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Noam Chomsky is in his 90s. He is not going to live forever. He needs a replacement. That replacement is Chris Hedges. The fragmented and wayward American left needs its celebrity leftists to keep their heads in the clouds, with no clear understanding of a cohesive and liberatory political theory, and their minds away from a genuine strategy of organization and revolution.
Like Chomsky, it can be difficult to pin down just what Hedges’ political ideology is. He often sounds like an anarchist, but will often quote Trotskyists and liberal thinkers. His heroes seem to be philosophers and social scientists, but never actual Marxist organizers. He frequently quotes relatively obscure thinkers like Émile Durkheim (French sociologist) or John Ralston Saul (a Canadian philosopher and former President of PEN – a proven intelligence operation or successful early penetration) when he could best quote Marx or Lenin. (Saunders, 1999 pp. 362 – 8)
It is clear that Chris Hedges is Chomsky 2.0 and repeats many of the same anti-communist, “anti-statist,” and “a plague on both your houses” rejections of all formations of power.
Michael Parenti, a genuine and powerfully persuasive, Marxist thinker, has thoroughly debunked the fake and amorphous pseudo-left declarations and talking points of Noam Chomsky that Hedges parrots. For example:
“. . . countless Western political leaders, and others who supposedly are on the democratic Left, regularly lump fascism with communism. Thus, Noam Chomsky claims, ‘The rise of corporations was in fact a manifestation of the same phenomena that led to fascism and Bolshevism, which sprang out of the same totalitarian soil.’ But in the Italy and Germany of that day, most workers and peasants made a firm distinction between fascism and communism, as did industrialists and bankers who supported fascism out of fear and hatred of communism, a judgement based largely on class realities.” (Parenti, 1997, p. 17)
Hedges repeats this refrain of conflating communism and fascism:
“The road to despotism is always paved with righteousness. This was as true for Soviet communism as it was for German fascism. And it is true in the United States.” (Hedges, 2020)
To the beginner leftist, who has little or no proper understanding of political theory or the history of the Cold War and class struggle this seems like a very leftist, avant-garde thing to say, but it falls within the “plague on both your houses” mindset that is not actually a threat to the US ruling class. Criticism of the system can always be co-opted and drowned out with all the other political noise in the “marketplace of ideas.” This mentality always hurts enemy countries more than it does the US Empire. At least here in the US we are doing something about it, amiright? We have plurality and the freedom to dissent, durr!
The word, totalitarian, comes up a lot in the speeches and writings of the “democratic left.” This is a word that was used to conflate fascism and communism and was popularized by Hannah Arendt, a “leftist” intellectual with very dubious ties to the CIA with the publication of her first major work, The Origins of Totalitarianism in 1951. Arendt is a name that Hedges drops frequently. Hannah Arendt wrote for now proven CIA anti-communist “left” publications like Partisan Review. When the periodical’s cover was blown in 1967, Arendt and other writers published a “Statement on the CIA” decrying the CIA’s covert funding and proclaiming their innocence. When Tom Braden, a high-level CIA officer was shown the statement he reportedly “laughed out loud,” and said, “Of course they knew.” Arendt, in correspondence with her fellow CIA tool, Mary McCarthy, admitted to enjoying the luxury of an Italian villa owned by the Rockefeller Foundation, calling it a “kind of Versailles.” (Saunders, 1999, pp. 410 – 411, p. 346)
Through the Congress for Cultural Freedom, which published Partisan Review and many other such publications around the world, the CIA pursued its strategy of promoting the “Non-Communist Left” as a bulwark against communism.
“In what Arthur Schlesinger described as a ‘quiet revolution,’ elements of the [US] government had come increasingly to understand and support the ideas of those intellectuals who were disillusioned with Communism* but still faithful to the ideals of socialism . . . and traced the evolution of the ‘non-Communist Left’ as ‘the standard to rally the groups fighting to carve out an area for freedom’ [sic]. It was within this group that ‘the restoration of the radical nerve’ would take place, leaving ‘no lamp in the window for the Communists’.” (Saunders, 1999, p. 63)
(*Disillusioned because they did not get special favors and because communist countries, however flawed, prioritized the material needs of the working class over and above that of the “artistic” and “creative freedom” of petty bourgeois intellectuals.)
Back to Chomsky, of which, again, Chris Hedges is a new iteration. The same themes getting repeated decade after decade. Once more, Michael Parenti unmasked this madness as it was happening. We really do not need to keep rehashing these debates, unless of course, some of us actually want us to spin our wheels and go absolutely nowhere.
“That many U.S. leftists have scant familiarity with Lenin does not prevent them from slinging the ‘Leninist’ label. Noam Chomsky, who is an inexhaustible fount of anticommunist caricatures, offers this comment about Leninism: ‘Western and also Third World intellectuals were attracted to the Bolshevik counterrevolution [sic] because Leninism is, after all, a doctrine that says that the radical intelligentsia have a right to take state power and to run their countries by force, and that is an idea which is rather appealing to intellectuals.’ Here Chomsky fashions an image of power-hungry intellectuals to go along with his cartoon image of power-hungry Leninists, villains seeking not the revolutionary means to fight injustice but power for power’s sake. When it comes to Red-bashing, some of the best and brightest on the Left sound not much better than the worst on the Right.” (Parenti, 1997, p. 46 – 47)
In Parenti’s crucial work, Blackshirts and Reds, he debunks the lies, including lies of omission, spread by the likes of Chomsky, Hedges, and others like Richard Wolff and Cornel West. These charlatans spread the falsehood that the socialist countries of eastern Europe were not really socialist at all, and so their “revolutions” in 1989 were actually something to celebrate! These countries were far from perfect and some of the grievances of their citizens were legitimate or at least understandable, but what is missing from the final analysis given by amorphously “left” Western intellectuals is that these countries were operating under siege. They really were under constant attack by the U.S. and its capitalist allies through use of propaganda, psychological warfare, economic sanction, sabotage, infiltration, and threat of military force. Resources diverted for defense and security put a damper on certain civil rights and on standards of living when it came to consumer goods. (Parenti, 1997, pp. 49 – 51)
Furthermore, the charge that intellectuals seized power in the socialist bloc for its own sake or for the sole purpose of enriching themselves is absurd. There was far less economic inequality in these socialist countries than that which existed in the capitalist countries. Soviet leaders like Leonid Brezhnev and Yuri Andropov did not live in mansions like the elites of the West, but rather, in relatively large apartments reserved for government leaders. In East Germany, government and party leaders had access to special stores where they could buy imported goods that were not as accessible to average citizens and a few other perks, but again, while perhaps unfair, this paled in comparison with the West. What was always left out of the reporting is that every East German citizen had a job, a home, free healthcare, education, and access to vacation resorts with generous paid vacation and maternity leave and other perks workers in America could only dream of – that we still haven’t got! (Parenti, 1997, pp. 49 – 51)
Hedges quite frequently brings up East Germany and calls out the East German leader toward the end in the late 80s, Honecker, by name. He also trashes Romania and its leader up until the bitter end, Ceaușescu, leaving out the fact that these were COUNTERRevolutions and that Ceaușescu and his wife were brutally murdered by reactionaries almost certainly on CIA payroll. He calls them “revolutions in eastern Europe.”
“Politics is a game of fear, and the problem is we as individuals have no power. We, organized, have a lot of power; and we have the capacity to make power afraid. I covered the revolutions (sic!) in eastern Europe, and once that crowd started booing [color revolution], uh, Ceaușescu, he couldn’t get – he and Elena, his wife, – couldn’t get to the roof fast enough to get on a helicopter. Uh, once I covered the revolution in East Germany. Honecker sends down – the dictator (sic!) of East Germany – sends down an elite paratroop division to fire on the demonstrators in Leipzig. Leipzig was the epicenter of the protests. They get there, they won’t be deployed. Honecker is finished. It is a game of fear.” (TJDS, Jan 14, 2021; 33:30)
Hedges loves to say, presumably regarding the massive protests taking place in Leipzig in East Germany and especially regarding a large one that was planned for October 9, 1989, that “those guys were coming” – meaning the East German military or security forces. The only problem is, they never came. Hedges credits this to the soldiers simply choosing not to follow orders, but according to other sources who were also there, it was several top party leaders along with the famous composer Kurt Mazur who exerted influence to stop any repressions. Hedges wants us to hate the East German authorities for a supposed massacre that was never carried out; and to my knowledge there is no proof that the soldiers were ordered to open fire on peaceful protestors. Likewise, on November 9th, 1989, the day the Berlin Wall came down, the “evil totalitarian” border guards put up very little resistance and eventually just gave up. (Marcuse, 1991, pp. 66 – 67, p. 81)
Another charge we hear is that these socialist countries were cruel military dictatorships. As Parenti points out, if they were so vicious and cruel, why did every one of these socialist bloc countries, with the partial exception of Romania, have relatively peaceful, bloodless “revolutions.” As Parenti says, “The relatively peaceful transition does not fit our image of unscrupulous totalitarians who stop at nothing to maintain power over captive populations. Why didn’t the ruthless Reds act more ruthlessly?” (Parenti, 1997, p.77)
“According to Noam Chomsky, communism ‘was a monstrosity,’ and ‘the collapse of tyranny’ in Eastern Europe and Russia is ‘an occasion for rejoicing for anyone who values freedom and human dignity. I treasure freedom and human dignity yet find no occasion for rejoicing. The postcommunist societies do not represent a net gain for such values. If anything, the breakup of the communist states has brought a colossal victory for global capitalism and imperialism, with its correlative increase in human misery, and a historic [emphasis mine] setback for revolutionary liberation struggles everywhere.
“The peoples of Eastern Europe believed they were going to keep all the social gains they had enjoyed under communism while adding on all the consumerism of the West. Many of their grievances about existing socialism were justified but their romanticized image of the capitalist West was not. They had to learn the hard way. Expecting to advance from Second World to First World status, they have been rammed down into the Third World, ending up like capitalist Indonesia, Mexico, Zaire, and Turkey. They wanted it all and have been left with almost nothing.” (Parenti, 1997, p.120)
As Peter Marcuse points out in his memoirs and observations of the end of East Germany, once the Berlin Wall came down and unification with West Germany began, rent paid by East Germans had doubled within a few months with every expectation that they would quintuple by the fall of 1991. (Marcuse, 1991, p. 281)
Even in the 90s as Parenti was writing Blackshirts and Reds, there were the beginnings of the pseudo-left “woke” leftist intellectuals who dominate “leftist spaces,” they might say, to this very day. Parenti called them ABC Leftists (Anything but class). (Parenti, 1997, p. 145 – 147)
Hedges not only has it in for East Germany, which he brings up practically any time he is allowed to speak for at least ten minutes, he also demonizes the former Yugoslavia. He completely whitewashes Western imperialism’s destruction of Yugoslavia and puts all blame for its dissolution on the victims. He wildly exaggerates (to say the least) the “crimes” of the Serbs and President of Serbia and Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milosevic.
“. . . with all of the Biden appointments, and you know, Biden used all of the events last week [Jan. 6, 2021] to talk about ratcheting up internal security laws and everything else. This is just a recipe for social disintegration, and many, many echoes of Yugoslavia, which I covered for The New York Times.” (TJDS, 2021)
Hedges NEVER misses an opportunity to mention Yugoslavia in a negative light and how he “saw it all go down in Grenada [in this case, Yugoslavia]” (Oliver Stone’s “Natural Born Killers” quote).
Here is a bit of Hedges’ nonsense on Yugoslavia:
“I’m deeply opposed to violence, having been around a lot of it. On the other hand, you know, I was in Sarajevo during the war. We were completely surrounded by the Serbs, uh, who were shelling the city with 2,000 shells a day – constant sniper fire, four to five dead a day, two dozen wounded a day. There was a trench system, literally. We knew that if the Serbs broke through past those trenches a third of the city would be slaughtered and the rest would be driven into refugee and displacement camps; and that wasn’t conjecture because that’s what they did in Vukovar, that’s what they did in the Drina valley, so at that point you pick up a gun. I get it. You know, we were being bombed in Sarajevo.” (TJDS, 2021)
Michael Parenti wrote an entire book, To Kill A Nation: The Attack on Yugoslavia, debunking this Western imperialist narrative that Chris Hedges is only too eager to repeat. In it he cites Lieutenant-General Satish Nambiar, the former deputy chief of staff in the Indian army and head of UN forces in Yugoslavia from 1992 – 93:
“Portraying the Serbs as evil and everybody else as good was not only counterproductive but also dishonest. According to my experience all sides were guilty but only the Serbs would admit that they were no angels while the others would insist that they were.” (Parenti, 2000)
Lieutenant-General Nambiar said they witnessed nothing resembling a genocide, the view promoted by the West and Hedges. He said there were killings and even massacres committed by all combatants, but nothing anywhere near what was being claimed by the Western media. Not only Nambiar, but even US Deputy Commander Boyd and others such as French General Philippe Morillon had quite different tales to tell from the Western propaganda narrative. General Morillon “emphatically blamed the Bosnian Muslim government for failing to lift the siege of Sarajevo. The British general, Sir Michael Rose agreed. (Parenti, 2000, p.74 pp. 79 – 80)
Liberal Talking Points
Chris Hedges is basically a liberal. He is not a radical and he is not a true leftist, and he is definitely not a revolutionary or a Marxist. He never mentions the bourgeoisie. He rarely mentions capitalism. He likes to talk a lot about “neoliberalism” and “the corporations,” “corporate America,” the “corporate state,” and “corporate power,” “corporate totalitarianism,” or he will call out individuals like the “Koch Brothers” or Google, Raytheon, Silicon Valley, etc. He would also repeat the liberal position that Trump is incompetent, and will even imply if not directly state, that the US ruling class is incompetent or “out of touch.” This is being way too kind to them and does not reflect reality. American elites are quite in touch with every aspect of what happens in their domain through comprehensive surveillance and political and psychological ops in order to shape and mold the minds of the citizenry.
During his harangue of the Democratic Party he says “that’s why they hate us [liberals -for turning their back on the working class], and we deserve to be hated. I mean, I don’t consider myself to be a liberal (laughs).” Freudian slip? (TJDS, 2021)
Chomsky 2.0 dissembles and equivocates when asked directly if we need a third party in America, basically indicating how difficult it will be and never really directly answering the question. He consistently spreads pessimism about the political situation and the environment.
Hedges will gloss over important events and figures like Patrice Lumumba of the Congo, saying that he was merely for “social justice” without explaining his anti-imperialist position or how he was murdered by the CIA for resisting Belgian colonialism. ( TJDS, 2021)
Here is another quote from Hedges’ The Jimmy Dore Show appearance a few months ago where he does more name-dropping of obscure or pseudo-left “thinkers”:
“Since 2006 they (Democratic Party) have refused to look at what the sociologist, Émile Durkheim, would call anomie, this malaise . . . it means this disruption of social bonds which have resulted from neoliberalism and austerity and offshoring . . . there’s been this siloing – Matt Taibbi’s done quite good work on this – there’s been this siloing of the media, including the traditional, uh, media, and what they’re doing is fomenting antagonisms and divisions, now, which potentially can rupture the country and I think at this point, you know, we’re going to see acts of real violence by an enraged, disenfranchised white working class . . .” (TJDS, 2021)
Hedges engages in a lot of fear mongering here, as well as mischaracterizing the working class, a bit of misdirection and demonization. He conjures up memories of the absurd and demoralizing so-called “New Left” slogan from the late 60s: “We have seen the enemy and it is us!” Beyond this chicanery, why not simply call out capitalism and imperialism? Interesting how he also says the ruling class “just doesn’t understand” and “stopped doing its job.” It’s as if he wants to promote the view that we can work within the system and that if we can just appeal to the ruling class and help them see all the bad they are doing in the world that we can change their minds and they will course correct:
“. . . but until the ruling elites look and grapple with the actual root causes of [Christian Fascism] what it is that propels this kind of violence it’s only going to get worse.” (TJDS, 2021)
In this last bit we see where Hedges misdirects the problem as one of “Christian Fascism.” It is not necessarily that there is no value in looking at societal problems through these various prisms, but once again, it kind of obscures or distracts attention away from the root cause of exploitation and oppression today – capitalist imperialism.
Chris Hedges also blurs the line and shows the relation between liberals and anarchists, what are becoming known as radical liberals or radlibs. Marxists have long recognized a very thin line between these two sister enlightenment-era bourgeois ideologies.
“Well, Julian Assange is probably the most important publisher of the last few decades. He represents everything that I care about in terms of shining a lens into the inner workings of, uh, of power, and exposing the kinds of crimes of power.” (Democracy Now!, 2021)
In Hedges’ last interview with Jimmy Dore he made sure to let everyone know that he is NOT a Marxist. He also took a shot at Lenin. Saying, he certainly understood the workings of power.
“. . . they [Democratic Party] have a real anger toward people like you [Jimmy Dore], people like Matt Taibbi [Social Democrat], people like Glen Greenwald [China-basher], people like myself. They’ve already used algorithms to marginalize us.” (TJDS, 2021)
They are not being marginalized. Not really. Hedges is as popular with his niche market of ignorant, armchair leftists as ever. His message still gets out there. His latest book, America: The Farewell Tour, is currently the “editor’s pick” in the History category on Amazon. This is marginalization?
Another interesting characteristic of Chris Hedges is his blatantly obvious braggadocio and manipulative “I was there” and “I know that guy” manner of speaking. It is quite manipulative and persuasive. It builds up his cred, as if working for The New York Times should build up someone’s radical cred in the first place! Go figure, but it works for his audience.
“. . . they can run this horrendous [Islamophobic propaganda], and I spent 7 years in the Middle East. I was a Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times. I’m an Arabic speaker.”
Hedges will say things like “I was in Gaza.” “I knew George McGovern.” He has mentioned that he is close friends with Ralph Nader and says he was his speechwriter when he ran for President.
As an interesting aside, Hedges revealed that Ralph Nader helped organize the very first “Earth Day” in 1970. It has been speculated that this was done as a deliberate political op to distract away from the Centennial celebration of Lenin’s birthday by the Soviet Union. If true, this is more damaging evidence to suggest Nader is also possibly a political operative for the feds; which should be kind of obvious to Marxists anyway.
That will do. Now you know how to spot a fake leftist. Chris Hedges is not alone. Good luck out there!
People always have been the foolish victims of deception and self-deception in politics, and they always will be until they have learnt to seek out the interests of some class or other behind all moral, religious, political and social phrases, declarations and promises. – V.I. Lenin
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What would happen if capital succeeded in smashing the Republic of Soviets? There would set in an era of the blackest reaction in all the capitalist and colonial countries, the working class and the oppressed peoples would be seized by the throat, the positions of international communism would be lost.