Economic Aspects of "Love"

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Re: Economic Aspects of "Love"

Postby American Dream » Fri Nov 01, 2013 9:07 am

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Re: Economic Aspects of "Love"

Postby American Dream » Wed Nov 06, 2013 9:20 am

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Re: Economic Aspects of "Love"

Postby American Dream » Wed Nov 06, 2013 5:20 pm

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Re: Economic Aspects of "Love"

Postby American Dream » Fri Nov 08, 2013 12:12 pm

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"If you don't stand for something, you will fall for anything."
-Malcolm X
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Re: Economic Aspects of "Love"

Postby American Dream » Thu Nov 14, 2013 12:50 pm

THE ORDER OF PROPER NAMES

the order of proper names is that women had the names of fathers

the order of proper names is that women had the names of husbands

the order of proper names is that women had the names of masters

the order of proper names is that women died “wife”

the order of proper names is how many women and girls die nameless

the order of proper names is the order of the nameless dead

the namelessness of women and girls is the order of proper names

the order of proper names is that they will call you many names

but that they will refuse to call you your own—




URL: http://tmblr.co/ZIuWlu_MDNq8
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Re: Economic Aspects of "Love"

Postby American Dream » Wed Nov 27, 2013 1:28 pm

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Re: Economic Aspects of "Love"

Postby American Dream » Wed Nov 27, 2013 8:22 pm

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Re: Economic Aspects of "Love"

Postby American Dream » Fri Dec 06, 2013 8:23 pm

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Re: Economic Aspects of "Love"

Postby American Dream » Sat Dec 07, 2013 2:26 pm

New video from The Coup feat. Japanther-
"Long Island Iced Tea, Neat"


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Re: Economic Aspects of "Love"

Postby American Dream » Tue Dec 10, 2013 11:34 am

Today, as you see whitewashed images of a post-prison, unarmed, grandfatherly Mandela, please remember that he was someone who had the pride and courage to take up arms against his oppressor. Mandela fought in a guerilla war against white supremacy in South Africa, as did many others all across the world. Our own CIA alerted the SA authorities to Mandela’s location, which is what led to his 27 years behind bars and the medical condition which felled him today. Our government was responsible for that crime, and still holds our own anti-apartheid militants behind bars. So when you see Obama crying his crocodile tears later today remember that he would imprison a modern Mandela, that he arms the apartheid government of Israel, that he refuses to pardon those who fought against the corporations propping up the South African government here in the US, and that he has done everything he can to crush the kind of dissent that Mandela stood for.


http://para-todxs-todo.tumblr.com/post/69121713393
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Re: Economic Aspects of "Love"

Postby American Dream » Wed Dec 11, 2013 4:37 pm

http://angryarab.blogspot.com/2013/12/z ... frica.html

Zionism and Apartheid South Africa; an obscene romance

"But the story of Zionism and boycotts would not end there. Zionism would stay true to its principles of supporting boycotts that promote racial apartheid and denouncing boycotts that oppose racial apartheid to the present. When the United Nations imposed mandatory sanctions against the racist settler-colony of Rhodesia in 1966, Israel supported the sanctions at the UN but in reality never abided by them. Israel would provide arms and helicopters to be used in counterinsurgency by the Rhodesian government against the anti-racist independence movement seeking to overthrow the regime (a tactic, as we saw, which it learned from French colonial forces in Algeria and which it was now imparting to Rhodesian white supremacist colonists). Indeed the Israelis, breaking the international boycott, would provide the racist Rhodesians in the 1970s with a 500-mile separation fence along the border with Mozambique and Zambia. The fall of the Rhodesian settler colony in 1980 and the rise of Zimbabwe did not bode well for the future of Israel.

When the African National Congress (ANC) and progressive allies, who would also be joined by the United Nations, began to call for and effect different forms of boycott against apartheid South Africa beginning in the early1960s, Israel would be a central breaker of the boycott, becoming the apartheid state's major political and economic partner. Indeed Israel's strategic alliance with South Africa would be built in the late 1960s as the boycott campaign against the apartheid regime became more vociferous.

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinio ... 84526.html
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Re: Economic Aspects of "Love"

Postby American Dream » Mon Dec 16, 2013 8:31 am

WHO ENJOYS “TRADITIONAL” MARRIAGE?

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http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/20 ... -marriage/
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Re: Economic Aspects of "Love"

Postby American Dream » Sun Dec 22, 2013 7:55 am

Duck Dynasty is a fake

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Re: Economic Aspects of "Love"

Postby American Dream » Mon Dec 23, 2013 8:22 am

http://slackbastard.anarchobase.com/?p=35317

Jorge Semprun on Marx’s legacy …

In 1937, when the first German prisoners were assembled on the Ettersberg to cut down the beech forest, the system of the corrective labor camps, the Gulag, in other words, the great hurricane of that terrible year, was about to be unleashed on the USSR.

There have been different stages of the terror in the USSR. Certain thresholds were crossed before the terror reached its heights under Stalin. The year 1937 is undoubtedly one of those thresholds.

Shalamov’s book, which I was reading yesterday — I mean, the day before the day that I am now reconstituting through writing, that day in 1969, in London, when I suddenly found myself opposite a building where Karl Marx had once lived, which gave rise to this apparent digression — the chapter in Kolyma Tales that I was reading yesterday, and whose title was ‘How It All Began,’ deals specifically with the threshold crossed in 1937 in the historical world of the terror, in the very history of the Gulag.

‘In the whole of 1937,’ Varlam Shalamov writes, ‘two men, out of an official work force of two to three thousand, one prisoner and one free man, met their death in the Partisan mine (one of the mines in the Kolyma zone). They were buried side by side, under a tumulus. Two vague obelisks — a slightly smaller one for the prisoner — were erected over their graves … In 1938, an entire brigade worked permanently digging graves.’ For the whirlwind struck the Kolyma camps, and the whole of Soviet society, at the end of 1937. On orders from Colonel Garanin, who was eventually shot as a ‘Japanese spy,’ just as his master, Yezhov, who replaced Yagoda (also shot) as head of the NKVD, was eventually to be shot, and replaced by Beria, who, in turn … Colonel Garanin, as I was saying, unleashed over the Dalstroy, the concentration-camp zone of Kolyma, the insane whirlwind of 1937.

On orders from Colonel Garanin, the prisoners in the camps of the Great North were shot in the thousands. They were shot for ‘counter-revolutionary agitation.’ And what exactly does counterrevolutionary agitation consist of in a Gulag camp? Varlam Shalamov tells us: ‘To say aloud that the work was hard, to murmur the most innocent remark about Stalin, to remain silent when the crowd of prisoners bawled out: ‘Long live Stalin!” … shot! Silence is agitation.’ One was shot ‘for committing an outrage against a member of the guard.’ One was shot for ‘refusing to work.’ One was shot ‘for stealing metal.’ But, says, Shalamov, ‘the ultimate offense, the one for which prisoners were shot in waves, was for not meeting the norms. This crime took entire brigades into a common grave. The authorities provided the theoretical basis for this strict regime: throughout the country the five-year plan was broken down into precise figures for every factory, for every work team. At Kolyma, requirements were drawn up for each placer, each barrow, each pick. The five-year plan was law! Not to carry out the plan was a counterrevolutionary crime! Those who failed to carry out the plan were soon got rid of!’

The Plan, then, the tangible proof, it was said, of the superiority of Soviet society, the Plan that made it possible to avoid the crises and anarchy of capitalist production, the Plan, then, an almost mystical notion, responsible not only in civil society, so to speak, but also in that quite uncivil case of a despotism of unremitting labor — because it bound the worker to his place of work, whether this was a factory or a penal colony — the Plan was simultaneously the cause of a refined doubling of terror within the Gulag camps themselves. The Plan was as lethal as Colonel Garanin. In fact, you couldn’t have one without the other.

But, Shalamov tells us, ‘the eternally frozen stone and soil of the merzlota rejects corpses. The rock has to be dynamited, hacked away. Digging graves and digging for gold required the same techniques, the same tools, the same equipment, the same workers. An entire brigade would devote its days to cutting out graves, or rather ditches, where the anonymous corpses would be thrown fraternally together … The corpses were piled up, completely stripped, after their gold teeth had been broken off and recorded on the burial document. Bodies and stone, mixed together, were poured into the ditch, but the earth refused the dead, incorruptible and condemned to eternity in the perpetually frozen earth of the Great North …’

Yesterday, when I read those lines — that is, not yesterday, but the day before that spring ten years ago in London — when I read those lines yesterday, that image burned itself into my eyes: the image of those thousands of stripped corpses, intact, trapped in the ice of eternity in the mass graves of the Great North. Graves that were the construction sites of the new man, let us not forget!

In Moscow, at the Mausoleum at Red Square, incredible, credulous crowds continue to file past the incorruptible corpse of Lenin. I even visited the mausoleum myself once, in 1958. At that time, Stalin’s mummy kept Vladimir Ilyich company. Two years before, during a secret session of the Twentieth Congress of the Soviet Party, Nikita Sergeevich Khrushchev set fire to the idol, which, like all his peers, he had worshipped and venerated. And in 1960, in Bucharest, Khrushchev suggested to Peng Chen that Stalin’s bloody mummy be taken to China. It was finally removed from the mausoleum after the Twenty-second Congress of the Soviet Party. But in the summer of 1958, Stalin was still in his red marble tomb beside Lenin. I can testify to that. I saw them both. At peace, intact, incorruptible: all they lacked was the power of speech. But, fortunately, they did not have the power of speech. They just lay there, the two of them, silent, lit up like fish in an aquarium, protected by members of the Guards, standing motionless like bronze statues.

Ten years later, in London, after reading that passage in Varlam Shalamov’s book, I remembered the tomb in Red Square. It occurred to me that the true mausoleum of the revolution was to be found in the Great North, in Kolyma. Galleries might be dug through the charnel houses — the construction sites — of socialism. People would file past the thousands of naked, incorruptible corpses of prisoners frozen in the ice of eternal death. There would be no guards; those dead would not need guards. There would be no music, either, no solemn funeral marches playing in the background. There would be nothing but silence. At the end of the labyrinth of galleries, in a subterranean amphitheater dug out of the ice of a common ditch, surrounded on all sides by the blind gazes of the victims, learned meetings might be organized to discuss the consequences of the ‘Stalinist deviation,’ with a representative sprinkling of distinguished Western Marxists in attendance.

And yet the Russian camps are not Marxist, in the sense that the German camps were Nazi. There is a historical immediacy, a total transparency between Nazi theory and its repressive practice. Indeed, Hitler seized power through ideological mobilization of the masses and thanks to universal suffrage, in the name of a theory about which no one could be in any doubt. He himself put his ideas into practice, reconstructing German reality in accordance with them. The situation of Karl Marx, vis-à-vis the history of the twentieth century, even that made in his name, is radically different. That is obvious enough. In fact, a large segment of the opponents of the Bolsheviks, at the time of the October Revolution, claimed allegiance to Marx no less than did the Bolsheviks themselves: it was in the name of Marxism that not only the Mensheviks, but also the theoreticians of the German ultra-left criticized the authoritarianism and terror, the ideological monolithism and social inequality that spread over the USSR after the October victory.

The Russian camps are not, therefore, in an immediate, unequivocal way, Marxist camps. Nor are they simply Stalinist. They are Bolshevik camps. The Gulag is the direct, unequivocal product of Bolshevism.

However, one can go on a little further and locate in Marxist theory the crack through which the barbaric excesses of Correct Thought — which produces the corrective-labor camps — were to flood, the madness of the One, the lethal, frozen dialectic of the Great Helmsmen.

On March 5, 1852, Karl Marx wrote to Joseph Weydemeyer, who published in New YorkDie Revolution, a periodical of uncertain frequency, because of financial difficulties, like most of the socialist journals of the time. It was for Weydemeyer’s journal that Marx was finishing, in those rainy days at the end of the London winter, his articles on the Eighteenth Brumaire, which were to appear in an issue of Die Revolution under the title slightly altered by Weydemeyer — Der 18te Brumaire des Louis Napoleon, instead of Bonaparte — published at the Deutsche Vereins-Buchhandlung von Schmidt und Helmich, at 191 William Street.

So, on that March day in 1852, Karl Marx was writing to Weydemeyer. Two days before, he had received five pounds sent him by Frederick Engels, from Manchester. The Marx family must have eaten more or less their fill that week, after paying off their most pressing debts to the grocer and doctor. Now Karl Marx glanced out of the window of his flat. He looked absent-mindedly over at the narrow doorway of the building across the street. He saw nothing of particular interest. Indeed, there wasn’t anything of particular interest at that time: the film company had not yet moved in. He went down to sit at his desk. In his almost indecipherable writing, he wrote the date at the top right-hand corner of the sheet of paper. Under the date, he added his address, 28 Dean Street, Soho, London.

It was in this letter to Joseph Weydemeyer that Marx explained his own contribution to the theory of classes and of the class struggle. After admitting that bourgeois historians had already described the historical development of this class struggle, and bourgeois economists the economic anatomy of classes, Marx went on to explain what was new in his contribution: was ich neu tat. ‘What I did that was new was to prove: 1) that the existence of classes is only bound up with particular historical phases in the development of production, 2) that the class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat, 3) that this dictatorship itself only constitutes the transition to the abolition of all classes and to a classless society.’

This is an extremely well-known passage, one that has been interpreted this way and that, which generations of learned commentators have dissected, which brilliant polemicists have thrown in one another’s faces for over a century. And yet one can still come back to it. It still provides matter for reflection. One can still find something new in it: etwas Neues.

What, then, is the contribution that Marx declares he has made in this theory, at the concrete level of history and of the class struggles that make history? It is to have shown (or demonstrated: Marx uses the verb nachweisen, which may be interpreted in both senses; but in both senses it is used wrongly by Marx, who never showed or demonstrated what he advanced, as we shall see) a certain number of points.

Let us leave to one side the first, that concerning the historicity of the very existence of classes. This question belongs to a philosophy of history with which I am not concerned for the moment. The idea that mankind, in order to pass from a classless society, to that of primitive Communism, to another society of the same kind, but in a developed form, swimming in the butter of abundance, is destined to go through a long historical purgatory of ruthless, indecisive class struggles — always producing, moreover, real effects different from those that Marxist theoreticians, beginning in this case with Marx himself, had foreseen — such an idea leaves me completely cold. It no longer excites anybody, the idea that there was once, and that therefore there will be again, in the depths of history, ideal idyllic societies, communities without states. I am well aware that to set this idea, expressed concisely enough in Marx’s first point, to one side is somewhat arbitrary. I am well aware that the sub-Hegelian philosophy of history that underlies the idea contained in Marx’s first point also underlies the other two points. But one may, nevertheless, for purely methodological reasons, exclude this first point from our present analysis, temporarily bracket it out.

Whatever one may think, therefore, of the question of the historicity, of the relativity of classes, it is easy to see that the next two points listed by Marx do not belong to historical science — if science it be — but to prediction. Or even to prophetic teaching. That the class struggle should necessarily lead to the dictatorship of the proletariat is no more than a hypothesis, perhaps a pious wish. But neither the hypothesis nor the pious wish has been verified or fulfilled anywhere by real history. The dictatorship of the proletariat, in the Marxist sense, has never existed anywhere. A century after Marx’s letter to Weydemeyer, it still hasn’t come about.

At this point, of course, I can hear the indignant cries from the distinguished Marxists at the back of the hall. (There are only two or three fools in the whole world who haven’t realized that when one writes, one always puts oneself on public display, whether one likes it or not. And if one is putting oneself on public display, one can imagine the hall in which it takes place.)

The Marxists all squawk at once.

‘What about the Paris Commune?’ someone yells out. I was waiting for that one. In a tone suggesting that nothing more is to be said on that matter, someone quotes Frederick Engels: ‘Well, gentlemen, do you want to know what a dictatorship is like? Look at the Paris Commune. That was the dictatorship of the proletariat.’ Well, gentlemen, look at the Paris Commune, but look at it carefully. You will see some very fascinating, very instructive things, but you will never see the dictatorship of the proletariat. Forget Engels and the high-flown words with which, twenty years after the events, he ends his introduction to Marx’s The Class Struggles in France, forget Engels’s literary fabulations, come back to the harsh truths of history, and you will not find the dictatorship of the proletariat. Read the writings of the period, beginning, of course, with the contemporary accounts of the sessions of the Commune itself, and you will see that the attempted coup of the Paris Communards, at once grandiose and pitiful, heroic and petty, seeped in a just vision of society and shot through with the most confused ideologies, has got nothing to do with the dictatorship of proletariat.

But I am not allowed to continue my demonstration (Nachweisung, Marx would say: yet I have the advantage over him of speaking with my back to history, of trying to explain it; I have no need to fantasize, and can therefore demonstrate, or show, what history has demonstrated). I am interrupted: voices rise up on all sides.

Very well, I shall continue at another time, perhaps in another place. But above the din of Marxist voices, I shall say just a few words, even if I have to raise my voice, on Marx’s third point, namely, that the dictatorship of the proletariat is a mere transition — a state that would be already an antistate — toward a classless society, toward the suppression of all classes.

Here, too, we are confronted with a mere postulate: a petitio principii. Real history has demonstrated — nachgewiesen — quite the contrary. It has shown the continual, implacable reinforcement of the state, the brutal exacerbation of the struggle between the classes, which not only have not been suppressed, but, on the contrary, have crystallized still further in their polarization. Beside the veritable civil war unleashed against the peasantry in the USSR in the early 1930’s, the class struggles in the West are gala dinners. Compared with the stratification of social privileges in the USSR — functional privileges, certainly, bound up with the status and not, or not necessarily, with the individual — real social inequality, that is to say, relative to the national product and to its distribution, is in the West nothing but a fairy tale.

In brief, what Marx claims is new in his contribution to the theory of classes and of the struggle between them has nothing theoretical about it, nothing that throws light on reality and enables one to act on it. It is no more than prediction, wishful thinking, an expression that must have been used quite often at 28 Dean Street.

And it is here, on this precise point of the Marxist theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat as an inevitable transition towards classless society, that the lethal madness of Bolshevism took root and nourished the terror. It was in accordance with these few points dryly listed by Marx one day in 1852 — listed, moreover, as if they were self-evident — that all the Great Helmsmen have begun to think — and, worse still, to dream at night — as if inside the heads of the proletarians. It was in the name of this historic mission of the proletariat that they have been crushed, deported, dispersed, through labor — free or forced, but always corrective — millions of proletarians.

An idea underlies these points — these theoretical novelties — which Marx pedantically enumerates: the idea of the existence of a universal class that will be the dissolution of all classes; a class that cannot be emancipated without emancipati[ng] itself from all other classes of society and without, consequently, emancipating them all. One might have recognized the trembling voice of the young Marx announcing, in 1843, in an essay that he wrote, not on Dean Street, but on the Rue Vaneau in Paris, ‘Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right: Introduction’; the epiphany of the proletariat. But this universal class does not exist. The lesson of the hundred years that separate us from Marx is, if nothing else, that the modern proletariat is not this class. To continue to maintain this theoretical fiction has enormous practical consequences, for it paves the way for the parties of the proletariat, the leaders of the proletariat, the corrective labor camps of the proletariat: that is to say, it paves the way for those who, in the silence of the gagged proletariat, speak in its name, in the name of its supposed universal mission, and speak loud and clear (to say the least!).

So the first task of the new revolutionary party that would not speak in the name of the proletariat, but would regard itself only as a temporary structure, constantly disintegrating and being reconstructed, as a focus of receptivity and awareness which would give organic weight, material strength, to the voice of the proletariat — its first task would be that of re-establishing the theoretical truth, with all the consequences that this involves, about the nonexistence of a universal class.

But this blind spot in Marx’s theory, through which it is linked to the aberrational realities of the twentieth century, is also its blinding spot: the focal point at which the entire grandiose illusion of the revolution shines. Without this false notion of a universal class, Marxism would not have become the material force that it has been, that it still partly is, profoundly transforming the world, if only to make it even more intolerable. Without this blinding, we would not have become Marxists. We would not have become Marxists simply to demonstrate the mechanisms of the production of surplus value, or to reveal the fetishisms of mercantile society, an area in which Marxism is irreplaceable. We would have become teachers. It was the deep-seated madness of Marxism, conceived as a theory for universal revolutionary practice, that gave meaning to our lives. To mine, in any case. As a result, there is no longer any meaning in my life. I live without meaning.

But this is no doubt normal enough. In any case, isn’t it dialectical?



Jorge Semprun, What A Beautiful Sunday!, Translated from the French by Alan Sheridan, Abacus, London, 1984. Originally published in French under the title Quel beau dimanche! in 1980 by Editions Grasset et Fasquelle.
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Re: Economic Aspects of "Love"

Postby American Dream » Thu Dec 26, 2013 9:36 am

Who Ain't a Slave?

Historical fact and the fiction of 'Benito Cereno'

December 25, 2013

By Greg Grandin
Source: The Chronicle of Higher Education



On a late February day in 1805 in the South Pacific, Amasa Delano, master of the Perseverance, a sealer out of Boston, boarded a distressed Spanish ship carrying about 70 West African men, women, and children. Delano spent about nine hours on the vessel, called the Tryal. He talked with its sailors, who were few in number, doled out water to its black-skinned men and women, and took charge of organizing repairs. And all that time, he couldn't see that it was the West Africans, whom he thought were slaves, and not the Spaniard who introduced himself as captain, who were in command.

Nearly two months earlier, the West Africans, who had been loaded at Valparaiso, Chile, bound to be sold in Lima, rose up, executing most of the Tryal's crew and passengers, along with the slave trader who was taking them to Peru. Led by an elderly man named Babo and his son Mori, the rebels ordered Benito Cerreño, the ship's owner and captain, to sail them to Senegal.

Cerreño stalled, cruising first north and then south, before running into the Perseverance. The rebels began to ready their weapons for a fight. But then Babo had an idea.

The West Africans let Delano come on board and acted as if they were still slaves. Mori stayed at Cerreño's side and feigned at being a humble and devoted servant. Cerreño pretended he was still in charge, telling Delano stories about storms, doldrums, and fevers to account for the state of his ship and the absence of any officer aside from himself.

The alabaster-skinned Delano later wrote that he found himself surrounded by scores of Africans and a handful of Spanish and mulatto sailors telling their "stories" and sharing their "grievances" in a babel of languages. They spoke in Wolof, Mandinka, Fulani, and Spanish, a rush of words indecipherable in its details but soothing to Delano in its generalities, convincing the New Englander that the desperation he was witnessing was real, that he wasn't being lured into a pirate's trap.

Over the years, this remarkable affair—in effect, a one-act, nine-hour, full-cast pantomime of the master-slave relation performed by a group of desperate, starving, and thirsty men and women—has inspired writers, poets, and novelists. The Chilean poet Pablo Neruda thought the boldness of the slaves reflected the dissent of the 1960s. More recently the Uruguayan Tomás de Mattos's Chinese box of a novel, La fragata de las máscaras, uses the deception as a metaphor for a world where reality isn't hidden behind a mask but is the mask itself.

But by far the most haunting rendition of the events on the Tryal is Herman Melville's Benito Cereno, first published in 1855. Melville left no letters or diaries, at least none yet found, that reveal his thoughts upon reading Delano's memoir, or what had moved him to fictionalize Delano's experience on board the rebel-held ship. But by the 1850s, Melville had become preoccupied with the sham of modern life, with the difficulty of distinguishing surface appearance from substance. So it isn't hard to imagine what attracted him to the incident, and particularly to the duped Delano.

Delano, an experienced mariner in the middle of his third voyage around the world and a distant ancestor of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, didn't know what to make of Cerreño. He remained uneasy around his Spanish counterpart, even after he had convinced himself that the man wasn't a brigand. Delano mistook Cerreño's trauma—the effect of hunger and thirst and of having lived for almost two months under a death threat, after having witnessed most of his crew's execution—for disdain, as if the aristocratic-looking Spaniard, dressed in a velvet jacket and loosely fitting black pants, thought himself too good to converse with a pea-coated New Englander.

The West Africans, especially the women, also made Delano uncomfortable, though he couldn't say why. There were nearly 30 females on board, among them older women, young girls, and about nine mothers with suckling infants. Shortly after Delano's arrival, the women took their babies and gathered in the stern, where they began to sing a tune Delano didn't recognize. Nor did he understand the words, though the song had the opposite effect on him than did the soothing mix of languages that had welcomed his arrival. It sounded like a slow dirge to death.

Then there was Cerreño's servant, Mori, who never left his master's side. When the two captains went below deck, Mori followed. When Delano asked Cerreño to send away the slave so they could have a word alone, the Spaniard refused. The West African was his "confidant" and "companion," he insisted, and Delano could speak freely in front of him. Mori was, Cerreño said, "captain of the slaves."

At first, Delano was amused by the attentiveness Mori paid to his master's needs. He started, though, to resent him, vaguely blaming the black man for the unease he felt toward Cerreño. Delano became fixated on the slave. Mori, he later wrote, "excited my wonder." Other West Africans, including Mori's father, Babo, were also always around, "always listening." They seemed to anticipate Delano's thoughts, hovering around him like a school of pilot fish, moving him first this way, then that. "They all looked up to me as a benefactor," Delano said in his memoir, A Narrative of Voyages and Travels, published in 1817 and still, 12 years after the fact, confusing how he thought the rebels saw him that day with how they actually did see him. "I was deceived in them," he wrote.

The day's events have the triangular symmetry of a play and the historical and psychological depth of a Greek epic. Homer's Odyssey is not about slavery, but it tells of a character, Odysseus, who many scholars think represents the first "modern self," because he has not only an inner life but the cunning to manipulate that life to create a schism between what is seen on the outside and what exists on the inside. "I am nobody," Odysseus says, playing with the subtleties of language to gull the Cyclops, and that's exactly what Mori, Babo, and the rest of the slave-rebel troupe try to do to escape Delano­—to act as if they were inconsequential slaves, nobodies hardly worth noticing.

Aside from its sheer audacity, what is most fascinating about the ruse is how it exposed a larger falsehood, on which the whole ideological edifice of slavery rested: the idea that slaves were loyal and simple-minded people who had no independent lives or thoughts or, if they did have an interior self, that it too was subject to their masters' jurisdiction, that it too was property. What you saw on the outside was what was on the inside. The West Africans used talents their masters said they didn't have (reason and discipline) to give the lie to the stereotypes of what they were said to be (dimwitted and faithful).

And they did so under extreme conditions. They were exhausted and dying. Over the course of two years, the West Africans, many of whom, including the revolt's leaders, were Muslim, had traced their journey across half the world by keeping track of the Islamic lunar calendar. They were brought first into Montevideo and Buenos Aires, force-marched across the South American continent, over the hypnotically flat pampas and then up the Andes, around the highest mountain in the Americas, into Chile, where, in Valparaiso, they were put on the Tryal. After nearly two months sailing the Pacific, the rush of power that came from their uprising had fallen away into desperation as food and water ran out. Two women and their two infant children had died by the time Delano came on board. It required enormous self-control to resist the temptation to either fight or surrender, to do anything needed for water and food. But they did.

It was only late in the afternoon, around 4 o'clock, that Mori, feeling a flush of pride for having pulled off the ruse, stepped out of character and the plot unraveled. Delano, realizing the depths of his delusion, then readied his men to unleash a God-awful violence—a violence that betrayed his own republican principles. The rebellion was put down, some of the slaves killed, and the Tryal was eventually returned to Cerreño's command.

A number of years ago, when I first told my editor that I wanted to write a book about this event, she asked me how I planned to distinguish historical fact from Melville's fiction.

Benito Cereno is one of the bleakest pieces of writing in American literature. Published in installments in late 1855, midway between the commercial and critical failure of Moby-Dick and the start of the Civil War, the novella reads like a devil's edition of Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, which had appeared a few years earlier. Where Stowe made her case for abolition by presenting Southern slaves as Christlike innocents and martyrs, Melville's West Africans are ruthless and deceitful. They act like Toms—but they are really Nat Turners.

"Who aint a slave?" Melville had Ishmael ask in 1851's Moby-Dick. There's joy in the question, as well as in the implied answer—no one—an acceptance of the fact that humans, by sheer dint of being human, are bound to one another. Four years closer to the Civil War, Melville might have had that question in mind again when he wrote Benito Cereno. The answer would have been the same, yet the implications grimmer. There were no free people on board the Tryal (named San Dominick in the novella). Obviously not Cereno, held hostage by the West Africans. Not Babo and the rest of the rebels, forced to mimic their own enslavement and humiliation. And not Amasa Delano, locked in the soft cell of his own blindness.

Most of Benito Cereno takes place in the fictional Delano's mind. Page after page is devoted to his reveries, and readers experience the day on board the ship—which was filled with odd rituals, cryptic comments, peculiar symbols—as he experiences it. Melville keeps secret, just as it was kept secret from Delano, the fact that the slaves are running things. And like the real Delano, Melville's version is transfixed by the Spanish captain's relationship to his black slave.

In the story, the historical Babo and Mori are combined into a single character called Babo, who gently tends to the broken Spanish captain, wiping spittle from his mouth and nestling him in his black arms when he seems to faint. "As master and man stood before him, the black upholding the white," Melville writes, "Captain Delano could not but bethink him of the beauty of that relationship which could present such a spectacle of fidelity on the one hand and confidence on the other." What Melville is doing here is taking Hegel's famous master-slave allegory—a dyad of interdependence—and adding a witness to make it a trio. But the witness is too dense to understand what he is witnessing.

Benito Cereno exerts a powerful pull on the imagination, which is what prompted my editor's question. She thought it would be hard for me to escape its thrall. I don't remember exactly how I responded, but I'm sure I brushed off the concern, thinking that the real-life affair deserved its own telling and that it wouldn't really be that difficult to do so with the integrity it deserved, to distinguish fiction from fact.

I was right, up to a point.

Benito Cereno is psychologically stifling. Crammed onto the deck of a middling-size schooner, the novella conveys a claustrophobia specific to the place and time it was written: a country sealed off inside its own prejudices, as it lurched toward war. In contrast, I wanted to write a book that would reveal a larger panorama, a history global in scope and far-reaching in moral meaning, spilling beyond national and imperial borders, over four continents and two oceans.

That Babo, Mori, and some of the rest of their companions were Muslim (a fact that played a large role in their revolt and deception) meant that three of the world's great monotheistic religions—Cerreño's Roman Catholicism, Delano's liberal Protestantism, and the West Africans' Islam—confronted one another on the slave ship.

The story of the Tryal also unfolds not in the shadow of an internecine fratricidal war, but on the crest of an international revolution: the Age of Liberty, just after Haiti declared itself independent, at the moment the expansion of market capitalism and the spread of wage labor were redefining what it meant to be a slave and what it meant to be free.

Babo, Mori, and the rest of the West African companions arrived at the height of what the Spaniards, not mincing any words, called "free trade in blacks"—the unraveling, starting in the 1770s, of the tight mercantile regulations that for centuries had restricted the slave trade. More slaves came into Montevideo and Buenos Aires in 1804, the year the Tryal rebels arrived, than in any previous year, part of an army of forced laborers who were driving forth a market revolution that would soon transform the relationship of the American colonies to Spain (and, in the case of Brazil, to Portugal).

In recent years, historians like Walter Johnson, in River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom (Harvard University Press, 2013), and Adam Rothman, in Slave Country: American Expansion and the Origins of the Deep South (Harvard, 2005), have focused on the tight, reinforcing links among slavery, territorial expansion, and capitalism that were forged in the United States after 1812. Tracing the harrowing journey of the Tryal rebels to the South Pacific broadens the picture, revealing the explosion of chattel slavery in Louisiana, the Mississippi Delta, and Texas as but the last phase of a much longer, trans-American history.

In South America, starting in the 1770s, the driving of more and more humans inland across the continent, the opening up of new slave roads and the expansion of old ones, tied hinterland markets together and created local circuits of finance and trade. Enslaved peoples were at one and the same time investments (purchased and then rented out as laborers), credit and collateral (used to secure loans), property, commodities, consumer power (many were paid wages), and capital, making them an odd mix of abstract and concrete value in Spanish America's new market economy.

"Free trade in blacks" created the wealth that, within two decades of the Tryal episode, would make independence from Spain possible. Writing in the 1970s, Yale University's Edmund S. Morgan was one of the first modern historians to fully explore what he called the "central paradox" of the Age of Liberty: It was also the Age of Slavery. Morgan was looking specifically at colonial Virginia, but the paradox can be applied to all of the Americas, North and South, the Atlantic to the Pacific, as the history leading up to and including events on the Tryal demonstrates. What was true for Richmond was no less so for Buenos Aires and Lima—American freedom depended on and was defined by American slavery.

It might seem an abstraction to say that the Age of Liberty was also the Age of Slavery. But consider these figures taken from the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database: Of the known 10,148,288 Africans put on slave ships bound for the Americas from 1514 to 1866 (of a total historians estimate to be at least 12,500,000), more than half, 5,131,385, embarked after July 4, 1776.

It turned out the book I wound up writing was, in terms of its scope and sprawl, more Melvillean than Melville's hermetic fiction. I would have been content to let this irony speak for itself. Except that I couldn't. There was something fundamentally false, and at the same time fundamentally true, about Melville's portrayal of Amasa Delano, and the contradiction was hard to ignore.

Melville paints Delano as a man of "singularly undistrustful good nature," a "blunt-thinking American," suggesting that he saw the world only in black and white, incapable of grasping the gray nuance between. In the face of danger, he is blithe. Confronting darkness, he is lost in his own cheery thoughts. Andrew Delbanco, a professor of American studies, describes him as "a character whom we recognize as an ancestor of those callow Americans who walk through the novels of Henry James mistaking malice for charm, botching uncomprehended situations with the unintended consequences of their good intentions."

It's a commanding portrait, one of the first of many such innocents abroad that, over the years, has allowed scholars to marshal too easy a description of America's shortcomings. During the cold war, literary critics read Delano's "innocence," represented in his inability to recognize Babo as an "existential" evil, as a metaphor for an America that only reluctantly assumed its position of responsibility in the world. More recently, after September 11, 2001, the political scientist Benjamin R. Barber, hoping to revive a tough-minded liberalism to fight terror abroad and hold back reckless neoconservatism at home, has identified Melville's Delano as "oblivious not only to the hoary corruptions of foreign lands staggering under the burdens of despotic histories but to the evils residing within America's own heart."

The real Delano is significantly more complicated. His life encapsulated not the exhaustion of the American Revolution, as Melville experienced it in the 1850s, but the revolution's openness and sense of possibility. Delano was a new American man, part of a generation that had shed Calvinist gloom to embrace an unprecedented religious and secular optimism, an insurgent belief that the natural condition of man was freedom.

On the day he encountered the Tryal, Delano was in the Pacific hunting seals. Except there were no seals left to hunt. He found himself on the downside of one of the most sizable booms and busts in economic history. In a remarkably short period of time, starting in the 1790s, seals were clubbed to near extinction on one island after another. The moral of his story—not just the incident of the Tryal, but the whole arc of his tragic life, filled as it was with other deceptions and deceits—is not found in any supposed excess of virtue or innocence but rather in the everyday pressures he faced trying to control labor and manage diminishing natural resources in the early days of America's ever-­expanding frontier.

Still, Melville does get something uncannily right in his rendering of Delano, capturing a new, insidious kind of republican racism: In the United States, at least, one response to the challenge that slavery posed to the American promise of self-creation was to make a fetish out of the ideal of freedom, to measure that ideal not in the degree of dependencies and enthrallments all humans find themselves in by dint of being human, but in opposition to history's most brutal expression of bondage.

In other words, the slave-powered market revolution—the "free trade in blacks"—that spread across the Americas starting in the 1770s, solidified both the ideal of the free man and its contrary, the slave, on which that ideal was honed. Melville's Delano believes himself a free man, answerable to his own personal conscience, in control of his inner passions, liberated to pursue self-interests, a belief that can exist only in relation to his imagined opposite: Babo, the servant-slave.

This, finally, is how I reconciled, or at least tried to, fiction and fact: Melville's tale describes the deep structures of a racism that were born in chattel slavery but that didn't die with it, a racism that, in the United States at least, was grafted on to, while at the same time disguised by, a potent kind of individualism, a cult of individual supremacy, based not only on the fantasy that some men were born natural slaves but that others could be absolutely free.

A feeling of dread permeates Benito Cereno that the fantasy won't end, that after abolition, if abolition ever came, it would adapt itself to new circumstances, becoming even more elusive, even more entrenched in human affairs. It is that foresight that makes the story, compared, say, with Uncle Tom's Cabin, so enduring a work of art.

The events that inspired Melville, not just the ruse but the broader history that led all involved, both the deceived and the deceivers, to the Pacific, reveal the extent of the fantasy, the ways in which "free trade in blacks" served as a force multiplier. It took slavery's original deception and insinuated it into every aspect of New World life and thought.


Greg Grandin is a professor of history at New York University. His latest book, The Empire of Necessity: Slavery, Freedom, and Deception in the New World, will be published next month by Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt.


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