a multi-front war against the apartheid system in several southern African countries, and the Palestine Liberation Organization, likewise challenging a settler-colonialism system in their homeland, but then again post-structuralism teaches that adjectives are so passé.)
Macleod continues “On Monday, Gaddafi accomplished one of history’s great diplomatic turnarounds when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced that the U.S. was restoring full diplomatic relations with Libya and held up the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya as ‘a model’ for others to follow. Rice attributed the ending of the U.S.’s long break in diplomatic relations to Gaddafi’s historic decision in 2003 to dismantle weapons of mass destruction and renounce terrorism as well as Libya’s ‘excellent cooperation in response to common global threats faced by the civilized world since September 11, 2001.’… The Bush Administration has been quick to stress Libya’s comeback as a model that Iran and North Korea should now follow. But it may have been Gaddafi’s rogue pursuit of nuclear weapons, more than anything else, that made Rice’s announcement Monday possible. As Gaddafi sees it, Libya’s nuke program gave him some much-needed leverage in his dealings with Washington. The bargain gave each what they needed: Gaddafi is a pariah no more, and the Bush administration has a success story in the Middle East.”
It was out of the re-opened American embassy in Tripoli and adjoining CIA school that the very forces who would later kill Gadaffi were trained. As Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. so cogently put it, so it goes. As an aside, the current Trump standoff with Pyongyang and Tehran stems directly back to Macleod’s line about “Libya’s comeback as a model that Iran and North Korea should now follow,” both governments are adamant that they will not make the same mistakes made by the Jamahiriya. One of the major reasons for the attack on Libya was Gaddafi’s preliminary planning of a pan-African golden dinar currency, backed by Libyan gold, that would be capable of replacing the Western currencies. It bears mentioning here that the Chinese, now very active on the African continent (not to mention Washington’s real target in the standoff with the DPRK), have likewise begun to develop a similar set of arrangements by buying up multiple tons of gold over the past several years to back their yuan while spreading their capital and developmental model across Africa and Eurasia.
Assange: Not only did you have people fleeing Libya, people fleeing Syria, the destabilization of other African countries as a result of arms flows, but the Libyan state itself was no longer able to control the movement of people through it. Libya faces along to the Mediterranean and had been effectively the cork in the bottle of Africa.
This month also saw two other headlines worthy of consideration as a pair. On November 13, The Atlantic broke a story that Julian Assange had actively corresponded and coordinated anti-Clinton email dumps with the Trump presidential campaign via the doltish Donald Trump, Jr. (Assange has been described as a utopian previously owing to his macro vision of Wikileaks and the disclosure of all possible information being a requirement for the implementation of a truly free market system.) On November 15, International Business Times carried a story headlined ‘Starved, ‘Mutilated’ and Blackmailed Migrants Auctioned Off as Slaves By Smugglers in Libya’ by Lara Rebello. The first story elicited shrieking howls of scorn from the aforementioned shocked liberals and many progressives, the second not so loud.
Liberal anti-racism has always been such a hypocritical and domestic affair, mainly focused around the superficial impacts that could directly affect the middle class as opposed to the internationalist structural tendencies that indict systemic imperial malfeasance. Indeed, I am forced to wonder if one headline was offered up as an outrage against Trump by the pro-Clinton press to deflect from the genuine outrage of contemporary slavery coming into the headlines. Probably not, but in any case that effect has taken place. The Green vice presidential nominee Ajamu Baraka derided how the “latte left” Alternet covered the Libyan slave markets in a fashion that gives benefits to the Democrats. Perhaps the fact that Sidney Blumenthal’s son Max is an editor at the website’s Grayzone Project, which covers the anti-racism, imperialism and Middle East beats, is worth pointing out here?
Almost simultaneous with these two headlines was the centennial of the Bolshevik revolution, an event which “shook the world” for the rest of the century and which was intended as a hammer blow against racism and imperialism. In his classic study of the first successful slave revolt in the Western hemisphere, The Black Jacobins, CLR James wrote “The whole theory of the Bolshevik policy was that the victories of the new régime would gradually win over those who had been constrained to accept it by force. Toussaint hoped for the same. If he failed, it is for the same reason that the Russian socialist revolution failed, even after all its achievements – the defeat of the revolution in Europe. Had the Jacobins been able to consolidate the democratic republic in 1794, Haiti would have remained a French colony, but an attempt to restore slavery would have been most unlikely. It was in method, and not in principle, that Toussaint failed. The race question is subsidiary to the class question in politics, and to think of imperialism in terms of race is disastrous. But to neglect the racial factor as merely incidental is an error only less grave than to make it fundamental. There were Jacobin workmen in Paris who would have fought for the blacks against Bonaparte’s troops. But the international movement was not then what it is today, and there were none in San Domingo. The black laborers saw only the old slave-owning whites. These would accept the new régime, but never to the extent of fighting for it against a French army, and the masses knew this.” [Emphasis added]
Does it bear mentioning at this point the story from October 5, 2016 by Chris Welzenbach carried by Counterpunch, ‘The Dreadful Chronology of Gaddafi’s Murder’, which demonstrates a rather sickening antithesis of the French internationalism James was proposing in that passage? Welzenbach writes “Upon the initial release of this information [by news organization Mediapart] in 2012 [that the re-election effort of then-President Nicholas Sarkozy took up to 50 million euros covertly from the Libyan leader], Sarkozy denied he’d accepted Libyan money to finance his campaign—which is illegal in France and could well land him in prison—and attempted to sue Mediapart. However, an official investigation was launched into Sarkozy’s conduct and when portions of the resulting secret report surfaced at Mediapart’s website, the evidence pointed squarely to Sarkozy’s receipt of Gaddafi’s cash.” Sarkozy, like Blumenthal, had his own personal motivation for wanting to destroy the Jamahiriya.
Ken Silverstein wrote in 2015 for the Observer “…Mr. [Sidney] Blumenthal sent then-Secretary of State Ms. Clinton reports on the political situation in Libya written by a former senior CIA officer, the recently deceased Tyler Drumheller. Those reports, which Mr. Blumenthal emailed to her in 2011 and 2012, apparently were intended to influence American policy toward Libya in a way favorable to a business project with which Mr. Blumenthal and Mr. Drumheller were involved. Mr. Drumheller, who retired in 2005, was an incompetent head of the CIA’s European division during the cold war and as Al Qaeda rose to prominence. And Europe was his primary area of expertise; he had no useful knowledge about Libya, multiple sources have told me. ‘Tyler was probably just using information he got from his old retired friends in Italian intelligence, and all of those guys put their business interests ahead of everything else,’ one former senior CIA officer who knew Mr. Drumheller well said. ‘Blumenthal’s the same way; there’s something wrong with him morally.’”
In their spectacular book The Untold History of the United States, Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick write “Lenin’s Red Guard ransacked the old [Tsarist] Foreign Office [in 1917] and brazenly published what it found: a web of secret agreements between the Allies from 1915 and 1916 that divided the postwar map into exclusive zones of influence. Much as the United States would react to the WikiLeaks publications of its diplomatic cables in 2010, the Allies were outraged at this brazen violation of the old diplomatic protocol, which now exposed the hollowness of Wilson’s call for ‘self-determination’ after the war. Among the treaties was the Sykes-Picot Agreement, which divided up the Ottoman Empire among Great Britain, France, and Russia. Carving out new nations with little regard for historical and cultural affinities, it planted the seeds of future conflict in the oil-rich Middle East.” [Emphasis added]
Assange: So all problems, economic problems and civil war in Africa — previously people fleeing those problems didn’t end up in Europe because Libya policed the Mediterranean. That was said explicitly at the time, back in early 2011 by Gaddafi: ‘What do these Europeans think they’re doing, trying to bomb and destroy the Libyan State? There’s going to be floods of migrants out of Africa and jihadists into Europe’, and this is exactly what happened.
Reflecting on the Bolshevik revolution, the Libyan pogrom, and Trump’s election from where one stands today is an astounding moment. It provides a challenge caused by a self-interrogation. Frankly and simply put, is reparation owed in one form or another owing to a lack of critical support for the Clinton campaign? In this moment, it is Assange himself who provides an important memory.
Pilger: You get complaints from people saying, ‘What is WikiLeaks doing? Are they trying to put Trump in the Whitehouse?’
Assange: My answer is that Trump would not be permitted to win. Why do I say that? Because he’s had every establishment off side; Trump doesn’t have one establishment, maybe with the exception of the Evangelicals, if you can call them an establishment, but banks, intelligence [agencies], arms companies… big foreign money … are all united behind Hillary Clinton, and the media as well, media owners and even journalists themselves.
That memory is a vital one to recall. The surprise of Trump’s victory was a moment that everyone said could not have happened. Furthermore, it was the liberal media and Clinton herself who caused his victory. Trump was given hours upon hours of free airtime because the media treated him as a sideshow amusement rather than an actual contender while coordinating via email with the Democrats about the so-called ‘pied piper’ candidates. In an April 7, 2015 memo circulated to the Democratic National Committee by Clinton campaign manager Robbie Mook’s assistant Marissa Astor, they wrote:
In this scenario, we don’t want to marginalize the more extreme candidates, but make them more “Pied Piper” candidates who actually represent the mainstream of the Republican Party. Pied Piper candidates include, but aren’t limited to:
• Ted Cruz
• Donald Trump
• Ben Carson
We need to be elevating the Pied Piper candidates so that they are leaders of the pack and tell the press to them seriously. [Emphasis added]
There is a discernible and real arc that can be shown. Up until a certain point in 2016, Trump had a high number of airtime minutes per day that reveled in his sound clips. However, unbeknownst to the mainstream media, these clips contained coded dog whistles that were absolutely besides his more obvious moments of intentional Rush Limbaugh-styled political incorrectness. These coded messages, insane conspiracy theories developed for the GOP base to consume en masse over the decades, worked in tandem with the Breitbart media broadcasts, an all-encompassing daily experience of reading, listening, and viewing materials.
By the time that the mainstream press recognized what had happened and that Trump had become not just a viable contender but the nominee, you see a nosedive in his airtime on their stations combined with a sudden change in tone, one that goes from amusement to emergency. But by that point it was far too late and the political polarization was the most heightened contradiction possible.
Simultaneously, by continuously trying to be a centrist, Clinton alienated two key voting demographics, the youth and Black vote. Her treatment of Bernie Sanders, which had bordered on insane given how pointless it was (Sanders never was serious about his campaign actually ousting Clinton from her Superdelegate coronation), drove away the millennials who had helped decide the previous two presidential elections. Her refusal to make amends for the sadistic policies her husband enacted in the 1990’s underwrote why so many Black voters stayed home.
It seems logical that the difference in how one grasps historical materialism influences feelings about electoral politics. In his recent book Left Wing Melancholia, Enzo Traverso writes about how CLR James and Theodor Adorno met for lunch several times in the 1940s when both were living in Manhattan. “Both of them developed and enriched some premises of Marx’s theory. Western Marxism and anticolonial Marxism, nevertheless, remained two separate intellectual continents.” Is it possible that the academic historical materialist and the anticolonial one have so diverged that now the polarities define the difference between the ‘lesser evil’ voter and those who chose either to vote third party or non-participation?
Traverso writes further:
The memory of the left is a huge, prismatic continent made of conquests and defeats, while melancholy is a feeling, a state of the soul and a field of emotions… At the beginning of the 1980s, the rise of memory in the field of the humanities coincided with the crisis of Marxism, which was absent from the “memorial moment” characteristic of the turn of the twenty-first century. The Marxist vision of history implied a memorial prescription: we had to inscribe the events of the past in our historical consciousness in order to project ourselves into the future. It was a “strategic” memory of past emancipatory struggles, a future-oriented memory…
This melancholia, however, does not mean a retreat into a closed universe of suffering and remembering; it is rather a constellation of emotions and feelings that envelop a historical transition, the only way in which the search for new ideas and projects can coexist with the sorrow and mourning for a lost realm of revolutionary experiences. Neither regressive nor impotent, this left-wing melancholia should not evade the burden of the past.
It is a melancholy criticism that, while being open to the struggles in the present, does not avoid self-criticism about its own past failures; it is the melancholy criticism of a left that is not resigned to the world order sketched by neoliberalism but that cannot refurbish its intellectual armory without identifying empathetically with the vanquished of history, a large multitude inexorably joined, at the end of the twentieth century, by an entire generation—or its remains—of defeated leftists. In order to be fruitful, however, this melancholia needs to become recognizable, after having been removed during the previous decades, when storming heaven appeared the best way to mourn our lost comrades… My purpose is not to build a monument or write an epitaph; it is to explore a multiform and at times contradictory memory landscape. Differently from currently dominant humanitarianism that sacralizes the memory of victims, and mostly neglects or rejects their commitments, left melancholy has always focused on the vanquished.
It perceives the tragedies and the lost battles of the past as a burden and a debt, which are also a promise of redemption. [Emphasis added]