Stephen Zunes and the Struggle for Overseas Profits

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Steve Zunes
Dateline: Monday, February 18, 2008

“The name for our profits is democracy”– Phil Ochs, Cops of the World

By Stephen Gowans

Stephen Zunes, a professor of Politics and International Studies at the University of San Francisco, is bristling against what he calls the leftist attack on “independent” grassroots nonviolent activists who are trying to bring down “autocratic” governments and “dictatorships” in places like Zimbabwe, Belarus and Iran (1). People who have cast votes in these countries may be surprised to discover they’re living in dictatorships, but the U.S. government says they are, and “progressives” like Stephen Zunes are happy to lend credibility to Washington’s charges. “Independent” grassroots activists in these same countries may be surprised to hear they’re independent, despite the cataract of support they receive from U.S. and Western governments and Western ruling class foundations, but if Zunes wants to elevate them from fifth columnists to independent democracy activists, they’re pleased to receive his support.

These days, Zunes’ bristling against the leftist attack may have something to do with the attack hitting too close to home (2). His association with dodgy U.S. ruling class foundations that hide the pursuit of U.S. foreign policy objectives behind a high-sounding commitment to peace has increasingly come under scrutiny. And judging by his reaction, he doesn’t like it (3).

Although he boasts of having impeccable progressive and anti-imperialist credentials, Zunes chairs the board of academic advisors for the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (the ICNC), a Wall Street-connected organization that promotes nonviolent activism in the service of destabilizing foreign governments — the same ones the U.S. State Department (and Zunes) likes to discredit by calling them dictatorships.

The ICNC’s founding chair is New York investment banker Peter Ackerman, who is also a member of the board of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), an organization dominated by directors of major U.S. corporations, corporate lawyers and CEOs. The CFR brings together executives, government and military officials and scholars to provide policy advice to the U.S. State Department. Its key members circulate between the council, corporate board appointments and State Department positions. The CFR has never been particularly concerned about promoting peace, freedom and democracy, but has had a single-minded focus on promoting the overseas profit-making interests of U.S. corporations and investors.

Ackerman is also chairman of the board of Freedom House, an organization that champions the rights of journalists, union leaders and [capitalist] democracy activists to organize openly to bring down governments whose economic policies are insufficiently friendly to U.S. trade and investment. Funded by the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Congress’s National Endowment for Democracy, Freedom House features a rogues’ gallery of U.S. ruling class activists who have sat, or currently sit, on its board of directors: Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Otto Reich, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Zbigniew Brzezinski and Steve Forbes, among others. These people share Zunes’ rhetorical commitment to “freedom and democracy,” though the only freedom they’re interested in is the freedom of U.S. corporations and investors to accumulate capital wherever and whenever they please.

Zunes on PBS’ Newshour. (12.30.05)

Ackerman’s Center has been heavily involved in successful and ongoing “regime change” operations, including in Yugoslavia, which Ackerman celebrated in a PBS-TV documentary, Bringing Down a Dictator, about the ouster of Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic. Ackerman, who studied under U.S. nonviolence guru Gene Sharp, has a U.S. Marine Corps officer son who earned a silver star for service in Iraq, using bombs and bullets, not nonviolent activism, to change Iraq’s regime. Apparently, Ackerman did little to instill nonviolent values in members of his own family.

The Center’s vice-chair is Berel Rodal, a former senior Canadian government official in foreign affairs, international trade, defense, security and intelligence, hardly the kind of background you would expect of an advocate of nonviolence, but fits well someone who has taken a leadership role in promoting Western foreign policy goals. Put the two together and you get nonviolent direct activism in the service of US foreign policy goals – -exactly what Rodal, Ackerman, the ICNC and Stephen Zunes are all about.

Another Center associate is Robert Helvey, whose book “On Strategic Non-Violent Conflict: Thinking about the Fundamental”, is promoted on the Center’s website. Helvey is a retired U.S. Army colonel and former U.S. military attaché to Myanmar (like Rodal’s, an improbable background for a budding Ghandi) who has been linked to anti-Chavez groups. Chavez has accused Helvey’s employer, the Albert Einstein Institution, of being behind an imperialist conspiracy to overthrow his government (4). Zunes says that “charges that…Bob Helvey” or the Albert Einstein Institution or the ICNC “are serving as agents of U.S. imperialism are totally unfounded” and that “the only visit to Venezuela that has taken place on behalf of any of these non-profit groups engaged in educational efforts on strategic nonviolence was in early 2006 when” Zunes “led a series of workshops at the World Social Forum in Caracas.” (5) Chavez, he says, has fallen for a conspiracy theory. These “individuals and groups” are not “plotting with his opponents to overthrow him.” (6)

But a Reuters’ report says Helvey was brought to Caracas in 2003 “by a group of businessmen and professionals to give courses to young activists on how to ‘resist, oppose, and change a government without the use of bombs and bullets.’” (7) Is Zunes unaware of this, or is he paltering with the truth?

Helvey’s dalliances with the anti-Chavez opposition came fast on the heels of “his work in Serbia before Milosevic’s fall” where he “briefed students on ways to organize a strike and how to undermine the authority of a dictatorial regime.” (8)

Zunes has received at least one research grant from the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) and has served as a fellow of the organization (9). USIP’s aim is to “help prevent and resolve violent conflicts”, an improbable mandate given that the organization was established by the U.S. government, receives funding from Congress, and has a board of directors appointed by the President, the secretary of state, the secretary of defense and the president of the National Defense University – hardly the world’s greatest advocates of peace, but pretty effective advocates of the pursuit of U.S. corporate and investor interests abroad—at gunpoint if necessary.

What’s not so improbable is that Zunes’ ICNC colleagues (you know, the guys who are absolutely not agents of U.S. imperialism) are also connected to USIP. ICNC founder and Freedom House chair Peter Ackerman is on the advisory council. Former U.S. Air Force officer, presidential campaign speechwriter and ICNC director Jack DuVall – who Zunes must know well based on his assurances that “Jack DuVall…is not an agent of U.S. imperialism” (10) — is also connected to the USIP.

Zunes during the same broadcast. Notice the aseptic language about our real role in all these conflicts: “Unfortunately, some of the worst dictatorships in the world have had police who are trained by the United States. I mean, thus the big controversy, ongoing debate around the School of the Americas, for example…So unfortunately, even good training, good mentorship (sic) does not guarantee good behavior by the people with whom we are working…”

It’s hardly curious, then, that a group of Americans, many with backgrounds in the military, but also in foreign policy and investment banking, connected in some way to the U.S.-government funded and directed Institute of Peace, [yes, more Orwellianism] and involved in training foreign activists to destabilize foreign governments, might be seen as agents of U.S. imperialism. But Zunes says they’re not, offering his assertion alone (and his self-proclaimed credentials as a progressive and anti-imperialist) as proof.

Zunes’ rhetoric is reminiscent of Bush’s. He says nonviolent activists are pursuing “freedom and democracy” (in the same way, apparently, the U.S. invasion of Iraq was a project in bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East). He throws the charge of dictatorship around as facilely as Bush does. Yugoslavia (in 1999), Belarus, Zimbabwe, and Iran are dictatorships, he says. Apparently, Zunes has been too busy mimicking State Department press releases to notice there are elections and opposition parties in these places.

He says “there is no evidence…to suggest…that the U.S. government or any U.S.-funded entity has ever provided training, advice, or strategic assistance for the kind of mass popular nonviolent action campaigns that have toppled governments or threatened the survival of incumbent regimes.” (11)

Maybe he hasn’t been paying attention. When it comes to Zimbabwe, one of Zunes’ and the U.S. government’s favorite betes noires, there’s plenty of evidence. The British newspaper The Guardian revealed as early as August 22, 2002 that, “The United States government has said it wants to see President Robert Mugabe removed from power and that it is working with the Zimbabwean opposition” “trade unions, pro-democracy groups and human rights organizations” “to bring about a change of administration.” (12)

Washington confirmed its own civil society-assisted regime change plans for Zimbabwe in an April 5, 2007 report, revealing that in 2006 “The U.S. government continued to support the efforts of the political opposition, the media and civil society,” including providing training and assistance to the kind of grassroots “pro-democracy” groups phony anti-imperialists, among them, another ruling class foundation-connected academic, Patrick Bond, celebrate as “the independent left.” (13) The U.S. “supported workshops to develop youth leadership skills necessary to confront social injustice through nonviolent strategies.” (14)

Zunes tries to defend U.S. government meddling in the affairs of other countries by pointing out that “the limited amount of financial support provided to opposition groups by the United States and other Western governments in recent years cannot cause a nonviolent liberal democratic revolution to take place.” (15)

Who said it could? The real issue isn’t whether groups that challenge foreign governments are homegrown; it’s what they’re struggling for, why phony peace institutes are helping them, and what they’re going to end up with if they’re successful.

How curious that the governments Zunes really seems to be concerned about (Zimbabwe, Iran, Belarus and Myanmar) are hostile to the idea of opening their doors to unrestricted U.S. investment and exports. How curious that the successful soft revolutions Zunes admires (Yugoslavia, Georgia, Ukraine) have brought pro-U.S., pro-foreign investment governments to power.

And what happens when the soft revolutions Zunes and his colleagues assist, succeed? In Serbia, which Zunes’ ICNC considers to be the site of one of its most successful engagements, “dollars have accomplished what bombs could not. After U.S.-led international sanctions were lifted with Milosevic’s ouster in 2000, the United States emerged as the largest single source of foreign direct investment. According to the U.S. embassy in Belgrade, U.S. companies have made $1 billion worth of ‘committed investments’ represented in no small part by the $580 million privatization of Nis Tobacco Factory (Phillip Morris) and a $250 million buyout of the national steel producer by U.S. Steel. Coca-Cola bought a Serbian bottled water producer in 2005 for $21 million. The list goes on.” (16)

Meanwhile, in Kosovo, the “coal mines and electrical facilities, the postal service, the Pristina airport, the railways, landfills, and waste management systems have all been privatized. As is the case across the Balkans, ‘publicly-owned enterprises’ are auctioned for a fraction of their value on the private market with little or no compensation for taxpayers.” (17)

It should be recalled that prior to the soft revolution-engineered corporate takeover, the Yugoslav economy consisted largely of state- and socially-owned enterprises, leaving little room for U.S. profit-making opportunities, not the kind of place investment bankers like Ackerman could easily warm up to. That the toppling of Milosevic had everything to do with opening space for U.S. investors and corporations should have been apparent to anyone who read chapter four of the U.S.-authored Rambouillet ultimatum, an ultimatum Milosevic rejected, triggering weeks of NATO bombing. The first article called for a free-market economy and the second for privatization of all government-owned assets. NATO bombs seemed to have had an unerring ability to hit Yugoslavia’s socially-owned factories and to miss foreign-owned ones. This was an economic take-over project.

Zunes’ associate Helvey hasn’t limited himself to training activists to overthrow governments in Venezuela and Serbia. Wherever Washington seeks to oust governments that pursue economically nationalist or socialist policies, you’ll find Helvey (and perhaps Zunes as well) holding seminars on nonviolent direct action: in Belarus, in Zimbabwe, in Iraq (before the U.S. invasion) and in Iran (18).

Zunes would be a more credible anti-imperialist were he organizing seminars on how to use nonviolent direct action to overthrow the blatantly imperialist U.S. and British governments. With the largest demonstrations in history held in Western cities on the eve of the last conspicuous eruption of Anglo-American imperialism, it cannot be denied that there’s a grassroots movement for peace and democracy in the West awaiting Zunes’ assistance. So is he training U.S. and British grassroots activists to use nonviolent direct action to stop the machinery of war? No. His attention is directed outward, not on his own government, but on the governments Washington and ruling class think-tanks want overthrown. He’s also busy applying for grants from a phony U.S. government institute of peace, hooking up with Peter Ackerman and his gaggle of fifth column promoters and mimicking U.S. State Department nonsense about countries the U.S. ruling class would like to dominate but can’t being dictatorships and their Western-funded oppositions being independent.

Genuine progressives and anti-imperialists should carefully scrutinize the backgrounds of Zunes and others, paying special attention to their foundation and think-tank connections. They should also ask whether the “independent” grassroots groups these people celebrate are really independent, or whether they’re as tightly connected to Western governments and ruling class activist foundations as Zunes is.

1. “Nonviolent Action and Pro-Democracy Struggles,” Z-Net, February 17, 2008, See also Zune’s “Leftist Attack on Nonviolent Direct Action for Democratic Change,
2. Michael Barker, “Peace Activists, Criticism, and Nonviolent Imperialism,” MRZine, January 8, 2008, and John Bellamy Foster, “Reply to Stephen Zunes on Imperialism and the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict,” MRZine, January 17, 2008,
3. Stephen Zunes, “Spurious Attacks on Supporters of Nonviolent Resistance to Oppression, MRZine, January 18, 2008,
4. The Guardian, June 7, 2007.
5. Zunes, February 17, 2008.
6. Ibid.

Concerning Zunes’ assurances that Gene Sharp, Robert Helvey and the Albert Einstein Institution are not agents of U.S. imperialism and aren’t assisting groups plotting to overthrow the Chavez government:

“The AEI is run by Gene Sharp, a self-titled expert of what he calls ‘nonviolent defense,’ though better termed ‘regime change.’ His methodologies have been studied and utilized by opposition movements in Burma, Thailand, Tibet, Belarus, Serbia, Zimbabwe, and Venezuela. In the AEI’s 2004 annual report, Venezuela is highlighted as an area where actions are currently being taken:

Venezuelans opposed to Chavez met with Gene Sharp and other AEI staff to talk about the deteriorating political situation in their country. They also discussed options of opposition groups to further their cause effectively without violence. These visits led to an in-country consultation in April 2003. The nine day consultation was held by consultants Robert Helvey and Chris Miler in Caracas for members of the Venezuelan democratic opposition. The objective of the consultation was to provide them with the capacity to develop a nonviolent strategy to restore democracy to Venezuela. Participants included members of political parties and unions, nongovernmental organization leaders and unaffiliated activists…Helvey presented a course of instruction on the theory, applications and planning for a strategic nonviolent struggle. Through this, the participants realized the importance of strategic planning to overcome existing shortcomings in the opposition’s campaign against Chavez. Ofensiva Cuidadana, a pro-democracy group in Venezuela, request and organized the workshop. The workshop has led to continued contact with Venezuelans and renewed requests for additional consultations.”

Eva Golinger, Bush vs Chavez: Washington’s War on Venezuela, Monthly Review Press, New York, 2008, p. 136.

Either Zunes doesn’t know what’s going on, or is playing fast and loose with the truth.

7. Reuters, April 30, 2003.
8. Ibid.
9. See and
10. Zunes, February 17, 2008.
11. Ibid.
12. The Guardian, August 22, 2002, .
13. Stephen Gowans, “Talk Left, Funded Right, April 7, 2007, .
14. U.S. Department of State, The U.S. Record 2006,
15. Zunes, February 17, 2008.
16. Elise Hugus, “Eight Years After NATO’s ‘Humanitarian War’: Serbia’s new ‘third way’”, Z Magazine, April 2007, Volume 20, Number 4.
17. Ibid.
18. The Albert Einstein Institution, Report on Activities, 2000 to 2004, .
11 comments on “Stephen Zunes and the Struggle for Overseas Profits
  1. This article if full of demonstrably false claims which totally mispresent where I come from politically and otherwise. Indeed, 95% of my trainings and seminars on strategic nonviolent action have been directed in opposition to the U.S. government, U.S.-based corporate interests, and U.S-backed regimes. There are also a series of misrepresentations regarding the activities of ICNC and about nonviolent movements in general. Please see my point-by-point refutation on ZNet at:

  2. Gowan’s piece is false, untrustworthy, and as an author, professor and nonviolent activist I’ve not found any analyst I’d trust more than Zunes. Gowan can’t even spell Gandhi. This blog owner ought to factcheck a bit before publishing such baseless attacks on a highly respected critic of US foreign policy and of dictators of the left, right, and center. Ultraleftists subcribe to violence, which is their business, but they need to learn to think critically about domination, violence and repression. It’s wrong from any quarter. The worst oppressors locally where I grew up, in Minneapolis, were the rightwinger cops who ascended to the mayoral office briefly. The second worst were the ultraleftists, who attacked us with lead pipes to take over our coops. We just called them the Stalinoids. This is applicable often to those ideologues who defend the likes of Milosevic and other so-called socialists. Hitler called himself a socialist. Do these people have no lines beyond which they will not go to defend brutal lefties, or are they only against the tyranny of the right?

    Zunes carries no water for the US government, but Gowan carries buckets for some of the worst nightmarish leaders. I know who I trust.

  3. Zunes, from what one can gather with this article, is a typical liberal hawk . To call Milosevic, for example, a *dictator* is representitive of this stance. For some on the ***left*** nothing can ever be pure enough — hence those who resist; Milosevic, Aristide, Chavez, Castro, et al are simply dictators. Its not just a desire for *socialist* purity, its a deep seated inability to grasp political theory and history. Zunes is a lap top interventionist, an apologist for Imperialism. He really is no socialist of any sort.

    Venezuela is a shining light of progressive resistence to Empire, and there are no *deteriorating* situations there. Milosevic tried in imperfect ways to keep the FRY together — but the US (NATO) had already decided it must come apart and be reduced to economically dependent client state-lets…..and hence the final nail of Kosovo, run by albanian drug runners and war criminals…. supported by the US and its Euro lap dogs. Hastings comment above suggests he is Zunes water boy (to borrow his turgid metaphor). Gowans has been over all a very fine journalist and critic of the west. The Zunes faction also reminds one of the Euston Manifesto liberals —- crytpo fascsits actually, in the guise of *responsible* liberalism.

    Zunes is a apologist and a deeply compromised reactionary — and one wouldnt at all be surprised to find this creep on the state dept. payroll.

  4. Mr. Gowans and- it would seem- Mr. Steppling apply a very simplistic framework to their analysis of foreign policy which is the “enemy of my enemy is my friend” logic. Ironically that is exactly the kind of thinking that justified the illegal U.S. interventions in all the places both men reference.

    Steve Zunes’ commitment is to human rights, self-determination, social and economic justice, solidarity with those struggling for their freedom and dignity, and a belief that all of those things can be best acquired by accessing the better angels of our natures, not though interference, “exported” or “imposed democracy” (or in the lexicon de jour, “democracy promotion”), or violence.

    For example, on the question of Chavez. His appeal to progressives makes some sense, but cognitive dissonance prevents most of us human beings from being willing to see some less comfortable truths, namely that although Chavez is anti-globalization, anti-corporation, anti-imperialism, and anti-Bush, he is a brute with a propensity for (violent) repression (especially towards political opponents and independent journalists) and a disdain for the rule of law. Although they are ideological nemeses, Bush and Chavez are quite similar in their methods. They are like two ends of a horseshoe- they (and their supporters) believe they are far apart, but they are actually quite close together.

    Steve recognizes these kinds of nuances and is unwilling- as a committed humanitarian- to let any form of repression go unaddressed, regardless of what its ideological “rationale” may be. When it so happens that sometimes those who are doing the repressing (Milosevic, Chavez) have also been identified as “unfriendly states” by the U.S., it is easy to imagine a connection that plain and simple, is just not there. What makes Steve different (besides the obvious like his values and ideological principles) from the neocons is that he is free and able to evaluate each case on its own merit, not on the basis of whether someone’s repression or tyranny should be tolerated because it suits the American foreign policy agenda. In other words, Steve is consistent in his disdain for repression in all forms, regardless of the source. And not only that, but he lives the values he promotes. For example, last I knew, he didn’t even own a car because he prefers to travel via public transportation only (on principle.) And he lives more than 75 miles from his job in the Bay Area, not a very “public transportation” friendly region. Can you imagine someone on the State Dept’s payroll who would do that?

    With all due respect, this crusade that you have initiated is not only a collosal misuse of time and energy, but it is totally misguided, libelous, and quite possibly, dangerous. Not to mention highly disrespectful to the life’s work of one of only a handful of living people that live every day authentically and in the service of the rest of us.

    I defy you to actually spend a day with Steve Zunes, get to know him a little bit, and then try to imagine that your theories on his character and motivations hold a shred of water.

    Cynthia Boaz

  5. Where is the data/documentation revealing Chavez to be a “brutal
    repressor” of whomever/whatever? In other words, “where’s the beef?”

    What offends me most about right-wing agitators (or “liberals,” in the parlance of our times) is the whole
    “innuendo” thing, i.e. “will the jury please disregard that last
    statement” (because it’s patently false).

    Slings and arrows of outrageous miscreants…

  6. Adam, you are miscasting what I said. I said Chavez was a brute and that he engaged in repression. By rephrasing it the way you did, you intentionally (I assume) make it sound much more insidious than I intended and give it the cast of Stalinism or some other form of totalitarianism, which is something I did NOT say.

    That being said, here is a source to start with:

    If that’s not enough for you, read reports from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Transparency International, UNHCHR, and any number of other independent international NGOs whose job is to monitor corruption, adherence to human rights standards, and transparency.

    And for something more current:

    Do you seriously think real “right-wing agitators” spend their time posing as progressives and post to blogs? Please.

    Why are you making excuses for this belligerent autocrat? Have you looked, really looked, into the means behind this guy’s ends?

    And p.s. try not to be so paranoid. It perpetuates the negative stereotypes about progressives and we don’t need any more of those.

  7. Zunes, Boaz, Hastings…they remind me of the truly perfidious positions that some liberals will assume in this nation’s contorted political geography, justifying, in passing, the jokes about “people who inhabit academic ivory towers…”

    What this entire so-called “left” crowd (I frankly don”t know what they call themselves for sure) conspicuously lacks is the ability or willingness to see something that any intelligent observer of world reality—nay, of life—would readily admit: that the world’s political struggles, class struggles, do not allow for tidy affairs in which all the ideal formalities can be observed. Contests between imperialist oppressor and the oppressed (not a communist slogan boys and girls) are ugly, messy, flawed processes, but still humanity must choose.

    This crowd prefers to march according to some fantasy Third Way that doesn’t exist, hence their sanctimonious denunciations of “both sides” and phony equations making socialism and fascism perfect equivalents: “a plague-on-both-your-houses approach” which apparently satisfies their bizarre sense of political purity.

    This is the kind of people who holler “FOUL” when anyone pursuing a CLASS STRUGGLE PROCESS AGAINST ENTRENCHED ENEMIES SUPPORTED BY THE US might come down hard on capitalist media inflaming passions and spreading lies. It could be the Sandinistas yesterday, or Chavez, today, who Ms. Boaz has no trouble characterizing as the counterweight in perfidy to none other than the idiot king and his criminal camarilla, while, in a display of complete academic arrogance (and ignorance I might add) calls him gratuitously a brute …”with a propensity for (violent) repression [sic] (especially towards political opponents and independent journalists) and a disdain for the rule of law. If that is not one of the most unsupportable statements of the last 25 years I don’t know what is.

    Maybe if Ms Boaz, Zunes and the rest of their ilk acquired some integrity, and some political courage to see what is going on here, what’s really at stake, they might stumble upon a minimum of intellectual decency to judge contemporary history.

  8. Okay, suppose I stand “corrected.”

    Suppose Chavez, Castro, David Koresh, Bill Clinton, etc. etc. are/were all brutes engaged in acts of repression. With the exception of “The Man from Hope,” all were/are in some way fighting the Empire.

    The U.S. knew that Stalin was not a very nice man at all, but it also knew that he was doing a good job of fighting Nazis, or rather, the Russian people were.

    Gandhi’s tactics wouldn’t have worked all that well against smart bombs, napalm, cluster bombs and whatever else The Empire uses to “keep the peace.” Would Gandhi’s tactics even have worked against a British Empire that was still ‘on top of its game?’

    I often wonder why various corporations use photos/clips of Gandhi or MLK to sell product.

    Malcolm X. criticized King for leading unarmed men and women into hazardous situations, in which many were hurt or killed. Many, many were harmed and killed during Gandhi’s peaceful disobedience.

    Was it sympathy for King’s brutalized followers, or fear of Malcom X. and others, who demanded the ballot, lest they resort to the bullet, that “converted” Johnson and other racists to “see the light?” Or did they simply need a bunch of black guys to fight in Viet Nam, so hey, why not toss ’em a bone? Funny how King got killed once he started talking about Viet Nam.

    As Ozzie Davis said in his eulogy, Malcolm X. never harmed a soul. Nor was he responsible for a soul being crushed by “democratic” cops during a protest. He merely hinted that if America didn’t wake up, black people might wake it up themselves.

    Never see him on any TV commercials.

  9. As an Australian I suppose I am part of what we might call the Great Anglo-American Ethnocentric Malady—a common malady that few sufferers ever reflect upon nor recognise. In any case a few quick observations:

    (1) The human rights watch organizations Mr Zunes, Ms Boaz et al quote (AI, Human Rights Watch, etc.) as their impeccable sources for judgment on various nations, almost always Third World societies, are also almost without exception predominantly British or American in origin, funding and values.

    (2) Their class composition is middle/upper middle class with a smattering of individuals from the bottom of the ladder and the top. Such organizations therefore carry the sensibilities of these cultural-specific strata.

    (3) Inevitably, a great deal of ethnocentrism is injected in the way matters are perceived and analysed.

    Now, we all understand that CLASS POSITION influences enormously the ways we perceive the world and their urgencies. (The latter couldn’t be otherwise, since existence is consciousness, no matter how much people try to shed that layer and the majority doesn’t.)

    As a result, and no matter how hard they try, far too many middle class reformers, fairly comfortable with the status quo, remain just that, REFORMERS, tinkerers with the periphery of a rotten system, and rarely its violent, incorrigible core. This is so self-evident and well documented that it hardly merits debate.

    Accordingly, their empathy for victims of such a system is abstract, thin and unreliable; they lack for the most part a visceral hostility to the oppressive status quo as they’re not deeply stuck at the bottom of the pile. Like Conradian interlopers, they can move on and out when things get too unpleasant.

    Again, this is to be expected. How could a (by world standards) highly privileged white upper-middle class American or British academic or activist FEEL the urgency of what it means to work and live (as many women do in Haiti’s apparel industry, for example) on a pittance of $.072 a day? How do I know this? I saw it with mine own blue eyes in 1994, and I doubt that the situation has improved dramaticaly since then.

    In my book, although merely a case of “routine economic exploitation” that is a violation of human rights that, just because “no [conventional] violence” is in sight, cannot be discounted as non-existent. Yet far too many First World do-gooders pay little attention to such phenomena. Maybe they have their hands full with far graver crimes of their metropolises.

    In sum, I find that these people are sitting high on their institutional perches, passing petulant judgment on processes that they clearly lack a genuine understanding for. They talk a big line about opposing imperialism [when they dare use the word] and so on, but they remain stubbornly committed to measuring political events according to the standards of an American “democracy” that for all intents and purposes has practically collapsed. That is surely a singularly bad choice to measure the enormously important human power struggles of the 21st century.

    RT Bedford-Jones, Brisbane, QLD

  10. MS Boaz provides evidence of Chavez’ brutality by linking us to DISSENT?? Well, people reveal themselves clearly at a certain point.

    Ive worked with Chavez people, as has my son. You will not at present find a more democratic country in the world I suspect. Now, the NGO racket is worth a comment too……..and I;d suggest Arundhati Roy’s article on this subject; though the essential point is these organizations are all based in first world countries and dependent on financing from the great Imperialist tit. Not that some dont do good work, but judging from the Milosevic trial, the NGOs observing that farce fell right in line with the western created cover story. Your position, and that of the crypto-reactionaries like Zunes, is indeed a reinforcement for Empire’s values and is a means for avoiding the big picture. To accept the CNN versions of Milosevic, Chavez, Castro, etc is to be the organ grinder’s monkey. By the way, it was woody allen who said if you merged Dissentary magazine with Commentary magazine, you get Dissentary.

  11. Cher Mr de Bergerac, [editors of Cyrano]

    Non-violence, like astrology, is very popular among the ni-ni crowd (a Belgian term meaning ‘neither-nor’, e.g., ni-Bush, ni-Chavez; ni-NATO, ni-Yugoslavia) as a means of sublimating their essential political (even cosmic) impotence, and giving a short-lived and vapid tumescence to their otherwise flaccid moralities.

    Great strategists from Sun Tzu to Huey Newton concur: one’s tactics are determined [by] those of his or her enemy. And to posit that non-violence is the preferred means for combating Western imperialism is not just morally hypocritical; it’s historically and politically reactionary unto absurd–as well as defeatist, always scoring one for the jackals.

    One should bear in mind that the example of how non-violence toppled the ‘Stalinist strong-man’ Milosevic is the kind of toxic fantasy that could bring even seasoned I-V LSD users to chew out their frontal lobes with toenail clippers.

    In 2000, after the first round of an early election called by the duly-elected dictator Milosevic, himself–and the first time in Yugoslav history that the office of the president was put to popular vote–the OTPOR cadres that Mr Zunes’ colleagues cunningly trained in Budapest (rather than actually infiltrating Serbia with his Manchurian Candidates’ school–the kind of meaningless detail these fascio-syms love to wield as invalidation of their critics) so thorougly trashed the Houses of Parliament and the HQ of the Socialist Party of Serbia (Milosevic’s party), and attacked anyone who got in their way, that on a quite plausible threat of bloody civil war in Serbia, Milosevic was convinced to step down and cede the presidency to Prof Kustinica, the current PM of Serbia, and the second round of the election was cancelled. How would it have looked in the ‘non-violent’ West if this ‘authoritarian repressionist’ had actually lost a legitimate election and gone on to work in the opposition?

    Many in Yugoslavia continued to believe Milosevic to be their president. And some of these die-hard ‘Stalinists’–here I’m thinking of a friend on mine, a woman, an administrative judge who sat on the elections commission, and was beaten within an inch of her life while running in the park, no doubt, by some of Zunes’ & Co’s non-violent trainees.

    Now, if one resides on the cushy side of the division of labor–and doesn’t work much more’n his or her mouth–then ignorance may often be booked down as an asset. And ignorance may mitigate some offenses. But there are certain laws and principles the ignorance of which will not spare one punishment. And not knowing that one works in the service of global Fascism, because one’s political cosmology has conflated the basic dialectic between Fascism and Communism (i.e., passing oneself off as an ‘anti-communist’ socialist, as a ni-Hitler, ni-Stalin) will not lighten the moral burden of misery, death and destruction, that weighs on these ‘Liberal’ wasters of the world.

    I can think of little more reprehensible than this sort of moral posturing while showering in the blood of innocents.

    Mick Collins

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