Commentaries on current events, political economy, and the Communist movement from a Marxist-Leninist perspective.
Zigedy highly recommends the Marxist-Leninist website, MLToday.com, where many of his longer articles appear.
days after my last post
on the changes in US energy policy and its influence on the
trajectory of US imperialism, President Donald Trump and his energy
secretary proclaimed those changes in their customary blunt and
bombastic way. On June 29, Trump declared a US policy of “energy
dominance” at a meeting at the Department of Energy. Reuters‘s
headline on their coverage perfectly captured the meaning of this
Seeks to Project Global Power through Energy Exports.”
Gennifer Dlouhy quotes Trump: “We are a top producer of petroleum
and the No. 1 producer of natural gas. We have so much more than we
ever thought possible. We are really in the driver’s seat.”
Russia is a target of the emerging policy. The Administration’s
Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry said that “... the entirety of the
EU totally get it that if we can lay in American LNG [liquefied
natural gas] ... we can be able to have an alternative to Russia…”
“The US will be able to clearly create a hell of a lot more friends
by being able to deliver them energy and not being held hostage by
some countries, Russia in particular.” (Reuters)
anyone fail to get the message, Trump told cheering Polish people in
Warsaw on July 6: "We are committed to securing your access to
alternate sources of energy, so Poland and its neighbors are never
again held hostage to a single supplier of energy.” (CNBC)
Instead, they will be held hostage to the US.
Dlouhy notes that negotiations have begun to sell more LNG to the
Republic of Korea. And Reuters’s
Timothy Gardner comments that the US exports more petroleum products
to Mexico than does any other country. In fact, according to Gardner,
the US is already the world’s largest exporter of
refined petroleum products.
the near total neglect of the foreign policy implications of this
emerging policy by US commentators and, especially, the left, they
have not gone unnoticed in important circles internationally. Writing
in the largest circulation UK paper,
The Sunday Times, Irwin Stelzer
stated on July 2: “LNG has created a new Great Game, with America’s
‘yuge’ reserves of natural gas giving Trump a weapon with which
to offset Russia’s early lead.” Talk of “Great Games,” of
course, invokes memories of the imperialist rivalries and clashes of
the late 19th and early 20th century. While the “Russia-gate”
controversies uncritically consume many US observers, even
conservative Europeans are identifying the material
interests, the imperialist interests standing behind the hysterical
Stelzer sees the recent Gulf States’ aggression against Qatar for
what it is: “... the Saudi royal family believe now is the time to
wring a total surrender from Qatar… The implication for the global
LNG market of a potential isolation of Qatar [the world’s largest
exporter] could not be more consequential.” And it could not be
more beneficial to the emerging US LNG shippers.
recent Trump European trip was a sales trip for US LNG as much as it
was participation in the G20 summit.
‘Monopoly’ versus US Hegemony
appears more and more likely that the era of OPEC dominance of energy
markets is dwindling, broken by US energy production. Saudi Arabia
attempted to reverse the expansion of US production by over producing
and driving the price of oil below a level that would allow US shale
producers to be profitable. Consequently, US operators lost $130
billion since 2015. But Wall Street has subsidized the shale industry
by ploughing $57 billion back into the industry over the last 18
months, a move that shows both no fear of a price war and a
determination to dominate the markets. The
Wall Street Journal (7-8-2017)
likened the investments to the tech boom of the past.
the same time, the US is using political
sanctions to hinder competitors. The recent Senate
Russian sanctions is one obvious example. But Iran is another
competitor that the US hopes to discourage. The European sanctions
are now lifted, but EXXON MOBIL and CHEVRON, as US companies, are
still deterred from investing in Iran because of remaining US
sanctions. BP is afraid of those sanctions and only French TOTAL has
dared to invest, along with CHINA NPC. Where Iran is seeking $92
billion in energy investments, it has only secured $1 billion.
most energy investments have channeled to US shale oil.
monopoly price-manipulation model enforced by OPEC discipline is
eroding. Since competition is intensifying, pricing has become
extremely volatile. With Chinese imports of crude oil up 13% this
year, the Saudis have sharply cut the price of super light crude to
Asia to garner a greater share of this burgeoning market.
course, it is impossible to spell out all of the foreign policy
implications of the new energy imperialism. But it appears certain
that the US drive toward energy dominance will reshape US imperialist
designs and generate a strong international response.
House of Representatives companion bill on sanctions passed 419-3,
demonstrating again the ruling-class consensus on punishing oil and
gas producers-- Russia and Iran. The European Union wisely interprets
this and its Senate companion as a challenge to existing energy
relations. As The New York Times
reported (July 25) immediately after the vote: “...the new
sanctions have important implications for Europe because they target
any company that contributes to the development, maintenance or
modernization of Russia’s energy export pipelines.” It notes
that: “Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European
Commission, the bloc’s bureaucratic arm, has called for an urgent
review of how the European Union should respond.”
to the “principles” behind the House bill, Russian “Alexey
Pushkov, a legislator and frequent commentator on international
relations, wrote on Twitter: ‘The exceptional nation wants to block
Russian gas supplies to Europe and to sell expensive shale gas from
the U.S. to its European servants. That’s the entire ‘morality’
of Congress,’” as reported by The
New York Times (7-25-17)
the price war between the US and OPEC along with its friends has left
OPEC unity in danger and its policies in shambles. At the most recent
meeting in St. Petersburg, disputes over production and exports have
combined with frustration over the effectiveness of agreements.
States are conflicted over protecting prices and earnings or fighting
for market share.
unbridled competition arises, conflict is soon to follow. With
economic interests joining with political maneuvering, as the
US-contrived hysteria over Russia and Iran instantiates, the danger
of aggression and war grows exponentially.
new US imperialist “Game” is played to dominate energy markets,
an even more perilous project that threatens friend and foe alike.
year 1989 marked the death of the independent journalist, Isidor
Feinstein (I.F.) Stone, the last twentieth century US liberal.
Liberalism in the last century combined the liberties of the original
Bill of Rights with Roosevelt’s proposed Second Bill of Rights. By
mid-century, US liberalism reached its greatest heights,
supplementing the historic bourgeois rights that dismantled feudalism
and enshrined the right to property with the promise of an entirely
new set of economic rights-- rights to employment, housing, medical care, social security, education, among others. The economic rights sought to codify the
social democratic gains made in the New Deal era.
the time of I.F. Stone’s death in 1989, liberalism had nearly shed
all of its commitment to the Rooseveltian social justice rights. The
bearer of the liberal legacy, the Democratic Party, swiftly retreated
from New Deal values in the face of the Reagan attack on social
welfare programs. Consequently, the Democratic Party of Bill Clinton,
the “third way,” market-obsessed Democrats, eschewed the term
“liberal” and appropriated the once-meaningful term “progressive”
in its place. Stone would have been appalled.
the thinness of the US liberal commitment to its own principles were
well known to Stone. He well knew of the Alien and Sedition Acts of
1798 that affronted the Bill of Rights before even a decade had past.
knew of the betrayal of the rights of Blacks granted by the 14th and
15th amendments that closed the Reconstruction era.
was, of course, familiar with the shameful, tepid response of
liberals to the Palmer Raids of 1919-1920, the government repression
and deportation of political dissidents.
Stone was most familiar with the sell-out of classical liberal values
by Republicans, Democrats, and nearly all self-described liberals in
the late 1940s and 1950s, a repressive time commonly called the
denounced the “two decades of carefully nurtured nightmare” that
began with the Smith Act of 1940, an “era in which the mere
allegation of leftist sympathy or affiliation was enough to put a man
outside the pale.”
ACLU secret collaboration with the witch hunt to the establishment of
the Americans for Democratic Action as a haven for untainted,
anti-Communist liberals, liberalism fared poorly in the Cold War era.
The liberals who didn’t think that associating with Communists was
necessarily traitorous were banished with the Communists. The
liberals who were enthusiastic about anti-Communism saw no
contradiction between abrogating the rights of Communists and
fervently defending the sanctity and universality of those rights.
could not understand this posture of Cold War liberals. He truly
believed that the rights granted in the Bill of rights were
absolutely universal and beyond abrogation, just as the celebrated
Founding Fathers proclaimed. He didn’t think that they only applied
in good times or when it was convenient.
believed the contradiction of Cold War liberalism could be summed up
with one example of a Cold War security case. With respect to a
specific “security” firing, Stone cites the comment of the era’s
arch-liberal, Walter Lippmann, who advocated “to have the charge
tried by due process,” a seeming appeal to fairness. But Stone
responded with exasperation: “How do you try the ‘charge’ that
a man once worked for Armtorg or has two sisters in Russia?”
recognized that it was innuendo and association that propelled a
country supposedly built on liberal foundations to qualify,
obfuscate, and relinquish those values.
the 1950s hysteria diminished, Stone continued to serve as a vigilant
watchdog over liberalism and its hypocrisies. At the same time, he
fervently defended liberal values, especially freedom of speech, the
value of an independent press, and freedom of association.
wonders what he would have thought of liberalism in our era?
in the McCarthy era, when liberals felt compelled to show their
loyalty by following the Republicans on the anti-Communist crusade,
today’s liberals have mounted their own, unprompted campaign of
innuendo, guilt by association, and fear-mongering.
the security services fed the Red scare through reliable media
contacts and opinion-makers, the 2017 security services play the same
role, feeding some of the same media outlets and many others
unsubstantiated, politically charged, and unattributed charges
against capitalist Russia. In the latter case, the catalyst for the
new hysteria is US liberals.
by Democratic Party nobles and liberal-leading lights as a defense of
our treasured democratic process, the campaign is, in reality, a
stealth mission to solidify an aggressive, dominating US foreign
policy. Just as the Red scare really targeted left unity, militant
trade unionism, and the more committed New Dealers, the current
Russia-baiting targets foreign policy dissidents, anti-imperialists,
and the rejection of post-Soviet triumphalism. Under the guise of
meeting Trump perfidy, liberals are wittingly or unwittingly shaping
an aggressive, imperialist foreign policy consensus.
for the news media, media conglomerates have used the interminable
leaks from the security services as the candy to coax subscribers in
the rating wars. So far, several have outmaneuvered the Fox News
empire which is trapped in defense of right-wing interests aligned
behind the unsavory Donald Trump (MSNBC has narrowed a nearly 46% gap
in prime time viewers favoring FOX News at the beginning of the year
to 17.5% six months later, an unprecedented gain).
F. Stone understood the rank opportunism of the media and its
challenge to liberal values decades ago. He warned of the use of
anonymous sources as early as 1955: “…[one] cannot come into
court and ask for conviction on undisclosed evidence by undisclosed
persons on the grounds that to reveal them would endanger its source
of information.” But this is precisely what liberals and the media
are doing today in the Court of Public Opinion with the so-called
Stone could not have anticipated its further corruption, he fully
recognized the deteriorating function of the news media. He wrote in
...most American newspapers carry very little news.
Their main concern is advertising [based on circulation and media
ratings]... All the so-called communications industries are primarily
concerned not with communications, but with selling. This is obvious
on TV and radio but it is only a little less obvious in the
newspapers. Most owners of newspapers are businessmen, not
newspapermen. The news is something which fills the space left over
by the advertisers. The average publisher is not only hostile to
dissenting opinion, he is suspicious of any opinion likely to
antagonize any reader or consumer.
today’s handful of giant monopoly, multimedia corporations have far
surpassed the commercial imperative identified by Stone. As the
uncritical transmission belt of security services’ leaks, the US
media have totally abdicated their mission as news sources. They have
not only failed to deliver news, but have packaged rumor as news and
presented it as entertainment.
was aware of the dynamics of news “management” long before
journalists were “embedded.” Writing in 1955:
... it is easy to see why the average Washington
correspondent is content to write what he is spoon-fed by the
government’s press officers… Why dig up a story which the desk
back home will spike?... The private dinner, the special briefing,
are all devices for “managing” the news, as are the special
organizations of privileged citizens gathered in by State and Defense
Departments for those sessions at which highly confidential (and one
sided) information is ladled out to a flattered “elite.”
the reporters and media news readers are not likely to reject the
government feeding tube and will, instead, stick with the consensus:
“Most of my colleagues agree with the Government and write the
accepted thing because that is what they believe; they are indeed--
with honorable exceptions-- as suspicious of the non-conformist as
any group in Kiwanis.” Unfortunately, there are few exceptions
today, honorable or otherwise.
knew how the media failed to provide the necessary condition for a
truly informed, democratic citizenry. Nonetheless, he had an abiding
confidence that liberal values would prevail and find a way to
reverse, or at least correct, the course of US democracy. He had a
faith-like confidence that independent journalists like himself would
prevail somehow against the media behemoths. He believed that freedom
of speech, freedom of association, and an independent and diverse
press would protect citizens from the manipulation of the rich and
powerful. Subsequent history shows he was wrong.
our time, liberals are the key players in the Russian-under-every-bed
witch hunts that are boiling over in the media. At all the past
critical junctures when liberal values were tested by duress,
liberals failed to defend those values. They are failing now.
Perhaps liberalism is philosophically incoherent.
Perhaps it’s theoretically flawed and that is what accounts for its
failure at critical moments. That’s an argument for another time.
But clearly liberals have shown little spine when liberal values
would be most useful, times when deliberation and measure should
confront mob hysteria and waves of duplicity. Instead they stand
knee-deep in hypocrisy.
know your friends in times of crisis; liberals consistently fail the