Mohsen Abdelmoumen: After reading your powerful and very strong book about imperialism, “The Face of Imperialism”, we feel the need to read again Lenin’s « Imperialism the Highest Stage of Capitalism« , because your book brings added value. What do you think?
Michael Parenti: It is generous of you to claim that my work adds value to Lenin’s. I read his book forty years ago so I cannot claim to be drawing directly from it. But certainly we can say my book was doing some of the same things that his had done, for instance: trying to show the link between capitalism and colonial imperialism, revealing the key role played by cartels, and how the imposing contradictions of capitalism work themselves out in brutal imperatives.
Capitalism generates multiple crises and we see imperialist wars around the world, how do you explain that there is not a revolutionary movement leadership to end big capital? As an alternative, it mainly sees reform movements who want to extend the life of capitalism. What is your opinion about this?
The imperialists have the benefit of immense resources within capitalist societies and throughout much of the world, including control of the major media and the development of advanced cadres and instruments of destruction, intimidation, manipulation, and social control. With the overthrow of the Soviet Union and other communist states, revolutionary movements now have little chance to muster sufficient resources for successful rebellion. Now that capitalism is becoming global capitalism it is not a reform movement that tries to win over the working class with promises of better living and consumer gratification. It is increasingly a movement that controls not through a process of reform but through a process of deception and suppression. So we have more lies from Fox News Network and other such outlets, more manipulation of people’s (mis)understandings, and more militarized and murderous police. Yes, in response we need more revolutionary leadership but in addition we need more revolutionary mass mobilization.
Can we speak of a bankruptcy of progressive elites to create change?
People seem to be easily confused and misdirected by the deceptions and manipulations of the capitalist elites. We do need party organization that can bring together politically literate cadres that can activate and direct the populace and lift their level of political consciousness. We face a very intelligent ruling class that knows how to distract and manipulate the people.
Concerning the current events in Iraq and the rise of Daesh-IS, what do you think of the statement of the actor Sean Penn which accuses openly Dick Cheney and George W. Bush of having created Islamic State?
Not just Hollywood actors but numerous politically aware people have noted that Cheney and Bush have perpetrated all sorts of crimes. Many of us have pointed out that the mujahedeen and the Taliban and Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups have been given resources and aid from the U.S. global terrorists. The « war against terror » is largely fabricated by the global imperialists to keep the U.S. populace frightened and ready to support every venture against any political movement or leader who dares to commit economic nationalism, any who dare to use the land, labor, markets, and natural resources of his country for the development and needs of their people, for instance, Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and Qaddafi in Libya. The actions committed by American leaders—death squads, assassinations, mercenaries, full-force military interventions, « regime changes, » media takeovers, rigged elections, and the like—amount to war crimes. The Islamic State is only the latest of the anti-revolutionary terrorism that the United States propagates around the world. Cheney and Bush pursued an armed aggression against Iraq in the face of a world of peace demonstrations from Kyoto to Helsinki to San Francisco. Their armed aggression against Iraq was a naked violation of international law, a crime for which they have not been brought to justice.
What do you think of the Western hypocrisy headed by US imperialism, with its allies, who claim to fight terrorism while in reality this one is a strategic ally of Saudi Arabia who generates terrorism?
Just as I said above: while preaching peace and denouncing terrorism, U.S. leaders are among the craftiest promoters of terrorist actions and strategies to strengthen reactionism and undermine all attempts at social reform.
Imperialism is the same while its faces change depending on the country, ranging from Daesh-IS in Iraq to neo-Nazis in Ukraine. What can you tell us about this imperialist front line which crosses the earth from Ukraine to Iraq?
It reminds us that capitalist interests are quite ready to use fascist interests and neo-Nazi forces to maintain their class power, preaching super nationalism and glory to the masses while making the world safe for the super rich. The U.S. is conducting an aggression in Eastern Europe across to the Middle East. It is for oil, hegemony, and weakening and dismembering countries like Yugoslavia, Libya, Iraq, Syria, and eventually Russia.
I notice that your writings are tinged with a melancholy that makes me think of the generative despair of hope of Gramsci. Do you think we are in a desperation that can provide solutions, or are we in a despair that will lead us to chaos?
I try not to despair. Any democratic victory or awakening that happens—how ever small it might be—is embraced by me as a step forward.
Interview realized by Mohsen Abdelmoumen
Biography of Michael Parenti:
Born in New York in 1933, Michael Parenti received his PhD in Political Science from Yale University. He has taught at a number of colleges and universities, in the United States and abroad. He is an American political scientist, historian, lecturer and media critic who has played an activist role in political struggles and in various anti-war movements. Author award winning and scholar internationally-known, he wrote numerous books translated into several languages (Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, etc.) and articles. His most recent books include: The Face of Imperialism (2011); Waiting for Yesterday: Pages from a Street Kid’s Life (2013); To Kill a Nation: The Attack on Yugoslavia (2014); and Profit Pathology and Other Indecencies (2015). For further information, consult his website: www.michaelparenti.org.
Published in Oximity, April 26, 2015: https://www.oximity.com/article/Michael-Parenti-Any-democratic-victory-1