The full text of this Interview is available here.
"INTRODUCTORY COMMENTS" were previously published as Part 1 of this series.
"CLIMATE CHANGE—CLIMATE JUSTICE" was published as Part 2.
"MIGRATION AND REFUGEES" was published as Part 3.
"HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE LABOR CHAIN" was published as Part 4.
"CLASS" was published as Part 5.
Interviewer: After reading The New Communism (2016), and thinking about issues that in only five years’ time have manifested more severely, as spotlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic, calling even more urgently for changes to the “system that is the fundamental source of much misery and torment in the world” (8), there are several topics—climate, migration, press freedom, labor-and-supply chain, class, and human rights—that I wonder if you would be willing to speak on. I’ll enumerate below.
BA: Before turning to the specific questions you pose, which are serious and substantial, touching on important and urgent developments in the world, I wanted to make a few brief overall observations, based on my reading of these questions. The answers to these questions are, on the one hand, simple and basic, and on the other hand complex: simple and basic in the sense that the problems involved can be solved—and can only be solved—with a revolution and a radically different system, a socialist system aiming for the final goal of a communist world; and complex in that actually making this revolution, and then achieving the transformations that this radically new system will make possible, will require working and struggling through some difficult and at times intense contradictions. In my responses here I will do my best to provide answers that speak to the essential matters involved, while referring to works which provide more extensive discussion of what is raised in these questions. In particular, I refer the reader to the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America, which I have authored. This Constitution was written with the future in mind—as a guiding set of objectives, principles, and concrete provisions for a socialist society brought into being through the overthrow of the capitalist-imperialist system that now rules in this country and dominates the world as a whole. In my responses to the questions posed for this interview, I have quoted fairly extensively from this Constitution, as it provides important answers, in a concentrated way, to much that is raised in these questions.
Very relevant as well, particularly in regard to the socialist economy and its interaction with the larger environment, is the article “Some Key Principles of Socialist Sustainable Development.” Also, in addition to the book The New Communism, another work of mine, Breakthroughs, The Historic Breakthrough by Marx, and the Further Breakthrough with the New Communism, A Basic Summary, is relevant as background to, and in terms of further elaboration on, the answers to important questions posed in this interview. And a recent major work of mine analyzes in depth why an actual revolution could be possible in the U.S. itself, amidst the acute and intensifying contradictions that mark this society, and the world as a whole, and how this revolution could be carried out—a revolution that would make possible the kinds of profound changes discussed in this interview. (This work—Something Terrible, Or Something Truly Emancipating: Profound Crisis, Deepening Divisions, The Looming Possibility of Civil War—And The Revolution That Is Urgently Needed, A Necessary Foundation, A Basic Roadmap For This Revolution—was written before the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the further intensification of contradictions between Russian imperialism and American imperialism/NATO that has accompanied this war, with the heightened danger of direct military conflict between them; but this work provides essential analysis of the underlying and driving forces of the major conflicts in this country and the larger world, and their possible positive resolution through revolution.) These works, as well as the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America—and ongoing analysis of the war in Ukraine and other major world events—are available at revcom.us.
The New Communism—both the book and the overall method and approach—is mentioned a number of times in the course of this interview, in both the questions and my responses, and although this is not the place to extensively discuss the principles and methods of the new communism, it does seem relevant and appropriate to indicate what is at its core: The new communism represents and embodies a qualitative resolution of a critical contradiction that has existed within communism in its development up to this point, between its fundamentally scientific method and approach, and aspects of communism which have run counter to this; and what is most fundamental and essential in the new communism is the further development and synthesis of communism as a scientific method and approach, and the more consistent application of this scientific method and approach to reality in general and in particular the revolutionary struggle to overthrow and uproot all systems and relations of exploitation and oppression and advance to a communist world. This method and approach underlies and informs all the core elements and essential components of this new communism.
A concentrated expression of this is the basic orientation and approach of scientifically seeking the truth and pursuing the truth wherever it leads, including with regard to the history of the communist movement, in terms not only of its principal aspect—its very real, genuinely historic achievements—but also, secondarily but importantly, the truth about its real, and at times even grievous errors (what I have referred to as “truths that make us cringe”).
A crucial extension of this is the principle, discussed in a number of works of mine, including Breakthroughs, that
the new communism thoroughly repudiates and is determined to root out of the communist movement the poisonous notion, and practice, that “the ends justifies the means.” It is a bedrock principle of the new communism that the “means” of this movement must flow from and be consistent with the fundamental “ends” of abolishing all exploitation and oppression through revolution led on a scientific basis.
It is this basic orientation, method, and approach that I have applied to the discussion of the important questions raised in this interview.
Finally, by way of introduction, I wish to thank others who have read the questions posed for this interview and offered helpful observations in this regard, and in particular Raymond Lotta, who provided considerable valuable commentary.
JOURNALISM AND PRESS FREEDOM
Interviewer: The corporate press is not free as long as it’s “beholden to and controlled by powerful interests. They are in fact the propaganda machinery of the capitalist-imperialist ruling class” (14).
The corporatization of media points to the need for more independent journalism. Countless ethical journalists devote their life to deeply investigated, accurate reporting despite associated risks and notoriously low wages. Journalists are largely unprotected, and governments are often quick to throw them under the bus.
At this point, how could you imagine unraveling the mainstream media from corporate ownership?
BA: To begin with your last question here, the blunt truth is that there is no way, under this system, to unravel the mainstream media from corporate ownership.
The “corporatization” of the media is certainly a reality. You can look at any number of studies about the growing concentration of ownership of newspapers, radio and television stations, recording/copyright in the music industry... the list goes on. But the more fundamental fact is that the media under this system are bound to be, and cannot be other than, the instrument of the ruling capitalist-imperialist class, even as different media represent different sections of that ruling class—for example media such as CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times and the Washington Post, which represent the “mainstream” section of this ruling class, and on the other hand Fox “News,” which is representative of the fascist section.
Notwithstanding the very real, and sharp, differences between them, the dominant (and dominating) media in this country (including major internet-based digital “news media”), both “mainstream” and fascist, are in fact propaganda instruments of the capitalist-imperialist ruling class.
Perhaps nothing has illustrated this more clearly than how these media have dealt with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Despite certain statements by various fascists, notably Donald Trump, praising Vladimir Putin, the “coverage” of this invasion and war (and related events), by the dominant media has consisted overwhelmingly, if not entirely, of unvarnished propaganda promoting the interests of the U.S. imperialists and their “allies,” in opposition to those of Russian imperialism. This has been the case from the beginning with the media representing the “mainstream” section of the ruling class, but even the fascist Republican Party and those speaking on its behalf have to a significant degree gotten in line with this—even as, on many fronts, they continue to attack Biden and the Democrats (and the deep divisions within the ruling class, and in society as a whole, remain and will continue to be reasserted and intensified).
As always in such situations, the media have been marked by the ubiquitous appearance of “analysts” consisting of former military officials, CIA agents and other assorted operatives and functionaries of U.S. imperialist power, and crimes against humanity. This “coverage” of the war in Ukraine, and related events, has been noticeably lacking in the participation of people coming from any perspective different than this.
As I have written about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and its relation to the larger situation of rivalry among imperialist powers:
Certainly, the big power bullying and aggression by Russia, with its invasion of Ukraine a clear example, is something that all decent people should oppose. But no decent person should be joining in with the U.S. imperialists in their rivalry with Russian imperialism. For reasons I will get into here, it is utter, disgusting hypocrisy for the U.S. imperialists, and their media mouthpieces and other representatives, to be self-righteously condemning this Russian invasion, when the U.S. is the country which has, by far, carried out the most invasions and other acts of violent interference in other countries.
Somehow, these “learned people” have “forgotten” about the U.S. invasion and occupation of another “sovereign country,” Iraq, in 2003—on the basis of flagrant lies about Iraq supposedly possessing “weapons of mass destruction” and being closely linked with Islamic fundamentalist terrorists like Al Qaeda. This U.S. invasion was a blatant international war crime, which set in motion events which have cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, created millions of refugees, and unleashed a maelstrom of death and destruction in that part of the world. (One of the most disgusting spectacles on the “mainstream” media these days, such as CNN, is the presence of government officials who are “veterans” of this U.S. war crime in Iraq, and who arrogantly denounce the Russian invasion of Ukraine as the illegal act of a powerful country aggressing against a weaker country! Somehow, the outrageous irony of these American war criminals denouncing the war crimes of others is “lost” on, or deliberately ignored by, these media.)
(This is from the article “Shameless American Chauvinism: ‘Anti-Authoritarianism’ as a ‘Cover’ For Supporting U.S. Imperialism,” which can be found at revcom.us, along with a “companion” article: “Imperialist Parasitism and ‘Democracy’: Why So Many Liberals and Progressives Are Shameless Supporters of ‘Their’ Imperialism.”)
In all this, the reality is not simply that these media are owned by powerful corporations and financial institutions, controlling billions of dollars; the deeper problem resides in the fact that the superstructure of this system—the political and legal institutions, as well as the realm of culture and ideology, including the media—will, and must, conform to the fundamental nature of the system, and in particular the underlying economic system, or mode of production. In a number of works, including Breakthroughs, I analyze in some depth why that is so. Here, the essential point can be summarized succinctly in the understanding that if the superstructure is, in any significant way and over any significant period of time, out of whack with the basic relations and dynamics of the underlying mode of production, society will be thrown into serious chaos, and things will ultimately not be capable of functioning. (A striking expression of this, which is cited in Breakthroughs, is the fact that, under this system, there can be no “right to eat”—or, more broadly, no right to the basic necessities of life—with the example of the chaos and breakdown that would ensue if, within the confines of this system where the basic necessities of life are produced as commodities, which must be purchased through the exchange of another commodity, money, the law declared that people had a “right to eat” and this meant that, if they could not afford to buy their basic necessities, people could simply take them without paying for them!)
Returning to the role of the media, this relation between the superstructure and the underlying mode of production means that (even with the very real differences between different sections of this ruling class) the dominant media in this country will, and must, conform to and be an expression of the basic interests of the capitalist-imperialist system and its ruling class—a fact that is graphically illustrated whenever vital interests of American capitalist imperialism are at stake, and notably when, in the international arena, the “national” (that is, imperialist) interests of this ruling class are significantly involved.
This reality accounts for the difficulty of any real attempts at independent, actually truth-seeking journalism. And it underlines the importance of support for those really seeking to carry out such journalism.
But, once again and most fundamentally, this speaks to the need for a radically different character and role for media—and the fact that this requires a radically different society. As spoken to in the passage I quoted above from my New Year’s Statement of 2021 (in response to question 3), the orientation and objective of the new socialist society, envisioned in the Constitution for that society, is to “enable people to pursue the truth wherever it leads, with a spirit of critical thinking and scientific curiosity, and in this way to continually learn about the world and be better able to contribute to changing it in accordance with the fundamental interests of humanity.” This applies not only to the educational system, but to the media as well—to the institutions of society in general. As the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic speaks to, there will be state media in the society it envisions, but with a very different role than the dominant media of this system (and, for that matter, a significantly different role than media in previous socialist societies). This essential role will be
to provide the people in society with truthful and important information and analysis regarding affairs of state, the functioning of government, and other significant developments in society and the world.... And, in the service of this same objective, in addition to the funding and facilitation of alternative media independent of the government, significant allowance must be made, and time and opportunity provided, for the presentation, through the government media themselves, of a diversity of viewpoints and analysis, including ones which differ from and are in opposition to those presented by the government and its representatives.
Further, not only must provision be made and funds and other resources allocated for independent media, but this must
facilitate the promotion and dissemination of a diversity of views and opinions, with a significant representation of views and opinions that may run contrary to those of the government at any given time, including even some which may oppose not only particular policies and actions of the government but the basic principles and objectives of the New Socialist Republic in North America.
These principles regarding the media (which are contained in Article I, Section 2,I of this Constitution) are based on, and flow out of, the scientifically based understanding that the process provided for here, as complex and even tumultuous as it may be at times, will contribute in a crucial way to the masses of people coming to an increasingly deeper understanding of reality, and in this way be strengthened in their ability to transform reality in the fundamental interests of humanity, in moving to abolish and uproot all relations of exploitation and oppression.