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Coincidence, Conspiracy and Class Struggle by Michael Novick, Anti-Racist Action-Los Angeles

By Michael Novick, Anti-Racist Action-Los Angeles/People Against Racist Terror

A well-noted logical fallacy to which the human brain is particularly prone is “post hoc, ergo propter hoc.” In English, "After this, therefore because of this" -- attributing causation to what is merely sequence. It’s the basis of most superstitions, probably a lot of religious belief, and definitely many conspiracy theories.
However, while correlation does not imply causation, the correlation or coinciding of several related factors or events can often shed light on certain sometimes-hidden or obscured realities. I’d like to explore this in regard to three recent events or developments: the untimely death of Hugo Chavez, the selection of Pope Francis, the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and the sudden conversion of the US political elite, Republican and Democrat alike, to the cause of “comprehensive immigration reform.”
Whether the cancer that took the life of Chavez was actually induced by covert US action, as some have claimed, will probably never be determined, and is, in a way, beside the point. US hostility toward Chavez is undeniable, as was US willingness to countenance a coup attempt against him under George W. Bush. Christian fundamentalist and former GOP presidential candidate Pat Robertson went on the air quite openly to advocate covert action to kill Chavez. The endless series of CIA assassination plots against Fidel Castro are well documented. The reason Malcolm X described the assassination of John Kennedy as “chickens coming home to roost” was because the US role in the assassination of its own puppets in South Vietnam was widely recognized. In any event, the main thing is that Chavez’s death has focused attention on US efforts to reassert its control over not only Venezuela but all the countries to its south. In turn, that should heighten our awareness that Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Uruguay, Chile and other nations have been slipping the traces of domination by the US imperial Colossus of the North. Venezuela has developed a relationship with Iran that undermines US/Saudi efforts to dominate OPEC and oil prices. China has been expanding its commercial and diplomatic ties with “Latin” America, including even Mexico. These all represent both the weakening of US hegemony that has already taken place, and the prospect of still greater threats to US imperialism.
The Republican 180-degree volte-face on immigration issues, accepting even a “path to citizenship,” was so precipitous that it left Jeb Bush, who wrote a book advocating immigration reform, with egg on his face. His effort to nudge his party back towards his brother’s position, by moderating GOP hostility to the undocumented with a call for legalization without citizenship, was left in the dust by the time it was published. This required him to do an embarrassingly visible and public flip-flop on the “path to citizenship” question. Most commentators attribute this rapid-fire change to crass, immediate electoral considerations, but I think something deeper is at work. The Republicans already have more high-profile, high-ranking “Latino” office holders than the Democrats, including Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz and Gov. Susana Martinez of New Mexico. The shift on immigration reform reflects not just electoral demographics, but the larger question of containing the insurgent impact of increasingly fearless undocumented workers and youth, and grappling with the centrality of migrant labor to the Empire in both the periphery and the “homeland.”
Finally, eyebrows were raised when the last pope resigned, for the first time in over 600 years. There was subdued speculation about what might have precipitated such a remarkable event. Benedict, AKA Ratzinger, had evidenced no embarrassment over his own role in the Hitler Youth in an era when the Roman Catholic Church had given its blessings to Hitler and Mussolini. He had expressed no remorse or remedy for institutionalized child sexual abuse by priests, nor corrected to any significant degree Catholic hostility towards Islam. The selection of a Latin American (though admittedly of Italian descent) may help explain his early departure from the papacy. Again, commentators focus on his successor’s alleged humility, simplicity and ‘orientation towards the poor,’ and on the Church’s need to build and rebuild in the global South, where its demographic future lies, as well as to stem the tide of conversions to evangelical Protestantism that have been cutting into archdiocese in Brazil, Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America, as well as immigrant congregations in the US.
But a deeper look again suggests more at work than demographics and marketing. The Roman Catholic Church, institutionally, is still one of the main forces of reaction in the world, well integrated into the imperialist system politically, socially and even economically. Remember that the reign of Pope John XXIII coincided with an imperial effort at a “liberal” counter-offensive against growing socialist momentum in the Third World. The Vatican Council with its embrace of the vernacular in prayer to forestall the appeal of liberation theology corresponded with Kennedy’s Alliance for Progress to counter the attraction of the Cuban Revolution. Similarly, the selection of a Polish pope, in the era of the Reagan-Thatcher offensive against the Soviet bloc in the East and organized labor in the West, signified and magnified the imperialist effort to roll back the system of “actually-existing socialism” in Eastern Europe. It culminated in the toppling of Communist regimes throughout Eastern Europe and the (Soviet) Russian Empire, and the looting and privatization of massive amounts of social wealth.
Thus, in the light of the intensified class struggle in Venezuela precipitated by the death of Chavez, the selection of an Argentine pope (with a history of ties to the military junta and dirty war against the left, and more recent hostility towards the social-Peronist Kirchner government), along with the effort of Obama and the Republicans to shape a “comprehensive immigration reform” that starts with further militarization of the border, can be seen as part of an imperialist counter-offensive against the rising Afro-indigenous based liberation struggle throughout Latin America, and its repercussions and reverberations within the US itself. It is up to the forces of resistance, people’s power and liberation to chart a course that can maintain the initiative against the Empire and reaction. This will involve overcoming our weaknesses while identifying and exacerbating those of the imperialists.
Michael Novick is the editor of "Turning the Tide: Journal of Anti-Racist Action, Research & Education," available from Anti-Racist Action, PO Box 1055, Culver City CA 90232 for $16 a year. New issue is now out; free sample on request from PDFs of back issues are on-line at, and check for regularly updated content.

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