Category Archives: Common Sense

ICMLPO Resolution on Colombia

logo_mundo-copia-1The Parties and Organizations participating in the XXII International Plenary have carried out a detailed monitoring of the Colombian reality, especially of the activities that are realised today in this country for the peace.

Our Conference wants to take advantage of this occasion to reiterate its full support to the working class, the labourers and the people of Colombia, to their struggle for the achievement of a true peace with social justice.

The results of the plebiscite

Having known the results of the plebiscite held on October 2, we point out the high level of abstention that was registered in the country. On a total of 34.899.945 registered people in the electoral census in Colombia, only 13.066.047 voters, that represent the 37.43%, went to the polls. Along with the abstention, that reached the 62.57%, the results show the very low support received by the YES, that obtained only 6.377.482 votes (about 18.27%), and by the NOT with 6.431.376 votes (about 18.42%). These data reflect the government’s very low support, as well as the rejection of the agreements signed by the government of Juan Manuel Santos with the FARC-EP. The invalid and blank ballots, that are more than 257.000, are also an expression of dissent and protest against the politics of peace wanted by the government.

For our Conference, neither Santos, leader of the YES, nor Álvaro Uribe Vélez, boss of the NOT, acquired the support and the necessary legitimacy to continue on committing the State with the proposals and the politics that they defend. We highlight the results of the conflict, the will expressed by the people to reject the “Roman Peace”, as well as its demands and commitment with the democratic changes that will allow the overcoming of the injustice and social exclusion that characterizes the Colombia regime.

Having been not adopted the Havana agreements, and recognizing the deep desire of peace with social justice of the Colombian people, our Conference underline the obligation that has the Juan Manuel Santos government to provide to all the organizations, social and political forces, the necessary guarantees for the development of a wide national dialogue in order to discuss without obstacles the way out of the social, economic, politic and armed conflict that this nation lives for long years.

Optimists for the steps to be taken, we greet the activities and protest manifestations that spread out in the whole country, demanding the government not to reduce the dialogue, and neither the definitions about the peace in Colombia to what agreed the government, the parties of the National Unity, the Democratic Center and the FARC-EP. We express our support to the democratic social and political organizations that struggle in that perspective, in order to extend the conversations to the whole insurgency, including the ELN and EPL, as well as all the social, popular and political organizations of the country, in a clearing understanding that peace is a matter that concerns and commits to the totality of the Colombian nation.

We support the proposal to realise a National Constituent Assembly with a wide democratic character that will take up the task of approving a New Political Constitution and with it the bases of the peace with social justice that claim the majorities of Colombia.

The Nobel to Santos

In front of the international community, we express our concern for the erratic decisions of the Norwegian Nobel Committee regarding the peace in the world. In the same way we expressed our clearest rejection to the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Obama, in this occasion we reject the prize that Juan Manuel Santos will receive on December of the present year with the same justification.

Mr. Santos can show neither administration of peace, nor concrete results in this matter; his commitment with the Pentagon, the imperialistic strategy of struggle against the world terrorism and the politics of national security applied in Colombia and Latin America will never be able to represent him as a leader of the peace of our peoples.

The defenders of such prize forget that Mr. Santos, in his function of Secretary of Defence in the government of Álvaro Uribe Vélez, was responsible of the so-called “false positive”; he promoted the paramilitary groups, the famous “chuzadas” (illegal interception of communications) to the high Judicial Cortes and the attack to the sovereignty of the countries. They also forget the repressive action against the people in the years in which he acted as Chief of the State and of the government in Colombia; the constant violations of the human rights and the humanitarian international right; the indiscriminate bombings, the out of combat murder of the of guerrilla leaders’, as well as the disappearance of more than a hundred of popular leaders during its government. Furthermore, they also forget the linking of the Colombian armed forces, leaded by Santos, with the NATO, as well as its actions with the group of the allies against Iraq and Syria in the last years. For our Conference a war criminal like Santos will never be seen by the workers and peoples like a defender and fighter for peace.

Our support and solidarity

Finally, in accordance with the debated questions, the ICMLPO express its support and solidarity with the political action that the Communist Party of Colombia (marxistleninist) and the Popular Liberation Army (EPL) develop along with the working class and the people, against the fascistization and for the conquest of the democratic openness and the peace with social justice.

Denmark, October 2016

Michael Parenti: Is Nicaragua More Democratic Than the United States?


[From: Covert Action Information Bulletin, Number 26, Summer 1986]

To justify the policies of attack, encirclement, embargo, and destabilization directed against Nicaragua, the Reagan administration has charged that the Sandinista government is on the road to totalitarianism, that it denies religious and political freedom and is a threat to the security of its neighbors. The goal of U.S. policy, claims President Reagan, is to bring about a pluralistic open society in Nicaragua, a goal that never loomed very large during the fifty years of the Somoza dictatorship. More recently in a book on the Nicaraguan revolution. journalist Shirley Christian echoed this line, arguing that the contra war was a justifiable attempt ”to force the Sandinista Front into accepting major structural changes toward an open political society.”

In response to this position, supporters of the Sandinista revolution have argued that Nicaragua does have a pluralistic society, is attempting to make a better life for its people, has no aggressive designs upon its neighbors, and instead is itself being invaded along two of it borders. Others have shown that by every standard, Nicaragua’s elections have been more open and democratic than El Salvador’s and its society more humane than most others in Latin America.

Indeed it can be further argued that by every standard Nicaragua is a more democratic society than the one waging aggression against — and I do not mean Honduras. By every major democratic criterion, Nicaragua comes off looking better than the United States. Let us begin with a comparison of the national elections held in November 1984 in both the United States and Nicaragua [1]

Popular Participation

One crucial measure of an open political system is the degree of popular participation. Most voting studies in the United States and elsewhere find that nonvoters show a high degree of alienation from the political process; they believe voting is not a means of effecting changes, and they often fail to see a meaningful choice in the candidates presented to them. (This is the view also of a surprisingly large number of persons who vote in the United States.) Therefore a comparison of the respective rates of turnouts in the Nicaraguan and U.S. election might be worth pondering for a moment.

The turnout in the United States in the 1984 election was little less than 53 percent of the eligible voters, one of the lowest of any western nation. Yet the press took little note of this and instead treated Reagan’s reelection as a landslide victory and democratic mandate. In contrast, voter turnout was nearly 82 percent in Managua and 75.4 percent in Nicaragua as a whole. Yet this turnout was described in the U.S. press as “disappointing” because the Sandinistas had hoped for an 80 percent national turnout. (Left unmentioned was the fact that in Nicaragua the voting was voluntary, unlike most Latin American countries.)

Range of Political Choice

Elections that offer little choice are said to be wanting in democratic standards. The choice in Nicaragua was noticeably wider and more democratic than in the United States. Seven parties ran for seats in the national assembly and for the presidency, representing a broad ideological range: from those on the far left (who damned the FSLN for its moderate policies and for allegedly betraying the workers and peasants) to those on the center and right (who accused the FSLN of exercising a rigid control over the country, wrecking the economy and leading Nicaragua to war). All these charges and countercharges were reported and debated extensively in the public and private press in Nicaragua.

In the United States the choice was limited largely to Democrats and Republicans, who in many races are often hard to tell apart. True, there were a variety of minor parties but these were not accorded the same opportunity for participation as were the various opposition parties in Nicaragua, as we shall see.

Access to the Ballot

A variety of parties may compete in an election but if they are denied roughly equal conditions of competition or access to the ballot or shoved to the side of the political arena, it cannot be said that democratic competition exist. In the U.S. all fifty states have laws, written and enforced by Republican and Democratic officials, regulating party access to the ballot — often in ways restrictive enough to keep smaller parties from participating, thus depriving the electorate of the freedom to choose someone other than a Democrat or a Republican. Minor parties are often required to gather a large number of signatures on nominating petitions in a limited time. Thus in Pennsylvania third-party state-wide candidates must collect 36,000 signature in a three-week period; in Maryland candidates are required to collect over 55,000 signatures in a short time. Sometimes a 5 percent requirement for signatures has been interpreted to mean 5 percent of voters from every district within the state — an impossible task for a third party whose base might he confined to a few urban areas.

In some states votes who are registered with the major parties are not allowed to sign or circulate minor-party nominating petition. Petitions are sometimes thrown out by hostile officials on trivial and sometimes unlawful technicalities. (as happened to the Communist Party in Illinois and Connecticut in recent elections) compelling minor parties to pursue expensive court battles that further drain their financial resources.

In some states minor parties must pay exorbitant filing fees: $5,000 Louisiana for an independent candidate. To get on the ballot in all 50 states, a third party would have to expend an estimated $750,000 in filing fees and other expenses and collect 1.2 million signatures, a feat accomplished in 1984 by no third party. And the trend is toward less and less ballot access: in the last 12 years, sixteen states have tightened the restrictions. Between 1980 and 1984, for example, the states of Indiana and North Dakota quadrupled the number of signatures required to get on the ballot.

In Nicaragua, in striking contrast, the electoral law favors the smaller political parties. In 1984 any party could register to field candidates by merely presenting a national directorate and two representatives from each of the country’s nine regions. One of the parties that so registered, the Independent Liberal Party (PLI) asked to withdraw from the contest four days before election day. The Electoral Council ruled that it was too late for a party to pull out but that individual candidates could withdraw their names if they chose. None did so.

Accessibility to the Electorate

Being on the ballot does little good if the bulk of the voters have never heard of you or never hear *from* you. Third parties in the United States are given almost no national media coverage during campaigns. News media focus exclusively on the two major parties, failing even to report the votes that third parties get on election day (usually between one and two million all together), thus treating the minor parties as if they do not exist. Lacking the huge sums available to the major parties, especially the Republicans, the smaller parties are unable to buy major media time and space of their own. The Federal Election Campaign Act of 1974 finances the major parties, giving each tens of millions of dollars for their presidential campaigns, but the smaller parties can obtain federal funds only after they glean 5 percent of the national vote (about 4 million votes for any one party) In sum, they cannot get the money until they get the 5 percent, but they cannot yet the percent until they get the money.

In contrast, the Nicaraguan electoral law provided public financing of 9 million cordobas ($321,000) for each participating party *regardless of size* and guaranteed an equal amount of time each day on the state-run radio stations and television channels. Each party was also permitted to receive unlimited funds from private donors, including people and organizations outside Nicaragua, a provision that worked to the advantage of the centrist and rightist parties. As the campaign got under complaints from the participating parties led to changes in the electoral law, including an increase in radio and television time, an additional 3 million cordobas in government campaign funds for each party, and a lengthening of the campaign period. Parties were also guaranteed access to products in short supply in Nicaragua: paper. printing facilities, transportation and gasoline. The various parties also produced their own party newspapers, together with leaflets and billboards.

Absence of Coercion

Instances of coercion and harassment of candidates have not been an unusual occurrence in U.S. elections. In the United States third-party candidates especially those of a pronouncedly leftist hue have run into difficulties of this sort. Harassment may not be confined to the candidates themselves but may include their supporters and canvassers. In 1972 in Vermont persons who merely signed Communist Party ballot petitions found their names publicized by town clerks in an effort to embarrass them into withdrawing their signatures. Generally though, in modern times American elections have not been marked by violence nor by any serious degree of threat against candidates. The coercions are largely of the legal kind noted earlier which work well enough against third parties. In regard to individual voters, however, it should be noted that not every American citizen has the right to an uncoerced vote, as testified by the continuing need for a Civil Rights Voting Act, the renewal of which President Reagan opposed.

Turning to Nicaragua, we find there were serious acts of violence and murder in the 1984 election — all committed by the force supported by the Reagan administration. The contras killed the presidents of two polling stations and two volunteer workers involved in registration. In the Jinotega mountains, one polling station worker’s throat was cut by the contras in front of his wife and family. On election day a member of the electoral police was shot to death by contras in La Tronica. In all, twelve election workers lost their lives in assaults by counterrevolutionaries .

The election was less than flawless in its procedures, but the overall performance was one that the Nicaraguan democracy can be proud of. There was free and open campaigning in every area of the country except in some war zones. According to estimates by the Supreme Electoral Council, there were some 250 public rallies. In general the election was characterized by untrammeled and vigorous political debate. If the FSLN was instituting a totalitarian regime, it was going about it in the wrong way.

About five of the public rallies were marred by incidents of violence but no serious injuries were reported. During the first months of the campaign a number of parties also reported that their campaign workers had been harassed by members of the FSLN, or that their posters had been destroyed. The Sandinista leadership denounced these incidents and they seemed to diminish thereafter. In addition, several rallies held by the Nicaraguan Democratic Coordinating Committee (CDN). a coalition of conservative business-oriented parties that abstained from the election, were disrupted by fights between CDN supporters and Sandinista counterdemonstrators. These rallies were technically illegal since the CDN had refused to participate in the election and indeed spent its time during the campaign attacking the electoral system itself. Once the CDN decided to conduct what seemed like a sabotage of the electoral effort (in the eyes of FSLN supporters), clashes with counterdemonstrators were difficult to avoid.

Because of these incidents, Arturo Cruz claimed that he was attacked by ‘mobs’ and that free electoral competition did not exist. It should be recalled that the country is at war and that Cruz openly identified with the enemy and was not at any time functioning as a legal or serious candidate. When Cruz, a banker in Wellington, arrived in Managua five months before the election, the CDN suddenly announced he would be their unified presidential candidate. Without officially registering as a candidate, Cruz toured the country for several days, drawing small crowds As suddenly as he arrived, he left, announcing he would not run under the prevailing electoral conditions. Throughout this period the U.S. media and the U.S. government described him as the “major opposition candidate” and treated his nonparticipation as evidence that the election was an unfair and meaningless exercise. In conflict with this view is the one expressed in the report, cited herein, by U.S. citizens in Nicaragua:

In general, our perception of the electoral campaign period is that the harassment and fistfights were scattered incidents that did not affect the generally free atmosphere of the electoral process. We found our neighbors and co-workers unafraid to voice their opinions, and heard and read virulent criticism of the FSLN. We know of no pressure on Nicaraguan to vote for the Sandinista Front. In particular, we found no truth in the charge made by _La Prensa_ that the cards which entitle families to receive subsidized food allotments were controlled in a concerted effort to influence Nicaraguans” votes. We conclude that the electoral campaign provided Nicaraguans with abundant information on which to base a free decision about their vote.

A similar conclusion was reached by the 460 official observers from all over the world who were free to check out all aspects of the voting process and ballot counting. None of the eleven participating parties filed any charges of fraud.

System of Representation

The FSLN won 64.9% of the vote, a victory that was only a few percentage points higher than the one enjoyed by Ronald Reagan in 1984. The two runner-up parties, both center-rightist, won 13% and 9% respectively. The National Assembly seats were allocated according to proportional representation so that minority parties were assured of 35 of the 96 seats (including six seats that under the electoral law are allotted to the losing presidential candidates of each party). All this was dismissed by Reagan as “an electoral farce without any meaningful political opposition.”

In contrast, the single-member-district electoral system used in the United States is much less representative and therefore less democratic. The party that polls a plurality of the vote, be it 40, 50 or 60 percent, wins 100 percent of a district’s representation, while smaller parties, regardless of their vote, receive zero representation. Proportional representation provides a party with legislative seats roughly in accordance with the percentage of votes it wins, thus assuring minor parties of some parliamentary presence. But the single-member, winner-take-all system magnifies the strength of the major parties and leaves the minor parties with a percentage of seats (if any) that is far lower than its percentage of votes. The winner-take-all system deprives third parties not only of representation but eventually of voters too, since not many citizens wish to “waste” their ballots on a party that seems incapable of establishing a legislative presence


There are other criteria by which the American and Nicaraguan democracies might he compared. For instance, there is the treatment of minorities. Much is made of the Sandinistas’ forced relocation of Miskito Indians during a time of serious border attack, a policy that quickly proved not only wrong but in some instances wrongful. Today Managua is now trying to undo its previous policy and resettle the Miskito on their lands, an approach that compares favorably with the U.S. treatment of Native American Indians, to say the least, and with the forced relocation of the Japanese into concentration camps during World War II, uprooting them from California communities, that — unlike Nicaragua — were never threatened by enemy invasion. Nor did the U.S. government ever compensate the Japanese for the losses they sustained in the way of homes, businesses and farms

Political Dissent

There is the more general question of Freedom of communication for dissenting ideas. La Prensa is not the only opposition voice in Nicaragua. About half of the radio and television stations in the country are privately owned and most of these give the government a daily ideological pounding that makes National Public Radio look like the tepid establishment mouthpiece it is. The various political parties also produced their own newspapers during the campaign. There is a war going on in Nicaragua. The country is encircled by hostile forces. has endured invasions on both of its borders and has suffered much loss of life and destruction of property. Yet the censorship imposed is no worse and probably less restrictive than what the U.S. government imposed during World War II, and Managua’s treatment of dissenters and collaborators has been far more tolerant and liberal than the treatment accorded Tory sympathizers during and immediately after the American revolution or dissenters who received long prison terms during World War I.

In the United States, dissenting views that go beyond the mainstream. or even much left of center, are rarely allowed time or space in the major media, but are consigned to small-circulation magazines that teeter on the edge of insolvency. In short, there is a greater plurality of ideas, ideologies, and debate in Nicaragua than in the United States. On this score Nicaragua is a more open, more pluralistic society. It may not always remain so however. Subject to enough threat and siege, assault and murder, the Nicaraguans will start tightening up, choosing security over dissent, survival over pluralism. Indeed, it is miraculous that they haven’t already done so. The signs are there; President Daniel Ortega has said: “In the hardest moments we have to convert the defeats into more ideological unity, more political unity … [and] more organization.” (Miami Herald, August 4, 1985).

If the U.S. Government were really interested in encouraging pluralistic dissent in Nicaragua it would pursue a policy quite the opposite of the one now in the saddle, offering Managua friendship and support and the hope for peaceful independence and security. Democracy is a delicate flower that does not do well when repeatedly stomped upon.

Religious Freedom

The Reagan administration has charged that there is religious persecution in Nicaragua. But the Catholic church is alive and well. Elements of its clergy and laity can be found playing prominent roles on both sides within Nicaragua, struggling hard to build — or destroy — the revolution. Religious practice is not interfered with. The Rev. Miguel Gray, a Nicaraguan Baptist minister, hailed the religious freedom enjoyed in that country and pointed to the building of 19 additional churches since 1979 in a desperately poor country where not too many buildings of any kind are going up.

The level of religious tolerance in the United States today is as good as might be found anywhere. But in recent years the disturbing intolerance manifested by such groups as the Moral Majority, and the President’s open association with the religious Right, including his announcement that “ours is a Christian nation,” might cause us to give more attention to the question of religious tolerance here at home.

Human Needs

If democracy means more than a set of procedures but implies something, about the substantive conditions of life, then here too poor Nicaragua looks better than rich America in the era of Ronald Reagan. Decades of colonialism, Somocista pillaging, earthquake, revolution and counterrevolution, have left Nicaragua with a legacy of extreme poverty, yet the very worst is not happening to the poor citizens of that country as it is to the poor on the streets in Washington D.C.; no one is starving and no one has been tossed aside like so much human refuse.

Finally, in comparing Nicaragua with the United States. we might consider the degree to which each country is interfering with the political development and security of the other. As Reagan himself aptly put it: “Democracies do not spend a lot of money on arms, build large armies or invade or destabilize their neighbors.” With typical Orwellian inversion he was aiming this remark at Nicaragua but it applies most perfectly to hi own administration, which spends more money on arms and more time destabilizing and invading neighbors than we could ever imagine Nicaragua doing. The truth is also inverted when Reagan calls the Sandinistas “terrorists.” To be sure, there is plenty of terrorism going on in Nicaragua and plenty being exported to other countries in Central America, but it is conducted by contra mercenaries and Honduran, Guatemalan, and Salvadoran death squads and military, all financed and advised by the U.S.

Those “democratic socialist” critics on the left, who give qualified and skittish support to Nicaragua, who are quick to point out how they have “problems” with some of the things the Sandinistas are doing, who impose flawless democratic standards upon a tiny country that is under mortal siege from the Yankee Colossus, those critics might want to consider the realities of the situation. It is the United States which should be the object of their professedly democratic concerns; it is the U.S. which falls so dismally short of practicing the democratic pluralism it preaches to others, exporting violence and terrorism and pummeling a smaller neighbor that is trying to develop a democratic society of its own.

If one criterion of democracy is that a country not act like a thug and aggressor in its dealings with another country even to the point of refusing to show up in (world) court to defend itself when so charged — then United States under Reagan comes off looking tar less fair, less open, and less democratic than Nicaragua.

(*) Michael Parenti writes and lectures frequently on U.S. domestic and foreign politics. His most recent book is _Inventing Reality: The Politics of the Mass Media_ (New York: St Martin’s Press, 1986).


Communist Party Alliance: On Sectarianism

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The ‘left’ in Britain is characterised by sectarianism. What are the main reasons for this in an imperialist country? John Green examines the causes.

The Causes of Sectarianism

Bourgeois Social Conditions

Divisions in the revolutionary movement are not formed simply from ideological differences, but sometimes represent class and social divisions. The social conditions of many of those who describe themselves as Marxist-Leninist in this country are largely at the root of their sectarianism.

Britain is an imperialist country. In this country, productive industry ranks a poor second to profits received from exploiting other countries, which through a system of ‘aid’ and debt are maintained in neo-colonial servitude. This determines that a petty-bourgeois mentality is created in a section of the proletariat and the intelligentsia in Britain, and this sectarian mentality infects many of those who are drawn into the ranks of the revolutionary left. Thus for some communists the prime requirement of communist unity is that they themselves must lead it. Any initiative, to be acceptable to these “leaders”, must be their own idea. When those affected by this petty-bourgeois mentality do occasionally and for a time gain the leadership of a grouping, democracy, principle and all else is subordinated to their own leadership pretensions.


A form of sectarianism which is no less damaging is met with in those opportunists who refuse to work with others not on the basis of principle, but on the basis of expediency, for tactical gains. These do great harm to the cause of revolutionary unity, in that they appear to legitimise the absence of principle.

Dogmatic Doctrinairism

Another form which sectarianism often takes is in insisting upon adherence to the elaboration of Marxism-Leninism by a great historical figure as an ’ a priori ‘ requirement before any attempt to form revolutionary unity can take place. They use this position as an apparently principled justification for their unwillingness to collaborate. This is a mistake. Ideological unity cannot be based upon an historical figure. It must be around fundamental questions of principle, strategy and tactics, and each disputed question must be put under discussion. Only by doing this, can the real lines of demarcation, which are concealed behind these allegiances, be drawn and unity be attained.

Opposing Sectarianism

Dialectical Unity

The first principle for the proletarian revolutionary who is not, like the petty-bourgeois revolutionary, willing to compromise with imperialism until unity is achieved on terms exactly to his satisfaction, is to achieve a dialectical, fighting unity with fellow communists. The unity we must work for is around Marxist principles consolidated in a programme.

The unity of the Communist Party must be a dialectical unity, one which contains contradictions. We need to be able to disagree whilst working together to achieve the Party programme. We must not slurry over contradictions within our ranks for the purpose of preserving formal unity, but we must not transform these differences into a sharp dividing line.

Dialectical unity finds expression within prevailing social conditions. Where there is disagreement on historical questions, unity can exist within a party where objective circumstances permit. This is the case when circumstances are unchanging and principles are not yet being tested by prevailing social conditions. Only at the turning-points, where objective social circumstances are in a process of rapid change (e.g. a revolutionary situation is emerging), do significant differences emerge.

It is important to realise that these differences will not necessarily reflect at all the great questions of the past. Even where people have taken a view on an apparently similar historical question, new circumstances may elicit a new understanding of contemporary events. Prevailing social conditions may demand a change in ideas.

Formal (Idealist) Unity

To unite only with those with whom we agree on historical questions is a form of idealist unity, not dialectical unity, in that it brushes aside consideration of prevailing conditions and absolutises differences. This purist approach leaves the question of building unity for the purpose of revolution and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat to the indefinite future, when no doubt prevailing social conditions will force us to address these questions. The proponents of this absolute ‘unity’, in practice, subordinate questions of principle to organisational questions.

Attempts at idealist unity look for formal organisational means to efface differences or manage them without resolving them, such as by banning the disputed subject.

The principle of dialectical unity should not be confused with the policy of those groupings who struggle for organisational objectives instead of principles. Such groupings, it is true, unite people of different views, but they subordinate the clarification and resolution of their differences to success in the organisational struggle. This would be only a formal unity. A party built on such lines would tend to fall apart in the course of sharp struggles. If organisational means were employed to preserve the autonomy of those with an aversion to centralism, there would be a lack of internal discipline and the party would not serve the interests of the proletariat. The lumping together of autonomous groupings which do not recognise (or recognise only formally) the legitimacy of the elected leaders, and even creating institutions for the advantage of factions, would be an expression of idealist unity. It would subvert democratic centralism and lay the basis for the principle of opportunism.

Abstract Unity

Unity on the basis of abstract principles would also result in a purely formal unity. This was evident at the time of the split with the opportunists of the Second International during World War One. Trotskyists of the past claimed to uphold the dictatorship of the proletariat, but in practice counterposed socialism in one country to world revolution. For this reason, discussions need to clarify the depth of existing differences.

Non-Antagonistic Contradictions

Different trends emerge in the party in the course of struggle and it is possible for these to be in unity at a certain juncture when objective circumstances make this necessary in order to achieve the Party programme or to defend party policy. Examples of this are the unity of Bukharin and Stalin to defeat the left deviation; and the fact that Trotsky was for a time a leading member of the Bolsheviks (but lost little time in demonstrating his inability to adhere to Party discipline). It is only at turning-points in social conditions that significant differences emerge. At such times, ‘one becomes two’, but in such a way that the party is strengthened.

During certain periods, contradictions may be non-antagonistic. Part of the sectarianism of Marxist-Leninists in this country is that they frequently fail to distinguish non-antagonistic contradictions at particular periods. Differences over the ‘historical’ application of Marxist-Leninist principles are non-antagonistic contradictions unless prevailing social conditions are such that the questions that called forth these historical questions are again raised from the realm of the possible to become living questions.

The Party Programme

Differences continually emerge from objective conditions and must be resolved within the party. The party must establish a political programme and an organisational structure designed to put the programme into effect. The purpose of the organisation is to realise the programme.

The form of organisation appropriate to the Communist Party is democratic centralism, which contains both differences (democracy) and concrete unity (centralism).

It is the programme, rather than merely abstract adherence to principles, which is primary and which decides the nature of the party and who is able to further its objectives.

Lines of Demarcation

Lenin, in the Declaration of the Editorial Board of Iskra, declared ‘Before we can unite, and in order that we may unite, we must first of all draw firm and definite lines of demarcation. Otherwise, our unity will be purely fictitious, it will conceal the prevailing confusion and hinder its radical elimination.’ The unity he was working towards was the unity of Marxists, in opposition to those who ‘corrected’ Marxism and removed its revolutionary content.

From the Soviet period up to the present day, lines of demarcation have been drawn between those who upheld the principles of Marxism-Leninism, of which Stalin represented the main defence, including the possibility of socialism in a single country and proletarian internationalism, and those who attacked these principles (Imperialism, Social Democracy, Trotsky, Soviet revisionists).

These principles were developed and applied historically through practice and it is our task to continue to apply and develop them in our own practice today. We must view our principles in the fullness of their historical application but must not allow our differences to bar us from achieving revolutionary unity.

Author: John Green
The Marxist-Leninist Research Bureau


Stalin’s ‘Anti-Semitism’



The accusation that Stalin was an anti-Semite is a strange one. Neither Stalin’s written texts nor his actions indicate anti-Semitism. Indeed, they indicate precisely the opposite, as I will show in a moment. So those who wish to make the accusation have to rely on hearsay – second- and third-hand snippets from passing conversations, whether from an estranged daughter or from those within and without the USSR who were not favourably disposed to Stalin.[1] And once such a position is ‘established’, it is then possible to read some of his actions and written comments in such a light. For instance, the ‘anti-cosmopolitan’ campaign of the late 1940s becomes a coded ‘anti-Semitic’ campaign. Or the ‘doctors plot’ of 1952-53 – in which leading doctors were suspected of seeking to assassinate government officials – is seen as an excuse for a widespread anti-Semitic purge and deportation,[2] halted only because of Stalin’s death (we may thank Khrushchev for this piece of speculation). However, the only way such an assumption can work is that many doctors in the Soviet Union were Jewish; therefore the attack on doctors was anti-Semitic. Equally, even more doctors were Russian, but for some strange reason, the plot is not described as anti-Russian.

Unfortunately for Stalin’s accusers, even the hearsay indicates that Stalin was opposed to the deep-rooted anti-Semitism of Russian culture. During the anti-cosmopolitan campaign of 1948-49 – which was actually anti-capitalist in the wake of the Second World War – it became the practice in some journal articles to include, where possible, the original family names in brackets after the Russian name. Sometimes, such original names were Jewish. When Stalin noticed this he commented:

Why Mal’tsev, and then Rovinskii between brackets? What’s the matter here? How long will this continue …? If a man chose a literary pseudonym for himself, it’s his right…. But apparently someone is glad to emphasise that this person has a double surname, to emphasise that he is a Jew…. Why create anti-Semitism?[3]

Indeed, to the Romanian leader, Gheorghiu-Dej, Stalin commented pointedly in 1947, ‘racism leads to fascism’.[4] At this point, we face an extraordinary contradiction: those who would accuse Stalin of anti-Semitism must dismiss his deep antipathy to fascism and deploy the reductio ad Hitlerum. If one assumes, even subconsciously, that Hitler and Stalin were of the same ilk, then it follows that Stalin too must be an anti-Semite. Apart from the sheer oxymoron of an anti-fascist fascist, this assertion seems very much like the speculative thought bubble that becomes ‘true’ through a thousand repetitions.[5]

I prefer to follow a rather conventional approach, instead of relying on hearsay, gossip and speculation. That approach is to pay attention to his written statements and actions. These are rather telling. Already in ‘Marxism and the National Question’ (1913), in which Stalin deals extensively with the Jews and the Bund (The General Jewish Workers’ Union of Lithuania, Poland, and Russia), he points out that dispersed minorities such as the Jews would be given the full range of protections, in terms of language, education, culture and freedom of conscience, within a socialist state. This would become his standard position, reiterated time and again and contrasted with the tsarist autocracy’s fostering of pogroms.[6] It was also reflected in extensive programs among Jews, including the fostering – not without problems and failures – of Yiddish, Jewish institutions and the significant presence of Jews at all levels of government.[7]

From time to time, Stalin had to deal with outbursts of anti-Semitism that still ran deep in Russian culture (thanks to the residual influence of tsarist autocracy). For example, in 1927 he explicitly mentions that any traces of anti-Semitism, even among workers and in the party is an ‘evil’ that ‘must be combated, comrades, with all ruthlessness’.[8] And in 1931, in response to a question from the Jewish News Agency in the United States, he describes anti-Semitism as an ‘an extreme form of racial chauvinism’ that is a convenient tool used by exploiters to divert workers from the struggle with capitalism. Communists, therefore, ‘cannot but be irreconcilable, sworn enemies of anti-semitism’. Indeed, in the U.S.S.R. ‘anti-semitism is punishable with the utmost severity of the law as a phenomenon deeply hostile to the Soviet system’. Active ‘anti-semites are liable to the death penalty’.[9]

This was no empty boast, as those who accuse Stalin of anti-semitism seem to assume. It is worth noting that article 123 of the 1936 Constitution ensured that this position was law.[10]Active anti-Semitism, even racial slurs, were severely punished. It may be surprising to some, but one of the key tasks of the NKVD (precursor to the KGB) was to counteract waves of residual anti-Semitism.[11] Yes, one of the jobs of the infamous secret police of the USSR was to root out anti-Semitism.

Further, the ‘affirmative action’ program of the Soviet Union,[12] enacted in Stalin’s capacity as Commissar for Nationality Affairs (1917-24), was explicitly a program in which territories of identifiable ethnic minorities were established, with their own languages and forms of education, the fostering of literature and cultural expression, and local forms of governance. As for dispersed minorities, even within such regions, they were provided with a stiff framework of protections, including strong penalties for any form of racial denigration and abuse. Already in 1913 Stalin had prefigured such an approach, specifying among others ‘the Jews in Poland, the Letts in Lithuania, the Russians in the Caucasus, the Poles in the Ukraine, and so on’.[13] They too – in a program of indigenization (korenizatsiia)[14] – should be able to use their own languages, operate their own schools, law-courts and soviets, and have freedom of conscience in matters relating to religion. Indeed, by the mid-1930s the Jews too were identified as a ‘nation’ with territory, having the Jewish Autonomous district in Birobidzhan.[15] This importance of this move (part of Crimea had also been proposed) is rarely recognised. It eventually failed, but it was the first move towards Jewish territory in the modern era.[16]

A final question: what about the attacks on Judaism as a religion? In 1913, Stalin wrote of the ‘petrified religious rites and fading psychological relics’[17] fostered by pockets of the ‘clerical-reactionary Jewish community’.[18] Is this anti-Semitic? No, it is anti-religious. Judaism too was subject anti-religious campaigns, which had the result not so much of divorcing Jews from their religious ‘roots’ but of producing a profound transformation in Jewish institutions and culture, so much so that one can speak of a ‘sovietisation’ of Jewish culture that produced Jews who were not religious but proud of contributions to Soviet society.[19]

What are we to make of all this? Do the hearsay and implicit assumptions speak the truth, or do Stalin’s words and actions speak the truth? I prefer the latter. But if we are to give some credence to the hearsay, then it may indicate a profoundly personal struggle for a Georgian, who was brought up with an ingrained anti-Semitism, to root it out in the name of socialism.

[1] For useful collections of such hearsay, see Erik Van Ree, The Political Thought of Joseph Stalin: A Study in Twentieth-Century Revolutionary Patriotism  (London: Routledge Curzon, 2002), 201-7; Erik Van Ree, “Heroes and Merchants: Stalin’s Understanding of National Character,” Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History 8, no. 1 (2007).

[2] Jonathan Brent and Vladimir P. Naumov, Stalin’s Last Crime: The Plot Against the Jewish Doctors, 1948-1953  (New York: HarperCollins, 2003); Simon Sebag Montefiore, Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar  (London: Phoenix, 2003), 626-39.

[3] Van Ree, The Political Thought of Joseph Stalin: A Study in Twentieth-Century Revolutionary Patriotism, 205.

[4] Van Ree, The Political Thought of Joseph Stalin: A Study in Twentieth-Century Revolutionary Patriotism, 205.

[5] As a small sample, see Benjamin Pinkus, The Jews of the Soviet Union: a History of a National Minority  (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 138-45; Vojtech Mastny,The Cold War and Soviet Insecurity: The Stalin Years, vol. Oxford University Press (Oxford, 1996), 157-58, 162; Bernard Lewis, Semites and Anti-Semites: An Inquiry into Conflict and Prejudice  (New York: W. W. Norton, 1999), 33-38; Philip Boobyer, The Stalin Era  (London: Routledge, 2000), 78; Konstantin Azadovskii and Boris Egorov, “From Anti-Westernism to Anti-Semitism: Stalin and the Impact of the ‘Anti-Cosmopolitan’ Campaigns of Soviet Culture,”Journal of Cold War Studies 4, no. 1 (2002); Montefiore, Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, 310-12; Simon Sebag Montefiore, Young Stalin  (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2007), 264; Van Ree, “Heroes and Merchants: Stalin’s Understanding of National Character,” 45; Paul R. Gregory, Terror By Quota: State Security from Lenin to Stalin (An Archival Study)  (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), 53, 265.

[6] I. V. Stalin, “The Russian Social-Democratic Party and Its Immediate Tasks,” in Works, vol. 1, 9-30 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1901 [1954]), 20-21; I. V. Stalin, “Rossiĭskaia sotsial-demokraticheskaia partiia i ee blizhaĭshie zadachi,” in Sochineniia, vol. 1, 11-32 (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel´stvo politicheskoi literatury, 1901 [1946]), 21-23; I. V. Stalin, “To the Citizens: Long Live the Red Flag!,” in Works, vol. 1, 85-89 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1905 [1954]); I. V. Stalin, “K grazhdanam. Da zdravstvuet krasnoe znamia!,” in Sochineniia, vol. 1, 84-88 (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel´stvo politicheskoi literatury, 1905 [1946]); I. V. Stalin, “Marxism and the National Question,” in Works, vol. 2, 300-81 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1913 [1953]), 319-21; I. V. Stalin, “Marksizm i natsionalʹnyĭ vopros,” in Sochineniia, vol. 2, 290-367 (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel´stvo politicheskoi literatury, 1913 [1946]), 308-10; I. V. Stalin, “Abolition of National Disabilities,” in Works, vol. 3, 17-21 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1917 [1953]), 17; I. V. Stalin, “Ob otmene natsionalʹnykh ogranicheniĭ,” in Sochineniia, vol. 3, 16-19 (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel´stvo politicheskoi literatury, 1917 [1946]), 16; I. V. Stalin, “The Immediate Tasks of the Party in the National Question: Theses for the Tenth Congress of the R. C. P. (B.) Endorsed by the Central Committee of the Party,” in Works, vol. 5, 16-30 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1921 [1953]), 17, 27; I. V. Stalin, “Ob ocherednykh zadachakh partii v natsionalʹnom voprose: Tezisy k Х s”ezdu RKP(b), utverzhdennye TSK partii,” in Sochineniia, vol. 5, 15-29 (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel´stvo politicheskoi literatury, 1921 [1947]), 16, 26; Stalin, “Concerning the Presentation of the National Question,” 52-53; Stalin, “K postanovke natsionalʹnogo voprosa,” 52-53.

[7] Pinkus, The Jews of the Soviet Union: a History of a National Minority, 58-71, 77-84; Anna Shternshis, Soviet and Kosher: Jewish Popular Culture in the Soviet Union, 1923–1939  (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006), xv-xvi.

[8] I. V. Stalin, “The Fifteenth Congress of the C.P.S.U.(B.), December 2-19, 1927,” in Works, vol. 10, 274-382 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1927 [1954]), 332; I. V. Stalin, “XV s”ezd VKP (b) 2–19 dekabria 1927 g,” in Sochineniia, vol. 10, 271-371 (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel´stvo politicheskoi literatury, 1927 [1949]), 324.

[9] I. V. Stalin, “Anti-Semitism: Reply to an Inquiry of the Jewish News Agency in the United States,” in Works, vol. 13, 30 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1931 [1954]), 30; I. V. Stalin, “Ob antisemitizme: Otvet na zapros Evreĭskogo telegrafnogo agentstva iz Аmerik,” in Sochineniia, vol. 13, 28 (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel´stvo politicheskoi literatury, 1931 [1951]), 28.

[10] I. V. Stalin, “Constitution (Fundamental Law) of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, With amendments adopted by the First, Second, Third, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Sessions of the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R., Kremlin, Moscow, December 5, 1936,” in Works, vol. 14, 199-239 (London: Red Star Press, 1936 [1978]), article 123; I. V. Stalin, “Konstitutsiia (osnovnoĭ zakon) soiuza sovetskikh sotsialisticheskikh respublik (utverzhdena postanovleniem chrezvychaĭnogo VIII s”ezda sovetov soiuza sovetskikh sotsialisticheskikh respublik ot 5 dekabria 1936 g.),” (Moscow: Garant, 1936 [2015]), stat’ia 123. This also applied to the earliest constitutions of republics, such as the RSFSR, Ukraine and Belorus. See Pinkus, The Jews of the Soviet Union: a History of a National Minority, 52-57.

[11] Pinkus, The Jews of the Soviet Union: a History of a National Minority, 84-88; Sheila Fitzpatrick, Everyday Stalinism: Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times: Soviet Russia in the 1930  (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 169, 186-87.

[12] Terry Martin, The Affirmative Action Empire: Nations and Nationalism in the Soviet Union, 1923-1939  (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2001); Terry Martin, “An Affirmative Action Empire: The Soviet Union as the Highest Form of Imperialism,” in A State of Nations: Empire and Nation-Making in the Age of Lenin and Stalin, ed. Ronald Grigor Suny and Terry Martin, 67-90 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001).

[13] Stalin, “Marxism and the National Question,” 375-76; Stalin, “Marksizm i natsionalʹnyĭ vopros,” 362. See also the exposition of the seventh and ninth clause of the Party Program, concerning equal rights, language and self-government in I. V. Stalin, “The Social-Democratic View on the National Question,” in Works, vol. 1, 31-54 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1904 [1954]), 42-46; I. V. Stalin, “Kak ponimaet sotsial-demokratiia natsionalʹnyĭ vopros?,” in Sochineniia, vol. 1, 32-55 (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel´stvo politicheskoi literatury, 1904 [1946]), 43-47.

[14] Korenizatsiia, a term coined by the Bolsheviks, is ‘derived directly not from the stemkoren- (“root”—with the meaning “rooting”) but from its adjectival form korennoi as used in the phrase korennoi narod (indigenous people)’ Martin, “An Affirmative Action Empire: The Soviet Union as the Highest Form of Imperialism,” 74.

[15] Stalin, “Constitution (Fundamental Law) of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, With amendments adopted by the First, Second, Third, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Sessions of the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R., Kremlin, Moscow, December 5, 1936,” article 22; Stalin, “Konstitutsiia (osnovnoĭ zakon) soiuza sovetskikh sotsialisticheskikh respublik (utverzhdena postanovleniem chrezvychaĭnogo VIII s”ezda sovetov soiuza sovetskikh sotsialisticheskikh respublik ot 5 dekabria 1936 g.),” stat’ia 22.

[16] For a little detail, see Pinkus, The Jews of the Soviet Union: a History of a National Minority, 71-76.

[17] Stalin, “Marxism and the National Question,” 310; Stalin, “Marksizm i natsionalʹnyĭ vopros,” 300.

[18] Stalin, “Marxism and the National Question,” 374-75; Stalin, “Marksizm i natsionalʹnyĭ vopros,” 361.

[19] Shternshis, Soviet and Kosher: Jewish Popular Culture in the Soviet Union, 1923–1939, 1-43.


William Blum on the “Death of Socialism” in the 20th Century


“The boys of Capital, they also chortle in their martinis about the death of socialism. The word has been banned from polite conversation. And they hope no one will notice that every socialist experiment of any significance in the twentieth century — without exception — was either overthrown, invaded, corrupted, perverted, subverted, destabilized, or otherwise had life made impossible for it, by the United States and its allies. Not one socialist government or movement — from the Russian Revolution to the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, from Communist China to the FMLN in El Salvador — not one was permitted to rise or fall solely on its own merits; not one was left secure enough to drop its guard against the all-powerful enemy abroad and freely and fully relax control at home. It’s as if the Wright brothers’ first experiments with flying machines all failed because the automobile interests sabotaged each test flight. And then the good and god-fearing folk of the world looked upon these catastrophes, nodded their heads wisely, and intoned solemnly: Humankind shall never fly.”

— William Blum, “Killing Hope: US Military And CIA Interventions Since World War II.”

Color Me Unimpressed: Rejoinder to Jason Unruhe


“All we can do is to laugh as we gaze at this spectacle, for one cannot help laughing when one sees a man fighting his own imagination, smashing his own inventions, while at the same time heatedly asserting that he is smashing his opponent.”

 — J.V. Stalin.

In recent years, I have heard much talk about a supposed “Cold War” between myself and Jason Unruhe, better known to the internet as Maoist Rebel News. That would seem to imply that we are rivals, sparring partners, or even “frenemies.” To be clear: MRN and ES are not rivals, because that would imply we are comparable or even equals. Our “rivalry” has been entirely in the obsessive mind of Jason, who has taken every opportunity to viciously slander me and many, many others. It is therefore less a “Cold War” and more like a belligerent drunk screaming racial slurs at a certain car every time it drives by (which is a pretty apt metaphor for his past behavior); it is not a boxing match; it is a single incorrigible individual acting out.

But let’s get to business. In my article, “Lin Biaoism and the Third World: How Idealism Distorts Class,” I dissect what I term “Lin Biaoist” tendencies within Maoism and many other communist ideologies. Jason Unruhe has penned what he alleged to be a reply.

I would say this follow-up will act as a refutation of his points, but that would imply that he had any points to begin with. I would also point out my article cited many scholarly and primary sources. Jason Unruhe’s “refutation” cites precisely nothing. Instead, I’ll say this is an exercise in pointing out his flawed complaints and opinions presented as fact. One complaint in particular stood out to me:

“His article is unnecessarily long”

Dear reader, when you see a complaint like this, it’s code for “I didn’t read the article.” While I thank Jason Unruhe for informing us of his ignorance regarding the content of my work, it was completely unnecessary – the contents of his own “refutation” do that well enough. Indeed, I very much doubt Jason even read my article, because he utterly ignores my dissection of “Lin Biaoism” and just repeats his usual slurs.  I don’t pretend, nor do I want to know, the actions or activities of Jason Unruhe, but I surmise what happened is that he saw the title of my article and rushed off to pen his diatribe without actually reading it.

In fact, everything he says in his “rebuttal,” I dealt with extensively in the original article. Let me explain by breaking down the four main “points” Unruhe brings forward. He says:

“Any rift between Mao and Lin Biao is irrelevant to whether or not a theory is correct.”

This seems less like a point against my article and more like a textbook definition of attributing a position to someone that they simply don’t hold. My article extensively catalogues the rift between Mao and Lin Biao because it was a defining moment in Chinese history. Apparently explaining the origins of “third-worldism” is now associating it with a particular rift. I exhaustively cover the rift between Lin Biao and Mao to give context to his ideas and how they form a subset of Maoism, though a distinct one that is different than most. Unruhe has fundamentally misunderstood the entire purpose of the piece, or more likely, has willfully distorted it out of some combination of ignorance and malice.

“Pointing to Mao’s errors isn’t an argument against Third Worldism.”

Technically, I suppose this point is correct. Reality is just as much an argument against “third-worldist” tendencies as anything else. But as was the entire thesis of my article to begin with, modern “third-worldism” is largely based on Lin Biao’s ideas, distortions of Maoism, and anti-Marxist historical figures like Sultan-Galiyev:

“Lin Biao, in an attempt to apply the Maoist concept of people’s war to the international struggle, pioneered an early version of Mao’s later “theory of three worlds” which perceives the world as being a global countryside surrounding a global city. [….] Modern third-worldism is largely based on Lin Biaoism, though it has perhaps its earliest roots in the theories of Mirza Sultan-Galiyev.”

Unruhe continues to not actually address any of the content of the article or my points, or cite any sources of his own. My article discusses the origins of how “Lin Biaoist” ideas came about, and why they are wrong. Even when he attempts to “refute,” he seems content with refuting things no one ever said. The worst example of this can be seen in points three and four:

Mao was not a “Third Worldist,” nor is Third Worldism Maoist. (He doesn’t even understand the term.)


Finally, as he’s had to be told on numerous occasions (showing his blatant dishonesty), Third Wolrdism has nothing to do with Three Worlds Theory. If he had any critical thinking skills he’d know that Three World’s Theory is anti-Third Worldist.

This is one of the more genuinely puzzling accusations he levels, since the fact that Mao wasn’t a “third-worldist” is precisely what I argue in my article:

“It is accurate to say that the roots of modern third-worldism are based in Maoism itself, in the peasant-based theories of Mao and especially Lin Biao. The three worlds theory, or the “theory of the three-part world” developed by Mao Tse-tung in 1974 was based entirely on China’s strategic interests. It was part of Chinese foreign policy in the 1970s as I have mentioned, and part of it was claiming U.S. imperialism was weak, citing for example its defeat in Vietnam, whereas Soviet social-imperialism was a rising and more dangerous imperialist power and a growing threat to humanity, akin to Nazi Germany. This position was supported dogmatically under Hua Guofeng but quietly dropped in the 1980s after the rise of Deng Xiaoping to the leadership of China when Sino-Soviet ties improved. But, as reactionary and mistaken as Mao’s three worlds theory might have been, and opportunist and anti-communist as was the Chinese foreign policy during that era, one cannot say Mao Tse-tung was a third-worldist in the modern sense by any stretch of the imagination. As perverse as the “theory of the three worlds” might be, present-day third-worldists are a perversion even of that shaky theoretical basis.

I then go on to offer numerous Mao quotes that prove he did not support “Lin Biaoist” or “third-worldist” thought in the modern sense. Later on, I note:

“Third-worldists today uphold the theories of Lin Biao and largely reject the Chinese policies during this period, accusing the Chinese leadership, and even Mao Tse-tung himself, of “first-worldism” for supporting the class struggles of the workers in the ‘first world.’”

And one more time:

“For some of these pseudo-Marxists, they do not qualify either as Lin Biaoists or third-worldists because of some various trivial minutiae, such as not outwardly calling themselves such labels, such complexity does their ideology have, you see, that it defies categorization except that which is convenient for its defenders. I do not seek to say that all the differing theories I use as examples of this tendency are precisely the same; what I’d like to point out is the common failing between Lin Biaoism, the theories of Sultan-Galiyev, Kautsky’s ‘ultra-imperialism,’ Mao’s ‘theory of the three worlds,’ and modern third-worldists.

Unruhe might have known this had he read the article. Furthermore, the idea that “third-worldism” isn’t Maoist is shaky at best. While “third-worldist” ideas may penetrate into other ideologies, it should be obvious to even the casual observer that they are largely based on distortions of Maoist ideology, and many such people identify as Maoists. Of course, Unruhe says nothing about the crux of the analysis just shouts about “dogmatists” and “Mao was a first worldist” and “Hoxha was a racist.”

As is typical of both his articles and his videos, he talked and wrote a lot and didn’t say anything of value at all.

Then, of course, he adds his signature comment:

“The two Whatevers of Hoxhaism. Whatever Stalin said is right and Whatever a Marxist of color said is wrong.”

If you look at that statement, it’s a classic “big lie” of Goebbelsian proportions. It’s something so extreme and off-the-wall that someone reading it without any prior knowledge or background would assume he’s correct. It’s also a statement of opinion presented as a statement of fact, and is not substantiated by anything. He presents it as though “everyone knows this,” or “it’s common knowledge” and doesn’t need to be proven – a logical fallacy.

Regarding the “Marxists of color” accusation, the E.S. website, and “Hoxhaism” in general, is positive towards Ho Chi Minh and Che and many other revolutionaries, not to mention that the majority of “Hoxhaist” parties are in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. But hey, what do they know about racism compared to Jason Unruhe.

Finally, though I admit I know little about whatever other “feuds” Unruhe happens to be trying to ignite (most of his slander seems to just be bait so people will reply to him), it’s worth noting that though he accuses myself and the APL of believing, “everything a Marxist of color says is wrong,” on his own website he seems to have an obsessive need to prove that one individual Tom Watts has been ghostwriting articles under Kevin Rashid’s name. That’s a pretty vicious slander, and (guess what!) completely unsubstantiated. But by now everyone should know vicious unsubstantiated slander is Unruhe’s stock-in-trade. For some reason he even feels the need to mention this in his article about me.

Unruhe regularly complains about being slandered and attacked, but he peppers his own rhetoric and half-baked diatribes with plenty of juvenile slander. What goes around, comes around. If all he’s got is to just call me racist every time he sees my name, color me unimpressed.

Why Does the Pseudo-Left Hate Grover Furr?


by Espresso Stalinist

Grover Furr is an American professor and author. He has taught at Montclair State University in New Jersey for over four decades, and has written essays, articles and books on Soviet history in both Russian and English. Though his body of work covers a wide variety of topics, his most famous writings study the period of Soviet history under Joseph Stalin, particularly regarding controversies around the Moscow Trials, the Katyn “massacre,” the events in Poland in 1939, the murder of Sergei Kirov, the Ukrainian famine and Khrushchev’s “secret speech.” Furr’s research on the history of communism, Soviet history and the historical falsifications told against socialism is some of the most remarkable, ground-breaking and enlightening in the world. He uses a very precise and admirable document-based approach to research that is exceedingly valuable and hard to find elsewhere.

This approach, unsurprisingly, has won him more than a fair share of enemies and critics, not only on the right but the left as well. Those on the left who attack Grover Furr are the most peculiar of his critics. Professor Furr is someone that sets about examining historical allegations used to attack socialism, and in his published books and articles finds and publishes objective documentary and archival proof that it is not true, or at least deceptive. In other words, he spends a great deal of time and effort countering bourgeois propaganda about Marxism-Leninism. What has been their response? To attack him. One would think someone who speaks Russian, has translated Russian documents and has access to the archives would be of interest to those looking to learn about the history of socialism. One would further think, that a sincere person who considers themselves a socialist or a Marxist would thank Grover Furr for finding proof that a large portion of what we are told about Stalin and the U.S.S.R. are lies.

We live in an age where most Marxist or progressive academics who dare to challenge the status quo are fired, sidelined, driven out of academia or simply deemed irrelevant. Only a fool would pretend that academic repression isn’t a reality. Yet, when it comes to the brave, bold and challenging works Furr has published, critics universally dismiss them without reviewing the evidence he presents. In discussions, I have never heard them say, “No Professor Furr, I disagree with your thesis statement, and wish to make a counter-thesis. Here are my facts, arguments and sources backing it up.” Instead, what I hear over and over is his work dismissed as “absurd,” “insane,” or Furr himself labeled as a “crackpot” or “Stalinist.” There is almost always an attempt to link his methods of research to anti-Semites and fascists, or even outright call him a “Holocaust denier,” implicitly comparing Soviet history with Nazi Germany.

Why do his critics almost universally behave in this manner? The answer is simply: because they can’t refute anything he says.

For all Furr’s research has contributed to our understanding of Soviet history and to refuting the lies told about life in socialist countries, his critics and opponents have not offered any meaningful refutation of his works or even engaged with the evidence contained therein. When pressed to sum up his theses, the evidence he presents to support them, and then to offer counter-evidence and refutations of their own, silence fills the space. Very few, if any of his critics are capable of defining what specific points of his works they disagree with or can prove false. Often they assert things that are already addressed in the article in question. The opponents of Furr’s research, whatever their ideological differences may be, all share one common thread that over time is rendered impossible to miss. For all their ranting and raving, not a single one directly challenges him on the sources or attempts to refute his argument. There is a concrete reason for this – opposition to Furr’s research comes from knee-jerk anti-communism.

The pseudo-left’s endless venom towards Furr’s work is entirely (no, not partially, or even mostly, but from what I have seen, entirely) devoid of counter-criticism, counter-evidence, contrasting research or engagement in any way, shape or form with Furr’s work. At the present time, there are no scholarly refutations of Grover Furr’s work. Hostile reviews, on the other hand, are plentiful. Nor is there any lack of critics who chant “give us more evidence,” demanding a larger amount of evidence to their satisfaction – which of course, is a level of evidence that will never exist, no matter how much of it there is. Another consistent pattern with his critics is that they assume that an author must be able to prove the meaning of their research to the satisfaction of a hostile or skeptical critic in order to be considered valid. If the author fails to accomplish this task, it proves that he or she doesn’t understand what it means, and furthermore their failure to do so is definitive proof that the entirety of the research is consequently meaningless.

The debate on Grover Furr is always about form – the person, his writing style, his alleged motives, his allege dishonesty or lack of qualifications, and never about content – the evidence presented, what it shows, and whether it’s true or not. The infantile pseudo-left responds to science with provocation, facts with hostility, reason with insults, ideological questions with personal attacks, and the deep questions posed by Furr’s work with shallow criticisms. This is not to say that anyone who has criticisms of Furr’s work is automatically opposed to socialism. Far from it – criticism is an essential part of being a Marxist-Leninist. But by and large the criticisms of Grover Furr are not made from a principled standpoint.

“No one takes Grover Furr seriously” is the refrain. Yet, John Arch Getty, Robert Thurston, Lars Lih and many others have praised Furr’s work while disagreeing with his politics. One does not have to completely share Furr’s worldview to find a great deal of value in his essays, articles and books. In fact, any serious researcher, Marxist or not, can learn a great deal from the evidence he gathers to back up his viewpoints, evidence that is almost never studiously read or studied by those who violently denounce it. If the idea that Furr is not a serious academic is a legitimate position to take, then there should be criticisms of his scholarship. Perhaps not surprisingly, I haven’t heard a single argument as to why Grover Furr is an unacceptable source of information other than his opinions aren’t popular. If his arguments themselves cannot be addressed, then his critics have no right to reject the citing of his work.

Much is made of Furr’s “academic credentials,” or alleged lack thereof, to write about the subjects he chooses. He is an English professor they say, and therefore cannot be considered an authority on history. These noble knights dedicated to the defense of “credible” capitalist academia you see, must speak out against Furr. Yet, these same people have no problem with the works of Noam Chomsky, a linguist who writes an endless parade of books on a wide variety of subjects outside of his field, such as criticizing U.S. foreign policy, economy, science, immigration and the Cold War. Anyone who is familiar with Chomsky’s work knows his views are fairly traditional anarchism combined with Enlightenment-era classical liberalism. They are not friendly to socialism, and certainly no threat to anyone in the ruling class. Speaking out against imperialism in of itself is not a particularly radical act, especially when you’re not criticizing it from a Marxist perspective. Many far-rightists and libertarians speak out against U.S. foreign policy as well. Why the double standard? What is the difference between Furr and Chomsky? Quite simple, really. Chomsky is the poster boy of left anti-communism, of a “safe” and defanged leftism deprived of anything not acceptable to the bourgeoisie. Meanwhile, Furr’s research attempts to refute popular anti-communist propaganda instead of accepting it. The pseudo-left would rather back the petty-bourgeois cause than the proletarian one, because they are “radicals” stuck in that method of thinking.

It is is absolutely inarguable that the modern view of the history of socialism has been shaped by those who despise it, and yet phony leftists have no trouble upholding the most vile smears against Soviet, Eastern European and Chinese history. In an atmosphere where the highly dubious works of Robert Conquest and Richard Pipes are upheld as a dogma and treated as material to be seriously engaged with or even refuted, Furr’s work is singled out by both reactionaries and the pseudo-left for outright dismissal and slander.

When denial is not enough, general charges are invented, such as the allegation his presentations of history are “conspiracy theories.” This has also been used to describe the works of other Marxist-Leninist scholars, such as William Bland. I stress again that until there are refutations, one cannot accept these charges. After all, with all the history of capitalist plots we’ve learned, can one seriously accept this level of argumentation? Are the facts true, or not? Blanket cries of “Stalinist” directed against Furr mean nothing. If critics have counter-evidence, then let them step forward and present it. This should not be an unreasonable demand for a Marxist – or for anyone, really.

When Furr speaks of opposition conspiracies within the Soviet Union, or of holes and outright falsifications in the official story of Katyn, these are treated with the utmost skepticism. The idea that the defendants of the Moscow Trials may have actually been involved in terrorist conspiracies to overthrow the Soviet government and assassinate officials is seen as nonsense. Yet, when we are presented with stories of a heinous conspiracy involving J.V. Stalin and a substantial number of other high officials to themselves assassinate Zinoviev, Bukharin and a number of others through judicial means, then this “conspiracy theory” is adopted as the default correct position. It follows that it is easier to go along with the dominant narrative – that is, that of the bourgeoisie – regarding the history of socialism than it is to objectively challenge these ideas.

With the fake left, the formula could not be more simple: U.S. Cold War propaganda is upheld, pro-communist scholarly research is not. Every charge against the socialist countries is true; every defense of socialism is akin to Holocaust denial. Those who would agree, at least in words, that the history of the Soviet Union is falsified by capitalist scholars and reactionaries, and that socialist leaders are routinely subjected to outright slander are declared “insane,” their research or conclusions “absurd,” and derided as “crackpots” or “Stalinists.” The critics do not review the evidence or engage with the thesis; they merely dismiss it. They do not present counter-evidence; they merely assert it. Furr’s fake “left” opponents claim that Furr is “not credible scholarship” only because they don’t agree with it. Furr is only a “crackpot” because they don’t like what he has to say. In their view, scholarly research that counters the bourgeois propaganda narrative of history should be cast aside, silenced, devalued, delegitimized, hidden from the public view and ultimately, destroyed.

It seems to me the “left” needs to look in a mirror and stare itself straight in the eye, and ask: what have we come to, if we cannot refute these works? What exactly does it say, when the entire pseudo-left cannot refute someone who is supposedly “a crackpot with no academic credentials?” What does it say, when they cannot even define the actual content of his work when asked, yet they have already declared it false on the whole? What does it say, when they have no evidence to counter Furr’s claims, but rely on attacking Grover Furr the person?

Any allegations that his works are “below criticism” are disingenuous. If they are worthy of such hostility, then they are worthy of honest criticism. If only all of us checked their facts and cited their sources for all to see like Furr does, rather than rest on our own preconceived notions and prejudices, perhaps the American left wouldn’t be in such a precarious position these days.

The pseudo-left’s hatred has nothing to do with honesty. This is because of anti-communism, not political disagreement, not ideological difference, not a problem with Furr’s research or his conclusions, not an issue with his methods, or legitimate criticism of his evidence. It is a liberal and reactionary view that anything anti-Soviet and anti-Stalin must be true, while anything that challenges that view must be attacked, smeared, demonized, ridiculed and silenced. When evidence is not engaged with or dismissed, and the person themselves is slandered, it is not principled disagreement, it is not ideological difference – it is hate and prejudice.

The question stands: why does the pseudo left hate Grover Furr? The answer becomes plain: they hate Grover Furr precisely because his works challenge the hegemony of the Trotsky-Khrushchev-Gorbachev-Cold War anti-communist anti-Stalin paradigm, the dominant paradigm of the bourgeoisie. In other words, they hate Grover Furr because he is a good communist in an age filled with fake ones. They hate Grover Furr because he is an honest researcher in an age filled to the brim with propaganda. They hate Grover Furr because he has evidence for the conclusions he draws and presents it openly, rather than relying on emotionalism. They hate Grover Furr because he challenges the bourgeois anti-communist understanding of Soviet history. These days pseudo-leftists are not just dishonest or liberal; they are avowed anti-communists.

Marxism vs. Indigenism: An Anti-Critique of Ward Churchill


This article was posted in 2008 by Rowland Keshena on a blog which is no longer active. Though there are some very pronounced ideological problems with this essay (particularly its references to “Stalinism,” as well as the “anthropocentrism” of Marxism and the idea that the concept of domination of nature by man is somehow “Judeo-Christian,” it remains a thorough criticism of the anti-communism of leading figures of the Native community. Thus, I have posted it here to aid in struggling against this anti-Marxist line put forward by several Native scholars and figures.

 – E.S.

I have come out and stated a couple of times that I feel that the critiques of Marxism offered by many in the Indian radical movement seem to come across as either having been born from extreme ignorance and/or extreme sect baiting. It has also been my tendency not to really address the claims of people like Russell Means, as I find him a hypocrite and a not so closeted libertarian (despite claims to being anti-capitalist), Vine Deloria Jr., given his absurd beliefs that equate to American Indian creationism, complete with white people being made by aliens and dinosaurs surviving until the 19th century, or Frank Black Elk as they tend to demonstrate an utter lack knowledge about Marxism. The one who I have reserved space for criticism though is Ward Churchill, given my otherwise great respect for him and his scholarship on American history, his place of greater acceptance (relative to the other I mentioned) in leftist circles and his somewhat more intellectual, but still hallow I find, criticisms of Marxism.

His single greatest attempt to present an Indian/Indigenist critique of Marxism was the book of essays he edited in 1983 called Marxism and Native Americans (on a side note, I have often wondered why the term Native Americans here, given his later use of American Indian, and the wider rejection by that time of Native American by the Indian radicals, and Indian country in general). I will admit that the book does make some good criticisms of Stalinism, particularly its anthropocentrism and its continuation of the Judeo-Christian notion of the domination of the earth by man, leading to a continuation of the ecocidal capitalist notion of “grow or die.” However the book also contained a number of problems for me, one being the gross misrepresentation of Marxism contained within, in that both the criticisms given by Churchill, Means, Black Elk, Deloria Jr and Larson and the arguments for Marxism are largely geared towards and presented from the Soviet Marxist-Leninist (read. Stalinist) model of savagely mutilated and intellectually robbed Marxism.

However the goal of this essay is not to attack this book as many good critiques of it already exist, in particular there is one by Canadian Indian nationalist and dedicated Marxist Howard Adams (which for the life of me I cannot find online), which I find of particular interest as it comes from an Indigenous person instead of a white. With that said, my goal here is take a specific look at an essay from Churchill called False Promises: An Indigenist Examination of Marxist Theory and Practice. In this essay Churchill lays out his primary issues with Marxist theory, in particular the Marxist positions on dialectics, nature, Dialectical and Historical Materialism and the labour theory of value. I will not address his problems with Marxism on the national question as I have already given my thoughts on it many times in the past, including on the problems with Marx and Engels’ original formulation of it. In order to try and have an ordered approach to this critique, I have attempted to keep the are sections of my critique the same as his.

Dialectics and Nature:

To open up the essay Churchill begins with a description of dialectical, or relational, thinking, in particular as he finds it in the European traditions and the American Indian ones, which he sums up in the Lakota phrase Metakuyeayasi (my relatives/relations). He also traces the history of dialectical thinking in Europe, having come into Europe via the the Greeks, who Churchill identifies as having gotten it in turn from the Egyptian civilization, who also apparently in turn borrowed it from the Ethiopians. Next he jumps to Hegel, who he states revived the tradition of dialectical thinking in Europe, and from whom the idea was introduced to Marx and the other Young Hegelians.

He also at this point correctly states that the Hegelian/Marxist concept of thinking in terms of relationships stands solidly opposed to the history of European thought, exemplified in linear rationality. It is here that Churchill’s critique of Marxist dialectics begins, as he sees the primary problem with Marx being that he has a presumption of the supremacy of human agency in determining historical reality. This of course, for Churchill, is a supremely Eurocentric presumption. Churchill sums it up in his essay by saying:

“His (Marx) impetus in this regard appears to have been his desire to see his theoretical endeavors used, not simply as a tool of understanding, but as a proactive agent for societal transformation, a matter bound up in his famous dictum that “the purpose of philosophy is not merely to understand history, but to change it.” (sic) Thus Marx, a priori and with no apparent questioning in the doing, proceeded to anchor the totality of his elaboration in the presumed primacy of a given relation—that sole entity which can be said to hold the capability of active and conscious pursuit of change, i.e.: humanity—over any and all relations, the Marxian “dialectic” was thus unbalanced from the outset, skewed as a matter of faith in favor of humans. Such disequilibrium is, of course, not dialectical at all. It is, however, quite specifically Eurocentric in its attributes, springing as it does from the late-Roman interpretation of the Judeo-Christian assertion of “man’s” supposed responsibility to “exercise dominion over nature,” a tradition which Marx (ironically) claimed oft and loudly to have “voided” in his rush to materialism.”

As Marx quite truly stated in his Theses on Feuerbach, “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.” Indeed this has come to form the core of much of Marxist theory and practice, however for Churchill to take a quotation like this and make a jump into presuming that Marx was ascribing some kind of transcendental and transhistorical superpower to human agency is inaccurate at best. I also find this critique a little strange in that it comes a completely different direction than many other critics of Marx who felt that he was far to deterministic and actually tended towards undermining the power of human agency.

Marx was quite clear though that what he was looking at was the conditions in which humans can act, and he is clear that these conditions are independent of the will of the actors, a position that is best summed up in these two quotes:

“Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.” – “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon.”

“In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness.” – “A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy.”

We must also take into account that these conditions that Marx speaks of are eminently historical. In other words they had come from somewhere, and they will go somewhere. It also follows on from this that they are eminently social. To sum it up, when Marx speaks on the range of action and the range of inaction available to humans in a particular place and time, he is talking about the constrictions of the social reality; this involves the economics, the politics, the religious, the cultural, so on, so forth. All of these factors for Marx are social.

The next contention by Churchill is that Marx failed to see the human existence as being one relation among several, with Marx most conspicuously leaving out the relation of nature. However for Marx even the concept of nature itself is social. This is because Marx feels that nature is not a given, but rather something that exists only in relation to human being. However, if we take the idea that nature is a relation, and not a deified and transhistorical category, it exists because some humans define it as such, it does not mean that we feel natural events like hurricanes or blizzards will bend to the will of humans, rather we see that the categories we as humans use to define and describe the world around us are also historical and relational, which is to say that they are dialectical.

We also must realize that humanity exists within geography and territory, and hence is effected by the various effects that nature has, such as temperature and landscape. However we must also recognize that we have managed to alter these effects, namely temperature and landscape. In other words, we have been able to alter nature. It’s still relational, still dialectical. Even if we describe nature as being something separate from humanity, Engels is right to point out that whatever we define as nature is going to be historical, continuously coming into being and changing.

Churchill is also quite correct to state that Marx is a humanist and anthropocentric, however I feel his incorrect to conflate this with a continuation of the Judeo-Christian drive to dominate nature. Again I feel this is misleading on Churchill’s part, because while it certainly does very well sum up the history of Stalinism, it conflates this with all of Marxism, and certainly ignores the development of ecosocialism. However, if we go back to Marx himself we can see that even his supposed anthropocentrism is dialectical and does not ignore the myriad relations in which humans exist, certainly not that of nature. Marx’s writings are also not speaking of a Judeo-Christian drive to dominate nature. An excellent rejonder to this often brought up criticism of Marx is the book Marx’s Ecology: Materialism and Nature by John Bellamy Foster. In the book Foster shatters the notion that Marx cared only about industrial growth and the development of economic forces. By covering not just Marx, but also other thinkers like Epicurus, Charles Darwin, Thomas Malthus, Ludwig Feuerbach, P. J. Proudhon, and William Paley he is able to construct a materialist conception of nature and society, and thereby also challenge the mysticism and spiritualism prevalent in the modern Green movement, pointing toward a method that offers more lasting and sustainable solutions to the ecological crisis.

I could say more about that book and the other works of Foster, and indeed I highly suggest that anyone even thinking of calling themselves Marxist or radical read his works, however, summing up his work is not the point of this essay, so instead I will a quote from Engels’ The Part played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man that find to be particularly devastating to Churchill’s argument:

“Let us not, however, flatter ourselves overmuch on account of our human victories over nature. For each such victory nature takes its revenge on us. Each victory, it is true, in the first place brings about the results we expected, but in the second and third places it has quite different, unforeseen effects which only too often cancel the first. […] Thus at every step we are reminded that we by no means rule over nature like a conqueror over a foreign people, like someone standing outside nature – but that we, with flesh, blood and brain, belong to nature, and exist in its midst, and that all our mastery of it consists in the fact that we have the advantage over all other creatures of being able to learn its laws and apply them correctly.”

The quote speaks for itself, the simple fact is that Marx and Engels were in no way ignorant of humanity’s position as being one relation existing dialectically among many, most certainly not separate from nature, but in nature. This also means that nature is eminently social. To that we can add that Marx and Engels were also both concerned with what we now often refer to as “sustainable development.” Simply, they didn’t think humans fucking up the environment was a good idea. They were actually highly critical of ecological destruction and degradation. As for Churchill’s assertion of Marx continuing the Judeo-Christian of human dominion over nature goes, let us consider Marx’s own words:

“Even a whole society, a nation, or even all simultaneously existing societies taken together, are not the owners of the globe. They are only its possessors, its usufructuaries, and, like boni patres familias, they must hand it down to succeeding generations in an improved condition.” – “Capital Vol. III Part VI: Transformation of Surplus-Profit into Ground-Rent.”

The simple fact is that Churchill’s assertion that Marx and Engels support the domination of nature of man is just plain wrong. It goes to show that Churchill, like many other critics of Marx, whether Marxist, non-Marxist, Indigenist, religious or whatever has failed to actually read Marx in anyway but a superficial manner before attempting to present a coherent argument against Marxism.

Historical and Dialectical Materialism:

After attacking Marx’s notions of dialectics and nature Churchill moves on to attempting to examine the heart of Marxist theory, historical materialism. To begin Churchill makes the assertion that historical materialism examining human society as a mass of contradictions rather than as a unified whole, that all of human history is simply the history of contradictions reconciling themselves to production. Churchill then tells us that “‘Productive relations,’ in [the Marxist] schema, determine all and everything.” The so-called orthodox Marxists, according to Albert and Hahnel (whom Churchill cites), assert that Marxism downgrades the “importance of the creative aspect of the human consciousness” and that consciousness rests primarily on objective production relations.

I will admit that there is a grain of truth in Churchill’s assertions here, however he launches into a full scale attack on historical and dialectical materialism before providing a coherent account of them, with his attacks relying on wildly out of context quotations from Althusser and Baudrillard. Because of this it is very difficult to actually provide a defence of them against Churchill’s assertions. Perhaps in this case the best way to present a critique of Churchill is to actually provide a brief summary of historical and dialectical materialism, and in this way hopefully provide an answer to some of his problems.

The primary concept behind Marx’s theory of historical materialism is that all of history is based on, and driven by, material realities rather than mysterious forces. Another way of putting this is that it is not so much the ideas we have that determine our existence as much as it is the factors of our material existence that determine our ideas. This does not mean that ideas have absolutely no effect on the course of history, rather just that they only have effect when put into material action.

The Marxist model of historical materialism looks for the various causes of developments and changes in human societies in the way in which humans collectively make the means to live, thus giving an emphasis, through economic analysis, to everything that co-exists with the economic base of society. But what is meant by economics in this context? We often hear the term “mode of production” get thrown around alot, e.g., capitalism is a mode of production. If we break down, humans need to eat, drink, sleep, etc and in order to do these things they have to produce things, in one fashion or another, and the “mode” is how the production is organized and carried out. Like all other factors, this organization to is intrinsically social and its impact and been seen and felt on all other aspects of society, including: culture, politics, the state, and law. To put it simply, our social relations of production play a major role in how our social relations are organized in general.

However, any given mode of production that a society utilizes does not appear out of thin air and and neither do things like culture and ideas. The fact is that these develop together, and develop because of the course of human actions and interactions. However, importantly, the behaviours and courses of action taken by people are determined by the possibilities, limits, and imperatives of historical conditions.

Additionally it must be noted that economics is not the sole factor in driving the course of human history, as other factors can, and do, play roles in this. The point here is that they can not be separated from one another, and one cannot ignore the foundational aspect of the material social realities. Also, different modes of production can and do exist at the same time, over the same spaces, but it also the case that there is one that is clearly more dominant and determining than others.

So now let us return to Churchill’s original critiques. By now I would hope that a few things have become apparent. Firstly, the mass of human society is a set of contradictions. However these contradictions are parts of a whole and they are determined by the logic of that whole. However the whole is not necessarily “unified,” however Churchill does not really explain what he means by that term anyway. Also, the contradictions do not actually have to reconcile themselves to production. Production is itself upheld by its own set of contradictions. The productive relations are fundamental, but they do not determine “all and everything.” Finally, it is true that human consciousness is determined by their material existence. Existence precedes essence, and not the other way around. However, the whole point of revolution is that the productive relations people enter into are independent of their wills doesn’t mean it has to remain that way.

Labour Theory of Value:

The final area of Churchill’s critique of Marxism that I will examine is Marx’s labour theory of value.

Churchill is partially correct in saying that the LTV forms the core of Marxist thought, as it actually forms the bedrock of the Marxist economic theory of capitalism as a mode of production. In the essay, Churchill describes the LTV as meaning that:

“value can be assigned to anything by virtue of the quantity and quality of human labor—i.e.: productive, transformative effort—put into it. This idea carries with it several interesting sub properties, most strikingly that the natural world holds no intrinsic value of its own.”

Again, this is partially true.

For us to really be able to understand the rationale behind Marx’s ideas on the LTV we examine what Marx is actually attempting to do with it. Marx’s drive behind formulating the LTV was to try and discover “the laws of motion” of the capitalist mode of production. What this means for us, and it is central in our attempt here to refute Churchill, is that Marx’s analysis is entirely specific to capitalism as an economic system.

So what is Marx speaking of when talks about value? Well, he is specifically speaking of the value of commodities. Now by this he means that a commodity is a thing that has some kind of use, though it does not matter how one defines that use. In Capital, Vol. 1 Marx states that the “utility of a thing makes it a use-value.” What he is saying is that things can and do have intrinsic value of their own, though only when they are viewed from the perspective of humans. We also need to be crystal clear about what Marx meant by “use.” If a person derives aesthetic, spiritual, or some kind of non-physical use from a thing it is still a use. It may be a different kind of use-value, but still a use-value none the less. This means that use-value is subjective. However Marx did not mean this when he spoke of “value”.

In order for a commodity to be one it has to have some sort of exchange-value. So how do two disparate use-values find themselves being equated for exchange? There is a medium, money in the case of capitalism, which facilitates this exchange. However, what determines the particular exchange-value of a thing? For Marx, exchange-value is created by the labour required to actually produce the thing. This means that exchange-value is determined by the labour required for its production in a capitalist economy. This is what Marx means when he is talking about the LTV. This means that in the capitalist market-economy value is expressed as, and through, exchange-value, and exchange-value has nothing to do with a given thing’s use-value.

It is also entirely possible for something to have a use-value while having no exchange-value, meaning that it is not a commodity. Marx put it like this:

“A thing can be a use value, without having value. This is the case whenever its utility to man is not due to labour. Such are air, virgin soil, natural meadows, &c. A thing can be useful, and the product of human labour, without being a commodity.” – “Capital, Vol. 1.”

With this in mind it is now possible for us to fully understand what Marx meant in Capital when he said, “nothing can have value, without being an object of utility. If the thing is useless, so is the labour contained in it; the labour does not count as labour, and therefore creates no value.” Here he is is quite specifically talking of exchange-value. If a thing is not useful to someone else, it will not be exchanged, and hence has no value in the capitalist economy.

What Churchill says is right on in terms of how a capitalist economy views value and Marx would have no problem in sharing Churchill’s critique, though it’s not actually the critique of Marx or Marxism the Churchill tries to present it as. Churchill says:

“A mountain is worth nothing as a mountain; it only accrues value by being ‘developed’ into its raw productive materials such as ores, or even gravel. It can hold a certain speculative value, and thus be bought and sold, but only with such developmental ends in view. Similarly, a forest holds value only in the sense that it can be converted into a product known as lumber; otherwise, it is mere an obstacle to valuable, productive use of land through agriculture or stock-raising, etc. (an interesting commentary on the Marxian view of the land itself). Again, other species hold value only in terms their utility to productive processes (e.g.: meat, fur, leather, various body oils, eggs, milk, transportation in some instances, even fertilizer); otherwise they may, indeed must be preempted and supplanted by the more productive use of the habitat by humans.”

As for what Churchill refers to as the “Marxian view of the land itself,” I would refer you back to the earlier quotes from Marx and Engels. I should also point out that Marx is very clear that nature is as much a source of wealth as labour, and was quite vociferous in his criticism of those who thought that labour alone was a source of wealth:

“Labor is not the source of all wealth. Nature is just as much the source of use values (and it is surely of such that material wealth consists!) as labor, which itself is only the manifestation of a force of nature, human labor power.” – “Critique of the Gotha Programme.”

Getting back to my earlier point about Churchill’s critique of Marxist ideas on dialectics and nature, it would seem that his critiques of the labour theory of value have little, if any, detailed analysis behind it. Again, it appears that Churchill has attempted nothing but the most superficial reading of Marx and Engels. Hence he comes off as little more than ignorant of what he trying to speak about.

However, the point behind this “anti-critique” of sorts is that what Churchill is presenting in his essay might go on to form the basis of further mistaken critiques of Marxism. I also feel that it is important the truth of Marxist thought is certainly not the kind of Soviet Marxism that Churchill and others repeatedly conflate with Marxism on the whole.

On a final note, I disagree with Churchill that Marxism and Indigenism are mutually exclusive. This perhaps because, rather than use his definition of Indigenism as being a mix of deep-ecology, soft-path technology and anarchism (more like minarchism), I prefer the definition given by Guillermo Bonfil Batalla. His definition of Indigenism boiled down to six basic demands:

* Right to ancestral lands including complete control of land and subsoil, the defence of land and recuperation of land lost.
* Recognition of the ethnic and cultural identity of indigenous people- all indigenous peoples and organizations reaffirm the right to be distinct in culture, language and institutions, and to increase the value of their own technological, social and ideological practices.
* Equal political rights in relation to the state.
* The end of repression and violence, particularly that against the leaders, activists and followers of indigenous political organizations.
* The end of family planning programmes which have brought widespread sterilization of indigenous women and men.
* The rejection of tourism and folklore, meaning the end of commercialization of Indian music, dance and other art forms as well as other forms of cultural appropriation. Instead, respect for true indigenous cultural expressions.

These original six demands, as well as many others such as the rejection of capitalism and neoliberalism, have framed many of the Indian liberation struggles in the Americas over the last century, from sections of the Red Power movement (especially in Canada), to the Zapatistas in Mexico, to the work of Hugo Blanco and others in the Andean region of South America, to the election of Evo Morales in Bolivia, to the current struggles in Canada. There is also absolutely no reason that this form of Indigenism cannot be compatible with Marxism and struggles for socialism, and I am proud to call myself both a Marxist and an Indigenist.

However, the indigenism that Ward Churchill propagates has become, in certain circles, a curse word on the left implying that someone seeks a return to a primitivist life-style, or at least a certain level of deindustrialization. This is also not far off of what Churchill, Means and others seek. However, the simple fact is that true Indigenism, not the vaguely disguised primitivism of Means and Churchill, it is not something people on the revolutionary left should be afraid of, indeed it should embraced alongside the struggles against capitalism, racial/national oppression of blacks and latinos, patriarchy and homophobia/heterosexism, only then can a truly emancipatory struggle be waged.

Maximilien Robespierre: Louis Must Die, That the Republic Can Live


“On the Trial of the King” by Maximilien Robespierre
3 December 1792


The Assembly has been led, without realizing it, far from the real question. There is no trial to be held here. Louis is not a defendant. You are not judges. You are not, you cannot be anything but statesmen and representatives of the nation. You have no sentence to pronounce for or against a man, but a measure of public salvation to implement, an act of national providence to perform. A dethroned king, in the Republic, is good for only two uses: either to trouble the peace of the state and threaten liberty, or to affirm both of these at the same time. Now I maintain that the character of your deliberation so far runs directly counter to that goal. In fact, what is the decision that sound policy proscribes to consolidate the nascent Republic? It is to engrave contempt for royalty deeply on the people’s hearts and dumbfound all the king’s supporters. Thus, to present his crime to the universe as a problem, to treat his cause as an object of the most imposing, the most religious, the most difficult discussion that could occupy the representatives of the French people; to establish an immeasurable distance between the mere memory of what he was and the dignity of the citizen, amounts precisely to having found the secret of keeping him dangerous to liberty.

Louis was king, and the Republic was founded: the famous question you are considering is settled by these words alone. Louis was dethroned by  his crimes; Louis denounced the French people as rebellions; to chastise it, he called on the arms of his fellow tyrants; victory and the people decided that he was the rebellions one: therefore Louis cannot be judged; either he is already condemned or the Republic is not acquitted. Proposing to put Louis on trial, in whatever way that could be done, would be to regress towards royal and constitutional despotism; it is a counter-revolutionary idea, for it means putting the revolution itself in contention. In fact, if Louis can still be put on trial, then he can be acquitted; he may be innocent; what am I saying! He is presumed to to be so until he has been tried. But if Louis is acquitted, if Louis can be presumed innocent, what becomes of the revolution? If Louis is innocent, then all defenders of liberty become slanderers; the rebels were the friends of truth and defenders of oppressed innocence; all the manifestos from foreign courts are just legitimate complaints against a dominant faction. Even the detention of Louis has suffered so far is an unjust vexation; the fédérés, the people of Paris, all the patriots of the French empire are guilty; and, pending nature’s tribunal, this great trial between crime and virtue, between liberty and tyranny, is decided in favour of crime and tyranny.

Citizens, have a care; you are being misled here by false notions. You are confusing the rules of civil and statue law with the principles of the laws of nations; you are confusing relations between citizens with those between a nation and an enemy conspiring against it. You are also confusing the situation of a people in revolution with that of a people whose government is soundly established. You are confusing a nation that punishes a public official while conserving the form of government, with one that destroys the government itself. We refer to ideas familiar to us to understand an extraordinary case  that functions on principles we have never applied. Thus, because we are accustomed to seeing offenses we have witnessed judged according to uniform rules, we are naturally inclined to believe that under no circumstances can nations equitably punish a man who has violated their rights in any other way; and that where we do not see a jury, a bench, proceedings, we do not find justice. These very terms, when we apply them to ideas different from the ones they normally express, end by misleading us. Such is the natural dominion of habit that we regard the most arbitrary conventions, sometimes indeed the most defective institutions, as absolute measures of truth or falsehood, justice or injustice. It does not even occur to us t hat most are inevitably still connected with the prejudices on which despotism fed us. We have been so long stooped under its yoke that we have some difficulty in raising ourselves to the eternal principles of reason; anything that refers to all the sacred source of all law seems to us to take on an illegal character, and the very order of nature seems to us a disorder. The majestic movements of a great people, the sublime fervours of virtue often appear to our timid eyes as something like an erupting volcano or the overthrow of political society; and it is certainly not the least of the troubles bothering us, the contradiction between the weakness of our morals, the depravity of our minds, and the purity of principle and energy of character demanded by the free government to which we have dared aspire.

When a nation has been forced to resort to the right of insurrection, it returns to the state of nature in relation to the tyrant. How can the tyrant invoke the social pact? He has annihilated it. The nation can still keep it, if it thinks fit, for everything concerning relations between citizens; but the effect of tyranny and insurrection is to break it entirely where the tyrant is concerned; it places them reciprocally in a state of war. Courts and legal proceedings are only for members of the same side.

It is a gross contradiction to suppose that the constitution might preside over this new order of things; that would be to assume it had itself survived. What are the laws that replace it? Those of nature, the one which is the foundation of society itself: the salvation of the people. The right to punish the tyrant and the right to dethrone him are the same thing; both include the same forms. The tyrant’s trial is the insurrection; the verdict, the collapse of his power; the sentence, whatever the liberty of the people requires.

People do not judge in the same way as courts of law; they do not hand down sentences, they throw thunderbolts; they do not condemn kings, they drop them back into the void; and this justice is worth just as much as that of the courts. If it is for their salvation that they take arms against their oppressors, how can they be made to adopt a way of punishing them that would pose a new danger to themselves?

We have allowed ourselves to be led into error by foreign examples that have nothing in common with us. Cromwell had Charles I tried by a judicial commission he controlled; Elizabeth had Mary Queen of Scots condemned in the same way; it is natural that tyrants who sacrifice their fellows, not to the people, but to their own ambition, should seek to mislead vulgar opinion with illusory forms. There is no question there of principle or liberty, but of deceit and intrigue. But the people! What other law can it follow, than justice and reason supported by its own absolute power?

In what republic was the need to punish the tyrant a legal matter? Was Tarquin called to trial? What would have been said in Rome, if Romans had dared say they were his defenders? And what are we doing? We are summoning lawyers from every side to plead the cause of Louis XVI.

We are establishing as legitimate acts what any free people would have regarded as the greatest of crimes. We are ourselves inviting the citizens to baseness and corruption. We could well find ourselves one day awarding Louis’s defenders civil crowns; for if they defend his cause, they may hope to make it triumph; otherwise you would be showing the universe nothing but a ridiculous charade. And we dare to use the word Republic! We invoke forms, because we have no principle; we pride ourselves on our delicacy, because we lack energy; we flaunt a false humanity, because the feeling of true humanity is foreign to us; we revere the shadow of a king, because we do not know how to respect the people; we are tender towards oppressors, because we are heartless towards the oppressed.

The trial of Louis XVI! But what is that trial, if not a call for insurrection in some tribunal or assembly? When a king has been annihilated by the people, who has the right to resuscitate him and make him a new pretext for trouble and rebellion, and whatever other efforts this scheme might produce? By opening an arena for the champions of Louis XVI, you are renewing the quarrels of despotism against liberty, you are establishing the right to blaspheme against the Republic and against the people; for the right to defend the former despite carries with it the right to say anything appropriate to his cause. You awaken all the factions; you revive and encourage dormant royalism: people can take sides freely for or against. What could be more legitimate, what more natural than to repeat everywhere the maxims that his fenders will be able to profess openly at your bar and in your parliament itself! What sort of republic is it whose founders seek out adversaries for it on all sides to attack it in its cradle!

See what rapid progress this scheme has made already. Last August, all the partisans of royalty were hiding: anyone who had dared attempt an apologia for Louis XVI would have been punished as a traitor. Today they are again showing a bold front, with impunity; today the aristocracy’s most deplored scribblers are confidently taking up their poisonous pens once more.

Today, the insolent writings that are precursors to all attacks are flooding the city where you reside, all the eighty-four departments and up to the very portals of this sanctuary of liberty. Today armed men, conscripts, kept inside these walls without your knowledge and against the law, made the street of this city resound with seditious cries demanding impunity for Louix XVI. Today Paris contains within it men brought together, you have been told, to snatch him from the nation’s justice. All that remains for us to do is to throw open these premises to the athletes already flocking to solicit the honour of taking up cudgels on behalf of royalty. What am I saying! Today Louis divides the people’s representatives; some speak for him, some speak against him. Two months ago, who would have suspected that there could be any question over whether he was inviolable or not? But since a member of the National Convention presented the question whether the king could be tried as an object of a serious deliberation preliminary to every other question, inviolability, with which the conspirators in the Constituent Assembly covered his first perjuries, has been invoked to protect his latest attacks. O crime! O shame! The parliament of the French people resounded to the panegyric of Louis XVI. We have heard the virtues and good deeds of the tyrant being praised! We barely managed to rescue the honour or the liberty of the best citizens from the injustice of a precipitate decision. What am I saying? We have seen the most atrocious calumnies against the people’s representatives known for their zeal for liberty greeted with scandalous joy. We have seen one part of this Assembly proscribed by the other almost immediately after being denounced by stupidity and depravity combined. The tyrant’s cause alone is so sacred that it cannot be discussed too freely or for too long: and why should that astonish us? The double phenomenon has a single cause. Those who take an interest in Louis or this like must thirst for the blood of those people’s deputies who are demanding, for the second time, that he be punished; they can pardon only those who have softened in his favour. The plan to shackle the people by killing its defenders, has it ever been abandoned for a single moment? And all the scoundrels who are proscribing them today, calling them anarchists and agitators, will they not themselves whip up the troubles their perfidious system presages for us? If we are to believe them, the trial will last several months at least; it will last until next springtime, when the despots should be making a general attack on us. And what a career to the conspirators! What a feast for intrigue and aristocracy! Thus, all the partisans of tyranny can still hope that help form their allies and foreign armies will encourage the boldness of the court meant to pronounce on Louis’s fate, while their gold is tempting its loyalty.

God in heaven! All the ferocious hordes of despotism are preparing to tear at the breast of our homeland once again, in the name of Louis XVI! Louis is still fighting us from the depths of his dungeon; and people doubt whether he is guilty, whether it is permitted to treat him as an enemy! They want to know what the laws are that condemn him!

The constitution is invoked in his favour. I do not intend to repeat here all the unanswerable arguments developed by those who deign to answer objections of that sort. On this matter I will say a word for the benefit of those whom they have not convinced. The constitution forbade everything you have done. Even if he could only be punished by forced abdication, you could not pronounce sentence without having brought him to trial. You have no right at all to hold him in prison. He has the right to ask you for his release and for damages and interest. The constitution condemns you: fall at  Louis XVI’s feet and ask for his clemency.

Personally, I should blush to discuss these constitutional quibbles any more seriously than that; they should belong on school or palace benches, or rather in the cabinets of London, Vienna, and Berlin. I cannot argue at length when I am convinced that deliberation is a scandal.

This is a great cause, we have been told, and one should be judged with wise and slow circumspection. Is it you who are making it a great cause! What am I saying? It is you who are making it a cause. What do you find in it that can be called great? Is it the difficulty? No. Is it the person? From the viewpoint of liberty, there is none more vile; from that of humanity, none more guilty. Now he can only impress those more cowardly than he is himself. Is it usefulness of the outcome? That is one more reason to hasten it. A great cause would be a popular draft law; a great cause would be that of a poor man oppressed by despotism. What is the motive for these endless delays you are urging on us? Are you afraid of hurting the people’s opinion? As if the people itself feared anything other than the weakness or ambition of its representatives; as if the people were a foul herd of slaves stupidly attached to the tyrant it has proscribed, and wishing at all costs to wallow in baseness and servitude. You talk about opinion; is it not for you to direct it, to fortify it? If it wanders, if it becomes depraved, who should get the blame, if not yourselves? Are you afraid of annoying the foreign kings in league against you? Oh yes, there is no doubt at all that the way to defeat them is to fear them! That the way to confound the criminal conspiracy of European despots is to bow to their accomplice! Do you fear foreign people? Then you still believe in the innate love of tyranny. So why do you aspire to the glory of freeing the human race? Through what contradiction do you suppose that nations which were not astonished by the proclamation of the rights of humanity will be terrified by the chastisement of one of its most cruel oppressors? Finally, we are told, you fear the gaze of posterity. Yes; posterity will be astonished, in fact, by your irresponsibility and your weakness, and our descendants will laugh at the presumption of their fathers, and at their prejudices.

We have been told that genius would be needed to go deeply into this question; I maintain that only good faith is required. It is less a question of enlightenment than of avoiding voluntary blindness. Why is it that what seems clear to us at one time seems obscure at another? Why is it that something decided easily by the good sense of the people changes into an almost insoluble problem for its delegates? Have we the right to have a will contrary to the general will and a wisdom that differs from universal reason?

I have heard defenders of the king’s inviolability advancing a bold principle that I should almost have hesitated to state myself. They said that anyone who, on 10 August, had sacrificed Louis XVI would have been performing a virtuous act; but the sole basis for that opinion can only have been Louis XVI’s crimes and the people’s rights. Well, has a three-month interval changed his crimes or the people’s rights? The reason why he was rescued at that time from public indignation was undoubtedly so that his punishment, formally ordered by the National Convention in the nation’s name, would become all the more imposing to enemies of humanity: but casting new doubt on the fact of his guilt or whether he can be punished amounts to betraying a promise given to the French people. There are perhaps some people who, either to prevent the Assembly from assuming a character worthy of it, or to deprive the nations of an example that would raise minds to the level of republican principles, or for even more shameful motives, would not be sorry if a private hand were to carry out the functions of national justice. Citizens, be wary of this trap: anyone daring to give that advice would only be serving the people’s enemies. Whatever happens, the punishment of Louis will now only be good if it bears the formal character of a public vengeance.

What does the contemptible figure of the last of the kings matter to the people? Representatives, what matters to it, what matters to you yourselves, is that you fulfil the duties that its confidence has imposed on you. The Republic is proclaimed; but have you given it to us? We have not yet made a single law that justifies the name; we have not yet reformed a single abuse of despotism: alter the names, and we still have the tyranny in its entirety, and on top of that factions that are viler, charlatans still more immortal, along with new ferments of troubles and civil war. The Republic! And Louis still lives! And you still place the king’s person between us and liberty! By way of scruples, let us fear making ourselves criminal; let us fear that by showing too much indulgence for the culprit we may be putting ourselves in his place.

Another difficulty. To what sentence shall we condemn Louis? The death penalty is too cruel. No, says another, life is crueller still: I demand that he live. Advocates for the king, is it from pity or cruelty that you want to shield him from the penalty for his crimes?

I myself abhor the death penalty generously prescribed by your laws; and for Louis I feel neither love nor hate; I just hate his crimes. I asked for the death penalty to be abolished in the Assembly you still name Constituent; and it is no fault of mine that the highest principles of reason seamed to it to be moral and political heresies. But you, who never think of citing them in favour of all the unfortunates whose offenses are less theirs than the government’s, by what fluke do you now recall them to plead the cause of the greatest criminal of all? You are demanding an exception to the death penalty for the one individual who can justify it. Yes, the death penalty, in general, is a crime, and for the sole reason that, in keeping with the indestructible principles of nature, it can only be justified where it is necessary for the security of individuals or the social body. Now public security never requires it for ordinary offences, because society can always stop them by other means and make the culprit powerless to damage it. But a dethroned king in the middle of a revolution, which is nothing unless consolidated by the laws, a king whose name along calls down the scourge of war on the disturbed nation: neither prison nor exile can render his existence harmless to the public good; and this cruel exception that justice allows to ordinary laws can be imputed only to the nature of his crimes.

I utter this deadly truth with regret, but Louis must die, because the homeland has to live. Among a peaceable, free people, respected at home and abroad, you might listen to the advice being given to you to be generous; but a people whose liberty is still being disputed after so many sacrifices and battles, a people in whose country the laws are still only inexorable towards the unfortunate, a people in whose country the crimes of tyranny are still subjects of dispute, such a people must want to be avenged; and the generosity for which you are being praised would resemble too much that of a society of bandits sharing our spoils.

I propose that you give an immediate ruling on Louis’s fate. As for his wife, you will send her back to the courts, along with all the individuals aware of the same attacks. His son will be kept in the Temple, until such time as peace and public liberty should be established. As for Louis, I ask that the National Convention declare him from this moment a traitor to the French nation, a criminal towards humanity; I ask that a great example be given to the world, at the same place where, on 10 August, the generous martyrs to liberty lost their lives. I ask that this memorable event be commemorated with a monument to nourish in the hearts of peoples the sense of their rights and horror of tyrants; and in the minds of tyrants, salutatory terror of the people’s justice.

Fidel Castro on Human Rights

cuba communism castro dictatorship crisis

“Mr. President, distinguished representatives: Human rights are often spoken of, but we must also speak of humanity’s rights. Why should some people walk around barefoot so that others may travel in expensive cars? Why should some live only thirty-five years so that others may live seventy? Why should some be miserably poor so that others may be exaggeratedly rich? I speak on behalf of the children in the world who do not even have a piece of bread. I speak on behalf of the sick who lack medicine. I speak on behalf of those who have been denied the right to life and human dignity.”

 – Fidel Castro, message to the U.N. General Assembly in 1979, quoted in “The Fidel Castro Reader,” p. 415.

Bill Bland: Stalin: The Myth and Reality


A Paper Originally Scheduled To Be Read By Bill Bland At The Conference Of ‘International Struggle: Marxist-Leninist’ In October 1999; Paris.

Brief Foreword: This talk was never delivered as Comrade Bland at the very last moment could not attend. The talk is offered however as a useful distillation of several decades of thought and concrete, factual and hard Marxist-Leninist research. The talk itself, originated in one that Comrade Bland gave to the young Communist League in 1975 at a summer school. It was widely distributed and has influenced the Marxist-Leninist movement profoundly. However, its implicatiosn ahve yet to be fully absorbed by certain sections of the movement. That original talk, and a later one given to the Stalin Society of the UK in 1991, are both also presented on this web page elsewhere; and are completely referenced. This web-page, being a summary in the form of a talk is not referenced.

Today almost everyone who calls himself a Marxist-Leninist accepts that, in its final years, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was dominated by revisionists — that is, by people who claimed to be Marxist-Leninists but who had in reality distorted Marxism-Leninism to serve the interests of an embryonic capitalist class.

On one question, however, there is still disagreement, namely, when did the domination of the CPSU by revisionists begin?

These days, most people date it from the 20th Congress of the CPSU in 1956, when Khrushchev threw off his false Marxist-Leninist mask.

However, there are good grounds for believing that for many years prior to Stalin’s death in 1953, a majority of the Soviet leadership were either concealed or latent revisionists.

  • Why, for example, did Stalin, who played such an active role in the international communist movement in the 1920s, cease to do so after 1926?
  • Why did the publication of Stalin’s works, scheduled for sixteen volumes, cease with Volume 13 in 1949, four years before his death?
  • Why was Stalin not asked to deliver the report of the Central Committee to the 19th Congress in 1952?
  • Why were Stalin’s last writings confined to subjects like linguistics and the critique of a proposed textbook on economics — subjects which might be considered harmless to concealed revisionists had not Stalin turned them into attacks on revisionist ideas?
  • Why did the Soviet government surprise world opinion in 1947 by suddenly reversing its foreign policy in order to endorse the American proposal for the partition of Palestine which has proved so disastrous for the nations of the Middle East?

All this makes sense if — and I believe only if — we accept the fact that for some years before his death, Stalin and his fellow Marxist-Leninists were in a minority in the leadership of the Soviet Union.

The fact of the existence of a revisionist majority in the leadership of the CPSU was effectively concealed by the ‘cult of personality’ that was built up around Stalin.

Stalin himself criticised and ridiculed this ‘cult’ on numerous occasions. Yet it continued.

It follows that Stalin was either an utter hypocrite, or he was unable to put a stop to this ‘cult’.

The initiator of the ‘cult of personality’ around Stalin was, in fact, Karl Radek, who pleaded guilty to treason at his public trial in 1937.

A typical example of the ‘cult’ is the following quotation from 1936:

“Miserable pygmies! They lifted their hands against the greatest of all living men, our wise leader Comrade Stalin. We assure you, Comrade Stalin, that we will increase our Stalinist vigilance still more and close our ranks around the Stalinist Central Committee and the great Stalin.”

The author of these words was one Nikita Khrushchev, who in 1956 denounced the ‘cult’ as an indication of Stalin’s ‘vanity’ and ‘personal power’.

It was Khrushchev too who introduced the term ‘vozhd’ for Stalin — a term meaning ‘leader’ and equivalent to the Nazi term ‘Fuehrer’.

Why should the revisionists have built up this ‘cult of personality’ around Stalin?

It was, I suggest, because it disguised the fact that not Stalin and the Marxist-Leninists, but they — concealed opponents of socialism — who held a majority in the leadership. It enabled them to take actions — such as the arrest of many innocent persons between 1934 and 1938 (when they controlled the security forces) and subsequently blame these ‘breaches of socialist legality’ upon Stalin.

Stalin himself is on record as telling the German author Lion Feuchtwanger in 1936 that the ‘cult of his personality’ was being built up by his political opponents (I quote:)

“ . . . with the aim of discrediting him at a later date.”

Clearly, Stalin’s ‘pathological suspicion’ of some of his colleagues, of which Khrushchev complained so bitterly in his secret speech to the 20th Congress, was not pathological at all!

On one allegation both Stalin and the revisionists are agreed — that in Stalin’s time miscarriages of justice occurred in which innocent people were judically murdered.

The revisionists, of course, maintain that Stalin was responsible for these miscarriages of justice.

But there is a contradiction here.

Krushchev himself said in his 1956 secret speech (and I quote):

“The question is complicated here by the fact that all this was done because Stalin was convinced that this was necessary for the defence of the interest of the working class against the plotting of ememies. He saw this from the position of the interests of the working class, of the interest of the victory of socialism.”

But only a person who was completely insane could possibly imagine that the arrest of innocent people could serve socialism. And all the evidence shows that Stalin retained his full mental faculties right to his death.

However, the contradiction resolves itself if these judicial murders were carried out, not at the behest of Stalin and the Marxist-Leninists, but at the behest of the revisionist opponents of socialism.

At his public trial in 1938, the former People’s Commissar of Internal Affairs, Genrikh Yagoda, pleaded guilty to having arranged the murder of his predecessor, Vyacheslav Menzhinsky, in order to secure his own promotion to a post which gave him control over the Soviet security services. He then, according to his own admission, used this position to protect the terrorists responsible for the murder of prominent Marxist-Leninists close to Stalin — including the Leningrad Party Secretary, Sergei Kirov, and the famous writer Maksim Gorky.

And in order that the security services should not appear idle, Yagoda arranged for the arrest of many people who were not conspirators, but had merely been indiscreet.

After Yagoda’s arrest, the conspirators were successful in getting him succeeded by another conspirator, Nikolai Yezhov, who continued and intensified this process.

It was because of the suspicions of Stalin and the Marxist-Leninists that the security services were acting incorrectly — were protecting the guilty and punishing the innocent — that they began to use Stalin’s personal secretariat, headed by Aleksandr Poskrebyshev, as their private detective agency.

And it was on the basis of the evidence uncovered by this Secretariat and submitted directly to the Party — that the concealed revisionists, to maintain their cover, were compelled to endorse the arrest of genuine conspirators, including Yagoda and Yezhov.

And it was on Stalin’s personal initiative that in 1938, his friend, the Marxist-Leninist Lavrenty Beria, was brought to Moscow from the Caucasus to take harge of the security services.

Under Beria, political prisoners arrested under Yagoda and Yezhov had their cases reviewed and, as Western press correspondents reported at the time, many thousands of people unjustly sentenced were released and rehabilitated.

Marxist-Lenininists in Britain, in particular, should have no difficulty in accepting the picture of a Marxist-Leninist minority in the CPSU.

How many members of the Communist Party of Great Britain came out in opposition to the revisionist ‘British Road to Socialism’, which preached the absurd ‘parliamentary road to socialism’ when it was adopted in 1951? I know of only four.

The question arises, of course:
if revisionists had a majority in the leadership of the CPSU from the 1930s, why did they not take any steps to dismantle socialism until 1956, after Stalin’s death?

The short answer is that they tried and failed.

In the early 1940s, the economists Eugen Varga and Nikolai Voznsensky both published books openly espousing revisionist programmes, and both were quickly slapped down by the Marxist-Leninists.

Of course, it is important not to exaggerate the extent of these miscarriages of justice.

In the 1960s, anti-Soviet propaganda originally published in Nazi Germany, was republished by a former British secret service agent named Robert Conquest under the more respectable cloak of Harvard University. In his 1969 book ‘The Great Terror’ Conquest puts the number of ‘Stalin’s victims’ (in inverted commas) at ‘between 5 and 6 million’.

But by the 1980s, Conquest was alleging that there had been in 1939 a total of 25 to 30 million prisoners in the Soviet Union, that in 1950 there had been 12 million political prisoners.

But when, under Gorbachev, the archives of the Central Committee of the CPSU were opened up to researchers, it was found that the number of political prisoners in 1939 had been 454,000, not the millions claimed by Conquest.

If we add those in prison for non-political offences, we get a figure of 2.5 million, that is, 2.4% of the adult population.

In contrast, there were in the United States in 1996, according to official figures, 5.5 million people in prison, or 2.8% of the adult population.

That is, the number of prisoners in the USA today is 3 million more than the maximum number ever held in the Soviet Union.

In January 1953, less than two months before Stalin’s death, nine doctors working in the Kremlin were arrested on charges of having murdered certain Soviet leaders — including Andrei Zhdanov in 1948 — by administering to them deliberately incorrect medical treatment.

The charges arose out of an investigation into allegations by a woman doctor, Lydia Timashuk, The accused doctors were charged with conspiracy to murder in conjunction with the American Zionist organisation ‘JOINT.

Western press correspondents in Moscow insisted that some of the most prominent Soviet leaders were under investigation in connection with the case.

But before the case could be brought to trial, Stalin conveniently died.

The Albanian Marxist-Leninist Enver Hoxha, a tireless oppponent of revisionism and not a man given to indulging in unfounded gossip — insists that Soviet revisionist leaders admitted — nay, rather boasted — to him that they had murdered him. And we know that Stalin’s son was himself arrested and imprisoned for having declared that his father had been killed as part of a plot.

Be that as it may, the arrested doctors were immediately released and officially ‘rehabilitated’.

Then Lavrenti Beria — a scourge of the revisionists second only to Stalin — was arrested in a military coup, tried in secret, and executed.

The way was open for the revisionist conspirators to throw off their masks, expel the remaining Marxist-Leninists from leading positions in the Party, and take the first steps towards the restoration of a capitalist society.


This, then, is the picture of Stalin that emerges from an objective examination of the facts.

It is the picture of a great Marxist-Leninist who fought all his life for the cause of socialism and the working class.

It is the picture of a great Marxist-Leninist who, although surrounded by revisionist traitors, succeeded during his lifetime in preventing this revisionist majority from significantly betraying the working class he loved and restoring the capitalist system he hated.

We in all countries who have taken on the task of rebuilding the international communist movement must see the defence of Stalin as a part of the defence of Marxism-Leninism.

There can be no greater compliment for anyone who aspires to be a Marxist-Leninist than to be called a Stalinist.

Grover Furr: The Fallacies of Afrocentrism

EGYPT - JANUARY 01:  The mask of King Tutankhamun displayed in the Cairo Museum, Egypt.  (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)

EGYPT – JANUARY 01: The mask of King Tutankhamun displayed in the Cairo Museum, Egypt. (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)

A few days ago I posted an article I wrote back in ’91 when the college’s black student org. invited Leonard Jeffries to come to speak. In it I ran through, though very briefly (for space), some of the fallacies of Afrocentrism. Here is a little more about them, in no special order.

  1. Afrocentrism seriously distorts Egyptian history. Egyptians were not “black” (Negroid) on the whole, though a few dynasties of rulers were. But Egyptians were also not racists, it seems, and people of different colors intermarried. We could do well to follow their lead in this!There is no evidence that Nefertiti or Cleopatra were ‘black’, for example. Nefertiti was not “white” (i.e. European) either (Cleopatra was either 3/4 Greek or, perhaps, entirely so, not Egyptian at all).
  2. Greeks did not “steal” their culture from Egypt. In the ancient Mediterranean world, cultural influences moved around a lot.
  3. The Egyptian rulers and their acolytes (like all the “-hoteps”, Imhotep, Ptahhotep, et al.) were an oppressive and expoitative aristocracy. Cheikh Anta Diop, whom Afrocentrists admire but, it seems, seldom read, has a very interesting review of Jacques Pirenne’s History of Ancient Egypt in one of his books. Diop comments favorably about Pirenne’s description of revolutions against the Egyptian rulers by lower-class Egyptians — something one would expect in an exploitative society. But the Afrocentrists who so admire Diop never mention this aspect of Ancient Egypt! In short, what they admire is the aristocratic, exploitative aspect of it.
  4. “African culture” is not a unity: there are many, many cultures in Africa. Ancient Egyptians are not the ancestors, either culturally or genetically, of the peoples of West Africa or of the American black population.
  5. The whole “ice man-sun man” thesis of Francis Welsing is racist crap, without a shred of evidence to support it. Welsing seldom publishes her ‘research’; same with Jeffries. I know: I’ve tried to get it; with lots of effort, I’ve gotten a very little bit. The infamous “Melanin” Conferences at which these ideas are promoted are virtually secret, their ‘proceedings’, if any, not available to anyone.
  6. The premises of Afrocentrism are false and racist against blacks, among others.
  • it is false and racist that anyone has any business taking “pride” in the “achievements” of one’s distant ancestors, since intelligence, creativity, etc., are not inherited, and furthermore no one can take any credit for anything they have not achieved themselves. This is the case even if modern blacks were the descendants of ancient Egyptians, which they are not. Besides, if one takes credit for the “achievements” of one’s distant ancestors, why not also assume the blame for the atrocities committed by the same ancestors?
  • it is false and racist to say that “blackness”, “melanin” (or “whiteness”, etc.) confers intelligence, or any characteristics at all. If it were true, all blacks with any degree of white ancestry would be “sub-human” just as the “ice person” thesis claims whites are; most American blacks, if not all, therefore.

Where does Afrocentrism come from? Historically, it’s a reaction to the tremendous upsurge of racism spurred by 18th and 19th century European imperialism. I think Bernal [Black Athena, Volume I] is right when he points out that after 1800 study of Egypt — and also of the Semitic mid-east— was systematically denigrated for racist reasons. Some scholars reacted against this marginalization of Egypt and the Mid-East, including some black scholars (but not only them). This is the ancestry of Afrocentrism, sketched by Bernal rather convincingly. What is not convincing about Bernal (Volumes 1 and 2) is his derivation of Greek civilization from Egyptian colonists. However, even if it were true, it would not mean what the Afrocentrists say it means.

Today, Afrocentrism is a racist, highly conservative, nationalist pseudo-science (by the latter term I mean: based upon phony scholarship and premises). It victimizes black students almost exclusively, since it is they who have this nonsense foisted off upon them as truth.

The fact that it is tolerated and even promoted at various universities, including the one I teach at, is a tribute to higher education’s racism against black students. This kind of worthless, reactionary crap would never be tolerated if it were being purveyed to white students!

Afrocentrism is another form of authoritarianism. It tells black students: Believe “your leaders” because they are black! Since there’s no evidence worthy of the name for these theses, “believe your black leaders” is all that’s left.

Who are these misleaders, phony scholars? I do not see any division into “responsible” and “irresponsible.” Asante and Karenga write the same kind of nonsense as Jeffries and Welsing. If you want to read some real authoritarian crap from somebody with a Jesus complex (i.e. he believes he’s the chosen of God), read Asante’s Afrocentricity, in which he claims the belief structure was “granted” him as a “vision”, like Paul on the road to Damascus. He even reprints it!

Afrocentrism, being racist against blacks, is useful to the racist US ruling class, and I think that’s why it’s tolerated. It serves to inculcate racist, anti-white views among black students, and to keep them obedient to whatever the highly conservative ‘authorities’ tell them.

The same kind of nationalism flourished in the ’60s, where it served to keep blacks from uniting with anti-racist whites to fight racism. That’s the function of Afrocentrism today, and very valuable it is to the tactic of “divide and conquer”, by which white and black workers and students are kept divided from one another.

However, Afrocentrism is nowhere near as influential as overt anti-black racism of the Murray/Herrnstein Bell Curve kind, or of the D’Amato/Christy Whitman/Joe Bruno kind. Anti-black racism is sharply on the increase, under the guise of “attacking Affirmative Action”, attacks on welfare, and so on.

Racism is on the increase because the ruling class always uses racism to divide the working class against one another, the better to fleece it — to lower the standard of living and increase profits. Afrocentrism helps them, and so continues to flourish, as do the right-wing fascists, militias, etc., all of which are also racist to the core.

Racism is the key issue here. If there were a mass anti-racist movement involving many whites, as there was in the ’60s, the “cultural nationalists” like the Afrocentrists, like the Farrakhans, would be an insignificant force as they were then. As it is, with racism against blacks rising rapidly, and no multi-racial, anti-racist movement, it is the nationalists who appear, to some, to be at least ‘doing something’ about racism, something to assert the equality and dignity of black people. They are not doing this; but the appearance that they are is what attracts many black students and others.

You want to weaken Afrocentrism? FIGHT ANTI-BLACK RACISM!

Grover Furr, English Department


Lugansk People’s Republic authorities ban strikes, International Workers’ Day marches, and forbid international anti-fascist forum


Open letter to The General Secretary of the World Federation of Trade Unions Georgios Mavrikos

 General Secretary of the World Federation of Trade Unions

Georgios Mavrikos

Being the communists of Lugansk region we apply to you as to worldfamous avowed champion of communist ideals. We are surprised and deeply revolted from the fact that the main and powerful tool of struggle against the dawning of the world imperialism upon the rights of workers all over the world, that is headed by you and called the World Federation of Trade Unions, declares and supports the protégés of oligarchs as represented by the leaders of “Lugansk People’s Republic” and the puppet Federation of Trade Unions, that is headed by O. Akimov, who pursues totalitarian anti-national policy.

One of the most glaring example of their “achievements” is the oppression and terrible counteraction to the activity of public organization “Communists of Lugansk Region”. It is expressed in banning the leaders and Party activists to take part in public performances during mass events and appear in the Mass-media, in secret ban to perform the public activities, that are organized by the communists. The deputies from “LNR People’s Council”, who are elite from the PO “Communists of Lugansk Region,” are subjected to accusations and oppressions.

The authorities of LNR, that are supported by you, have forbidden us to organize the traditional procession dedicated to International worker’s day categorically. Until very recently we’ve accepted the situation because we didn’t want to undermine very complex sociopolitical situation in the Republic. But the last straw was the interdiction of holding the international forum of international solidarity of anti-fascism that had to take place in Lugansk on 8, May 2015 and was well planned for a long time by us and the representatives of Communists Parties from many world and European countries. Our multiple appeals and requests to the leaders of LNR have faced to incomprehension and prohibitions. As a result, if there was no help from the leader of battalion “Prizrak” Aleksey Mozgovoy (who, in spite of all prohibitions from the leaders of LNR, has helped us to organize the forum in Alchevsk town), the international conference, where more than 130 representatives of communistic and anti-fascist movement have taken part, would be just hampered. Only Fascists can be such afraid of the conducting of anti-fascist event in the capital of the young Republic! Because of this reason, we, the communists of Lugansk Region, petition to you to use all your authority in order to exert influence upon the authorities of LNR and demand to stop repressions of the communists, that have taken great part in the formation of independence of LNR.

Yours faithfully,

Party activists of communist movement in Lugansk region

May, 13, 2015


Putin’s Western Allies


Why Europe’s Far Right Is on the Kremlin’s Side


Given that one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s stated reasons for invading Crimea was to prevent “Nazis” from coming to power in Ukraine, it is perhaps surprising that his regime is growing closer by the month to extreme right-wing parties across Europe. But, in both cases, Putin’s motives are not primarily ideological. In Ukraine, he simply wants to grab territory that he believes rightly belongs to him. In the European Union, he hopes that his backing of fringe parties will destabilize his foes and install in Brussels politicians who will be focused on dismantling the EU rather than enlarging it.

In Hungary, for example, Putin has taken the Jobbik party under his wing. The third-largest party in the country, Jobbik has supporters who dress in Nazi-type uniforms, spout anti-Semitic rhetoric, and express concern about Israeli “colonization” of Hungary. The party has capitalized on rising support for nationalist economic policies, which are seen as an antidote for unpopular austerity policies and for Hungary’s economic liberalization in recent years. Russia is bent on tapping into that sentiment. In May 2013, Kremlin-connected right-wing Russian nationalists at the prestigious Moscow State University invited Jobbik party president Gabor Vona to speak. Vona also met with Russia Duma leaders including Ivan Grachev, chairman of the State Duma Committee for Energy and Vasily Tarasyuk, deputy chairman of the Committee on Natural Resources and Utilization, among others. On the Jobbik website, the visit is characterized as “a major breakthrough” which made “clear that Russian leaders consider Jobbik as a partner.” In fact, there have been persistent rumors that Jobbik’s enthusiasm is paid for with Russian rubles. The party has also repeatedly criticized Hungary’s “Euro-Atlantic connections” and the European Union. And, more recently, it called the referendum in Crimea “exemplary,” a dangerous word in a country with extensive co-ethnic populations in Romania and Slovakia. It seems that the party sees Putin’s new ethnic politics as being aligned with its own revisionist nationalism.

The Kremlin’s ties to France’s extreme-right National Front have also been growing stronger. Marine Le Pen, the party leader, visited Moscow in June 2013 at the invitation of State Duma leader Sergei Naryshkin, a close associate of Putin’s. She also met with Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin and discussed issues of common concern, such as Syria, EU enlargement, and gay marriage. France’s ProRussia TV, which is funded by the Kremlin, is staffed by editors with close ties to the National Front who use the station to espouse views close to National Front’s own perspective on domestic and international politics. The National Front wishes to replace the EU and NATO with a pan-European partnership of independent nations, which, incidentally, includes Russia and would be driven by a trilateral Paris-Berlin-Moscow alliance. Le Pen’s spokesman, Ludovic De Danne, recently recognized the results of the Crimea referendum and stated in an interview with Voice of Russia radio that, “historically, Crimea is part of Mother Russia.” In the same interview, he mentioned that he had visited Crimea several times in the past year. Marine Le Pen also visited Crimea in June 2013.

The list of parties goes on. Remember Golden Dawn, the Greek fascist party that won 18 seats in Greece’s parliament in 2012? Members use Nazi symbols at rallies, emphasize street fighting, and sing the Greek version of the Nazi Party anthem. The Greek government imprisoned Nikos Michaloliakos, its leader, and stripped parliamentary deputies of their political immunity before slapping them with charges of organized violence. But the party continues to take to the streets. Golden Dawn has never hidden its close connections to Russia’s extreme right, and is thought to receive funds from Russia. One Golden Dawn­­–linked website reports that Michaloliakos even received a letter in prison from Moscow State University professor and former Kremlin adviser Alexander Dugin, one of the authors of Putin’s “Eurasian” ideology. It was also Dugin who hosted Jobbik leader Vona when he visited Moscow. In his letter, Dugin expressed support for Golden Dawn’s geopolitical positions and requested to open a line of communication between Golden Dawn and his think tank in Moscow. Golden Dawn’s New York website reports that Michaloliakos “has spoken out clearly in favor of an alliance and cooperation with Russia, and away from the ‘naval forces’ of the ‘Atlantic.’”

Finally, a cable made public by WikiLeaks shows that Bulgaria’s far right Ataka party has close links to the Russian embassy. Reports that Russia funds Ataka have swirled for years, but have never been verified. But evidence of enthusiasm for Russia’s foreign policy goals is open for all to see. Radio Bulgaria reported on March 17 that Ataka’s parliamentary group “has insisted that Bulgaria should recognize the results from the referendum for Crimea’s joining to the Russian Federation.” Meanwhile, party leader Volen Siderov has called repeatedly for Bulgaria to veto EU economic sanctions for Russia.

In addition to their very vocal support for Russia’s annexation of Crimea within the EU, Jobbik, National Front, and Ataka all sent election observers to validate the Crimea referendum (as did the Austrian Freedom Party, the Belgian Vlaams Belang party, Italy’s Forza Italia and Lega Nord, and Poland’s Self-Defense, in addition to a few far-left parties, conspicuously Germany’s Die Linke). Their showing was organized by the Russia-based Eurasian Observatory For Democracy & Elections, a far-right NGO “opposed to Western ideology.” The EODE specializes in monitoring elections in “self-proclaimed republics” (Abkhazia, Transnistria, Nagorno-Karabakh) allied with Moscow, according to its website.

The Putin government’s cordial relations with Europe’s far right sit oddly, to say the least, with his opposition to “Nazis” in the Ukrainian government. Yet Putin’s dislike for Ukrainian “fascists” has nothing to do with ideology. It has to do with the fact that they are Ukrainian nationalists. The country’s Svoboda and Right Sector parties, which might do well in the post–Viktor Yanukovych Ukraine, stand for independence in a country that Putin does not believe should exist separate from Russia.

Similarly, Russian support of the far right in Europe has less to do with ideology than with his desire to destabilize European governments, prevent EU expansion, and help bring to power European governments that are friendly to Russia. In that sense, several European countries may only be one bad election away from disaster. In fact, some would say that Hungary has already met it. As support for Jobbik increases, the anti-democratic, center-right government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban has tacked heavily to the right and recently signed a major nuclear deal with Russia. Russia plans to lend Hungary ten billion euro to construct two new reactors at its Paks nuclear plant, making Hungary even more dependent for energy on Russia. Jobbik’s Vona wants to go even further, taking Hungary out of the EU and joining Russia’s proposed Eurasian Union.

European parliamentary elections, which are scheduled for the end of May, are expected to result in a strong showing for the far right. A weak economy, which was weakened further by the European Central Bank’s austerity policies, has caused the extreme right vote to surge. Current polls show the far-right parties in France and Holland winning the largest share of seats in their national delegations. Brussels strategists worry that 20 percent of members of the new European parliament could be affiliated with parties that wish to abolish the EU, double the current number. That could cause an EU government shutdown to rival the dysfunction of Washington and deal a major blow to efforts to enlarge the Union and oppose Russian expansionism.

It is strange to think that Putin’s strategy of using right-wing extremist political parties to foment disruption and then take advantage — as he did in Crimea — could work in southern and western Europe as well. Or that some of the extreme right parties in the European parliament, who work every day to delegitimize the European Union and whose numbers are growing, may be funded by Russia. Yet these possibilities cannot be dismissed. Russia might soon be able to disrupt the EU from within.

To counter Russia, European leaders should start launching public investigations into external funding of extreme-right political parties. If extensive Russia connections are found, it would be important to publicize that fact and then impose sanctions on Russia that would make it more difficult for it to provide such support. Pro-European parties must find a way to mobilize voters who are notoriously unwilling to vote in European parliament elections. Europe will also have to rethink the austerity policies that have worsened the grievances of many Europeans and pushed them to support the anti-system, anti-European right. Although Germany has banned extreme right parties from representation, other countries have not. Germany may have therefore underestimated the extent of damage austerity policies could do to the European project and should rethink how its excessive budget cutting, monetary prudence, and export surpluses are affecting politics in the rest of Europe.

Putin’s challenge to Europe must be taken seriously. Rather than making another land grab in his back yard, he might watch patiently from the sidelines at the end of May as pro-Russia far-right parties win a dramatic election victory in European parliamentary elections. These elections could weaken the European Union and bring Russia’s friends on the far right closer to power.


‘Novorossiya’s’ ‘Leftist’ Friends

Anti-NATO meeting with supporters of 'Novorossiya' in Munich

Anti-NATO meeting with supporters of ‘Novorossiya’ in Munich

The frenzied world-wide front is expanding
Mercy to no one, no one, no one!

Stanza from 1989 Russian anarchists’ song Vintovka – eto prazdnik (The Rifle is a Holiday)
By the Russian punk bank Grazhdanskaya Oborona (Civil Defense)

The annexation of Crimea, the “Novorossiya” project, and the fight against the “Kyiv junta” are not supported in Russia alone.  There are political forces around the world, both marginal and relatively respectable, which voice their support for the separatists in the Donbass.  At times, activists themselves travel to the war zone as volunteers, but they mostly hold demonstrations in support of the separatist republics and pressure their governments to renounce their support for Ukraine and “stop the aggression against Russia.”

These political forces may identify as left-wing, right-wing, or deny any conventional political identity (although their “political neutrality” usually conceals one ideology or another).  Novorossiya’s foreign friends who, in 99% of cases, are also friends of Russia and worshippers of Putin, may explain their views from various, sometimes incompatible positions.  Novorossiya can be supported both by a white racist and a communist who talks about the fight against “Ukrainian fascism” and “Western imperialism.”  But despite the apparent differences in their theoretical ideological grounding, their political practice is remarkably similar.  Eventually, they arrive at the same conclusions and stand on the same side of the barricade.

Not that long ago, an “antifascist forum” took place in the Donbass, which was attended by representatives of not major, but still quite notable Stalinist organizations from Europe and the United States.  Around the same time, a forum of ultra-right, nationalist, and conservative activists took place in the Donbass.  The fact that these events coincided is more than revealing.  We will talk about both left-wing and right-wing supporters of Novorossiya and attempt to find similarities in their modes of thinking.  The first text mostly focuses on leftists, but there are certain elements which are also relevant to the right-wing camp.

Lies and Truth

European and US radicals, both left- and right-wing, do not trust the media.  Leftists mistrust mainstream outlets because the latter, according to their worldview, are controlled by oligarchs or their puppets.  Far-rightists do so because, in their version of reality, the media are controlled by Zionist, cultural-Marxist, and homosexual lobbies.  In general, a critical approach to any kind of information is advisable, but the conspiratorial and critical approaches are seldom compatible.  A conspiracy theorist judges information as follows: If the media work for oligarchs, then everything they report must be a lie serving the interests of the men behind the scenes.  But they still need to get their information somewhere.  While they can get news about their own country from blogs, party newsletters, and congenial news websites, learning about foreign countries is more complicated, particularly due to the language barrier.  It is necessary to find an independent source, with adequate resources at its disposal, which could send its correspondents to different parts of the world; at the same time, this source must be independent from the “secret masters,” whoever these might be.  And here, Russia Today( comes to the rescue.

Russian propaganda is not limited to the spouting of [Kremlin propagandist Dmitry] Kiselyev, who is only needed for the domestic consumer.  For the Western audience, there is Russia Today, an information product unique in its nature.  This TV channel often shows high-quality broadcasts of protest movements and demonstrations in Western countries; on other occasions, RT talks about events which other media ignore for one reason or another.  A great deal of material is broadcast in the form of raw video footage without commentary or voice-over, which creates the effect of objectivity. actively attracts Western journalists and gives them carte blanche to honestly and uncompromisingly criticize their governments.  All of the above definitely affords the channel a certain credit of trust.  And it actively utilizes this credit when it finds it necessary to compel a Western viewer to believe in blatant lies and propaganda.  For instance, in the notion that the EuroMaidan movement consisted exclusively of fascists directly controlled by the United States.  While Russian propagandists need only to present their domestic audience with pure lies without any admixture, the lies shown to a foreign consumer must be craftily alternated and combined with truth.

Soviet Ressentiment

Western leftists often perceive the USSR not at all like those who would seem to be their likeminded Ukrainian counterparts. In our country, overt Soviet sympathies are only voiced by parties which are direct successors of the Soviet nomenklatura, such as the Communist Party of Ukraine.  Or those who are trying to win over the pension-age electorate, filled with Soviet nostalgia.  All other leftists – anarchists, Trotskyists, left-communists, social democrats – are more than critical toward the USSR; after all, it was that state which virtually eradicated these political movements in the territory under its control.  In the West, particularly in the countries which never found themselves under Soviet rule, the left’s attitude toward its legacy is softer.  To them, the USSR was a kind of remote abstraction which did not pose a direct threat, but frightened the rulers of their countries which in turn were forced into compromises and concessions favoring domestic worker and trade union movements.  The USSR’s existence inspired a hope that a different, non-capitalist world was possible.  Active attacks on the USSR during the Cold War would, indirectly, amount to support for one’s “own” government.  Thus, leftists preferred not to pay any special attention to Soviet politics, instead concentrating on critique of Western imperialism.  The further away from the GULAG, the easier it is to assess the edifying results of the Soviet experiment and observe its “positive aspects.”  For instance, in the United States, even the anarchists considered the hammer and sickle the perfect symbol for outraging local conservatives, rather than the emblem of a totalitarian regime which completely exterminated their comrades.

Now, the USSR’s place has been taken by Russia, which continues to be regarded as the antipode to “Western capitalism,” even though the Russian Federation has long exhibited much fewer characteristics of a welfare state than the countries of Western Europe.  Those leftists which fell into the trap of geopolitical thinking ended up in the same camp as the right-wingers.  In this respect, the coalition which the Greek Syriza party was forced to join, having previously won a majority in the latest parliamentary election, is telling — the “socialists” were forced to cooperate with overt right-wing populists.  The only things that the two have in common are sympathy toward the Russian Federation and criticism of the European Union.


This illustration clearly demonstrates how the supporters of Novorossiya present the conflict between Ukraine and Russia.  Ukraine is simply a virgin territory encroached upon by Western imperialists.  The latter are opposed by the Russian bear.  Not man, mind you, but bear.  We are dealing with a kind of “positive dehumanization.”  The Russian is presented as a creature belonging to another species, to whom human ethical norms need not apply; therefore, Russia is easily pardoned for the actions which, if conducted by the West, are harshly criticized.

Information “Warfare”

As a rule, left-wing organizations eagerly lend an ear to their counterparts in other countries.  It is always more simple and agreeable to listen to those who say things close to one’s heart in a familiar language.  During the Maidan protests and immediately thereafter, the Borotba [Struggle] organization, which initially supported the Anti-Maidan movement and subsequently the “People’s Republics,” successfully imitated before the Western audience, completely ignorant of Ukraine, a “mass left-wing party,” which waged a “relentless antifascist struggle in the underground.”  Their success is easily explained: Borotba had a budget that covered the services of translators who rebroadcast their materials in different languages.  Furthermore, they use the language of the left more aptly than the Communist Party of Ukraine does.  However, the Communist Party has also made its contribution – the magical word “communist” in its name has won the ears of many a naive Western leftist, who sincerely believe that “communists are being persecuted and suppressed in Ukraine,” and who see in communists the continuers of the ideas of Marx and Engels, not a party bureaucracy which has sold out many times over.

What we get is a simple, convenient, and completely unambiguous picture, which perfectly matches the line of official Russian propaganda: a fascist putsch and an antifascist underground.  What questions are there left to ask when one group is toppling monuments to Lenin and the other is defending them with their lives?  Especially given that independent media, not controlled by “Western governments” and “transnational corporations,” such as Russia Today, are saying more or less the same thing using almost exactly the same words.

Other Ukrainian leftists produced fewer articles (because there were no staffers to write them), and these texts are more difficult to understand, because they do not always paint such a simple, unambiguous, and heroic picture.  Propaganda and simple clichés will inevitably be more successful than analysis.  And while Ukrainian anarchists more or less managed to align the sentiments among many of their Western counterparts, most adherents of the Bolshevik tradition remained at the level of “the people of the Donbass are waging a national liberation struggle against the junta which seized power through a fascist putsch.”

The Myth of the Odessa Khatyn

An important element in the mythology of “leftist” supporters of Novorossiya was the fire in the Odesa Trade Unions Building.  It was a very powerful image: “the fascists burned people alive.”  And not just anywhere, but in the Trade Unions Building!  Across the world, trade unions are directly associated with left-wing movements, which means that people who died there would automatically be perceived as left-wing activists, especially given that Borotba and the Communist Party of Ukraine lost a few of their supporters there and took the trouble to paint them as heroes.  And it is secondary that the backbone of the Odessa Anti-Maidan consisted of people professing right-wing, even far-right pro-Russian views, and that it included those of the Black-Hundred and imperialist persuasions.  For a Western leftist, imperialism is by no means such an obvious right-wing symbol as, for instance, a Wolfsangel or the Azov Battalion’s “black sun.”  All the more so because the Anti-Maidan members sported St. George’s ribbons which, not without the help of official Russian propaganda, were actively exported as an “antifascist symbol,” including to the West.

The deaths in the Trade Unions Building finally convinced many Western leftists of the “fascist” essence of the Maidan and the new Ukrainian authorities.  This entire situation (from the location of the tragedy to the death by fire) fits perfectly into the existing set of clichés.  It is revealing that most people who now recall the “burned martyrs of Odessa” do not know about, or prefer not to mention, the deaths in the Kyiv Trade Unions Building, where many Maidan protesters lost their lives, including the wounded.  That’s because it would not fit into the general picture — the “antifascist [now defunct riot] Berkut police force” could not have possibly burned wounded people alive.

Even moderate forces, such as the German Die Linke party, which reject direct support or solidarity with the self-proclaimed republics, are inclined to sympathize with the victims of  the May 2 fire, while completely ignoring the violence which the Odessa Anti-Maidan had regularly carried out from the moment of its formation up to and during the events of May 2.

The Prizrak Brigade and Its Communists

There is no point in enumerating all the organizations which support Novorossiya in one form or another.  The reader need not decipher the multitude of names and abbreviations; it is far more important to understand the general pattern of thought which caused hundreds of people from different countries of the world to travel in March to Alchevsk in search of the phantom of communism in [now deceased separatist militant Aleksei] Mozgovoy’s Prizrak Brigade.


Most European volunteers travel to the Donbass from Spain and other South European countries.  A great contribution to that was made by Banda Bassotti, a prominent Italian punk group.  The mobilizing potential of musicians can sometimes be greater than that of parties and civic movements.  European communists fighting in the ranks of Mozgovoy and other field commanders fell into Novorossiya’s trap largely due to the unsophisticated propaganda ventilated by these “punks” professing Stalinist views.  They actively channel all aforementioned clichés while diluting them with their own stupidity.  They mix “leftist” rhetoric with national-chauvinist propaganda – Lenin and Trotsky might not have executed them, but they would have definitely expelled them from the party.  For instance, during interviews, members of Banda Bassotti say without a hint of doubt that Ukraine was created artificially, in defiance of Russia, citing “a book they read recently.”


It is important to understand that until 2014, most Western leftists supporting Novorossiya did not have the slightest idea of the political situation in Ukraine, let alone its history, ethnic and cultural groups populating its territory, the history of Ukraine-Russia relations, and so forth.  In 2014, they quickly acquired that “knowledge,” thoughtfully offered to them by Russian propaganda.  The language barrier allowed for all types of suggestions.  Even the most anti-scientific source gains legitimacy if it is translated from a foreign outlet.  That is precisely why the Spanish volunteers subsequently arrested in their homes explained during an interview their desire to fight on the side of the separatists with the fact that “they were helping defend Russia against Ukrainian aggression.”

Indeed, for some Spanish Stalinists who have a vague idea of Ukraine’s geographical location, the words “Ukrainian” and “fascist” have become synonymous.  Last fall, a telling episode took place: a 56-year-old Ukrainian was attacked by a group of Catalan nationalists and slipped into a coma.  This episode caused very strong indignation, including in left-wing circles, but was condemned mostly by anarchists; there was no reaction whatsoever on the part of major leftist parties.

The German Antiimperialistische Aktion group cooperates with ANNA News, a popular propagandist channel.

Their cooperation likely dates as far back as the Syrian war.  Both the pro-Russian TV channel and the “anti-imperialists” actively supported Assad in this war.  The ideology of the “anti-imps,” as they are called in Germany, can be briefly summarized as follows: radical anti-Americanism, a partiality to conspiracy theories, covert (and sometimes overt) anti-semitism, and thoroughly uncritical support for all regimes opposed to the United States and Israel.  The official flag of Antiimperialistische Aktion resembles the antifascist flag, but instead of a red-and-black banner in a circle, it depicts the flag of the USSR and the “anti-imperialist” regime which they currently love most.  There are variations depicting the flags of Libya, Syria, and Palestine.  There has recently appeared an “anti-imperialist” flag on which the Soviet flag is accompanied by the two-headed Novorossiya eagle, and the pantheon of antifascist and anti-imperialist heroes was supplemented not only by Strelkov and Mozgovoy, but also by Ramzan Kadyrov.  It sometimes feels like the anti-imps are a kind of parody of the left-wing supporters of Novorossiya (their performance at an anti-NATO meeting with dogs sporting Berkut uniforms was more amusing than any parody).  Regrettably, however, they are absolutely real.


“Anti-imperialists” at the Munich Meeting

Anti-NATO meeting with supporters of ‘Novorossiya’ in Munich

Anti-NATO meeting with supporters of ‘Novorossiya’ in Munich

Not only are they absolutely real, but they also have supporters both in different cities of Germany and beyond the country’s borders – in Sweden, for instance.  They do not only actively accept the Kremlin propaganda, but also rebroadcast it to European audiences with great enthusiasm.  This propaganda video, which tells the “truth about Euromaidan,” is one example of that.

Many admirers of Russia in the West like to set up accounts on the VKontakte social network (which they also consider anti-imperialist and a counterweight to the corporate Facebook).  With the use of automatic translation services, they try to communicate with Russian-language audiences, and even receive occasional feedback.


A photo from Tobias Nase’s VK profile.  The anti-imps still permitted themselves to use Ukrainian in April 2014.  Eventually, however, they decided it is a fascist language and switched their automatic translators to Russian.

Active support for Novorossiya is also expressed by numerous Greek left-wing organizations. The ruling Syriza party has already stuck in people’s memory with its pro-Russian stance and, consequently, with its loyalty to Russia-controlled regimes.  However, many of Syriza’s opponents (today we are talking about their opponents “on the left,” the ultra-rightists from the Golden Dawn party will be discussed in another article) have gloated over the puppet regimes of the LPR and DPR even more strongly.

Not only overt worshippers of Stalin and the Soviet legacy, but also many forces identifying themselves as followers of the Maoist tradition have supported the LPR and DPR.  They are driven by the same anti-imperialist (read “anti-American”) logic.  Everything that is opposed to the West with all its corporations and capitalist expansion is perceived as an absolute good, “anti-imperialist” regimes are easily forgiven what is considered a taboo in  leftist circles: from racism to homophobia.  Furthermore, Maoists are inclined to romanticize rebellion and armed struggle and, in this context, they certainly find the image of Novorossiya quite attractive.

Certain Trotskyists have also taken a liking to the myth of the left-wing Donbass.  Notable in this respect are the International Marxist Tendency (an international group known for its overt and completely uncritical support of the Venezuelan model of state socialism) and the International Committee of the Fourth International.  If they consider the USSR a “deformed workers’ state,” then the post-Soviet space consists of “workers’ states” which are even more deformed are still preferable to the capitalist, neo-liberal West.  Therefore, the thought of reunifying the USSR is no less attractive to them than to Stalinists, except that the former seek to re-establish the USSR without the cult of the moustached leader, and believe that this can be done without forming a new party establishment and bureaucracy.  It is important to note that there are a great number of Trotskyist organizations and internationals around the world, their names are often similar, and behind familiar abbreviations there often lie unappeasable enemies with diametrically opposite stances on Ukraine.  Whenever you throw a stone at a Stalinist, you will almost definitely hit a supporter of Novorossiya; before throwing one at a Trotskyist, it is worthwhile asking him a few leading questions.

Living in a special, completely parallel universe are leftists from the United States, who prefer to fight the evil empire directly from within.  In their view, the war in the Donbass started at the instigation of the United States and, obviously, because of oil.  After all, every global conflict is waged by the United States and always because of oil.  And yes, the “Odessa carnage” was also planned by the United States, in case you had any doubts on that score.

This video footage (recorded, by the way, by the aforementioned Russia Today channel) can be understood without any knowledge of English, and has already been commented on a thousand times.

Putin’s Cautious Friends

Many political forces feel they are too respectable to stoop to cheap clownery.  They do not fling up wild slogans about the “junta” and “conspiracy.”  However, they say essentially the same things using more civilized, diplomatic language.  And, in a way, they are even more dangerous, given that such parties as Die Linke and Syriza are members of the European Parliament.  And though they do not send volunteers to the Donbass, they do contribute to blocking aid to Ukraine (as do their right-wing twins).

Deputy Andrej Hunko (who on account of his surname is considered a foremost expert on Ukraine within the party), together with his colleague Wolfgang Gerke, became notorious in the Ukrainian media owing to a photo in which he is seen posing with Zakharchenko.


Earlier, however, both he and his associates made a lot of effort to indirectly support the separatists.  Through their efforts, Borotba party leader Sergey Kirichuk was granted political asylum in Germany; they helped him broadcast propaganda about the “workers’ rebellion in the Donbass,” including at the level of the European Parliamentary.  And despite the fact that Die Linke publicly dissociated itself from Borotba, cooperation with its leader continues.

The rhetoric of “peace” and “intolerance for inciters of war” is very popular among such politicians.  Except that when saying “peace,” they mean exclusively “peace with Russia,” and they agree to only see inciters of war in the West.  At the same time, they deny Ukraine any kind of subjecthood, and its population is allotted the unenviable roles of Western puppets, blood-thirsty fascists, or their victims.  And once again it turns out that the “leftists” are speaking the same “geopolitical” language as the “rightists” whom they criticize.  But even the formal difference between them is getting smaller – Sara Wagenknecht of Die Linke has already publicly called for a dialogue with the ultra-right anti-immigration Pegida organization, appealing, first and foremost, given the proximity of their position on the Ukrainian and Russian question.  One can assume that this rapprochement will continue;  European countries have yet to see in action the “red-brown” synthesis, which is so popular in the post-Soviet space.