[Marxism] Voter suppression: Another tactic in Trump's drive for one-man rule

Ralph Johansen mdriscollrj at charter.net
Sun Oct 21 19:03:37 MDT 2018

Joaquin Bustelo wrote
I suspect that however important whatever it is that is going on in 
Syria turns out to be, and I realize it is a question of the entire 
region and not just one country and it is important, at least in an 
immediate sense what is going on in Mexico and at the border, and having 
a clear vision and understanding of it, is of more near-term relevance 
to those engaged in radical politics in  this country, and I would not 
exclude the possibility of that turning out to be true in the longer 
term also.

By the way, the ONLY time I can remember Syria coming up on our show is 
when a frequent caller asked about whether what was being said about 
some poison gas attack was true and I told him quite honestly that I 
didn't know.
I agree with Joaquin, but possibly for somewhat different reasons. I may 
miss something here, but I have the impression, when I look at what's 
happening in regions like the near and middle east (by the way, needless 
to say, what follows certainly relates to what happened to the WTC 
towers and other seemingly extreme responses but which goes largely 
unmentioned), that there are national boundaries which as we know were 
imposed by the geopolitical designs of more powerful countries and had 
nothing to do with historical material conditions of the inhabitants; 
and that therefore tribal relations on which these once self-sufficient 
but now impoverished, in many cases nomadic or trading tribes, had to 
depend - now on the corrupt, abject, externally imposed central 
governing elites - in effect, patronage dispensation relations, which 
were totally inadequate and unequally distributed among inhabiting 
factions, not to mention denial of access to their historical trading 
routes, on which their tribal welfare depended, and the theft of the 
historic, untold wealth on and underneath their lands; all of which 
largely accounts, religious differences included, for great turbulence 
and internal civil strife throughout these regions. This, along with 
whatever interference with those torn relations serves more powerful 
external influences. I'm sure that it is true elsewhere as well, for 
somewhat similar reasons. And that to sort all this out requires rather 
more detailed background than I see displayed in discussion on this and 
other lists, especially as it relates to Marxist concerns. Not that I 
have any better answers.

Except, a case in point which had prompted these thoughts: years ago, I 
got on a Yugoslav freighter out of Brooklyn and ended up journeying down 
the east coast of Africa, where at the University of Tanzania I met a 
teacher and doctoral candidate from Indiana who was writing his 
dissertation on relations of people in the region of eastern Lake 
Victoria, with the central Kikuyu-dominated government in Nairobi. 
Patronage-dispensation from the central government to usurped tribal 
regions was of especial importance in maintaining unequal relations with 
people who were displaced or whose lands had been stolen, in order to 
keep them at bay.

I did not as I read his dissertation realize the significance of what he 
was up to until later. He was onto something that I subsequently thought 
went to the heart of what it meant to be a once upon a time historically 
settled, relatively stable group of people, colonized, their tribal 
lands stolen, their economic, social and cultural relations ripped 
apart. As we traveled from Nairobi to Lake Victoria across the Rift 
Valley, I saw that we were on a straight, wide, well-built blacktop 
ribbon of highway, which I learned stretched from the lake region to the 
port of Mombasa, financed by the World Bank to get the produce of the 
rich mainly British tea plantations in the fertile area around Lake 
Victoria out to the tables of Europe. When we arrived at the site of my 
friend's research, a tribal area on the meager lands left to them 
alongside the lake, we were taken inside a thatched hut, rather large 
for a thatched dwelling structure, with impeccably clean earthen floors. 
We were served a meal of a whole stewed chicken, killed at some expense 
to the tribe in honor of my friend, with a delicately spiced sauce and 
some sort of delicious clabbered yogurt. The handsome woman in her 
forties who served us was quite lean and I later learned she was 
suffering the debilitating effects of malaria, without access to medical 
help and with inadequate diet. No one in the tribe had any relationship 
to the lush plantations right alongside their dwelling in their 
historical lands. And to keep the peace, patronage was being dispensed 
all over Kenya, I gathered, by Jomo Kenyatta's British-dominated central 

Also, I learned that both Kenyatta and Idi Amin were selected for rule 
in British East Africa because of their commanding presences among their 
people, Amin as initially a cook but then as a celebrated boxing 
champion in the King's Army Rifles, and Kenyatta as a compliant tribal 
chieftain in Kyambu, after his leadership and surrender in the Mau Mau 
revolt. I also learned that the British, when they took over East 
Africa, surveyed the rich alluvial lands belonging to the Kikuyu at the 
foot of Mount Kenya and imposed a hut tax in order to force the local 
people into the wage-earning, capitalist economy controlled from Nairobi.

The dots have connected and then expanded for me from that experience, 
many times over, an often overlooked detail of rule over a hostile 
people and how they are kept from open revolt, at least until central 
governments face civil war from having become arrogant and blatant, 
maybe financially self-indulgent and strapped, in the course of 
confining the sharing of the wealth to their tribal, religious or 
cultural compatriots, largely to the exclusion of historical tribal 
outliers. The relevance to the middle east may be well-placed, or not, 
but as I search for explanations, this occurs to me.

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