The Octant
Insights and reporting from Caleb Maupin


The world famous founder of Alibaba may be a billionaire CEO, but the words he is repeating around the world contain echoes of Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, and Mao Zedong. It may be difficult for the untrained ear to identify it, but it should be no surprise that this rock star of China’s centrally planned economy is on good terms with the deeply ideological ruling Party. For those with a deeper understanding, Marxist undertones can be found all throughout Ma’s technological optimism.

Historical Materialism 

Many people have opened the Communist Manifesto, expecting to find a blueprint for an ideal world scrawled out before them. However, very little was written by Karl Marx or his associates about the supposed nature of the future world. Instead, the focus of Marx’s writings was on the philosophical concepts he coined, dialectical and historical materialism. In essence, Marxism is an understanding of world history as being driven forward by a struggle to advance living standards, and achieve a higher mode of production.

Speaking at Valdai Discussion Club in October, Jack Ma harshly criticized those who responded to the birth of the internet with fear. He said “where other people worry, we figure out ways to solve the worry.” He reminded those of us in the audience of the many fears that accompanied the invention of the automobile. He says “If we have more imagination and creativity we will feel much better.”

On July 8th, at a small theater in Manhattan, one of the country’s most outspoken anti-capitalist voices debated a well-known figure of the Alt-Right. In this rare occurrence, articulate representatives of the  two ideologies that have been clashing in the streets had a chance to debate with words, not fists.

Representing the political left and socialism was Caleb Maupin, a journalist and political analyst. Maupin does not shy away from the word “Communism” and used the debate to present a unique vision for “Socialism with American Characteristics,” as well as to castigate the far-right for its bigotry and primitive thinking which dehumanizes immigrant workers, low income people, and others within US society. Representing the Alt-Right was Augustus Sol Invictus, a Republican Senate candidate who has been a headline speaker at “Unite The Right” rallies. Invictus was once a libertarian, but ended up being shunned in free market circles for his blatant use of fascist imagery and association with white nationalists.


The ban on travel to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is primarily an attack on the people in the northern part of the Korean Peninsula. It is a move to further isolate the DPRK, and prevent tourist dollars from flowing in, while also preventing fraternization between Americans and citizens of the country. However, the State Department’s decision also has another target in the crosshairs, one much closer to Washington DC.

According to reports in the press, roughly 5,000 US citizens visit the DPRK each year. Most are tourist youth attracted to the mystique and adventure of traveling to a country so widely demonized in the US media. Communist organizations send political delegations and Christian sects such as the Mennonites often send missionaries and aid workers. However, one can be sure that among the 5,000 people who visit the country each year is more than a few American spies, posing as tourists.

When one looks over the recent history of Americans being arrested in North Korea prior to the tragic death of Otto Warmbier, the reasons for the arrest almost always indicate activities that could be described as espionage. Merrill Newman, for example, was a former member of the US military’s “White Tigers” division during the Korean War. The 85 year old man was arrested in the DPRK as he wore a ring with the insignia of this anti-DPRK fighting and intelligence unit. After being arrested he confessed to participating in some of the war crimes against the Korean people during the 1950-1953 war. Newman stated “I did not realize North Korea was still at war” after his eventual release.


After Chinese stocks fell on Monday, July 17, the media based in the United States offered an almost unanimous explanation. According to the U.S. press, the Chinese Stock Market fell in response to the two-day National Financial Works Conference. A headline in the Wall Street Journal from Tuesday, July 18 reads “Beijing Talks Tough, and Stocks Fall.” Editorials and other statements go on to say China is facing potential ruin because of too much government oversight and regulation. This is an ideologically loaded assumption and analysis of events, which misses the overall lessons of China’s recent history.

First of all, it is important to note that U.S. analysts seem desperate to make negative predictions about China’s economy, and look for any possible indicator to point towards. Many will recall how in June of 2015, after turmoil in China’s stock markets, the U.S. media announced a pending collapse and spoke endlessly about a “Chinese slowdown.” The doom and gloom they predicted never materialized, and China has continued to expand. China’s rate of GDP growth remains between 6.7 percent and 6.9 percent, a rate that would be envious to most nations on earth. The USA’s rate of growth for 2016 was merely 2 percent.


Under the new US administration, the ruling order of the country has not drastically changed. Domestically, the rising power of policing agencies alongside cuts in social spending has not ceased. Internationally, the USA still stands with western Europe against the bloc of independently developing countries centered around Russia, China and Iran.

While trends in actual policy remain roughly the same, one thing has certainly been altered. While the international order of western liberalism and globalist capitalism remains intact, statements hostile to it and contrary to its values continue to flow from the White House.

On an almost daily basis, statements that are completely contrary to the narrative of the “international liberal order” flow from the mouth of the commander-in-chief. The examples are numerous.

While the narrative of neoliberalism presents Russian President Vladimir Putin as a bloodthirsty tyrant, unlike figures in the “civilized” and “democratic” western nations, Trump thundered back “Do you think this country is so innocent?” when questioned about Putin being a “killer.”


Wall Street, London, and the Bretton Woods institutions like the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund claim to support development and the eradication of poverty around the world. They also claim to support scientific progress and raising the global standard of living. However, often they seem to make friends and allies with very different goals. As Nicaragua proceeds with a huge construction project that has dynamic global implications, one can see a certain international pattern repeating itself, with quite dangerous implications.

“Native Activists” Fighting To Preserve US Maritime Dominance

Control of the Panama Canal by the United States has been vital in asserting control over the world economy. The US military has intervened militarily in Panama on many occasions to secure its control of this vital global shipping and transportation hub.

While the USA currently allows vessels to pass through, this could easily change in the case of a military confrontation. With so much of the world’s industrial shipping passing through this vital point, control of the canal gives the USA a level of unchecked power in the global economy. At any point they could “veto” a country’s economy by stopping ships.


After a two year slump, coal, iron, and everything related to mining is seeing a boom. Entities on the New York Stock Exchange linked to the extraction of minerals from the earth are seeing their profits go up. Like most things in the global economy, this dramatic shift cannot be separated from geopolitical events. The boom on the energy markets is directly linked to confrontation between the USA and China, related to the crisis in the Korean peninsula.

Too Much Coal

In 1930, a coal miner in Poland famously explained the economic crisis to his son with an unforgettable dialogue:

“Father, Why don‘t we light the stove? I am cold”
“We don’t have coal, son”
“And why haven’t we got coal?”
“Because there is too much coal.”

The father had been laid off from his job as a coal miner, due to the abundance of coal created by advances in mining technology. Because he was unemployed, he could not afford coal to heat his home. The coal miner and his son were without heat, not due to a lack of coal, but because there is “too much coal.”