a kickass interview with a really solid progressive who sees clearly what's really going on.
Glen Ford Interview:
Rob : My guest tonight is Glen Ford. He is the executive editor of http://blackagendareport.com , the host of Black Agenda Radio on Progressive Radio Network. He is the co-founder of Black Commentator, and a former White House and State Department correspondent. Welcome to the show!
Glen : Rob, Thanks so much to be here with you.
Rob : It's a pleasure, and we were just reviewing; it's been a long time. The last time you were on was shortly after Obama was elected, and here we are again. We've gotta make it happen more often, because I love what you do, and what you say. So, here's a great opportunity to dive into all kinds of stuff. I have a long list.
Glen : About two weeks ago, we wrote an article called, "Groundhog Day." That is, we're seeing the same days, the same political behavior repeating itself. So, the fact that we were on four years ago talking about the incoming Obama administration and now we're talking about the second term; it's still like Groundhog Day.
Rob : I'm feeling like Bill Murray (laughs)
Glen : (laughs) Yep.
Rob : I know what's going to happen next I guess! (laughs)
Glen : Yes you do. (laughs) Trust yourself, you do. (laughs)
Rob : Well, I've got a long list of things I want to talk to you about, but maybe we can start by talking about your goals for activism, and how you see anything positive going on, and directions that are important in terms of positive activism, and what we can do, and how we can make some changes happen.
Glen : Well, one thing we have learned over the last eight years, not just the last four years, is that if we thought we had an anti-war movement, we were wrong. We had an anti-Republican war movement, which quickly disappeared once there was no Republican in office. So, we don't have an anti-war movement. We used to have a black movement, or at least the vestiges of the movement that used to exist. We don't have that anymore. The ascension of the first black president has effectively neutralized Black America as a political force, and since we believe that black America comprises at least half, or used to comprise at least half, of what could reasonably be called the Progressive constituency in the United States. That is a huge tragedy for any prospect in the near future, that is, in the next four years, for any rejuvenation of a Progressive movement in the country. So, I'm sorry to start off so pessimistically, but that's how we read it.
Rob : Well, this is kind of picking up where we left of four years ago, and I agree with you entirely. The peace movement, and so much of activism has been, I don't know if the right word is sabotaged, co-opted, by people who say "well, let's go along with Obama," you know. And frankly, four years ago I bought into it a lot more. This time around, I'm a different person, with a different set of eyes, and you helped me to wake up to it, too. Thank you.
Glen : And that's why for the last year, we've been describing Obama as the more effective evil. That doesn't mean that our assessment is that Barack Obama is more evil than George Bush, or Mitt Romney, or any of the Republican menagerie, but that he is able to achieve those goals of George Bush, and that we think Romney, would try to carry out. He is able to achieve them because of the lack of resistance to the Right Wing agenda when the standard bearer is a Democrat, and especially a Black Democrat.
Rob : You know it makes me think of bootlegged whiskey.
Glen : (laughs) Well it will make you blind!
Rob : (laughs) You know it doesn't go down easy, and Romney didn't go down easy, but Obama goes down smooth when you're taking in all that Republican policy, war, and bank caretaking, and what have you.
Glen : You know, beyond war and austerity, we just came across an item from Free Press that says that Obama's FCC (you know the Federal Communications Commission, is dominated by whatever president gets to put the majority on there), that the Obama FCC is now going to resurrect the same consolidating measures that George Bush's FCC tried to push through in 2003, allowing cross ownership of newspapers and broadcast media in the top twenty markets; the whole shebang that sparked a kind of movement against consolidation that swayed the US Senate. If you remember, back in 2003, when it was the evil Bush and his evil FCC that was pushing for further consolidation of media. Well, according to Free Press, those same measures are now on the agenda for Barack Obama's FCC, and they're being just as stealthy about it as the Bush FCC was. And, I have a prediction: We won't have that kind of groundswell of resistance, because it's Obama's FCC.
Rob : And that's the big problem. We need to get that resistance going. I did a poll on OpEd News, which is left of Democrat, asking what people expected from a Lame Duck Obama if he was elected to a second term, and something like 85% of them thought he would move further to the right. What do you think?
Glen : They're absolutely correct, and it's not that Obama is just some kind of weather vane that moves whichever [way] the wind blows. Obama really is philosophically a center-right corporate politician, and we've been saying that ever since before he was elected. And you know, in the first couple of months of his regime, even the New York Times described him as center-right, and this at a time when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress, when the punditry were reading obituaries over the corpse of the Republican Party, just as some of them are doing now, when there were virtually no effective pressures coming from the Right, when Social Security was still untouchable -- George Bush in his second term having tried his assault on Social Security and having suffered his worst domestic defeat of his two terms. So Obama could have done just about whatever in the hell he wanted to do, and we saw what he did. He introduced austerity as the dominant and current subject of conversation when the Republicans were in no shape to push for it. He was calling for so-called entitlement reform in two meetings with the editorial boards of the Washington Post and the New York Times in the weeks before he even took the Oath of Office. And he immediately proceeds toward establishing his hand-picked deficit reduction commission, thereby mandating that austerity would be the reigning conversation. He did all that by himself [with] no Republican pressure betraying his own core philosophy. Remember that in early 2008, as the subprime mortgage crisis started being felt outside of the black and brown ghettos and barrios, it was Barack Obama who opposed even a voluntary moratorium, much less a mandatory moratorium on foreclosures, when Hilary Clinton was backing a voluntary moratorium, whatever the hell that is, and Edwards was calling for a mandatory moratorium. So, he revealed himself as the banker's friend, as one who would block any efforts to reign in the power and privileges of the banks, back in that time, before he was even elected.
Rob : Alright, so let me take a step back, because the question I asked you two questions ago was in terms of activism and things that you're doing, or that you're working on, or seeing even, that will bring about change.
Glen : Well, despite the bad prognosis (and it is poor) for any rejuvenation of a broad Progressive movement in the United States any time soon, that does not lessen the fact that Capitalism is in deep, profound, and I believe terminal, crisis. That deterioration of the system, and you know I'm sixty three now, I never hoped -- even back in the day when I was in the Panther Party -- I really never believed that I would live to see -- actually, when I was in the Panther Party, I didn't think I would live to many years at all (laughs)-- but I never believed that I would live to see the actual fall of US imperialism as the dominant power in the world, but I think that it just may happen in my lifetime. So deep are the contradictions, so frequent are the crises, so short the time between crises in this system.
Rob : Now you're talking about Imperialism and Capitalism exchanging the words. Are they the same?
Glen : No, I'm not. I said US Imperialism. (laughs)
Rob : At first you said Capitalism is in deep crisis.
Glen : Well Capitalism is in deep crisis, but I'm not predicting the end of Capitalism in my life. But US Imperialism, as the military structure that exists today, guarding the powers that be, the Lords of Capital who are in charge today, that is on its last legs, although it's going to be a very bloody end, and there is no guarantee that all of us will survive that demise either.
Rob : And what is the threat to US Imperialism? What is eroding it, or conquering it, or causing it to be in crisis?
Glen : Because with the triumph of finance capital, as with many things in history, it's very difficult to set a date, even a year, when that was accomplished, but I think it was pretty definitive by the 1970s, we now have the rule of a class that creates nothing, that only survives by manipulating markets, a class that actually inhibits the productive growth of the world, so they can't compete. And we see these rising regional powers, specifically the Brick Nations. You know, Brazil's International Development Agency is bigger than the IMF, and that's just Brazil. And so we see these basically Capitalist powers, but not headquartered in London and New York and Paris, we see them overtaking and certainly out-competing the United States and Western Europe. And increasingly, the only weapon that they have is the weapon -- all they have is their guns- in Africa, for example. The United States doesn't even pretend that it's in a trade war with China and Brazil and India. It's basically abdicated that, after all, Wall Street -- finance capital - is not engaged in trade. It's engaged in manipulation of currencies, and directing US militaries to use other means to block the peaceful growth of trade among nations. So in Africa, we see the US basically abandoning much of the economic sphere to these rising regional powers that I've just mentioned, but at the same time strengthening AFRICOMs penetration of African militaries as well as the actual US presence of militaries in Africa. And I think that that's the way we're going to see this play out in general in the world over the coming years. I'm not even going to project in times of decades, because the decline is so rapid. And this means that we're going constantly to have military kinds of crises that scare the hell out of us, but the general picture of US shrinking Soft Power will increase in pace.
Rob : "The shrinking of American Soft Power." Now, you know, last year I interviewed Joseph Nye who wrote the book on Soft Power. He's now editor of the Trilateral Commission. I don't think I'd have gotten him as a guest once he was Trilateral Commission editor. So, you see US Soft Power shrinking eh? Because it seems to me that it is. And that is why?
Glen : Yeah, yeah. Well, because it's economic power is shrinking, and that ultimately is the Soft Power. Even in terms of what the United States is trying to project as its moral authority, and that is its military intervention cloak on Imperialism - even though it's not a member of the International Criminal Court, the ICC actually is its creature - even that kind of what they would purport as Soft Power, is actually just a front for US military power. So we see that, ultimately, all this moralizing and humanitarian talk that masquerades as Soft Power and persuasion has to be backed up by the power of NATO, as with the murderous assault on Libya.
Rob : Let's get back to Capitalism. Now you say "Capitalism is in crisis." Let's talk about that. How is Capitalism in crisis?
Glen : Well, we can see that the lords of capital, Wall Street, the alternative economy that they have created, actually has an existence disconnected from the real economy. And we can see that most starkly in the very existence of derivatives, whose notional value -- and it's difficult to measure, because they come into being, and then they go out of existence, and pop up elsewhere -- but the notional value of derivatives is usually set around six hundred trillion dollars. The world gross planetary product is only ninety trillion dollars. So we have this alternative economy that only the biggest finance Capitalists can play in, which is seven, eight, nine times as large as the actual economy of the world. It hangs over us like a "Sword of Damocles." It certainly cannot be leveraging six hundred trillion dollars of notional values on a world economy that is only a very small fraction of that. And it inevitably is going to collapse.
Rob : Do you have a name for it? What do you call this? What do you call this new economic reality?
Glen : I don't know. If I'd coined a phrase, I would've shared it with you already.
Rob : Well, you've got to come up with one (laughs).
Glen : (laughing) But clearly, it's not sustainable. Clearly it's not rooted in real values. Clearly it's the most extreme expression of the speculative nature of finance capital at this stage in history, and it is subject to constant crisis. It is inherently unstable. I liken it to (the situation of capital today) an old hoopdie car. This car, there's nothing right with this car. Everything is wrong with this car! The transmission is shot, the engine is shot, the electrical wiring is shot, the tires are bald. Everything is wrong with this car. You don't know when this car is going to break down.
Rob : I had a friend with one of those!
Glen : (laughing) But you know it is going to break down soon. Yeah. (laughs)
Rob : I had a friend with one, and you know what he does? He walks, and he takes the bus, and he gets rides from friends, and he's been trying to get it fixed since the summer. And so what you end up with, taking this metaphor personally to my friend Steve, is you've got a return to something much more basic and core, and dependence upon others.
Glen : Well, if these Capitalists don't continue to drive this car, of course they die as a class. We know this car, at some point soon, is going to stop. And we know that sometime soon, when it stops, it will not start again, but nobody can predict exactly what specifically will create the crisis. Is it going to be the transmission, or is it going to be the engine, or the electrical system? Or whatever. All of it is shot, but one or the other of these many systems in this hoopdie are going to break down, and it'll be over. All except, of course (back to the real world ), all except the weaponry.
Rob : The weaponry. Yes. Now I just want to go back again to something you said. You talked about Africa and China. Now, China is just cleaning up in Africa. They are scooping up deals for resources, and the US is getting kicked in the butt with this.
Glen : That's because China actually makes deals! And it's been described as Soft Power, but it's actually just straight-up economic trade relationships. China will build you a railroad, and it doesn't come with a Chinese military base attached; it doesn't come with the stipulation that you will vote with the United States at the United Nations attached. It's just a railroad, or a port, based upon the economic exigencies of the deal. That's why -- there's no secret to this -- the US can't compete, because again, we're talking about a country that's run by finance Capitalists who actually are not primarily involved in the production of things. Who are not, primarily, they don't make their fortunes off of trade, but the manipulation of markets, and increasingly, they can only manipulate those markets by calling in the coercive powers of the United States. And who wants to get involved with that kind of trade interlocutor: nobody. You have to force people into these kinds of/
Rob: / Well I think they kind of came uninvited. Like to Libya: one of the places you've commented about. Isn't that a good example of where US style trade negotiations are taking place?
Glen : Yeah, you know, I disagree with lots of my colleagues in terms of the assault on Libya. Although the United States has plans to attack every conceivable target in the world - that's what militaries do - I don't believe that the United States in December of 2010 had in mind to launch a military assault on Libya. I think that the assault on Libya was occasioned by the hysteria and desperation of the United States and Europe with the Arab Spring, and the prospect of losing the energy center of the world to these unknown forces that might be unleashed. And, what could their response possibly be except some massive show of force? And Khadafy was, especially in terms of domestic audiences, the ideal target. So, I believe the Libya aggression was a direct reaction, was their reaction, to the Arab Spring, and really was not primarily a move against oil fields. I think it was far more political and desperate than that.
Rob : Now you're talking about Arab Spring, and you've commented on Israel and its connections with the US and Saudi Arabia and the Arab Spring. Do you want to talk about that a little bit?
Glen : Yeah, did you see how quickly the United States and the Europeans moved to reign in Israel this time around, as opposed to the assault in 2008 and 2009 against Gaza that killed fourteen hundred, fifteen hundred [1400-1500] people? That's because in this renewed alliance that the United States has struck with the Salafists, with the Muslim fundamentalists, in the Arab world, and this renewed relationship was occasioned by the Arab Spring, and the assessment by the United States, that to get ahead of this Arab Spring, it had to strengthen its ties with those elements and with their benefactors in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. That creates another set of contradictions for the Americans, because how are they going to maintain this inherently unstable alliance - as we see with the attack on the US ambassador in Libya -- how are they going to maintain that, and still have this unshakable alliance with Israel: a country that has, since its inception, had a policy of fomenting constant conflict within the Arab world?
Rob : So, now you've described a collection here: the US, Europe, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, and you talked about Salafists; now, the other ingredient here Iran and the Shia groups. So you've got the fundamentalist Salafists who are Sunni.
Glen : Yeah.
Rob : Where does Iran fit into this picture as well?
Glen : Well they're not part of that Salafist Jihadi tendency, and so the United States foments terrorism and sectarianism within the Muslim world to achieve its geo-political advantages, or what it can salvage of its geo-political posture. But, I want to say this"
Rob : Wait, wait, wait: let me just get this clear: "The US foments terrorism within the Arab world." How do they do that?
Glen : Well that's what we see in Syria, this pure terror. That is terrorism against the Syrian State, involving the United States and Europe in an alliance with these backward Sunni powers, specifically Qatar and Saudi Arabia, to destroy a secular regime - which is also Alawhite, a branch or an offshoot of Shiaism. And so the United States aggravates these sectarian conflicts in the Arab world, sides with actually the most dangerous fundamentalist elements, in order achieve what it sees as geo-political advantages. That's why I want to get to the genesis of this: there was no Salafist Jihadi network until the United States, and Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan created it in the early 1980s in order to humiliate the Soviets in Afghanistan. They sank billions of dollars creating the network that Al Qaeda then grew out of, seeking geo-political advantage through an alliance with the most reactionary elements in the Muslim world. And then of course we saw the blowback that resulted from that. Then they become hysterical and desperate with the advent of the Arab Spring.
Rob : Wait; describe the blowback. What's the blowback?
Glen : The blowback is 9/11. The blowback is Al Qaeda. Now, the United States of course then has an opportunity, having created this monster -- that is, they didn't create Muslim fundamentalism, but they created the international network -- but, having done that, then they used the Frankenstein that they have breathed such life into as a pretext for their War on Terror. But the contradictions of course still multiply. Then, with the Arab Spring, they pump new life into that older alliance, and we see an even closer operational relationship between the United States and these Jihadis, and through their benefactors, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, in the present day -- most notably with the assault on Syria.
Rob : Now, wait, I just want to get this clear now. You're saying that the US and Saudi Arabia in particular, and possibly Europe, have tapped the old connection with fundamentalist Muslims, that they started with Al Qaeda and what have you, and they are now using that same approach for the Arab Spring?
Glen: Sure, that's - to their foot soldiers - had to be, for the assault on Libya. The United States had the overwhelming air power through NATO, but it didn't have soldiers on the ground! It didn't have proxies on the ground outside of these Salafist Muslim fundamentalists! And at the core of that were the same Qaeda affiliated forces that Gaddafi had been fighting since their armed insurrection in 1998 and 1999. The military commander of the so-called "rebels" in Tripoli was a guy who was actually captured by -- renditioned by - the CIA in Thailand and tortured by the Americans, and then delivered to Gaddafi, who then (in I believe it was 2008) was released by Gaddafi in an effort to come to a truce with those forces. The United States had no one to push its agenda on the ground in Libya except them, and so developed even stronger ties with this new wave of collaboration between the Americans, those Salafists, and their backers in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Those people almost immediately, the Libyans alone sent six hundred of their fighters into Syria. And Qatar and Saudi Arabia are gathering them from all over the world, just rejuvenating the Global Jihadi Network, just as they started in 1980 for this new offensive against Syria, and the United States thinks it's going to be able to control that. The events surrounding the death of the Libyan ambassador show that it cannot control it. Susan Rice, when she went on, I guess it was "Meet the Press," and lied about the actual nature of the attack, was trying to mask the US alliance with these Jihadi forces. Because if the American people understood who their government is in bed with in Libya and in Syria, they would rebel across the political spectrum against the United States policy in the Muslim world.
Rob : Now, you've described Susan Rice as one of the most bellicose, bomb-at-the-drop-of-a-hat, Africa-bashing professional servants of power in Washington. You've said that she is "a madwoman demanding blockades and airstrikes against Sudan, invasion of Somalia, embargoes on little Eritrea, regime change in Libya." It sounds to me like she, if she was a Republican, people like John McCain and all the Republicans who are going after her, would love her!
Glen : And they should! She was making these demands for air strikes and blockades on Sudan back in 2006 when there was a Republican administration. She was at the service of Bush's aggressive foreign policy -- in fact more bellicose than Bush in regard to African issues -- back then. And, there is something I didn't mention in that article, and I think it's the greatest crime of all: it is Susan Rice who has been blocking, at the United Nations, the release of the last two reports from the UN, documenting the role of Uganda and Rwanda, who are the United States' two main allies - military allies - the US's two biggest henchmen in Africa - these UN reports document how they are complicit, in fact they are the main actors, in the Genocide in the Congo that has killed six million people. And if Rwanda and Uganda are the main actors in this genocide, that means that the United States is the main actor in the genocide in Congo, and Susan Rice is a major player in covering up that crime.
Rob : So it sounds like she's a Democratic John Bolton, maybe worse.
Glen : I think she's the meanest dog in town. This woman is rabid! She makes Condoleeza Rice seem like a sweet academic.
Rob : Rabid. Ok. And do you think she's got a shot at getting the appointment to replace Hilary?
Glen : I hope not. Now, of course, US policy does not change based upon who the Secretary of State is. We, at Black Agenda Report, of course dread Susan Rice being the Secretary of State, because that puts one more high profile black American in a position of being the Executioner in Chief of the world, and that's very bad for the good name of African Americans. But whoever they put in charge will just continue the US policy. We certainly don't want that to be in blackface.
Rob : Well, it makes me think of Clarence Thomas. He's a guy who was handed a lot of power, and he certainly wielded it to serve the 1% and the Military Industrial Complex.
Glen : Yeah, but Clarence Thomas was of course appointed by Republicans, and that makes him one step removed, so to speak. This is a Democratic administration with a black president supported wholeheartedly by the vast majority of Black people in this country. And so I can't imagine how people in the world will not associate these crimes by Obama and by Rice (Susan Rice) as being the product somehow of the black policy in the United States, and that is profoundly disturbing to contemplate.
Rob : Now, you've had some discussions along these lines with Professor Michael Dyson. Can you summarize some of the key points where you disagree?
Glen : We disagree entirely with Dr. Dyson. We think that Dr. Dyson actually repudiates himself, so Dr. Dyson is in disagreement with the Black Progressive political consensus that has reigned until the ascension of this Black president. Now this is the great tragedy here, that with the forces that Barack Obama actually represents - and we're talking about Wall Street capital and the Military Industrial Complex - they really got, they found black America's Achilles heel. That is, you know, African Americans are not smarter, or nicer and kinder, than white Americans. The only thing that sets us apart is that throughout our history we have had a deep suspicion of power, because power, US power, has always been used against us. And that gave us the right instincts. It made us skeptical of anything that the US and its military was doing abroad, especially in the non-White regions of the world. We, in a nutshell, did not trust "The Man." But when a man who looked like us became the President, that short-circuited all of our defenses, and led to essentially a Black political collapse into irrelevancy.
Rob : Ok .
Glen : And that's expressed by, and we see that personified by, the Dysons and others who actually"
Rob : Van Jones: Is that another one maybe?
Glen : And Van Jones, the Czar of what? Whatever he was supposed to be the Tsar of in the White house, does that Czardom still exist? Did it ever exist? (laughs)
Rob : You know, the other thing about Susan Rice is she's a woman, so she's also doing all these bad things as a woman too. So in a sense, the Obama administration is using the people who have long deserved and fought for more rights and representation and power, to manifest the Old Power and Imperialism.
Glen : And so here we have a young, attractive black woman, who is covering up the criminals responsible for the death of six million Black people in Congo, and all that organized Black America, the blackness leadership class, can think to do is to circle their wagons around her, because a White racist politician like John McCain says that she is unqualified, and somehow that is a besmirchment of African America's good name. But it's not an insult to Black America's good name for her to act as a shield and protector of Genociders in Congo. This is madness.
Rob : Now, I'm going to cover a couple of other areas here with you. One, I call the show Bottom Up Radio, because I believe we are transitioning from a top down to a bottom up world. Right now, we're seeing some very bloody, very ugly manifestations of the top down powers in going after the changes that are happening from the bottom up, like Occupy Wall Street and grass roots activism. Have you any thoughts on this at all?
Glen : Well, you know, the American public, although when compared to other publics in the world are certainly not a Progressive public, is far to the left of the American ruling circles, far to the left of Obama. And it was amazing that this small group of poorly organized, and sometimes politically muddled people in the Occupy Movement could spark, at least briefly, enough political interest that by October or November of last year, all this talk about austerity was overwhelmed by talk about the 1 percent and the 99 percent. I don't think it's because the Occupy folks were brilliant tacticians - they were anything but - but the fact that just speaking simple truths was enough to ignite a public opinion that is decidedly to the left of this Democratic Administration, which is an austerity administration, which is a clear and present danger to Social Security, and is, if anything, more effective at spreading wars in the world than their Republican predecessor. I think the very weakness of the Occupy movement, and its ability to have such a brief impact, shows how out of sync with the actual public opinion these powers-that-be really are.
Rob : What do you think about the state of Occupy now, and its role in the future of change in America?
Glen : It was Occupy's fate to launch itself right before a Presidential election year. It was inevitable - and we thought so way back in October when it was gaining traction - that it was inevitable that substantial elements who were attracted to Occupy, not the core group of Occupy folks, but the substantial elements who were attracted to Occupy, would soon be co-opted back into the Democratic Party - and that's what happened. That doesn't mean though that Occupy-like phenomena can't occur again. The only sad part is that, as long as there is this black man in the White House, I don't think that we are going to see the participation in any projects - future projects, like Occupy - I still don't think we are going to see adequate participation by African Americans. And that is fatal. (laughs)
Rob : Now, I'm going to try a third time, because I've asked you twice where you see activism happen in the near future and the coming years. And each time you've given me a pretty negative assessment of where things are. Are you doing anything in terms of activism? And what do you see? I know that you've been involved with some peace organizations, with anti-war with UNAC. Do you see any organizations, any efforts under way that you support, that you're involved with, that you encourage our readers and listeners to check out? I'm trying to get some kind of a vision that you have of what can be done now, what can be done in the near future, in terms of activism, in terms of protest, in terms of helping to make the change happen so that we don't continue on the road down from Capitalism to Pluto-imperialism or Pluto-capitalism; How's that for a word?
Glen : You know, we do analysis. Now we are involved with lots of groups and organizations. We've been involved with UNAC and worked for a time on the Committee of National Anti-war Coalitions since it was created, and I'm on the executive committee and Vice Chair of the Black is Back coalition, so we do lots of activism. But the primary hat that I'm wearing on your show is that of editor of Black Agenda Report, which is not an activist organ. It's an organ of analysis and commentary, and so that's what we're doing today. In that capacity, I'm not going to do the Ra-Ra and fire up the troops about the wonderful prospects for Progressive change right around the corner, because"
Rob : Now I'm not asking you to do that.
Glen : Because I do think, especially with Black America, which is our primary focus - that is Black Agenda Report, like Black Commentator before I t- is primarily, first and foremost, concerned about the internal workings of the Black national policy, and the prospects are not good, for all those reasons that we've been talking about for the last fifty minutes. Occupy has shown that there are currents in White America that are ready, willing, and able to make some kind of assault on the actual castle (laughs) of the powers that be, simply by pointing out that finance capital is the enemy, and with the sloganizing of the 99 percent versus the 1 percent. And the success of that sloganizing shows that there is potential to speak truth to power and to get a following, but we do often times despair about the state, the political state of Black America. Now that Obama is a lame duck, and it'll feel more like a lame duck after the inauguration, we believe that, incrementally, many more Black folks are going to start seeing the world more clearly, and assess our true condition, and how our ship has just about sunk economically under the Obama watch. But this is going to be an incremental process, and we don't foresee that the primary, the main pull, the main center of Progressive politics is going to come from Black America as it has for the last forty years in the next several years. So that does color my commentary on this.
Rob : I hear you. Now just to totally change the subject, you were part of a conversation with Ahmadinejad recently.
Glen : I went to the dinner. I didn't raise any questions, and the forum actually wasn't set up for people to raise questions, and I probably wouldn't have raised any anyway. He's a head of government, of a political culture over which we have no influence. And so I never was one to go into those kinds of forums and then make these statements just to show the flag that Black Agenda Report was there.
Rob : Ok, fair enough. Are there any hopes that you have for anything good happening in the next four years? Are there any areas that Obama covers that we might see some progress?
Glen : You mean domestically?
Rob : Wherever. And are there any soft spots, perhaps, where it might actually be possible for people to make pressure to make some change happen in the right direction, in a positive direction?
Glen : Yeah, you know, the Occupy folks, or folks who came under that umbrella are still out there. And, I'm confident we'll find new and clever ways to make their presence known. The crisis of Capitalism as it makes itself felt domestically can't help but jar more and more people into a reaction, and as long as there are a hard core of folk out there who can galvanize, who have learned how to get the attention of the media, there's always a promise. Black folks are not as quiescent as I may have seemed to be describing them. We did see a whole uproar, an upsurge in activity, of the Trayvon Martin killing. It shows we still have spirit. And so there is room to organize. And the Black is Back Coalition, we are gaining members and influence with every passing month. But in terms of dramatic events on the domestic scene, no, I don't see anything right around the corner. But we never know; this is a society in crisis, and stuff happens. (laughs)
Rob : You've mentioned the Black is Back Coalition twice. Can you talk a little bit about what it is and what you are doing with it?
Glen : Yeah, it was formed in 2009. I suppose the main impetus for its formation was to show that not all black folks were drinking the Obamalade. So, in September of 2009, a coalition of individuals and organizations - about thirty organizations, or tendencies from various organizations - came together, and in November we organized a rally and a march on the White House with about three hundred folks. In addition to demonstrating, just by our formation, that not everybody in Black America was hooked on Obama, our second mission, as we saw it, was to provide cover for white progressives, for White people on the left who hadn't been able to actively oppose Obama and his ideas, because they feared being called racists. And we thought well, they can always point to us and say "Well, they're not motivated by racism. Look over there, the Black is Back Coalition, and they are opposed to Obama's policies too." And we think we have served a function that way.
Rob : We're getting close to the end here. Something happened the other day in Egypt with their new President Morsi. What's your take on what's happening there?
Glen : I think the left in the United States better get used to the fact that the left in the Muslim and Arab world has been defeated, wiped out, so many times -- over, and over, and over again, over the last fifty or sixty years, that it really is not much of an organized presence, and that most of the politics in that region is spoken within some kind of Islamist context. And so we shouldn't project our own politics onto Egypt, and imagine that the people that we would identify as being progressive like us have any possibility of achieving power in that society. I also, however, believe, that anti-Imperialist sentiment, and Nationalist sentiment in that part of the world - and especially in Egypt - also speaks religious accents. And so we shouldn't look at these folk who have Islamic colorations as being necessarily reactionary, and necessarily not opposed to the US Imperialist project. We have to accept the results of many, many, many decades of repression of the left, which has forced them into marginal corners.
Rob : Now, ok, that's a pretty general response, but especially in Egypt it looks like Morsi is attempting to grab more power than even Mubarak had.
Glen : Now let's not get confused about the nature of the Judiciary in Egypt. I see that folks are trying to characterize the Judiciary as some kind of bulwark against a Morsi dictatorship. The Judiciary in Egypt has been a bulwark for the military dictatorship, and so we see those marginalized left forces in Egypt demonstrating along with those who are supporting the Judiciary -- that is a marriage of convenience - and if we read the Judiciary as being part of some kind of Progressive force in Egypt, then we are quite mistaken; And that's why I was making that general statement. I don't think that Americans, and even folk on the left who consider themselves to be politically astute, understand the character of the actors who are on that stage at the moment.
Rob : OK, so it's very confusing. Where do you think it'll end up?
Glen : It's not confusing to me in terms of Egypt, not in the foreseeable future, being governed by anybody that we in the West would recognize as being progressive and leftist.
Rob : OK.
Glen : It will have an Islamic coloration, and we have to be more astute in reading what tendencies within those generally Islamic forces, and what they are actually saying, rather than looking at them as kind of cardboard caricatures of Islam.
Rob : I have one more question for you, and it may not be a short answer, and that's Israel. Now just today we learned that Barak is going to retire from politics and from governing. He's been the moderating force there in the coalition with Netanyahu and Lieberman. What do you see happening with Israel? They just had the truce which Hamas is celebrating as a great victory, do you see it as a great victory, and where do you see things heading, where it now looks like Qatar will start giving more money to Hamas than Iran was giving to Hamas?
Glen : I have problems with words like "moderating forces." The Israeli regime is a racist regime. I believe that the truce occurred because of the contradictions that that we we talked about earlier in this conversation, between the kind of balancing act that the United States has to try to accomplish when it has an alliance with Muslim fundamentalists in that region, and at the same time a long time alliance with this racist Israeli regime. This is unsustainable, and I believe that Hamas understands the contradiction there, knows that the United States was forced into a position where it had to force the Israeli regime to do what apparently from the polls most Israelis did not want it to do, which is not to continue with its ground defensive, its ground move into Gaza. Israeli internal politics finding moderates, I think, certainly doesn't illuminate any situation for me. I can't distinguish between Barak and Netanyahu and their alliance, I believe, shows that there isn't too much of a damn difference between the two.
Rob : What about what looks like it could be a shift for Hamas getting hundreds of millions from Qatar, whereas in the past they've gotten about a hundred twenty five million a year from Iran./
Glen : Of course, that is going to happen, and in terms of Hamas' relationship with forces on the ground in Egypt, forces that can bring pressure on Morsi no matter what he wants to do. That's been greatly strengthened as well. Hamas of course comes out stronger in this; not just because of the financing that's now open to it, which also makes it much more independent of the United Nations - and that means more independent of the United States which dominates the United Nations - but also because Hamas and the plight of the Palestinians is now part of the domestic dialogue in Egypt right next door and the rest of the Arab-Muslim world, in ways that it has not been in recent years. And the US has to deal with that (laughs).
Rob : And a shift from a Shiite to a Salafi financial support situation?
Glen : I don't understand what you mean.
Rob : Well, Iran was giving them about one hundred twenty five million dollars a year. They recently withheld the money for four months, and now Qatar is committing to provide several hundred million dollars a year to Hamas.
Glen : Yeah, and that creates a bigger contradiction for the United States, which is what Americans ought to be more concerned about, because the US's prime allies in that region, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, then become the prime benefactors of Hamas, who the United States calls a terrorist organization, and of course the Israeli government is sworn to crush. This is a huge contradiction for US policy in the region.
Rob : I've long said that what's happening in the Middle East is one of the hardest problems in the world. And it doesn't sound like it's getting any better.
Glen : It means that the Israeli's freedom of movement is seriously curtailed, which is shown by them having been forced into a truce that they clearly did not want to enter. And it also means that the United States' range of movement is also limited by these new and strengthened relationships on the ground. Now, the parties who are involved here: Hamas - which certainly is to the right in conventional terms of the secular PLO, and Qatar and Saudi Arabia -- these are not good guys from any left perspective. But, their relationship has the effect of limiting the range of choices that the United States has in the region. See, so sometimes what looks like bad news for the left is actually worse news for the US Imperial project.
Rob : Fascinating. So, you might say that Israel's assault on Gaza was a very bad strategic move both for Israel and for the United States.
Glen : Yeah, and I believe that this crazy regime in Israel was testing to see what the reaction would be, to see how the world had changed since the Arab Spring. Israel has not been as aggressive. It's always incrementally wearing down on the Palestinians on the West Bank, that's a constant. But Israel has not been as aggressive since the advent of the Arab Spring. It's been looking around, trying to see how its big patron, the United States, was going to deal with these new realities. I believe that it sabotaged what most people believe was Hamas truce efforts by assassinating their military commander in order to test the waters, to see what was permissible in this new order - what was the nature of the new order. It got its answer from the United States with that flurry of frantic activity designed to make the Israelis pull back.
Rob : Do you see anywhere in Israel, and with its neighbors, people or groups that have the potential to come to some kind of a peace, some kind of balance?
Glen : I despair of there being anything in Israeli society - I'm talking about Jewish Israeli society - people seem to forget that twenty percent of Israeli proper is Palestinian, is Arab. I despair of any Israeli peace movement having any significant role to play. That's not in the cards, and I won't waste any time trying to encourage it.
Rob : OK. We've kind of hit the time barrier here. We've had a great conversation, and we could go on and on, I've got a whole list of topics we haven't discussed - I'm going to have to have you back. Thank you.
Glen : And hopefully not four years hence.
Rob : Definitely.
Glen : I think, however, four years from now I'll be in a better mood. (laughs)
Rob : You think so? (laughs) What would put you in a better mood Glen?
Glen : The exit of Barack Obama, the lifting of the veil that descended on Black politics in America - yeah, I think I'll be in a better mood.
Rob : Thank you so much.
Glen: Bye bye.