Postmodern Imperialism: An interview with Eric Walberg
First Published: 2011-11-10
Interview by Jonathan Reynolds, an anthropologist who writes for
spikemagazine.com and author of two books on the Maya and Guatemala.
Middle East Online
Q: For a work of geopolitical history, I found the book a real
A: Thanks. It's gratifying that this came across. So much of the critique of
imperialism is depressing and boring, and puts the reader off. The history
is fascinating, if horrifying.
Q: I was impressed by the great sweep of the argument, and how the details
of the history of imperialism as you write about it are integrated so well
A: Again, thanks. I couldn't have done it without the internet. I really
should have put Wikipedia in the acknowledgments, although this must be
treated circumspectly - it allows you to track down hundreds of details in
seconds that are essential to making a credible argument. Again, much of the
literature is either too detail-heavy or too generalized. In writing both my
articles over the past decade, and this (and another book) over the past
four years, I developed a style where I try to include as many relevant
details as possible without sinking under their weight.
I really wanted to produce something that could be useful as a textbook for
an intelligent high school/university student as well as for the general
reader, and with something new for all readers. The book covers a huge
territory both in time and space, but I hope I have touched on the most
important elements. Writing it was definitely a daunting process, but having
lived in both the Soviet Union/post-Soviet space and now Egypt, and coming
from Canada, I am fortunate to have had the experience of all these social
formations. It's a bit like learning to think in different languages. When I
write about a particular topic, I try to put myself in the common person's
shoes and ask, 'What motivates the particular imperial corner that I'm
Q: The book makes such a sweeping accusation about "American imperialism",
but supported beautifully by a great array of facts, citations, references
that it becomes quite clear what is what.
A: Why can't Americans see the imperial nature of their relationship to the
world? For a Canadian (or anyone else), this is so obvious. A basic
explanation of center/periphery makes this crystal clear in two minutes. Yes
re endnotes - again, I tried to reference as many times as possible. The
internet provides an unprecedented opportunity to do this. The book would
have taken a decade without it.
Q: Do you see a great breakdown coming in the center (as opposed to the
periphery, perhaps, as you use Wallerstein), signaling a movement toward a
new kind of dispensation.a new kind of society ultimately? I ask this aware
of the enormous power the US exerts directly and through its networks and
being myself very pessimistic that any kind of real change in social
structure and the fundamental nature of the social transaction can occur
A: Absolutely. The breakdown is happening as I write. The euro is doomed, as
eventually is the dollar. And, yes, we must prepare people. For all their
problems, Soviet and Muslim societies provide clear pointers about the
basics of an acceptable alternative.
Q: What made you decide to 'cover this story' - the great story you tell in
A: As I say in the preface, I was struck by the injustice of imperialism
while at Cambridge after the 'first 9/11' [the US-sponsored military coup in
Chile in 1973]. Everything developed logically out of that.
Q: What's your relationship to Islam?
A: I like Karen Armstrong's quip, "I consider myself a freelance
monotheist". All three are fine, though I see Islam as the final corrective
of the earlier versions. The true Torah Jews (Neturei Karta) are wonderful,
though the inherent "exilic tribalism", as Gilad Atzmon puts it, is an
inherent problem with Judaism, the results of which we see today.
Q: Do you believe there are transcendent values, irrespective of culture,
time, and history? I am thinking here of transcendent values one associates
with Islam.and Marxism. I think even Marx, despite the materialist history
he emphasized, saw a kind of a Hegelian 'end of History', for otherwise he
would not have supported the phantasm of communism, nor have been unaware
that all utopias are dystopias.
A: Marx is sorely misunderstood. Of course there are transcendent values and
his writing is imbued with them. Even in evolutionary biology there is the
nonzero sum game theory which seems to operate at a genetic level (Robert
Wright is great on this) leading to cooperation and empathy. It seems you
can arrive at such values even without faith.
Q: Marxists speak of the two world wars of the last century as imperialist
wars, and you cite Lenin, whose dictum was that imperialist is the last, and
highest, form of capitalism. What about WWII? Weren't the Allies the 'good
guys' against Hitler and Nazism ?
A: This was in my mind writing about Great Game I. Good people everywhere
(West and East) fought Nazism as evil, but Western capitalist/imperialist
governments were the source of Nazism and encouraged it to destroy the
Soviet Union. Our history books distort the real origins of both WWI and
WWII. I hope my book is a credible compact corrective to this.
Q: Do you, yourself, employ a kind of a dialectical analysis to your history
of Anglo-US imperialism? Casino capitalism certainly seems to me to fit most
aptly into Marx's analysis of the capitalism and how it operates.
A: Marx is the alpha and omega in analyzing capitalism. His inversion of
Hegel's dialectic starts with the material-> theory -> material-theoretic.
My three-part theory is really a continuation, via Marx, of Hegel's logic of
being-nothing-becoming -> being-essence-notion.
Q: Do you worry that your support for Islam may tend to throw doubt as to
your agenda, as it were, as a journalist who writes in such broad, and
negative, terms about Israel and Jews?
A: As for my analysis of Israel, virtually the entire world outside of the
imperial center condemns Israel. As for Jews, I have the greatest respect
for the dynamism and intelligence that has characterized Jewish culture from
time immemorial. If it can serve the common good, it will be a key element
in finding a way out of Western civilization's current crisis. Gilad Atzmon
and Israel Shamir, Shahak and Pappe, Finkelstein and Blankfort... The list
is long and growing of Jews who have chosen to dedicate themselves to the
common good, to go beyond exilic tribalism.
As for Islam, I admire enormously Muslims' patience and endurance and their
stubborn adherence to a spiritual focus in their lives, attributes which
non-Muslims have long ago lost. Just consider for a moment the incredible
resilience of the Palestinians. It is a miracle that they hang on in the
face of concentration-camp conditions, decade after decade. Just as I
identified with the communist resilience in the face of imperialism, so I do
with the Muslim resilience today. Note how the anticommunism of yesterday
morphed so easily into the islamophobia of today. Though it sounds
simplistic, 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend' has a fundamental
dialectical truth to it.
As for my own spiritual journey, I consider myself a freelance monotheist.
While I learned the basic prayers and pray with my Muslim friends at the
mosque, I go to church with my family when in Canada, and would be delighted
to worship with True Torah Jews - if invited. Islam is a much more demanding
religion than Christianity. The grueling 30-day dry fasting each year in
Ramadan is hard for me to even contemplate.
Q: In the blogosphere you have been accused of anti-semitism. May I ask if
you were born and raised a Jew?
A: I've been called a self-hating Jew, but as far as I know, I am not
Jewish. It really is irrelevant. I was raised a Presbyterian, but many of my
mentors were Jewish. Atzmon puts it well: an anti-semite is someone Jews
hate. The campaign against Atzmon shows how bankrupt the Zionists are. I was
also called 'big ears' as a child. Sticks and stones...
Q: Critics will likely point to your references to Jews and banking, the
Israel Lobby, the Kosher Nostra and so forth as a no-no. Does this concern
you? Similarly, you make accusations that perpetual war by Israel is part of
Israel's national character, modus vivendi, and expectations for its future.
A: Who can dispute that Jewish elites were a key support of imperialism?
Benjamin Ginsberg makes this clear. Re the Elders of Zion, I write in
Postmodern Imperialism: "The importance of the financial world and its use
as parapolitics to the game strategy in GGIII.like the importance of the
Rothschilds to the strategies of GGI and II, cannot be overestimated. The
Protocols of the Elders of Zion was initially viewed and continues to be
seen by many as the program of an emancipated nineteenth century Jewish
financial elite using Freemasonry as a vehicle to achieve world power. The
worth of the Protocols is not assessed here. It is enough to trace the
development of the politics of Zionism from attributable sources and to
observe the moves it gives rise to."
Q: Doesn't such frank analysis narrow your opportunities of media coverage
in the West?
A: That's why I write for Al Ahram and the internet. It's impossible to have
a proper debate in the western mainstream media. I don't need a lavish
lifestyle, so I don't worry about having my career destroyed. The collapse
of the dollar will have a liberating effect on the western obsession with
material wealth. I'm grateful I never suffered from that malady.
Q: Is it fair to say that Israel, today, is the only truly racist state on
the planet, with its transparently clear insistence on who its citizens can
be, and on the nature of the Jewish state?
A: Yes. Like the American empire - why is this so difficult to see? A
perfect case of the emperor's new clothes.
Q: With at least one gloss of history you seem to go quickly to the
conclusion easier to fit into your overall argument - about Central Europe
and the NATO (US) bombing that removed Milosevich, saying nothing about the
terrible ethnic cleansing going on (and the moral 'imperative' of the West
to intervene, this latter argument one which I acknowledge is at least
somwhat flawed since everything large nations do geopolitically is full of
A: History is complicated. The dialectic is only partial, as Hegel and Marx
well understood. The same argument for Milosevich goes for Gaddafi, but in
neither case was more western intervention the answer. The US and Europe
were behind the breakup of Yugoslavia in the first place, as I point out:
"The break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, along with the drawn-out campaign
of sanctions and 'no fly zones' against Iraq from 1990, were defining
moments in establishing the new GGIII. The Clinton administration 'saved'
Bosnia and Kosovo from Serbia's attempts to hold the Yugoslav union
together, establishing NATO-sponsored Muslim statelets Bosnia-Herzegovina
and Kosovo, in an eerie reversion to GGI. Bosnia is governed by High
Commissioner Valentin Inzko, an Austrian national, who wields powers similar
to a colonial administrator. It is occupied by NATO forces, with the central
bank governor appointed by the IMF. Kosovo is nominally independent, the
site of the largest US base in Europe, Camp Bond Steel, housing 3,000
soldiers, giving the US control of the Balkans, within easy reach of the
Caspian Sea and Israel." No one else benefited from the civil war in
Yugoslavia (ok, maybe Slovenia, if you consider its postmodern status in the
EU as desirable).
Q: Again, for the less well-informed: Was there not ethnic cleansing in
Bosnia and Croatia that, if power existed to halt this, this power should
have been used? Rather than consider 'transcendent values' as motives behind
Anglo-American imperialism, then, and Clinton's ultimate decision to join in
the bombing of Serbia because of these values, might you not legitimately be
accused of 'streamlining' your argument to avoid addressing this
A: What is 'transcendent' in Yugoslavia is Camp Bond Steel. I make clear in
all the games that there are purported aims and real aims. I think you
understand the difference.
Q: Regarding the circling project of the West and other assertions and
accusations you make, is it capitalism or Anglo-American imperialism that
A: By 'circling project' I take it you mean containing Russia, China and
Iran. Everything happening today has its origins in capitalism. The whole
dialect derives from Kapital, Volume 1, Chapter 1, since imperialism is
inherent in the logic of capital. Even the rise of Zionism has its own
logical source there. Given an 'exilic tribe', its natural activity in the
broader community is the profane usury, etc.
Q: Would you call yourself a Marxist?
A: I like Marx's retort to his son-in-law: "If that is Marxism then I am not
a Marxist". I respect and use Marx as the basis of my thinking about
capitalism and society. I prefer to dispense with -isms and labels given
their many distortions. My title of Postmodern.Great Games is a bit
tongue-in-cheek as these terms can mean whatever you define them to mean.
Q: Did Marx underestimate - hugely - the enduring power of capitalism to
adapt, to transform itself, in order to survive?
A: He would surely be disappointed that it's still alive and torturing/
enchanting us today, but he admired it, too as he wrote in the Communist
Q: Also on Marx: do you consider class warfare a more or less transcendent
dynamic in the history you narrate from Disraeli and Victorian England - the
British Empire - through to today?
A: Yes. The iPod revolutions today in Egypt and now on Wall Street only got
their backbone when the workers joined in. The intellectuals and frustrated
middle class have the obligation to reach out to the workers, just as they
do to the Islamists today in the Arab revolutions.
Q: In other words, would you include in an analysis of class warfare, an
'ethnicity of elites' with regard to the leaders of banking and finance
capitalism, who are 'at war' per Leo Strauss, with a middle class and
A: If you mean Jewish/ non-Jewish, it's no longer of much relevance. Quoting
myself: 'With the decline of Christianity, for proponents of western
civilization, "we are all Jews"'. I go on to quote Vice President Joe Biden:
'You don't have to be Jewish to be a Zionist'.
Q: Isn't it true to say that, dialectically, what is sought by Marx and by
communism is something opposite to materialism, a utopia that has as its
defining meaning a kind of spiritual quality, in the sense that human
beings, and human society, are what is important, rather than capital?
A: See what I said about Marx's dialectic earlier: material -> theory ->
material-theoretic. It's oversimplifying to accuse him of utopianism.
Q: What should be the nature of social transaction, in an ideal world? On
what should it be based? What is the good society?
A: See Robert Wright's non-zero sum argument. Definitely, a good society
should get rid of interest, or at the very least, interest and money should
be controlled by a truly broad-based popular government. The logic of
anti-capitalism follows from that.
Q: Economists who write about causative factors behind the ups and downs,
bubbles, crises, and so forth we have seen and are seeing do not mention -
at least in what I have read - this insistence on the dollar as a profound
strategy by American imperialists (e.g., the bankers). You have a degree in
economics from Cambridge. Did you study this phenomenon as you describe it
A: I did a thesis for my BA/MA on financial intermediaries in Canada from
the Depression to the 1960s. Whatever independence the Canadian government
had with respect to economic policy was lost as US banks took control. Re
the collapse of the dollar, many economists write about the coming demise of
the dollar as world reserve currency. See Stiglitz.
Q: You describe - again, well-sourced and referenced - how American
imperialism not only has condoned but participated or directed drug
A: Shocking but true. But then the Brits promoted opium in China and no one
seems to care much. The evidence is overwhelming throughout the Great Games.
Q: Your assertion about hedge fund attacks on Greece [p 111]. I had not
heard of before. Is this not a big enough story to warrant insisting, if
possible, that major media like the New York Times take a look at this?
A: I quote the Wall Street Journal on this (endnote 37): "Some heavyweight
hedge funds have launched large bearish bets against the euro in moves that
are reminiscent of the trading action at the height of the US financial
crisis. It is impossible to calculate the precise effect of the elite
traders' bearish bets, but they have added to the selling pressure on the
currency - and thus to the pressure on the European Union to stem the Greek
debt crisis." You just have to put the pieces of the puzzle together.
Q: How do you reconcile your defense of Islam with your Marxism?
A: I think I've made my position as a freelance monotheist and someone who
uses Marx but dislikes slots and -isms clear above. Islam is the only
monotheism that firmly rejects imperialism in practice, which is why it is
targeted today and why anti-imperialists must understand and defend it. It
provides a vision of a coherent alternative to imperialism. As for whether
Islam and Marx are compatible, in my conclusion, I point out: "The Judaic
prophets, followed by Jesus and Muhammad, and the nineteenth century secular
prophet of revolution Marx, rejected usury and interest, as representing
ill-gotten gain, with good reason. Marx condemned this mode of extraction of
surplus as the highest form of fetishism, based on private property and
exploitation of labor. They all rejected this exploitation on a moral basis
as unjust, insisting that morality be embedded in the economy, a principle
which was abandoned when capitalism took hold. While Judaism and
Christianity adapted, Islam did not.
"Interest, and today's money based on US military might alone, are the root
cause not only of the current world financial crisis, but, as a corollary to
Rothschild's dictum about money and politics, and Clausewitz's dictum about
politics and war, the primary instrument facilitating (and benefiting from)
the wars in the Middle East and Central Asia, and the world political
So Marx seems to have rediscovered the wheel. Marx is a joy to read, full of
spirit and humanism, very moral.
You can reach Eric at <http://ericwalberg.com/
Postmodern Imperialism: Geopolitics and the Great Games is available at
------------[ Sent via the dehai-wn mailing list by dehai.org]--------------
Received on Thu Nov 10 2011 - 17:50:47 EST