Category Archives: National Liberation

ICMLPO: Communiqué on the Death of Fidel Castro

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On January 1 1959 the Cuban revolution triumphed. Several years of guerrilla struggle waged in the mountains of the Island, courageous fights of the working class, youth and people developed in the cities culminated in victory. Ninety miles from Yankee imperialism, the Cuban revolutionaries broke with the thesis of “geographic fatalism” according to which, because of the proximity of the United States, It was not possible to make the revolution in Latin America.

The achievements of the Revolution, the agrarian reform, the nationalization of all the US enterprises, the eradication of illiteracy, the health care and education involved the working masses and the youth; these awakened the solidarity of the workers and peoples of the world, especially of Latin America. They pointed the way to the armed revolutionary struggle. But they also unleashed the hatred of international reaction, the war-like actions of the United States, the invasion of Playa Giron {Bay of Pigs] and hundreds of terrorist actions, the trade embargo, which failed, over almost sixty years, due to the heroic resistance of the Cuban people and revolutionaries.

The heroic deeds of the workers and peasants, of the Cuban youth was able to develop and led to victory with the defeat of the tyranny and the establishment of people’s power. It succeeded in promoting the achievements, social and economic transformations and resisting and overcoming all sorts of attacks by imperialism and reaction. All this was possible due to the formation and forging of a revolutionary party, the July 26th Movement, which was able to adopt correct and timely guidelines, which was able to lead the social and political forces to struggle and victory. Among the members of the revolutionary command were many political and military leaders, Camilo Cienfuegos, Che, Frank Pais, Raul Castro. Among all of them, Comandante FIDEL CASTRO stood out as the leader, who participated actively and directly from the first combats, playing the role of organizer, strategist, popular leader and head of state.

Social revolutions are the work of the masses, but they could not be possible without the guidance of the revolutionary leaders who arise in the heat of combat but who achieve dimensions that determine the course and development of the processes.

The workers and peasants, youth, revolutionaries, the “July 26” Movement, the revolutionary commanders and Comandante Fidel Castro led a popular revolution that took place in a small country that confronted the strongest power on the planet and was able to resist.

Fidel Castro died fulfilling his duties and responsibilities. His words and deeds throughout his long life as a combatant will endure, they constitute the testimony of the courage and tenacity of a people, they express the convictions and commitment of a revolutionary.

The Marxist Leninist Parties and Organizations integrated in the ICMLPO express their communist sentiments to the working class, the people and the Cuban revolutionaries.

November 2016
Coordinating Committee of the International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organizations, ICMLPO

ICMLPO Resolution on Colombia

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

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

The results of the plebiscite

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

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

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

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

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

The Nobel to Santos

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

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

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

Our support and solidarity

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

XXII PLENARY OF THE INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE OF MARXIST-LENINIST PARTIES AND ORGANIZATIONS (ICMLPO)
Denmark, October 2016

Final Declaration of the 25th International Anti-Fascist and Anti-imperialist Youth Camp

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On August 10, 2016, the 25th International Anti-Fascist and Anti-Imperialist Youth Camp (IAFAIYC) ended, which began on August 3 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, under the slogan: For solidarity, peace and freedom. Hundreds of democratic, progressive, environmentalist, leftist, feminist, anti-fascist, anti-imperialist and revolutionary youths met to analyze the realities of each people, coming from: Puerto Rico, Ecuador, Haiti, United States, Canada, Colombia, England, Venezuela, Turkey, Germany, Brazil, Mexico.

These were days of important work, of profound analysis on the issues dealt with that, together with cultural and sports activities, promoted the integration of the countries and peoples taking part.

An important part of the youth who are promoting changes in the world and are fighting in different continents and regions met in the Dominican Republic to discuss their realities, to make known their demands and to agree on the international tasks of the youths who desire profound transformations for their peoples. The 25th Camp demands from us a fundamental task, the work for the 26th IAFAIYC to be held in another corner of the planet in 2018 and that already demands our preparation and work.

The discussions taken up during the Camp reflect the common problems that we young people have in the world: unemployment, exploitation, lack of access to education, discrimination and criminalization, among others, which the capitalist system subjects us to permanently, as it does to other social sectors of each of our peoples.

The discussions taken up during the Camp show us that the enemies of the youths and peoples of the world are common: the ruling classes of each of our countries, the bourgeoisies; the imperialist powers that are trying at all times to secure the economic, cultural and political dependence of our peoples; the international monopolies that take over our territories to loot our natural resources and condemn the workers to low-paid work-days. We thus declare that the fundamental opponents of the rights and interests of the youths and peoples of the world are capitalism and imperialism.

In various countries, imperialism’s thirst for profit is promoting a tendency toward fascism in certain states and therefore they use the most reactionary violence, they promote the criminalization of social protest, terrorism, drug trafficking, para-militarism, and through these means of intimidation and oppression they are trying to contain the determined struggle that is being taken up in the different countries and these phenomena are being aggravated.

In this context, on October 10, 2015, in Ankara Turkey an attack took place on a demonstration of democratic sectors that rejected the repressive and anti-popular policy of the Erdogan regime. It left 245 injured and 95 dead, of whom four were young comrades who were part of the 24th IAFAIYC held in Izmir, Turkey, two years ago.

On February 3, 2014, a communist militant from the state of Morelos, Mexico, Gustavo Alejandro Salgado Delgado, who began his political action at the 19th IAFAIYC in Mexico, was assassinated by the state. Today the youth of the world are holding high the banners of justice for these fallen comrades, they are denouncing the repressive actions of these regimes and their moves toward fascism, which are a reflection of their weakness, because their institutions have lost their authority and are no longer able to continue ruling as they did before.

During the 25th IAFAIYC, the youths of Venezuela, the popular organizations and the sectors of the Left endured the forced disappearance and later assassination of comrade Julio Blanco, who attended and was one of the organizers of the 23rd International Camp held in that country in 2012.

For our comrades fallen in the midst of struggle, who together with us and thousands more men and women dreamed of a different world, in which we would all be truly free, we raise our voices and our fists demanding justice and prison for those responsible. We make a determined commitment to continue their battles in each of our countries until we achieve victory.

Those of us who attended the 25th IAFAIYC came from different corners of the planet and we discussed our struggles and battles. In Europe hundreds of thousands of young people have taken to the streets to reject the neoliberal labor reforms aimed at curtailing the rights of young workers, subjecting them to increasingly harsh work days, with ever-decreasing wages in a context in which the capitalist states are strengthening their adjustment policies, which are anti-worker, anti-people and they are trying to place this burden on the peoples and make its consequences fall on the peoples, workers and youths. In the Americas, banners are raised in defense of public, secular, quality and universal education against the ruling corrupt right-wing regimes, which discriminate against the youth. We demand a greater budget for social services; we reject the anti-popular laws and policies in different countries that curtail the rights and freedoms of youth. In all the corners of the planet we constantly dream and struggle to win a world radically different from the one that capitalism gives us and to which imperialism subjects us; we struggle for life and freedom, for a real democracy so that we who create the wealth are the ones who we can define the future of our peoples.

With the same force and intensity, we discussed our problems, we expressed our solidarity with the peoples struggling for their independence, for recognition of their territories such as Palestine and the Kurdish people, against forced displacement, against the discriminatory policies that legitimize wars and hunger to which capitalism and imperialism subject millions of men and women in countries such as Kenya, Somalia and Haiti.

We express our solidarity and support for the men and women of the world who have become refugees due to the aggression promoted by the imperialist powers, which are taking place in regions such as the Middle East. We condemn the imperialist wars that seek to plunder the resources of the peoples; we reject the interventions of the world powers that seek to expand their zones of influence and increase their degree of subjection; we want no more wars in which the young people are forced to become cannon fodder of the violence of the system, we demand peace and self-determination for the peoples of the world.

We emphasize the role of women as essential protagonists in the social transformations and the productive development of the peoples; we recognize and reject the conditions of super-exploitation and structural violence of which they are victims. We reject all forms of sexual discrimination and oppression as we condemn their patriarchal and misogynist character, a product of the imperialist-capitalist system.

The unity of the workers of the world is fundamental for our demands and aspirations to be met, to stop the policies of terror of the capitalist states; it is indispensable to strengthen the principle of internationalism, to promote solidarity among the youths of the world. We are building the unity of the youths, workers and peoples through the exchange of experiences, broad and democratic discussion of our problems, political accords that denounce the evils of capitalism and imperialism in all corners of the planet. We are following and supporting the struggles that are unfolding in different countries, and especially the struggle and mobilization that we are developing in each of our countries in defense of our rights and interests and those of our peoples. Only in this way can we stop the looting, war, fascism and the whole imperialist policy imposed on the broad majority subjected to and exploited by capitalism and imperialism.

This camp is a reflection of the joy and rebellion of the youths of the world, of the renewing character of those of us who feel angry and demand profound transformations in each of our countries. All the energies of the youths of the world, all the battles that we take up should be aimed in one direction, against capitalism and imperialism, in order to break the chains of exploitation, domination, oppression, discrimination and dependency to which we are subjected. hey must be directed toward profound changes, that will guarantee the victory of the emancipation of each of our peoples. The course that the young people of the planet who are struggling against capitalism, imperialism and fascism must take should be one of the revolution and the building of a new society, a socialist society.

Let us lift up our voices, our struggle and the unity of the anti-fascist and anti-imperialist youth of the world!

Santo Domingo Dominican Republic, August 10, 2016

Organizations that Signed the Resolutions of the 25th International Anti-Fascist and Anti-Imperialist Youth Camp:
Revolutionary Youth of Ecuador
National Student Coordinator – Mexico
Union of Revolutionary Youth of Mexico
Federation of Socialist Peasant Students of Mexico
Movement of Popular Organizations – Haiti
Union of Rebel Youth – Brazil
Delegation of Puerto Rico
Current of Anti-Fascist and Anti-Imperialist Youth – Venezuela
Caribbean Youth – Dominican Republic
Flavio Suero Student Front – Dominican Republic

The 25th International Camp discussed the particular problems of each of the participating countries; their debates allow us to affirm and endorse the present political agreements, which express the analysis and denunciation of their problems and the banners of struggle that the youths of each peoples are taking up in their respective territories.

Venezuela

Venezuela is facing an economic, political and social crisis. This is taking place in the context of the general crisis of capitalism, of the condition imposed by the continuing dependency and is now in a process of renegotiating its economy, affected mainly by the low price of oil and the sabotage by the bourgeoisie. It has a democratic and popular government, but one that has acted by conciliating the interests of the proletarian class as a solution to the crisis. All these factors, coupled with a strong imperialist offensive, are contributing to a sharpening of the contradictions of the class struggle in this country.

The different scenarios were presented, in which the bourgeoisie is seeking as soon as possible to retake full power in order to suppress the popular movement. Against this this revolutionary youth, together with the workers, peasants and community organization, is raising the banner of anti-imperialist revolutionary popular unity, UPRA, which is the platform that today calls on us to bring together a broad accumulation of all the popular, democratic and revolutionary forces against imperialist intervention and fascist reaction.
Ecuador

The 25th IAFAIYC held in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, between August 3 and 10, 2016, expresses its solidarity with the youth, workers and peoples of Ecuador who are promoting unity and struggle in opposition to the government of Rafael Correa that, with a leftist discourse, is promoting reforms aimed at consolidating capitalism and affecting the popular sectors.

We representatives of the 12 countries in Europe, Asia and the Americas join with the struggle taken up by the student movement against the government policy aimed at reserving education for the elite and imposing improvised reforms that threaten educational rights, as well as the repression against hundreds of students and social leaders. We support – in that sense – the demand for the dismissal of Education Minister Augusto Espinosa who is currently facing a political trial for incompetence; we stand in solidarity with Cotopaxi Technical, Andean and FLACSO [Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences] universities that are being attacked by the government. We reject the attempt to make illegal the historic teachers’ union, the National Union of Educators, a measure that is one more fruitless attempt by the regime to silence the voice of the largest union in Ecuador, the representative of the teachers and promoter of an emancipating education. Finally, we wish for the success of the National Accord for Change, a unitary candidacy based on the unity achieved among union sectors, the indigenous and social movements that, after defeating the government in the days of popular mobilization, is prepared to take part in the next electoral process and defeat the right-wing that is governing and the traditional sectors that seek to recover lost ground.

Haiti

Education has a multiple effect on human development, therefore in our country the lack of this tool forces us to accept the capitalist and imperialist propositions; in this regard, we are firm in our resolve to fight against the empire by means of Education.

Puerto Rico

As anti-imperialist youths, we understand that it is indispensable to support the struggle for the liberation of the peoples. That is why we express our full support for the struggle for the independence of Puerto Rico. This is a necessity to weaken the imperial domination in the Caribbean region and our Americas. In addition, this will save our youth from the oppression of the empire that, besides expressing itself through its neoliberalism, is now taking on new intensity with Fiscal Control Board, established by the Congress of the United States. Similarly, we understand the importance of the political integration among the rank and file movements of our peoples. We propose an Antillean federation as a political tool to concretize and give strength to the struggle to expel the Yankee invader from our territories in the Caribbean.

Moreover, we demand the freedom of all political prisoners and prisoners of war in the Yankee jails. We must never leave behind our comrades in the dungeons. They are revolutionary comrades who understood the consequences of the revolutionary struggle and took it up with discipline and commitment.

France

The development of the policies in Europe is the result of the war in the Middle East and the refugee crisis. After the explosions in some European countries, a state of emergency was declared, as in France and Belgium, which is why many young people and the opposition have been confronted by force. The right-wing parties and organizations in Europe have used the explosions and refugees in order to spread their ideas.

Hundreds of young people have taken to the streets against such ideas with an anti-fascist struggle.

Moreover, the workers and youth in France are taking up the fight against the anti-democratic, labor law; for many months, the population has taken to the streets fighting for their future.

Turkey

Day by day fascism is gaining strength in Turkey, under the shadow of explosions and war; one single man, Erdogan, is increasing persecution and under him, a one-party dictatorship is being built. Due to this, the working class, the laboring people, youth and women are forced to live in a world of darkness and oppression. However, if they hide the sun from us we will fight in the darkness.

As youth of Turkey, we will continue our struggle for bread, peace, work and freedom. We say to the world that what we have done here we will bring back to our country in order to strengthen international solidarity.

Mexico

The regime’s offensive is against the youth and the whole Mexican people. The implementation of the 12 structural reforms is to ensure maximum profit and the plunder of our natural resources by imperialism, mainly U.S. imperialism.

To ensure this, the state is imposing measures with a fascist content; Mexico is now experiencing an arduous struggle due to the events of September 26 and 27, 2014, in Iguala, Guerrero, where the comrades of the Raul Isidro Burgos rural teacher’s college in Ayotzinapa were victims of one of the most shocking repressions in the country’s history. This led to the assassination of three student teachers by firearms with one of them being killed in the most brutal manner, with his face mutilated, and the arrest and disappearance of 43 student teachers by the state.

Also the National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE) is carrying out a nationwide strike calling for unity of all sectors of the country to combat the structural reforms, primarily the educational ones. Despite the repression that this process has undergone with a new massacre of 14 people in Nochixtlan, Oaxaca, last June 19, today we declare that the struggle against imperialism and its fascist violence should be taken up by the Mexican youth and people, defending in unity the rights we have gained and building a revolutionary process that will transform this system from its roots.

For the presentation alive of the 43 student teachers of Ayotzinapa 43 who have been detained-disappeared by the state!

Stop state terrorism; free the political prisoners!

Solidarity and struggle with the CNTE; down with the educational reforms and all the structural reforms!

Unity and struggle of all the anti-fascist and anti-imperialist youth!

Brazil

At the 25th IAFAIYC we state that we are living through a time of great political and economic backwardness in the country. This was no counter-revolution, because the 13 years of the Workers’ Party (PT) and its policy of class conciliation, called “coalition presidentialism,” in order to hide its actual content, never created any obstacles for the development of capitalism and the domination of the bourgeois class in the economy and politics of the country. This was done in order to protect the bosses of the workers and ensure the implementation of this policy. It is a fact that people had a number of guaranteed rights, particularly the right to demonstrate and in reality there were social programs that improved the living conditions of the poorest people, the real wage increase, the structural or deep transformation of the economy and politics. We are experiencing a period of great struggles of the youth, such as the more than 700 occupations of schools, the resistance in the universities against the cutbacks to student enrollment by the illegitimate government and the general strike of institutions and the demonstrations Temer Must Go that are now taking place at the Olympics.

The Brazilian youth have always taken part with all our energy in the main struggles of the country, in support of the workers and all our people. Today we continue to play the combative role on the road to major changes for solidarity, peace and freedom in the world; we are on the march towards socialism.
Colombia

The young people taking part in the 25th Anti-Imperialist and Anti-Fascist International Youth Camp, IAFAIYC-2016, held in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, from August 3 to 10, 2016, extend their embrace of solidarity and combat to the struggle of the Colombian people for their social liberation, for freedoms and rights and for the structural changes that the immense majority of the exploited and oppressed desire. In addition, we raise the banner of the importance of placing at the center of the debate the fight for a true peace with redistributive social justice, that is, a peace that challenges the profound relations of exploitation of man by man and the economic model that this entails.

These demands can only achieve the importance that they deserve, to the degree that a broad national dialogue on the situation in the country and the roots of the conflict is created, in order to begin the call for a National Constituent Assembly, of a democratic character and with full participation of the sectors and organizations that represent the people, analyzing all their demands and providing the conditions to choose a patriotic government of the people and for the people.

Long live the just struggles of the Colombian people!

Long live Peace with redistributive social justice!

National Constituent Assembly now!

Dominican Republic

The political system that prevails in the Dominican Republic excludes the youth from politics that are directed to the full development of their dreams and desires. The youth have been deprived of their right to study, to work and even sometimes their right to live, as a result of governments that have had as their main objective to keep our people steeped in ignorance and thus to perpetuate themselves in power without difficulty.

Equity and the inclusion in the decision-making of the state should have a wider participation of the youth. There must be guarantees for developing a program that truly represents us in all areas of the state, which is responsible for ensuring the people’s rights.

To summarize, organize and direct actions to take the power away from the ruling class is the most urgent task of the progressive and revolutionary youth of the Dominican Republic.

Long live the 25th International Anti-Fascist and Anti-Imperialist Youth Camp!!!
Long live the solidarity and unity of the peoples!!!

Withdraw from Syria for the War to End!

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The shelling of Jarablus targeting ISIS, following the attack on a Kurdish wedding in Gaziantep that took 54 lives, show that the government have not learnt anything from the outcomes of its policy on Syria. Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş had stated “What Turkey is suffering today is a result of the policy on Syria”. However, this did not lead to his government giving up its role in fueling the fighting in Syria.

Since the beginning, the government has just said “West of the Euphrates is our red line”, “A Kurdish formation in Northern Syria cannot be allowed”, “A buffer zone should be created at the border” and tried all it can to redraw the Syrian map to suit its own interests; this foreign policy have hit the wall on every occasion, but the Turkish government has not taken a step back from its position regarding Syria.

Nevertheless, the plans drawn up in Ankara have not been realized; Democratic Syrian Forces have passed the red lines, Manjib was taken and the Jarablus corridor besieged. US delegation visits to Turkey in the last two days, the visit of Barzani, the anticipated visit of Putin, the attempted coup, the return of Gülen, the wedding massacre, the Zarrab case; these are indicators of the cards laid on the table for negotiations and to the multi-fronted dirty diplomacy carried out to achieve its aims in Syria.

Regardless, the strategy produced outside Syrian borders will not succeed. The government representatives will continue making the same mistakes while stating “we made a mistake”. What we see today is nothing but a different version of the same policy.

The Syria policy of the AKP government brought nothing but misery and death to the peoples of the region. The support provided to armed Jihadi forces brought the conditions of war to within our borders. The result of the government’s Kurdish-phobia has been chaos within the Syrian borders and devastation at home.

Turkey should keep its hands off Syria, stop supporting armed gangs and avoid agreements with imperialist powers, which will continue the bloodbath in the region. Turkey’s insistence to control parts of Syria, interfere with regional maps and the attempted demographic planning mean continued devastation for both Turkish and Syrian populations.

The only way to fight these policies of war is the people and workers uniting for peace and democracy. This need has been harshly demonstrated as the International Day of Peace on 21 September approaches.

Policies of war must be abandoned, attacks on Syrian lands must cease; borders must be closed to armed reactive forces, imperialists must stop interfering in the region!

This is the way to avoid a mistake in Syria and to protect our country from the results of such a mistake.

Selma Gürkan
President

Source

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

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

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

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

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

Popular Participation

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

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

Range of Political Choice

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

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

Access to the Ballot

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

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

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

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

Accessibility to the Electorate

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

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

Absence of Coercion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

System of Representation

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

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

Minorities

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

Political Dissent

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

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

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

Religious Freedom

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

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

Human Needs

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

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

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

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

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

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Michael Parenti: The Costs of Counterrevolution: Must We Ignore Imperialism?

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The following are excerpts from the book “The Sword and the Dollar: Imperialism, Revolution, and the Arms Race” by Michael Parenti, published by St. Martin’s Press, 1989.

The Costs of Counterrevolution

Throughout the 1980s, the counterrevolutionary mercenaries who have waged war against such countries as Nicaragua, Angola, and Mozambique, were described as “guerrillas.” In fact, they won little support from the people of those countries, which explains why they remained so utterly dependent upon aid from the United States and South Africa. In an attempt to destroy the revolutionary economy and thus increase popular distress and discontent, these counterrevolutionaries attacked farms, health workers, technicians, schools, and civilians. Unlike a guerrilla army that works with and draws support from the people, the counterrevolutionary mercenaries kidnap, rape, kill and in other ways terrorize the civilian population. These tactics have been termed “self-defeating,” but they have a logic symptomatic of the underlying class politics. Since the intent of the counterrevolutionaries is to destroy the revolution, and since the bulk of the people support the revolution, then the mercenaries target the people.

In Mozambique, for example, over a period of eight years the South African-financed rebels laid waste to croplands, reducing the nation’s cereal production enough to put almost 4 million people in danger of starvation. The rebels destroyed factories, rail and road links, and marketing posts, causing a sharp drop in Mozambique’s production and exports. They destroyed 40 percent of the rural schools and over 500 of the 1,222 rural health clinics built by the Marxist government. And they killed hundreds of unarmed men, women, and children. But they set up no “liberated” areas and introduced no program for the country; nor did they purport to have any ideology or social goals.

Likewise, the mercenary rebel force in Angola, financially supported throughout the 1980s by the apartheid regime in South Africa and looked favorably upon by the Reagan administration, devastated much of the Angolan economy, kidnapping and killing innocent civilians, displacing about 600,000 persons and causing widespread hunger and malnutrition. Assisted by White South African troops, the rebels destroyed at least half of Angola’s hospitals and clinics. White South African military forces, aided by jet fighters, engaged in direct combat on the side of the counterrevolutionaries. The rebel leader, Jonas Savimbi, offered no social program for Angola but was lavish in his praise of the apartheid rulers in Pretoria and critical of Black South African leaders.

So with the contra forces that repeatedly attacked Nicaragua from Honduras for some seven years. In all that time they were unable to secure a “liberated” zone nor any substantial support from the people. They represented a mercenary army that amounted to nothing much without US money-and nothing much with it, having failed to launch a significant military offensive for years at a time. Like other counterrevolutionary “guerrillas” they were quite good at trying to destabilize the existing system by hitting soft targets like schools and farm cooperatives and killing large numbers of civilians, including children. (While the US news media unfailingly reported that the Nicaraguans or Cubans had “Soviet-made weapons,” they said nothing about the American, British, and Israeli arms used by counterrevolutionaries to kill Angolans, Namibians, Black South Africans, Western Saharans, Nicaraguans, Guatemalans, and Salvadorans.)

Like counterrevolutionaries in other countries, the Nicaraguan contras put forth no economic innovations or social programs other than some vague slogans. As the New York Times reported, when asked about “the importance of political action in the insurgency” the contra leaders “did not seem to assign this element of revolutionary warfare a high priority.” They did not because they were not waging a “revolution” but a counterrevolution. What kind of a program can counterrevolutionaries present? If they publicize their real agenda, which is to open the country once more to the domination of foreign investors and rich owners, they would reveal their imperialist hand.

Like most of the Third World, Nicaragua during the Somoza dictatorship was one of imperialism’s ecological disasters, with its unrestricted industrial and agribusiness pollution and deforestation. Upon coming to power, the Sandinistas initiated rain forest and wildlife conservation measures and alternative energy programs. The new government also adopted methods of cutting pesticides to a minimum, prohibiting the use of the deadlier organochlorides commonly applied in other countries. Nicaragua’s environmental efforts stand in marked contrast to its neighboring states. But throughout the 1980s, the program was severely hampered by contra attacks that killed more than thirty employees of Nicaragua’s environmental and state forestry agencies, and destroyed agricultural centers and reclamation projects.

The US government is ready to accept just about anyone who emigrates from a Communist country. In contrast, the hundreds of millions of Third World refugees from capitalism, who would like to come to this country because the conditions of their lives are so hopeless, are not allowed to come in …

*

Must We Ignore Imperialism?

Woodrow Wilson, 1907

Since trade ignores national boundaries and the manufacturer insists on having the world as a market, the flag of his nation must follow him, and the doors of the nations which are closed against him must be battered down. Concessions obtained by financiers must be safeguarded by ministers of state, even if the sovereignty of unwilling nations be outraged in the process. Colonies must be obtained or planted, in order that no useful corner of the world may be overlooked or left unused.

Ronald Reagan

What I want to see above all else is that this country remains a country where someone can always be rich. That’s the thing we have that must be preserved.

Jeff McMahan

U.S. reasons for wanting to control the third world are to some extent circular. Thus third world resources are required in part to guarantee military production, and increased military production is required in part to maintain and expand U.S. control over third world resources …. Instrumental goals eventually come to be seen as ends in themselves. Initially the pursuit of overseas bases is justified by the need to maintain stability, defend friendly countries from communist aggression, and so on-in other words, to subjugate and control the third world; but eventually the need to establish and maintain overseas bases becomes one of the reasons for wanting to subjugate and control the third world.

Henry Kissinger, June 27, 1970 about Chile

I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go Communist because of the irresponsibility of its own people.

*

Against Imperialism

The people who make US foreign policy are known to us – and they are well known to each other. Top policymakers and advisors are drawn predominantly from the major corporations and from policy groups like the Council on Foreign Relations, the Committee for Economic Development, the Trilateral Commission, the Business Roundtable, and the Business Council. Membership in these groups consists of financiers, business executives, and corporate lawyers. Some also have a sprinkling of foundation directors, news editors, university presidents, and academicians.

Most prominent is the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). Incorporated in 1921, the CFR numbered among its founders big financiers such as John D. Rockefeller, Nelson Aldrich, and J. P. Morgan. Since World War II, CFR members have included David Rockefeller, chairman of Chase Manhattan Bank (and erstwhile CFR president); Allen Dulles, Wall Street lawyer and longtime director of the CIA; and, in the 1970s, all the directors of Morgan Guaranty Trust; nine directors of Banker’s Trust; five directors of Tri-Continental holding company; eight directors of Chase Manhattan; and directors from each of the following: Mellon National Bank, Bank of America, General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, Standard Oil of New Jersey, General Electric, General Dynamics, Union Carbide, IBM, AT&T, ITT, and the New York Times (a partial listing).

One member of the Kennedy administration, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., described the decision-making establishment as “an arsenal of talent which had so long furnished a steady supply of always orthodox and often able people to Democratic as well as Republican administrations. President Kennedy’s secretary of state was Dean Rusk, president of the Rockefeller Foundation and member of the CFR; his secretary of defense was Robert McNamara, president of Ford Motor Company; his secretary of the treasury was C. Douglas Dillon, head of a prominent Wall Street banking firm and member of the CFR. Nixon’s secretary of state was Henry Kissinger, a Nelson Rockefeller protégé who also served as President Ford’s secretary of state. Ford appointed fourteen CFR members to his administration. Seventeen top members of Carter’s administration were participants of the Rockefeller-created Trilateral Commission, including Carter himself and Vice President Walter Mondale. Carter’s secretary of state was Cyrus Vance, Wall Street lawyer, director of several corporations, trustee of the Rockefeller Foundation, and member of the CFR.

Reagan’s first secretary of state was Alexander Haig, former general and aide to President Nixon, president of United Technologies, director of several corporations including Rockefeller’s Chase Manhattan Bank, and member of the CFR. Reagan’s next secretary of state was George Shultz, president of Bechtel Corporation, director of Morgan Guaranty Trust, director of the CFR, and advisor of the Committee for Economic Development (CED). Reagan’s secretary of defense was Caspar Weinberger, vice president of Bechtel, director of other large corporations, and member of the Trilateral Commission. The secretary of treasury and later chief of staff was Donald Regan, chief executive officer of Merrill, Lynch, trustee of the CED, member of the CFR and of the Business Roundtable. Reagan’s CIA director, William Casey, was director of the ExportImport Bank, head of the Securities and Exchange Commission under Nixon, and partner in a prominent Wall Street law firm. At least a dozen of Reagan’s top administrators and some thirty advisors were CFR members.

Members of groups like the Council on Foreign Relations and the Trilateral Commission have served in just about every top executive position, including most cabinet and subcabinet slots, and have at times virtually monopolized the membership of the National Security Council, the nation’s highest official policymaking body.’ The reader can decide whether they compose (1) a conspiratorial elite, (2) the politically active members of a ruling class, or (3) a selection of policy experts and specialists in the service of pluralistic democracy.

These policymakers are drawn from overlapping corporate circles and policy groups that have a capacity unmatched by any other interest groups in the United States to fill top government posts with persons from their ranks. While supposedly selected to serve in government because they are experts and specialists, they really are usually amateurs and “generalists.” Being president of a giant construction firm and director of a bank did not qualify George Shultz to be Nixon’s secretary of labor nor his secretary of the treasury. Nor did Shultz bring years of expert experience in foreign affairs to his subsequent position as Reagan’s secretary of state. But he did bring a proven capacity to serve well the common interests of corporate America.

Rather than acting as special-interest lobbies for particular firms, policy groups look after the class-wide concerns of the capitalist system. This is in keeping with the function of the capitalist state itself. While not indifferent to the fate of the overseas operations of particular US firms, the state’s primary task is to protect capitalism as a system, bolstering client states and opposing revolutionary or radically reformist ones.

Far from being powerless, the pressure of democratic opinion in this country and abroad has been about the only thing that has restrained US leaders from using nuclear weapons in Vietnam, and intervening with US forces in Angola, Nicaragua, and elsewhere. How best to pursue policies that lack popular support is a constant preoccupation of White House policymakers. President Reagan’s refusal to negotiate with the Soviets in the early 1980s provoked the largest peace demonstrations in the history of the United States. Eventually he had to offer an appearance of peace by agreeing to negotiate. To give this appearance credibility, he actually had to negotiate and even reluctantly arrive at unavoidable agreement on some issues, including the 1987 INF treaty.

Evidence of the importance of mass democratic opinion is found in the remarkable fact that the United States has not invaded Nicaragua. Even though the US had a firepower and striking force many times more powerful than the ones used in the previous eleven invasions of Nicaragua, and a president (Reagan) more eager than any previous president to invade, the invasion did not happen. Not because it would have been too costly in lives but because it would have been politically too costly. President Reagan would not have balked at killing tens of thousands of Nicaraguans and losing say 5,000 Americans to smash the Red Menace in Central America. When Marines were blown away in one afternoon in Lebanon, Reagan was ready to escalate his involvement in that country. Only the pressure of democratic forces in the USA and elsewhere caused him to leave Lebanon and refrain from invading Nicaragua. He did not have the political support to do otherwise. Invasion was politically too costly because it was militarily too costly even though logistically possible. It would have caused too much of an uproar at home and throughout Latin America and would have lost him, his party, and his policies I too much support.

The policies pursued by US leaders have delivered misfortune upon countless innocents, generating wrongs more horrendous than any they allegedly combat. The people of this country and other nations are becoming increasingly aware of this. The people know that nuclear weapons bring no security to anyone and that interventions on the side of privileged autocracies and reactionary governments bring no justice. They also seem to know that they pay most of the costs of the arms race and many of the costs of imperialism. From South Korea to South Africa, from Central America to the Western Sahara, from Europe to North America, people are fighting back, some because they have no choice, others because they would choose no other course but the one that leads to peace and justice.

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

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

The following is the text of the interview.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source

V.I. Lenin on the Revolution, Democracy, and Democratic Demands

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“The proletariat cannot be victorious except through democracy, i.e., by giving full effect to democracy and by linking with each step of its struggle democratic demands formulated in the most resolute terms. It is absurd to contrapose the socialist revolution and the revolutionary struggle against capitalism to a single problem of democracy, in this case, the national question. We must combine the revolutionary struggle against capitalism with a revolutionary programme and tactics on all democratic demands: a republic, a militia, the popular election of officials, equal rights  for women, the self-determination of nations, etc. While capitalism exists, these demands—all of them—can only be accomplished as an exception, and even then in an incomplete and distorted form. Basing ourselves on the democracy already achieved, and exposing its incompleteness under capitalism, we demand the overthrow of capitalism, the expropriation of the bourgeoisie, as a necessary basis both for the abolition of the poverty of the masses and for the complete and all-round institution of all democratic reforms. Some of these reforms will be started before the overthrow of the bourgeoisie, others in the course of that overthrow, and still others after it. The social revolution is not a single battle, but a period covering a series of battles over all sorts of problems of economic and democratic reform, which are consummated only by the expropriation of the bourgeoisie. It is for the sake of this final aim that we must formulate every one of our democratic demands in a consistently revolutionary way. It is quite conceivable that the workers of some particular country will overthrow the bourgeoisie before even a single fundamental democratic reform has been fully achieved. It is, however, quite inconceivable that the proletariat, as a historical class, will be able to defeat the bourgeoisie, unless it is prepared for that by being educated in the spirit of the most consistent and resolutely revolutionary democracy.”

 — V.I. Lenin, “The Revolutionary Proletariat and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination.”

Lin Biaoism and the Third World: How Idealism Distorts Class

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by Espresso Stalinist

An odd phenomenon is haunting the halls of Maoism – a chauvinist set of ideas loosely forged from the writings of Chinese military officer and politician Lin Biao. These ideas, to the extent to which they form coherent ideology at all, can roughly be termed “Lin Biaoism.” To be perfectly clear, I am under no impression that “Lin Biaoism” is an entirely new ideology. Lin Biao’s works are not significant enough to constitute a new stage of revolutionary science. What does exist is a wing of Maoism, usually associated with the “third-worldist” variety, that upholds the works of Lin Biao in theory and practice. The ideology, such as it is, is not worth refuting. However, its underlying assumptions about proletarian internationalism, imperialism, revolutionary theory and practice are.

I fully expect upon publication these thoughts will have piles of ashes heaped upon them as “first worldism,” as “a total misrepresentation” of the ideas I criticize, and overall rejection of this piece as a reactionary and revisionist writing dedicated to attacking Lin Biao’s theories. But this is par for the course with “third-worldists” of all kinds, who much like anarchists dismiss all criticisms by claiming the author knows not what they criticize. In this essay, I am not concerned with what I allegedly do not know – I am only concerned with what we do know. In this case, what we know about the problems in Lin Biao’s theories.

Lin Biao (1907-1971) was a Chinese revisionist military officer and politician. Born in December 5th, 1907, he graduated from the famous Whampoa Military Academy, then under the command of Chiang Kai-shek. After graduation he joined the armed forces of the Kuomintang (KMT) or Nationalists. During the Northern Expedition he joined the Communist Party. Following the 1927 Shanghai massacre of thousands of workers, trade unionists and Communist Party members, which began the Chinese Civil War, Lin defected to the Red Army. He participated in the Long March and became known as one of the CPC’s most brilliant military commanders and an authority on guerrilla warfare. During the Japanese invasion of China, Lin commanded troops in the Battle of Pingxingguan, one of the few battlefield successes for the Chinese during the first period of the Second Sino-Japanese War. He was forced to retire from active service in 1937 after a serious battlefield injury complicated by tuberculosis and left for Moscow, where from 1937 to 1942 he acted as the representative of the CPC to the Executive Committee of the Communist International, or Comintern.

After the end of World War II and the Soviet liberation of Manchuria from the Japanese, fighting resumed between the Communists and Nationalists. Lin led victorious campaigns of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Manchuria and throughout Northern China against the KMT forces, including the famous Pingjin Campaign, which led to the liberation of Beijing in 1949. His forces then resumed attacks on the KMT in the southeast, which led to securing the major cities of Wuhan and Guangzhou. He was named one of the “Ten Marshals” after the Communist victory and the proclamation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Lin mostly abstained from participating politics in the 1950s. In 1962 Lin succeeded Peng Dehuai as commander of the PLA, starting a rectification program among officers and soldiers stressing political education, eventually culminating in the abolition of ranks in the PLA. Lin would rise to political prominence again during the Cultural Revolution.

Lin Biao was the most prominent supporter of the cult of personality around Mao, working to develop it within the PLA in particular. In 1964 it was he who compiled some of Mao’s writings into a handbook, Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung, also known as the Little Red Book, and ensured it was mass-produced and distributed, first within the PLA, and then throughout the entire People’s Republic.

In September 1965, Lin Biao’s most famous work, “Long Live the Victory of People’s War!” was published, which contains the vast majority of his political theories. It heavily promoted Mao Tse-tung’s theory of people’s war:

“Comrade Mao Tse-tung’s theory of people’s war has been proved by the long practice of the Chinese revolution to be in accord with the objective laws of such wars and to be invincible. It has not only been valid for China, it is a great contribution to the revolutionary struggles of the oppressed nations and peoples throughout the world. [….] Comrade Mao Tse-tung’s theory of people’s war is not only a product of the Chinese revolution, but has also the characteristics of our epoch.”

And even proclaimed it to be universal:

“It must be emphasized that Comrade Mao Tse-tung’s theory of the establishment of rural revolutionary base areas and the encirclement of the cities from the countryside is of outstanding and universal practical importance for the present revolutionary struggles of all the oppressed nations and peoples, and particularly for the revolutionary struggles of the oppressed nations and peoples in Asia, Africa and Latin America against imperialism and its lackeys.”

It heavily supported the Maoist theory of the revolutionary movement spreading from the countryside to the cities:

“The countryside, and the countryside alone, can provide the broad areas in which the revolutionaries can manoeuvre freely. The countryside, and the countryside alone, can provide the revolutionary bases from which the revolutionaries can go forward to final victory.”

Lin Biao believed this even to the point of arguing against the modernization of the PLA in favor of people’s war. More significantly, in perhaps the most influential part of his pamphlet to modern-day “Lin Biaoists,” Lin Biao applies the Maoist concept of people’s war to the international situation:

“Taking the entire globe, if North America and Western Europe can be called ‘the cities of the world’, then Asia, Africa and Latin America constitute ‘the rural areas of the world’. Since World War II, the proletarian revolutionary movement has for various reasons been temporarily held back in the North American and West European capitalist countries, while the people’s revolutionary movement in Asia, Africa and Latin America has been growing vigorously. In a sense, the contemporary world revolution also presents a picture of the encirclement of cities by the rural areas. In the final analysis, the whole cause of world revolution hinges on the revolutionary struggles of the Asian, African and Latin American peoples who make up the overwhelming majority of the world’s population.”

At the 11th Plenum of the 8th CC in August 1966, a meeting presided over by Mao and guarded by Lin’s troops, the famous big-character poster reading, “Bombard the Headquarters!” was unveiled, written by Mao himself. This was a declaration of war against the “right” elements Liu Shaoqi, Deng Xiaoping and other leaders of the party apparatus, and the practical launching of what would come to be called the “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.” During the Cultural Revolution, after initial control by the Red Guards proved too tenuous the PLA under Lin Biao’s command effectively took over the role of controlling the country previously held by the Communist Party. The GPCR had virtually destroyed the Communist Party and liquidated its organizations, but had greatly strengthened the political role of the army, which largely controlled the provincial Revolutionary Committees and many Ministries and economic enterprises.

The Ninth Congress of the Communist Party of China was held in 1969, during which former President Liu Shaoqi was removed from all posts and expelled from the party. During this Congress Lin built up the cult of Mao more than ever, declaring Mao’s though to be a “higher and completely new stage” of Marxism. He summed up the ideology of Maoism, then called “Mao Tse-tung Thought,” thusly:

“The Communist Party of China owes all its achievements to the wise leadership of Chairman Mao and these achievements constitute victories for Mao Tsetung Thought. For half a century now, in leading the great struggle of the people of all the nationalities of China for accomplishing the new-democratic revolution, in leading China’s great struggle for socialist revolution and socialist construction and in the great struggle of the contemporary international communist movement against imperialism, modern revisionism and the reactionaries of various countries, Chairman Mao has integrated the universal truth of Marxism-Leninism with the concrete practice of revolution, has inherited, defended and developed Marxism-Leninism in the political, military, economic, cultural, philosophical and other spheres, and has brought Marxism-Leninism to a higher and completely new stage. Mao Tsetung Thought is Marxism-Leninism of the era in which imperialism is heading for total collapse and socialism is advancing to world-wide victory. The entire history of our Party has borne out this truth: Departing from the leadership of Chairman Mao and Mao Tsetung Thought, our Party will suffer setbacks and defeats; following Chairman Mao closely and acting on Mao Tsetung Thought, our Party will advance and triumph. We must forever remember this lesson. Whoever opposes Chairman Mao, whoever opposes Mao Tsetung Thought, at any time or under any circumstances, will be condemned and punished by the whole Party and the whole country.”

During his report to the Ninth Congress, Lin went so far as to proclaim that according to Marxist theory, the main component of the state is the military:

“The People’s Liberation Army is the mighty pillar of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Chairman Mao has pointed out many times: From the Marxist point of view the main component of the state is the army.”

Lin Biao was built up as Mao’s successor to such an extent that during the Ninth Congress, one of the very few congresses held in Chinese history, the idea of Lin as successor in the event of Mao’s resignation or death was literally written into the Constitution of the CPC. It was passed on April 14th, 1969. It stated:

“Comrade Lin Piao has consistently held high the great red banner of Mao Tse-tung’s Thought and he has most loyally and resolutely carried out the defended Comrade Mao Tse-tung’s proletarian revolutionary line. Comrade Lin Piao is Comrade Mao Tse-tung’s closest comrade-in-arms and successor.”

This favored position would not last. A mere four years later, on August 1973, the Tenth Party Congress stated:

“The Congress indignantly denounced the Lin Piao anti-Party clique for its crimes. All the delegates firmly supported this resolution of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China: Expel Lin Piao, the bourgeois careerist, conspirator, counter-revolutionary double-dealer, renegade and traitor from the Party once and for all.”

The events leading up to this posthumous denunciation are highly controversial. Lin Biao, along with several members of his family, died mysteriously in a plane crash over Mongolia in September 1971 in circumstances that are still heavily in dispute. It is generally accepted he was trying to flee to the Soviet Union. According to the official Chinese version of events, Lin Biao had attempted to initiate a pro-Soviet coup d’etat that would topple Mao Tse-tung and Zhou En-lai from power to establish a military dictatorship in China, and when he failed in this endeavor, he attempted to flee and sought refuge in the U.S.S.R. As the plane approached the Mongolian border, a gun fight broke out, causing it to crash. Whatever the case, Lin Biao and all on board died in the crash.

In his political diary, Albanian Marxist-Leninist leader Enver Hoxha characterized the Lin Biao affair as more frivolous than a James Bond thriller:

“The question arises: Why should Lin Piao murder Mao and why take his place, when he himself occupied precisely the main position after Mao, was his deputy appointed by the Constitution and by Mao himself? Lin Piao had great renown in China. The Cultural Revolution, ‘the work of Comrade Mao’, had built up his prestige. Then, what occurred for this ‘mutual political trust and the same ideological conviction’ between Mao and Lin Piao to suddenly disappear to the point that the latter organized an attempt on Mao’s life? And this act looks like an episode from ‘James Bond’”

(Hoxha, Reflections on China Vol. I, p. 465).

The rift between Mao and Lin needs to be expressed in solid political terms and not personal terms such as “lust for power” or “jealously” as bourgeois historians are so fond to do. Hard evidence on this matter seems to be scarce due to a lack of surviving evidence, but a few things are undeniable.

For example, Lin was on his way to the Soviet Union because of a split with Mao and his supporters over domestic and foreign policy. In September 1970, the grouping around Mao Tse-tung pressed for a Fourth Five-Year-Plan, which involved a massive program for mechanization of agriculture to be financed by reducing expenditure on the armed forces. This reduction was to be made possible by bringing about a détente with the United States. Lin Biao’s pro-Soviet faction opposed détente with the U.S. This was denounced by Mao and Zhou’s group as “ultra-leftism.” In December 1970, a movement began for a revival of the provincial Communist Party committees, which had been shattered by the Cultural Revolution. This was strongly opposed by Lin and the army leadership, since it would threaten the military’s ascendancy.

I see only two possibilities to this story, and both are somewhat related:

1) Lin Biao did plan and attempt to carry out a military coup against Mao because he wanted to “save” the country and the party from what he saw as a wrong course, or;

2) It was a conspiracy of the more pro-American elements of the CPC, including Mao and Zhou Enlai, to eliminate the most prominent opponent to their domestic and foreign policy.

In either case, clearly there was a huge rift with Mao’s policies, including regarding military control following the GPCR, and the controversial Chinese foreign policy of the late 1960s and 70s.

It is clear that the contradiction between Mao Tse-tung and Zhou Enlai’s group and Lin Biao’s group was a conflict between the wings of the CPC supporting reconciliation and alignment with U.S. imperialism and modernization of society, and supporting rapprochement with Soviet social-imperialism and the continuation of Lin’s “people’s war’ policies, respectively. In December 1970, Mao Tse-tung said American journalist Edgar Snow that he would like to meet President Nixon, and in July 1971, U.S. diplomat Henry Kissinger made a secret visit to China. People’s Daily announced soon after that Zhou Enlai had extended an invitation to Nixon to visit China. This no doubt further inflamed conflicts, and it was obvious there were rifts in the Party from 1970-71.

Declassified transcripts of Mao’s conversations with Nixon record him making an unmistakable reference to the “Lin Biao Affair” in 1972:

President Nixon: When the Chairman says he voted for me, he voted for the lesser of two evils.

Chairman Mao: I like rightists. People say you are rightists, that the Republican Party is to the right, that Prime Minister Heath is also to the right.

President Nixon: And General DeGaulle.

Chairman Mao: DeGaulle is a different question. They also say the Christian Democratic Party of West Germany is also to the right. I am comparatively happy when these people on the right come into power.

President Nixon: I think the important thing to note is that in America, at least at this time, those on the right can do what those on the left talk about.

Dr. Kissinger: There is another point, Mr. President. Those on the left are pro-Soviet and would not encourage a move towards the People’s Republic, and in fact criticize you on those grounds.

Chairman Mao: Exactly that. Some are opposing you. In our country also there is a reactionary group which is opposed to our contact with you. The result was they got on an airplane and fled abroad.

Prime Minister Chou: Maybe you know this.

Chairman Mao: Throughout the whole world, the U.S. intelligence reports are comparatively accurate. The next was Japan. As for the Soviet Union, they finally went to dig out the corpses, but they didn’t say anything about it.

Prime Minister Chou: In Outer Mongolia.”

Before long, China threw off its former policy of anti-imperialism, arguing for a strengthening of NATO, support for German reunification and West European integration, support for U.S.-Japanese Security Treaty, declining support for national liberation movements in South Asia, its support for reactionary “liberation” movements supported by imperialist powers (such as UNITA in Angola), and its support of the semi-colonies of imperialist powers, such as Iran, Pakistan, Zaire, fascist Chile and the Philippines.

So, now that I’ve finished this grand history lesson, how does this relate back to modern Maoism? More than you might think after reading, actually. Maoist supporters of the “new-democratic” theory of the Chinese Revolution, as well as the peasant-based theory of “people’s war” largely seek their justifications in Lin’s pamphlet. We have already examined Lin’s representation of the international situation in his 1965 pamphlet. Lin Biao, in an attempt to apply the Maoist concept of people’s war to the international struggle, pioneered an early version of Mao’s later “theory of three worlds” which perceives the world as being a global countryside surrounding a global city. His line as expressed in “Long Live The Victory of People’s War!” represents the absolutizing of the contradiction between imperialism and oppressed nations – and that, more than anything else, is what is key. Lin Biao’s ideas do not speak of the contradiction (at the time) between two opposing systems, socialism and capitalism, or of the contradiction between capital and labor in the capitalist countries, or of the contradiction between the imperialist powers. He misunderstands the entire foundation for the modern revolutionary movement, and raises his vision of the “global countryside” surrounding the “global city” out of dialectical context, treating it as the principal contradiction in the world.

Modern third-worldism is largely based on Lin Biaoism, though it has perhaps its earliest roots in the theories of Mirza Sultan-Galiyev. Sultan-Galiyev was a Tatar pan-Islamic nationalist opposed by Lenin and Stalin. He later began conspiratorial activity, including tried to ally with Trotsky but was rejected, and had ties to the anti-Soviet counterrevolutionary Bashmachi movement. Among other beliefs, Sultan-Galiyev thought that the Muslim peoples were “proletarian peoples” and thus national movements among them were socialist revolutions, that in places inhabited by Muslims, the Communist Party should “integrate” with Islam, which should be brought about by a special Muslim party, and that geographically large territorial units should be formed embracing as many Muslims as possible. He had dreams of creating a pan-Turanian Turkish-Tatar state stretching across Central Asia. He was eventually arrested for his conspiratorial activity and died in prison. Like Sultan-Galiyev, Lin Biao’s analysis is not class-based, and in fact Lin’s pamphlet contains theses very similar to that of “Sultan-Galiyevism”:

“If North American and western Europe can be called ‘the cities of the world’, then Asia, Africa and Latin America constitute ‘the rural areas of the world’…the contemporary world revolution…presents a picture of the encirclement of cities by the rural areas. In the final analysis, the whole cause of world revolution hinges on the revolutionary struggles of the Asian, African and Latin American peoples.”

Obviously, no Marxist can deny the contradiction between the imperialist powers and the colonial and semi-colonial countries, which is a major contradiction in the world we live in. Independence and national liberation struggles for independence and national sovereignty led against imperialism is a just struggle which deserves the support of Marxist-Leninists and the world proletariat. But that’s not all Lin Biao does. Here, while recognizing the existence of revolutionary situations and movement in countries in the “third world,” he treats the “third world” as an undifferentiated whole, exaggerating this situation into one in which the entire “third world” is ripe everywhere for revolution. What is also striking about his “countryside versus city” division of the world is his non-class view of the “third world,” its omission of the basic contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie and its disregarding of classes and class struggle within those countries, and an utter lack of analysis of the class nature of the regimes which rule there. This way the contradiction between the oppressed peoples and the reactionary and pro-imperialist powers is absolutized.

But the modern preachers of Lin Biaoism go further than to label the “third world” as leader of the liberation movement or the main force in the struggle against imperialism – frequently they proclaim it the only revolutionary force in the world. But to speak about the “third world” as the main force against imperialism and as the main force of the revolution such as the followers of Lin Biaoism, of third-worldism and other theories do ignores (or in some cases intentionally glosses over) the objective fact that the majority of the countries of the “third world” are ruled by agents of imperialism and neo-colonialism. The international view of Lin Biaoism belittles the size and importance of the comprador bourgeoisie and other pro-imperialist forces of the “third world.” To speak of the “third world” as a undifferentiated whole without making any distinction between genuine anti-imperialist revolutionary forces and pro-imperialist, reactionary and fascist ruling classes is to abandon the class struggle and the teachings of Marxism-Leninism openly. It means nothing less than to preach opportunism which cause confusion and disorder among the revolutionary proletariat.

Further, Lin Biaoism says that these countries are the “main anti-imperialist force” in the world. It logically stands to reason that it is not the business of revolutionaries to topple this “main force.” By now, it becomes increasingly apparent that Lin Biaoism is not a scientific approach to Marxism and is in opposition to proletarian internationalism. Lin Biao’s theories deny the role of the vanguard party in both the “third world” and the “first world” nations. Lin Biao’s concepts obscure the character of class struggle, creates illusions and misleads the people. Lin Biaoism is claimed by its followers to be the strategy for revolution today, and yet this strategy has no place for the proletariat or the Marxist-Leninist party. It claims to be a valuable contribution towards a proper analysis of the forces of the world, and yet classes are not mentioned.

Lin Biao’s theoretical understanding is eerily similar to that put forward by Karl Kautsky at the beginning of the century. Kautsky, on the eve of the First World War, postulated that in the field of international relations, a new age was approaching “in which the competition among states will be disabled by their cartel relationship.” He argued “there is nothing further to prevent […] finally replacing imperialism by a holy alliance of the imperialists.” This state of affairs is what he referred to as “Ultra Imperialism.” Kautsky falsely predicted the onset of a new phase of the elimination of contradictions between imperialist and capitalist states. This gave way to reformism, since it remained purely focused on combating “hegemonism” and sees imperialism as a policy, which could be adopted or rescinded at the whim of the ruling class, instead of the latest stage in the development of capitalism. Lenin in contrast, viewed imperialism as the highest and last stage of capitalism – monopoly capitalism that needs the domination of other countries and war. Lenin strongly criticized this theory of Kautsky’s, pointing out his denial of the connection between the rule of monopolies and imperialism, as well as his attempts to portray the rule of finance capital as somehow “lessening” the contradictions inherent in the world economy, when in reality it increases and aggravates them. Lenin summed up thusly:

“The question is: what means other than war could there be under capitalism to overcome the disparity between the development of productive forces and the accumulation of capital on the one side, and the division of colonies and spheres of influence for finance capital on the other?”

(V.I. Lenin, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism).

Uneven development among nations means that capitalists internationally frequently have radically different interests and not all of these interests can be met by full integration of their economic activity within the global marketplace. Any alliance, any “unity” within the capitalist camp is subject to how it benefits the profits of the individual capitalists within such an alliance. Unlike workers, who are able to reap benefits from the struggles of workers all over the world, a capitalist isn’t necessarily benefited by the success of other capitalists. As capitalists are forced to compete for what they perceive to be a limited number of material and market resources, the bonds which have formerly bound them begin to deteriorate.

Lin Biaoist formulations of the world proclaim no actual, concrete program for anti-imperialist struggle, or even for support of national liberation movements of oppressed peoples. What they do, quite in the style of the idealists of the past, is to cloak the question of revolution in bombastic-sounding phrases. Lin Biaoism implicitly capitulates to imperialism by including the reactionaries and comprador bourgeoisie in the same ranks as the people and the revolutionaries of the “third world.” This can only lead to obscuring the radical contradictions characteristic of the monopoly stage of capitalism. Interestingly, Lin Biao portrays imperialism as the main enemy of the world’s people, and yet the same set of theories were used by Hua Guofeng and Deng Xiaoping to ally themselves with imperialism. This is not just a lesson for those in the “first,” “second” or “third” worlds, but the entire world. While some of the supporters of the theory may disagree with specific tactics in the examples I have cited, the overall logic is inescapable.

Of course, there are a never-ending stream of national-chauvinist Marxists who stand ready and willing to assure us that this position of Lin’s conforms more closely to reality than, say, those of Trotsky, who in this case acts as a stand-in for anyone opposed to Lin Biao’s theories, or J. Sakai’s, or Sultan-Galiyev’s, or whoever they happen to be cheering on. These chauvinists are usually quick to conjure demons from oblivion at the sign of the slightest opposition to their theories, such as “Trotskyism” or “Eurocentric” Marxism. Sometimes they are even brave enough to challenge traditional Marxism, which they characterize as ‘Eurocentric” or “mechanical.” As we all know, Marxism consists of choosing between envisioning a dramatic repetition of the events of the Chinese Revolution on a global scale with isolated urban areas in a sea of peasant revolution, or being accused of Euro-chauvinism ourselves. The endless need of revisionists to figure out which demonstrably incorrect line is “closer” to reality never ceases to amaze me, and the debate between Trotskyism, a stand-in for supposedly “Eurocentric” traditional Marxism and Lin Biaoism and its proclamation that the the entire so-called “third world” or “global south” is ready and ripe for revolution is no exception to that.

Today there is much talk about the “first,” “second” or “third” world, a world of “colonized” countries versus “colonizer” countries, of the “global south versus the global north,” etc. All of these terms, of course, conceal the real class nature of these countries. But this is not all, oh no dear reader, not quite all indeed! For recently, these ideas have further paved the way for its modern adherents to apply class labels to entire nations, saying that the “first world” represents a global bourgeoisie and making such claims as the first world populations not representing the true proletariat. Some go even further, and take Lin Biaoist views to outright denying the first world proletariat’s revolutionary potential, dismissing it as inherently reactionary as a class. At first glance, nothing would appear stranger than a group of so-called Marxists in the first world decrying the revolutionary potential of its people. But in fact, it’s no secret that this odd trend of Maoism has emerged as one of the most outwardly vocal, if not particularly politically effective, voices on the American left in recent years.

Whether they claim there are no significant exploited groups in the first world, or that internally colonized peoples are the only real proletariat, or some other variation thereof, modern third-worldism attempts to peddle the same Lin Biaoist theories, despite what differences they may have. Some confuse class as income, while others do not. Some claim that class is one’s personal ideology, i.e. reactionary workers are bourgeois or labor aristocrat, while others do not. Some, like author J. Sakai, claim that every person of European descent in the United States is a net exploiter from the American colonies onwards, and that the U.S. has no proletariat of its own but exists parasitically on colonial peoples, oppressed nations and national minorities, whom he labels the “true proletariat.” Therefore, the entire white working class is reactionary rather than revolutionary and this has always been the case, and therefore working class solidarity between whites, blacks, Hispanics, Natives, Asians and other peoples is impossible. He recognizes white privilege in the form of Euro-American workers being a privileged labor aristocracy which possesses a petty-bourgeois reformist ideology rather than a revolutionary proletarian one. Sakai’s solution is to call for a kind of Bundist separatism, with each racial group creating its own independent organization.

Before I continue, it must be made clear that the labor aristocracy, that is, the stratum of highly-paid and privileged workers bribed by the imperialist bourgeoisie by means of superprofits extracted from colonies and neo-colonies, certainly exists. This has been recognized by all the Marxist classics ever since the strata of the labor aristocracy emerged in Britain in the mid-19th century. This tendency was recognized by Marx and Engels, and they traced this opportunism within the working class movement directly back to British imperialism:

“[T]he English proletariat is actually becoming more and more bourgeois, so that the ultimate aim of this most bourgeois of all nations would appear to be the possession, alongside the bourgeoisie, of a bourgeois aristocracy and a bourgeois proletariat. In the case of a nation which exploits the entire world this is, of course, justified to some extent”

(F. Engels, “Engels to Marx in London,” 7 October 1858).

These views remained consistent over the course of several decades, as seen in this letter from Engels to Kautsky dated twenty-four years later:

“You ask me what the English workers think about colonial policy. Well, exactly the same as they think about politics in general: the same as what the bourgeois think. There is no workers’ party here, there are only Conservatives and Liberal-Radicals, and the workers gaily share the feast of England’s monopoly of the world market and the colonies”

(F. Engels, “Engels to Karl Kautsky in Vienna,” 12 September 1882).

V.I. Lenin also identified the source of bribery for the labor aristocracy as the commercial and industrial monopoly of the imperialist countries and their export of capital to the colonial countries:

“Before the war [World War I – E.S.], it was calculated that the three richest countries—Britain, France and Germany—got between eight and ten thousand million francs a year from the export of capital alone, apart from other sources.

It goes without saying that, out of this tidy sum, at least five hundred millions can be spent as a sop to the labour leaders and the labour aristocracy, i.e., on all sorts of bribes. The whole thing boils down to nothing but bribery. It is done in a thousand different ways: by increasing cultural facilities in the largest centres, by creating educational institutions, and by providing co-operative, trade union and parliamentary leaders with thousands of cushy jobs. This is done wherever present-day civilised capitalist relations exist. It is these thousands of millions in super-profits that form the economic basis of opportunism in the working-class movement. In America, Britain and France we see a far greater persistence of the opportunist leaders, of the upper crust of the working class, the labour aristocracy; they offer stronger resistance to the Communist movement. That is why we must be prepared to find it harder for the European and American workers’ parties to get rid of this disease than was the case in our country. We know that enormous successes have been achieved in the treatment of this disease since the Third International was formed, but we have not yet finished the job; the purging of the workers’ parties, the revolutionary parties of the proletariat all over the world, of bourgeois influences, of the opportunists in their ranks, is very far from complete.”

(V.I. Lenin, “The Second Congress of the Communist International”)

“They [Social-Democrats] are just as much traitors to socialism… They represent that top section of workers who have been bribed by the bourgeoisie… for in all the civilised, advanced countries the bourgeoisie rob—either by colonial oppression or by financially extracting ‘gain’ from formally independent weak countries—they rob a population many times larger than that of ‘their own’ country. This is the economic factor that enables the imperialist bourgeoisie to obtain superprofits, part of which is used to bribe the top section of the proletariat and convert it into a reformist, opportunist petty bourgeoisie that fears revolution.”

(V.I. Lenin., “Letter to the Workers of Europe and America,” Pravda; No. 16, January 24, 1919)

Exploitation of the world by imperialist countries and their monopoly position on the global market, as well as their colonial possessions, allowed sections of their proletariat to become bourgeois, and allowed a section of their proletariat to allow themselves to be bribed by the bourgeoisie. Unlike modern third-worldists however, who dismiss the whole of the population of imperialist countries as unexploited and bourgeois, while recognizing the social and economic basis for opportunism and revisionism in the more developed countries, Lenin spoke of the labor aristocracy as a minority of the workers, and that it was the task of the revolutionaries to expose them:

“Neither we nor anyone else can calculate precisely what portion of the proletariat is following and will follow the social-chauvinists and opportunists. This will be revealed only by the struggle, it will be definitely decided only by the socialist revolution. But we know for certain that the ‘defenders of the fatherland’ in the imperialist war represent only a minority. And it is therefore our duty, if we wish to remain socialists to go down lower and deeper, to the real masses; this is the whole meaning and the whole purport of the struggle against opportunism. By exposing the fact that the opportunists and social-chauvinists are in reality betraying and selling the interests of the masses, that they are defending the temporary privileges of a minority of the workers, that they are the vehicles of bourgeois ideas and influences, that they are really allies and agents of the bourgeoisie, we teach the masses to appreciate their true political interests, to fight for socialism and for the revolution…”

(V.I. Lenin, “Imperialism and the Split in Socialism”).

He continued:

“The only Marxist line in the world labour movement is to explain to the masses the inevitability and necessity of breaking with opportunism, to educate them for revolution by waging a relentless struggle against opportunism […]”

(V.I. Lenin, “Imperialism and the Split in Socialism”).

Enver Hoxha analyzed the origins and class nature of the labor aristocracy, and noted its role in the advent of revisionism and reformism in the Communist Parties as well, particularly in Europe:

“The development of the economy in the West after the war [World War II – E.S.] also exerted a great influence on the spread of opportunist and revisionist ideas in the communist parties. True, Western Europe was devastated by the war but its recovery was carried out relatively quickly. The American capital which poured into Europe through the ‘Marshall Plan’ made it possible to reconstruct the factories, plants, transport and agriculture so that their production extended rapidly. This development opened up many jobs and for a long period, not only absorbed all the free labour force but even created a certain shortage of labour.

This situation, which brought the bourgeoisie great superprofits, allowed it to loosen its purse-strings a little and soften the labour conflicts to some degree. In the social field, in such matters as social insurance, health, education, labour legislation etc., it took some measures for which the working class had fought hard. The obvious improvement of the standard of living of the working people in comparison with that of the time of the war and even before the war, the rapid growth of production, which came as a result of the reconstruction of industry and agriculture and the beginning of the technical and scientific revolution, and the full employment of the work force, opened the way to the flowering amongst the unformed opportunist element of views about the development of capitalism without class conflicts, about its ability to avoid crises, the elimination of the phenomenon of unemployment etc. That major teaching of Marxism-Leninism, that the periods of peaceful development of capitalism becomes a source for the spread of opportunism, was confirmed once again. The new stratum of the worker aristocracy, which increased considerably during this period, began to exert an ever more negative influence in the ranks of the parties and their leaderships by introducing reformist and opportunist views and ideas.

Under pressure of these circumstances, the programs of these communist parties were reduced more and more to democratic and reformist minimum programs, while the idea of the revolution and socialism became ever more remote. The major strategy of the revolutionary transformation of society gave way to the minor strategy about current problems of the day which was absolutized and became the general political and ideological line.”

(Enver Hoxha. Eurocommunism is Anti-Communism. Tirana: 8 Nëntori Publishing House. 1980. pp. 82-83.)

So as we can see, the correct Marxist-Leninist analysis of the labor aristocracy was upheld by all the classics. However, none of this says that a proletariat ceases to exist in those countries. In contrast, modern “third-worldism,” sometimes called “Maoism Third-Worldism” and sometimes not, is the belief that first world workers are non-revolutionary and have the status of a global labor aristocracy lacking a proletarian revolutionary consciousness or revolutionary potential at all, since supposedly imperial capital has tamed them with flashy electronics and consumer products, thus bribing them into passivity. Thus, according to this mode of thought, first world leftists must place their hopes for a revolution on the peoples of the third world. This set of ideas was a common theme in the Maoist-inspired student movements of the 1960s and 1970s. Others since then, particularly since the 1980s, have taken this further and claimed that first world workers actually aren’t exploited at all, and are paid more than the value of their labor, thus making them part of the bourgeoisie complicit in exploiting the third world. In this version of the formulation, the first world is outright reactionary altogether. The only debate between the two types is whether there are any significantly exploited groups in the first world at all, such as prisoners, lumpenproletarians, blacks, Chicanos, etc., or if these people also share in the exploitation of the third world along with their white counterparts.

One of the most common characteristics of modern third-worldism is the tendency to blame the “first world” masses for not rising against capital, and to uphold this as evidence that they posses no revolutionary potential at all. This is especially curious as third-worldists exist almost exclusively within the “first world” themselves, and then mostly in the United States. To explain how they arrived at their revolutionary consciousness, such as it is, they are obliged to make metaphors to individuals like John Brown, and claim that the real reason socialism is not victorious in “first world” countries is that the people there recognize their material interests in following the imperialist bourgeoisie. Some even negate class as an economic classification by saying having a reactionary ideology also makes them labor aristocrats. Of course, if one blames “first world” workers for following and identifying with the dominant ideology of the bourgeoisie, the logical conclusion is to use that same standard for the large amounts of reactionary ideology in the “third world,” too, which tellingly, none of them dare to do. As Marx famously wrote:

“The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it”

(Karl Marx, “The German Ideology”).

What third-worldists fail to realize is that part and parcel of the material conditions in the U.S. is being subjected to the most powerful, most all pervasive, most advanced apparatus of ideological hegemony the world has ever known. In essence they are asking why socialist ideas are not more widely accepted in the country with the most powerful, advanced, developed and pervasive capitalist media. Most chauvinist of all their justification in relying on the “third world” workers to make the revolution there is that in contrast to the workers in developed countries, who apparently enjoy too many benefits in their minds, the “third world” workers are truly the only one who “have nothing to lose but their chains.” Words cannot describe how incredibly ignorant, and more than that patronizing it is for someone living in the “first world” to point their finger at the entire working class of various nations and declare that they have “nothing to lose” and thus should rise up and potentially face maiming, torture and death so that the third-worldist can sit in his comfortable air-conditioned domicile and post photos expressing “solidarity” on social media. It is strictly up to the parties, organizations and workers themselves in those countries to determine if the time and conditions are ripe for a revolution. Until then, it is arrogant, and dare I say racist, to declare that the entire working population of vast nations have “nothing to lose.” If these renegades actually visited a developing country, they might find that everywhere they went they could find people who would strongly disagree they have “nothing to lose.”

The absolutizing of the phrase which famously ends the Manifesto, namely that the workers “have nothing to lose but their chains,” is just one more example of a recent trend of making political stances out of simple slogans, and increased sloganeering to disguise political dishonesty or even reaction. It’s obvious to any ready that the original phrase was meant by Marx and Engels as a rallying call, instead of an excuse to only classify those people who “have nothing to lose” as revolutionaries or workers. Everyone on the planet, even those living in the most miserable conditions, have “something to lose,” if only their lives and their families. 

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

Modern “third-worldism” – which is an ideological variety of Lin Biaoism – existing outside of the internet has always been negligible. While some early third-worldist movements did exist as activists, none of them have been particularly large and were soon reduced almost exclusively to an internet presence. This has been the case since then. It can therefore be (rightly) inferred that third-worldists almost never have first-hand experience of life and material conditions or conditions of struggle in “third world” countries. It’s always struck me as curious that third-worldism has little to no following in the “third world” itself.

Indeed, the most commonly heard statement comrades from the “third world” made to American Marxist-Leninists is that our struggle here, in the very heart of imperialism, will be decisive. Mao Tse-tung himself made many such statements, such as this one from 1970:

“While massacring the people in other countries, U.S. imperialism is slaughtering the white and black people in its own country. Nixon’s fascist atrocities have kindled the raging flames of the revolutionary mass movement in the United States. The Chinese people firmly support the revolutionary struggle of the American people. I am convinced that the American people who are fighting valiantly will ultimately win victory and that the fascist rule in the United States will inevitably be defeated”

(Mao Tse-tung, “People of the World, Unit and Defeat the U.S. Aggressors and All Their Running Dogs”).

As far back as 1949, Mao spoke of the class struggles within the United States between the people and the ruling class:

“To start a war, the U.S. reactionaries must first attack the American people. They are already attacking the American people – oppressing the workers and democratic circles in the United States politically and economically and preparing to impose fascism there. The people of the United States should stand up and resist the attacks of the U.S. reactionaries. I believe they will”

(Mao Tse-tung, “Talk with American Correspondent Anna Louise Strong”).

As well, in a telegram to William Z. Foster in 1945, Mao wrote regarding the defeat of of Earl Browder’s revisionist and liquidationist line:

“Beyond all doubt the victory of the U.S. working class and its vanguard, the Communist Party of the United States, over Browder’s revisionist-capitulationist line will contribute signally to the great cause in which the Chinese and American peoples are engaged the cause of carrying on the war against Japan and of building a peaceful and democratic world after the war”

(Mao Tse-tung, “Telegram to Comrade William Z. Foster”).

In 1963, Mao also issued a statement supporting working class solidarity in the United States against systematic racism:

“I call upon the workers, peasants, revolutionary intellectuals, enlightened elements of the bourgeoisie, and other enlightened personages of all colours in the world, white, black, yellow, brown, etc., to unite to oppose the racial discrimination practiced by U.S. imperialism and to support the American Negroes in their struggle against racial discrimination. In the final analysis, a national struggle is a question of class struggle. In the United States, it is only the reactionary ruling clique among the whites which is oppressing the Negro people. They can in no way represent the workers, farmers, revolutionary intellectuals, and other enlightened persons who comprise the overwhelming majority of the white people. At present, it is the handful of imperialists, headed by the United States, and their supporters, the reactionaries in different countries, who are carrying out oppression, aggression and intimidation against the overwhelming majority of the nations and peoples of the world. They are the minority, and we are the majority. At most they make up less than ten percent of the 3,000 million people of the world”

(Mao Tse-tung, “Statement Supporting the Afro-Americans in their Just Struggle Against Racial Discrimination by U.S. Imperialism”).

And again in 1968:

“Racial discrimination in the United States is a product of the colonialist and imperialist system. The contradiction between the Black masses in the United States and the U.S. ruling circles is a class contradiction. Only by overthrowing the reactionary rule of the U.S. monopoly capitalist class and destroying the colonialist and imperialist system can the Black people in the United States win complete emancipation. The Black masses and the masses of white working people in the United States have common interests and common objectives to struggle for. Therefore, the Afro-American struggle is winning sympathy and support from increasing numbers of white working people and progressives in the United States. The struggle of the Black people in the United States is bound to merge with the American workers’ movement, and this will eventually end the criminal rule of the U.S. monopoly capitalist class”

(Mao Tse-tung, “A New Storm Against Imperialism”).

As I’ve already shown, Lin Biao’s line, which is much more closely followed by modern third-worldists, saw the primary contradiction in the world as between the global city and global countryside, or the exploited poor countries versus the wealthy imperialist countries, imagining people’s war on a global scale. Some even go as far to say that the waging of people’s war is the true test if a movement is truly communist or not. Third-worldists today uphold the theories of Lin Biao and largely reject the Chinese policies during this period, accusing the Chinese leadership, and even Mao Tse-tung himself, of “first-worldism” for supporting the class struggles of the workers in the “first world.” Of course, revolutionaries in the “third world” saying the working class in the “first world” also wage a decisive struggle are not limited to Mao himself.

Cuban poet and revolutionary José Martí once spoke a phrase which was popularized by Ernesto “Che” Guevara: “I envy you. You North Americans are very lucky. You are fighting the most important fight of all – you live in the heart of the beast.”

During the anti-colonial wars in Vietnam against the French, Ho Chi Minh spoke of the French working class as an ally against the French imperialists:

“If the French imperialists think that they can suppress the Vietnamese revolution by means of terror, they are grossly mistaken. For one thing, the Vietnamese revolution is not isolated but enjoys the assistance of the world proletariat in general and that of the French working class in particular.”

(Ho Chi Minh, “Appeal made on the Occasion of the Founding of the Indochinese Communist Party”).

Ho Chi Minh further said he considered the French and Vietnamese proletariat as two forces which ought to unite together in a common struggle against the French ruling class:

“The mutual ignorance of the two proletariats [French and Vietnamese] gives rise to prejudices. The French workers look upon the native as an inferior and negligible human being, incapable of understanding and still less of taking action. The natives regard all the French as wicked exploiters. Imperialism and capitalism do not fail to take advantage of this mutual suspicion and this artificial racial hierarchy to frustrate propaganda and divide forces which ought to unite”

(Ho Chi Minh, “Some Considerations of the Colonial Question”).

He even spoke of the line, notably from the Second International, that people in developed countries and people in colonial and semi-colonial countries should not unite, supporting the line of Lenin and Stalin in calling it reactionary:

“I will explain myself more clearly. In his speech on Lenin and the national question Comrade Stalin said that the reformists and leaders of the Second International dared not align the white people of the colonies with their coloured counterparts. Lenin also refused to recognize this division and pushed aside the obstacle separating the civilized slaves of imperialism from the uncivilized slaves.

According to Lenin, the victory of the revolution in Western Europe depended on its close contact with the liberation movement against imperialism in enslaved colonies and with the national question, both of which form a part of the common problem of the proletarian revolution and dictatorship.

Later, Comrade Stalin spoke of the viewpoint which held that the European proletarians can achieve success without a direct alliance with the liberation movement in the colonies. And he considered this a counter-revolutionary viewpoint”

(Ho Chi Minh, “Report on the National and Colonial Questions at the Fifth Congress of the Communist International”).

In 1926, J.V. Stalin wrote the following in regards to the workers of Western Europe in supporting the Bolshevik revolution:

“Without the support of the workers of the West we could scarcely have held out against the enemies surrounding us. If this support should later develop into a victorious revolution in the West, well and good. Then the victory of socialism in our country will be final”

(J.V. Stalin, “The Possibility of Building Socialism in our Country”).

Modern third-worldists, whether they base themselves on Lin Biao, Franz Fanon, Sultan-Galiyev, J. Sakai or any number of other theoreticians, claim there is a divergence between “European” socialism and oppressed nations, the countries of the “third world.” These ideas are responsible for the strengthening of the notions of “African socialism,” “Arab socialism” and various other incarnations which claim that Marxism and Leninism are only for Europeans, only for white people. It must be asked: what then, separates the Lin Biaoists from bourgeois nationalists? Indeed, what separates them at all from anti-communists? As we can see, to disparage “first world” workers as an overall counterrevolutionary class and proclaim that “third world” workers are the only ones with truly nothing to lose, and to reject solidarity between them is anti-Marxist, liquidates proletarian internationalism and ignores any idea of revolutionary connectivity between the “third” and “first” worlds. The American left has had to put up with constant subversion of revisionist, counterrevolutionary and bourgeois politics which derail the worker’s movement, and that includes those embracing the Lin Biaoist or third-worldist line.

Lin Biao, like Mao Tse-tung during his “three worlds” period, like Karl Kautsky during his opportunist period, and like the sorry assortment of modern Lin Biaoists, rely on empty and bombastic phrase-mongering, petty-bourgeois pipe dreams represented as the highest r-r-revolutionary Utopianism coupled with a lack of analysis of the real functioning and foundations of the modern economic system.

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

What these theories demonstrate is that there are problems when one is too quick to apply phenomenon which can be empirically understood at the national level to phenomena occurring internationally. Many theorists have made such non-class-based arguments in which the old notions of class struggle and imperialism are replaced by more “global” perspectives which perceive the main contradictions within capitalism taking place globally. Inevitably, these ideas later lead those theorists and their adherents to anti-Marxist, anti-scientific conclusions which would render their theories less useful for a concrete understanding of capitalism on the world stage. There are problems which arise in trying to mechanically and haphazardly apply these contradictions in a global way.

The triumph and realization of the proletarian revolution is the main aim of our historical epoch. It must and will necessarily permeate all countries without exception, among them the ones in both the “third” and “first” worlds, regardless of their level of development, and regardless at which stages the revolution will be accomplished. Disregarding this universal law and theorizing about whole nations being labor aristocrats, forgetting the fight against the comprador bourgeoisie, evaluating “third world” countries in a chauvinist way and opposing proletarian internationalism can only mean being neither for national liberation or for proletarian revolution. The proletarian revolution must and will triumph in Africa, Asia, the Americas and in Europe, too. Whoever forgets or distorts this perspective and doesn’t actively fight towards this aim, but instead preaches that the revolution has shifted and that the proletariat of certain countries has to either acknowledge itself as inherently reactionary, or ally itself with its “third world” bourgeoisie, is someone who takes a revisionist and reactionary stance.

While Lin Biao deserves credit for his distinguished career as a military officer in the Chinese Civil War, his theories are not a suitable replacement for the Leninist understanding of imperialism and revolution. Given the profound theoretical problems in Lin Biao’s conceptions of a “global countryside” and “global city,” and the evolution of his supporter’s chauvinist theories, I argue based on the evidence I have presented that the Leninist model is still the best framework for understanding the machinations of the capitalist and imperialist system internationally, even in this moment where ephemeral fashionable words like “third world” and “global south” are on everyone’s lips.

In conclusion, perhaps Lenin said it best:

“The flight of some people from the underground could have been the result of their fatigue and dispiritedness. Such individuals may only be pitied; they should be helped because their dispiritedness will pass and there will again appear an urge to get away from philistinism, away from the liberals and the liberal-labour policy, to the working-class underground. But when the fatigued and dispirited use journalism as their platform and announce that their flight is not a manifestation of fatigue, or weakness, or intellectual woolliness, but that it is to their credit, and then put the blame on the ‘ineffective,’ ‘worthless,’ ‘moribund,’ etc., underground, these runaways then become disgusting renegades, apostates. These runaways then become the worst of advisers for the working-class movement and therefore its dangerous enemies”

(V.I. Lenin, “How Vera Zasulich Demolishes Liquidationism”).

ICMLPO (Unity & Struggle): Solidarity and Support to the People of Ecuador

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The International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Party Parties Organizations and (ICMLPO) express its deep condolences to the families of the victims and its full solidarity with the people of Ecuador hit by a strong earthquake.

As usual, in the capitalist regime the more affected by this kind of natural phenomena are the poorest, the deprived workers. This is the logic of a system whose purpose is the profit, instead of to satisfy the material and cultural needs of the society.

The ICMLPO calls to its members, to the working class and the people of Latin America and the whole world to express in a militant way the solidarity with this Ecuadorian people that since decades struggle against the exploitation and the imperialistic dominion, for the national sovereignty, the social progress and for a true revolutionary change.

We also call to the health and humanitarian organizations to intensify their efforts and to activate the urgent and necessary help to the affected population.

Let us distrust the bullying and authoritarian government of Correa to not taking advantage of the situation in order to limit the democratic and popular liberties and criminalize the social and political protest. The crisis and the devastation must be paid by the capitalists and the rich ones!

The oppression and the tragedies suffered by the peoples for social and environmental causes should push the workers and the peoples of all countries to say NO to the imperialist intervention, interferences and wars, NO to the war expenditure and the racist walls, but YES to a politics of mutual help, peace and international workers’ and people solidarity, YES to a new socialist world.

April 18, 2016

Coordinating Committee of the International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organizations (ICMLPO)

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia on the American Revolution

"The Spirit of '76": a painting by Archibald Willard.

“The Spirit of ’76”: a painting by Archibald Willard.

American Revolution

(in Russian, War of Independence in North America of 1775-83), the revolutionary liberation war of the 13 British colonies in North America against British colonial domination, during which an independent state was established—the United States of America.

The American Revolution was prepared for by the entire preceding socioeconomic history of the colonies. The development of capitalism in the colonies and the formation of the North American nation contradicted the policy of the mother country, which considered the colonies a source of raw materials and a market. After the Seven Years’ War (1756-63) the British government intensified its pressure on the colonies, in many ways hindering the further development of industry and trade. The colonization of lands west of the Allegheny Mountains was prohibited (1763), and new taxes and customs duties were introduced, which were contrary to the interests of all the colonists. Separate, uncoordinated uprisings and disturbances, which later developed into war, began in 1767. There was no unity among the participants in the liberation movement. Farmers, artisans, workers, and the urban petite bourgeoisie, who made up the democratic wing of the liberation movement, linked their struggle against the colonial yoke with hopes for free access to land and political democratization. However, the leading position in the camp of the advocates of independence (Whigs) belonged to the representatives of the right wing. They expressed the interests of the upper strata of the bourgeoisie and plantation owners, who were seeking a compromise with the mother country. The opponents of the liberation movement in the colonies and the open supporters of the mother country were the Tories, or Loyalists. Among them were big land-owners as well as persons who were connected with British capital and administration.

The First Continental Congress of representatives from the colonies met in 1774 in Philadelphia and called for a boycott of British goods. At the same time, the congress attempted to reach a compromise with the mother country. During the winter of 1774-75 the first armed detachments of colonists arose spontaneously. In the first battles at Concord and Lexington on Apr. 19, 1775, the British troops suffered heavy losses. Soon 20,000 insurgents formed a so-called camp of liberty near Boston. In the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775, the British again suffered serious losses.

On May 10, 1775, the Second Continental Congress convened; the predominant influence in it was gained by the radical wing of the bourgeoisie. The congress proposed that all the colonies create new governments to replace the colonial regime. Regular armed forces were organized, and Washington was made commander in chief (June 15, 1775).

On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress adopted the revolutionary Declaration of Independence, which was written by Jefferson. The declaration proclaimed the separation of the 13 colonies from the mother country and the formation of an independent state—the United States of America (USA). It was the first legal document in history that formally proclaimed the sovereignty of a people and the principles of bourgeois democratic liberties. The decrees on the confiscation of Loyalists’ property (1777) and lands belonging to the crown and the Anglican Church were very significant.

Military action during 1775-78 unfolded primarily in the northern part of the country. The British command endeavored to suppress resistance in New England, which was the center of the revolutionary movement. An American expedition to capture Canada did not achieve its intended goal. The Americans besieged Boston and captured it on Mar. 17, 1776. However, in August 1776 the British commander W. Howe inflicted a grave defeat on Washington’s troops in Brooklyn, and on September 15 he captured New York. In December the British Army inflicted another serious defeat on the Americans near Trenton. Although Washington soon succeeded in capturing Trenton and routing a British detachment at Princeton on Jan. 3, 1777, the position of the American army remained difficult.

The armies that were encountering each other in the American Revolution differed in their composition, equipment, and combat experience. The American insurgent army was initially an ill-trained and poorly organized people’s militia. However, the morale and political level of its soldiers, who were fighting for their own land and vital interests, was considerably higher than the British Army’s. By improving their tactics in waging war, the rebels were able to achieve important advantages. Avoiding major battles and cooperating with partisan detachments, the American army harassed the enemy with sudden thrusts. The American army was the first to use the tactics of an extended formation, against which the linear combat formation of the British proved powerless. At sea, where the British Navy prevailed, American ships also used the tactics of sudden raids, attacking British ships and carrying out campaigns near the shores of Great Britain.

The weakness of central authority in the republic played a considerable role in prolonging the war. The first constitution of the USA, the Articles of Confederation, which was adopted by the congress in 1777 and ratified by the states in 1781, preserved the sovereignty of the states on the most important questions. In addition, the War of Independence was a class struggle within the colonies themselves. Tens of thousands of Loyalists fought in the British Army. The bourgeoisie and plantation owners, who were leading the struggle for independence, were opposed to carrying out the democratic demands of the soldiers, farmers, and workers. The victory of the revolution was possible only because of the participation of the broad masses of the people. Among the poor of New England egalitarian demands ripened for a limit on property ownership and the introduction of ceiling prices on foodstuffs. The Negro people took an active part in the revolution, and Negro regiments were established.

The British plan of military action in 1777 was to cut New England off from the other states. On Sept. 26, 1777, Howe captured Philadelphia, the capital of the USA. However, a British army under the command of J. Burgoyne, which was proceeding from Canada to join Howe, was surrounded, and it surrendered on Oct. 17, 1777, at Saratoga. The victory at Saratoga, which was won by American troops under the command of General H. Gates, improved the international position of the young republic. The USA managed to take advantage of the contradictions between Great Britain and other European powers. Sent to Paris as the representative of the USA, B. Franklin concluded a military alliance in 1778 with France—Great Britain’s colonial rival. In 1779, Spain joined the war against Great Britain. Russia took a friendly position toward the USA, and in 1780 it headed the so-called League of Armed Neutrality, which brought together a number of European countries who were opposed to Great Britain’s attempt to prevent neutral countries from trading with Britain’s enemies.

In June 1778, General H. Clinton, who had replaced Howe, abandoned Philadelphia. During 1779-81 the British shifted their military activity to the southern states, counting on the support of the plantation aristocracy. In December 1778 they captured Savannah, and in May 1780 they took Charleston. The talented general and former blacksmith N. Greene was made head of the southern American army. In fighting against the British troops Greene successfully combined the action of the insurgent army and the partisans. The British were compelled to withdraw their troops to the port cities. After a naval battle of Sept. 5-13, 1781, the French Navy cut the main British forces off from the sea at Yorktown. Washington surrounded them on land, and on Oct. 19, 1781, he forced them to surrender. Under the Versailles Peace Treaty of 1783, Great Britain recognized the independence of the USA.

The American Revolution was a bourgeois revolution that led to the overthrow of the colonial yoke and the formation of an independent American national state. The former prohibitions by the British Parliament and royal authority, which had hampered the development of industry and trade, were abolished. Also eliminated were the large estates of the British aristocracy, as well as vestiges of feudalism (fixed rent, entail, and primogeniture). In the northern states Negro slavery was limited and gradually eliminated. The transformation of the western lands, which had been expropriated from the Indians, into national property by the Ordinance of 1787 and their subsequent distribution created a base for the accumulation of capital. Thus, the essential prerequisites for the development of capitalism in North America were created. However, not all the problems that confronted the American revolution were resolved. Slavery was not abolished in the South, and a high property qualification for voters was maintained in all the states. The estates of Loyalists and western lands were distributed in large pieces, and they fell into the hands of speculators.

The American Revolution, which in its own time was the model of a revolutionary war, exerted an influence on the struggle of the European bourgeoisie against feudal absolutist regimes. Approximately 7,000 European volunteers fought in the ranks of the American army, including the Frenchmen the Marquis de Lafayette and H. Saint-Simon and the Pole T. Kosciuszko. During the Great French Revolution the insurgents made use of the organizational experience and revolutionary military tactics of the Americans. The victory of the North Americans in the American Revolution promoted the development of the liberation movement of the peoples of Latin America against Spanish domination. The revolution was hailed by the progressive people of many countries, including Russia, where A. N. Radishchev celebrated it in the ode “Liberty.”

REFERENCES

Marx, K. Kapital, vol. 1, ch. 25. In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 23.
Engels, F. “Rabochee dvizhenie v Amerike.” Ibid., vol. 21.
Engels, F. F. A. Zorge, 31 dek. 1892. (Letter.) Ibid., vol. 38.
Engels, F. N. F. Daniel’sonu, 17 okt. 1893. (Letter.) Ibid., vol. 39.
Lenin, V. I. Novye dannye o zakonakh razvitiia kapitalizma v zemledelii, part 1: “Kapitalizm i zemledelie v Soedinennykh Shtatakh Ameriki.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 27.
Lenin, V. I. “Pis’mo k amerikanskim rabochim.” Ibid., vol. 37.
Lenin, V. I. “Agrarnaia programma sotsial-demokratii v pervoi russkoi revoliutsii 1905-1907 godov.” Ibid., vol. 16.
Ocherki novoi i noveishei istorii SShA, vol. 1. Moscow, 1960.
Foner, P. Istoriia rabochego dvizheniia v SShA, vol. 1. Moscow, 1949. (Translated from English.)
Foster, W. Negritianskii narod v istorii Ameriki. Moscow, 1955. (Translated from English.)
Fursenko, A. A. Amerikanskaia burzhuaznaia revoliutsiia XVIII v. Moscow-Leningrad, 1960.
Aptheker, H. Istoriia amerikanskogo naroda [vol. 2], Amerikanskaia revoliutsiia 1763-1783. Moscow, 1962. (Translated from English.)
The American Nation: A History, vols. 8-10. New York [1933].
Bemis, S. F. The Diplomacy of the American Revolution. New York, 1935.
Hardy, J. The First American Revolution. New York, 1937.
Morais, H. The Struggle for American Freedom. New York, 1944.
Jensen, M. The New Nation: A History of the United States During the Confederation, 1781-1789. New York, 1950.
Gipson, L. The Coming of the Revolution, 1763-1775. New York, 1954.

I. I. DEMENT’EV

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

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

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

 – E.S.

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

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

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

Dialectics and Nature:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Historical and Dialectical Materialism:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Labour Theory of Value:

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

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

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

Again, this is partially true.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fidel Castro on Human Rights

cuba communism castro dictatorship crisis

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

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

Grover Furr: The Fallacies of Afrocentrism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grover Furr, English Department

Source

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia on the Civil War in the United States (1861–65) and the Reconstruction of the South

Union and Confederate troops clash at the Battle of Franklin in Tennessee, 1864.(Library of Congress/Kurz and Allison)

Union and Confederate troops clash at the Battle of Franklin in Tennessee, 1864. (Library of Congress/Kurz and Allison)

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979).

Civil War in the United States, 1861–65, and the Reconstruction of the South

The Civil War in the United States was a natural result of the sharp worsening of antagonistic economic and political contradictions between the capitalist North and the slave-owning South.

By the mid-1850’s a revolutionary situation had begun to take shape in the United States. It became more and more evident that the contradictions between the two social systems would inevitably develop into an armed struggle for power and for the nationwide victory of one of the social systems. Slavery had become the main obstacle to the development of capitalism in the United States, and the necessity of destroying it had become inevitable. Civil war in Kansas (1854–56), the insurrection led by John Brown in 1859, and the intensified movement for the abolition of slavery were evidence of the approach of a sharp conflict.

In 1860, A. Lincoln, the candidate of the Republican Party, was elected president of the United States. For the Democratic Party, in which slave owners had a very strong influence, his election meant loss of power on a national scale. In response to Lincoln’s election, the slave owners proclaimed the secession of the southern slave-owning states from the Union and began to prepare for civil war. In February 1861 in Montgomery, Alabama, the Confederacy of slave-owning states was formed and joined by 11 of the 34 states. In April 1861 the troops of the Confederacy began the rebellion and captured forts and arsenals in the South, where the major part of weapons and ammunition had been concentrated as early as J. Buchanan’s presidency. Only Fort Sumter in South Carolina offered resistance, but after two days it surrendered on April 14.

The theater of military action was an enormous territory bordered on the north and west by the Potomac, Ohio, and Missouri rivers, on the east by the Atlantic Ocean, and on the south by the Gulf of Mexico. The northern states had a population of 22 million. The North was covered with a dense rail network and had well-developed industry, including almost all the metallurgical, textile, and arms industries of the entire nation. About 9 million people lived in the territory of the southern states, including 4 million Negro slaves. A significant part of the population of the southern states did not support the rebels. The South did not have the essential economic base for waging a prolonged war. There were considerably fewer cities and railroads in the South than in the North. Combat operations were waged primarily along railroads and rivers, which made it easier to move and supply troops.

The size of the regular US Army was only 14,000–16,000 men. They were scattered along the western borders, where they were used primarily to pacify the Indians, and they did not represent a serious fighting force. At the beginning of the war a significant number of the officers were from slave-owning families and went over to the Confederate side. Among them was the capable general R. Lee, who became commander of the South. When war broke out, President Lincoln declared a call-up of 75,000 volunteers, and later a draft was instituted. In turn, the president of the Confederacy, J. Davis, drafted 100,000 men into the army at the beginning of the war. For the entire period of the war 2.7 million were drafted into the army of the North, and 1.1 million into the army of the South. The basic unit was the infantry division, which consisted of three brigades of two regiments each. (A regiment had ten companies of 80–100 men each.) A corps was made up of two to three divisions, and two to five corps were consolidated into an army.

The war plan of the southern slave owners was adventuris-tic. It was calculated to take advantage of surprise and to use aid from Great Britain and France. The South intended to capture quickly the states of Missouri, Tennessee, and Virginia and then to attack Washington, D.C., and force the government to accept the slave owners’ conditions. The North’s plan was for passive defense. At first the North intended to restrict its troops to defense and to wage particular operations in which the troops who were being raised would gradually be prepared for offensive action.

The main issue of the Civil War was slavery. The rebel slave owners endeavored to preserve slavery as a social system and spread it to the entire territory of the USA and in the future even to the countries of South America. At the beginning of the war the Lincoln administration saw as its primary task the restoration of the Union and prevention of the spread of slavery to the new territories.

In the first stage of the war (1861–62) the North suffered a series of grave defeats. In the first period the combat operations of the main forces unfolded in the Washington-Richmond axis. In mid-July 1861 the 35,000–man army of the North led by General I. McDowell invaded Virginia and reached the Bull Run River, which at the same time was approached by a 31,000–man army of the South commanded by General Lee. In the battle of Manassas (or Bull Run) on July 21 the poorly armed and trained Northern troops were routed, and they retreated to Washington, D.C., in disorder. However, the Southerners did not take advantage of their success.

The Northern command directed its primary attention to forming a large army and establishing defensive structures. A new strategic plan was developed, the Anaconda Plan, which envisioned the establishment of a ring of army and naval forces around the southern states. This ring would be tightened gradually until the rebels were finally suppressed. Marx and Engels were severely critical of this plan, describing it as a “rebirth … of the so-called cordon system, which was used in 1792–97 against the French with such stubbornness, and always without success” (Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 15, pp. 505–506). They believed that the main thrust should be delivered against the state of Georgia. The capture of Georgia would have split the territory of the Confederacy into two isolated parts, deprived the Confederacy of economic resources, and brought the 500,000 Negro slaves in Georgia into the struggle (ibid., pp. 506–507).

In April 1862 the 100,000–man army of the North commanded by the untalented General G. McClellan again began an attempt to capture Richmond, attacking from Fort Monroe. However, at the approaches to the capital of the southern states, McClellan’s army encountered a well-prepared system of engineer fortifications. In the battle of June 26–July 2 on the Chickahominy River east of Richmond, the Northerners were defeated by an 80,000–man army of the South, and they retreated toward Washington, D.C. In September 1862, General Lee attempted to capture Washington, D.C but after an initial success (the so-called second battle of Manassas or Bull Run on August 30), he was unable to achieve victory at Antietam (September 16–17), and he was forced to retreat beyond the Potomac. The attempt of the army of the North to go over to a new offensive against Richmond was also unsuccessful; on December 11–13 the Army of the Potomac under General J. Hooker was defeated at Fredericksburg. Between June and November 1862 the Southern command made several cavalry raids under T. Jackson and J. Stuart in order to strike the enemy from the rear, but these raids did not produce the desired results.

In the western and southern parts of the Mississippi Valley military actions had a local character. Northern troops under the command of generals U. Grant and B. Butler, supported by Admiral D. Farragut’s squadron, took Memphis. Corinth, and New Orleans. The successful blockade of southern ports by the fleet of the North, which deprived the Confederacy of communications with Great Britain and France, was very important. Actions by the South’s cruisers, including the Alabama, inflicted substantial losses on the North’s merchant fleet but did not have a major influence on the course of the war.

The successes of the rebels are partially explained by their being better prepared for war. However, the main reason for the military defeats of the North was that the bourgeoisie of the North was afraid to rely on the popular masses in the struggle with the slave owners. Influential bourgeois circles in the North continued to seek ways to solve the conflict by compromise. This policy was completely hopeless from a military and a political point of view. Noting the decisive demands of the popular masses in the North to switch to revolutionary methods of waging war, Marx wrote: “If Lincoln does not give in (but he will give in), there will be a revolution” (ibid., vol. 30, p. 222). Marx expressed his firm belief that “waging war in a revolutionary way still lies in the future” (ibid., vol. 15, p. 542).

Marx’ prediction proved to be entirely correct. In 1862, under the pressure of the popular masses and military failures. Congress implemented a number of measures for the purpose of switching to revolutionary methods of waging war. A law was published confiscating the property of rebels, and the death sentence was instituted for treason against the United States. Especially important were the Homestead Act, which was adopted on May 20, 1862, and Lincoln’s proclamation liberating the Negro slaves in the rebel states. which went into effect on Jan. 1. 1863. The slaves were freed without land and without compensation to their owners.

In 1863 a new stage in the war began, which was characterized by important changes in the entire course of the country’s political life and in the strategy and tactics of the Union Army. The political activism of the popular masses increased in the North, and a number of serious attacks were made on counterrevolutionary forces. The Union Army was replenished with new worker regiments. About 190.000 Negroes. 72 percent of them from the southern states, entered the army of the North, and 250.000 Negroes served in rear units.

At the beginning of the second stage of the war (1863–65) the South still held the initiative. On May 2–4, 1863. northern troops were defeated again at Chancellorsville, but the turning point of the war followed this defeat.

In June 1863, General Lee’s 64,000–man army began to advance into Pennsylvania, and Stuart’s cavalry was sent on a deep raid. The Southerners were met by General G. Meade’s 85,000–man army. In an encounter battle at Gettysburg on July 1–3 the army of the South, deprived of cavalry support, suffered a serious defeat. A major success was achieved in the Mississippi Basin, where Grant’s army captured the upper reaches of the river and then besieged and forced the surrender of the fort at Vicksburg (July 4. 1863). The entire line of the Mississippi passed to the control of the North, and the territory of the Confederacy was split into two parts. The decisive role in achieving these successes was played by the farmers, workers, and artisans who poured into the army, fought selflessly, and gave an active character to combat operations. Negroes played an important part in the struggle against the army of the South: they did reconnaissance, attacked southern troops from the rear, and served as guides. The government of the Confederacy was forced to assign 100.000 soldiers to fight rebellious slaves.

The combat operations of the North during 1864–65 were decisive and had the character of maneuvers. General Grant, who was appointed general-in-chief in March 1864, developed a new strategic plan. General Meade’s 122,000–man Army of the Potomac would attack the South from the north, destroy the main forces of General Lee’s army, and capture Richmond. General W. Sherman’s 100,000–man army would attack from west to east against General J. Johnston’s army, which was covering the central region of the Confederacy, and would deliver a thrust against the most important economic centers of the South. At the same time. General Butler’s 36,000–man army would attack Richmond from the east. The offensive began in the first days of May 1864. Meade’s army approached Richmond but was unable to capture the city. Relying on fortified positions, the enemy offered desperate resistance and at the same time attempted to deliver a thrust against Washington, D.C. However, on Sept. 19, 1864, this attack was defeated at Winchester.

Workers of many nationalities participated on the side of the North in the Civil War, as did many revolutionaries who had emigrated to the United States from Europe (for example, J. Weydemeyer and G. P. Cluseret). The North was actively supported by the English workers, who offered decisive resistance to attempts by the British government to intervene in the Civil War on the side of the slave owners. As the war progressed, the economic and military superiority of the North was increasingly evident. The international position of the Lincoln government also grew stronger. Russian policy promoted this to a significant degreee. Russia had an interest in the existence of a unified United States opposed to Great Britain and France, which were then tsarist Russia’s chief rivals. The arrival of two Russian squadrons in September-October 1863 in New York and San Francisco was interpreted in the United States and Western European countries as a demonstration of friendship toward the Lincoln government.

The transition to revolutionary methods of waging war significantly strengthened the position of Lincoln, who was reelected president in 1864. The armies of the North continued their successful offensive operations. The “march to the sea” by General Sherman’s army was particularly important. Pursuing the retreating enemy, Sherman’s army took Atlanta on Sept. 2, 1864, and on December 21 it took Savannah and reached the Atlantic Ocean. Then Sherman turned north and on Feb. 18, 1865, captured Columbia, reaching the rear units of Lee’s army, whose position had become hopeless. On Apr. 3, 1865, Grant’s troops took Richmond. Lee’s army began to retreat to the southeast, but it was overtaken and surrounded by Grant at Appomattox. On April 9, General Lee surrendered, and on April 26, General Johnston’s troops surrendered. The remaining troops of the South had ceased resistance by June 2. The war ended with the complete defeat of the slave owners.

On Apr. 14, 1865, exactly four years after the Civil War had begun, President Lincoln was mortally wounded by the actor Booth, an agent of the slave owners and reactionary circles in the North. Lincoln’s death was a grave loss for all of progressive America.

The Civil War was bloody and expensive. The North lost 360,000 men, who were killed or who died from wounds and diseases, and the South lost at least 250,000. About 1 million soldiers and officers of the North and South were wounded. Military expenditures and destruction were assessed at many billions of dollars. However, the sacrifices were not in vain. As V. I. Lenin noted, the Civil War in the United States had “very great progressive and revolutionary significance in world history” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 37, p. 58).

The Civil War in the United States reflected new phenomena in the development of the art of war. It was distinguished by its large scope and by the participation in it of enormous armies. The transition to revolutionary methods of waging war gave combat operations an active and decisive nature, which decided the victory over the South in advance. Railroads, a steam-powered navy, and riverboats were used extensively in the war. The invention of the telegraph made it possible to maintain operational control of troops over significant distances. The large scope of the armed struggle and significant losses made it necessary to train reserves and establish reserve supplies. The development of the rifled firearm and its increased speed of fire, accuracy, and range led to large losses in the battle formations of troops who attacked in dense, deep columns. Static forms of battle and engineer preparation of the terrain became widespread. Heavy artillery preparation to neutralize enemy fire was required to overcome a defense equipped with trenches, dugouts, and barriers. Combat operations at sea were characterized by the blockade of the coast and the most important ports, and naval battles became artillery contests. The war gave impetus to the development of an armored fleet.

The working masses played the decisive role in crushing the slave owners, but the fruits of victory were enjoyed primarily by the bourgeoisie, which achieved its main goals. Slavery, which had hindered the development of capitalism, was abolished. Favorable conditions were established for the development of capitalism in agriculture by individual farmers—that is, by the American method. The creation of a single national market was begun and control over the entire economic and political life of the country was concentrated in the hands of the bourgeoisie. However, a powerful workers’, farmers’, and Negro movement threatened the dominance of the bourgeoisie. Under these conditions there appeared a clear-cut policy of concluding a class alliance between the bourgeoisie and the plantation owners, directed against the working people.

Reactionary circles in the North and South were especially disturbed by events that unfolded in the southern states. Led by the Radical Republicans, the Negroes and some of the poor whites began an organized struggle to obtain land for themselves and to win the right to vote for the former slaves. A true battle began in the southern states between the Negroes and bands of the Ku Klux Klan, a terrorist organization founded in the South in 1865. The struggle of the Negroes to win equal rights with whites was revolutionary. It developed under very difficult conditions, because the federal government acted as an ally of the plantation owners. In order to thwart the movement of the popular masses in the South, A. Johnson, who became president of the United States after the assassination of Lincoln, advanced a program that amounted to a formal recognition by the former rebel states of the abolition of slavery. At the same time, under Johnson’s plan all power in the South would remain in the hands of the former slave owners. Amnesty was granted to thousands of active participants in the rebellion. By February 1867 property valued at 2 billion dollars had been returned to the plantation owners. The Negroes did not receive any rights, and they became landless agricultural workers.

Having consolidated their economic and political position in the South, the plantation owners raised the question of restoring slavery and openly laid claim to participation in federal governmental bodies. This was already a direct attempt to change the results of the Civil War, and it was an open threat to the bourgeois monopoly of state power. The Negroes offered fierce resistance to the former slave owners’ offensive. Leagues of alliance, which united Negroes and poor whites, created armed detachments, consisting primarily of Negroes. They were the bulwark of the revolutionary movement in the South. These detachments played an important part in implementing the Radical Reconstruction of the South, the beginning of which was marked by the First Reconstruction Act of Mar. 2, 1867.

The purpose of Radical Reconstruction was to carry out bourgeois-democratic reforms in the South and restrict the power of the former slave owners. All power in the South was transferred to the federal army. Active participants in the rebellion were deprived of all political rights. More than 1 million Negroes received the right to vote. The transition to Radical Reconstruction was brought about not only by the Negro struggle against the plantation owners but also by major changes that were taking place in the North. In December 1865, Congress officially sanctioned the emancipation of the Negroes by ratifying the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, and in June 1866 the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution recognized the right of Negroes to vote.

With the participation of Negro voters, in the summer of 1867 constitutional assemblies were elected, which adopted new bourgeois-democratic constitutions for the southern states. The socioeconomic system of the southern states began to be restructured on new, bourgeois principles. The Negroes were an important moving force in the Reconstruction. In a number of cases they seized the lands of plantation owners, and they participated actively in the work of local governmental agencies. For the first time in the history of the country, 16 Negroes were elected to the US Congress. During Reconstruction the Negroes made great progress in public education. The number of Negro students increased more than 500 times in comparison with 1860 and reached 500,000 by the end of Reconstruction. Significant gains were made in the development of industry, transportation, trade, and organization of public services in populated areas.

However, the agrarian question remained unresolved, just as it had been during the Civil War. The overwhelming majority of the Negroes and poor whites remained in the position of agricultural workers and sharecroppers without any rights. The workers’ and farmers’ movement of the North and West did not give direct support to the revolutionary struggle of the Negroes in the South. Without this support the Negro movement was doomed to failure. This was in fact its fate. Taking advantage of racial prejudices, the plantation owners were able to split the united front of the Republicans in the South and begin taking power in one southern state after another. By 1877 the Republicans held power in only three southern states. In April 1877 the federal government withdrew its troops from these states, and power in them was immediately seized by the plantation owners. The withdrawal of federal troops from the southern states was a direct betrayal by the Northern bourgeoisie of its Negro allies. This traitorous act marked the end of the Reconstruction of the South.

Despite the restoration of the power of the plantation owners in the South, Reconstruction played an important, positive role in the history of the South and the entire country. The revolutionary struggle of the Negroes and their white allies thwarted plans to reestablish slavery in the South. The restructuring of the southern states in the interests of capitalist development completed the process of establishing a single national market. The active participation of broad popular masses in Reconstruction as well as the revolutionary methods of struggle to which they resorted gave Reconstruction a bourgeois-democratic revolutionary character. During Reconstruction attempts were made to solve problems that the Civil War had been unable to resolve. For this reason, Reconstruction is viewed as a continuation of the Civil War and as the second phase of the bourgeois-democratic revolution of 1861–77. However, unlike the Civil War, the period of Reconstruction was not marked by the formation of a united front of northern workers and farmers and southern Negroes. The active role of the popular masses and the results achieved were significantly less under Reconstruction than during the Civil War. Reconstruction was a descending stage in the second American revolution.

REFERENCES

Marx, K. “Amerikanskii vopros v Anglii.” In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch. 2nd ed., vol. 15.
Marx, K. “Grazhdanskaia voina v Severnoi Amerike.” Ibid.
Marx, K. “Grazhdanskaia voina v Soedinennykh Shtatakh.” Ibid.
Marx, K. “Otstranenie Frimonta.” Ibid.
Marx, K. “Anglo-amerikanskii konflikt.” Ibid.
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Lenin, V. I. Ibid., vol. 17, p. 129; vol. 22, p. 345; vol. 23, p. 128; vol. 30, p. 354.
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