Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Bishop Spong:
Q&A on God and Patriotism
View the online version
here.

‘Belafonte told the truth’

WW interview with Black historian/activist
Click on the heading above to read the full story

Tony Van Der Meer, a professor of Africana Studies, says:
God bless Harry Belafonte, may he live a long life for telling the truth.
Essentially Belafonte is saying what Martin Luther King Jr. said about the U.S. government being “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.”...

Harry Belafonte, while in Venezuela Jan. 8, said,

“No matter what the greatest tyrant in the world, the greatest terrorist in the world, George W. Bush says, we’re here to tell you: Not hundreds, not thousands, but millions of the American people ... support your revolution.”
Thomas Powers on
Spying, Lying, and Saying No

From: TomDispatch

On the day that
Ayman al-Zawahiri appeared in his nine thousandth video from -- assumedly -- the remarkably technologized wilds of the Afghan-Pakistan border region, mocking President Bush for a botched Predator-drone missile attempt on his life, another article caught my eye.

In a piece in the Los Angeles Times, headlined CIA Expands Use of Drones in Terror War, Josh Meyer reported:

"Despite protests from other countries, the United States is expanding a top-secret effort to kill suspected terrorists with drone-fired missiles as it pursues an increasingly decentralized Al Qaeda, U.S. officials say."

These high-tech, long-distance "targeted killings" from the air -- they used to be called assassinations and Chris Dickey of Newsweek files them away under the rubric of "boys with toys" -- turn out, like acts of torture, to be staggeringly counterproductive. This one, which reportedly killed a number of women and children, shook the regime of Pakistani military strong man and U.S. ally Pervez Musharraf.

Like National Security Agency warrantless spying on U.S. citizens, the waterboarding of captives, and so many other actions of this administration, such assassination attempts rely on the shakiest and most dubious of legal findings produced more or less out of thin air.

In fact, thanks to a recent Newsweek investigative piece,
Palace Revolt by Daniel Klaidman, Stuart Taylor Jr. and Evan Thomas, we know a good deal more about just how thin that air was.

As they report, with the President, Vice President, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and CIA director George Tenet convinced that the 9/11 attacks "and the threat of more and worse to come -- were perfect justification for unleashing the CIA and other long-blunted weapons in the national security arsenal," all that was needed was "legal cover, so [the CIA] wouldn't be left holding the bag if things went wrong."

Here's where what we now know as the
"unitary executive theory," the idea of an unfettered presidency in which George Bush would be commander-in-chief not just of the military but of all us, came into play. As the three reporters describe the process, David Addington, then the Vice President's legal counsel (now his chief of staff), fearing opposition within the bureaucracy, "came up with a perfect solution: cut virtually everyone else out." Thus, a legal cabal supported the Rumsfeld/Cheney "cabal" former Colin Powell Chief of Staff Lawrence Wilkerson has written about so vehemently.

In this way, a wide-ranging legal justification for the President's right to do whatever he cared to do as long as we were
"at war" burst from the fevered brows of a few top officials and a small group of administration lawyers.

From the point of view of my own fevered brow, a single institutional law seems to apply to the administration's subsequent efforts: Always expand. All programs involving the secret powers of the president -- to torture, imprison, create global prison networks, assassinate, spy on citizens and others, or generally involve the military in civilian life -- started from modest seeds and simply grew and grew without bounds or even any particular relationship to their efficacy.

Take the Pentagon's three year old Counterintelligence Field Activity or CIFA. Initially a small office charged with "protecting military facilities and personnel," it now has nine directorates, a staff of 1,000, a large secret budget, and its own full-scale secret spying program, code-named Talon, that reported as a "national security threat" ten peace activists "who handed out peanut butter and jelly sandwiches outside Halliburton's headquarters in Houston in June 2004."

The same could be said of CIA secret prisons, NSA domestic spying operations, or the new U.S. Northern Command that the administration set up in 2002.

Thomas Powers, author of
Intelligence Wars: American Secret History from Hitler to al-Qaeda, explores the meaning of the recent NSA spying scandal below in fascinating detail and the abject failure of Congress (or the American public) to rein in this administration.

As he writes trenchantly, "In public life as in kindergarten, the all-important word is no."

It's clear that the expansion of secret (and not so secret) "war-time" powers proved a heady, addictive experience for top officials of this administration. (Where's Nancy Reagan and her "just say no" program when we need them most?) Powers' superb essay will be running in the February 23 issue of the New York Review of Books just now heading toward the newsstands. It appears here as an on-line exclusive thanks to the kindness of that magazine's editors.

Tom

The Biggest Secret

By Thomas Powers

A Review of
State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration by James Risen.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

What is Paul Wolfowitz up to in Chad?

By Deirdre Griswold

Have you been wondering what Paul Wolfowitz might be up to in his new position as head of the World Bank?
Wolfowitz was nominated last year by George W. Bush to head the powerful financial institution, which lends billions of dollars to countries around the world.

CLICK ON THE HEADING TO READ MORE!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Venezuela's Chavez hosts World Social Forum
Leftist leaders are increasingly popular across Latin America, while Chavez's own "revolution" for the poor has become an inspiration for like-minded activists everywhere.
http://tinyurl.com/a4fdh


BECHTEL VS. BOLIVIA: THE PEOPLE WIN!

The Cochabamba water revolt – which began exactly six years ago this month – will end this morning when Bechtel, one of the world’s most powerful corporations, formally abandons its legal effort to take $50 million from the Bolivian people.
http://www.ww4report.com/node/1528


Castro offers eye care for US poor

Fidel Castro, the Cuban president, has offered free eye operations to impoverished Americans and asked the US government to let them travel to his country for treatment.
http://tinyurl.com/9bxqd
BUSH ON TRIAL . . .
Impeachment & Crimes Against Humanity

Impeachment hearings
The White House prepares for the worst : "A coalition in Congress is being formed to support impeachment," an administration source said.
http://www.insightmag.com/Media/MediaManager/impeachment.htm


Bush on Trial for Crimes against Humanity

The International Commission of Inquiry on Crimes against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration convened last weekend in New York City's Riverside Church.
http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/012406Z.shtml
STOP THE IMPENDING WAR AGAINST IRAN

There should have been no excuse for being conned into the war in Iraq.

There is no excuse for being conned into another war in Iran.


War in Iran may be closer than we think...and this time they are planning for it to be nuclear.

Madness?
Yes, but the war profiteers mean business.

If we the people want peace, we better get very serious, very soon, as well.


Read this and it all makes sense:

www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=viewArticle&code=%20CH20060103&articleId=1714


The wolf, the goat, and Iran's revived nuclear program

U.S. policy toward Iran has a lot less to do with democracy or terrorism or Hizbullah or human rights - or nuclear weapons, for that matter - than it does with serving the needs of Israel.
http://tinyurl.com/brhv5


Iranian report:

Mossad agent arrested on border with Turkey
Iranian intelligence agents arrested a man who worked for Iran's Gachsaran oil company some 20 years ago. Fourteen years ago, the man allegedly hijacked an Iranian plane and landed it in Israel. Farda News reported "the Zionist regime granted the man asylum and recruited him to work as a spy."
http://www.haaretzdaily.com/hasen/spages/673818.html


This Is How It Happened In Iraq: And How It'll Happen In Iran

http://www.unitedstatesgovernment.net/theraidoniraq.php

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Vietnam Veterans on Civilian Casualties in Iraq

From:
TomDispatch
a project of the Nation Institute


Vietnam was, for the United States, the war that never ended.

Administration after administration has tried, with remarkable lack of success, to wipe it from memory or turn it, at least, into a curable medical condition ("the Vietnam syndrome").

After that war, a shattered military based on a national draft was rebuilt as an all-volunteer force on supposedly non-Vietnam-era principles; the war itself was reconceived as a "noble cause" by President Ronald Reagan; under the rubric of the "culture wars," assaults were launched from the Right against all aspects of 1960s thinking and behavior (especially those that had to do with antiwar protest); our leaders swore that we would never again get involved in a war abroad without "an exit strategy" and concluded that the American people had to be broken of various bad habits incurred in that dreadful era -- especially an unreasonable resistance to the idea of further American blood-letting abroad in long-term foreign adventures and interventions; and the media was to be reorganized (and finally "embedded" in the military) to prevent the sort of reporting that many on the Right considered the main culprit in a Vietnam disaster in which we had reputedly "won" every battle but lost the war on the home front.

Our present President's father, after his Gulf War, exulted, "By God, we've kicked the Vietnam Syndrome once and for all."

And yet Vietnam as a catastrophic experience had sunk deep into American consciousness and tenaciously refused to be expunged.

Not surprisingly then, the Vietnam analogy (or fear of it) was deeply entwined with Bush administration thinking and planning from the get-go when it came to an invasion of Saddam Hussein's Iraq.


Hence, for instance, the careful planning to bring the bodies of the American dead back to Dover Air Force Base in Maryland in the dead of night -- no reporters, no ceremonies, no evidence of their arrival. None of those nasty "body bags" (which were, in any case, renamed "transfer tubes") were to return in the glare of day to appear on the national news, as in the Vietnam era. This was another of those to-be-avoided factors, believed to have helped cause loss of support on the domestic front for that war.

Similarly, there was to be no counting of enemy dead on the battlefields of this new war, and so none of the notorious "body counts" of the Vietnam era which again were believed to have sapped support.

Desperate as top Bush officials and their neocon allies were to be fighting a new World War II (or at least a new Cold War), so much of Bush administration planning proved a kind of opposites game based on banishing Vietnam memories.

In occupying Iraq, we were to replicate our experience bringing democracy to Germany and Japan in 1945 (an analogy administration officials flogged ad nauseum), but not -- no, never -- bringing on death and destruction, a fierce guerrilla war, and finally our own defeat in the style of Vietnam.

No one should be shocked then that in practically the first moments of the invasion of Iraq, the Vietnam analogy instantly burst back into consciousness.

The very phrases of that former war -- winning hearts and minds, search and destroy, credibility gap, hard to tell friend from foe, civilian interference in military affairs -- were almost immediately on the lips of military men, administration officials, soldiers, and critics alike.

Marilyn Young, who wrote an essential history of that previous era, Vietnam Wars, 1945-1990, caught the strangeness of all this back in February 2003, before the invasion of Iraq even began -- and then, with the actual invasion barely underway, pronounced the Iraq War, "Vietnam on crack cocaine," a description that remains remarkably accurate to this day.

Somehow Americans just couldn't help themselves. Vietnam was still on the brain. The "Q-word," for example, made its ominous appearance even before Baghdad fell, an embarrassed shorthand stand-in for that Vietnam era classic,
"quagmire" -- what the United States was supposedly stuck in while in Vietnam. (Forget, for the moment, that to the Vietnamese, Vietnam was neither swamp nor bog, but home).

Even where Vietnam-era terms were avoided -- a good example would be the
infamous "light at the end of the tunnel," that hopeful official statement of progress in Vietnam that became a catch-phrase for American failure and defeat -- they could still be felt lurking just over the horizon.

In the case of the ever-evasive, ever desired "light," the phrase remained lodged just behind the repetitive assurances of top military commanders and administrations officials that we had reached various "turning points" or "tipping points" or "landmarks" in Iraq, that "progress" was indeed constantly being made, that "violence" was just on the verge of beginning to fall away. (After each such point, as it happened, there would only be more and worse of the same to come.)

Now, of course, we've reached the "withdrawal" phase of a disastrous war and we're already seeing the appearance of administration "withdrawal strategies," so reminiscent of Vietnam, that don't actually involve leaving Iraq -- just as,
in the Vietnam era, "withdrawal" from that war involved endless departure-like maneuvers that only intensified the war (bombing "pauses" that led to fiercer bombing campaigns, negotiation offers never meant to be taken up).

In fact, with the recent return of Nixon Defense Secretary Melvin Laird in Foreign Affairs magazine calling for the use of his over-three-decade old "Vietnamization" strategy as an end-game policy for success in Iraq, we even have a new Vietnam-era-adapted word to kick around -- "Iraqification" (and the "Iraq Syndrome" has already made more than one appearance as well). It's unending.

As long as we occupy Iraq in some fashion, that Vietnam = Iraq analogy will simply never go away, however much it may be argued about and however many writers (
including this one) point out the obvious, glaring differences between the two wars and the two moments.

But none of this matters. Something deep and essential and American remains familiarly unsettling across the two eras, no more so, it seems, than for those who actually fought in Vietnam.

When it comes to Vietnam veterans, the Vietnam analogy naturally comes alive in a special way -- as in the case of a spate of letters that arrived in the Tomdispatch email box after the site posted a piece by Michael Schwartz entitled A Formula for Slaughter, The American Rules of Engagement from the Air.

Schwartz focused on an incident in Baiji, a small town about 150 miles north of Baghdad. The cameras on an unmanned U.S. Predator drone flying over the town spotted three men who might have been planting a roadside explosive. The men seem to flee into a nearby house. Navy F-14s were then called in to strafe the house with cannon fire and drop a "precision guided munition," presumably a 500-pound bomb on it.

The attack, according to reports in the New York Times and the Washington Post, left 12-14 members of a single Iraqi family, who happened to be living there, dead. Schwartz went on to examine the nature of the brutal American "rules of engagement" under which this attack was allowed and, in that context, considered the Bush administration's draw-down strategy in Iraq which involves relying on the ever escalating use of airpower. !

Schwartz concluded: "The new American strategy, billed as a way to de-escalate the war, is actually a formula for the slaughter of Iraqi civilians."

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
1929-1968

By 1967, King had also become the country's most prominent opponent of the Vietnam War, and a staunch critic of overall U.S. foreign policy, which he deemed militaristic. In his "Beyond Vietnam" speech delivered at New York's Riverside Church on April 4, 1967 -- a year to the day before he was murdered -- King called the United States "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today."

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article11576.htm
In Defense of Progressive Values

By Charles Sullivan

In reality America no longer has two major political parties—the Democrats and the Republicans. Sometime ago these two parties merged into a single party that only represents the interests of wealth and power.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article11594.htm
Gore Is Right

By Paul Craig Roberts

Former US vice president Al Gore gave what I believe to be the most important political speech in my lifetime, and the New York Times, "the newspaper of record," did not report it. Not even excerpts.

http://www.lewrockwell.com/roberts/roberts141.html


Gore: Bush 'Repeatedly and Persistently' Broke the Law

Former Vice President Al Gore called Monday for an independent investigation of President Bush's domestic spying program, contending the president "repeatedly and persistently" broke the law by eavesdropping on Americans without court approval.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article11588.htm


White House Accuses Gore of Hypocrisy

McClellan said the Clinton-Gore administration had engaged in warrantless physical searches, and he cited an FBI search of the home of CIA turncoat Aldrich Ames without permission from a judge

http://www.localnewsleader.com/elytimes/stories/news-00125938.html
Democrats and Other False Friends

George Bush would be in severe political trouble if there was a proper opposition political party in the US.

http://www.counterpunch.org/damato01182006.html
Another Undeclared War?

By Patrick J. Buchanan

Is the United States about to launch a second preemptive war, against a nation that has not attacked us, to deprive it of weapons of mass destruction that it does not have?

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article11602.htm
Please remember Hugh Thompson

...an American hero who saved Vietnamese lives at the infamous My Lai Massacre

On January 6, 2006, Hugh Thompson died of cancer.
An obituary is in the January 7 New York Times, but this article is from the August 20, 2001, U.S. News & World Report, published when Hugh Thompson was still alive.

Of course My Lai was only one of the many massacres of the Indochina War, and massacres by U.S. troops continue with support and encouragement from those who refuse to deal with the fact that the warriors of imperialism are not heroic unless they turn against the killing and act to stop it (note the role of Jimmy Carter mentioned below).

AP
By Nell Boyce

Skimming over the Vietnamese village of My Lai in a helicopter with a bubble-shaped windshield, 24-year-old Hugh Thompson had a superb view of the ground below. But what the Army pilot saw didn't make any sense: piles of Vietnamese bodies and dead water buffalo.

He and his two younger crew mates, Lawrence Colburn and Glenn Andreotta, were flying low over the hamlet on March 16, 1968, trying to draw fire so that two gunships flying above could locate and destroy the enemy.

On this morning, no one was shooting at them. And yet they saw bodies everywhere, and the wounded civilians they had earlier marked for medical aid were now all dead.

As the helicopter hovered a few feet over a paddy field, the team watched a group of Americans approach a wounded young woman lying on the ground. A captain nudged her with his foot, then shot her. The men in the helicopter recoiled in horror, shouting, "You son of a bitch!"

Thompson couldn't believe it. His suspicions and fear began to grow as they flew over the eastern side of the village and saw dozens of bodies piled in an irrigation ditch. Soldiers were standing nearby, taking a cigarette break.

Thompson racked his brains for an explanation. Maybe the civilians had fled to the ditch for cover? Maybe they'd been accidentally killed and the soldiers had made a mass grave? The Army warrant officer just couldn't wrap his mind around the truth of My Lai.

Before My Lai, Americans always saw their boys in uniform as heroes. Their troops had brought war criminals, the Nazis, to justice. So when the massacre of some 500 unarmed Vietnamese civilians by U.S. soldiers became public a year and a half later, it shook the country to its core.

Many Americans found it so unbelievable they perversely hailed Lt. William Calley, the officer who ordered his men to shoot civilians, as an unjustly accused hero.

But My Lai did produce true heroes, says William Eckhardt, who served as chief prosecutor for the My Lai courts-martial.

"When you have evil, sometimes, in the midst of it, you will have incredible, selfless good. And that's Hugh Thompson."

On that historic morning, Thompson set his helicopter down near the irrigation ditch full of bodies. He asked a sergeant if the soldiers could help the civilians, some of whom were still moving. The sergeant suggested putting them out of their misery.

Stunned, Thompson turned to Lieutenant Calley, who told him to mind his own business. Thompson reluctantly got back in his helicopter and began to lift off. Just then Andreotta yelled,"My God, they're firing into the ditch!"

Thompson finally faced the truth.

He and his crew flew around for a few minutes, outraged, wondering what to do. Then they saw several elderly adults and children running for a shelter, chased by Americans. "We thought they had about 30 seconds before they'd die," recalls Colburn.

Thompson landed his chopper between the troops and the shelter, then jumped out and confronted the lieutenant in charge of the chase. He asked for assistance in escorting the civilians out of the bunker; the lieutenant said he'd get them out with a hand grenade.

Furious, Thompson announced he was taking the civilians out. He went back to Colburn and Andreotta and told them if the Americans fired, to shoot them.

"Glenn and I were staring at each other, dumbfounded," says Colburn. He says he never pointed his gun at an American soldier, but he might have fired if they had first. The ground soldiers waited and watched.

Thompson coaxed the Vietnamese out of the shelter with hand gestures. They followed, wary. Thompson looked at his three-man helicopter and realized he had nowhere to put them. "There was no thinking about it," he says now. "It was just something that had to be done, and it had to be done fast." He got on the radio and begged the gunships to land and fly the four adults and five children to safety, which they did within minutes.

Before returning to base, the helicopter crew saw something moving in the irrigation ditch-a child, about 4 years old. Andreotta waded through bloody cadavers to pull him out. Thompson, who had a son, was overcome by emotion. He immediately flew the child to a nearby hospital.

Thompson wasted no time telling his superiors what had happened.

"They said I was screaming quite loud. I was mad. I threatened never to fly again," Thompson remembers. "I didn't want to be a part of that. It wasn't war."

An investigation followed, but it was cursory at best.

A month later, Andreotta died in combat. Thompson was shot down and returned home to teach helicopter piloting. Colburn served his tour of duty and left the military. The two figured those involved in the killing had been court-martialed.

In fact, nothing had happened. But rumors of the massacre persisted.

One soldier who heard of the atrocities, Ron Ridenhour, vowed to make them public. In the spring of 1969, he sent letters to government officials, which led to a real investigation and sickening revelations: murdered babies and old men, raped and mutilated women, in a village where U.S. soldiers mistakenly expected to find lots of Viet Cong.

Not all soldiers at My Lai participated in the carnage. Some men risked courtmartial or even death by defying Calley's direct orders to shoot civilians. Eckhardt doesn't think these men were heroes, because they didn't try to stop the murderers. But Colburn thinks they did the best they could. "We could just fly away at the end of the day," he notes. The ground troops had to live together for months.

The Pentagon's investigation eventually suggested that nearly 80 soldiers had participated in the killing and coverup, although only Calley (who now works at a jewelry store in Columbus, Ga.) was convicted.

The eyewitness testimony of Thompson and Colburn proved crucial. But instead of thanking them, America vilified them.

Many saw Calley as a scapegoat for regrettable but inevitable civilian casualties. "Rallies for Calley" were held all over the country. Jimmy Carter, then governor of Georgia, urged citizens to leave car headlights on to show support for Calley.

Thompson, who got nasty letters and death threats, remembers thinking: "Has everyone gone mad?" He feared a court-martial for his command to fire, if necessary, on U.S. soldiers.Gradually the furor died down.

Colburn and Thompson lived in relative anonymity until a 1989 television documentary on My Lai reclaimed them as forgotten heroes.

David Egan, a Clemson University professor who had served in a French village where Nazis killed scores of innocents in World War II, was amazed by the story. He campaigned to have Thompson and his team awarded the coveted Soldier's Medal.

It wasn't until March 6, 1998, after internal debate among Pentagon officials (who feared an award would reopen old wounds) and outside pressure from reporters, that Thompson and Colburn finally received medals in a ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

But both say a far more gratifying reward was a trip back to My Lai this March to dedicate a school and a "peace park." It was then they finally met a young man named Do Hoa, who they believe was the boy they rescued from that death-filled ditch.

"Being reunited with the boy was just...I can't even describe it," says Colburn. And Thompson, also overwhelmed, doesn't even try.

Monday, January 02, 2006

CIA renditions began under Clinton: agent

By AFP

The US Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) controversial "rendition" program was launched under US president Bill Clinton, a former US counter-terrorism agent has told a German newspaper.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article11404.htm
Some soldiers trying to get out of Army

Increasing numbers of men and women in uniform are seeking honorable discharges as conscientious objectors. Others are suing the military, claiming their obligation has been wrongfully extended. Many have simply deserted, refusing to appear for duty.

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/national/1110AP_Getting_Out.html
Terrorists in High Places

Wars are not waged by those who have to fight them. Those who fight wars know too well their terrible costs. Wars are waged by those who profit from them with minimal or no risk to themselves. War is big business and it is immensely profitable for a select few who are insulated from the effects of war’s environmental impacts and social costs.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article11426.htm
Skirmishes in the Information Wars

By Mike Whitney

The newly minted “Dept of Strategic Information” is an attempt to institutionalize lying as a basic function of government. It conflates perfectly with administration theories on propaganda, deception and perception-management.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article11432.htm
US forces step up Iraq airstrikes:

The number of airstrikes in 2005, running at a monthly average of 25 until August, surged to 120 in November and an expected 150 in December, according to official military figures.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article11429.htm
"It is part of the general pattern of misguided policy that our country is now geared to an arms economy which was bred in an artificially induced psychosis of war hysteria and nurtured upon an incessant propaganda of fear."
General Douglas MacArthur, Speech, May 15, 1951
New book gives different view of U.S. destruction of Yugoslavia

Does this sound like a book to miss? Well, even if you do buy it, would you let it languish on your bookshelf, without reading it? If you followed either course of action, you would miss out on a remarkable document. In fact, you would be reacting precisely as U.S. administrations from Bush Sr. to Clinton to Bush Shrub have planned.

The demonization of President Milosevic has been so thorough that even those on the side of the working class may not expect him to be the source of historical insight. This is a pity, as he has been a major political figure for many years in Yugoslavia, a once significant workers’ state.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Published on Sunday, July 17, 2005 by the Observer/UK

Why Marx is Man of the Moment:

He had globalization sussed 150 years ago
By Francis Wheen


A penniless asylum seeker in London was vilified across two pages of the Daily Mail last week. No surprises there, perhaps - except that the villain in question has been dead since 1883.

'Marx the Monster' was the Mail's furious reaction to the news that thousands of Radio 4 listeners had chosen Karl Marx as their favorite thinker. 'His genocidal disciples include Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot - and even Mugabe. So why has Karl Marx just been voted the greatest philosopher ever?'
The puzzlement is understandable.

Fifteen years ago, after the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, there appeared to be a general assumption that Marx was now an ex-parrot. He had kicked the bucket, shuffled off his mortal coil and been buried forever under the rubble of the Berlin Wall. No one need think about him - still less read him - ever again.

'What we are witnessing,' Francis Fukuyama proclaimed at the end of the Cold War, 'is not just the ... passing of a particular period of postwar history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind's ideological evolution.'

But history soon returned with a vengeance. By August 1998, economic meltdown in Russia, currency collapses in Asia and market panic around the world prompted the Financial Times to wonder if we had moved 'from the triumph of global capitalism to its crisis in barely a decade'. The article was headlined 'Das Kapital Revisited'.

Even those who gained most from the system began to question its viability. The billionaire speculator George Soros now warns that the herd instinct of capital-owners such as himself must be controlled before they trample everyone else underfoot.

'Marx and Engels gave a very good analysis of the capitalist system 150 years ago, better in some ways, I must say, than the equilibrium theory of classical economics,' he writes. 'The main reason why their dire predictions did not come true was because of countervailing political interventions in democratic countries. Unfortunately we are once again in danger of drawing the wrong conclusions from the lessons of history. This time the danger comes not from communism but from market fundamentalism.'

In October 1997 the business correspondent of the New Yorker, John Cassidy, reported a conversation with an investment banker. 'The longer I spend on Wall Street, the more convinced I am that Marx was right,' the financier said. 'I am absolutely convinced that Marx's approach is the best way to look at capitalism.'

His curiosity aroused, Cassidy read Marx for the first time. He found 'riveting passages about globalization, inequality, political corruption, monopolization, technical progress, the decline of high culture, and the enervating nature of modern existence - issues that economists are now confronting anew, sometimes without realizing that they are walking in Marx's footsteps'.

Quoting the famous slogan coined by James Carville for Bill Clinton's presidential campaign in 1992 ('It's the economy, stupid'), Cassidy pointed out that 'Marx's own term for this theory was "the materialist conception of history", and it is now so widely accepted that analysts of all political views use it, like Carville, without any attribution.'

Like Molière's bourgeois gentleman who discovered to his amazement that for more than 40 years he had been speaking prose without knowing it, much of the Western bourgeoisie absorbed Marx's ideas without ever noticing. It was a belated reading of Marx in the 1990s that inspired the financial journalist James Buchan to write his brilliant study
Frozen Desire: An Inquiry into the Meaning of Money (1997).

'Everybody I know now believes that their attitudes are to an extent a creation of their material circumstances,' he wrote, 'and that changes in the ways things are produced profoundly affect the affairs of humanity even outside the workshop or factory. It is largely through Marx, rather than political economy, that those notions have come down to us.'

Even the Economist journalists John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, eager cheerleaders for turbo-capitalism, acknowledge the debt. 'As a prophet of socialism Marx may be kaput,' they wrote in
A Future Perfect: The Challenge and Hidden Promise of Globalization (2000), 'but as a prophet of the "universal interdependence of nations" as he called globalization, he can still seem startlingly relevant.' Their greatest fear was that 'the more successful globalization becomes the more it seems to whip up its own backlash' - or, as Marx himself said, that modern industry produces its own gravediggers.

The bourgeoisie has not died. But nor has Marx: his errors or unfulfilled prophecies about capitalism are eclipsed and transcended by the piercing accuracy with which he revealed the nature of the beast. 'Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones,' he wrote in The Communist Manifesto.

Until quite recently most people in this country seemed to stay in the same job or institution throughout their working lives - but who does so now? As Marx put it: 'All that is solid melts into air.'
In his other great masterpiece,
Das Kapital, he showed how all that is truly human becomes congealed into inanimate objects - commodities - which then acquire tremendous power and vigor, tyrannizing the people who produce them.

The result of this week's BBC poll suggests that Marx's portrayal of the forces that govern our lives - and of the instability, alienation and exploitation they produce - still resonates, and can still bring the world into focus. Far from being buried under the rubble of the Berlin Wall, he may only now be emerging in his true significance.

For all the anguished, uncomprehending howls from the right-wing press, Karl Marx could yet become the most influential thinker of the 21st century.



Francis Wheen's acclaimed biography
Karl Marx: A Life is published by Fourth Estate.
© 2005 Guardian Newspapers Ltd.