The Octant
Insights and reporting from Caleb Maupin

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While militarism is prevalent across US society, the idea of a new, big confrontation between superpowers seems quite unrealistic for contemporary America.

Our grandparents told us stories of the Second World War. All four of my own had participated in some capacity. The Second World War was not a “regime change” operation carried out under the guise of humanitarianism. The Second World War was a battlefield clash between two global alliances that sought to destroy each other. The war involved mass mobilizations of the population. In order to achieve victory, the Soviet Union, the United States and Britain were forced to put society under the most ironclad discipline.

In the USA, children collected scrap metal and watched the skies for Japanese planes. The population had “meatless Tuesdays” prioritizing agricultural products for the front-lines. The automakers put commercial cars on hold and manufactured military vehicles instead. Japanese-Americans were interned in prison camps. The Trotskyite Communists who opposed the war, along with fascist sympathizers like the German-American Bund, were locked in prison or detained by federal authorities, and every able bodied young man was required to join the military. The entire country was mobilized for victory, and victory was achieved.

Would such a thing be possible today?

CalebMaupin

On October 6th, Caleb Maupin addressed a gathering of young activists from Students & Youth for a New America. His full length presentation discussed many wide ranging topics including: Superman Comics, Economics, Marxism, China, Iran, Yemen, US history, the Soviet Union, and much more. The full presentation is now available for viewing online.

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The Roman Catholic Church and the Peoples Republic of China are set to sign an agreement, which would formally end the hostilities between these two entities. The Chinese government will formally acknowledge the Pope as the leader of the Catholic Church in China. In exchange, the Pope will reinstate ex-communicated Bishops selected by the Communist Party to lead Catholics on the Chinese mainland. In this context, it is worth reviewing the shifts and evolutions of Catholicism in global politics.

Opposing Capitalism and Marxism

Surprising as it may be to many Republicans in the United States, the Roman Catholic Church officially opposes capitalism. In fact, clerical anti-capitalism predates Marxism by centuries. As the merchant class was emerging in Europe, Catholic theology tended to uphold the “natural order” represented in the feudal hierarchy. The church saw the marketplace as a sinful mess of greed and anarchy.  Gutenberg’s printing press, which led to the translation and widespread publication of the Bible, and eventually the Protestant Reformation, is seen as the opening shot act in the struggle resulting in the eventual rise of liberal democratic nation-states and the market. Papal proclamations that shifted regulations on money-lending laid the foundations for modern finance. For example, the roots of the titanic institution known as Bank of America can be traced back to early Italian bankers, who emerged as the church loosened its restrictions on Usury.

While Catholic anti-capitalism, which emphasizes morality and obedience over “economic freedom,” has been longstanding, the ideology of Marxism is something Rome has always opposed. Catholicism views Marxism as godlessly fomenting revolts against legitimate “God given” authority. Furthermore, Marxist economic determinism is perceived as undermining the moral responsibility of individuals for their actions.

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As the Brexit process moves forward, calls for a second Scottish Independence Referendum are picking up steam. The SNP is calling for a second referendum, paving the way for Scotland to leave the United Kingdom, and remain in the EU.

Imagine the people of a country, faced with increasingly difficult economic circumstances, organizing a mass movement and declaring independence. Then, imagine a new government that puts the country’s natural resources under state control and sells them on the international markets, and uses the proceeds to build infrastructure and subsidize the construction of a vibrant domestic economy.

This is a scenario that has played out many times throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. The struggle for domestic control over oil profits has been central in a very high percentage of the revolutions and geopolitical confrontations of modern times. The “Yes” movement in Scotland fits in with a global pattern related to energy and the global capitalist market.

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Development and poverty eradication may be in the overall interest of the human race, but certain powerful forces see it as a threat to their position as hegemonic rulers of the global economy.

Prior to 2011, Syria was a prosperous Middle Eastern country. The Baathist government had taken tremendous steps to improve the lives of Syria’s people. Between 1970 and 2009, the life expectancy for Syrians increased by 17 years, and the infant mortality rate was reduced exponentially. According to the US Library of Congress, in 1981 forty two percent of the Syrian adult population was illiterate, but just ten years later, in 1991, illiteracy had been wiped out by a mass educational campaign.

Syria built the Tabqa Dam on the Euphrates River with the assistance of 900 technicians and a loan of 100 milllion from the Soviet Union. In 2007, China had already begun investing “hundreds of millions of dollars” into Syria for the purpose of modernizing its “oil and gas infrastructure.”

But look at Syria today. Millions have fled as refugees. Over half a million have died. Terrorist groups control huge swaths of territory. Much of the overall infrastructure of the country, including water treatment facilities, power plants, and schools have been destroyed.

Can anyone rationally argue that attempts by western countries to remove the Baathist government led by Bashar Assad have benefitted the population?

Wrecking Countries in the Name of “Democracy”

Nicaragua is a similar story. The government of the Sandinistas, under the slogan of “Christianity, Socialism and Solidarity” has made tremendous efforts to improve the lives of the people. Between 2005-2014, poverty in Nicaragua was reduced by 30%. The GDP increased by 36% between 2007-2016. While its neighbors in Central America ,Guatemala and Honduras, are notorious wrecks of poverty, crime, and underdevelopment, Nicaragua has been a powerhouse of growth. The World Happiness Index even noted how optimism about life  increased more among Nicaraguans than in any other country in 2016.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is only 28 years old. She is a New Yorker of Puerto Rican heritage, and after an upset primary vote, she will be the Democratic Party's nominee for U.S. Congress in November. Ocasio-Cortez is almost guaranteed to be elected to Congress, as the district is overwhelmingly controlled by the Democratic Party. Her victory in the primary was over Joe Crowley, a longstanding figure in New York City politics. 

Ocasio-Cortez is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America and aligns herself with Bernie Sanders and other members of the Democratic Party who reject the pro-market, neoliberal economic policies long favored by the party's National Committee.

After her victory, all across U.S. media a debate about "socialism" has taken place. Among Republicans and conservatives, alarm-bells have sounded. Ocasio-Cortez is accused of wanting to "turn the USA into Venezuela." Because Ocasio-Cortez has criticized capitalism, her critics equate her to Marxist-Leninists, and invoke Cold War rhetoric against her.

Meanwhile, supporters of Ocasio-Cortez insist that "socialism" simply refers to government policies intended to deliver economic justice. TV host, Joy Behar, defended Ocasio-Cortez in a heated exchange on national TV, saying that socialism had been successful in Norway and Sweden.