In March 2003, millions took to the streets worldwide to protest the impending invasion of Iraq. Despite their numbers, the efforts proved in vain. The war went on; the protests dwindled. But however attenuated, there are still protests. In Minneapolis/St. Paul this August, some 10,000 marched against the Republican National Convention. But as organized rallies gave way to irrational violence, the inadequacy of five years of failed Anti-War activism and Left opposition came into sharp relief.
I decided not to participate in any illegal protests at the RNC. There’s a simple, material reason: Had I been arrested I would have been accountable for bail money (or unhappily relying on legal defense funds that I truly feel have more value elsewhere) and possibly a day’s worth of income.
Walter Benjamin occupies a unique place in the history of modern revolutionary thought: he is the first Marxist to break radically with the ideology of progress. His thinking has therefore a distinct critical quality, which sets him apart from the dominant and “official” forms of historical materialism, and gives him a formidable methodological superiority.
Since the 1960s the saturation of brutality and violence in Iraq has caused considerable confusion among Leftists in regards to both its political meaning and causes. One cannot fully understand the character of Saddam Hussein’s Arab Ba’ath Socialist Party without taking into account that it achieved political power by systematically killing off the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP) and quelling other political dissent with acts of extreme cruelty. The eight year battle of attrition instigated by Hussein, known as the Iran-Iraq War, caused over half a million Iraqi deaths, and the ethnic cleansing campaigns directed against the Kurds resulted in countless more. It is estimated that during the 1988 Anfal Campaign alone over 100,000 Kurds were massacred. In addition to the many catastrophic events that mark the history of Ba’athist society, it is perfectly clear that Hussein’s one-party-state was maintained through the use of relentless day-to-day violence directed against its citizens.