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Enver Hoxha on Pan-Arabic or Pan-Islamic “Socialism”

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This article was published by Alliance (Marxist-Leninist) as part of the Alliance issue #51, “Pan-Arabic or Pan-Islamic ‘Socialism.’”

January 1980

THE EVENTS WHICH ARE TAKING PLACE IN THE MOSLEM COUNTRIES MUST BE SEEN IN THE LIGHT OF DIALECTICAL AND HISTORICAL MATERIALISM

The international situation is very tense at present. In many regions of the world and mainly in the large zone of the oil-producing countries, especially those of Asia, the struggle between the two imperialist superpowers, the United States of America and the Soviet Union, not excluding imperialist China and the other capitalist powers, over the division and re-division of markets and spheres of influence, as they try to elbow one another out, has reached new, major proportions just as our Party correctly predicted long ago. Their pressures and plots are accompanied with diplomatic efforts and a propaganda clamour about “agreements and compromises” allegedly to preserve the peace and the balance of power. In fact, as recent events have shown, we see that agreements and compromises are still the basic principle of their policy towards each other regardless of their very acute rivalry. One day,however, the rivalry between them may reach such a point that they can no longer overcome it and settle matters except through military confrontation. The consequences of such a confrontation will descend upon the peoples, just as has occurred in previous imperialist wars.

The most recent result of this rivalry is the military aggression of the Soviet social-imperialists against Afghanistan, the occupation of that country through armed force by one of the imperialist superpowers. The fact is that what is now being done openly by the Soviets through their armed forces against the sovereignty of the Afghan people had long been prepared by the Soviet social-imperialist chauvinist politicians and military leaders and their Afghan agents. In order to arrive at the present situation, both the former and the latter exploited the overthrow, first of King Mohammed Zahir Shah in 1973 and, later, of Prince Daoud in 1978. They also exploited for their evil aims the desire of the Afghan people for social liberation from the oppression they suffered under the absolute monarchy and its foreign friends, first of all, the Soviets, who financed the monarchy and kept it in power. So, irrespective of the “alliance” which they had with the king of Afghanistan, the Soviet social-imperialists worked and acted for his overthrow. In order to disguise their imperialist aims, at first they brought their men, allegedly with more progressive sentiments, to power. Later, these, too, were changed one after the other, through actions in which blood was shed, by means of putsches and tanks, and Noor Mohammed Taraki and Hafizullah Amin were sent to the slaughter.

Nevertheless, no foreign occupier, however powerful and heavily armed, can keep the people, against whom aggression has been committed, subdued for ever. In every country which is invaded the people, apart from anti-national and anti-popular cliques of agents, receive the foreign aggressors with hatred and resistance, sporadic at first and later with more organized revolts which gradually turn into popular uprisings and liberation wars. We are seeing the proof of this in Afghanistan, where the people have risen and are fighting fiercely in the cities, villages and mountains against the Soviet army of occupation. This war of the Afghan people enjoys the support and sympathy of freedom-loving peoples and revolutionary forces throughout the world. Our people, too, support it with all their might. The war of the Afghan people against the Soviet social-imperialists is a just war, and therefore it will triumph.

The current war of the Afghan people against the Soviet military aggression and the anti-feudal, anti-imperialist, anti-American uprising of the Iranian people must make us reflect somewhat more profoundly, from the political, theoretical and ideological aspects, about another major problem which, in the existing situation of complicated developments in the world, is becoming ever more prominent: the popular uprisings of “Islamic inspiration,” as the bourgeoisie and the revisionists like to describe these movements, simply because the Moslem peoples of the Arab and other countries have placed themselves in the vanguard of the liberation movement. This is a fact, an objective reality. There are insurrectionary movements in those countries. If we were to examine and judge these movements and uprisings of Moslem peoples in an over-simplified and very superficial way as movements simply of an Islamic character, without probing deeply into the true reasons which impel the broad masses of the peoples to advance, we could fall in the positions of the revisionists and imperialists, whose assessments of these movements are denigrating and conceal ambitions to enslave the peoples.

We Marxist-Leninists always understand clearly that religion is opium for the people. In no instance do we alter our view on this and we must not fall into the errors of “religious socialism,” etc. The Moslem religion is no different in this regard. Nevertheless, we see that at present the broad masses of the Moslem peoples in the Arab and other countries have risen or are rising in struggle against imperialism and neo-colonialism for their national and social liberation. These peoples, who were deliberately left in ignorance in the past and remain backward in their world outlook to this day, are now becoming aware of the great oppression and savage exploitation which were imposed on them by the old colonizers and which the new colonizers and the internal feudal-bourgeois capitalist cliques continue to impose on them. They are coming to understand the political-economic reasons for their oppression and, irrespective that they are Moslems and have been left in backwardness, they are displaying great vitality and making an important contribution to the anti-imperialist bourgeois-democratic revolution which opens the way to the proletarian revolution. Those who have adopted and exploited the Moslem religion to exert social oppression over these peoples and to exploit them in the most ferocious ways are the anti-popular oppressive regimes and the reactionary clergy. They have protected and continue to protect their blood-thirsty power through the weapons and support which they have received from abroad, that is, from the imperialist powers, the neo-colonialist robbers, as well as through inciting and developing religious fanaticism. Thus, the development of events is more and more confirming the Marxist-Leninist thesis that the internal enemies collaborate closely with the external enemies to suppress their own peoples and that they use religion as a weapon to oppress the peoples and keep them in darkness.

The events taking place before our eyes show that the Moslem Arab peoples are fighters. Their anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist and anti-feudal struggles and uprisings are accompanied with and result in armed clashes. These struggles and uprisings have their source in the savage oppression which is imposed on these peoples and in their freedom-loving and progressive sentiments. If you are not progressive and freedom-loving you cannot rise in struggle for freedom and national independence against the twofold internal and external oppression.

Another social cause and powerful impulse to anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist and anti-feudal uprisings is the grave economic situation of these peoples, the burden of hunger and suffering under which they live. Hence, we cannot fail to take into account their political awakening and. to some extent, also their social awakening.

Looking at the whole struggle of the peoples of Moslem belief, we notice that there are marked differences in its level of development: there are periods when it mounts, but also periods of decline or stagnation, the latter caused by various factors and especially, by the pseudo-progressive bourgeoisie which places itself at the head of these peoples.

In Morocco, for example, there has been some movement, but the anti-feudal and anti-imperialist movement of the people of that country is not at the same height as that of other countries. On the contrary, the monarchy and feudalism dominate the Moroccan people, through violence and liberal pseudo-reforms, as well as by exploiting their religious sentiments.

In Algeria the people waged the national liberation war against the French colonialists and, although it was not led by a Marxist-Leninist party but by the national bourgeoisie, the war for national liberation ended with the withdrawal of the foreign occupiers, but it was carried no further…

In Tunisia the people seem to be asleep and very apathetic, are showing little sign of awakening, but they are not all that backward. Recently there was talk about a trade-union movement there and the general secretary of the trade-unions was arrested, but nothing more happened.

In 1952 there was a revolt in Egypt, too. The monarchy was overthrown without bloodshed. King Farouk was expelled from Egypt by a group of officers. Those who removed him from the throne accompanied him to Alexandria, gave him money, put him on board a ship and helped him to get away and save his neck. In other words, they told the monarch he had better leave of his own accord and save his skin, because he could no longer stay in the country, he no longer had any basis there. Thus, the group of officers, headed by Nasser, Naguib and Sadat, carried out what you might call a bloodless military coup against an utterly degenerate monarchy and seized power. What was this group of Egyptian officers that carried out the putsch and what did they represent? These officers were of the bourgeoisie, its representatives, they were anti-British, but amongst them there were also pro-Hitlerites. As I have mentioned, Anwar el-Sadat himself declares he collaborated with the “Desert wolf,” the Nazi field-marshal Rommel. 

This event, that is, the removal of Farouk from the throne, was exaggerated to the point of being called a “revolution.” However, the Egyptian people, the working masses of that country, gained nothing from this whole affair. Virtually no reform to the benefit of the people was carried out. The so-called agrarian reform ended up in favour of the feudals and wealthy landowners. Under the disguise of the unity of Arab peoples the newcomers to power tried to bring about the “unification” of Egypt with Syria. However, every effort in this direction was in vain because in Syria, too, at this time the capitalist bourgeoisie in the leadership of the state had simply changed their horses and their patron. The imperialist Soviet Union had replaced France. It sabotaged this baseless «unification» and established itself firmly in that country.

As is known, in 1969 there was a revolt in Libya, too; the dynasty of King Idris was overthrown and a group of young officers, headed by Qaddafi who poses as anti-imperialist, came to power. We can describe this revolt, this movement, as progressive at first, but later it lost its impact and at the moment it has fallen into stagnation. Qaddafi who came to power and claims to be the head of Islam, exploited the Moslem religion to present Libya as a “progressive” country and even called it “socialist,” but in reality the great oil wealth of the country is being exploited for very dubious adventurous and sinister aims. Of course, for purposes of demagogy and because the income from the sale of oil is truly colossal, some changes have been made in the life of the people in the cities, while the poverty-stricken nomads of the desert remain a grave social problem. As we know, Qaddafi was a disciple of Nasser’s in politics, ideology and religious belief, as well as in his aims. 

A somewhat more advanced and more revolutionary uprising against the monarchy took place in Baghdad, the capital of Iraq, in 1958. It ended with the killing of King Faisal and his prime minister, Nuri Said. The “communists” took power there together with General Kassem, a representative of the liberal officers. Only five years later, however, in 1963, there was a coup d’état and Kassem was executed. He was replaced by another officer, Colonel Aref. In 1968 General Al-Bakr came to the head of the state and the “Baath” Party, a party of the reactionary feudal and compradore bourgeoisie, returned to power.

The events which are occurring in Iran and Afghanistan are a positive example for the peoples of neighbouring states, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, the Emirates of the Persian Gulf, Syria, Egypt and many others, but they also constitute a great danger to the ruling cliques of some countries in this region. Hence, the whole Arab world is in ferment, in evolution. 

The echo of this anti-feudal, anti-imperialist uprising of the Iranian people which is shaking the economic foundations of imperialism and its ambitions for world hegemony extends as far as Indonesia, but there the movement is weaker than in the countries of Central Asia, the Near and Middle East or even North Africa, where the Islamic religion is more compact and the assets are greater. In those regions, for instance in Iran, there is a progressive awakening of the masses, which for the moment is led generally by religious elements who know how to exploit the sentiments of these peoples for freedom and against oppressive imperialism, the monarchist leaders and rapacious feudal cliques of robbers and murderers, etc., etc. Therefore, we must make a Marxist-Leninist analysis of this situation. We cannot accept the tales that the bourgeois revisionist propaganda, American imperialism and world capitalism are spreading that Ayatollah Khomeini or this one or that in Iran are people who do not understand politics or are just as backward as Imam Ali, Imam Hassan and Imam Hussein were. This is not true. On the contrary, the facts show that people like Khomeini know how to make proper use of the existing movement of these peoples, which, in essence and in fact, is a progressive bourgeois-democratic and anti-imperialist movement.

Employing various ways and means, the different imperialists and social-imperialists are trying to present themselves as supporters of these movements and win them over for their own aims. At present, however, these movements are in their disfavour, are against them. So true is this that the Soviet social-imperialists were obliged to send their tank regiments and tens of thousands of Soviet soldiers into Afghanistan, in other words, to commit an open fascist aggression against an independent country, in order to place and keep in power their local puppets who were incapable of retaining power without the aid of the bayonets and tanks of the Soviet army, the armed forces of the Soviet Union.

Obviously, this event, this Soviet armed occupation of Afghanistan, was bound to have repercussions and cause concern in international public opinion, to arouse great anger and indignation among the freedom-loving peoples and progressive forces and, from the strategic standpoint, to provoke the anger of their rivals for hegemony, especially of the United States of America. In fact we see that these days the American president, Carter, seems to want to make a move, apparently to create difficulties for the Soviet Union and to strengthen his own positions which are growing steadily weaker, wants to take measures to prevent a possible Soviet invasion of Pakistan, or rather, to stop the Soviet social-imperialists from exploiting the anti-imperialist revolutionary sentiments of the Moslem people of Pakistan for their own ends.

The Pakistani people nurture sympathy for the anti-imperialist movement of their Iranian neighbours, and what is occurring in Iran could occur there, too. Precisely to forestall this eventuality, the United States of America, through President Carter, has proposed to the Pakistani government to dispatch 50,000 soldiers to Pakistan and to increase the supplies of arms, allegedly to cope with the Soviet danger. The United States of America sent its Secretary of Defence to China to concretize and activate the Sino-American alliance. During this visit both sides expressed their concern over the extension of the Soviet social-imperialist expansion in this region and, in connection with this, their determination to defend their own and each other’s imperialist interests. The United States of America promised China the most sophisticated modern armaments.

Is there really a Soviet threat to Pakistan? Yes, there is. However, in Pakistan the anger against Zia-ul-Haq, accompanied by sympathy for Khomeini, might erupt even without the intervention of the Soviets. In order to escape the Soviet pressure and the uprising of the Pakistani people, Zia-ul-Haq himself might link up with the Soviets and thus enable them to justify their intervention in Pakistan. That is why the United States of America is revising its military agreements with Pakistan.

For his part, Carter is trying to preserve the balance, because an intervention of the Soviet Union in Pakistan constitutes a threat to American imperialism in that region of the world. Carter must have influence in Pakistan, also, because that country has a “defence treaty” with the United States of America. Apart from this, in the new situation which has been created in these times in Central Asia, Carter also sees other dangers, such as the return to power of Indira Gandhi who is pursuing her pro-Soviet policy. If the Soviets are able to strengthen their position in India, which is in conflict with Pakistan, the latter country might be more vulnerable from the Soviet side, in other words, the penetration of Soviet influence there would be made easier and would increase. That is why the American imperialists want to forestall the eventuality of a military intervention or the build-up of the Soviet influence in Pakistan. On the other hand, the United States of America is very concerned about the possibility of Soviet pressure on Iran under the pretext of aid against the threats made to that country by American imperialism.

It is clear that the peoples of this region are Moslems and when we say this we have in mind the fact that the majority of them are believers, but their belief is relative and does not predominate over politics. There are also progressive people there who believe in and respect the Koran and religion more as a custom and tradition. When we speak about the overwhelming majority, we have in mind that part of the people to whom the Moslem religion has been presented as a liberal progressive religion which serves the interests of the people and to whom everything preached in its name “is for the good of the people,” because “to wash, to pray and to fast is for the benefit of the health, the physical strengthening and spiritual satisfaction of man,” etc., etc. In other words, people are told that the rites of this religion are “useful” not only for this life but also for the “next life,” after death. This is preached openly. However, the poverty and oppression, schooling and a certain political development have shaken the foundations of this belief.

In general, from all these events and developments, we see that the imperialists and the social-imperialists are in difficulties in these regions of the world. It is understandable that their puppets, likewise, are in difficulties. Both for the former and for the latter it is the progressive, anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist and anti-feudal revolutionary movement of the popular masses of the Moslem Arab peoples, whether Shia or Sunni, that is the cause of these great difficulties. The whole situation in this region is positive, good, and indicates a revolutionary situation and a major movement of these peoples. At the same time, though, we see efforts made by the enemies of these peoples to restrain this movement or to alter its direction and intensity.

Hence, we must regard these situations, these movements and uprisings of these peoples as revolutionary social movements, irrespective that at first sight they have a religious character or that believers or non-believers take part in them, because they are fighting against foreign imperialism and neo-colonialism or the local monarchies and oppressive feudalism. History gives us many positive examples in this direction when broad revolutionary movements of the popular masses have had a religious character outwardly. Among them we can list the Babist movements in Iran 1848-1851; the Wahabi movement in India which preceded the great popular uprising against the British colonizers in the years 1857-1859; the peasant movements at the time of the Reformation in the 16th century which swept most of the countries of Europe and especially Germany. The Reformation itself, although dressed in a religious cloak, represented a broad socio-political movement against the feudal system and the Catholic Church which defended that system. 

When the vital interests, the freedom and independence of a people are violated, they rise in struggle against any aggressor, even though that aggressor may be of the same religion. This is what occurred, for example, in North Yemen in 1962 when Nasser sent the Egyptian army allegedly to aid that country. Later he was compelled to remove the troops he had sent to Yemen, because a stern conflict began between the people of that country and the Egyptian army, irrespective that both sides professed the one religion.

In South Yemen, with a population of Moslem believers, there was a popular revolutionary movement against British imperialism which owned the port of Aden. Britain would never have left the port of Aden voluntarily, because it constitutes a very important strategic key to the Indian Ocean and the entrance to the Red Sea, but it was the anti-imperialist struggle of the people of Yemen that compelled it to clear out, because remaining there became impossible. After this, in 1970 a “popular democratic” regime which gradually came under the influence of the Soviet social-imperialists, was formed in South Yemen. The revolutionary movement against Soviet social-imperialism is bound to flare up there, if not today certainly in the near future.

Throughout the Principality of Oman there is an anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist revolutionary movement which is also opposed to the ruling Sultan. A similar situation will develop in Ethiopia, Somalia, the countries of the Persian Gulf, etc.

The peoples of the countries of this region are all religious, believe in the Koran and Mohammed, and link the question of the struggle against imperialist oppression with their religion. This is a reality. Obviously, however, we cannot come to the conclusion that it is religion which is causing these revolts and this revolutionary awakening. By no means. Nevertheless, we cannot ignore the fact that these peoples believe in the Moslem religion and, at the same time, are fighting heroically for their national and social liberation against imperialism of every hue.

Before Liberation there were people who professed the Moslem religion in Albania, but there was no fanaticism. In the Arab or Moslem countries of Central Asia, too, the classical fanaticism of the past cannot exist, especially today. Such fanaticism can exist neither among the Moslems nor among the Catholics, the Calvinists and other schisms of Christianity. We must not forget the epoch in which we are living. We cannot fail to bear in mind the great development of science today, the growth and strengthening of the revolutionary proletariat and the spread of the ideas of Marxism-Leninism. Today the reactionary religious leaders, lackeys of the feudal order and oppressive monarchies linked with them, who want to keep the people in ignorance and bondage and to combat their liberation movements, incite fanaticism in its classical sense in those countries.

In regard to Khomeini, he is a religious leader, a dedicated believer and an idealist philosopher. He may even be a fanatic, but we see that, at the same time, he is in accord and united with the revolutionary spirit of the Iranian people. Khomeini has taken the side of the opponents of the monarchy. The imperialist bourgeoisie, the supporters of the Pahlavi monarchy and other reactionary forces in the world say that he wants to become a monarch himself. Let them say this, but the fact is that the anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist and anti-feudal liberation movement in Iran is in the ascendancy and Khomeini still maintains a good stand in regard to this movement.

What is occurring in Iran might occur also in Pakistan or in the countries of the Arabian Peninsula, it may spark off a revolutionary situation in some other neighbouring country and even in the Soviet Union itself, because social-imperialism and revisionism carry national oppression everywhere and, as a consequence, arouse the national liberation sentiments of the peoples. Socialism and the Marxist-Leninist theory alone provide a just solution to the national question. Today the national rights of nations and peoples have been violated and trampled underfoot in the Soviet Union and wherever American imperialism and international capitalism rule. There is great oppression there, logically, therefore, there will certainly be movement.

We must examine and analyse the present events in Iran as they take place and draw conclusions from them on the basis of the teachings of our Marxist-Leninist theory. In the vanguard of the active forces in the uprising against imperialism and the monarchy in that country, are the religious zealots, the student youth, the workers and intellectuals. So, neither the proletariat nor a genuine Marxist-Leninist party is in the leadership of the movement. On this question we must also bear in mind the fact that we do not really know the strength and the basis of the different political currents in that movement. We know from experience that in our country, too, the working class was not developed, nevertheless, since the objective and subjective factors existed in the conditions of the occupation and the National Liberation War, the Party led the people to victory by basing itself on Marxism-Leninism, which means it put the working class and its vanguard, in other words itself, in the leadership. This is not the case in Iran. In that country there is a Marxist-Leninist party, the Workers and Peasants’ Communist Party of Iran, a young party which, has just been formed, but it is still small, untempered, not linked with the working class and the masses, etc., while the revisionist “Tudeh” Party has existed legally and illegally, is now legal again, but is a tool of the Soviet Union. Hiding behind Marxist-Leninist slogans, this party is sabotaging the anti-imperialist revolutionary struggle of the Iranian people and trying to bring Iran into the sphere of influence and under the thraldom of the Soviet Union. That is why the Moslem people of Iran, who have risen in revolution, are not acquainted with Marxism-Leninism either as a theory or a revolutionary practice. The students who are studying at Iran’s Moslem universities with great traditions and of the Shia Moslem sect, are both believers and non-believers in religion. In regard to the secular progressive elements there are those who believe in and are fighting for a liberal bourgeois-democratic state, those who believe in a “progressive” capitalist but anti-communist society, and those who still think that the Soviet Union is a socialist country which represents and applies Leninism. This is one of the reasons that genuine Marxism-Leninism has still not won acceptance in Iran, therefore the people there are fighting for liberation from the yoke of American imperialism and from Soviet influence, but under the banner of Islam. This means that the Shia Moslem clergy are in the leadership, in the vanguard of the uprising, but we have no illusions and know that they are for a bourgeois capitalist regime with religious predominance, hence, a theocratic regime. As to what course the movement against American imperialism and the barbarous compradore monarchy of the Pahlavis will take in the future, this depends mainly on the seething internal forces.

What general definition can be made of these forces?

In the present world situation and at the existing stage of the movement of the peoples for their national and social liberation, the popular revolution in Iran represents a new stage. Regardless of what others do or say, we must document this stage more carefully and make a critical Marxist-Leninist analysis of it.

Iran is a country very rich in oil, hence, has a working class comprised of oil workers and other industrial workers, but also has artisans. Of Iran’s 33 million inhabitants about 17 million are in the countryside and work the land. They are poverty-stricken, oppressed and exploited to the limit by the mullahs, the religious institutions, the big-landed bourgeoisie in the service of the Pahlavis, by the wealthy mercantile and money-lending bourgeoisie linked with the monarchy. Of the total population of Iran 99 per cent are of the Moslem religion and the majority of the Shia sect.

The Pahlavi regime was one of the most barbarous, the most bloodthirsty, the most exploiting, the most corrupt of the modern world. It employed bloodshed and terror to suppress any progressive movement, any even mildly liberal demonstration, any protest or strike of workers or students, and any attempt to develop a small-scale, auxiliary subsistance economy. The savage dictatorship of the Pahlavis was based on the big feudal landowners, the wealthy property-owners that the regime created, the reactionary army and the officer caste which ran it, and on SAVAK , the secret police, which the Shah himself described as “a state within a state.” The Pahlavis ruled by means of terror, robbed the people, enriched themselves in scandalous ways, were the personification of moral and political degeneration, were partners with and sold out to British and American and other imperialisms. The Pahlavis had become the most heavily armed gendarmes of the Persian Gulf under the orders of the CIA.

Iran was oppressed, but the people were seething with revolt, although wholesale executions were carried out every day. The ayatollahs who were discontented with the regime began to move. In 1951, Mossadeq, a representative of the bourgeoisie, supported by the mullahs opposed to the Shah, and by the “Tudeh” Party, seized power. In 1953 the Shah was driven out, but his overthrow and departure were not final, because the CIA organized a putsch, overthrew Mossadeq, brought the Shah back to Iran and restored him to the throne. Thus, Iran became the property of the Americans and the Shah and its oil became their powerful weapon. 

It is characteristic of the revolt of the Iranian people that, despite the great terror, it was not quelled, but continued spasmodically, in different forms and in different intensities. This revolutionary process steadily built up in quality and overcame the stage of fear of suppression

Despite the great terror, in 1977 the opposition to the Shah began to be displayed more forcibly, became more open and active. If we follow these trends opposed to the Shah and his regime separately we shall see that they are to some extent autonomous, but have a common strategy. Thus, we see the opposition of Mossadeq’s supporters, the resistance of the religious forces, the actions and demonstrations of the students, the stands of intellectuals, officials, writers, poets and artists against the regime expressed at rallies, in the universities and in other public places, etc., and together with all these currents we also see the self-defence and resistance of the working class and the whole oppressed and exploited people. SAVAK attacked mercilessly, but the suppression and executions only added to the anger of the masses. This resistance turned into a permanent activity. 

In the same period we see the re-awakening of the political opposition of Mossadeq’s supporters in the National Front. One of the elements of this current was Shapour Bakhtiar, who became prime minister on the eve of the overthrow of Shah Pahlavi. This was the last shot of the Shah and the American imperialists against the Iranian anti-imperialist revolution and Khomeini.

In the course of the development of this political opposition, the “Movement for the Liberation of Iran,” the “Iran Party,” and the “Socialist League of the National Movement of Iran,” broke away. The “Movement for the Liberation of Iran,” which was headed by Bazargan, who became prime minister after the departure of the Shah, was closer to Khomeini and the other imams.

We must always bear in mind that neither this political opposition, nor the religious opposition to the Pahlavis was united. Some of those who comprised this opposition were against the so-called agrarian reform, against the right of women to vote, etc. This section, which comprised conservative clergy, was steadily losing its influence amongst the masses, who were moving closer to that part of the clergy who openly fought the dictatorship of the Shah on the basis of the Shia principles of the Moslem religion. One of these was Ayatollah Khomeini, who was imprisoned, tortured, imprisoned again, and sent into exile and his son murdered. This enhanced the influence of the imam among the people, in the “Bazaar” (the main market centre of Tehran), hence, amongst the merchants, and also amongst the workers. In the rising tide of agitation and the great demonstrations against the Shah, the masses demanded the return of the Imam to the homeland. The death of his son and of a political personality, Ali Shariat, in mysterious circumstances led to the emergence of the religious elements in the forefront of the clashes and the whole people united with them, especially in Tabriz on February 18-19, 1977, as well as in Tehran, Qum and other Iranian cities. Al l this testifies to the fighting spirit of the people of Iran. As a result the Pahlavi monarchy was quite incapable of resisting the repeated waves of the onslaught of the insurgent people. 

Hence, in this climate of progressive insurgency against feudalism, the monarchy and imperialism, the Marxist-Leninists must analyse the various political trends, the orientations of these trends, the alliances and contradictions between them inside Iran and with the capitalist-revisionist world outside that country.

At present we see an active and militant unity of the uprising against American imperialism and the Shah and, to some extent, also against Soviet social-imperialism, and, at the same time, we also see increased vigilance and opposition towards all other capitalist states, though not so open and active as against the Americans. This situation will certainly undergo evolution. We see that the universities in Iran have become centres of fiery manifestations with both political and religious tendencies, and likewise see that the religious opposition and the political opposition are uniting. Thus, despite the contradictions which exist between them, it seems that the supporters of Mossadeq and those of Khomeini are moving closer together. In Tabriz, which has an important working class, apart from the oil workers, we can say that this unity has been brought about. Similar things are taking place at Abadan and the other regions where there are oil-fields and refineries. 

The Iranian Marxist-Leninists must, in particular, submit the strength and orientations of the working class to a Marxist-Leninist analysis and then their party must base its activity on this analysis, go among the working class, educate it and clarify it politically and ideologically, while tempering itself together with the working class in this revolutionary class struggle which, far from being ended, has only begun and will certainly assume diverse aspects. The revolutionary activity of the working class and the Marxist-Leninist ideology alone must become the factor deciding the correct directions which this anti-imperialist revolution must take. Certainly, in the present situation in Iran much can and must be gained from the revolutionary force of the Iranian working class, by the progressive elements, and especially by the students and the poor and middle peasantry. 

The Marxist-Leninists will be committing a mistake if they do not understand the situation created and do not utilize it in the right way, if they come out as anti-religious fighters and thus damage their anti-imperialist and anti-feudal unity with the followers of Ayatollah Khomeini and the followers of Mossadeq’s, Bazargan’s or others’ anti-imperialist bourgeois-democratic parties and movements.

Although anti-religious in their principles, the Iranian Marxist-Leninists must not for the moment wage a struggle against the religious beliefs of the people who have risen in revolt against oppression and are waging a just struggle politically, but are still unformed ideologically and will have to go through a great school in which they will learn. The Marxist-Leninists must teach the people to assess the events that are taking place in the light of dialectical and historical materialism. However, our world outlook cannot be assimilated easily in isolation from the revolutionary drive of the masses or from the anti-imperialist trends that are trying to remain in the leadership and to manoeuvre to prevent the bourgeois-democratic reforms of the revolution. The Iranian Marxist-Leninists and working class must play a major role in those revolutionary movements, having a clear understanding of the moments they are going through; they must not let the revolution die down. The working class and its true Marxist-Leninist vanguard should have no illusions about the “deep-going” bourgeois-democratic measures and reforms which the Shia clergy or the anti-Shah elements of the old and new national bourgeoisie might carry out. Certainly, if the working class, the poor peasantry and the progressive students, whether believers or non-believers, allow the impetus of the revolution to ebb away, which means that they do not proceed with determination and maturity towards alliances and activities conducive to successive political and socio-economic reforms, then the revolution will stop halfway, the masses will be disillusioned and the exploitation of them will continue in other forms by pseudo-democratic people linked in new alliances with the different imperialists. 

These special new revolutionary situations which are developing among the peoples of Islamic religious beliefs must be studied, conclusions must be drawn from them and new forms of struggle, action and alliances must be found. These revolutionary situations are much more advanced than those in Europe and Asia and, to some degree, even Latin America, where the revolutionary movements have assumed a petrified form, linked with and led by reformist and counter-revolutionary social-democracy and modern revisionism.

For instance, we do not see such revolts of a marked revolutionary political spirit occur in Europe where there is a big and powerful proletariat. For what reasons? For all those reasons which are known and have to do with the grave counter-revolutionary influence and sabotage of social-democracy and modern revisionism. The question is not that there is no exploitation on our continent, and therefore there are no movements. No, here, too, there is exploitation and there are movements, but they are of another nature. They are not “very deep-going, Marxist-Leninist revolutionary movements” which are waiting “for the situation to ripen,” etc., as the social-democrats, revisionists and other lackeys of the capitalist bourgeoisie describe them. No, the capitalist bourgeoisie itself and its lackeys do not permit such situations to ripen, do not permit such occurrences as are going on at present in the Arab-Moslem countries, where the revolutionary masses rise in struggle and create difficult situations for imperialism, feudalism and the cosmopolitan capitalist bourgeoisie.

Some claim that the Arab peoples and the peoples of the other Moslem countries are moving, because they are “poor!” Indeed, they are poor. But those who say this must admit that they themselves have become bourgeois and that is why they do not rise against oppression and exploitation, while the truth is that capitalism barbarously oppresses and exploits the peoples everywhere, without exception.

It is claimed, also, that in the countries of Islamic religion, the “masses are backward,” therefore, they are easily set in motion. This means that those who support this reasoning have degenerated and are not for revolution, because at a time when capitalism is in decay, honest people must be revolutionary and rise in struggle against capitalism, aiming the weapons they posses against it. Here, in Europe, however, we do not see such a thing. On the contrary, we see the “theory” of adaptation to the existing situation being preached.

Political debates are organized all over the capitalist countries. It has become fashionable for the social-democrats, the Christian-democrats, the revisionists and all sorts of other people in these countries to talk about “revolution” and allegedly revolutionary actions, and each of them tries in his own way to confuse and mislead the working masses with these slogans. The “leftists” scream for “revolutionary measures,” but immediately set the limits, “explaining” that “revolutionary measures must not be undertaken everywhere and in all fields,” but that only “certain changes must be made,” that is, a few crumbs must be thrown to the masses, who are demanding radical revolutionary changes, in order to deceive them and to hinder and sabotage the revolutionary drive of the masses.

We must analyse these situations and phenomena in theoretical articles or in other forms and with other means of our propaganda on the Marxist-Leninist course, with the aim of explaining the essence of the revolt and uprisings of peoples against imperialism, neo-colonialism and local rulers, of explaining the question of the survival of old religious traditions, etc. This does not rule out our support for liberation movements, because such movements occurred even before the time of Marx, as mentioned above. To wait until religion is first eliminated and carry out the revolution only after this, is not in favour of the revolution or the peoples. 

In the situation today, the people who have risen in revolt and believe in religion are no longer at the stage of consciousness of Spartacus, who rose against the Roman Empire, against the slave-owners, but they are seething with revolt against the barbarous oppression and exploitation and policy of imperialism and social-imperialism. The slaves’ revolt led by Spartacus, as Marx and Engels explain, was progressive, as were the beginnings of Christianity.

In these very important situations we see that the other peoples of Africa have risen, too, but not with the force and revolutionary drive of the Arab peoples, the Iranians, etc. This is another problem which must be examined in order to find the reasons why they, too, do not rise and why they are not inspired to the same level as the peoples that I mentioned. It is true that the African peoples are oppressed, too, indeed, much more oppressed than the Arab peoples, the Iranians and others. Likewise, Marxism has still not spread to the proper extent in Africa, and then there is also the influence of religion, although not on the same scale as in the Moslem countries. Work must be done in Africa to disseminate the Marxist-Leninist theory more extensively and deeply. That is even more virgin terrain, with oppressed peoples, amongst whom the sense of religion is still in an infantile stage. There are peoples in Africa who still believe in the heavenly powers of the sun, the moon, magic, etc., they have pagan beliefs which have not crystallized into an ideology and a concrete theology such as the Moslem religion, let alone the Christian or Buddhist religions and their sects. Although there is savage oppression and exploitation in Africa, the movement in this region of the world is developing more slowly. This is because the level of social development in Africa is lower. 

If we take these questions and examine them in unity, we shall see that at the present stage of development, Islam as a whole is playing an active role in the anti-imperialist liberation struggles of the Moslem peoples, while in the European countries and some other countries where the Catholic religion operates, preaching the submissive Christian philosophy of “turn the other cheek,” its leaders take a reactionary stand and try to hinder the movement, therevolt, the uprising of the masses for national and social liberation. Of course, in those countries the oppressive power of the bourgeoisie and capitalism, social-democracy and modern revisionism is greater, but the Catholic religion, too, serves to suppress the revolutionary spirit of the masses in order to keep the situation in stagnation.

From the stand-point of economic development the Moslem peoples have been held back; as a consequence of colonialist occupation and colonialist and neo-colonialist exploitation in past decades the Moslem religion in those countries was suppressed by the Catholic or Protestant religions which were represented by the foreign invaders, a thing which has not passed without consequences and without resistance, and herein we might find a political and ideological-religious reason for the anti-imperialist revolution of the Moslem peoples.

The question presents itself that we should look at the present stage of development of the Moslem religion as compared with past centuries. The development of human society has exerted an influence that has made the Moslem religious belief less and less functional. That is, it has been infiltrated by a certain liberalism which is apparent in the fact that, while the Moslem believer truly believes in the Islamic religion, today he is no longer like the believer of the Middle Ages or the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

Today the veiled women in the Moslem countries have those same feelings which our veiled women had before Liberation, as for example in Kavaja [town in central Albania – E.S.] although, of course, not completely those of women as progressive as ours were. Nevertheless, the feelings of revolt exist deep in their hearts, and are expressed to the extent that public opinion permits. Today the Iranian women are involved in the broad movement of the Iranian people against the Shah and imperialism.

Hence, we see that religious oppression exists in the countries with Moslem populations, too, but the religion itself has undergone a certain evolution, especially in its outward manifestations. Let me make this quite clear, religion has not disappeared in those countries, but a time has come in which the spirit of revolt, on the one hand, and the liberalization of the religion, on the other, are impelling people who believe in the Islamic dogmas to rise against those who call themselves religious and want to exercise the former norms of the religion in order to suppress the peoples and keep them in poverty. Their struggle against imperialists, whom they continue to call infidels, that is, their enemies, enemies of their religion, is linked precisely with this. These peoples understand that the foreign occupiers are people of Catholic or Protestant beliefs who want to oppress both countries and religions. The westerners call this religious antagonism, which also contains the class antagonism against foreign occupiers, simply a religious struggle, or apply other incorrect denigrating epithets to it. This is how they are treating the liberation struggles of the Moslem peoples of Arab and non-Arab countries in Asia and Africa today and even the liberation struggle of the Irish people, most of whom are Catholics, against the British occupiers who are Protestants. At the same time, we see incorrect manifestations also among the Moslem peoples who have risen in revolt. They, too, say: “The Giaours, unscrupulous people who are against our religion, are oppressing us,” etc. In this way they link the question of national liberation with the religious question, that is, they see the social and economic oppression which is imposed on them by imperialism as religious oppression. In the future the other Moslem peoples will certainly reach that stage of development which the people of Algeria, Syria and some other countries have reached on these matters. 

These struggles lead not only to increased sympathy for the peoples who rise in revolt, but also to unity with them, because they are all Moslems. If a people rise against imperialism and the reactionary chiefs ruling their country, who use religion as a means of oppression, this uprising destroys the sense of religion even among those who believe in it at the moment. When a people rise in insurrection against oppression, then the revolutionary sentiment is extended and deepened and people reach the stage which makes them think somewhat more clearly about the question of religion. Until yesterday the poor peasant in Iran said only “inshallah!” and comforted himself with this, but now he understands that nothing can be gained through “inshallah!” In the past all these peoples said, “Thus it has been decreed,” but now the masses of believers have risen united and come out in the streets, arms in hand, to demand their rights and freedom. And certainly, when they demand to take the land, the peasants in those countries will undoubtedly have to do battle for the great possessions of the religious institutions, that is, with the clergy. That is why the sinister forces of reaction are making such a great fuss about the fanatical aspect, about the question of putting the women back under the veil, etc., etc., because they are trying to discredit the Iranian revolution, because imperialism and world capitalism have a colossal support in religion. This is how matters stand with the Vatican, too, with the policy of that great centre of the most reactionary world obscurantism, with the mentality and outlook of Catholics. But the revolution disperses the religious fog. This will certainly occur with the Arab peoples, with the other Moslem peoples, who are rising in insurrection, and with the peoples of other faiths, that is, there will be progress towards the disappearance, the elimination of religious beliefs and the religious leadership. This is a major problem.

Here we are talking about whole peoples who are rising in revolt in the Moslem countries, whether Arab or otherwise. There are no such movements in Europe. On this continent social-democratic reformist parties and forces operate. The number of Marxist-Leninist parties here is still small, while there are big revisionist parties, which operate contrary to people’s interests and sentiments, have lost credibility among the masses, and support capitalism, imperialism and social-imperialism. The Moslem peoples of the Arab and non-Arab countries trust neither the American imperialists nor the Soviet social-imperialists, because they represent great powers which are struggling to oppress and plunder the Moslem peoples; also, as Moslems they put no trust in the religious beliefs of those powers.

As a result, the uprising which is developing in Iran and Afghanistan is bound to have consequences throughout the Moslem world. Hence, if the Marxist-Leninist groups, our comrades in these and other countries of this region properly understand the problems emerging from the events in Iran, Afghanistan and other Moslem countries, then all the possibilities exist for them to do much work. However, they must work cautiously there. In those countries religion cannot be eliminated with directives, extremist slogans or erroneous analyses. In order to find the truth we must analyse the activity of those forces in the actual circumstances, because many things, true and false, are being said about them, as is occurring with Ayatollah Khomeini, too. True, he is religious, but regardless of this, analysis must be made of his anti-imperialist attitudes and actions, which, willy-nilly, bring grist to the mill of the revolution. 

This whole development of events is very interesting. Here the question of religion is entangled with political issues, in the sympathy and solidarity between peoples. What I mean is that if the leadership of a certain country were to rise against the revolt of the Iranian people, then it would lose its political positions within the country and the people would rise in opposition, accuse the government of links with the United States of America, with the “giaours,” because they are against Islam. This is because these peoples see Islam as progressive, while the United States represents that force which oppresses them, not only from the social aspect but also from the spiritual aspect. That is why we see that none of these countries is coming out openly to condemn the events in Iran.

Another obstacle which reaction is using to sabotage the revolution of the Iranian people is that of inciting feuds and raising the question of national minorities. Reaction is inciting the national sentiments in Azerbaijan, inciting the Kurds, etc., etc., in order to weaken this great anti-imperialist and “pro-Moslem” uprising of the Iranian people. The incitement of national sentiments has been and is a weapon in the hands of imperialism and social-imperialism and all reaction to sabotage the anti-imperialist and national liberation wars. Therefore, the thesis of our Party that the question of settling the problems of national minorities is not a major problem at present, is correct. Now the Kurds, the Tadjiks, the Azerbaijanis and others ought to rise in struggle against imperialism and its lackeys and, if possible, rise according to the teachings and inspiration of Marxism-Leninism. The Kurds, the Tadjiks and the Azerbaijanis who live in the Soviet Union and are oppressed and enslaved today, must rise, first of all, against Russian social-imperialism.

In broad outline this is how the situation in these regions presents itself and these are some of the problems which emerge. The events will certainly develop further. Our task is to analyse these situations and events which are taking place in the Moslem world, using the Marxist-Leninist theory as the basis, and to define our stands so that they assist a correct understanding of these events, and thus, make our contribution to the successful development of the people’s revolutionary movement.

Enver Hoxha, “Reflections on the Middle East,” Tirana; 1984; pp. 355-392

Grover Furr reviews Robert Thurston’s “Life and Terror in Stalin’s Russia, 1934 -1941”

As always, the publication of an article does not necessarily imply an absolute endorsement of the entirety of its content.

– Espresso Stalinist.

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by Grover Furr, from Cultural Logic, Volume 1, Number 2, Spring 1998

Robert W. Thurston, Life and Terror in Stalin’s Russia, 1934-1941. (London and New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996). $30.00.

Anti-Stalinism Hurts Workers, Builds Fascism

1. Billions of workers all over the world are exploited, murdered, tortured, oppressed by capitalism. The greatest historical events in the twentieth century — in fact, in all of human history — have been the overthrow of capitalism and establishment of societies run by and for the working class in the two great communist revolutions in Russia and China.

2. The Russian Revolution was the first of them, blazing the trail for all revolutionaries to come. Its history — its successes and failures — are the essential textbook for all workers and others who recognize the need to get rid of exploitation and build a better world run by those who toil.

3. Naturally the world’s capitalists do not want this learning process to happen! So the ruling class try to spread anti-Communist lies, the purpose of which is to demoralize potential revolutionaries and make us passive. These wrong ideas — wrong both in the sense that they are incorrect AND in that they serve the exploiters’ interests, not the interest of workers — include racism, religion, sexism, and anti- communism.

4. The main form anti-communism has taken for the past several decades has been anti-Stalinism. If workers and others can be convinced that any attempt to build a communist society — one based upon need, without exploitation, run by and for the working class — will end up “as bad as or worse than” Nazi Germany, then we will never really make the attempt. This means we will be reduced to struggling only for reforms under capitalism. This reformism is ultimately acceptable to the capitalists since it leaves them in control forever.

5. A second way the bosses use anti-Stalinism is to justify fascist repression and murder of any workers’ attempts to rebel against capitalism. After all, if “Stalinism” is “worse than Nazi Germany”, and if any attempt to build communism can lead only to “Stalinism”, then any and all repressive measures to suppress revolution are justified, including torture, mass murder, and fascism itself. This anti-communism has been the main justification for imperialist slaughter in the period since World War II, as indeed it had been for the Nazis’ aggression and atrocities.

6. Because it is the main ideological form of anti-communism, fighting anti-Stalinism is therefore a vital, life-and-death issue for the world’s workers — for all of us. This review essay will show how a new (1996) book can be useful in doing just that, and it also outlines some of the limitations of that book.

Strengths of Thurston’s Work

7. Thurston’s main points are as follows:

— The mass arrests and executions of 1936-38 in the USSR were not planned, but were panicked reactions to plots against the Soviet government.

— These events were not intended to, and did not in fact, spread “fear and terror” throughout the Soviet population, but rather were carried out against perceived enemies with the support and often the active participation of the Soviet population.

— They occurred at a time when the USSR was under enormous threat from hostile nations. (In addition, communists the world over were being imprisoned, tortured and murdered by capitalist regimes, though Thurston does not refer to these facts.)

— The numbers imprisoned and executed were far less that the inflated estimates claimed by anti-Communist sources.

— Rather than being cowed and demoralized by mass arrests and police activity, the growing Soviet industrial working class enjoyed an active voice inside the factories, encouraged by Soviet leaders to speak out about conditions in the plants and outside.

— The “acid test” of whether the workers and peasants supported Soviet socialism or were alienated from and hostile to it came with the Nazi invasion. Thurston shows that the Soviet people determinedly repulsed this massive onslaught by rushing either to join the Red Army or the factories to increase military production, while the Red Army fought with a dedication, effectiveness and morale utterly unmatched by the best Western capitalist armies.

8. Thurston’s introduction outlines what he calls the “standard version” (xiv) or “orthodox view” (xvi) of Stalin and the USSR in the ’30s, invoking the name of Robert Conquest — which he will then prove wrong. (Conquest, a former British Secret Service agent, is the foremost anti- communist liar about the Stalin years.) He also points out also how the present capitalist rulers of Russia have every motive to build anti-Stalinism.

9. This chapter also demonstrates that the Soviet legal system was evolving along recognizably capitalist lines in terms of its judicial process during the early ’30s. On the one hand, this contradicts the view of the Cold Warriors that the USSR was “totalitarian”, and this is Thurston’s main point: that the USSR was becoming more “liberal”, giving citizens protection against arbitrary police action, for example.

10. It reveals, however, how much the Bolsheviks relied on Western capitalist models, in the judicial system and elsewhere (education, culture, industry), for models of how to build a communist society. Here, the Bolsheviks’ view of communism was, as we can see now in hindsight, in many respects a “reformed” version of capitalist relationships. Learning from the Bolsheviks’ shortcomings as well as from their own experience, left forces within the Chinese Communist Party later challenged reliance on police and courts with reliance on the working class and poor peasants through political struggle, public trials, and an emphasis on self-criticism and being held accountable to the masses — a process that eventually reached its high point during the Cultural Revolution before it was finally defeated.

11. Chapter Two disposes of some ancient anti-Communist lies. Thurston shows there’s no evidence Stalin murdered either his second wife in 1932 or Politburo colleague Sergei Kirov in 1934. Both of these fairy-tales have been refuted by other scholars before Thurston but are still accepted without question as true by anti-Stalinists. Concerning the three big “Show Trials” of 1936-38, Thurston highlights the evidence that the basic charges against the defendants were in fact true. This was generally accepted even by keen Western observers at the time, like Joseph Davies, sent by President Roosevelt to check out the Soviet government (see his book Mission to Moscow), and confirmed long ago too by staunch anti-Communist scholars like Robert V. Daniels (see his Conscience of the Revolution, 1960).

12. Thurston shows that there was “wrecking” — industrial sabotage — in the economy under Yuri Pyatakov, whose confession to this effect is also shown to have been voluntary, not coerced (46). Even the charges against Nikolai Bukharin, main defendant in the 1938 trial, are shown to have been true in the main, as documents from Bolshevik archives prove (35-42). Thurston also states that some accusations against the defendants were “fabrications”, but he never gives any evidence to support this charge. In fact — though Thurston does not discuss this — it is quite likely that suspicions of “wrecking” were exaggerated by the recklessness built into the industrialization campaign, caused by the emphasis on “increasing productive forces” by sharpening wage differentials, privileges, and therefore class antagonisms: in short, by socialism, the mixture of communist and capitalist elements which communists since the days of Marx’s Critique of the Gotha Program had believed was a necessary interim stage between capitalism and a classless society.

13. Finally, Chapter Two also reaffirms that the massive arrests did not take place until after the arrests and executions in June 1937 of the military commanders led by Marshal Tukhachevsky. Stalin and the Bolshevik leadership clearly believed there was a real conspiracy, and there’s much, though not conclusive, evidence that such a conspiracy indeed existed. Chapter Three demonstrates that the Soviet government reacted in panic to the disclosure of such high-placed treason. There’s no evidence at all that Stalin was out to “terrorize the country”.

14. Nikolai Ezhov, the leader of the political police (or NKVD), was the person most directly responsible for the massive arrests and executions. Usually demonized by Cold-War historians, Ezhov was a long-time Communist with an honorable record, a worker since the age of 14, before being entrusted by the Politburo with the task of directly overseeing the repression of what all believed to be a massive counter-revolutionary plot.

15. Ezhov set high quotas for executions, which the police felt had to be met. There were many examples of police arresting and executing people either to “meet quotas” or from outright corruption. Recent research by Thurston ‘s colleagues suggests that between six and seven hundred thousand persons were executed during 1937-38. (See the article by Getty, Rittersporn, and Zemskov in American Historical Review, October 1993).

16. A few comments are in order here. First, the concept of “quotas” for executions appears to come from Lenin’s practice during the Civil War, although Thurston does not say so. After the Bolsheviks revolution privileged and propertied people throughout Russia opposed the Bolsheviks and Red Army, and White (anti-Communist) forces routinely executed Communists, workers who supported them, and all Jews. Under Lenin’s urging the Bolsheviks would take hostages from among the upper classes, threatening to execute them if the Whites opposed them.

17. It should be clear that such “quotas for execution” were completely inappropriate in a situation in which the Bolsheviks held state power and could confine anyone suspected of anti-Communist activity until their cases could be investigated. Such executions, whether of the guilty or, as was inevitable, of the innocent as well, serve no mass political function, as would public trials, investigations, and a concept of justice based upon the direct participation of the working class — an issue noted by Vyshinsky himself.

18. Anti-Communist “scholars” have repeatedly produced fantastically high figures for Soviet executions and jailings during the “purges”. Thurston challenges those inflated numbers with strong archival evidence. On page 137 he explicitly states that the inflated estimates are too high. On page 11 Thurston has a chart showing there were 1,196,439 camp inmates in 1937, a slight decline from the previous year (this included criminals as well as those arrested for political crimes, but does not include prison inmates). For purposes of comparison, we should note that this is much smaller than the US prison population today! While it seems clear to us now that many of those prisoners charged with political crimes (104,826, or 12.8% of the total) were not in fact guilty, that prison population is a long way from the Cold-War anti-Communist “guesstimates” of between 7 and 15 million prisoners — and some guess much higher still, 20 or 30 million!

19. Thurston shows there were, in fact, other real anti-Soviet plots in addition to the “Tukhachevsky Affair” (mass arrests and executions of military officers), including some spies within the NKVD itself. He also provides overwhelming evidence to show that the arrests targeted elite sectors — managers, specialists, intellectuals, party officials, and not “workers or poor peasants, the favored children of the new regime” (76). Naturally communists should not support unjust accusations against anyone, regardless of their class background. What this fact shows is that socialism — the continuation of capitalist relations of production and a capitalist notion of economic development — involved the continuation of class antagonisms under somewhat different forms, class antagonisms that found expression in the mass arrests and executions.

20. Thurston puts these events squarely in the context of the aftermath of the extremely violent years of 1914-21 (the beginning of World War I to the end of the very bloody Civil War) and, more immediately, of the sharpening international situation of the late ’30s, when Nazi Germany and all the imperialist countries were unmistakably bent upon surrounding and destroying the USSR.

21. However, even at that Thurston underplays the danger facing the Communist movement. On pages 34-5, he mentions the German reoccupation of the Rhineland in March 1936, unchallenged by the French who wanted Hitler to rearm, so as to pit him against the USSR. He mentions the start of the Spanish Civil War in July 1936, but not the huge military support given to Franco, leader of the Spanish fascists, by Nazi German and fascist Italy, nor the phony “neutrality” of England, France, and the USA which cut the Spanish Republic off from international aid. He mentions fascist Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia in December 1935, unchallenged by the other imperialists, but never the Japanese fascists’ seizure of Manchuria in 1931 or the Anti-Comintern Pact between Germany, Japan and Italy (1936-37), or the Japanese invasion of China (1937). Stalin would later express the Soviet view that the other imperialists were encouraging the Germans to attack and destroy the Soviet union:

“They kept on urging the Germans to go farther and farther east: ‘You just start a war against the Bolsheviks, and all will be well'” (quoted in Alexander Werth, Russia at War, p. 39).

22. Also left out is the Nazi decimation of the German Communist Party, the largest in Europe, beginning in 1934. In 1936, when the Soviet “purges” began, German Communists were being tortured and murdered by the thousands in German concentration camps, and similar treatment was being meted out to Communists and workers in dozens of other capitalist lands — as, in fact, it still is. Little wonder that the Soviets weren’t prone to treat too kindly those it considered to be German spies and agents!

23. And Thurston repeats, time and again, what his sources show him: the Soviet government favored workers and poor peasants over all others in the population, while they were being exploited, killed, etc., in every other country in the world! Thurston’s own evidence shows that the USSR was a “dictatorship of the working class”.

24. Some police agencies treated evidence as very important, though many did not. Conditions in the labor and punishment camps, the so-called “Gulag”, Thurston argues, were bearable both before and after the period 1937 to 1938, but very bad during this period, reflecting the fact that most police, and even prisoners, were convinced those arrested during this time were traitorous conspirators who deserved the worst treatment.

25. By January 1938, Thurston shows, complaints of unjustified repression were flooding the Central Committee, and the Plenum began to demand that expulsions from the Party be reviewed for unfairness. The next month Andrei Vyshinsky, formerly the head prosecutor at the “Show Trials”, complained about conditions in the labor camps and demanded punishment of camp officials who permitted bad conditions. He also insisted that those who fabricated evidence be arrested. In fact a number of trials of such fabricators did take place this year and the next, often with great publicity.

26. The need to pay greater attention to physical evidence, as opposed to confession, was re-emphasized. By the middle of 1938 the great period of panic, mass arrests, and executions was over. Police procedures were regularized; conditions in the camps improved; many of those falsely arrested were released and exonerated. Trials of NKVD men who had tortured and framed people were held, and the NKVD purged of such people.

27. Certainly the Soviet state was justified in acting to arrest preemptively, in times of crisis, anyone suspected of treason. But there was no reason for executing people on the same flimsy basis; they could certainly have been imprisoned pending a serious review of their cases. Had this been done, many or most executions would not have taken place. What is more, well-publicized trials of those who were guilty, with evidence publicly given, would have raised political consciousness, as did the Chinese Communist Party’s public trials of landlords in the period after their seizure of power, in which peasants openly accused those who had exploited and murdered them.

28. Chapter Six, “Life in the Factories”, shows that the Stakhanovite movement was, in fact, a mass movement which gave all workers the opportunity to gain recognition for improving production and technique, rather than a cynical way of “speeding-up” the workers, as it has been described by anti-Communists. Thurston argues that, in fact, Stakhanovism gave workers more power. Workers’ views and criticisms were respected; supervisors and foremen ignored them at their peril.

29. But here too we see that “socialist” relations of production were basically a reformed version of capitalist relations of production. While acknowledging the communist, collective aspects of the Stakhanov movement, we can see in retrospect how it inevitably became associated with speed-up, given the retention of a wage system. Thurston’s book neglects this aspect of the movement.

30. Thurston quotes some American workers who had also worked in the USSR as saying that conditions of work, and the atmosphere in the factories, were better for Soviet workers in the 1930s than for workers in the US (192). But he then undercuts their view — far more informed than his own — in the next sentence, where he writes that “Soviet workers were hardly better off or freer than their American counterparts”.

31. Ironically, he has already cited evidence on page 170 that at least some Soviet workers had shorter working hours than US workers. At the time, many people thought Soviet workers were, in fact, better off than were American workers. One of them was Walter Reuther, later the anti-Communist president of the United Auto Workers, who worked in a Soviet auto factory in the 1930s. In a passage not cited by Thurston, Reuther wrote home:

Here are no bosses to drive fear into the workers. No one to drive them in mad speed-ups. Here the workers are in control. Even the shop superintendent had no more right in these meetings than any other worker. I have witnessed many times already when the superintendent spoke too long. The workers in the hall decided he had already consumed enough time and the floor was given to a lathe hand to who told of his problems and offered suggestions. Imagine this at Ford or Briggs. This is what the outside world calls the “ruthless dictatorship in Russia”. I tell you … in all countries we have thus far been in we have never found such genuine proletarian democracy… (quoted from Phillip Bonosky, Brother Bill McKie: Building the Union at Ford [New York: International Publishers, 1953]).

32. Thurston says nothing about free medical care, cited in many studies of and novels about the Soviet Union in the 1930s. And much of his chapter shows how Soviet workers had a tremendous amount of input and right to criticize. Thurston also doesn’t mention that millions of US workers were unemployed in the ’30s, while the Soviets had a labor shortage. He omits the fact that US workers trying to unionize for better conditions were being violently attacked, and often killed, by the police, the military, and employer-hired goons. Conditions for the working class in Europe generally were even worse, with fascist or virtually fascist regimes, all viciously anti-working class, in most countries.

33. The final chapter deals with the response of the Soviet population to World War II. Here too Thurston concludes that the Soviet regime retained much loyalty and enthusiasm among the population. Soviet soldiers fought against the Japanese in Mongolia with high morale in 1938, where their military leadership was excellent, and against Finland and then the German Wehrmacht in 1940 and 1941, where both political and military leadership was initially poor and led to larger casualties than necessary. In the opening days of WWII, the Red Army fought well, counterattacking against far superior Axis forces, often fighting to the last man, rarely surrendering unless surrounded or demoralized by huge casualties and a hopeless situation. German officers uniformly remarked that the Soviets fought far better than any Western army (215).

34. Civilian morale was generally high in June 1941, even in Soviet-occupied Eastern Poland. The Polish fascist state had been racist towards Jews and Ukrainians in Eastern Poland, and therefore many of the Ukrainian population were supportive when the Soviets marched in, especially since the Soviets mainly repressed the enemies of the workers and peasants — landowners, Polish officers, and police — and did not collectivize the peasantry. But Ukrainian nationalists in Poland had already basically turned towards the Nazis, so many “Western” Ukrainians welcomed the Nazi invasion. German officers recognized that the Ukrainians in Soviet territory were very different, much more loyal to the USSR and often very hostile to the pro-Nazi West Ukrainians, as Thurston shows.

Shortcomings

35. The research reported in this book because it will help to combat anti-communism and lies against Stalin and the USSR generally during his time. However, Thurston’s work also suffers from serious shortcomings. First, while he combats many anti-Communist lies with good evidence, Thurston also makes many statements critical of the Bolsheviks without any evidence. There are many instances of this.

36. Even more serious are Thurston’s historiographical shortcomings. Not a Marxist of any kind, Thurston frames his analysis entirely in bourgeois historical terms. Therefore, Thurston’s book is valuable when, and only when, he bases his conclusions on primary source evidence. Even when he does, this evidence must be put into an historical materialist, scientific framework in order for important lessons to emerge clearly.

37. Like all the other works of the anti-Cold War researchers — called “revisionists” or “Young Turks” — who have helped to refute anti-Stalin and anti-Communist lies, this is a work of bourgeois history. These works of research take capitalism for granted, and so have a capitalist bias from the outset. Though they come up with important evidence, and often use it well, they do so from an academic perspective. They may refute egregious Cold-War lies, but they never reject anti-communism, the fundamental premise of capitalist scholarship.

38. Most important for our purposes, the “revisionists” do not ask the questions which Marxists, and all those convinced that capitalism must be overthrown, need answers to: namely, What can we learn, positively and negatively, from the history of the USSR? What were the Bolsheviksí successes? Why did these dedicated communists fail?

39. Although it can’t provide answers to the questions revolutionaries need to ask, Thurston’s work, like those of other more objective, though bourgeois, researchers, can help us if we use them according to historical materialism, the scientific method of Marxism or communism.

40. After all, to learn the correct lessons, both positive and negative, from the Bolsheviks’ experience, the history of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the Soviet Union and why it eventually turned into its opposite, we need something in addition to the Marxist method of understanding history, or dialectical and historical materialism. We also need an accurate account of what, in fact, happened, not a farrago of anti-Communist lies and horror stories.

41. It is here, in refuting anti-Communist lies, as well as in discovering what did happen in reality, that Thurston’s work, and that of other honest bourgeois historians, can be very helpful. Let me give two brief examples.

1. Capitalist Relations and Class Antagonisms within the USSR:

42. Thurston shows time and again that those most likely to have been arrested and executed during the panic of 1937-38 were officials, leaders, managers, officers, and “higher- ups” in general. This fact shows that there was a considerable divorce between “leaders” and ordinary workers and other citizens. How could this be?

43. Marx recognized that “all history is the history of class struggle”. The Bolsheviks believed that everything must be subordinated to the fight for industrialization and production. After the early ’30s they used “material incentives” to reward workers and managers, developing large wage differentials and, therefore, differences in living standards among workers and between workers and managers, Party leaders and rank-and-file members, and in every other aspect of society. Believing too that productive technique was “class-neutral”, they kept capitalist production relationships in the factories and capitalist relationships of hierarchy and inequality generally in society. Women still did all the housework as well as their jobs, putting real limits on the extent — real, also — to which sexism could be fought.

44. In short, social relationships in the USSR were “reformed” capitalist relationships more than they were truly communist egalitarian relationships. This had to give rise to new class antagonisms and create resistance to the disappearance of old ones.

45. Thurston’s research can help us see that the mass arrests and executions of 1937-38, which were “concentrated among the country’s elite” (232), reflected these class antagonisms at the same time Stalin and the Soviet leadership believed they had abolished class struggle. Without these capitalist relations the “panic” of the late ’30s and, in fact, the future evolution of the Soviet Union towards, first, state capitalism and, as now, “free-market” capitalism, would not have been possible.

2. Elitist Relations within the Party:

46. In 1938 and thereafter specific cases of police corruption, neglect of evidence, frame-ups, and other negligence were publicized and those guilty punished. Many cases of rehabilitation, both of the living and of those unjustly executed, took place. Nevertheless the Bolshevik leadership under Stalin never really underwent a thorough, public self-critical review of how any injustice could have happened, in order to get to the bottom of it.

47. There is also the question of why people like Zinoviev, Bukharin and others were in important positions of power to begin with. They had demonstrated rotten politics for years. Zinoviev had quit the party in fear rather than take part in the October Revolution. Bukharin had lied many times — Thurston documents this — and had even plotted with the Socialist Revolutionaries against Lenin during the Civil War. (The S-R’s then plotted to overthrow Lenin, and very likely tried to kill him.) They had been expelled from the Party.

48. What was the point of handing them major leadership posts? The Bolsheviks should have trained other members to do their jobs and not relied on these particular intellectuals. Perhaps the concept of a party of “professional revolutionaries”, a “cadre” party — Zinoviev, Kamenev, Bukharin and others had worked for the Party all their lives — had not yet been entirely abandoned for the better concept of a mass party of the working class.

Conclusion: Fight Capitalist Lies

49. Thurston’s work is useful in debunking anti-Communist lies. And his work is only one of a growing body of what has been called “revisionist” research on the history of the USSR. These works use the same kind of bourgeois historical methodology, rules of evidence, logic, and documentation, commonly used in less contentious fields of history, but hardly ever in the study of the communist movement.

50. For the first time, an outline of the major events in the USSR during the Stalin years is beginning to emerge, although the anti-Communist “Cold Warriors” — often joined by enthusiasts for Leon Trotsky — are still actively spreading their lies and contesting every bit of research which contradicts their preconceived ideas, what is virtually a “Cold-War Party Line”.This is exciting, and heady, material!

51. But it is for revolutionaries and workers of today to use research like Thurston’s towards this end. Neither this work nor any others like it can provide the historical materialist framework without which human history will not reveal its truths.

Revisionists’ Research on Soviet History: A Brief Bibliographical Note(Note: It is a daunting task to keep abreast of the exciting research into the history of the Soviet Union during Stalin’s leadership. The “revisionists”, of which Thurston is a leading representative, have split the field of bourgeois Soviet history, and there is much animosity on both sides. In addition, it’s very helpful to be able to read Russian, both in order to look at original sources, and to follow the research now being published in Russia that Getty is publishing there, for example. What follows is only a brief introduction.)

1. There are a number of strands in the “new” history of the Soviet Union during the Stalin years. The work of the late E. H. Carr, and of his successors at the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Russian and East European Studies, led by R. W. Davies, and represented heavily in the journal Soviet Studies (since volume 45, 1993 retitled Europe-Asia Studies); the research of Jerry Hough, Sheila Fitzpatrick, and Roberta Manning, the inspiration and, in some cases, the teachers of the younger “revisionists”; and the younger cohort themselves. I will concentrate on this third group.

2. The book under review is an excellent place to begin. But, to my mind, the first and groundbreaking work of this school is John Arch Getty, Origins of the Great Purges: The Soviet Communist Party Reconsidered, 1933-1938 (Cambridge University Press, 1985). A much revised version of his Ph.D. dissertation at Boston College, 1979, under Roberta Manning, this work is fundamental. One has to read it to get a feel for how completely the “accepted” version (Conquest-Solzhenitsyn, et al. — what Thurston calls the “standard version” or “orthodox view”) of this period must be rejected, how completely dishonest their “scholarship”, how poor their use of evidence. After Thurston, begin with Getty, and a careful reading of his footnotes.

3. The year after Getty’s book was published, the revisionists achieved recognition as a distinct school within Soviet history with Sheila Fitzpatrick’s article “New Perspectives on Stalinism”, The Russian Review 45, 4 (October 1986), 357-373, which the editors published together with four criticisms by established Cold-War historians, and a reply by Fitzpatrick, “Afterword: Revisionism Revisited”. A year later the same journal published eleven responses to Fitzpatrick’s article, including five by the leading younger scholars (William Chase, J. Arch Getty, Hiroaki Kuromiya, Gábor Rittersporn, and Lynne Viola), two supportive articles (by Jerry Hough and Roberta Manning), and an explicit attack by Conquest.

4. Robert Conquest’s voluminous work is the target, acknowledged or not, of much of the research on this period of Soviet history. Getty leads off his book with a brief exposé of Conquest’s irresponsible methods (Origins, p. 5 and note 12, p.222). The work of Steven G. Wheatcroft on the size of Soviet forced labor camps and number of deaths has developed as a refutation of Conquest and those whose research resembles his, like Steven Rosefielde. This debate continues today, and was launched by Wheatcroft’s article “On Assessing the Size of Forced Concentration Camp Labour in the Soviet Union, 1929-1956”, Soviet Studies 33 (April, 1981), 265-95. Conquest’s typically weak reply, with argument “from authority”, is in Soviet Studies 34 (July 1982), 434-39.

5. Wheatcroft and Conquest continue to criticize each other’s studies vigorously. For Wheatcroft’s research, begin with what appears in Europe-Asia Studies. For example, in “The Scale and Nature of German and Soviet Repression and Mass Killings, 1930-1945”, EAS 48 (December 1996), 1319-1353, Wheatcroft attacks the facile, anti-Communist comparison of Stalin with Hitler. The abstract reads:

     Repression and mass killings carried out by German and Soviet leaderships during the period 1930-45 differed in several respects. It appears that the German leader Adolf Hitler put to death at least five million innocent people mainly because of his antipathy towards Jews and communists. In contrast, Soviet leader Josef Stalin ordered the murder of some one million people because he apparently believed them to be guilty of crimes against the state. He was careful about documenting these executions whereas Hitler did not bother about making any pretence at legality.

6. A few other works which base themselves on recently-published Soviet archival documents and give the lie to Conquest-type horror-stories include: Nicolas Werth, “Goulag: Les Vrais Chiffres”, L’Histoire no. 169 (Septembre, 1993), 38-51; J. Arch Getty, Gábor T. Rittersporn, and Viktor N. Zemskov, “Victims of the Soviet Penal System in the Pre-war Years: A First Approach on the Basis of Archival Evidence”, American Historical Review 98 (December, 1993), 1017-49; R.W. Davies, “Forced Labour Under Stalin: The Archive Revelations”, New Left Review, 214 (November-December 1995), 62-80.

7. Other works explicitly critical of Conquest include: Jeff Coplon, “In Search of a Soviet Holocaust: A 55-Year-Old Famine Feeds the Right”, Village Voice, Jan. 12, 1988 (on the web at http://chss.montclair.edu/english/furr/vv.html). Coplon interviewed many of the foremost historians of the USSR, including many “Cold Warriors” as well as some “revisionists”; all rejected Conquest’s phony research on the Ukrainian famine, Harvest of Sorrow (Oxford, 1986), incidentally showing how Conquest was paid by Ukrainian nationalist groups which had collaborated with the Nazis.

8. Thurston was, I think, the first and (to date) the only historian of the Soviet Union to dare to attack Conquest in an academic journal: see Thurston, “On Desk-Bound Parochialism, Commonsense Perspectives, and Lousy Evidence: A Reply to Robert Conquest”, Slavic Review 45 (Summer 1986), 238-244.

9. A six-part series exposing the Nazi origins of the Ukrainian famine myth while remaining critical of Soviet actions from a communist viewpoint, can be found at the Progressive Labor Party website at http://www.plp.org/cd_sup/ukfam1.html; read its notes for scholarly references to that time. Another PLP series, this time in four parts, of Stalin, the PBS television series, and the accompanying book Stalin: A Time for Judgment, by Jonathan Lewis and Phillip Whitehead (New York: Pantheon, 1990), begins at http://www.plp.org/cd_sup/pbsstal1.html. These articles contain yet more references to “revisionist” scholarship, and end with a brief bibliography of suggested further readings, at http://www.plp.org/books/biblio.html. An appreciative but critical review of Getty’s Ph.D. dissertation, the basis of his 1985 book, is at http://www.plp.org/pl_magazine/purges.html.

10. This should be enough for anyone interested in studying the latest critiques of the Cold-War lies about Stalin and Bolshevik history, the wars within the field of Soviet history, and the best results of bourgeois historiography, to sink their teeth into.

11. Finally: there is an important theoretical issue which I deal with briefly towards the end of my review, and which is not apparent in any of the social-historical and empirical research of the past twenty years or so. That question is: How can the method of dialectical and historical materialism be brought to bear on the “facts” as we are coming to know them, in order to draw valid conclusions from the Bolsheviks’ successes and errors, so that future communists may build upon the past without repeating its mistakes?

12. These works can help us learn something about what did happen, and help us refute anti-Communist lies. But the task of learning from the past to build towards a communist future is up to us.

Source

Marxism & Bourgeois Nationalism

As always, a re-posting of articles does not necessarily imply an absolute endorsement of the entirety of its content. However, this well-written article does make a good point about the duality of the bourgeois class, particularly in the Third World and oppressed countries.

– Espresso Stalinist.

Tripoli is burning. Thousands of black Libyans and African immigrants are rounded up by the NATO-backed rebels and thrown into prisons. Supporters of the ousted nationalist government wait with baited breath for the inevitable and bloody purge by the new rebel government. Libyan oil gushes out of Benghazi into the pipelines of Western energy companies. And militia groups, deputized by Interpol and the now-victorious National Transitional Council (NTC) government, hunt for Colonel Muammar Qaddafi and his family across the Libyan desert.

Now that NATO has won this asymmetrical imperialist war, at least in the short term, no one can reasonably say that the Libyan people are better off with the rebel government in power. For all of the flaws of Qaddafi’s government – and other nationalist governments like his – the Libyan people enjoyed the highest standard of living on the African continent, rising from the lowest standard of living in the world as of 1951. (1) The national and tribal governments had an amicable working relationship that allowed for decentralized planning and local decision-making. Moreover, Libya’s natural resources were controlled by a national government at-odds with Western energy corporations, and the wealth they generated was publicly owned and shared. (1) In other words, the Libyan nation exercised its inherent right to self-determination.

Qaddafi’s government wasn’t socialist; it was nationalist. The relations of production in Libya were capitalist in nature, but to deny that Qaddafi’s government was more progressive and objectively anti-imperialist ignores the brutal material reality that millions of Libyans are facing because of the NTC government.

As the West begins to re-calibrate its war machine and set its crosshairs on President Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria, Marxist-Leninists need to understand their relationship with nationalist bourgeois states, like Qaddafi’s Libya. History has objectively proven those “leftists” who were cheerleaders for the fall of Qaddafi’s government in Libya or Saddam Hussein’s government in Iraq wrong.

At the same time, every bourgeois state operates fundamentally in the interest of some sector of the capitalist ruling class, whether national or international, and in time the proletariat will replace that old machinery with socialism through revolution.

I posit these theses:

Because of their relation to imperialism after the fall of the socialist bloc, the objective historical position of nationalist states in the Third World is progressive.

Marxist-Leninists must uphold the right of nations to self-determination, which in the present is principally characterized by freedom from imperialist subjugation.

Where it arises, Marxist-Leninists must support genuine revolutionary proletarian struggles for socialism against bourgeois nationalist governments.

Josef Stalin, author of Marxism & the National Question

What is nationalism?

To understand when and why Marxist-Leninists should support nationalism, it’s important to examine the material conditions from which nationalism arises.

As a starting point, it’s important to distinguish a nation from other units of social or geographical organization, like a tribe or country. Historically speaking, national identity is a relatively recent development in class society. In his seminal 1913 work, Marxism and the National Question, Josef Stalin outlines the characteristics of a nation as “a historically evolved, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture.” (2)

Two important characteristics to note about Stalin’s definition. First, while territory and geography is a defining feature of a nation, it is not its sole determining characteristic, meaning that within the existential boundaries of a country–itself a recent social development–many nations may exist. Second, while a common economic life is also a defining characteristic, nations are not formed on the basis of class unity. In other words, there is no proletarian nation or bourgeois nation, but rather these two classes are both part and parcel of their respective nations.

In its inception, nationalism arises as an ideology of the bourgeoisie. From Marxism and the National Question:

The chief problem for the young bourgeoisie is the problem of the market. Its aim is to sell its goods and to emerge victorious from competition with the bourgeoisie of another nationality. Hence its desire to secure its “own,” its “home” market. The market is the first school in which the bourgeoisie learns its nationalism. (2)

Though all classes in a given nation are capable of embracing nationalism, Stalin argues that its historical basis lies in the bourgeoisie and its need for capital accumulation as a class. While other classes can appropriate and have transformed this concept, the demand for national self-determination begins as a bourgeois demand for exclusive access and control of its own national markets and resources.

European and American nationalism, for instance, arose from the break-up of feudal empires and the fledgling bourgeoisie’s struggle to establish itself as a class via primitive accumulation. American merchants, traders, shopkeepers, and speculators, denied full access to the readily available land and resources in North America by British mercantilism, led revolution of 1776 on the basis of American national unity. Though the American revolution of 1776 was waged in the interests of the fledgling bourgeoisie, the working masses rallied to the banner of American nationalism and led a successful struggle against British colonialism. Stalin notes that the “strength of the national movement is determined by the degree to which the wide strata of the nation, the proletariat and peasantry, participate in it.” (2)

Though the role of American nationalism in 1776 was historically progressive, the triumph of the American national movement was fueled by and resulted in the further subjugation of the African masses kidnapped and violently lashed into slave labor, along with the indigenous tribes ruthlessly slaughtered in the expansion of the American empire. Dialectically, American nationalism’s progressive features became the basis for the rise of the most oppressive imperialist power in the history of the world.

Without the subjugation of the African masses as a slave labor force, the Western bourgeoisie could never have established itself as an independent ruling class. Indeed, the same American nationalism that united the colonists against British mercantilism would unite the country in waging genocidal wars for land against indigenous people and Mexicans. After the series of successful European bourgeois revolutions, all ideologically fueled through nationalism, colonialism in Africa, Asia, South America, and the Pacific Islands became central to acquiring the cheap labor and resources necessary to generating extreme national wealth.

Because of the cheap labor and resources acquired through ruthless expansion, American capitalism transformed into imperialism, in which developed countries use force and comparative advantages in trade to violently extract resources and exploit the labor force of other colonies. Central to maintaining the colonial apparatus was the denial of equal rights and the cultivation of racist myths about colonized people, which materially manifested itself in slave labor, apartheid, and denial of access to the liberal democratic institutions established by the colonial bourgeoisie in imperialist countries.

Inevitably, the placement of capital in colonial countries allowed some small fraction of the colonized population to gain access to limited amounts of their own capital, albeit usually dependent on the colonial power. In other words, this small class of propertied yet colonized people constituted a bourgeoisie. Of this bourgeoisie, Stalin writes:

The bourgeoisie of the oppressed nation, repressed on every hand, is naturally stirred into movement. It appeals to its “native folk” and begins to shout about the “fatherland,” claiming that its own cause is the cause of the nation as a whole. It recruits itself an army from among its “countrymen” in the interests of… the “fatherland.” Nor do the “folk” always remain unresponsive to its appeals, they rally around its banner: the repression from above affects them too and provokes their discontent. (2)

The bourgeoisie of oppressed nations has the same basic features as the American and European bourgeoisie, in that both classes sought greater access to their own markets, resources, and labor. However, the conditions around the oppressed national bourgeoisie are qualitatively different than those around the Western bourgeoisie; they cannot seize control of their own national resources because of the fetters of colonialism.

Unquestionably the type of colonial oppression faced by the oppressed national bourgeoisie was different than that felt by the colonized proletariat and peasantry, who faced more brutal repression from the state and worse terms of labor. However, these colonized classes all had something to gain by overthrowing colonial and imperialist rule and achieving self-determination for their nation.

Nationalism becomes vital to the colonized bourgeoisie because it unites themselves and the colonized laboring masses in the struggle for national liberation. At the point where the laboring masses embrace nationalism, “the national movement begins.” (2)

National liberation struggles are not exclusively led by the nationalist bourgeoisie, and historically the bourgeoisie in colonial or semi-colonial nations is often too weak or too connected to the colonizing nation to exert itself independently as a class. Numerous examples of successful revolutionary proletarian national liberation movements exist, including the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). These successful communist movements, like the MPLA, also made use of nationalism to unite the country around the central task of expelling the colonizers. In essence, although nationalism is originally a bourgeois ideology, other revolutionary classes can appropriate it during the national liberation struggle phase.

Saddam Hussein, with an AK-47

Bourgeois nationalist states in the Third World

Because the nationalist bourgeoisie finds itself opposed to imperialism in the Third World, they can function as a tactical ally for the proletariat and peasantry in these same oppressed nations. Marxist-Leninists should never accept this alliance as permanent, however, and must carefully evaluate the place of the national bourgeoisie in relation to imperialism and the vast laboring masses.

Iraq provides one of the most potent examples of the fickle and unreliable nature of the nationalist bourgeoisie. The Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party, for instance, was primarily bourgeois in its orientation and leadership, but it also attracted a mass following in the wake of the Iraq’s independence from British colonialism in 1958. (3)

Ba’ath was not committed to socialist revolution in Iraq, but they did preside over an aggressive nationalization program in 1972, which seized oil refineries from British and American companies and allowed them to diversify Iraq’s economy. Though these nationalizations were motivated by the access considerations of the national bourgeoisie, they also allowed the Ba’ath state to redirect revenues into public works projects that lifted nearly half the country out of poverty. In a 2006 profile piece on Saddam, PBS News writes of Ba’ath’s accomplishments:

As vice chairman, he oversaw the nationalization of the oil industry and advocated a national infrastructure campaign that built roads, schools and hospitals. The once illiterate Saddam, ordered a mandatory literacy program. Those who did not participate risked three years in jail, but hundreds of thousands learned to read. Iraq, at this time, created one of the best public-health systems in the Middle East — a feat that earned Saddam an award from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. (4)

True to form, Saddam and Ba’ath rose to power in direct response to British colonialism. Acting in the interests of the Iraqi national bourgeoisie, they ‘took back’ the resources monopolized by the West’s colonial subjugation and used the revenues to rapidly construct a modern Iraq, which required an educated populace, secular government, a functional road system, and social infrastructure like hospitals. One can question the sincerity of Ba’ath’s actions towards the masses, but one cannot dispute the profoundly positive effect these nationalist policies had on the lives of ordinary Iraqis.

However, the social accomplishments of bourgeois nationalist regimes should never obscure their reactionary character. With both Ba’ath and the Communist Party of Iraq (ICP) vying for supremacy after the 1958 revolution, hostile confrontations between the parties continued until 1963, when Ba’ath launched a coup d’etat against Prime Minister Abdul Karim Qasim. (5) During the coup, communists organized massive militant resistance to Ba’ath, and over the course of the three days in Baghdad, “5,000 Iraqi citizens were apparently killed, including 80 Ba’th Party activists and 340 Iraqi communist activists.” (6)

Following the consolidation of Ba’ath rule in Iraq, the ICP experienced two separate waves of repression: one in 1963 following the coup and the subsequent unrest, and the other in 1977, led by Saddam. (5) Historian Bob Feldman writes in a February 2006 piece on Iraq that “By March 1963, an estimated 10,000 Communist Party of Iraq members had been arrested by the Ba’th regime and many imprisoned Iraqi leftist activists were not treated gently.” (6) Quoting Said Aburish’s book, “A Brutal Friendship: The West and the Arab Elite”, Feldman continues:

The number of people eliminated remains confused and estimates range from 700 to 30,000. Putting various statements by Iraqi exiles together, in all likelihood the figure was nearer five thousand…. There were many ordinary people who were eliminated because they continued to resist after the coup became an accomplished fact, but there were also senior army officers, lawyers, professors, teachers, doctors and others. (6)

The CPI was correct to resist the 1963 Ba’ath coup and oppose the consolidation of a bourgeois nationalist regime. Iraq’s independence in 1958 had shifted their primary adversary from British colonialism to the Iraqi bourgeoisie, seeing as no colonial entity to struggle against still existed. Saddam’s case reminds Marxist-Leninists that it’s strategic to enter into a popular front with bourgeois nationalists against imperialism, but after the national liberation struggle is complete, they constitute a vicious and dangerous foe.

Palestinian women wave PFLP flags

Nationalist governments support revolutionary people’s struggles in the Third World.

Failure to conform to imperialist foreign policy is the most common wedge issue between bourgeois nationalists and the West. Often driven by pan-national ideological unity, bourgeois nationalist countries objectively support revolutionary people’s struggles and national liberation movements abroad, placing them at odds with imperialism.

Finding common ground with the Shi’a-led Iraqi resistance to US occupation, Iran has provided weapons to Iraqi insurgents, as well as training for assembling their own weapons. (7) While many allegations about Iranian aid to the Iraqi resistance are exaggerated by Western capitalist media to ratchet up tensions, journalist Michael Perry describes Iran’s rationale in a February 2007 article:

But let’s go even further and say, for the sake of argument, that the Iraqi insurgents are receiving officially authorized aid from the Iranian state. It is true that having a neighboring nation in chaos does not generally benefit any country, but the Iranians have been under the gun from the U.S. for a very long time –decades in fact. The recent threats and provocations from the Bush administration make it clear that Iran is an imminent target. I’m quite sure the Iranians realize that the quagmire in Iraq is the primary impediment to an American invasion of Iran. Troubles for U.S. forces in Iraq may buy the Iranians more time. Could the Iranians be so blind to their own self-interests? (8)

At odds with Saddam’s secular Sunni government for decades, the Iranian bourgeoisie would relish the opportunity to have an oil-rich Shi’a-dominated Iraq to its west. More pressing, however, is the collective national fear of having another US-client state in the region. There’s a reason that Tehran, and not Qatar, the UAE, or Saudi Arabia, is actively subverting US occupation by materially supporting the Iraqi resistance. That reason, of course, is because the Iran’s ruling nationalist bourgeoisie has a material class interest in anti-imperialism.

The best evidence for the progressive quality of the Iranian nationalist bourgeoisie, embodied in President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is the attempted color revolution in 2009 by the US-backed Mir-Hossein Mousavi. This so-called ‘Green revolution’ was financially supported by both the West and the wealthy neo-liberal bourgeoisie, represented by multi-millionaire former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. (9) In the 2005 Presidential elections, Ahmadinejad defeated Rafsanjani largely on the basis of the latter’s gaudy neo-liberal orientation. A 2005 article in GreenLeft by Doug Lorimer highlights the divergent class interests represented by Ahmadinejad and Rafsanjani. While both accept the fundamental tenents of the Iranian capitalist state:

In the same TV interview [Ahmadinejad] claimed the country’s vast oil wealth was controlled by one powerful family — a reference to Rafsanjani, who is alleged to have enriched himself through his son’s management of the country’s nationalised oil industry. The Rafsanjanis also have investments worth US1 billion in pistachio farming, real estate, automobile manufacture and a private airline.

“The whole Iranian economy is set up to benefit the privileged few”, Ray Takeyh, a professor and director of studies at the US National Defense University’s Near East and South Asia Center in Washington, told the Bloomberg news agency last December. “Rafsanjani is the most adept, the most notorious and the most privileged.” (10)

Rafsanjani, and his running dog Mousavi, hoped to rise to power via a US-supported color revolution and open Iran to Western markets; in other words, they represent the comprador Iranian bourgeoisie. Despite the best efforts of the imperialist powers to oust Ahmadinejad–who by every objective measure legitimately won the 2009 election–the Iranian people resisted these attacks on their national sovereignty. (11) Even as he nears the end of his two terms as President, Ahmadinejad remains popular with the Iranian masses because of his consistent anti-imperialism on the world stage, along with the social programs he has championed at home despite Western sanctions.

Pivoting to another nationalist state, Syria has consistently functioned as the most progressive of the multitude of Middle Eastern countries by substantially supporting the major national liberation movements in the region. Trinity University professor of history David Lesch writes in his fantastic book, The New Lion of Damascus: Bashar al-Asad and Modern Syria that:

Syria does not deny claims of support for Hizbollah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad, viewing that such operations constitute legitimate resistance and not terrorism; indeed, Damascus often views Israeli activities vis-a-vis the Palestinians and its actions in Lebanon as terrorism. (12)

Since the Syrian Ba’ath party took power in 1963, the state has always supported the Palestinian and Lebanese liberation struggles and sought to keep Israeli imperialism in-check. (13) Sharing the common trait of secularism, Syria allows the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the largest Marxist-Leninist revolutionary movement in Palestine, to operate comfortably out of Damascus and materially supports their struggle with supplies and resources. (14) Because of the Syrian bourgeoisie’s desire for regional secular pan-Arab unity–rooted in the Alawi faith of President Bashar al-Assad and others–and the Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights, Assad’s government is objectively anti-imperialist.

Similarly, Saddam’s Ba’ath state in Iraq financially supported and championed the cause of Palestinian national liberation, which was played up by the West in the months leading up to the 2003 invasion. On March 13, 2003–just six days before the invasion–the BBC reported, “Saddam Hussein has paid out thousands of dollars to families of Palestinians killed in fighting with Israel. Relatives of at least one suicide attacker as well as other militants and civilians gathered in a hall in Gaza City to receive cheques.” (15) Later, the same article estimates that the Iraqi government had paid out nearly $35 million to Palestinian families since 2000.

In hindsight, the timing and purpose of this BBC article is obvious, but that Saddam’s support for ‘terrorist groups’ was one of the reasons for the 2003 invasion demonstrates the extreme degree to which his support for the Palestinians offended and scared the West. Startlingly few people remember that Israel invaded Syrian airspace and bombed a peaceful nuclear power plant in September 2007 for many of the same reasons. When a bourgeois state in the Third World becomes nationalist in its orientation, as opposed to comprador bourgeois states, it demands a response from the West.

Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia

Never confuse your primary and secondary contradictions!

Although a multitude of contradictions exist in class societies, at any given time, one of these contradictions is principal in comparison to the others. If a person goes for a walk, decides s/he wants a cigarette, and then gets bitten by a rattlesnake, the order of the day is to call a doctor and receive medical attention immediately for the venom. As much as that person might have wanted–or even needed–a cigarette, only a great fool would tell this person that s/he should prioritize smoking over seeking medical attention.

Primary and secondary contradictions seem like common sense, but a multitude of so-called ‘leftists’ and revolutionaries confuse them when analyzing imperialism. Ultimately, the approach that Marxist-Leninists ought to take to bourgeois nationalist governments is tied up in correctly identifying and acting on primary and secondary contradictions.

Though largely ignored in Marxist-Leninist writings, the experience of the Ethiopian revolution offers valuable insight as to how communists ought to struggle against bourgeois nationalist governments. Having played an instrumental role in repelling the Italian fascist occupation of Ethiopia, Emperor Haile Selassie I began as an archetype bourgeois nationalist. He encouraged pan-African unity, promoted decolonization, and began an aggressive process of modernizing Ethiopia.

That said, Selassie’s government became firmly aligned with the West after World War II and opened the country up to an influx of foreign capital. Presiding over and encouraging severely unequal land distribution, Selassie’s government was also responsible for a series of famines and foot shortages, the worst of which claimed an estimated 40,000 to 80,000 victims. (16) Ahmed Khan of the Communist Workers and Peasants Party in Pakistan writes this of Selassie’s government:

During the monarchical period, life expectancy was a mere 38 years and 90% of the people were illiterate. Only a tiny handful of feudal landowners and royal sycophants controlled the entire wealth of the country.

Severe drought and famine engulfed Ethiopia which led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of peasants, and led to widespread hunger and food crises in the urban areas. (16)

Even bourgeois sources regard these famines as the product of Selassie’s destructive policies. A 1997 report by Human Rights Watch called “Rebellion and Famine in the North under Haile Selassie” indicted the nationalist government for its culpability in this famine, saying:

The Wollo famine was popularly blamed on drought, a backward and impoverishedsocial system, and the cover-up attempted by the imperial government. These factors were all-important — though it must be remembered that specific actions by the government, especiallyafter the Ras Gugsa and Weyane revolts, were instrumental in creating the absence of development. (17)

By 1974, Selassie’s bourgeois government lost all legitimacy in the eyes of the masses. Because of the widespread crises brought on by Selassie’s selective industrial development and close trade relations with the West, Ethiopian workers and peasants began to mobilize against the government. Khan writes, “The inability of the monarchy to deal with the crisis and the propensity of the feudalists to bleed the peasantry dry led to increasing hatred for the monarchy on part of the oppressed peasants, workers and a section of the emergent urban middle class.” (16)

Although no Marxist-Leninist vanguard party existed in Ethiopia at this time, a communist council of military officers known as the Derg organized alongside labor leaders in the urban centers and peasant communities in the countryside to produce the Ethiopian revolution of 1974. (18)

The revolutionary experience of the Ethiopian people in overthrowing Selassie’s government and establishing the People’s Democratic Republic of Ethiopia–firmly committed to socialist construction–has tremendous lessons for Marxist-Leninists about their relation to bourgeois nationalists. Objectively, Selassie’s government was essential to the anti-imperialist and anti-fascist struggle waged against fascist Italy in 1935. The Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA) went so far as to launch a “Hands off Ethiopia” campaign in the same year, which included substantial demonstrations supporting Ethiopia’s right to self-determination (19).

However, classes do not exist in a vacuum. While one class may play a historically progressive role at one time, a change in the material conditions–like increased trade relations with the West following World War II–may render that same class reactionary. For as important as nationalism was to Ethiopia repelling fascist Italy in 1941, the same nationalist government’s reactionary policies reached a boiling point in 1974, resulting in a popular socialist revolution.

The lesson from Ethiopia is clear: Marxist-Leninists in nationalist states must organize with a keen awareness of primary and secondary contradictions. For a moment, let’s assume that an organization like the Derg existed in Ethiopia circa-1935. Said organization would commit a grave error in throwing in with the fascists in hopes of toppling an admittedly reactionary monarchy. First, the organization would undeniably alienate the Ethiopian masses, who despite their poverty and poor military training, flocked to defend their homeland, the only African state never colonized by the West, from fascist occupation. (20) Second, although Selassie’s bourgeois government was at-odds with the interests of Ethiopian workers and peasants, that contradiction receded into the background the moment that fascist Italy began poison gassing entire villages of Ethiopians.

When Mussolini’s forces invaded Ethiopia in 1935, there was only one organized military force capable of mounting a resistance: Selassie’s nationalist government. Unsuccessful at first, Ethiopian patriots of all classes, albeit predominantly workers and peasants, struggled onward to victory and liberation in 1941. That this liberation struggle took place across class lines on a nationalist basis is no small detail. It’s paramount that Marxist-Leninists, in light of Iraq, Libya, and increasing aggression towards Syria, comfortably identify anti-imperialism as the primary contradiction facing the international proletarian revolution today.

Proletarian internationalism is superior in every way to bourgeois nationalism, but so long as neo-colonialism and imperialism exist, communists must unite all who can be united in the anti-imperialist struggle. Simultaneously, though, communists must remember the other side of the dialectic: When bourgeois nationalists become complicit partners in Western imperialism and alienate themselves from the masses, communists must never hesitate to overthrow that state with extreme prejudice and on its ruins erect revolutionary socialism.

The irrelevance and obscurity of the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP) following the toppling of Saddam’s Ba’ath regime demonstrates the devastating effects of incorrectly identifying primary and secondary contradictions.

Saddam was by no means a consistent anti-imperialist throughout his reign. Though Ba’athist Iraq established diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union and China, it still retained casual relations with the West; relations that were strengthened following Saddam’s condemnation of Soviet intervention in the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, as well as the Iranian Revolution in 1979. (21) Between the overthrow of the US-backed Shah, the establishment of a militant Islamic republic, and the Iranian hostage crisis, Iraq began to work closely with the West to curb Tehran’s influence in the Middle East. Though the Reagan Administration would notoriously fund the Iranians also, the US comfortably placed their initial bets behind Saddam in the devastating Iran-Iraq war of 1983-1988.

Even though the imperialists used Saddam during the Iran-Iraq war to sow chaos in the Middle East, the Ba’ath state remained largely at odds with Western interests because of its nationalist orientation. Refusing to privatize its oil industry and allow Western capital to fully penetrate its national markets, the West increasingly saw Saddam as a danger to imperialist interests in the Middle East. Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait over territorial disputes, the subsequent Gulf War, and Saddam’s unabashed support for the Palestinian liberation struggle cemented Iraq’s status as a pariah state in the eyes of the West by the early 1990s.

In an effort to eliminate an unfriendly pro-Palestinian government perched atop massive oil reserves, the US and UK fabricated the now-infamous falsehood that Saddam’s government had weapons of mass destruction. While communists around the world uniformly condemned the imperialist invasion of Iraq, “the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP) welcomed Saddam Hussein’s removal and is happy that the ousted president is to be put on trial.” (22) Exhausted and furious from decades of repression by Ba’ath, the ICP’s position is understandable on a purely visceral and emotional level. However, Marxist-Leninists must remain level-headed during periods of crisis and correctly identify primary and secondary contradictions; a task at which the ICP uniformally failed.

In the coming years, the ICP would come to participate in the puppet state erected by the West–most recently in the liberalizing ‘Political Reconciliation’ movement–and integrate themselves into this comprador government imposed from without. (23) Despite comprising the strongest opposition to the Ba’ath government during the 1960s, the ICP has descended into relative obscurity, having lost any credibility with the masses for their blunder. Instead, Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army and other religious sects comprised the mass base of resistance after Saddam was captured, though their bourgeois and petty-bourgeois class character has led them to also participate in Maliki’s bogus government.

One would think that the international ‘left’ would have learned about correctly handling primary and secondary contradictions after witnessing the failure of the ICP to lead a mass revolutionary resistance to imperialist occupation. Instead, the same ‘leftists’ who witnessed the invasion of Iraq cheerled a racist, imperialist-backed ‘rebel movement’ in Libya, and many made the full leap into supporting NATO’s invasion to oust Qaddafi.

When a nation achieves self-determination, the secondary contradiction between the proletariat and the national bourgeoisie will ascend to the forefront as the new primary contradiction. Before that time, however, the primary contradiction facing the masses in oppressed nations is between imperialism and national liberation. In bourgeois nationalist states, this contradiction can and must draw in all who can be united to strike a blow against imperialism.

Countries want independence.

Nations want liberation.

People want revolution.

—-

(1) Gerald A. Perreira, “Libya Getting it Right: A Revolutionary Pan-African Perspective,” March 4, 2011, Dissent Voice, http://bit.ly/mQT4iz

(2) Josef Stalin, Marxism & the National Question, March-May 1913, http://bit.ly/cwOCSQ

(3) Said K. Aburish, “How Saddam Hussein Came to Power,” 2002, From Saddam Hussein: The Politics of Revenge, Published in The Saddam Hussein Reader, pg. 41-42

(4) Jessica Moore, “Saddam Hussein’s Rise to Power,” 2003, PBS News, http://to.pbs.org/65tro

(5) Turi Munthe (Editor), The Saddam Hussein Reader, 2002, pg. xv-xviii

(6) Bob Feldman, “A People’s History of Iraq: 1950 to November 1963,” February 2, 2006, Toward Freedom, http://bit.ly/qwCar2

(7) CNN, “Iraqi insurgents being trained in Iran, US says,” April 11, 2007, http://bit.ly/nHra0S

(8) Michael Perry, “So what if Iran is Interfering in Iraq?,” February 21, 2007, AntiWar.com, http://bit.ly/ogwqxd

(9) Paul Craig Roberts, “Are the Iranian Protests Another US Orchestrated ‘Color Revolution’?,” June 20-21, 2009, CounterPunch, http://bit.ly/pmXj7w

(10) Doug Lorimer, “IRAN: A vote against neoliberalism,” July 6, 2005, Green Left, http://bit.ly/nYcOll

(11) Terror Free America, New America Foundation, “Ahmadinejad Front Runner in Upcoming Elections,” June 12, 2009, http://bit.ly/k8x0w

(12) David W. Lesch, The New Lion of Damascus: Bashar al-Asad and Modern Syria, 2005, pg. 102

(13) Reuters, “Syrian President Vows to Keep Supporting Hezbollah, Hamas,” August 2, 2007, http://bit.ly/qex219

(14) Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, “PFLP condemns attack on Syria,” November 3, 2008, Fight Back! News, http://bit.ly/qWDlmo

(15) BBC News, “Palestinians get Saddam funds,” March 13, 2008, http://bbc.in/9BWsXr

(16) Ahmed Khan, “Defend Comrade Mengistu! On the struggle of our Ethiopian brothers,” November 19, 2008, Red Diary, http://bit.ly/jbYhks

(17) Human Rights Watch, “3. Rebellion and Famine in the North Under Haile Selassie,” 1997, http://bit.ly/pzy53w

(18) Christopher Clapham, Transformation and Continuity in Revolutionary Ethiopia, 1988, Cambridge University Press.

(19) Robin D.G. Kelley, Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists During the Great Depression, 1990, pg. 123.

(20) A.J. Barker, The Rape of Ethiopia, 1936, 1971.

(21) Said K. Aburish, “How Saddam Hussein Came to Power,” 2002, From Saddam Hussein: The Politics of Revenge, Published in The Saddam Hussein Reader, pg. 44

(22) Shaheen Chughtai, “Iraqi communists celebrate change,” June 1, 2004, http://aje.me/qp5rVW

(23) Talal Alrubaie, “The Iraqi Communist Party and Hegel’s Owl of Minerva,” February 2, 2010, http://bit.ly/rqF6fr

Source

Comments on Meles Zenawi’s Death

DAVOS/SWITZERLAND, 26JAN12 – Meles Zenawi, Prime Minister of Ethiopia speaks during the session ‘Africa — From Transition to Transformationy’ at the Annual Meeting 2012 of the World Economic Forum at the congress centre in Davos, Switzerland, January 26, 2012.

8 May 1955 – 20 August 2012

U.S. Neocolonial Ruler Dies; Question arise about alleged communist “Marxist-Leninist” past

Ethiopian President Meles Zenawi is dead. Wiki defines him as “one of Africa’s strongmen, he was also an ally of the United States’ War on Terror.”

A little-known fact about the pro-Western neocolonial dictator is that he once claimed to be Marxist-Leninist. Although his ruling coalition is the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, which is mainly made up of the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front, a guerrilla group fighting the Ethiopian Civil War, a group of which Meles was also a member, Meles Zenawi was also one of the founders and leaders of the Marxist-Leninist League of Tigray, which was apparently pro-Albania.

Wiki says,

“He graduated from the General Wingate High school in Addis Ababa, then studied medicine at Addis Ababa University (at the time known as Haile Selassie University) for two years before interrupting his studies in 1975 to join the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). Aregawi Berhe, a former member of the TPLF, notes that in their histories of the TPLF both John young and Jenny Hammond “vaguely indicate” that Meles was one of the founders of the TPLF. Aregawi insists that both he and Sibhat Nega joined the Front “months” after it was founded. While a member of the TPLF, Zenawi founded the Marxist-Leninist League of Tigray. His first name at birth was “Legesse” (thus Legesse Zenawi, Ge’ez: ለገሰ ዜናዊ legesse zēnāwī). However, he eventually became better known by his nom de guerre Meles, which he later adopted in honour of university student and fellow Tigray Meles Tekle who was executed by Mengistu’s government in 1975.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meles_Zenawi

About the Marxist-Leninist League of Tigray (MLLT), Wiki says,

“The Marxist-Leninist League of Tigray (MLLT) was a semi-clandestine Hoxhaist Communist party that held a leading role in the Tigrayan Peoples’ Liberation Front (TPLF) in the 1980s. The majority of the TPLF leadership held dual membership in the MLLT, including the current Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi.

[….]

Posing as orthodox defenders of Marxism-Leninism and allying itself with the communist current associated with the hard-line Enver Hoxha regime in Albania, the MLLT saw its goals as spreading Marxism-Leninism throughout the world and “engaging in a bitter struggle against all brands of revisionism,” which they defined using the parlance of the Albanian ruling Communist Party of Labor, as including “Khrushchevism, Titoism, Trotskyism, Euro-Communism and Maoism.”

Zenawi fought against the Soviet-backed Derg military regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam in Ethiopia. His group eventually overthrew him. But Ethiopia is far from socialist. Ethiopia is ruled by capitalists and big landowners, and Zenawi became a Western ally, supporting the War on Terror and helping to send U.S. troops into Somalia.

What explains this change of character from an apparent Marxist-Leninist to a Western ally and puppet?

Here’s one explanation:

“After the defeat at Shire, the Derg abandoned all of Tigray to the rebels, and the EPRDF’s expanding guerrilla alliance started the military and political manoeuvres that would end in the takeover of Addis Ababa two years later. The Soviet bloc was close to casting Mengistu adrift. No belated acts of liberalization would save him. For his part Meles Zenawi, barely known outside Tigray, began introducing himself to a wider world.

An early encounter with the western press led to an observation that has dogged him ever since. He told an interviewer at the end of 1989 that the Soviet Union and other eastern bloc countries had never been truly socialist and added, ‘The neatest any country comes to being socialist as far as we are concerned is Albania.’ As Meles set off in 1990 on his first venture to the United States, his aspiration to the mantle of Enver Hoxha and to run Ethiopia on Albanian lines did not inspire much confidence.

In Washington he met the veteran Ethiopia-watcher Paul Henze. Henze was as impressed by Meles as many foreigners have been in the years since, and he made detailed notes after two long conversations. Meles had to deal first with the Albanian connection. ‘I have never been to Albania,’ Meles told Henze. ‘We do not have any Albanian contacts. We are not trying to imitate in Tigray anything the Albanians have done.’

Meles was equally keen to reject the Marxist tag. ‘We are not a Marxist-Leninist movement,’ he said. ‘We do have Marxists in our movement. I acknowledge that. I myself was a convinced Marxist when I was a student at [Addis Ababa University] in the early 1970s, and our movement was inspired by Marxism. But we learned that Marxism was not a good formula for resistance to the Derg and our fight for the future of Ethiopia.’

As the EPRDF moved out of the countryside to take over the towns and the cities, it emerged into a post-communist world, and a rapid political make-over was needed. ‘When we entered Addis Ababa, the whole Marxist-Leninist structure was being disgraced,’ said General Tsadkan. ‘We had to rationalize in terms of the existing political order . . . capitalism had become the order of the day. If we continued with our socialist ideas, we could only continue to breed poverty.'”

(Peter Gill. Famine and Foreigners: Ethiopia Since Live Aid. New York: Oxford University Press. 2010. pp. 74-75.)

The sides of the Ethiopian Civil War were very opportunist. In the book “Talk of the Devil,” a series of interviews of former leaders by Riccardo Orizio, Mengistu admitted that he would have been either pro-U.S., pro-Chinese, or pro-Soviet; whoever gave more aid.

PCMLE: Famine in Africa or denial of food?

October 18, 2011

“This land is so fertile that there is nothing that can not be grown here, we do not need fertilizers or herbicides”, is the assertion of a happy businessman farmer. One would think that refers to the lands of the pampas of Argentina, the banks of the Parana Basin Guayas or Mississippi, but no, it is a statement that speaks of Ethiopian land; apparent contradiction, then, the world knows that the people of that African country dies of hunger.

Recent news tells of a drought that flares up in 2011. It is the strongest in 60 years, brings famine to countries in the Horn of Africa, leaving the edge of death to more than twelve million people.

The Horn of Africa is made up also Somalia, Eritrea, Djibouti and parts of Kenya. Covering a population of approximately one hundred million inhabitants, of whom over 14% are suffering from hunger, and for whom the UN has appealed the world to donate 1.9 billion dollars, which do not reach.

Somalia is in the midst of an internal conflict that drives thousands of people fleeing violence and seeking food. They travel to Kenya or Ethiopia deepening crises themselves living these countries. The United Nations have done little. Send requests for donations, send peacekeeping troops to try to sustain the imperialist positions in Somalia, delivered a few tons of food. Hillary Clinton, without blushing, said that if Africans do not understand one they can not expect international aid continues to arrive, as if she didn’t represent the country that has done more damage to the planet.

This image of the Horn of Africa is presented as an obvious justification for the famine that is almost a constant. But the impossibility of maintaining order, the government or the law is just or justification in a case where that situation has not prevented those in power to sell or lease the best land in their countries to transnational corporations, title ” appropriate to use underutilized land. ”

The sale or rental of productive land to companies for their production is exported and sold at high prices in times like the present one, in which the FAO has reported that food prices have strong tendencies to rise, is in the facts, the reason for the famine in the Horn of Africa persists.

This is a neo-colonialist policies promoted by the UN through the FAO considers that fertile land should be properly exploited. With this argument the World Bank has legal changes opened the possibility that countries and large corporations to buy or lease large blocks of time for major production areas.

“India, Saudi Arabia and China are the first purchasers of land in Africa. But Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and companies in Sweden, Germany and UK, “claims a reporter. Likewise, these negotiations are benefiting from large corporations such as Karuturi, an Indian company located among the 25 largest in the world in the field of agriculture land in Ethiopia qaue rented in rice farming then exported to their country. So does the company Star, the Saudi billionaire Al Moudi, which invested 2 billion dollars. Beidahuang Group of Chinese capital has in Africa and other continents over two billion hectares.

So capitalism again show its savagery, violence, recklessness, inhumanity, … Their representatives, leaders, entrepreneurs to cry out for peace, while performing these policies of appropriation of foreign bread-only show that this system leads to the annihilation of mankind. In times of crisis like the present, sustain the rate of profit is not repaired at no cost.

Source

Series on Maoist Revisionism: Maoist China’s Foreign Policy: 1970s and 1980s

The Third World

Asia

(a) SOUTHEAST ASIA. Only in China’s traditional “sphere of influence” has the People’s Republic given consistent material support to powers abroad – to North Korea and North Vietnam – and verbal support to movements against governments with which it has friendly diplomatic relations.

In the case of VIETNAM extended recognition and material aid before the Soviet Union, and its artillery was an important factor in the final siege of Dien Bien Phu. However, at the Geneva Peace Talks in 1954, both the Soviet Union and China tried their utmost to persuade the Vietminh to accept partition and not to sweep the French out of Vietnam. [36] It was not clear whether this flowed from the same fear of extending the war as guided Stalin in his efforts to force the Chinese Communists to make concessions to the Kuomintang in the 1930s. However, the Vietnam problem remained unsolved and broke out in a much more massive form in the 1960s.

As we have seen, China’s role in the second war in Vietnam involved both an expanded flow of aid and a careful stabilization of its role with the United States. The détente with Nixon provoked a reaction in Hanoi, but perhaps the Vietnamese simply wished to keep both its powerful patrons at arm’s length. The new united State took over the claims of its southern half, including the Paracel (Hsisha) and Spratly (Nansha) islands in the South China Sea, both of them also claimed by the People’s Republic. It is said there may be oil reserves beneath the islands, and also that China fears the establishment of a Soviet base in the area which would dominate the far eastern shipping lanes. Whatever the reasons, China stated her position unequivocally: “All islands belonging to China must certainly return to the bosom of the motherland”, and “The archipelagos of the South Sea are our sacred territory and we have a responsibility to defend them.”. [37]

Perhaps this territorial issue became as sharp as it did because of the estimate of the Soviet threat, which also caused China to revise her attitude towards four countries hitherto seen as US clients – Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore.

In 1971, THAILAND, in the view of the People’s Republic, was ruled by the “Thanom clique” of American puppets. However, the first contacts between the two regimes were made in that year. They agreed to end hostile radio propaganda and open up trade. The Thai Prime Minister, Pramoj Kukrit, made a State visit, and signed an agreement with China, Article 8 of which instructed Chinese nationals in Thailand to “abide by the law of the Kingdom of Thailand, respect the customs and habits of the Thai people and live in amity with them”. [38] that is, not to “make revolution”. Mao, according to Kukrit, denied that any aid was given to insurgents in Thailand or to the clandestine Voice of the Thai People radio; he advised Kukrit not to be troubled by the insurgents of the Thai Communist Party – “since it is small, it should not be dangerous”. No protest was made when the Thai civilian régime was once more overthrown with great bloodshed in the autumn of 1976.

In the PHILIPPINES President Marcos was engaged in a four-year programme of establishing a civilian dictatorship, destroying all opposition, including both supporters of Mao Tse-tung thought (operating for several years as partisans in the Central Luzon province) and a Muslim rebellion in the south. In September 1974, Marcos’ wife, Imelda, was invited to China where she met Mao and was offered Chinese crude oil in a trading agreement. In June the following year, her husband followed her on a State visit. Marcos was overwhelmed by the hospitality, referring to China as the “natural leader of the Third World” (Chou reassured him that no material aid went to the Communist rebels in Luzon), and adopting the slogan of “self-reliance”. Indeed, the President, one of the closest allies of the United States in the east Pacific, despatched a stream of missions to China to learn how to copy certain institutions, and even set up a “Commune” in Leyte, Manila.

MALAYSIA made the same transition. In 1970, the NCNA reported that the “Rahman-Razak clique” was terrified by the guerillas of the Malaysian Communist Party and its power was crumbling. [39] Nonetheless, diplomatic relations were announced in 1974, and half of the “clique”, Tun Abdul Rahman, duly made the pilgrimage to Peking. He was assured no material aid was being given by the Chinese to the Malaysian guerillas. Later, in April 1975, the Prime Minister was upset by the Chinese Communist party’s greetings to the Malaysian party on the occasion of its forty-fifth foundation anniversary (the actual message was critical of the warring factions of the party, and urged it to stay away from the urban areas). No doubt the Chinese ambassador reassured the Malaysian Prime Minister that the message had no real significance. However, it could be used as a bargaining counter on some future occasion, much as Stalin tried to use the Chinese Communist party in bargaining with Chiang Kai-shek.

SINGAPORE’s opposition has been successively repressed by the régime of Lee Kuan Yew. On his State visit in 1976, Prime Minister Hua Kuo-feng assured him that Singapore’s treatment of rebels would evoke no protest from China (an assurance published in the Singapore press but not in the Chinese).

What were the contradictions the People’s Republic sought to exploit in these four cases? They were not utilizing any “major contradictions” at all, nor were they trying to compete with the United States, which was no longer seen as an enemy. It was a simple territorial security exercise, an exercise that in all but open expression consigned the domestic rebels to insignificance and permitted the regimes concerned to claim that they had Chairman Mao in their support.

INDONESIA remained, at the time of writing, the last country of the area (apart from Singapore) without diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic. The régime under General Suharto originally came to power through a military coup in 1965. Up to that time, Indonesia was governed by President Sukarno, basing himself latterly on the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) and the army. The PKI had followed a policy of creating a United Front, but without independent territories or armed forces. In practice, this meant sacrificing its radical policies – for example, land reform – to maintaining the alliance with forces that, in some cases, represented those liable to suffer in any land reform. It meant also that the PKI offered entirely uncritical support for Sukarno, calling for a strengthening of his government (his so-called “Guided Democracy”). Sukarno, on the other hand, needed a civilian counterweight to the powerful army, which the PKI provided. Sukarno therefore protected the party from the army and advanced its position in the government (although never in the decisive agencies governing the defence forces). Under Sukarno’s patronage the party became the largest Communist party outside the Eastern Bloc, with a claimed membership of three million, and between eight and ten million in party front organizations. But it was captive to Sukarno’s purposes, for it could raise radical demands for domestic change only at the cost of its position in the Indonesian government.

China gave strong support both to the PKI and to Sukarno, even though the PKI’s policy was one of united front without armed struggle. It was impossible to have the one with the other; had the PKI tried to create its own military forces, the army would have seized power.

In September 1965, a section of the palace guard launched a coup against the main leadership of the army. The army counter-attacked, alleging that the conspiracy was hatched by the PKI and China; it was further alleged that China had flown arms in to the leading air force base for use in the coup. The military rapidly won control, and there followed one of the most appalling massacres in modern history. More than half a million people were slaughtered by the army and its supporters; 200,000 PKI members lost their lives, including forty-five of the fifty central committee members. Many hundreds of thousands of others were gaoled.

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