Dr. Frederick B. Mills: “The US seeks to rehabilitate the Monroe Doctrine and thereby Impose the neoliberal regime throughout the region as well as counter growing Chinese and Russian influence.”
Dr. Frederick B. Mills. DR.
Mohsen Abdelmoumen: Can you explain to our readers what the concept of philosophy of liberation is?
Dr. Frederick B. Mills: The philosophy of liberation movement, which has its origins in the late 1960’s in Latin America and the Caribbean, emerged through a critical examination of the influence of Western philosophy on Latin American philosophy and science. This was felt, by its forerunners, who were asking whether there was a particularly Latin American philosophy, to be a necessary step in advancing a liberatory philosophical project. Such a critique involves exposing the myth of modernity. This myth is a Eurocentric worldview deployed during the conquest and colonization of Amerindia to justify the subjugation of Africans and the Original peoples of the Americas. It is still important to study this worldview today, as the myth of modernity has not come to an end in post-modernity but perseveres in the form of imperial exceptionalism, white supremacy, and various post colonial methods of domination. Why, after 500 years, does the myth persist even in the Global South? We cannot blame the corporate media and the culture industry even as it faithfully reproduces the hegemonic perspective. We have plenty of access to alternative media and cultures of resistance. As Frantz Fanon and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o point out, sometimes the oppressed internalize the worldview of the oppressor. So the critique of modernity involves not only a study of Western philosophy, but also, in a sense, a radical self reflection. For a philosophy of liberation, this decolonization of the mind– and this is also a task for progressives in the Global North– is an indispensible condition for revalorizing suppressed traditions and engaging in a liberatory project alongside the victims of the prevailing system.
You wrote your book « Enrique Dussel’s Ethics of Liberation« . In your opinion, to better understand the philosophy of liberation is there not a need to study Enrique Dussel?
My aim in writing this book was to introduce English speaking readers to an ethical perspective that defends human life and the earth’s biosphere and advances the project of building a more just world. Enrique Dussel is a co-founder and the most prominent voice in the philosophy of liberation movement.
Yes, there is need to study Dussel now and to translate more of his work into other languages. The English version of his magnum opus, written in 1998, was published in 2013: The Ethics of Liberation in the Age of Globalization and Exclusion. This book presents the three key ethical principles in detail. Very briefly, the first principle is that we ought to promote the growth of all human life in community. The second principle is that we ought to realize the first principle using democratic procedures in which all those impacted by deliberations have an equal voice. And third, whatever we decide democratically to advance human life ought to be feasible. These three principles mutually inform each other and no one principle taken alone is adequate to an ethical project, whether that project be in the political, economic, social, or any other practical field.
There are some other important works available in English, such as Twenty Theses on Politics; The Invention of the Americas: Eclipse of “the Other” and the Myth of Modernity; and the early, but very important, Philosophy of Liberation.
You are a connoisseur of the situation that prevails in Venezuela. What do you think is really happening in Venezuela?
Context is important. Ever since Hugo Chavez was elected president in December 1998 there has been a hard line element of the opposition that has wanted to terminate the Bolivarian revolution by any means necessary. Chavez ran on a platform, the “Bolivarian Alternative,” that had three pillars: regional independence; building an alternative to the neoliberal regime; and paying the social debt. The three pillars are inter-related, but I can only touch on one here. For Chavez, regional independence required both the promotion of a multipolar world as well as building institutions for Latin American and Caribbean integration. It is in a multipolar world and by means of a unified regional bloc of nations that the sovereignty of any one nation is fortified against domination by any one power or power bloc. The successful implementation of this view put the Bolivarian cause at odds with the US-NATO alliance which sought and still seeks to push back Chinese and Russian influence and re-impose its hegemony throughout the region. The attack on Chavismo has been relentless. Chavez survived a short lived coup, an oil strike, a recall referendum, and Maduro has weathered coup attempts, US backed efforts to isolate the government in the OAS, street violence, an economic war, and most recently an assassination attempt. Much of the finger pointing against the Bolivarian government in the corporate press pertains to the economic crisis there. The problem, however, has not been a failure of socialism; the problem has been a failure of speculative capitalism. With the fall in oil prices starting around late 2012, weaknesses in the economy that had not been so pronounced under Chavez came to the fore quite rapidly.
Briefly, the crisis is due to both internal mismanagement of the economy and a US backed economic war being imposed on this South American country. With regard to internal causes, there has been a broken currency exchange system, price gouging, diversion of subsidized goods to the illegal market and even to other countries, and corruption in both the private and public sectors. The economic crisis has been severely exacerbated by US sanctions aimed at “making the economy scream” as part of a strategy to bring down the government.
In the May 20 election, which was boycotted by a majority within the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) opposition, Maduro won 68% of the vote. Despite criticism of the government and growing discontent with the economic hardships, there was an expectation among the base who turned out to vote for Maduro that he would finally take some decisive action on the economic front. One important measure taken just a week ago was to introduce a new currency—the Bolivar Soberano– pegged to the Petro, a crypto currency which in turn is valued at the price of a barrel of oil. This measure, in combination with a raise in the minimum wage and a new price schedule for basic consumer goods, requires popular support and a sustained effort to prevent a new cycle of price gouging, hoarding, inflation, and contraband. There are other measures that have also been put in place which deal with currency exchange reform and the curtailment of the smuggling of Venezuelan gasoline into Colombia. But this would require a lot more detail. In any case, the fate of the Bolivarian cause in Venezuela depends on attaining a significant measure of success in the coming weeks and months on this crucial economic front.
Do you have any information on the recent assassination attempt on President Maduro?
The assassination attempt was aimed not only at President Maduro, but also leaders of the major institutions of the state, by means of bombs (made of c-4 explosives) delivered by drones. Seven people were wounded. The government reports that an additional plot to kill major Chavista leaders in different parts of the country was uncovered just days later. These conspiracies were likely part of a plan to provoke chaos in order to pave the way for a “transitional” right wing government based in Bogota and Miami to swear in a new interim president and then call for an outside “coalition of the wiling”, under cover of a “humanitarian intervention”, to solidify its hold on power. This is, of course, speculation, but the fact of the assassination attempt is well documented, the existence of a transitional government in the wings is well publicized, some of the alleged material perpetrators of the assassination attempt have been arrested, and the government has issued international warrants for alleged collaborators who presently reside outside the country.
Is the United States continuing its old method of destabilizing and taking putsch against progressive governments in Latin America, as we saw with Dilma Rousseff in Brazil?
The US seeks to rehabilitate the Monroe Doctrine and thereby impose the neoliberal regime throughout the region as well as counter growing Chinese and Russian influence. For this reason, the ALBA countries, which have been part of the pink wave of progressive governments, are all targets for regime change. Democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya was overthrown in a coup in June 2009 and the Obama administration backed the golpista regime that followed. Dilma Rousseff was deposed in what was arguably a parliamentary coup in 2016. And today, as one can hear in the rhetoric of right wing US policy makers, Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Bolivia are on the undesirable list. We may soon see some renewed meddling in the upcoming elections in El Salvador because, contrary to Washington’s aims, the FMLN administration of President Sanchez Ceren has supported the governments of Nicaragua and Venezuela in crucial votes in the OAS, and just this last week El Salvador established diplomatic relations with China after breaking official ties with Taiwan. So as we can see, in some cases, soft power can succeed in bringing down a government. When soft power fails to accomplish the objective, as it has in Venezuela, we still see the explicit threats of military intervention. As Camacaro and I have argued, the use of this option against Venezuela could plunge the region into years of civil conflict. It is not a good option for any country, including the United States.
What is the precise role of the CIA linked to far-right groups in attacks on the legitimate governments of the Latin American left?
I do not know the present role of the CIA in Latin America. Wikileaks has been a source for information on the use of soft power, such as the deployment of USAID and NED funds to promote partisan political views that end up contesting the democratic legitimacy of governments that do not support US policy in the region. This has been of growing concern among the Latin American left.
The media at the service of big capital and US hegemony are they not guilty of lies by manipulating information about Venezuela, Cuba and all the progressive governments of Latin America?
To take just one case study, a recent report by FAIR documents how the corporate press uses the term regime for governments that are out of favor with the White House in order to call into question their democratic legitimacy. And we have seen the one sided presentation of events in Venezuela, Nicaragua, and to some extent Bolivia and Cuba. The corporate press often reproduces the official view when the job of the press is to take a more skeptical approach to the dominant narrative news. But really, we cannot generalize. Some journalists in corporate media do have the courage to break the mold. We have seen this recently, for example, in reporting on Yemen and Myanmar.
You recently signed an article with William Camacaro that explains a more than suspicious movement of senior U.S. administration officials like Mattis, Pompey, Haley in Latin America. Do you think the United States will intervene militarily against Venezuela?
I hope not, but we now know that President Trump has contemplated an invasion of Venezuela, the White House keeps the military option on the table, and Southern Command is preparing for such a contingency in military exercises alongside its regional allies. As Camacaro and I argued in the article you mention, any invading forces would likely face fierce resistance inside the Bolivarian Republic, and heightened civil conflict would probably spread to other countries in the region. An invasion of Venezuela would also likely provoke an expansion and intensification of the dissident FARC insurgency in Colombia, as well as end the overtures for a peace accord by the ELN. We suspect that Brazil, Argentina, and Peru, which all have enough domestic challenges dealing with growing political opposition, would all have serious reservations about the military option. It is time for Washington to change course by repealing the executive order against Venezuela, lifting the sanctions, and re-establishing full diplomatic relations.
The US imperialism that destroyed Iraq, Syria, Libya and wants an open war against Iran and Russia is it not digging the grave of the whole humanity?
The US-NATO alliance pushes back against the reality of a multipolar world and seeks primary control over the earth’s energy and industrial mineral resources at the cost of a permanent state of exception and war. Such a course is indeed unsustainable. The human costs have been and continue to be catastrophic. The alternative is for the US to combine competition with more diplomacy, cooperation and complementarity. The recent unilateralism of the US in trade, issuing sanctions, and abandoning the Iran nuclear deal is counter productive and could even fracture its relations with the EU.
What is the impact of the historic victory of Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador, « AMLO », candidate of the Mexican left in the last presidential elections, on the American continent?
The victory of AMLO provides a political space within which the people of Mexico can begin to address rampant corruption and public insecurity and direct more of the country’s wealth towards social investment. While some critics are quick to point to AMLO’s cooperation with big business interests and some more conservative politicians, I think most want to give him a chance to forge a new kind of politics, one that is more inclusive of workers, peasants and the Original peoples of Mexico. With regard to foreign policy, AMLO has already given notice that Mexico will be on the side of non-interference and respect for the sovereignty of the American states. This will no doubt change the balance of forces inside the OAS, blunting somewhat the interventionism of the Lima Group and the extreme anti-Bolivarian partisanship of the Secretary General, Luis Almagro.
Is the US administration not afraid of a possible junction between the US left and the Mexican left? If so, what would be the impact on the left in Latin America and around the world?
No, I do not think they are worried about such a junction. Recently, the left in Latin America and Mexico have expressed a convergence of positions around the idea of a border wall, the atrocity of family separation by ICE, and other immigration issues. There are indeed links of solidarity and dialogue among organized labor, ecological movements, Indigenous peoples, and intercultural forums. But this is far from what would constitute a significant unified junction between the Mexican and US left.
Can the US regime and its allies still talk about human rights and democracy when their hands and conscience are stained with the blood of the people?
US exceptionalism has generally politicized human rights by expressing selective indignation when abuses occur, depending on whether the government involved is a friend or foe of Washington. This selective indignation undermines one of the most important features of human rights: It always applies universally. During the Bush administration the mask came off and the state explicitly authorized and deployed rendition and the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” or to put things more plainly, torture. The ongoing human toll of regime change, for example, in Iraq and Libya, does not project Washington as a reliable standard bearer of human rights.
In your opinion, is not a global anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist front more than necessary?
The inner logic of capital is unlimited accumulation and this is in conflict with the ideal of perpetual human life and the preservation of the earth’s ecosystems. It instrumentalizes the human being and thereby violates his or her autonomy and dignity. The growing inequality, the gap between the one percent and the rest of the world, though differing from country to country, has on a global level reached obscene proportions. On account of the social antagonism generated by growing economic inequality and social domination, the system can only be sustained through a politics of coercion, universal surveillance and the police state. For these reasons, the capital system is arguably neither socially, nor economically, nor politically sustainable.
There is already an incipient planetary movement that seeks to curtail climate change. The international conferences on global warming draw worldwide attention. While so far unable to inspire a sufficient sense of emergency in the global North, this movement is undoubtedly raising awareness about climate change around the world.
Of course there are other urgent issues in addition to climate change. But the ecological movement provides an example for what is possible. A diverse progressive planetary movement is indeed necessary to resist all totalizing systems, but one cannot predict what form it might take; most likely it will be a coalition of progressive forces around the world that unites around common objectives.
As a planetary liberatory movement or coalition, I imagine it would prioritize human life over private accumulation and uphold cooperation over competition. It would likely combine both constituted power of states and grass roots movements committed to progressive change. But to say the goal is anti-capitalist is somewhat partial. Any system that would centralize decision making in the hands of a select few and instrumentalize human beings, and this includes so called “real” socialism of the last century, ends up subjugating rather than liberating. It is we the people, using democratic procedures, that must be the protagonists of building a new world, “a world in which many words fit” (to use a Zapatista expression).
Interview realized by Mohsen Abdelmoumen
Who is the Prof. Frederick B. Mills?
Frederick B. Mills, Ph.D., is a professor of philosophy at Bowie State University and a member of La Asociación de Filosofía y Liberación and the American Philosophical Association. He has received awards for excellence in teaching and for international outreach from Bowie State University. Dr. Mills has published articles on philosophy of mind, ethics and public policy, Descartes, Spinoza, Kant, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, Mario Bencastro, Enrique Dussel as well as political analysis on contemporary Latin American politics. He has written and lectured extensively on the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela and the post civil war period in El Salvador. Mills’s series on « Antonio Saca y la Tradicion de Arena” earned honorable mention by The National Association of Hispanic Publications for Outstanding Latin America-Political/Business Article. Mills has contributed essays to Counterpunch, the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, and other independent media. He has published an introduction to philosophy textbook, a monograph on Enrique Dussel’s Ethics of Liberation: An Introduction and coauthored a book chapter on US relations with Cuba, arguing for an end to the embargo. Frederick Mills is an assessment editor and former editor in chief for Humanities and Technology Review. He is a participant in the Foro Sao Paulo of Washington DC and a founding board member of the non-profit Association for Educational Development in El Salvador (ADEES, Inc.).
Published in American Herald Tribune, August 30, 2018: https://ahtribune.com/interview/2455-frederick-b-mills.html
In Palestine Solidarité: http://www.palestine-solidarite.org/analyses.mohsen_abdelmoumen.310818.htm