Category Archives: Hypocrisy

Isaac Asimov Reviews ‘1984’

Originally published in The New York Times.

REVIEW OF 1984

By Isaac Asimov

I’ve been writing a four-part article for Field Newspaper Syndicate at the beginning of each year for several years now and in 1980, mindful of the approach of the year 1984, FNS asked me to write a thorough critique of George Orwell’s novel 1984.

I was reluctant. I remembered almost nothing of the book and said so – but Denison Demac, the lovely young woman who is my contact at FNS, simply sent me a copy of it and said, ‘Read it.’

So I read it and found myself absolutely astonished at what I read. I wondered how many people who talked about the novel so glibly had ever read it; or if they had, whether they remembered it at all.

I felt I would have to write the critique if only to set people straight. (I’m sorry; I love setting people straight.)

A. THE WRITING OF 1984

In 1949, a book entitled 1984 was published. It was written by Eric Arthur Blair under the pseudonym of George Orwell.

The book attempted to show what life would be like in a world of total evil, in which those controlling the government kept themselves in power by brute force, by distorting the truth, by continually rewriting history, by mesmerising the people generally.

This evil world was placed only thirty-five years in the future so that even men who were already in their early middle age at the time the book was published might live to see it if they lived out a normal lifetime.

I, for instance, was already a married man when the book appeared and yet here we are less than four years away from that apocalyptic year (for ‘1984’ has become a year that is associated with dread because of Orwell’s book), and I am very likely to live to see it.

In this chapter, I will discuss the book, but first: Who was Blair/Orwell and why was the book written?

Blair was born in 1903 into the status of a British gentleman. His father was in the Indian civil service and Blair himself lived the life of a British Imperial official. He went to Eton, served in Burma, and so on. However, he lacked the money to be an English gentleman to the full. Then, too, he didn’t want to spend his time at dull desk jobs; he wanted to be a writer. Thirdly, he felt guilty about his status in the upper class. So he did in the late 1920s what so many well-to-do American young people in the 1960s did. In short, he became what we would have called a ‘hippie’ at a later time. He lived under slum conditions in London and Paris, consorted with and identified with slum dwellers and vagrants, managed to ease his conscience and, at the same time, to gather material for his earliest books.

He also turned left wing and became a socialist, fighting with the loyalists in Spain in the 1930s. There he found himself caught up in the sectarian struggles between the various left-wing factions, and since he believed in a gentlemanly English form of socialism, he was inevitably on the losing side. Opposed to him were passionate Spanish anarchists, syndicalists, and communists, who bitterly resented the fact that the necessities of fighting the Franco fascists got in the way of their fighting each other.

The communists, who were the best organised, won out and Orwell had to leave Spain, for he was convinced that if he did not, he would be killed From then on, to the end of his life, he carried on a private literary war with the communists, determined to win in words the battle he had lost in action.

During World War II, in which he was rejected for military service, he was associated with the left wing of the British Labour party, but didn’t much sympathise with their views, for even their reckless version of socialism seemed too well organised for him. He wasn’t much affected, apparently, by the Nazi brand of totalitarianism, for there was no room within him except for his private war with Stalinist communism. Consequently, when Great Britain was fighting for its life against Nazism, and the Soviet Union fought as an ally in the struggle and contributed rather more than its share in lives lost and in resolute courage, Orwell wrote Animal Farm which was a satire of the Russian Revolution and what followed, picturing it in terms of a revolt of barnyard animals against human masters.

He completed Animal Farm in 1944 and had trouble finding a publisher since it wasn’t a particularly good time for upsetting the Soviets. As soon as the war came to an end, however, the Soviet Union was fair game and Animal Farm was published. It was greeted with much acclaim and Orwell became sufficiently prosperous to retire and devote himself to his masterpiece, 1984.

That book described society as a vast world-wide extension of Stalinist Russia in the 1930s, pictured with the venom of a rival left-wing sectarian. Other forms of totalitarianism play a small role. There are one or two mentions of the Nazis and of the Inquisition. At the very start, there is a reference or two to Jews, almost as though they were going to prove the objects of persecution, but that vanishes almost at once, as though Orwell didn’t want readers to mistake the villains for Nazis. The picture is of Stalinism, and Stalinism only.

By the time the book came out in 1949, the Cold War was at its height. The book therefore proved popular. It was almost a matter of patriotism in the West to buy it and talk about it, and perhaps even to read parts of it, although it is my opinion that more people bought it and talked about it than read it, for it is a dreadfully dull book – didactic, repetitious, and all but motionless.

It was most popular at first with people who leaned towards the conservative side of the political spectrum, for it was clearly an anti-Soviet polemic, and the picture of life it projected in the London of 1984 was very much as conservatives imagined life in the Moscow of 1949 to be.

During the McCarthy era in the United States, 1984 became increasingly popular with those who leaned towards the liberal side of the political spectrum, for it seemed to them that the United States of the early 1950s was beginning to move in the direction of thought-control and that all the viciousness Orwell had depicted was on its way towards us.

Thus, in an afterword to an edition published in paperback by New American Library in 1961, the liberal psychoanalyst and philosopher Erich Fromm concluded as follows:

‘Books like Orwell’s are powerful warnings, and it would be most unfortunate if the reader smugly interpreted 1984 as another description of Stalinist barbarism, and if he does not see that it means us, too.’

Even if Stalinism and McCarthyism are disregarded, however, more and more Americans were becoming aware of just how ‘big’ the government was getting; how high taxes were; how increasingly rules and regulations permeated business and even ordinary life; how information concerning every facet of private life was entering the files not only of government bureaux but of private credit systems.

1984, therefore, came to stand not for Stalinism, or even for dictatorship in general – but merely for government. Even governmental paternalism seemed ‘1984ish’ and the catch phrase ‘Big Brother is watching you’ came to mean everything that was too big for the individual to control. It was not only big government and big business that was a symptom of 1984 but big science, big labour, big anything.

In fact, so thoroughly has 1984-ophobia penetrated the consciousness of many who have not read the book and have no notion of what it contains, that one wonders what will happen to us after 31 December 1984. When New Year’s Day of 1985 arrives and the United States is still in existence and facing very much the problems it faces today, how will we express our fears of whatever aspect of life fills us with apprehension? What new date can we invent to take the place of 1984?

Orwell did not live to see his book become the success it did. He did not witness the way in which he made 1984 into a year that would haunt a whole generation of Americans. Orwell died of tuberculosis in a London hospital in January 1950, just a few months after the book was published, at the age of forty-six. His awareness of imminent death may have added to the bitterness of the book.

B. THE SCIENCE FICTION OF 1984

Many people think of 1984 as a science fiction novel, but almost the only item about 1984 that would lead one to suppose this is the fact that it is purportedly laid in the future. Not so! Orwell had no feel for the future, and the displacement of the story is much more geographical than temporal.

The London in which the story is placed is not so much moved thirty-five years forward in time, from 1949 to 1984, as it is moved a thousand miles east in space to Moscow. Orwell imagines Great Britain to have gone through a revolution similar to the Russian Revolution and to have gone through all the stages that Soviet development did. He can think of almost no variations on the theme. The Soviets had a series of purges in the 1930s, so the Ingsoc (English Socialism) had a series of purges in the 1950s. The Soviets converted one of their revolutionaries, Leon Trotsky, into a villain, leaving his opponent, Joseph Stalin, as a hero. The Ingsoc, therefore, convert one of their revolutionaries, Emmanuel Goldstein, into a villain, leaving his opponent, with a moustache like Stalin, as a hero.

There is no ability to make minor changes, even. Goldstein, like Trotsky, has ‘a lean Jewish face, with a great fuzzy aureole of white hair and a small goatee beard’. Orwell apparently does not want to confuse the issue by giving Stalin a different name so he calls him merely ‘Big Brother’.

At the very beginning of the story, it is made clear that television (which was coming into existence at the time the book was written) served as a continuous means of indoctrination of the people, for sets cannot be turned off. (And, apparently, in a deteriorating London in which nothing works, these sets never fail.)

The great Orwellian contribution to future technology is that the television set is two-way, and that the people who are forced to hear and see the television screen can themselves be heard and seen at all times and are under constant supervision even while sleeping or in the bathroom. Hence, the meaning of the phrase ‘Big Brother is watching you’.

This is an extraordinarily inefficient system of keeping everyone under control. To have a person being watched at all times means that some other person must be doing the watching at all times (at least in the Orwellian society) and must be doing so very narrowly, for there is a great development of the art of interpreting gesture and facial expression. One person cannot watch more than one person in full concentration, and can only do so for a comparatively short time before attention begins to wander. I should guess, in short, that there may have to be five watchers for every person watched. And then, of course, the watchers must themselves be watched since no one in the Orwellian world is suspicion-free. Consequently, the system of oppression by two-way television simply will not work.

Orwell himself realised this by limiting its workings to the Party members. The ‘proles’ (proletariat), for whom Orwell cannot hide his British upper-class contempt, are left largely to themselves as subhuman. (At one point in the book, he says that any prole that shows ability is killed – a leaf taken out of the Spartan treatment of their helots twenty-five hundred years ago.)

Furthermore, he has a system of volunteer spies in which children report on their parents, and neighbours on each other. This cannot possibly work well since eventually everyone reports everyone else and it all has to be abandoned.

Orwell was unable to conceive of computers or robots, or he would have placed everyone under non-human surveillance. Our own computers to some extent do this in the IRS, in credit files, and so on, but that does not take us towards 1984, except in fevered imaginations. Computers and tyranny do not necessarily go hand in hand. Tyrannies have worked very well without computers (consider the Nazis) and the most computerised nations in today’s world are also the least tyrannical.

Orwell lacks the capacity to see (or invent) small changes. His hero finds it difficult in his world of 1984 to get shoelaces or razor blades. So would I in the real world of the 1980s, for so many people use slip-on shoes and electric razors.

Then, too, Orwell had the technophobic fixation that every technological advance is a slide downhill. Thus, when his hero writes, he ‘fitted a nib into the penholder and sucked it to get the grease off. He does so ‘because of a feeling that the beautiful creamy paper deserved to be written on with a real nib instead of being scratched with an ink-pencil’.

Presumably, the ‘ink-pencil’ is the ball-point pen that was coming into use at the time that 1984 was being written. This means that Orwell describes something as being written’ with a real nib but being ‘scratched’ with a ball-point. This is, however, precisely the reverse of the truth. If you are old enough to remember steel pens, you will remember that they scratched fearsomely, and you know ball-points don’t. This is not science fiction, but a distorted nostalgia for a past that never was. I am surprised that Orwell stopped with the steel pen and that he didn’t have Winston writing with a neat goose quill.

Nor was Orwell particularly prescient in the strictly social aspects of the future he was presenting, with the result that the Orwellian world of 1984 is incredibly old-fashioned when compared with the real world of the 1980s.

Orwell imagines no new vices, for instance. His characters are all gin hounds and tobacco addicts, and part of the horror of his picture of 1984 is his eloquent description of the low quality of the gin and tobacco. He foresees no new drugs, no marijuana, no synthetic hallucinogens. No one expects an s.f. writer to be precise and exact in his forecasts, but surely one would expect him to invent some differences.

In his despair (or anger), Orwell forgets the virtues human beings have. All his characters are, in one way or another, weak or sadistic, or sleazy, or stupid, or repellent. This may be how most people are, or how Orwell wants to indicate they will all be under tyranny, but it seems to me that under even the worst tyrannies, so far, there have been brave men and women who have withstood the tyrants to the death and whose personal histories are luminous flames in the surrounding darkness. If only because there is no hint of this in 1984, it does not resemble the real world of the 1980s.

Nor did he foresee any difference in the role of women or any weakening of the feminine stereotype of 1949. There are only two female characters of importance. One is a strong, brainless ‘prole’ woman who is an endless washerwoman, endlessly singing a popular song with words of the type familiar in the 1930s and 1940s (at which Orwell shudders fastidiously as ‘trashy’, in blissful non-anticipation of hard rock).

The other is the heroine, Julia, who is sexually promiscuous (but is at least driven to courage by her interest in sex) and is otherwise brainless. When the hero, Winston, reads to her the book within a book that explains the nature of the Orwellian world, she responds by falling asleep – but then since the treatise Winston reads is stupefyingly soporific, this may be an indication of Julia’s good sense rather than the reverse. In short, if 1984 must be considered science fiction, then it is very bad science fiction.

C. THE GOVERNMENT OF 1984

Orwell’s 1984 is a picture of all-powerful government, and it has helped make the notion of ‘big government’ a very frightening one.

We have to remember, though, that the world of the late 1940s, during which Orwell was writing his book, was one in which there had been, and still were, big governments with true tyrants – individuals whose every wish, however unjust, cruel or vicious, was law. What’s more, it seemed as though such tyrants were irremovable except by the chance of outside force. Benito Mussolini of Italy, after twenty-one years of absolute rule, was overthrown, but that was only because his country was suffering defeat in war.

Adolf Hitler of Germany, a far stronger and more brutal tyrant, ruled with a steel hand for twelve years, yet even defeat did not, in itself, bring about his overthrow. Though the area over which he ruled shrank and shrank and shrank, and even though overwhelming armies of his adversaries closed in from the east and west, he remained absolute tyrant over whatever area he controlled – even when it was only over the bunker in which he committed suicide. Until he removed himself, no one dared remove him. (There were plots against him, to be sure, but they never worked, sometimes through quirks of fate that seemed explainable only by supposing that someone down there liked him.)

Orwell, however, had no time for either Mussolini or Hitler. His enemy was Stalin, and at the time that 1984 was published, Stalin had ruled the Soviet Union in a ribbreaking bear hug for twenty-five years, had survived a terrible war in which his nation suffered enormous losses and yet was now stronger than ever. To Orwell, it must have seemed that neither time nor fortune could budge Stalin, but that he would live on forever with ever increasing strength. – And that was how Orwell pictured Big Brother.

Of course, that was not the way it really was. Orwell didn’t live long enough to see it but Stalin died only three years after 1984 was published, and it was not long after that that his regime was denounced as a tyranny by – guess who – the Soviet leadership.

The Soviet Union is still the Soviet Union, but it is not Stalinist, and the enemies of the state are no longer liquidated (Orwell uses ‘vaporised’ instead, such small changes being all he can manage) with quite such abandon.

Again, Mao Tse-tung died in China, and while he himself has not been openly denounced, his close associates, as ‘the Gang of Four’, were promptly demoted from Divinity, and while China is still China, it is not Maoist any longer.

Franco of Spain died in his bed and while, to his very last breath, he remained the unquestioned leader he had been for nearly forty years, immediately after that last breath, Fascism abruptly dwindled in Spain, as it had in Portugal after Salazar’s death.

In short, Big Brothers do die, or at least they have so far, and when they die, the government changes, always for the milder.

This is not to say that new tyrants may not make themselves felt, but they will die, too. At least in the real 1980s we have every confidence they will and the undying Big Brother is not yet a real threat.

If anything, in fact, governments of the 1980s seem dangerously weak. The advance of technology has put powerful weapons – explosives, machine guns, fast cars into the hands of urban terrorists who can and do kidnap, hijack, gun down, and take hostages with impunity while governments stand by more or less helplessly.

In addition to the immortality of Big Brother, Orwell presents two other ways of maintaining an eternal tyranny.

First -,present someone or something to hate. In the Orwellian world it was Emmanuel Goldstein for whom hate was built up and orchestrated in a robotized mass function.

This is nothing new, of course. Every nation in the world has used various neighbours for the purpose of hate. This sort of thing is so easily handled and comes as such second nature to humanity that one wonders why there have to be the organised hate drives in the Orwellian world.

It needs scarcely any clever psychological mass movements to make Arabs hate Israelis and Greeks hate Turks and Catholic Irish hate Protestant Irish – and vice versa in each case. To be sure, the Nazis organised mass meetings of delirium that every participant seemed to enjoy, but it had no permanent effect. Once the war moved on to German soil, the Germans surrendered as meekly as though they had never Sieg-Heiled in their lives.

Second – rewrite history. Almost every one of the few individuals we meet in 1984 has, as his job, the rapid rewriting of the past, the readjustment of statistics, the overhauling of newspapers – as though anyone is going to take the trouble to pay attention to the past anyway.

This Orwellian preoccupation with the minutiae of ‘historical proof’ is typical of the political sectarian who is always quoting what has been said and done in the past to prove a point to someone on the other side who is always quoting something to the opposite effect that has been said and done.

As any politician knows, no evidence of any kind is ever required. It is only necessary to make a statement – any statement – forcefully enough to have an audience believe it. No one will check the lie against the facts, and, if they do, they will disbelieve the facts. Do you think the German people in 1939 pretended that the Poles had attacked them and started World War II? No! Since they were told that was so, they believed it as seriously as you and I believe that they attacked the Poles.

To be sure, the Soviets put out new editions of their Encyclopaedia in which politicians rating a long biography in earlier editions are suddenly omitted entirely, and this is no doubt the germ of the Orwellian notion, but the chances of carrying it as far as is described in 1984 seem to me to be nil – not because it is beyond human wickedness, but because it is totally unnecessary.

Orwell makes much of ‘Newspeak’ as an organ of repression – the conversion of the English language into so limited and abbreviated an instrument that the very vocabulary of dissent vanishes. Partly he got the notion from the undoubted habit of abbreviation. He gives examples of ‘Communist International’ becoming ‘Comintern’ and ‘Geheime Staatspolizei’ becoming ‘Gestapo’, but that is not a modern totalitarian invention. ‘Vulgus mobile’ became ‘mob’; ‘taxi cabriolet’ became ‘cab’; ‘quasi-stellar radio source’ became ‘quasar’; ‘light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation’ became ‘laser’ and so on. There is no sign that such compressions of the language have ever weakened it as a mode of expression.

As a matter of fact, political obfuscation has tended to use many words rather than few, long words rather than short, to extend rather than to reduce. Every leader of inadequate education or limited intelligence hides behind exuberant inebriation of loquacity.

Thus, when Winston Churchill suggested the development of ‘Basic English’ as an international language (something which undoubtedly also contributed to ‘Newspeak’), the suggestion was stillborn. We are therefore in no way approaching Newspeak in its condensed form, though we have always had Newspeak in its extended form and always will have.

We also have a group of young people among us who say things like ‘Right on, man, you know. It’s like he’s got it all together, you know, man. I mean, like you know -‘ and so on for five minutes when the word that the young people are groping for is ‘Huh?’

That, however, is not Newspeak, and it has always been with us, too. It is something which in Oldspeak is called ‘inarticulacy’ and it is not what Orwell had in mind.

D. THE INTERNATIONAL SITUATION OF 1984

Although Orwell seemed, by and large, to be helplessly stuck in the world of 1949, in one respect at least he showed himself to be remarkably prescient, and that was in foreseeing the tripartite split of the world of the 1980s.

The international world of 1984 is a world of three superpowers: Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia – and that fits in, very roughly, with the three actual superpowers of the 1980s: the United States, the Soviet Union, and China.

Oceania is a combination of the United States and the British Empire. Orwell, who was an old Imperial civil servant, did not seem to notice that the British Empire was in its last throes in the late 1940s and was about to dissolve. He seems to suppose, in fact, that the British Empire is the dominant member of the British-American combination.

At least, the entire action takes place in London and phrases such as ‘the United States’ and ‘Americans’ are rarely, if ever, mentioned. But then, this is very much in the fashion of the British spy novel in which, ever since World War II, Great Britain (currently about the eighteenth strongest military and economic power in the world) is set up as the great adversary of the Soviet Union, or of China, or of some invented international conspiracy, with the United States either never mentioned or reduced to the small courtesy appearance of an occasional CIA agent.

Eurasia is, of course, the Soviet Union, which Orwell assumes will have absorbed the whole European continent. Eurasia, therefore, includes all of Europe, plus Siberia, and its population is 95 per cent European by any standard.

Nevertheless, Orwell describes the Eurasians as ‘solid-looking men with expressionless Asiatic faces’. Since Orwell still lives in a time when ‘European’ and ‘Asiatic’ are equivalent to ‘ ‘hero’ and ‘villain’, it is impossible to inveigh against the Soviet Union with the proper emotion if it is not thought of as ‘Asiatic’. This comes under the heading of what Orwellian Newspeak calls ‘double-think’, something that Orwell, like any human being, is good at.

It may be, of course, that Orwell is thinking not of Eurasia, or the Soviet Union, but of his great bête noire, Stalin. Stalin is a Georgian, and Georgia, lying south of the Caucasus mountains, is, by strict geographic considerations, part of Asia.

Eastasia is, of course, China and various dependent nations. Here is prescience. At the time Orwell was writing 1984, the Chinese communists had not yet won control of the country and many (in the United States, in particular) were doing their best to see that the anti-Communist, Chiang Kai-shek, retained control. Once the communists won, it became part of the accepted credo of the West that the Chinese would be under thorough Soviet control and that China and the Soviet Union would form a monolithic communist power.

Orwell not only foresaw the communist victory (he saw that victory everywhere, in fact) but also foresaw that Russia and China would not form a monolithic bloc but would be deadly enemies.

There, his own experience as a Leftist sectarian may have helped him. He had no Rightist superstitions concerning Leftists as unified and indistinguishable villains. He knew they would fight each other as fiercely over the most trifling points of doctrine as would the most pious of Christians.

He also foresaw a permanent state of war among the three; a condition of permanent stalemate with the alliances ever-shifting, but always two against the strongest. This was the old-fashioned ‘balance of power’ system which was used in ancient Greece, in medieval Italy, and in early modern Europe. Orwell’s mistake lay in thinking there had to be actual war to keep the merry-go-round of the balance of power in being. In fact, in one of the more laughable parts of the book, he goes on and on concerning the necessity of permanent war as a means of consuming the world’s production of resources and thus keeping the social stratification of upper, middle, and lower classes in being. (This sounds like a very Leftist explanation of war as the result of a conspiracy worked out with great difficulty.)

In actual fact, the decades since 1945 have been remarkably war-free as compared with the decades before it. There have been local wars in profusion, but no general war. But then, war is not required as a desperate device to consume the world’s resources. That can be done by such other devices as endless increase in population and in energy use, neither of which Orwell considers.

Orwell did not foresee any of the significant economic changes that have taken place since World War II. He did not foresee the role of oil or its declining availability or its increasing price, or the escalating power of those nations who control it. I don’t recall his mentioning the word ‘oil’.

But perhaps it is close enough to mark Orwellian prescience here, if we substitute ‘cold war’ for ‘war’. There has been, in fact, a more or less continual ‘cold war’ that has served to keep employment high and solve some short-term economic problems (at the cost of creating long-term greater ones). And this cold war is enough to deplete resources.

Furthermore, the alliances shifted as Orwell foresaw and very nearly as suddenly. When the United States seemed all-powerful, the Soviet Union and China were both vociferously anti-American and in a kind of alliance. As American power decreased, the Soviet Union and China fell apart and, for a while, each of the three powers inveighed against the other two equally. Then, when the Soviet Union came to seem particularly powerful, a kind of alliance sprang up between the United States and China, as they co-operated in vilifying the Soviet Union, and spoke softly of each other.

In 1984 every shift of alliance involved an orgy of history rewriting. In real life, no such folly is necessary. The public swings from side to side easily, accepting the change in circumstance with no concern for the past at all. For instance, the Japanese, by the 1950s, had changed from unspeakable villains to friends, while the Chinese moved in the opposite direction with no one bothering to wipe out Pearl Harbour. No one cared, for goodness’ sake.

Orwell has his three great powers voluntarily forgo the use of nuclear bombs, and to be sure such bombs have not been used in war since 1945. That, however, may be because the only powers with large nuclear arsenals, the United States and the Soviet Union, have avoided war with each other. Were there actual war, it is extremely doubtful that one side or the other would not finally feel it necessary to push the button. In that respect, Orwell perhaps falls short of reality.

London does, however, occasionally suffer a missile strike, which sounds very much like a V-1 or V-2 weapon of 1944, and the city is in a 1945-type shambles. Orwell cannot make 1984 very different from 1944 in this respect. Orwell, in fact, makes it clear that by 1984, the universal communism of the three superpowers has choked science and reduced it to uselessness except in those areas where it is needed for war. There is no question but that the nations are more eager to invest in science where war applications are in clear view but, alas, there is no way of separating war from peace where applications are in question.

Science is a unit, and everything in it could conceivably be related to war and destruction. Science has therefore not been choked off but continues not only in the United States and Western Europe and Japan, but also in the Soviet Union and in China. The advances of science are too numerous to attempt to list, but think of lasers and computers as ‘war weapons’ with infinite peaceful applications.

To summarise, then: George Orwell in 1984 was, in my opinion, engaging in a private feud with Stalinism, rather that attempting to forecast the future. He did not have the science fictional knack of foreseeing a plausible future and, in actual fact, in almost all cases, the world of 1984 bears no relation to the real world of the 1980s.

The world may go communist, if not by 1984, then by some not very much later date; or it may see civilisation destroyed. If this happens, however, it will happen in a fashion quite different from that depicted in 1984 and if we try to prevent either eventuality by imagining that 1984 is accurate, then we will be defending ourselves against assaults from the wrong direction and we will lose.

Source

Stalin & the Myth of the ”Old Bolsheviks”

Introduction

One often hears Trotskyists, Anarchists and bourgeois propagandists accuse Joseph Stalin of killing all or at least most of the so-called ”Old Bolsheviks” and thus being able to allegedly distort the true meaning behind Bolshevism/Leninism. Here I won’t be getting into a thorough debate about what is or is not the real core ideology of Bolshevism but I would like to examine the accusation that Stalin ”killed the Old Bolsheviks”.

1. Who were the so-called ”Old Bolsheviks”?

According to the groups mentioned above, i.e. left-communists, Trotskyists, Anarchists and Right-Wingers the term ”Old Bolshevik” typically refers to people such as Zinoviev, Kamenev, Bukharin, Rykov etc.

They allege that these people represented ”real Bolshevism” and that Stalin killed them to implement his ”Stalinist distortion of Bolshevism”.

But what makes these people ”Old Bolsheviks”? Sure enough some of them such as Zinoviev were long standing members of the Bolshevik party, but is that all that we’re talking about? Zinoviev, Kamenev & co. had numerous disagreements with Lenin, the founder and leader of Bolshevism so can they truly be called Bolsheviks at all? Second of all, there are many people who were also longtime members of the Bolshevik Party yet they don’t get the same status of being called ”Old Bolsheviks”.

We can only conclude that the Right-Winger, Trotskyist and their ilk define ”Old Bolsheviks” merely as people who were killed by Stalin. That is their only qualification.

2. The Real Old Bolsheviks

Interestingly Right and ”Left” critics of Stalin don’t seem to consider the following group of people Old Bolsheviks despite the fact that they obviously were – or at least ignore them when arguing that ”Stalin killed the Old Bolsheviks”.

Note: The Bolshevik faction ”RSDLP(B)” emerged in 1903-1907. The RSDLP itself was founded in 1898.

Stalin             (joined the RSDLP in 1899. Bolshevik as early as 1903)
Kalinin          (joined the party in 1898. Bolshevik at least as early as 1905)
Voroshilov    (joined the RSDLP(B) in 1903)
Orjonikidze   (joined the RSDLP(B) in 1903)
Sverdlov       (joined the RSDLP in 1902. Bolshevik as early as 1903)
Molotov        (joined the RSDLP(B) in 1906)
Kaganovich   (joined the RSDLP(B) in 1911)

These people were not killed by Stalin, in fact they were his allies and I would argue much better Bolsheviks then Zinoviev & co. However for some reason they do not seem to count.

3. Were Zinoviev, Kamenev & Bukharin really such good Bolsheviks?

I think it can be demonstrated rather easily that Zinoviev, Kamenev, Bukharin, Trotsky & co. were not particularly good Bolsheviks and for that reason calling them ”Old Bolsheviks” (that Stalin ’murdered’ to distort bolshevism) seems dubious.

Zinoviev & Kamenev:
Lenin himself wanted Z. & K. expelled from the Bolshevik party altogether due to their treachery on the eve of the October Revolution. Z. & K. opposed the revolution and criticized it in a bourgeois newspaper, thus revealing the Bolsheviks plan to overthrow the government to the class-enemy.

”When the full text of Kamenev’s and Zinoviev’s statement in the non-Party paper Novaya Zhizn was transmitted to me by telephone, I refused to believe it… I no longer consider either of them comrades and that I will fight with all my might, both in the Central Committee and at the Congress, to secure the expulsion of both of them from the Party… Let Mr. Zinoviev and Mr. Kamenev found their own party”
–LENIN, ”Letter to Bolshevik Party Members” (18th Oct. 1917)

Bukharin:
Despite being known as a Right-Winger for his views on economic policy, Bukharinists used to be thought of as a Left-Communist faction in the party. This is in the main due to their adventurism and opposition to the Brest-Litovsk peace-treaty.

Lenin slammed the actions of Bukharin & the ”Left”-communists in ”Peace or War?”

”…he who is against an immediate, even though extremely onerous peace, is endangering Soviet power.”

He also attacked Bukharin on the economic front in 1921 in his work ”Once Again On the Trade Unions: On the Mistakes of Trotsky and Bukharin”.

Trotsky:
Mentioning Trotsky in this context is perhaps superfluous but I will do it for the sake of thoroughness. He joined the party only in 1917 and cannot be called an Old Bolshevik in any case. Initially he was a Menshevik (1903-1905), then a member of the ultra-opportunist August Bloch (1907-1913) which Lenin ridiculed, opponent of the Zimmerwald Left that Lenin supported (1914-1916) and finally the semi-Menshevik Mezhraiontsy which ceased to exist in 1917. His disagreements with Lenin are too numerous to mention.

He was a longtime enemy of Lenin prompting Lenin to refer to him as a ”Judas”, ”Swine”, ”Scoundrel”, “bureaucratic” helper of the liberal bourgeois and calling his theory of Permanent Revolution both ”absurd” and half-menshevik. Instead of providing quotations sources for the claims will be at the end or otherwise this section would be too lengthy.

Lenin also attacked Trotsky for his flip flopping on the Brest peace deal and his ridiculous economic policy & poor handling of the trade unions together with Bukharin.

4. The Bloc of Rights & Trotskyites

In 1921 at the 10th congress of the RCP Lenin argued for the banning of factional cliques in the Bolshevik party. This was accepted and factions were either expelled or they capitulated. However after his death various factional groups sprung up. In 1927 Trotsky, Zinoviev & Kamenev were expelled from the party for factionalism after organizing an anti-party demonstration, though Z & K. later capitulated to Stalin.

Trotsky was exiled from the USSR, while Zinoviev & Kamenev were marginalized. The Bukharinists also lost the debate against Stalin & the majority. By 1932 Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev & Bukharin had all lost their legitimate political power. Trotsky created a secret conspiratorial anti-soviet group which was joined by Z. & K. and later various Bukharinites. This group became known in the Soviet media as ”The Bloc of Rights & Trotskyites”.

This is the real reason for which these people were later arrested & executed. They wished to carry out destabilization against the Soviet government which was already worried about foreign Fascist invasions. All of this was denied by anti-soviet elements for decades but the discovery of various letters from Trotsky and his associates has proven it without a shadow of a doubt.                     

”…The proposal for a bloc seems to me to be completely acceptable.”
Trotsky to Sedov

”The bloc is organised, it includes the Zinovievists, the Sten–Lominadze Group and the Trotskyists…”
Sedov to Trotsky

One fights repression by means of anonymity and conspiracy…”
–Trotsky to Sedov

”As far as the illegal organisation of the Bolshevik-Leninists in the USSR is concerned, only the first steps have been taken towards its re-organisation.”
Trotsky (Dec. 16 1932)

Source: Library of Harvard College 13905c, 1010, 4782 quoted in Pierre Broué’s The “Bloc” of the Oppositions against Stalin

Whether or not you believe the actions of Trotsky & co. to be justified it is dishonest to claim they were framed or unjustly murdered for their so-called Bolshevism. They fought against the Soviet government and lost.

5. Conclusions: Will the Real Old Bolsheviks please Stand up?

Stalin did not in fact kill the Old Bolsheviks, he killed anti-Soviet renegades whose Bolshevik credentials were questionable at best. The real Old Bolsheviks were people like Kalinin and Voroshilov who supported Lenin since the beginning through thick and thin, not flip-flopping opportunists like Zinoviev who stabbed Lenin in the back when ever it was advantageous.

LENIN QUOTES ON TROTSKY:

”…Trotsky’s (the scoundrel… this swindler … pays lip-service to the Party and behaves worse than any other of the factionalists.”
–LENIN CW 34 p. 400 (1909)

”At the Plenary Meeting Judas Trotsky made a big show of fighting liquidationism…”
–LENIN ”Judas Trotsky’s Blush of Shame” (1911)

Trotsky… proclaiming his absurdly Left ‘permanent revolution’ theory.”

–LENIN ”Disruption of Unity Under Cover of Outcries for Unity” (1914)

Trotsky’s… theory has borrowed… from the Mensheviks…”
–LENIN ”On the Two Lines in the Revolution” (1915)

”The Bolsheviks helped the proletariat consciously to follow the first line… liberal bourgeoisie was the second… Trotsky is in fact helping the liberal-labour politicians in Russia…”
– LENIN, Ibid.

”What a swine this Trotsky is—Left phrases, and a bloc with the Right…”
–LENIN ”Letter to Alexandra Kollontai” (1917)

”It is Trotsky who is in “ideological confusion”… There you have an example of the real bureaucratic approach: Trotsky… Trotsky’s “theses” are politically harmful…”
–LENIN ”The Trade Unions, The Present Situation And Trotsky’s Mistakes” (1920)

”Comrade Trotsky is essentially wrong on all his new points… Trotsky and Bukharin have produced a hodgepodge of political mistakes”
–LENIN ”Once Again On The Trade Unions: The Current Situation and the Mistakes of Trotsky and Buhkarin” (1921)

Source

ICMLPO: Solidarity with the Union of Educators of Ecuador (UNE)

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From the International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organizations, we extend our solidarity with the National Union of the Educators of Ecuador (UNE), the largest trade union organism of the Ecuadorian teachers that in its history of more than 72 years has played a very important role for the conquering of the rights and freedoms for the people and has stood firm against the most heinous dictatorships that the Ecuador has seen.

Today, just like yesterday, UNE is subject of harassment and persecution on the part of the reaction that took shape in Rafael Correa government, which unmask itself as a servant that defends the interests of the imperialism and new groups of rich produced by the politics of modernization of the capitalism; a government that has made one of its more reactionary plan acting for the dissolution of an institution of great democratic prestige, struggle tradition and long history.

UNE has been subject to the reactionary politics of Correa and Alianza Pais party, because it has demonstrated in the practice to be consistent and unwavering in the defence of the popular interests; UNE, always maintaining the class political independence, and being a moral bastion in front of dictatorships and pseudo-democratic governments, always opposed to the plans of deepening the neoliberal politics of privatization of the education and labour flexibility, fighting for the rights of teachers, students and the peoples. For these reason it has the support and solidarity of the main trade unions of Ecuador, the sympathy and the backing of many trade union organizations of the teachers at international level.

From each of our trenches, we extend our greetings and encouragement so that the teachers and peoples struggle in Ecuador will develop their independent way building the popular unity that the working class and the peoples of Ecuador require for the construction of the new Motherland and Socialism.

Long live the teachers and Ecuadorian peoples struggle!
Long live internationalist solidarity!
 
October 2016
 
XXII PLENARY OF THE INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE
OF MARXIST-LENINIST PARTIES AND ORGANIZATION

22nd Plenary of the ICMLPO: ‘Free Trade Agreements’ Weapons of Economic Aggression and Imperialist Domination

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Currently in most of the European countries as well as in the USA and Canada, hundred thousands of workers and progressive people protest and fight against “free trade treaties” like TTIP, TISA and CETA. A large resistance movement has developed. Already, there have been some successes in the struggle. The negotiations have been suspended. Nevertheless the resistance movement especially against CETA continues.
Why?

Why?

The workers and peoples have gathered some experience with “free trade agreements” and have seen that they did not result in more and better jobs, but instead in increased poverty. For example, the NAFTA agreement between the USA, Canada and Mexico has not lead to an economic growth, but instead to low wages, unemployment and to the elimination of the weaker enterprises, that where defeated in the increasing competition.

It is therefore obvious that such agreements are in favor of the biggest imperialist monopolies. Likewise, the Ukraine was forced to sign an “association agreement” with the EU, a “free trade agreement” which had all the negative consequences for the workers, the people and the economy. Furthermore, this agreement included the subordination of Ukraine under the military structures of EU and NATO, transforming the Ukraine into a front state of aggression against Russia.

These agreements are very undemocratic. The negotiations are generally conducted in secret. They are put into practice “provisionally” even before they are ratified by the bourgeois parliaments or after they have been rejected by a parliament or in a referendum. In the Netherlands, the “free trade treaty” with the Ukraine was rejected by the people in a referendum. But the EU just ignored the people’s will.

Whenever such treaties are put into practice, the bourgeois institutions are submitted to new private arbitrating tribunals.

The mobilization against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a similar “free trade treaty”, is developing on both sides of Pacific.

At this time, the EU forces many African states to sign the so called “Economic Partnership Agreement” which will increase their dependency on the EU imperialists. It will deepen the neocolonial plundering by opening the markets for the EU industry even more, destroying their own economic structures, and it will also ease the exploitation of their natural resources. The peoples of Africa struggle against this new imperialist offensive. We have to support them.

The workers and the people have good reasons to combat these treaties. Of course, TTIP, TISA and CETA are treaties between imperialist powers, where each party hopes to outwit the other and gain hegemony. They will lead to lower wages, increased unemployment, lower social and environmental standards, the dismantling of democratic rights and to an increased competition among the workers. Thus the workers and the people’s determined resistance is justified. We, as Marxist-Leninist parties and organizations are an active part in these movements and work to develop it.

We, as Marxist-Leninist parties and organizations are an active part in these movements and work to develop it.

Stop TTIP, CETA and TISA!

Stop the so called “Economic Partnership Agreement” between EU and Africa!

22nd Plenary of the International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organisations

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

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[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

Minorities

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).

Source

Party of Labor of Iran (Toufan): Solidarity with Syria

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The English Facebook page of the Party of Labour of Iran (Toufan) has interviewed the comrade in charge of the Office of Foreign Relations of the Party, Comrade Jaafar Paknia, on the situation in Syria.

The following is the text of the interview.

Comrade Jaafar, thank you for the time you are spending with us for this interview. As you know, due to the Russian aerial bombardment and the destruction of the bases of Daesh (ISIS) and other terrorist groups, the balance of power has changed in Syria. The regime of Basher Assad has gone on the offensive, and its forces have advanced significantly. The Turkish government of Erdogan has violated international norms and regulations and has frantically bombarded the bases of the Kobane Kurds and has declared its opposition to any autonomy for the Syrian Kurds. How do you evaluate these new developments in Syria?

The adventurist policy of Erdogan’s government, a government that is sunk in the dream of the revival of “Great Ottoman Empire” and that shamelessly interferes in the internal affairs of the countries of the region has faced disgraceful defeat. This is clearly a sign of political shortsightedness of the present leadership of Turkey. By sending the Syrian refugees to Europe, Erdogan wanted to pressure the European governments to agree with his policy of toppling the legal and legitimate government of Assad and to pretend that only through NATO involvement in Syria and its support for terrorist organizations and eventually through the overthrow of the Syrian government, it is possible to stop the influx of refugees to Europe. Erdogan’s inhumane conspiracy has become a policy of instigation, war, and destruction in the region. This policy was rejected by the European governments, and consequently Turkey’s shortsighted policy faced a dead end. Erdogan asked for three billion Euros from the European countries as blackmail to stop the influx of refugees to Europe.

The gains of the Syrian army against Daesh through Russian bombardment are increasing daily. These gains have encouraged the people in the Daesh-controlled regions to resist and to participate in the war against the terrorist organizations. ISIS has chosen the “flight” over “Heaven”. These terrorists are returning to their homelands by the scores. The imperialist-trained Daesh and Jihadists have spread their terror campaigns to their motherlands. Though France has fallen victim to terrorist operations, it has not stopped interfering in the affairs of the Middle Eastern countries. The Western imperialist countries that supported Daesh and other terror groups in killing 300 thousand Syrians will not escape these terror campaigns. Turkey itself will fall victim to Daesh’s terror campaign soon.

The government of Erdogan that continues the criminal fascist suppression and bombardment of PKK and the Kurdish people is extremely frightened by the recent victories of the Syrian government over the terrorist groups, and it is asking Saudi Arabia and Qatar to jointly dispatch their armies to Syria to “fight” Daesh. What a joke! What a lie! These countries have been supporting, training, arming, and financing ISIS for the past five years. Even Barak Obama and NATO and EU officials are hesitant about the effectiveness of Erdogan’s adventurist policies. The armed forces of Turkey enter Syria only for the purpose of destroying the democratic achievements of the Kobane Kurds and to fight against the Syrian army. This is obviously in violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria.

Some hold the opinion that Russian bombardment of Daesh has made the situation worse and has killed many civilians, that Russia’s objective in its rivalry with the U.S. imperialists is to preserve and strengthen its interest in Syria and the Region, and that Russian interference in the Middle East is an imperialist act that should not be supported. What is your opinion on these issues?

Before we talk about the class nature of the Russian establishment, we must clarify the nature of the war that is being waged in Syria and the Middle East. We must analyze the reasons why the Western imperialists headed by the U.S. and their lackeys and allies in the region such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, etc. want to overthrow the legal government of Syria. Isn’t this policy of aggression against Syria consistent with the doctrine of establishing the “Greater Middle East”? Isn’t this the continuation of the policy of military aggression against Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, etc.? Isn’t this policy in the interest of Zionism and world reaction? Do China and Russia desire to disintegrate Syria and split it into pieces?

It must be emphasized that Syria has political independence and therefore has the right to freely seek help from any force or country in order to preserve its national independence and territorial integrity. This policy of seeking assistance is not new in the struggle of the people of the world. In the war that is imposed upon Syria, the condemnation of the Western aggressors and their regional allies must occupy the first place. These aggressors are seeking the total destruction and disintegration of Syria. Furthermore, their objective is not limited to the overthrow of Assad’s regime. The suppression of Lebanon’s resistance movement, aggression against Iran, and the dispatch of terrorist forces to the borders of Russia all will come next. The U.S. strategy of “New World Order” is to weaken and remove the allies of China and Russia, to subdue these two imperialist rivals, and to impose its hegemony on the globe. The fact is that Eastern imperialists presently do not have the necessary military power or preparation to wage war on the Western united military forces of NATO led by the U.S. In the present condition, it is NATO that has military superiority and violates and threatens the independence, territorial integrity, and the rights of nations to self determination. Western imperialism, headed by the U.S., is the source of all present wars and is responsible for the flight of millions of people from their homelands in the Middle East, Horn of Africa, Yugoslavia, and Ukraine. 

Russia and China vetoed the U.S. proposal in the UN Security Council and have expressed many times their opposition to the bombardment of Syria. This is a positive stand, as were the stands of Germany and France in opposition to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. It is clear that behind these stands and oppositions lie economic and political interests and motives. A political party, while clarifying the nature of the war and of the forces involved, must adopt its tactic. The independent state of Syria, as any independent state, can make use of the present world contradictions to preserve its independence; otherwise, it will not overcome the aggression imposed on it. One may simplify a complicated political question and raise a general political slogan and put his mind at ease by declaring war on all forces involved and then watch the development of the events. This is not responsible conduct and it is inconsistent with Marxism and Leninist tactics. Our Party emphasizes that we must defend the independence and territorial integrity of the countries that face imperialist military aggression. This defense is a defense for rights of nations to self-determination by their own people.

We must add that Saudi, Qatar, and Turkey’s opposition to Syria is over the export of natural gas from the region to Europe. Iran, Iraq, and Syria planned for a ten-billion-dollar project for the construction of a pipeline to export Iran’s natural gas to Europe starting in 2010. In 2012, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by these three countries. Two weeks later, armed clashes started in Syria. Armed terrorist groups were sent to Syria through northern and southern borders. Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey utilized their means to overthrow the regime of Assad. Qatar now fights for a bigger share of the market for its natural gas, and Saudi Arabia and Turkey want the gas pipelines to pass through their countries in order to become a broker for the export of Qatar’s natural gas to Europe and to collect transit fees.

Western media claim that Russian bombardments of Syria have killed many thousands of innocent people and that Russia is responsible for the continuation of the war and the migration of hundreds of thousands of residents. What are your views on these claims?

Western media lie about the events in Syria and also fabricate stories consistent with the official line of their governments. The Russian fighter jets bomb the bases and positions of Daesh and some other terrorist groups and have significantly weakened Daesh’s grip on the regions under their control. Russia displayed satellite pictures of stolen oil tankers going from Syria to Turkey. Daesh sells the stolen oil to Turkey at a low price, and Turkey offers it to the world at the market price. Russian jet fighters bombed many hundreds of these oil tankers.

Assad’s victories over Daesh and over the conspiracies and plots of the Western imperialists are very bitter for Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the U.S., and the Western media. These conspirators try to disrupt and hinder the fight against the terrorists who have destroyed Syria. European countries that are vulnerable and are threatened by the terrorist actions want to stop their losses. They see that their policy of toppling the legal government of Assad has faced defeat and that their hopes are dashed, though they – with the help from reactionary regimes of the region such as Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Jordon – made use of everything they could, including the violation of the UN Charter and of the rights of nations to defeat Assad. Now they are interested in reduction of tension in the region. They see the reduction of tension in the region as useful to their interests and to the normalization of relations with Russia. The government of Erdogan that used Daesh of Arab, Turk, Turkmen, Chechen, Dagestan, and European nationalities to attack Syria now sees that the terrorist forces are on the run and are facing defeat followed by another defeat. Erdogan, with the hope of occupying and annexing northern Syria to Turkey, has invented a Turkmen national minority in Syria that wants to join Turkey. Turkmen who are allies of Daesh and who behead Arabs and Kurds are Erdogan’s brothers and friends and are defended as “non-terrorist” opposition. The Russian jets are making these terrorists martyrs for Erdogan. And of course, the jets that make these Turkmen martyrs have to be shut down by the non-terrorists provided that the U.S. has expressed its consent. With the defeat of Daesh, the Syrian Kurdish forces are gaining strength, and Erdogan is losing the hope to split Syria. Obama and Erdogan play a sly and hypocritical role in the fight against Daesh.

In the present situation, Russians and Assad’s army have no interest in bombarding the civilian regions. We should mention that long before the Russian military involvement in Syria, more than 150 thousand terrorists from 80 countries, financed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar and the U.S. and Europe, were mobilized to destroy and attack Syria. Now they are defeated and are on the run. The Western news media tries to instigate public opinion against the regime of Bashar Assad by engineering lies and distributing photo shopped pictures.

What is the future of the regime of President Assad? What stand are the people taking in this situation?

As I have mentioned several times, the U.S. objective is to overthrow the regime of Assad in the framework of “humanitarian involvement”. The U.S. imperialists and their allies want to divide Syria into four regions: a Sunni region in Damascus and its suburbs, the Druze region in the Golan Heights, the Alavi region in Antakya region, and a Kurdish region in northeastern Syria. This would make Syria a weak, dependent, and fragmented country that serves the strategic interest of the U.S. and Israel and their allies. The silence of the so called human rights organizations on the violation of the rights of nations by the U.S. imperialists shows the hypocrisy of the fake human rights organizations.

It must be said that the overthrow of the regime of Bashar Assad by the hands of the Syrian people led by the working class and for the purpose of establishing freedom, social justice, and the preservation and deepening of independence of Syria would be a revolutionary act that serves the people of Syria and of the entire region. The toppling of the Syrian regime by the imperialist powers is neither in the interest of the Syrian people nor in the interest of the people of the region. Parties and organizations that have not learned from the experience of the occupations of Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan and that are still repeating the theories of “fight against all reactionary forces” and resolving “all social contradictions” at the same time understand neither tactics nor revolutionary politics. They are sunk in the Trotskyite quagmire of a “fight against two reactionary poles”. These forces do not serve the people. On the contrary, they sabotage the national and liberation struggles of the people against imperialist aggression and invasion. It is the responsibility of the revolutionary and progressive forces to resolutely expose these deviated and decaying political currents that damage the movement under the name of “communist” and “left”.

Today, the Western imperialists see that a significant section of Syrians, due to the destructive actions of the dark force of Daesh, have lined up behind Assad’s regime and that not by any means will the Syrian people “rise up” against the “dictator”. The U.S. imperialists and their allies are forced to talk about peace (!), but in practice, they beat the war drums on all fronts. 

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Stalin’s ‘Anti-Semitism’

 

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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.

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Color Me Unimpressed: Rejoinder to Jason Unruhe

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“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.)

And:

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?

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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.

In Ukraine War, Kremlin Leaves No Fingerprints

Russian special forces and mercenaries that started the war in Donbas, Ukraine

Russian special forces and mercenaries that started the war in Donbas, Ukraine

DONETSK, Ukraine — Not long ago, Alexander Borodai, a fast-talking Muscovite with a stylish goatee, worked as a consultant for an investment fund in Moscow. Today he is prime minister of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic, zipping around town in a black S.U.V. with tinted windows and armed guards and commanding what he says are hundreds of fighters from Russia.

Mr. Borodai is Russian, but says he has come to eastern Ukraine out of a surge of patriotism and a desire to help Russian speakers here protect their rights. As for the Kremlin, he says, there’s no connection.

“I’m an ordinary citizen of Russia, not a government worker,” said Mr. Borodai, 41, whose face crinkles easily into a smile. “A lot of people from Russia are coming to help these people. I am one of them.”

The Cold War-style standoff over Ukraine may have subsided for now. President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has drawn his troops back from the border and has promised to work with Ukraine’s new government. But the shifting reality here in eastern Ukraine suggests the crisis has simply entered a new phase. In contrast to Crimea, which was seized by Russian troops in unmarked uniforms this spring, eastern Ukraine is evolving into a subtle game in which Russian freelancers shape events and the Kremlin plausibly denies involvement.

Here in the green flatlands of eastern Ukraine, reminders of Russia are everywhere. Outside a former Ukrainian National Guard base, now occupied by a rebel militia, a jovial fighter from Ossetia in southern Russia, who goes by the nickname Mamai, said he crossed the border about a month ago with other volunteers.

The central government building that Mr. Borodai’s forces now control, after sweeping out the ragtag local separatists who occupied it weeks ago, is festooned with a slick, Hollywood-style banner featuring Mr. Borodai’s friend, Igor Strelkov, a Russian citizen who is a rebel leader in the stronghold of Slovyansk. And on Thursday, rebel leaders shipped 33 coffins back to Russia through a remarkably porous border, announcing that the overwhelming majority of those killed in Monday’s battle with the Ukrainian Army were Russian citizens.

Mr. Putin may not be directing these events, but he is certainly their principal beneficiary. Instability in Ukraine’s east makes the country less palatable to the European Union and more vulnerable to Russian demands, forming a kind of insurance policy for future influence by Russia, which, at least so far, has avoided further sanctions from the West. Leaders of the Group of 7 countries will meet in Brussels on Wednesday, including President Obama, and Russia’s role in Ukraine is at the top of the agenda.

“They are creating facts on the ground,” said Dmitry Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center. “The goal is clear: build structural guarantees against Ukraine’s potential NATO accession. Plausible deniability is key.”

Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday expressed “deep concern in connection with the further escalation of the situation in eastern Ukraine,” but did not address the Russian deaths. A request for comment on the Russian bodies and on Mr. Borodai went unanswered.

Reality in Ukraine seems constantly in flux, and the fact that the country has a new president-elect after careening headless for months could shift the kaleidoscope again. Petro O. Poroshenko, who was elected in a landslide last Sunday, is expected to meet Mr. Putin this summer, and if the two men are able to strike a deal, then Russian support for the separatists may wane, some experts said, though that will not necessarily stop them.

“Russia will keep supporting separatists below the radar as insurance to make sure Poroshenko agrees to a deal,” said Dmitry Gorenburg, a senior research scientist for the CNA Corporation, a nonprofit research group in Washington. “Once the deal is done, I think Putin will drop them.”

But much has changed between Ukraine and its giant neighbor in recent months and it is not clear how much their interests will overlap. Nor is Kiev entirely without cards to play. On Monday its military inflicted serious damage on the largely Russian separatist force, killing more than 40 fighters and raising the possibility that the military has at least some chance of succeeding.

What Russia would do if that started to happen is an open question. But for now, at least, the strategy seems to be to destabilize Ukraine as much as possible without leaving conclusive evidence that would trigger more sanctions.

“I don’t think he has blinked,” said Matthew Rojansky, director of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute, referring to Mr. Putin’s not invading eastern Ukraine. “He has eased up because he sees a situation that he likes better.”

That leaves Mr. Borodai as a central figure in Ukraine’s immediate future. He may seem to have come out of nowhere, but in Russia he is a known quantity. He comes from a group of ultranationalists who were part of the far-right Zavtra newspaper in the 1990s. Their Pan-Slavic ideas, aiming for the unity of Slavic peoples, were considered marginal at the time. But they have now moved into the mainstream, helping formulate the worldview of today’s Kremlin, said Oleg Kashin, a Russian investigative journalist who has written extensively about Mr. Borodai.

“He’s the Karl Rove of Russian imperialism,” said Irena Chalupa, a fellow at the Atlantic Council.

When Mr. Borodai talks, people here listen. Surrounded by armed guards with scowling faces, Mr. Borodai stood with a microphone at the center of a large crowd that had gathered last weekend outside the compound of a local oligarch. They wanted to break in and declare it national property.

“I know many of you want a tour,” he said smiling, as the crowd cheered. “I respect that desire. But right now a tour is not possible.”

In an interview, Mr. Borodai said that he and Mr. Strelkov, the Russian rebel commander in Slovyansk, had both gone to Transnistria, a breakaway area in Moldova, to defend the rights of Russians in the 1990s. He named the cities in Russia that volunteers have come from, including Novosibirsk, Vladivostok and Chita. He said he believed in the idea of a Greater Russia, and that he had come to Ukraine to realize it. “Real Ukrainians have the right to live as they like,” he said. “They can create their own state which would be named Ukraine, or however they like, because the word Ukraine is a little humiliating,” he said, asserting that the literal translation meant “on the border of.” (The etymology is disputed.)

He explained that Ukrainians “have their heroes, their values, their religion,” but that “we also want to live as we want to live. We think that we have that right. And if we need to, we will assert that right.”

Roman Szporluk, emeritus professor of Ukrainian history at Harvard University, said such language was worrying. “Putin would like to Yugoslavize Ukraine,” he said. “He wants to create an ethnic conflict where one did not exist.”

No one here seems to know where Mr. Borodai came from or what his allegiances are. But such things do not matter. “They are good guys, they are our guys, they are protecting us against Kiev’s aggression,” said Lidia Lisichkina, a 55-year-old geologist who is an ethnic Russian.

Mr. Kashin, the investigative journalist, does not believe that either Mr. Borodai or Mr. Strelkov is acting on behalf of the Russian government. “This is not the hand of Moscow, it’s just Borodai,” Mr. Kashin said.

Local rebel leaders say their goals coincide. Roman Lyagin, an election specialist from Donetsk who is responsible for pensions and wages in the new republic (so far they are still paid by Kiev), said one of the main tasks is to push separatist control farther west to “create a land route from Russia to Crimea.”

“People there need oatmeal, television and underwear,” he said.

At the regional administration building on Friday, Mr. Borodai was busy consolidating his power, holding his first government meeting after his forces swept out the local separatists.

The former National Guard base was buzzing with activity. A white minivan full of armed men in black balaclavas zoomed out of a large metal gate, its purple curtains pulled partly closed. A man wearing civilian clothes carried two large black bags to a hatchback station wagon and sped away.

Outside the gate, Mamai, the Ossetian fighter, said he had not come to Ukraine for money. He had a business doing security for banks in Vladikavkaz, where he lives. “Everyone who wants to be with Russia,” he said, “those are our brothers.”

Source

Pentagon report predicted West’s support for Islamist rebels would create ISIS

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Anti-ISIS coalition knowingly sponsored violent extremists to ‘isolate’ Assad, rollback ‘Shia expansion’

by Nafeez Ahmed

A declassified secret US government document obtained by the conservative public interest law firm, Judicial Watch, shows that Western governments deliberately allied with al-Qaeda and other Islamist extremist groups to topple Syrian dictator Bashir al-Assad.

The document reveals that in coordination with the Gulf states and Turkey, the West intentionally sponsored violent Islamist groups to destabilize Assad, and that these “supporting powers” desired the emergence of a “Salafist Principality” in Syria to “isolate the Syrian regime.”

According to the newly declassified US document, the Pentagon foresaw the likely rise of the ‘Islamic State’ as a direct consequence of this strategy, and warned that it could destabilize Iraq. Despite anticipating that Western, Gulf state and Turkish support for the “Syrian opposition” — which included al-Qaeda in Iraq — could lead to the emergence of an ‘Islamic State’ in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the document provides no indication of any decision to reverse the policy of support to the Syrian rebels. On the contrary, the emergence of an al-Qaeda affiliated “Salafist Principality” as a result is described as a strategic opportunity to isolate Assad.


Hypocrisy

The revelations contradict the official line of Western governments on their policies in Syria, and raise disturbing questions about secret Western support for violent extremists abroad, while using the burgeoning threat of terror to justify excessive mass surveillance and crackdowns on civil liberties at home.

Among the batch of documents obtained by Judicial Watch through a federal lawsuit, released earlier this week, is a US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) document then classified as “secret,” dated 12th August 2012.

The DIA provides military intelligence in support of planners, policymakers and operations for the US Department of Defense and intelligence community.

So far, media reporting has focused on the evidence that the Obama administration knew of arms supplies from a Libyan terrorist stronghold to rebels in Syria.

Some outlets have reported the US intelligence community’s internal prediction of the rise of ISIS. Yet none have accurately acknowledged the disturbing details exposing how the West knowingly fostered a sectarian, al-Qaeda-driven rebellion in Syria.

Charles Shoebridge, a former British Army and Metropolitan Police counter-terrorism intelligence officer, said:

“Given the political leanings of the organisation that obtained these documents, it’s unsurprising that the main emphasis given to them thus far has been an attempt to embarrass Hilary Clinton regarding what was known about the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi in 2012. However, the documents also contain far less publicized revelations that raise vitally important questions of the West’s governments and media in their support of Syria’s rebellion.”

The West’s Islamists

The newly declassified DIA document from 2012 confirms that the main component of the anti-Assad rebel forces by this time comprised Islamist insurgents affiliated to groups that would lead to the emergence of ISIS. Despite this, these groups were to continue receiving support from Western militaries and their regional allies.

Noting that “the Salafist [sic], the Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI [al-Qaeda in Iraq] are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria,” the document states that “the West, Gulf countries, and Turkey support the opposition,” while Russia, China and Iran “support the [Assad] regime.”

The 7-page DIA document states that al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), the precursor to the ‘Islamic State in Iraq,’ (ISI) which became the ‘Islamic State in Iraq and Syria,’ “supported the Syrian opposition from the beginning, both ideologically and through the media.”

The formerly secret Pentagon report notes that the “rise of the insurgency in Syria” has increasingly taken a “sectarian direction,” attracting diverse support from Sunni “religious and tribal powers” across the region.

In a section titled ‘The Future Assumptions of the Crisis,’ the DIA report predicts that while Assad’s regime will survive, retaining control over Syrian territory, the crisis will continue to escalate “into proxy war.”

The document also recommends the creation of “safe havens under international sheltering, similar to what transpired in Libya when Benghazi was chosen as the command centre for the temporary government.”

In Libya, anti-Gaddafi rebels, most of whom were al-Qaeda affiliated militias, were protected by NATO ‘safe havens’ (aka ‘no fly zones’).

‘Supporting powers want’ ISIS entity

In a strikingly prescient prediction, the Pentagon document explicitly forecasts the probable declaration of “an Islamic State through its union with other terrorist organizations in Iraq and Syria.”

Nevertheless, “Western countries, the Gulf states and Turkey are supporting these efforts” by Syrian “opposition forces” fighting to “control the eastern areas (Hasaka and Der Zor), adjacent to Western Iraqi provinces (Mosul and Anbar)”:

“… there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist Principality in eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran).”

The secret Pentagon document thus provides extraordinary confirmation that the US-led coalition currently fighting ISIS, had three years ago welcomed the emergence of an extremist “Salafist Principality” in the region as a way to undermine Assad, and block off the strategic expansion of Iran. Crucially, Iraq is labeled as an integral part of this “Shia expansion.”

The establishment of such a “Salafist Principality” in eastern Syria, the DIA document asserts, is “exactly” what the “supporting powers to the [Syrian] opposition want.” Earlier on, the document repeatedly describes those “supporting powers” as “the West, Gulf countries, and Turkey.”

Further on, the document reveals that Pentagon analysts were acutely aware of the dire risks of this strategy, yet ploughed ahead anyway.

The establishment of such a “Salafist Principality” in eastern Syria, it says, would create “the ideal atmosphere for AQI to return to its old pockets in Mosul and Ramadi.” Last summer, ISIS conquered Mosul in Iraq, and just this month has also taken control of Ramadi.

Such a quasi-state entity will provide:

“… a renewed momentum under the presumption of unifying the jihad among Sunni Iraq and Syria, and the rest of the Sunnis in the Arab world against what it considers one enemy. ISI could also declare an Islamic State through its union with other terrorist organizations in Iraq and Syria, which will create grave danger in regards to unifying Iraq and the protection of territory.”

The 2012 DIA document is an Intelligence Information Report (IIR), not a “finally evaluated intelligence” assessment, but its contents are vetted before distribution. The report was circulated throughout the US intelligence community, including to the State Department, Central Command, the Department of Homeland Security, the CIA, FBI, among other agencies.

In response to my questions about the strategy, the British government simply denied the Pentagon report’s startling revelations of deliberate Western sponsorship of violent extremists in Syria. A British Foreign Office spokesperson said:

“AQ and ISIL are proscribed terrorist organisations. The UK opposes all forms of terrorism. AQ, ISIL, and their affiliates pose a direct threat to the UK’s national security. We are part of a military and political coalition to defeat ISIL in Iraq and Syria, and are working with international partners to counter the threat from AQ and other terrorist groups in that region. In Syria we have always supported those moderate opposition groups who oppose the tyranny of Assad and the brutality of the extremists.”

The DIA did not respond to request for comment.

Strategic asset for regime-change

Security analyst Shoebridge, however, who has tracked Western support for Islamist terrorists in Syria since the beginning of the war, pointed out that the secret Pentagon intelligence report exposes fatal contradictions at the heart of official pronunciations:

“Throughout the early years of the Syria crisis, the US and UK governments, and almost universally the West’s mainstream media, promoted Syria’s rebels as moderate, liberal, secular, democratic, and therefore deserving of the West’s support. Given that these documents wholly undermine this assessment, it’s significant that the West’s media has now, despite their immense significance, almost entirely ignored them.”

According to Brad Hoff, a former US Marine who served during the early years of the Iraq War and as a 9/11 first responder at the Marine Corps Headquarters Battalion in Quantico from 2000 to 2004, the just released Pentagon report for the first time provides stunning affirmation that:

“US intelligence predicted the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS), but instead of clearly delineating the group as an enemy, the report envisions the terror group as a US strategic asset.”

Hoff, who broke the story via Levant Report— an online publication run by Texas-based educators who have direct experience of the Middle East — points out that the DIA document “matter-of-factly” states that the rise of such an extremist Salafist political entity in the region offers a “tool for regime change in Syria.”

The DIA intelligence report shows, he wrote, that the rise of ISIS only became possible in the context of the Syrian insurgency — “there is no mention of US troop withdrawal from Iraq as a catalyst for Islamic State’s rise, which is the contention of innumerable politicians and pundits.” The report demonstrates that:

“The establishment of a ‘Salafist Principality’ in Eastern Syria is ‘exactly’ what the external powers supporting the opposition want (identified as ‘the West, Gulf Countries, and Turkey’) in order to weaken the Assad government.”

The rise of a Salafist quasi-state entity that might expand into Iraq, and fracture that country, was therefore clearly foreseen by US intelligence as likely — but nevertheless strategically useful — blowback from the West’s commitment to “isolating Syria.”

Complicity

Critics of the US-led strategy in the region have repeatedly raised questions about the role of coalition allies in intentionally providing extensive support to Islamist terrorist groups in the drive to destabilize the Assad regime in Syria.

The conventional wisdom is that the US government did not retain sufficient oversight on the funding to anti-Assad rebel groups, which was supposed to be monitored and vetted to ensure that only ‘moderate’ groups were supported.

However, the newly declassified Pentagon report proves unambiguously that years before ISIS launched its concerted offensive against Iraq, the US intelligence community was fully aware that Islamist militants constituted the core of Syria’s sectarian insurgency.

Despite that, the Pentagon continued to support the Islamist insurgency, even while anticipating the probability that doing so would establish an extremist Salafi stronghold in Syria and Iraq.

As Shoebridge told me, “The documents show that not only did the US government at the latest by August 2012 know the true extremist nature and likely outcome of Syria’s rebellion” — namely, the emergence of ISIS — “but that this was considered an advantage for US foreign policy. This also suggests a decision to spend years in an effort to deliberately mislead the West’s public, via a compliant media, into believing that Syria’s rebellion was overwhelmingly ‘moderate.’”

Annie Machon, a former MI5 intelligence officer who blew the whistle in the 1990s on MI6 funding of al-Qaeda to assassinate Libya’s former leader Colonel Gaddafi, similarly said of the revelations:

“This is no surprise to me. Within individual countries there are always multiple intelligence agencies with competing agendas.”

She explained that MI6’s Libya operation in 1996, which resulted in the deaths of innocent people, “happened at precisely the time when MI5 was setting up a new section to investigate al-Qaeda.”

This strategy was repeated on a grand scale in the 2011 NATO intervention in Libya, said Machon, where the CIA and MI6 were:

“… supporting the very same Libyan groups, resulting in a failed state, mass murder, displacement and anarchy. So the idea that elements of the American military-security complex have enabled the development of ISIS after their failed attempt to get NATO to once again ‘intervene’ is part of an established pattern. And they remain indifferent to the sheer scale of human suffering that is unleashed as a result of such game-playing.”

Divide and rule

Several US government officials have conceded that their closest allies in the anti-ISIS coalition were funding violent extremist Islamist groups that became integral to ISIS.

US Vice President Joe Biden, for instance, admitted last year that Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar and Turkey had funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to Islamist rebels in Syria that metamorphosed into ISIS.

But he did not admit what this internal Pentagon document demonstrates — that the entire covert strategy was sanctioned and supervised by the US, Britain, France, Israel and other Western powers.

The strategy appears to fit a policy scenario identified by a recent US Army-commissioned RAND Corp report.

The report, published four years before the DIA document, called for the US “to capitalise on the Shia-Sunni conflict by taking the side of the conservative Sunni regimes in a decisive fashion and working with them against all Shiite empowerment movements in the Muslim world.”

The US would need to contain “Iranian power and influence” in the Gulf by “shoring up the traditional Sunni regimes in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Pakistan.” Simultaneously, the US must maintain “a strong strategic relationship with the Iraqi Shiite government” despite its Iran alliance.

The RAND report confirmed that the “divide and rule” strategy was already being deployed “to create divisions in the jihadist camp. Today in Iraq such a strategy is being used at the tactical level.”

The report observed that the US was forming “temporary alliances” with al-Qaeda affiliated “nationalist insurgent groups” that have fought the US for four years in the form of “weapons and cash.” Although these nationalists “have cooperated with al-Qaeda against US forces,” they are now being supported to exploit “the common threat that al-Qaeda now poses to both parties.”

The 2012 DIA document, however, further shows that while sponsoring purportedly former al-Qaeda insurgents in Iraq to counter al-Qaeda, Western governments were simultaneously arming al-Qaeda insurgents in Syria.

The revelation from an internal US intelligence document that the very US-led coalition supposedly fighting ‘Islamic State’ today, knowingly created ISIS in the first place, raises troubling questions about recent government efforts to justify the expansion of state anti-terror powers.

In the wake of the rise of ISIS, intrusive new measures to combat extremism including mass surveillance, the Orwellian ‘prevent duty’ and even plans to enable government censorship of broadcasters, are being pursued on both sides of the Atlantic, much of which disproportionately targets activists, journalists and ethnic minorities, especially Muslims.

Yet the new Pentagon report reveals that, contrary to Western government claims, the primary cause of the threat comes from their own deeply misguided policies of secretly sponsoring Islamist terrorism for dubious geopolitical purposes.

View story at Medium.com

The Girondes of Working Class

CPIM-21st-Party-Congress-Logo-Full

Written by Damodar on The Other Aspect blog.

The 21st party congress of CPI (M) recently concluded at Visakhapatnam with the usual ritualistic flavour that has become the hallmark of such events for the parties of Left Front particularly the CPI and the CPI (M). The party congress would be known for selecting or rather electing “unanimously” its new General Secretary Sitaram Yechury. Though the outgoing general secretary, Prakash Karat wanted the post to go to Ramachandran Pillai. The ongoing factional struggle between Karat and Yechury was somehow saved from being open in public when the Karat faction backtracked on the voting for new General Secretary. While Yechury was backed by West Bengal delegates, Pillai a Karat man enjoyed the support of the Pinarayi Vijayan faction from Kerala, but the Bengal lobby wanted a more pragmatic (read one who can hob nob with Congress and other parties) man at helm.

The party Congress of CPI (M), no longer evinces the same interest particularly among the Left movement as it did few years ago. No communist group/party or left journal devoted any analysis or criticism to the policy/issues raised in the congress. A major reason might have been that for CPI-M, like its counterpart bourgeoisie parties there has been a wide gap between its political-organisational reports and its politics on ground level. Further the dwindling base of the party and its almost moribund energy was enough to deter the bourgeoisie media. For the revolutionary Left, it has stopped taking cognizance of this party’s activities since long. Revisionist parties — as the CPI (M) has become–, adopts something in their party congresses while doing the opposite when it comes to the realm of day to day politics. This is an important characteristic of revisionism that differentiates it from a genuine revolutionary Marxist-Leninist Party.

Yet, nationally and internationally there are several comrades who still consider CPI and CPI (M) a still Marxist-Leninist formation, hence we would like to take this opportunity to analyse the resolutions particularly the new Political Tactical Line (PTL) adopted in the congress. At the same time it is our duty as a Marxist Leninist to wage a struggle to expose the real intention of reformist-revisionists so that their real intention comes to the fore.

21st Congress: The identity Crisis.

The Congress took place at a time when the party finds itself at the lowest. It has secured the lowest number of seat in Lok Sabha since its formation, its rule in the states is at lowest with only tiny Tripura saving the grace, the confidence of the leadership is at lowest so is the enthusiasm of the cadres. The set back of Bengal has still not gone so is the factional crisis in Kerala. In other parts of the country it was hardly any force to reckon with but there also it has lost its confidence to lead mass movement. The net result is the party is grappling with severe identity crisis. The spaces being vacated by it are being grabbed by new entities like Aam Admi Party (AAP) in Delhi and even by NGOs in several places. It has squarely failed to cash on the anti-establishment feeling of the common masses and in its once strong hold the party is seen as equally corrupt with rank opportunists, and self-seekers found it highly rewarding to join the party and to ditch it as well. So it is not a surprise when a senior party leader admitted that around 40,000 members have quit the CPM in West Bengal since 2011 and major section of it joining the BJP. The decimation and decline shows no sign of abetment, if the recently concluded bye-elections and the civic elections are any sign, where the Trinmool Congress resoundingly trampled the party and Left front’s candidates. Bengal unit is no longer able to mobilise masses on the scale as when it was in power.

Left front government in its eagerness to hug the capitalists nudged the peasant & proletariats, who in turn dumped him in the elections. The people have thoroughly rejected the conversion of CPI (M) from a social democratic party to that of agent of national and international finance capital. It’s policy of embracing industrialisation-at-any-cost by appeasing international and national capital and inviting predatory multinationals like Wal-Mart in the naïve belief of advancing the “productive forces”. It forcibly acquired land, deeply antagonising peasants and the working class as well. But only the revolutionary force and its organisation can help in advancement of productive force. After three decades of stagnant rule based on terror, intimidation and sycophancy CPM neither commanded a revolutionary force nor was it ever a revolutionary organisation.

The Singur-Nandigram occurrences weren’t causes but effects/symptoms of a deeper malaise: pursuit of neoliberalism, which the party’s central leadership assails. The CPM, with a strongly upper-caste sophisticated, westernised, middle and upper middle class leadership, failed to combat caste, gender and anti-Muslim discrimination not is it able to understand the changing dynamics of the Indian polity. It became a party of careerists bereft of imagination, yet complacent and arrogant first towards its smaller partners and then to the people at large. Tales of party leaders threatening masses and silencing every voice of dissent using most heinous ways that only a bourgeoisie party is capable of undertaking that too against fellow communist showed the rot that had engulfed it.

In name of industrialisation the CPM government was happy to give away with hundreds of acres of fertile land perhaps best quality agrarian land of the country at throw away price to Tata. When the people protested they even did not blink an eye to shoot the poor peasants and rural proletariats their support base for decades and terming them as reactionaries.

Prakash Karat has been lecturing and writing long articles on the exploitation in SEZs across the country but same Karat had no qualm in declaring SEZs in Bengal as ‘progressive’.

Similarly in Kerala it has suffered setbacks because of the CPM-instigated murder of political rivals like T.P. Chandrasekharan, neglect of social and gender issues, and outright opposition to Western Ghats conservation and support for encroachers. The party today is seen to be no different than Congress of RSS. Gone are the days of mass mobilisation today it relies on mob mobilisation to silence its critique. Several top leadership of Kerala have been implicated in various scams. In Lavalin scam the party’s State Secretary and the former Politburo member Pinarayi Vijayan is directly involved.

The leadership both at national and state levels seems to have lost the capacity to lead independent mass actions. Years of tailism and being propped on the crutches of this or that bourgeoisie party has done away with the capability of agitation, a fact that has been accepted in the Congress as well.

 The Congress apart from adopting regular resolutions and reports adopted a new PTL. The previous PTL was adopted at the 13th congress held at Thiruvananthapuram from December 27 1988 to 1st January 1999.

The Political Tactical Line: Nothing new!

Suddenly a realisation has dawned in the party that there is something wrong with their strategy and the organisation. From where did this sudden fountain of realisation erupt? It did not emanate as a result of any genuine desire to resist the onslaught of capital but the new PTL itself answers it. It says:

 “The 2014 Lok Sabha election review conducted by the Central Committee in June 2014 had concluded that the Party has been unable to advance for sometime and this was reflected in the poor performance of the Party in the election.…The election review report adopted by the Central Committee stated that:

 “In successive Party Congresses we have been emphasizing the need for enhancing the independent strength of the Party. Some of the states have attributed the erosion of our independent strength to the tactics of aligning with the bourgeois parties. The failure to advance the independent strength of the Party necessitates a reexamination of the political-tactical line that we have been pursuing”.

So the necessity of reviewing the PTL came from the massive drubbing that it got in the elections. Since 1989-90 it may be remembered CPI (M) with its politics of alliance along with manipulations what may be termed as Harikishen Surjeet’s line was instrumental in playing a major role in power-play/ power broker role. Though the party never had any significant pan India presence, yet the Machiavellian politics of Surjeet kept CPI(M) at centre of Delhi’s power gallery.

Today things are very different, The party’s sudden deemphasizing of electoral politics and rhetorical calls for “mobilizing the masses” are due to its marginalization in bourgeois parliamentary politics. So to be relevant it has to raise the bogey of mass mobilization as recently we saw AAP doing in Delhi. In fact CPI (M) has been highly mesmerised with the polity and tactics of AAP. Its mouthpiece even eulogised the Kejriwal’s team and indirectly pleading for an alliance, but unfortunately it got no feeler from the later for having any kind of alliance.

The PTL further says:

“The P-TL is the tactics we adopt from time to time in a specific situation in order to advance towards our strategic goal which is the People’s Democratic Revolution. The tactical goal we have set out in the P-TL is the forging of a Left and democratic Front in order to present the Left and democratic alternative to the bourgeois-landlord order. The struggle to forge the Left and democratic alternative is part of our effort to change the correlation of class forces so that we can advance towards our strategic goal.”

So much for that coveted goal of Peoples’ Democratic Revolution, which this party wants to achieve by forging a Left and democratic Front. Interestingly the mention of revolution starts and ends here. The entire document then is about forging or not forging alliance with the other parties! It does not mention any substantial tactics to be adopted vis-à-vis the working class nor with the peasantry.

One is bound to ask, who are the “democratic” parties? While the PTL has left us to speculate, but those who have been following the Indian polity even cursorily would have no hesitation in answering the question. For the CPM leadership the democratic forces among others today are the siblings of the so-called Janata Parivar like the Samajwadi Party, Janata Dal, Rashtirya Janata Dal and similar parties. Now everyone knows the character of these parties and what harm they have done in stalling the progress of the working class and peasant movement. These rank casteist outfits are no better than the rightist or the Bourgeoisie outfits. In fact when there will a call for decisive struggle against the forces of fascism and capitalism, these outfits instead of being with the working class and toiling masses would ally with the capitalist and fascist forces.

The Political Resolution of the 10th Congress explained the Left and democratic Front as follows: “The struggle to build this front is part of our endeavour to bring about a change in the correlation of class forces, to end a situation in which the people can choose only between two bourgeois-landlord parties, and get imprisoned within the framework of the present system. By gathering all Left and democratic forces together for further advance, the Party makes a beginning to consolidate these forces which, in future, will participate in shaping the alliance for People’s Democracy under the leadership of the working class. The left and democratic Front is not to be understood as only an alliance for elections or Ministry, but a fighting alliance of the forces for immediate advance – economic and political – and for isolating the reactionary classes that hold the economy in their grip.”

This point needs to be elaborated. The Party has elucidated its intention of gathering the Left and democratic forces for future advance of the party, to shape the alliance for People’s Democracy (emphasis ours) so much so for the caricature of Peoples’ Democracy! Peoples’ Democracy as propounded by Stalin and further elaborated by Dimitrov is a special form of dictatorship of the proletariat, where there is a class alliance with other progressive forces under the general leadership of the Communist or workers’ party. This model of Peoples’ Democracy was implemented immediately after the Second World War in Eastern Europe and China.

The characteristic feature of Peoples’ Democracy is:

The rise and development of people’s democracy should be examined concretely and historically, since people’s democracy is passing through various stages and its class content changes, depending on the stage.

The first stage is the stage of agrarian, anti-feudal, anti-imperialist revolution, in the course of which people’s democracy arises as the organ of revolutionary power, representing in its content something in the nature of dictatorship of the working class and peasantry, the working class having the leading role. A characteristic feature of this power is that it directs its sharp edge against imperialism, against fascism.

The second stage is the establishment of the dictatorship of the working class in the form of people’s democracy and the building of Socialism. (A. Sobolev, Peoples’ Democracy as a Form of Political Organisation of Society)

So we leave it to the good sense of our comrade readers to decide which politics of CPM confirms to their working towards the course of achieving the Peoples’ Democratic Revolution. What has been the role of CPM in fight against imperialism or against Fascism? When they were in power, the policies adapted by them were no different from that of any other bourgeoisie party.

Before proceeding further we would like to state another related issue, which gets mentioned prominently. The PTL in point 14 further states about the adoption of Left Democratic Secular Front:

For this we have to look for the reasons within the P-TL itself. From the 13th Congress (1988) we started talking of the unity of the Left and secular forces. We made a distinction between the immediate  task of forging a non-Congress secular alternative to meet the current situation and the task of building the Left and democratic Front. By the 15th Congress we had set out the slogan of the unity of the Left, democratic and secular forces. By that time we had more or less concluded that the Left and democratic Front is a distant goal and is not a realizable slogan as reiterated in the 11th Congress of the Party. By and by we relegated the Left and democratic Front to a propaganda slogan. The Left, democratic and secular alliance became the new interim slogan. While this began as a slogan against the Rajiv Gandhi Congress government to rally the non-Congress secular bourgeois parties while demarcating from the BJP, later it became the slogan directed against the BJP. It is on that basis that we joined the United Front, without participating in the government in 1996.

Now in terms of secular, the most important secular formation for our “Marxist” friends apart from the so-called democratic parties are parties like AIADMK, DMK, TDP etc. who share the crumbs with our revolutionary “Marxists” thus helping them win a seat here a seat there. Though, it never has crossed the mind of our comrades to check about the secular credentials of these parties. The less said the better. All such “secular” and “democratic” parties have no qualm of hobnobbing with the BJP or Congress as the compulsion of the parliamentary polity demands.

The Entire PTL is full of such jingoism and pseudo revolutionary phrase mongering, but we will not go into the detail in interest of space and time of our dear comrade readers.

How different were CPM from the other bourgeoisie parties when in power? After the 2004 elections Ashok Mitra wrote an article commenting on the capitulation of the CPI M leaders to the camp of neo liberalism, he wrote:

The main poll issue in West Bengal was the state government’s policy of capitalist industrial growth; events in Singur and Nandigram were offshoots of that policy. Many sections, including staunch long-time supporters of the Left cause, had been shocked by the cynical nonchalance initially exhibited by the state government on police firing on women and children in Nandigram. A series of other faux pas was committed in its wake, including the messy affair of the Tata small car project. The electorate reached its conclusion on the government’s putting all its eggs in the Nano basket. Once the Tatas departed, the state administration was dubbed not only insensitive, but incompetent as well. Questions have continued to be raised one after another: was it really necessary to take over fertile land at Singur, why could not the Tatas be prevailed upon to choose an alternative site, why did not the state government apply adequate pressure on the United Progressive Alliance regime in New Delhi — which was assumed to depend upon Left support for survival — to pass the necessary legislation so that land belonging to closed factories could be taken over to locate new industries? And why the state government was reluctant to lobby earnestly in the national capital for adequate resources from centrally controlled public financial institutions to the state exchequer, which could have ensured industrial expansion in the public domain itself — whether this reluctance was merely due to lack of resources or because of a deeper ideological reason such as a loss of faith in socialistic precepts and practices.

A number of other unsavoury facts also need to be laid bare. A state government does not have too much of funds or other spoils to distribute. But in a milieu where feudal elements co-inhabit with the petit bourgeoisie, persons in a position to dispense only little favours can also attract fair-weather friends and gather sycophants around them. Concentric circles of favour-rendering develop fast. Merit necessarily takes a backseat in official decisions. Corruption, never mind how small-scale, creeps in. Nepotism, sprouting at the top, gradually infects descending rungs of administration, including the panchayats. Much of all this has taken place of late within the precincts of the Left regime. The net effect is a steep decline in the quality of governance. The fall in efficiency is illustrated by the inept handling of programmes like the rural employment guarantee scheme. To make things worse, all this has been accompanied by a kind of hauteur which goes ill with radical commitment.

As we have mentioned umpteen times revisionist parties use revolutionary phrase mongering to hide their revisionist character. Same goes with our great defenders of Socialism and Peoples’ Democracy, while degeneration and double-talks reach their nadir while lending credence to abject surrender to the lap of the World Bank, the IMF, the MNCs and the World Bank’s trusted men like Manmohan Singh or even the regional allies of capitalism like Mulaym Singh and Chandrababu Naidu. Did not Tito or Khruschev continued to hang the Communist, Marxist and other revolutionary sign boards, while doing the exact opposite of what the tenants of Marxism Leninism teaches.

 But we must commend the CPM leadership for they are always not dishonest. In point number 17, they have been ultra-honest (if there is any such word in English):

As the realization of a third alternative became more unattainable, in the 18th Congress Political Resolution another distinction was made between the electoral understanding for specific elections by drawing the non-Congress bourgeois parties and the building of a third alternative. Thus the Left and democratic Front was relegated to the third phase of our task. The first phase being the immediate current task of electoral understanding for a specific election by drawing in the non-Congress bourgeois secular parties. The second phase being the formation of a third alternative based on a common programme which would be forged by building joint movements and struggles. The third phase was the building of the Left and democratic Front.

Reading this point in conjunction with point 16 and above, clearly demonstrates the real intention and politics of the party. The aim of the party three layers down is elections and nothing but elections. First they want or wanted to build an electoral understanding of non -Congress (or now non BJP) parties followed by a common front like the discredited United Front and followed by the so called Left Democratic Front. So the party will work for elections and nothing but elections. We all know that the limitations of bourgeoisie elections, and neither are we for boycotting it like some of the adventurist groups claims, but basing the entire politics around parliament, did not Lenin sharply criticised this tendency terming it as parliamentary cretinism? What can one gain but few reforms for the working class even if one has a commanding position in such institution? A quote from Lenin will not be out of place here. Lenin in his article titled “Marxism and Reformism” wrote:

Unlike the anarchists, the Marxists recognise struggle for reforms, i.e., for measures that improve the conditions of the working people without destroying the power of the ruling class. At the same time, however, the Marxists wage a most resolute struggle against the reformists, who, directly or indirectly, restrict the aims and activities of the working class to the winning of reforms. Reformism is bourgeois deception of the workers, who, despite individual improvements, will always remain wage-slaves, as long as there is the domination of capital.

The liberal bourgeoisie grant reforms with one hand, and with the other always take them back, reduce them to nought, use them to enslave the workers, to divide them into separate groups and perpetuate wage-slavery. For that reason reformism, even when quite sincere, in practice becomes a weapon by means of which the bourgeoisie corrupt and weaken the workers. The experience of all countries shows that the workers who put their trust in the reformists are always fooled. (emphasis ours)

Now this is what CPM aims for, some reforms!

The PTL goes on to summarise the experience of various fronts and alliances that the party had undertook in the past and not so distant past in a tone that resembles a chronological reading of the government formation since the National Front days. While the party has accepted its mistakes there has been no self-criticism or mention of its wrongdoing in Bengal and Kerala. So much for honesty of a revolutionary communist party! It has though in passing mentioned,:

“What has to be recognised is that the processes underway during the globalisation-neo-liberal regime have posed new problems for the Left and has created adverse conditions for developing the movements of the working class, agrarian, students, youth and women. It is imperative that we understand the processes at work and work out new and suitable tactics and organisational methods.”

But as much CPM may gloss over its mistakes the proletariats have not. In Bengal the toiling class has not forgotten the tyranny and high handedness of the party nomenklatura who adopted all kinds of legitimate and illegitimate means to bring success to their rule and satisfy the mandarins or babus (from Jyoti babu to Buddhadeb babu) at the Muzaffar Ahmed Bhawan (the West Bengal state HQ) rather than the toiling masses and even to silence the enemies. The coal field of Bengal still reverberates from the atrocities and the terror of the CITUs leadership. The people have not forgotten the several bloody attacks perpetrated by the hooligans at the behest of the party. The cowardly assassination of the fire brand trade union and highly respected communist leader comrade Sunil Pal on 29-12-2009 by the hired goons and marauders of CPI (M) is still fresh in the minds of people of coalfields. His only fault being that he was a dedicated Marxist-Leninist whose sole aim being to bring justice and safeguard the workers interest against the capitals offensive.

The CPM de-radicalised the trade unions and lost its prime working class cadres, reducing Trade Union to being a dovetail of the government and a means for money collection and keeping in check the working class. At every juncture CITU was found capitulating to the whims of capital. Apart from one day ritualistic strike and dharna, whose outcome is known to all and sundry beforehand it has only compromised the interest of the working class at an all India level. During the Maruti struggle CITU instead of giving a militant leadership to the struggle was seen siding with the management and on the pretext of maintainingindustrial peace was seen chiding the belligerent workers. When the workers were put in jail it did nothing to bring them out but at every crucial juncture sided with the management.

Similarly in the struggle against Coal ordinance in January 2015, the CITU leadership since beginning of the strike had adopted a defeatist position and was only seen praying and pleading to the government for some reforms. We are once again reminded of the words said by Lenin for the reformists, “Fight to improve your condition as a slave, but regard the thought of overthrowing slavery as a harmful utopia”! does it not fit CPM today?

Another glaring point that finds no mention in either the PTL of the Pol-Org Report is the  support the CPI-M extended to Pranab Mukherjee in the last presidential election. The CPI Congress document on the past developments noted this and informed its members of the division suffered by the Left on this issue when the CPI and other Left parties refused to follow the CPI-M and back Pranab due to his role in carrying out neoliberal reforms. The CPI-M’s backing of Pranab is not so simple as it may seem—for behind it was the largesse by a Big Business house (with which Pranab is deeply associated) to the CPI-M.

 With all the tall promises and phrase of mass mobilization the PTL amply gives the direction that party will take on ground. Consider point 30, it says:

There can be swift changes in the political situation. New contradictions may merge amongst the bourgeois parties and within them. Political parties may undergo changes through splits or coming together to form a new party. Flexible tactics should be evolved to deal with the situation. In our pursuit of united actions, joint platforms may have to be formed with various social movements, people’s mobilizations and issue-based movements.

So, in event of an alliance this clause will be invoked to hoodwink the cadres, in guise of “contradiction” opportunist alliance will be forged, neo-liberalism will be supported and the bourgeoisie will be given free hand to rule. Same intention is reflected in point 46.

Given the danger posed by the communal forces reinforced by the BJP in power with an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha, we should strive for the broader unity of the secular and democratic forces. Such joint platforms are necessary for a wider mobilization against communalism. Such platforms, however, should not be seen as the basis for electoral alliances.

Given the nature and ambition of these democratic and secular parties whom our friends had just termed as agent of capitalist and supporter of capital, there is again a yearning for an alliance. Old love never dies! By the time the PTL came for conclusion, the authors of this document could not suppress their desire for alliance.

So after all the epithets and brickbats the point 61 mentions:

Electoral tactics should be dovetailed to the primacy of building the Left and democratic front. In the present stage, given the role of the regional parties, there is no basis for forging an alliance with them at the national level. Instead, we can have electoral adjustments with non-Left secular parties in states wherever required in the Party’s interests and which can help rally the Left and democratic forces in the state. (Emphasis ours)

Voila here we are back to square one, the party will continue to do what it has done, and it will just not change. Years of tailism cannot be shed in one day or rather one congress. So, the party will enter in alliance with the non-Left secular parties in states and not at national level, but then comrades of CPM you yourself do not contest elections on national level if we compare your seats with the national parties! Since its formation CPM has failed to develop even the trade union consciousness, not to speak of revolutionary consciousness. Rather it has developed mafia consciousness and factional fights. Politics and ideology were never in command because they lost their credibility, as communist, the line pursued by it under the banner of Marxism-Leninism stands exposed through its ideological line and practice at all levels. Then how is it possible for the CPM to practise anything for the oppressed classes?

Conclusion

As Lenin wrote, “Reformism is bourgeois deception of the workers, who, despite individual improvements, will always remain wage-slaves, as long as there is the domination of capital.” The CPM is no different.

Sitaram Yechury is known to follow the Surjeet line and there is already a campaign that the party is preparing to cosy up its relationship with Congress. As mentioned in a news magazine known to be close to both CPI and CPM “Yechury is eager to join hands with the Congress in combating the Sangh Parivar. It betrays a pathological antipathy for the Congress and a flawed understanding of the present situation. the Congress does not mean only Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi or Manmohan Singh. The Congress means the hundreds of thousands of Congress-supporting masses spread all over the country whose participation is essential in any move-ment against communalism and in defence of secularism. The Left can deny this reality and cling to the old slogan of ‘Left-Democratic Unity’ only at its own peril and at the cost of weakening the movement.”

The party today has not learnt from its past mistakes nor is it in its agenda to counter and challenge the onslaught of neo-liberalism and imperialism. At best it will continue to give the knee jerked reaction in form of out dated token strikes and rallies to LPG (Liberalisation, Privatisation and Globalisation). Today the task of the revolutionary communist has to be to expose this farce and unleash an in-depth political and theoretical offensive against it to expose its opportunist line and practice.

 ****


Gironde: One of the two political groups of the bourgeoisie during the French bourgeois revolution at the close of the eighteenth century. The Girondists, as distinct from Jacobins, vacillated between revolution and counter-revolution, and their policy was one of compromise with the monarchy. Lenin frequently stressed that the Mensheviks represented the Girondist trend in the working-class movement.

Readers may also like to read our analysis on Left Front 

https://otheraspect.wordpress.com/2009/06/15/left-out-of-the-great-indian-tamasha/

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

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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

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The Party of Labour of Iran (Toufan): Hail May 1st, the International Working Class Day!

May 1, 2015

(Machine translation from Swedish into English)

For socialism and international solidarity!

On First of May 2015, millions of workers, together with progressive forces around the world demonstrate against capitalist system and imperialist barbaric war against oppressed people. May Day is a day when millions of people take to the streets and demonstrate against economic injustice, war, violence, social deterioration, unemployment, poverty, hunger, fascism and racism.

What is happening in Iran?

Iran is in a deep economic crisis. The capitalist Islamic regime of Iran, by having adapted to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, radically worsened workers’ economic condition. Privatization continues at high speed. Inflation, according to the Iranian central bank, is 24 percent but in fact it is more than 40 percent. After the elimination of the subsidies to low income groups in society, food prices for them have risen by 45-50 percent. According to official reports, 80 percent of the population lives in poverty. The minimum wage for workers in the New Year is about $ 1 / hour, a mockery of the life of the workers of Iran. The claim that the Islamic Republic of Iran has significant support among the poor is a lie that is unparalleled.

However, the workers in various sectors of the society continue their struggle for freedom, better pay, better working conditions, and for the formation of independent trade unions. Tens of thousands of teachers have been demonstrating in several Iranian cities in the past week against the current economic misery and have demanded better wages and the release of the imprisoned workers and teachers. Today in Iran, hundreds of trade unionists and trade union leaders are in prisons of the Islamic Republic and are subjected to torture. The regime is neither willing nor able to meet the demands of the workers and other social groups, and thus continues to rule by force, terror and oppression. This reactionary policy favors only the capitalist mafia class and imperialism. The regime’s brutal attack on the working class and the people and on any dissent must be strongly condemned. Our Party takes, at the same time as it fights for democracy and justice and freedom, also a clear stand against US imperialism and Zionism interference in Iran’s internal affairs of Iran.

Iran’s nuclear program and West’s hypocrisy

Barak Obama along with Israel’s Zionist regime is continuing with its aggressive imperialist policy threatens the Iranian people with a fascist war.

An agreement was signed on April 7, 2015 between Iran and the countries of the “5 + 1 group” (5 + 1 are the five states of the Security Council + Germany) on the Iranian nuclear energy. Iran promised to reduce its nuclear program for the next 10 to 15 years and accepted regular international inspections. The agreement is that Iran will remove two thirds of its uranium producing centrifuges and that it accepts comprehensive international inspections.

Iran has agreed not to enrich uranium beyond 3.67 percent for at least 15 years. To obtain the fissile material for a nuclear bomb, it requires 90 percent enriched uranium. In return, the US and its allies promise that sanctions against Iran would be lifted. In short, sanctions forced the Iranian regime to accept US imperialism’s dictates. Just the same tragic scenario that Iraq and Libya have suffered is repeated today in Iran.

According to the imperialist demands, Iran must be prevented from building a peaceful nuclear energy program while Israel that has invaded and occupied several countries can have 40-200 nuclear bombs without any protest. Iran has been imposed by illegal sanctions while Israel that has launched several brutal wars on neighbors has not been hit by any sanctions. The US, under Clinton, initiated sanctions on Iran in 1996, sanctions that seriously damaged Iran’s economy and its cooperation with leading European economies such as Germany and France. Neither the control of Israel’s nuclear activities nor the control of the US huge nuclear weapons modernization will take place. So is the situation of the world today. And the dominant mass media have no criticism of this hypocrisy. Yes, the US is really still the “World Police”.

The Party of Labour of Iran (Toufan) condemns the colonial agreement between ‘5 + 1’ and the Islamic Republic , and repeats once again that regimes that oppress their own peoples and subjugate the true anti-imperialist forces are doomed to accept the imperialist dictates. The Iranian ruling clergy has made its choice: capitulate to the “Great Satan” for the survival. This is the betrayal of the national interests of the Iranian people. The Libyan president, Muammar Gaddafi, took the same course as hoping to survive. However, history has shown that he was wrong as he was overthrown by imperialist powers.

Why war of aggression against Yemen?

Another war of aggression has been launched in the Middle East, this time it is a coalition led by the royal dictatorship of Saudi Arabia that is bombing Yemen. Saudi‘s Air Force took control over Yemeni airspace on March 26, attacking the Houthi rebels who control the capital Sana’a. The attacks has caused many deaths and a great destruction. So far, 3700 people have been killed or wounded, and tens of thousands have been left homeless. Nine other dictatorships in the region, from Morocco in the West to the United Arab Emirates on the East, are taking part in the military operations. Also, the United States contributes to the bombing with logistical support and intelligence. The Saudis are trying to paint a picture of the bombing as a humanitarian effort to rescue the Yemeni people.

US imperialism’s war of terror in Yemen and the rest of the region is a major cause of the current chaotic developments in the country. But at the same time, the growing threat from al-Qaeda and ISIS is one of the US useful arguments for continued involvement. The US and Saudi Arabia fear of a government in Sana’a more friendly to Iran. But there is a greater strategic interest behind its long-standing involvement in Yemen, namely the control of the Bab el Mandeb Strait. It is the narrow passage between the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. Here goes cargo ships from around the passes through the Suez Canal. This is one of the world’s most important shipping lanes and is said to comprise eight percent of world trade. The control of Yemen is crucial for the control of the Bab el-Mendab and indirectly a large part of the world economy. It is no coincidence that the US suits on sending two of its warships to the region in order to create “security and peace in the region” !!

The Party of Labour of Iran (Toufan) calls upon all progressive forces to condemn Saudi Arabia’s attack on Yemen and to condemn the US led western imperialist involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Ukraine …… and to show solidarity with the Palestinian people’s liberation struggle against the Israeli Zionist occupying forces.

For socialism and international solidarity!

The overthrow of the Iranian regime is an internal matter for the Iranian people!

No to the war and economic sanctions on Iran!

Release all imprisoned labour activists and all political prisoners in Iran!

The Party of Labour

‘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(RT.com) 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.  RT.com 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.

Bear-Ukraine

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.

alchevsk-kommunistyi

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.”

alchevsk-kontsert

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.

Novorossiya-Dogs

“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.

berkut-2berkut

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.

linke

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.

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