History

Mikhail Gorbachev R.I.P.

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Mikhail Gorbachev was the first President of the Soviet Union and the last Soviet leader. He was the best of the younger generation of Communist Party members who understood, like US President Ronald Reagan, the futility of the Cold War and the needless threat of nuclear Armageddon. Gorbachev also understood that the repressions and hardships of the Soviet years were unnecessary, and he with advisors, some of whom I met and engaged in discussion, attempted to reform the Soviet system. There is no question that he was a great man and a sincere leader of the Soviet peoples.

President Reagan realized Gorbachev’s greatness. Reagan also realized that Gorbachev was limited in his ability to end the Cold War by distrustful elements in the Politburo. President Reagan’s plan, in which I was a participant, was to rescue the US economy from “stagflation” and then to put pressure of a threatened arms race–Star Wars– on the Soviet Union in order to enhance Gorbachev’s position in favor of ending the Cold War than to subject the struggling Soviet economy to an arms race with a revitalized US economy.

Reagan, despite the CIA’s opposition and that of the US military/security complex, carried out his plan not in order to win the cold war but as Reagan repeatedly stressed to all of us involved to end the Cold War. None of us, Reagan included, had any idea of Soviet collapse. Our purpose was to halt a gratuitous conflict that threatened humanity with nuclear Armageddon.

What we did not realize was that hardline elements of the Soviet Communist Party thought that Gorbachev was making too many concessions to the West too soon without sufficient reciprocal concessions and guarantees. Apparently, Gorbachev himself did not realize it.

Reagan proceeded with care. He invited Gorbachev to the White House. Reagan convinced the distinguished American pianist, Van Cliburn, to come out of retirement and perform for Gorbachev in the White House. Van Cliburn had won, with Khrushchev’s approval, the inaugural International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 1958. In addition to classics of Russian composers, Van Cliburn regaled Gorbachev with Russian folk songs. President Reagan absolutely forbade any derogatory reference to the Soviet Union. Nothing, not even the CIA, was to prevent the end of the Cold War.

After Reagan’s second term ended, I had less connection with his successor, his former vice president, George H. W. Bush, but I know for an absolute fact that Secretary of State James Baker gave assurances to Gorbachev that if Gorbachev permitted the unification of Germany, NATO would not move one inch to the East. There is no doubt about this, despite the denials by American neoconservatives and Clinton regime officials.

The Soviet Union collapsed, not because of Reagan, but because the hardline Communists, disturbed, as is understandable, by Gorbachev’s trust in Washington’s word, attempted a coup and placed Gorbachev under house arrest. It was this miscalculation that brought about the collapse of the Soviet government and the rise of Yeltsin, who, intentionally or not, essentially was under Washington’s control.

Gorbachev, believing as did Reagan, in the futility of the Cold War, trusted that the conflict was over. Gorbachev’s mistake was that he did not understand Washington. An American President can make an agreement that can be rescinded by a successor. This is the case even if there are signed documents, but in the absence of signed documents, the corrupt Clinton regime was able to claim no such agreement as NATO not moving to Russia’s borders ever existed.

In view of the Democrat Clinton regime’s overthrowing the Reagan-Gorbachev ending of the Cold War with a New Cold War, now greatly expanded under the Democrat Biden, the Kremlin’s toleration of the West’s declared aggressive intentions against Russia is puzzling. How can anyone in the Kremlin ever again believe a word that Washington says?

In Russia Gorbachev is not seen as the great leader that he was. In America, ignorant flag-waving patriots mistakenly base their pride on Reagan winning the Cold War.

As far as I, a participant, can tell, neither side understands what has happened.

Is Marxism-Leninism a Eurocentric, Racist Ideology?

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One thing the Marxist-Leninist movement has never done is address how eurocentric, racist actually, they are. Why do I say this? Because nowhere in any Marxist-Leninist writings can you find any mention of African Genius, the best examples of which being the wonders of the Nile Valley, known by its Greek name as Egypt, though its inhabitants called their civilization Kemet, “Land of the Blacks”.

I doubt it was just plain ignorance, for what educated person going back hundreds of years has never heard of the Great Pyramids or the Sphinx or the Temple of Luxor, so spectacular that the word “luxury” sprang from it.

Maybe the Marxist-Leninists going back to Karl Marx, the father of their movement, thought those living in Kemet were actually white, something widely taught amongst historians up until today.

If not ignorance why is it there is a complete dearth of recognition never mind acknowledgement of the role Africa has played in influencing world civilizations amongst Marxist-Leninists?

Didn’t the Marxist-Leninists ever read the father of US History, the great Race Man W.E.B. Dubois, who in his 1949 masterpiece “The World and Africa” speculated that Kemet may have seen an early form of socialism being practiced. If the Marxist-Leninists didn’t read W.E.B Dubois aren’t they guilty of what Mao Tse Tung declared “no investigation, no right to speak”?

I have been fascinated by how such a powerful, revolutionary movement going back over 150 years could have completely missed African genius. I spent my early years as a revolutionary, part of the Maoist movement in the USA as a member of the Revolutionary Communist Party USA from 1975-1980 and never heard a single mention of African genius, or high civilization.

It wasn’t until 1990 that I began my own systematic study of Africa that I had my eyes opened, at last, thanks to DuBois, Ivan Van Sertima, Runoko Rashidi, Basil Davidson, Asa Hilliard and many, many others. I went on to create and co-teach with Runoko Rashidi, co-Editor of Ivan Van Sertima’s Journal of African Civilization a course entitled “Africa’s Contributions to World Civilization” in 1993 so I pretty much grounded myself in African History.

I first started to wonder about the eurocentric, racist, really, nature of Marxism-Leninism when I read about Constantine Volney, whose work “Ruins of Empires” was a fundamental work of history that for the first time established Kemet as a high civilization created by black Africans. “Ruins of Empires” was so widely regarded that it went through multiple editions and translations. It was so popular that it was installed in the public section of the British Museums Library where Karl Marx spent many hours studying society as a part of writing his classic works.

I had to wonder, Volney published “Ruins of Empires” in the late 18th Century, and by the time Marx started his studies, it was a must-read for any respectable historian of Marx’s day. So I couldn’t help but wonder how Marx missed Volney and the early African Centered historical movement.

To make matters more perplexing Karl Marx’s nickname was “the Moor”, moor meaning black, due to his swarthy appearance resulting from his Sephardic (Moorish) Jewish family. How could Marx be known as a black man yet never mention Africa in anything he wrote?

Today, I have just about given up trying to debate the Marxist-Leninist movement about this, something you would think they would be eager to do since being called racists is pretty damning. But how could I not call them racist after they have spent a century and a half ignoring or ignorant of African Genius? I guess they would have to start to question to many sacred cows if they honestly took up my challenge on this question. It seems keeping their heads in the sand and ignoring their essentially eurocentric racist ideology is required if they are going to hold onto their hard-won beliefs. You could say in their case “Ignorance is Bliss”? Hell, black folk, especially Africans simply had no history, right?

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Bangladesh: The carnage shook the World

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As long as Padma, Meghna, Gouri, Jamuna flows on,
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, your accomplishment will also live on.” – Annada Shankar Ray

No mercy or clemency to the killers of Father of the Bengali Nation – Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

This column is well worth a visit. Because it is not a simple murder only by the anti-Bangladesh malefactors and their ill-chums – the obnoxious nexus of America’s CIA and Pakistan’s ISI. It was a murder of a sky-touching figure like Bangabandhu Mujib and most of his family members. It has changed the entire political landscape of Bangladesh. The core spirit that we attained through our glorious Liberation war of 1971 to establish Bangladesh was tattered for an indefinite time.

The carnage shook the whole world in the wee hours on 15 August 1975.

If the crimes were ever a topic of discussion around, it was only people of all classes expressing their strong resentment (the media was then fully controlled by those arrant killers) with a national loss that seemed intent on forever branding our beloved Dhaka’s Road No. 32 Dhanmondi as a murder moorage.

Our glorious Liberation war of 1971 to found Bangladesh is our plume. Our national flag is our preen. Our national anthem is our prideful-ness. We achieved Bangladesh at the blood-bath of 3 million of our people by the lunatic Pakistani military regime and their local brutish cohorts, majorly the Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) sub-humans. To attain Bangladesh, three hundred thousand of our mothers and sisters lost their chastity at the hands of those malefactors. We saw their baleful everlasting annihilation of the freedom-loving people of all classes and of all religions in the country.

These perps forced out ten million of our people from their homes with unspeakable sufferings, made them shelter-less and forced them to take refuge inside India. All these men-made disasters were played out throughout a 9-month war in 1971. We finally gave them a crushing defeat on 16 December 1971 and our beloved Bangladesh came into being as an independent and sovereign state in the world map. We are proud of the secular spirit that we earned through our glorious Liberation War in 1971.

But the bacilli of the defeated forces could not be destroyed after Bangladesh’s Founding Father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s brutal killing intentionally and with premeditation on 15 August in 1975 by Khondokar Mushtaqu Ahmed and his camarilla and because of skullduggeries of depraved military rulers – Gen. Zia, Gen. Ershad and their compadre – Begum Zia for two decades or so. Unfortunately, they have infected, among many other people in the country.

From our side, the war was fought on the philosophies of establishing of Nationalism, Democracy, Socialism, and Secularism in the country. The true spirits and values of our glorious Liberation War of 1971 can best be described by a song sings by famed singer Rathindra Nath Roy, “For the youngsters; for the adults; for the poor; for the riches; for all; for the have-nots; for the beggars-our country is for all people; for all people where there is no difference between punters and blacksmiths; where there is no difference amongst Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists and Christians; one mother; and one country, but belong to all (Chotoder boroder, shokoler, ……..ek mata, ek desh shokoler).”

This is what Bangladesh we wanted in 1971 and we established that glorious Bangladesh in 1971.

Idealism got jumped in the alleyway of realpolitik when the governments of military dictators usurped the throne of Bangladesh and ruled the country. In truth today, today’s Bangladesh is not our Bangladesh. It is not a Bangladesh which we achieved in 1971 at a very high price. Depraved military dictators, Zia and Ershad usurped power and ruled the country for 16 years. The spirits and values of our glorious Liberation War were battered according to their whims; the anti-liberation forces on the run for their grave misdeeds in 1971, were arrogantly rehabilitated everywhere in the country to serve their petty political interests.

One of them was made Prime Minister, some ministers and placed others in key positions of the country. The bright constitution of 1972 was ravaged like anything. The immortal slogan “Joy Bangla” was sent into oblivion. The so-called ‘Zindabad’ slogan with the Pakistani spirit soiled with dirt or soot was restored in its glorious place. The name of our glorious Liberation War, the name our country’s Founding Father…. were made naught.

The two-nation theory which was buried by our glorious Liberation War, was brought back to designedly assault our heroic and patriotic war of 1971. The Satanic lust and twists polluted the hearts of two evil military dictators, and also one civilian dictator and their mango-twigs who ruled the country…

A large number of war criminals who were in jails were set free and garlanded to further rape the country with more ferociousness using the name of our holy religion, Islam. Communalism was patronised to push out of the way of secularism which had great beauty and splendor and which was achieved through our national liberation characterised by grandeur.

The valour, patriotism, the supreme sacrifices of our millions of people, our deep love for the country – everything were laid down by these shenanigan politicians. It is as if these morally reprehensible people raped everything and the beautiful country; its bright sun; and its bright moon and what not. The bare truth is that all these evil schemes were not needed to have done under any circumstances. Communalism now-a-days has risen its ugly head more vigorously. The golden days which we have passed through are all really gone!

And this is not what Bangladesh we wanted for in 1971.

Bangladesh has to be made Bangladesh in its original form. Keep moving on the ideals of 1971 war which need to be revived in full spirit.

Fuyumi Soryo has rightfully reminded, “If a castle gets destroyed, you just build a new one. If you wanted me to, I’d build them over and over. Let’s build them together.” Let us build together what precious treasures we have lost in Bangladesh. Moving towards the people’s desire for the restoration of glorious, creative past is a vital work for the state and its people and should be read by all who want to … The lost glory will truly be a remarkable work which is not just for the leaders, but a message for every people of the country.

Changing a little bit of the words of Teddy Roosevelt, we wish to say, “This is a nation — not a polyglot boarding house. There is not room in the country for any 50-50 Bengali, nor can there be but one loyalty — to the Green and Red coloured Flag.” The lost glory of Bangladesh that ideal for which many have fought and died for, has to be restored in full. The departure from the very Bangladesh for our nation has to be restored in full. The remnants of Pakistani ghosts and goblins and the Bangla speaking Pakistanis must be reduced to ashes.

Our principle in this matter should be absolutely simple. We should insist that if everyone lives here does in good faith become a Bengali and assimilates himself to us, he or she shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man or woman because of caste, creed or religion. But this is predicated upon the man’s becoming in very fact a Bengali and nothing, but a Bengali.

We have room for but one flag, Bangladesh’s flag, for we intend to see that the crucible turns our people out as Bangladesh’s, and its nationality, and not as dwellers in a polyglot boarding house; and we have room for but one soul sic loyalty, and that is loyalty to Bangladesh’s people. But this is predicated upon the man’s and woman’s becoming in very fact a Bengali and nothing but a Bengali.

We do not want to be any other nation or any other persuasion, but with a government that has not given up the very foundations that we were founded upon. The political arms in PM’s Secretariate and Bangabhaban have to thwart any ill-motivated move the very constitution that we have had in 1972. The evil and communal forces that want to bring the world of Bangladesh down have succeeded to do so because of the military rulers who ascended the throne of Bangladesh forcefully. It is as if we do not live in Bangladesh, per-se; we live in another country.

But that not be; we will not recant, change, or move away from the true spirits and values of our 1971 war. The new struggle is to our Bangladesh’s ideals; to what my forebears, forefathers of this nation, and to our own blood who preceded us. The anti-liberation forces have garnered supporters because of their unity. For decades our politicians have been slowly diluting the very foundations of Bangladesh with people. Our one sole is now loyalty and that is loyalty to Bangladesh’s people.

So, we have, but room for one allegiance that is to Bangladesh. The patriot Bengalis are those who form the battle line to protect freedoms so that all of us can live under the true banner of freedom without hate to people of other religions. We want keep to the People’s Republic of Bangladesh which we attained in 1971. This is what Bangladesh in the truest sense of the term.

There is strange comfort in knowing that no matter what happened yesterdays, the Sun will rise again tomorrow. The struggles we endure today will be the good old days.

Bangabandhu’s high road of grace will get us somewhere a whole lot faster than the freeway of spite. Joy Bangla. Joy Bangabandhu.

Mendel’s Genetic Revolution and the Legacy of Scientific Racism

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In July, the world celebrated 200 years since the birth of Gregor Mendel, who is widely accepted as the “father of modern genetics” for his discovery of the laws of inheritance. His experiments with peas, published in 1866 under the title “Experiments in Plant Hybridization,” identified dominant and recessive traits and how recessive traits would reappear in future generations and in what proportion. His work would largely remain unacknowledged and ignored until three other biologists replicated his work in 1900.

While Mendel’s work is central to modern genetics, and his use of experimental methods and observation is a model for science, it also set off the dark side with which genetics has been inextricably linked: eugenics and racism. But eugenics was much more than race “science.” It was also used to argue the superiority of the elite and dominant races, and in countries like India, it was used as a “scientific” justification for the caste system as well.

People who believe that eugenics was a temporary aberration in science and that it died with Nazi Germany would be shocked to find out that even the major institutions and journals that included the word eugenics as part of their names have continued to operate by just changing their titles. The Annals of Eugenics became the Annals of Human Genetics; the Eugenics Review changed its name to the Journal of Biosocial Science; Eugenics Quarterly changed to Biodemography and Social Biology; and the Eugenics Society was renamed the Galton Institute. Several departments in major universities, which were earlier called the department of eugenics, either became the department of human genetics or the department of social biology.

All of them have apparently shed their eugenics past, but the reoccurrence of the race and IQ debate, sociobiology, the white replacement theory and the rise of white nationalism are all markers that theories of eugenics are very much alive. In India, the race theory takes the form of the belief that Aryans are “superior” and fair skin is seen as a marker of Aryan ancestry.

While Adolf Hitler’s gas chambers and Nazi Germany’s genocide of Jews and Roma communities have made it difficult to talk about the racial superiority of certain races, scientific racism persists within science. It is a part of the justification that the elite seek, justifying their superior position based on their genes, and not on the fact that they inherited or stole this wealth. It is a way to airbrush the history of the loot, slavery and genocide that accompanied the colonization of the world by a handful of countries in Western Europe.

Why is it that when we talk about genetics and history, the only story that is repeated is that about biologist Trofim Lysenko and how the Soviet Communist Party placed ideology above science? Why is it that the mention of eugenics in popular literature is only with respect to Nazi Germany and not about how Germany’s eugenic laws were inspired directly by the U.S.? Or how eugenics in Germany and the U.S. were deeply intertwined? Or how Mendel’s legacy of genetics become a tool in the hands of racist states, which included the U.S. and Great Britain? Why is it that genetics is used repeatedly to support theories of superiority of the white race?

Mendel showed that there were traits that were inherited, and therefore we had genes that carried certain markers that could be measured, such as the color of the flower and the height of the plant. Biology then had no idea of how many genes we had, which traits could be inherited, how genetically mixed the human population is, etc. Mendel himself had no idea about genes as carriers of inheritance, and this knowledge became known much later.

From genetics to society, the application of these principles was a huge leap that was not supported by any empirical scientific evidence. All attempts to show the superiority of certain races started with a priori assuming that certain races were superior and then trying to find what evidence to choose from that would help support this thesis. Much of the IQ debate and sociobiology came from this approach to science. In his review of The Bell Curve, Bob Herbert wrote that the authors, Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein, had written a piece of “racial pornography,” “…to drape the cloak of respectability over the obscene and long-discredited views of the world’s most rabid racists.”

A little bit of the history of science is important here. Eugenics was very much mainstream in the early 20th century and had the support of major parties and political figures in the UK and the U.S. Not surprisingly, former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was a noted supporter of race science, although eugenics had some supporters among progressives as well.

The founder of eugenics in Great Britain was Francis Galton, who was a cousin of Charles Darwin. Galton pioneered statistical methods like regression and normal distribution, as did his close collaborators and successors in the Eugenics Society, Karl Pearson and R.A. Fisher. On the connection of race and science, Aubrey Clayton, in an essay in Nautilus, writes, “What we now understand as statistics comes largely from the work of Galton, Pearson, and Fisher, whose names appear in bread-and-butter terms like ‘Pearson correlation coefficient’ and ‘Fisher information.’ In particular, the beleaguered concept of ‘statistical significance,’ for decades the measure of whether empirical research is publication-worthy, can be traced directly to the trio.”

It was Galton who, based supposedly on scientific evidence, argued for the superiority of the British over Africans and other natives, and that superior races should replace inferior races by way of selective breeding. Pearson gave his justification for genocide: “History shows me one way, and one way only, in which a high state of civilization has been produced, namely the struggle of race with race, and the survival of the physically and mentally fitter race.”

The eugenics program had two sides: one was that the state should try to encourage selective breeding to improve the stock of the population. The other was for the state should take active steps to “weed out” undesirable populations. The sterilization of “undesirables” was as much a part of the eugenics societies as encouraging people toward selective breeding.

In the U.S., eugenics was centered on Cold Spring Harbor’s Eugenics Record Office. While Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and its research publications still hold an important place in contemporary life sciences, its original significance came from the Eugenics Record Office, which operated as the intellectual center of eugenics and race science. It was supported by philanthropic money from the Rockefeller family, the Carnegie Institution and many others. Charles Davenport, a Harvard biologist, and his associate Harry Laughlin became the key figures in passing a set of state laws in the U.S. that led to forced sterilization of the “unfit” population. They also actively contributed to the Immigration Act of 1924, which set quotas for races. The Nordic races had priority, while East Europeans (Slavic races), East Asians, Arabs, Africans and Jews were virtually barred from entering the country.

Sterilization laws in the U.S. at the time were controlled by the states. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, the doyen of liberal jurisprudence in the U.S., gave his infamous judgment in Virginia on justifying compulsory sterilization, “Three generations of imbeciles are enough,” he ruled in Buck v. Bell. Carrie Buck and her daughter were not imbeciles; they paid for their “sins” of being poor and perceived as threats to society (a society that failed them in turn). Again, Eugenics Research Office and Laughlin played an important role in providing “scientific evidence” for the sterilization of the “unfit.”

While Nazi Germany’s race laws are widely condemned as being the basis for Hitler’s gas chambers, Hitler himself stated that his inspiration for Germany’s race laws was the U.S. laws on sterilization and immigration. The close links between the U.S. eugenicists and Nazi Germany are widely known and recorded. Edwin Black’s book War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race described how “Adolf Hitler’s race hatred was underpinned by the work of American eugenicists,” according to an article in the Guardian in 2004. The University of Heidelberg, meanwhile, gave Laughlin an honorary degree for his work in the “science of racial cleansing.”

With the fall of Nazi Germany, eugenics became discredited. This resulted in institutions, departments and journals that had any affiliation to eugenics by name being renamed, but they continued to do the same work. Human genetics and social biology became the new names for eugenics. The Bell Curve was published in the 1990s justifying racism, and a recent bestseller by Nicholas Wade, a former science correspondent of the New York Times, also trot out theories that have long been scientifically discarded. Fifty years back, Richard Lewontin had shown that only about 6 to 7 percent of human genetic variation exists between so-called racial groups. At that time, genetics was still at a nascent stage. Later, data has only strengthened Lewontin’s research.

Why is it that while criticizing the Soviet Union’s scientific research and the sins of Lysenko 80 years back, we forget about race science and its use of genetics?

The answer is simple: Attacking the scientific principles and theories developed by the Soviet Union as an example of ideology trumping science is easy. It makes Lysenko the norm for Soviet science of ideology trumping pure science. But why is eugenics, with its destructive past and its continuing presence in Europe and the U.S., not recognized as an ideology—one that has persisted for more than 100 years and that continues to thrive under the modern garb of an IQ debate or sociobiology?

The reason is that it allows racism a place within science: changing the name from eugenics to sociobiology makes it appear as a respectable science. The power of ideology is not in the ideas but in the structure of our society, where the rich and the powerful need justification for their position. That is why race science as an ideology is a natural corollary of capitalism and groups like the G7, the club of the rich countries who want to create a “rule-based international order.” Race science as sociobiology is a more genteel justification than eugenics for the rule of capital at home and ex-colonial and settler-colonial states abroad. The fight for science in genetics has to be fought both within and outside science as the two are closely connected.

This article was produced in partnership by Newsclick and Globetrotter.